We would like to share with you the story behind the creation of Pandem-ic, a data analytics platform born out of a deep concern for the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the developing world.

During the early stages of the pandemic, there were claims that developing countries would be left “unscathed”, but it quickly became clear that this was far from the truth. Yet, misinformation and disinformation, combined with a lack of reliable data, made it difficult to grasp the true impact of the pandemic, especially in the developing world.

That’s where Pandem-ic comes in. This resource was created by Dr. Philip Schellekens to use data-driven visuals and analysis to promote an understanding of the unequal impact of the pandemic. Having previously managed Global Modeling & Analytics at the World Bank – a strategic foresight unit in the research department –  Philip drew on his experience of leading the IMF/World Bank Global Monitoring Report on demography and development as inspiration for creating pandem-ic. Little did he know that this work would prove to be so useful in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, which turned out to have a unique age-discriminating characteristic.

The project took shape after co-authoring a working paper with Diego Sourrouille of the World Bank on COVID-19 mortality in rich and poor countries. The paper predicted a massive shift in global mortality distribution to the developing world, based on demographic patterns alone (population size and age structure). At the time, developing countries accounted for only 15% of COVID-19 mortality globally, but we predicted that it would rise to over 70%. Sadly, this prediction fully materialized, as highlighted by Laura Spinney’s article in The Guardian.

This project would not have been possible without the generous support and contributions of so many individuals and organizations. To all of the data wizards at Johns Hopkins University, Our World in Data, and The Economist, thank you for your tireless work in tracking and analyzing the pandemic’s impact across the globe. And a special shoutout to Edouard Mathieu and Sondre Solstad, whose regular feedback has been invaluable.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has been a source of encouragement and inspiration for this work. Gabby Stern, Director of Communications, was among the very first to spot the “vaccine equity tracker” in the form of a table shared on Twitter on vaccine distribution across income groups. Since then, WHO colleagues, including Samira Asma, Peter Singer, and Soumya Swaminathan, have been very supportive, providing valuable feedback and suggestions.

We are also grateful for the feedback and inspiration received from various practitioners, academics, and colleagues, including Jorge Araujo, Luis Benveniste, Gabriel Demombynes, Tom Frieden, Amanda Glassman, Gregg Gonsalves, Michele Gragnolati, Huade Huo, Matthew Kavanagh, Xander Koolman, Anthony Leonardi, Mamta Murthi, Madhu Pai, Bart Pauwels, Bryce Quillin, Alasdair Rae, Gavin Yamey, and Shahid Yusuf. Their inputs have helped to shape and refine this project.

Pandem-ic has now entered a new phase, where the Center for Global Development (CGD) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) have joined forces to host and manage the platform.

The UNDP has provided the new home for the rich content and insights of Pandem-ic, making it available to a wider range of health and development practitioners. The idea is to foster a broader coalition of organizations and partners, who are interested in the impact of COVID-19 and other pandemics on sustainable development and related good practice. This would not have been possible without UNDP’s HIV and Health Group under the leadership of Dr. Mandeep Dhaliwal and the UNDP’s SDG Data and Analytics team led by Babatunde Abidoye.  

This new phase is also marked by an exciting collaboration with CGD, which – under the leadership of Javier Guzman and Victoria Fan – will facilitate the evolution of the platform to address critical issues such as pandemic risk, pandemic financing among others.

We would like to express our collective gratitude to the many visitors who have explored this site. Your comments, suggestions, and contributions have been instrumental in shaping and enhancing this platform, enabling us to raise awareness about the unequal impact of this pandemic. 

We are grateful for your engagement and for joining us on this mission to find globally inclusive solutions to pandemics and sustainable development.