It is expected that for many small island developing States, the COVID-19 pandemic will lead directly to record amounts of revenue losses without the alternative sources of foreign exchange revenues necessary to service external debt and pay for imports.

Currently, the small island developing States would need about $5.5 billion to counteract the adverse effects of the pandemic on their economies, according to Ms. Coke-Hamilton.

The Maldives stands out with a need of $1.2 billion due to its reliance on tourism revenues, followed by the Bahamas and Jamaica.

Debt Relief

Many of the small island developing States, like Jamaica and the Bahamas, also face high external debt burdens which require complementary external debt suspension or relief programmes.

The United Nations has recently proposed a framework that aims to ensure debt relief in its report, titled “Debt and COVID-19: A Global Response in Solidarity.”

The United Nations has also established a dedicated COVID-19 Response and Recovery Fund to complement efforts in low and middle-income countries to address the socio-economic impact of the COVID-19 crisis.

Impact on Immunization

The World Health Organization (WHO) is concerned about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on regular health services, including immunization.

In the past year, there were outbreaks of measles in Samoa and other Pacific island countries, according to WHO’s Western Pacific Office.

“If we allow COVID-19 to disrupt immunization programmes, the Region could face new crises at a time when health systems are already strained,” said Takeshi Kasai, WHO Regional Director for the Western Pacific, calling on countries in the region to continue immunization services during the COVID-19 pandemic.