Can the World's Poor Protect Themselves from the New Coronavirus?

24 Pages Posted: 26 May 2020

See all articles by Caitlin Brown

Caitlin Brown

Central European University (CEU)

Martin Ravallion

Georgetown University

Dominique Van De Walle

World Bank

Date Written: May 2020


We propose an index of the adequacy of home environments for protection (HEP) from COVID-19, and we compare our index across developing countries using data for one million sampled households from the latest Demographic and Health Surveys. We find that prevailing WHO recommendations for protection posit unrealistic home environments. 90% of households have inadequate HEP by one or more dimensions considered. 40% do not have a formal health-care facility within 5km. A strong wealth effect is indicated within and between countries. Only 6% of the poorest 40% have an adequate HEP, and the proportion is virtually zero in sub-Saharan Africa.

Suggested Citation

Brown, Caitlin and Ravallion, Martin and Van De Walle, Dominique, Can the World's Poor Protect Themselves from the New Coronavirus? (May 2020). NBER Working Paper No. w27200, Available at SSRN:

Caitlin Brown (Contact Author)

Central European University (CEU) ( email )

Nador utca 9
Budapest, H-1051

Martin Ravallion

Georgetown University ( email )

Washington, DC 20057
United States

Dominique Van De Walle

World Bank ( email )

1818 H Street, NW
Washington, DC 20433
United States

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