The coronavirus could push close to 500 million people into poverty worldwide unless wealthier countries take “urgent action” to help developing nations, according to a report from Oxfam released Thursday.
The charity group estimated that as many as 434 million more people could end up living in extreme poverty as a result of the deadly pandemic, which has infected nearly 1.5 million people.
“Those who have the least are being hit the hardest, and this worrying new research shows that the pandemic could force half a billion more people around the world into poverty,” said Oxfam chief Danny Sriskandarajah. “The choices being made now could have profound implications for our collective future. We must build back better; permanently changing our economies to create a fairer, more sustainable world.”
The report found that between 6 percent and 8 percent of global populations could fall into poverty as countries shutter entire sectors of their economies to blunt the spread of the virus, leading to mass layoffs of low-income workers.
Oxfam argued that the global economic fallout from the outbreak could be curbed if world leaders come together to craft a rescue package to keep poor countries and poor communities above water. The group called on finance ministers from the Group of 20, which is meeting next week with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank, to start hammering out an agreement.
Oxfam is recommending the “immediate cancellation” of $1 trillion worth of developing countries’ debt payments due this year, a $500 million increase in international aid and the creation of $1 trillion in “new international reserves” to increase IMF funds available to developing countries.
“Next week’s World Bank and G20 meetings are an important opportunity for world leaders to collaborate on a joint economic rescue package to protect the most vulnerable people. Immediate actions such as suspending debt repayments for developing countries would free up vital funds for healthcare and cash grants to those who have lost their income,” Sriskandarajah said in a statement.