COVID-19 pandemic could mean ‘extreme poverty’ for 60 million people, World Bank says

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The coronavirus pandemic could push as many as 60 million people into extreme poverty, said World Bank.

The said warning is a sign of the continuing pessimism among economists about the negative impact of what the bank has describes as an “unprecedented crisis.”

The World Bank, a loan and grant-providing body to the governments of poorer countries, predicted a month ago that this year would mark a historic step back for inequality, with the pandemic “likely to cause the first increase in global poverty since 1998.”

A blog post they published on April 20 said that its “best estimate” was that 49 million people would be forced into extreme poverty, which the bank defines as having to live on less than $1.90 per day.

The outbreak had shut down most economic activities, “erasing much of the recent progress made in poverty alleviation,” World Bank President David Malpass said in a statement.

Some of the world’s poorest people are already starting to feel the pain. Tens of millions of people in Africa may become destitute as a result of the crisis, human rights chiefs warned Wednesday.

“We cannot afford to stand idly by and hope this most viral and deadly of diseases bypasses Africa, which is home to many of the world’s poorest countries who are simply not in position to handle such a pandemic,” UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet and Chairperson of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights Solomon Dersso said in a joint statement.

Last month, the bank said that it expected people in sub-Saharan Africa would suffer the most. Currently, 39 of the World Bank’s 100 target countries are there, and at least 23 million residents of the region are projected to be heading for extreme poverty because of the outbreak.

South Asia is also likely to suffer. In addition to Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo, World Bank economists said last month that India, one of the world’s most populous countries, was estimated to see “the largest change in the number of poor,” with about 12 million affected.

“The places where the virus is taking its highest toll depends primarily on two factors. The impact of the virus on economic activity and … the number of people living close to the international poverty line,” the bank lamented.

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