In a report entitled “The Price of Dignity”, the anti-poverty NGO Oxfam estimates that between 6% and 8% of the world’s population could fall into poverty as governments shut down savings to control the spread of the virus.
“This could constitute a global decline of ten years in the fight against poverty, and a decline of 30 years in certain regions such as in sub-Saharan Africa, in the Middle East or in North Africa”, explains Oxfam adding that more than half of the world’s population is threatened with falling below the poverty line as a result of the pandemic.
“The devastating economic fallout from the pandemic is felt worldwide. But for people in poor countries who are already struggling to survive, there are almost no safety nets to keep them from falling into poverty, ”said the report.
Oxfam calls on the G20 finance ministers, the IMF and the World Bank to give developing countries an immediate injection of cash to help them bail out poor and vulnerable communities. “They must cancel all debt payments from developing countries for 2020 and encourage other creditors to do the same, and issue at least $ 1 trillion in special drawing rights,” said Jose Maria Vera, Acting Executive Director from Oxfam International.
“With debt cancellation, Ghana could provide $ 20 a month to each of the country’s 16 million children, people with disabilities and the elderly for six months. Adds Oxfam.
“France can decide without waiting for the cancellation of the debt payments due to it by the developing countries for 2020 in order to help them immediately to face the crisis,” underlined Robin Guittard, campaign manager at Oxfam France.
A warning that comes before the upcoming meetings of the IMF and the World Bank as well as that of the G20 finance ministers.
The women most affected
In the absence of social protection systems, the poorest countries would be more affected as well as the disadvantaged populations, including women.
“The existing inequalities dictate the economic impact of this crisis. The poorest workers in rich and poor countries are less likely to be in formal employment, to benefit from labor protections such as sickness benefits or to be able to work from home, ”says Oxfam. Globally, only one in five unemployed people have access to unemployment benefits. Two billion people work in the informal sector without access to sickness benefits.
In this context, “women are on the front line of the response to coronaviruses and are likely to be the hardest hit financially”.
Women make up 70% of the world’s health workers and provide 75% of unpaid care, caring for children, the sick and the elderly. “Women are also more likely to be in precarious low-paid jobs and the most at risk. More than a million Bangladeshi garment workers (80% of them women) have already been fired or sent home without pay after the cancellation or suspension of orders from Western clothing brands. “
“Governments must learn from the 2008 financial crisis, where bank and corporate bailouts were paid for by ordinary people due to job losses, lower wages and essential services such as than health care. Economic stimulus packages must support ordinary workers and small businesses, and the bailout of large businesses must be contingent on measures to build fairer and more sustainable economies, ”concluded Jose Maria Vera.