Coronavirus could push half a billion people into poverty, Oxfam warns

Nearly half of all jobs in Africa could be lost without urgent action, says charity

Larry Elliott Economics editor
Thu 9 Apr 2020

People await Covid-19 screening and testing in Lenasia, South Africa. Photograph: Themba Hadebe/AP

More than half a billion more people could be pushed into poverty unless urgent action is taken to bail out poor countries affected by the economic fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic, Oxfam has warned.

Ahead of three key international meetings next week, the charity said the impact of shutting down economies to prevent the virus spreading risked setting back the fight against poverty by a decade globally – and by 30 years in the hardest-pressed countries of sub-Saharan Africa, north Africa and the Middle East.

An Oxfam report published before virtual meetings of finance ministers of the G20 group of leading developed and developing nations, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, said by the time the pandemic was over half of the world’s population of 7.8 billion people could be living in poverty.

The research – conducted by King’s College London and the Australian National University – said that a 20% drop in income as a result of a recession caused by Covid-19 would push an additional 548 million people below $5.50 a day – one of the World Bank’s definitions of poverty.

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