Even a pandemic that affects everyone affects the poor more. Workplace closures, travel restrictions, and strain on limited healthcare resources have disproportionately weakened the financial straits of those least able to weather the crisis. As The Economist explains:
In normal times, people in poor countries have many ways to cope with shocks. If one member of a family falls sick, the others can work longer hours to make up for the lost income. Or they can ask cousins or neighbors for help. Or, if a whole village is impoverished by a bad harvest, they can ask a nephew working in a big city or a foreign country to send some extra cash. All these “coping mechanisms,” as development experts call them, depend on calamity not striking everywhere at once. Alas, COVID-19 has done just that.
Persons living in poverty often live in multi-generational settings and high density urban areas, making it impossible to shelter elderly and vulnerable members from possible exposure to COVID-19. They are also least likely to have health insurance or live in an area well-served by public health facilities.
According to Human Rights Watch, the pandemic has “put a spotlight on economic inequalities and a fragile social safety net that leaves vulnerable communities to bear the economic brunt of the crisis, Human Rights Watch said today. US policymakers will need to consider these underlying inequalities in responding urgently to the mounting challenges of the pandemic.”
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The effects of COVID-19 could erase decades of positive trends in the battle against global poverty. (Courtesy of Statista.)