Farah Al Shami, Senior Fellow and Social Protection
Program Director at the Arab Reform Initiative (ARI)

This paper was initially published as part of the Arab NGO Network for Development’s Arab Watch Report on the Right to Health.

Following the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Arab region witnessed an exponential rise in health outcome disparities. The severity of the COVID-19 pandemic was magnified by existing inequalities in chronic diseases and inequities in the social determinants of health. The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2019 caused drastic decays in employment, healthcare, education, economic activity, and welfare schemes in the Arab region, all while disproportionately affecting the poorest and the most vulnerable social groups (Kamurase & Willenborg 2021). Being in large part a sanitary crisis, the impact of the pandemic was primarily apparent on health systems and has especially deepened and accelerated health inequality. This translated into uneven infection and mortality rates, uneven access to medical facilities, hospital beds, testing centers and vaccination, as well as discrepancies in the quality of treatments, the competency of medical staff, and the cost burden borne by different social groups, with a direct impact on the right to health (Filip et al. 2022).

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