The United Nations has warned that the economic devastation from the Chinese coronavirus pandemic may well kill more people than the disease, the Los Angeles Times detailed in a report on Monday.
One of the most shocking projections cited was made by David Beasley, the executive director of the U.N.’s World Food Program, who recently cautioned that the world is “not only facing a global health pandemic but also a global humanitarian catastrophe.” He added that this crisis could force as many as 420 million people into extreme poverty, defined as earning less than two dollars a day.
“Lockdowns and economic recession are expected to lead to a major loss of income among the working poor,” he said last month. “In a worst-case scenario, we could be looking at famine in about three dozen countries, and in fact, in ten of these countries, we already have more than one million people per country who are on the verge of starvation. In many places, human suffering is the heavy price of conflict.”
The U.N. and private charities are now beginning to raise the alarm among international organizations, warning that a coordinated strategy for counteracting the crisis is necessary. Last week, officials more than tripled the size of their coronavirus aid appeal from $2 billion to $6.7 billion, warning that the world is now facing “the specter of multiple famines.”
“The COVID-19 pandemic is hurting us all. But the most devastating and destabilizing effects will be felt in the world’s poorest countries,” the U.N. Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Mark Lowcock said in a statement.
In the poorest countries we can already see economies contracting as export earnings, remittances and tourism disappear. Unless we take action now, we should be prepared for a significant rise in conflict, hunger and poverty. The spectre of multiple famines looms.
If we do not support the poorest people – especially women and girls and other vulnerable groups – as they battle the pandemic and impacts of the global recession, we will all be dealing with the spillover effects for many years to come. That would prove even more painful, and much more expensive, for everyone.
The International Monetary Fund has also provided economic projections predicting a significant rise in poverty and living standards.
“The IMF projects that advanced economies will contract by around 6% in 2020 while emerging markets and developing economies will contract by 1%. Yet with more people living close to the international poverty line the developing world, low- and middle-income countries will suffer the greatest consequences in terms of extreme poverty,” the World Bank wrote in its recent report, which also estimated that the pandemic will “likely cause the first increase in global poverty since 1998.”
The data will undoubtedly provide for grim reading for the entire world and reignite the debate over the importance of reopening the global economy, even if this does lead to an uptick in coronavirus cases. The pressure is consequently growing on many governments to lift lockdown measures, with increasing unhappiness and unease over the measures among citizens. This is borne out by the rising number of anti-lockdown protests that have taken place in recent weeks.
According to the latest figures, there are approximately 4.3 million recorded cases of coronavirus and 290,000 deaths. In normal times, an average of 150,000 people die around the world on a daily basis.