37m more people worldwide now poor due to Covid-19 pandemic - report
Johannesburg - The Covid-19 pandemic has led to increased rates of poverty across the world.
The 2020 Gatekeepers Report indicates that poverty has increased globally by 7%. The report is released annually by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to track progress toward the Sustainable Development Goals.
Natalie Africa, senior adviser to the foundation director in Africa, said: “The 7% translates to approximately 37 million people, which is a lot. Out of the 37 million it is estimated that 13 million could be African. We are dealing with an urgent situation where we need long-term and short-term measures to address this.”
She said countries needed short and long-term solutions to ensure citizens were not stuck in poverty. Some of the short-term measures that countries have used, she said, were things like income replacement.
“Unprecedented numbers of people have signed up for cash transfers to survive. On the upside it is estimated that more people have bank accounts than they did before Covid-19,” Africa said.
She said while coming up with solutions, countries should not ignore women.
“In general more women suffer from marginalisation. Out of 86% of Africans who are in the informal economy, most of those are women so there is already a degree of exclusion. Covid-19 has hit them harder because they were not able to earn an income because of the lockdown and they are also unable to register for the type of government relief offered.
“Governments need to be deliberate at directing income to women as a direct response,” Africa said.
While poverty is one of the main findings, the report also found that because most resources are channelled towards Covid-19, other diseases like malaria and tuberculosis are falling behind.
“The report indicates for example that five years of gains in terms of malaria and TB have been wiped out. It’s too early to estimate the amount this will have on other disease areas but there is work beginning to be done on that.”
She said while working on a Covid19 vaccine, all countries need to ensure everyone has access to it.
“We need a collective response. If there is one thing the pandemic has taught us is that the world is so intimately connected and the impact of something on one country has repercussions on the other. The report shows that if we do not have equitable access, we could have double the amount of deaths. It’s in everyone’s interest, this is not the time for national selfishness.”
She said that the growing anti-vaccine movement could not be ignored and needed to be addressed.
“Many people are not realising the progress that vaccines have made and the difference that it has made to the world and the well-being of children.
“Beyond the fact that the world has gotten better,there is also a lot of fear because Covid is unprecedented in its global reach.
“All we can do is to continue to share the stories that are evidence-based on the impact vaccines have on the well-being of children and their survival rate,” Africa said.