The Coronavirus Pandemic Could Force Half A Billion People Into Poverty

Kyla Mandel

The economic impacts of the coronavirus pandemic sweeping the world could lead to 580 million people ― 8% of humanity ― being pushed into poverty and see an increase in global poverty for the first time since 1990. 

These findings come from a new report released by researchers at King’s College London and the Australian National University, which looks at the impact of declines in household consumption. 

As the global economy comes to a standstill due to the pandemic, stories of distress are becoming familiar in almost every country ― but especially in the developing world where social safety nets are thin or often missing. Stories like that of Micah Olywangu, a taxi driver in Nairobi, Kenya, and a father of three.

Over the last three weeks, as Nairobi’s airport shut down and the tourism industry effectively disappeared, his income has completely dried up, making it impossible to pay this month’s rent. While his landlord has been understanding, it’s unclear how long such patience will last. 

“This virus will starve us before it makes us sick,” Olywangu said.

“Just imagine that [experience] times half a billion going on all over the developing world right now,” said Max Lawson, head of inequality policy for the development organisation Oxfam International. “That is deeply, deeply concerning.”

A health volunteer walks through slums in Nairoba, Kenya, informing residents about the coronavirus pandemic. More than 2.5 million people live n impoverished conditions in the city.

Commissioned by Oxfam, the new research shows that the global pandemic could erase decades of progress on eradicating poverty. And the ripple effects would impact a wide range of matters, from access to health care and education to malnutrition and maternal mortality.

“The effects could be absolutely incredible,” researcher Andy Sumner, a King’s College professor of international development who works with the United Nations University-WIDER, which helped publish the report, told HuffPost. “There’s very likely to be a substantial increase in poverty, mainly because there’s so many people living not that far above the poverty line.”

Sumner...

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