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Coronavirus and poverty: what do the numbers say?

by Keetie Roelen

As we are passing the peak of the pandemic in many countries, many of us are starting to look ahead. What will be the exit strategy out of this crisis, and what will life look like post-pandemic? When it comes to poverty, the projections are pretty terrifying.

Researchers across the globe are trying to project the effect of Covid-19 on poverty. Estimates suggest that its impact on poverty is going to be devastating, turning back the clock on progress that has been made in many parts of the world in the last decade and more.

Poverty projections indicate that the number of people falling into extreme poverty may range from 49 million to as many as 419 million worldwide. While there is large variation in these numbers depending on how they are calculated, it is clear that many more will be affected by poverty.

Children will represent a large proportion of those falling into poverty. Estimates by the UN indicate that between 42 and 66 million will fall into extreme poverty. Save the Children suggests that as many as 30 million children in Africa could be pushed into poverty.

In general, Africa is the region where most people will feel the economic fallout of the pandemic, followed by Middle East and South Asia. Estimates by UNU-WIDER indicate that 80 to 85 percent of all people who will be pushed into extreme poverty following the pandemic will be living in Sub-Saharan Africa or South Asia.

Hunger is also expected to affect millions more people. The World Food Programme estimates that coronavirus could double the number of people that suffer from acute hunger from 135 million in 2019 to 265 million in 2020.

None of these numbers should be taken at face value (more about that in an upcoming podcast episode). Yet they certainly drive home the message that the impacts of this crisis are huge and need to be reckoned with at scale and for considerable time to come.

NOTE: All estimates in the figure are based on a poverty line of $1.90 per day. Detailed information about estimates from UNU-WIDER can be found here, from the World Bank can be found here, and from IFPRI here and here.

1 comment on “Coronavirus and poverty: what do the numbers say?

  1. Pingback: Episode #3: Poverty (measurement) is political – Andrew Fischer – Poverty Unpacked

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