Covid19 Pandemic Can Throw Half a Billion People Into Poverty: Oxfam
The coronavirus pandemic could undo 30 years of progress we’ve made on tackling poverty. As economies around the world tank due to social and economic halts arising out of Covid19 lockdowns, half a billion people around the world — especially informal sector workers in developing countries such as India — could be thrown into poverty, an Oxfam report finds.
To counter this imminent threat, Oxfam implores world leaders to adopt an “Economic Rescue Package for All” that would enable governments in developing countries to provide cash to those worst affected by the coronavirus pandemic. Oxfam calls on world leaders to cancel $1 trillion of debt payments from developing countries in 2020 so they can provide this relief.
“For nearly three billion people living in poverty and without enough clean water, jobs and access to basic healthcare – and for millions already facing years of malnutrition, disease and conflict – the coronavirus will be a lethal killer,” Oxfam America vice president for policy and advocacy, Paul O’Brien, told Al Jazeera. South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa are likely to face the worst impact of this impending crisis, the report states.
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In India, for example, a recent International Labor Organization report found approximately 400 million workers from the informal sector are at risk of falling deeper into poverty. “For the billions of workers in poor countries who were already scraping by – pulling rickshaws, picking tea or sewing clothes – there are no safety nets such as sick pay or government assistance,” head of Oxfam Great Britain, Danny Sriskandarajah, told The Guardian. As for the money from various yojanas the Indian government promised the poor in India, many report they’re only receiving reassuring text messages, never the money.
India is already witnessing a massive migrant exodus from large cities, in which daily wage workers, bereft of healthcare, food, shelter or transport, are attempting to reach their villages on foot, only to be turned away from neighbors afraid of being infected by the coronavirus. The informal sector in India has been one of the hardest hit in this coronavirus-induced economic crisis, and the workers within it one of the most disadvantaged, unprepared and resourceless to deal with what’s about to come, experts warn.
Now is the time for bold redistributive programs, London’s King’s College international development professor, Andy Sumner, told The Guardian. Calling it a “poverty tsunami,” Sumner says the only way to tackle it would be to create a safety net pre-emptively that dulls the blow of income loss. He adds, “I don’t think you can wait another 30 years for people to return again to where they were.”