Progress against world poverty and hunger set back decades – Baptist News Global
The COVID-19 pandemic has wiped out decades of progress in the fight against global poverty and hunger and has made the world harder for millions of people to live in, according to a new report from World Relief.
“From 1990 to 2015, we have seen a steady downward trend in global poverty rates, from almost 36% to just 10% of people living in extreme poverty on just $1.90 a day. . COVID-19 changed everything, and today an additional 97 million people have been pushed into poverty because of COVID-19,” the Christian humanitarian organization reported in its March 15 study, “COVID-19 Impact on the World’s Poor”.
At a virtual press conference, ministry officials in the United States and Africa painted a grim picture of the impact of the pandemic on populations already at risk and urged churches and governments around the world to respond with prayer, compassion and assistance to communities ravaged by the coronavirus outbreak. .
“COVID-19 has struck the world’s most vulnerable at a time and in a truly ferocious way, and at a level of devastation that we have not seen in our lifetime. And as a result, the pandemic has brought about one of the most great humanitarian problems in recorded history,” said World Relief President Myal Greene.
He added that nearly 100 million people, mostly in sub-Saharan Africa, have fallen into extreme poverty since 2020, reversing three to four years of international development. “And for the first time in my life, we have seen an increase in the number of people living in extreme poverty.”
Particularly vulnerable children
The study delved into how children have been particularly hard hit by the pandemic. “The number of children affected by orphans and caregiver deaths associated with COVID-19 is estimated to have increased by 90% in just six months. Globally, schoolchildren have lost more than 1.8 trillion hours of in-person learning, and only one in 10 students in the poorest countries have internet access, making distance learning inaccessible.
Lanre Williams-Ayedun, Senior Vice President of International Programs at World Relief, added harrowing details about the suffering experienced by children during the outbreak.
She cited a UNICEF report which found that the threat facing children during the outbreak was the greatest danger seen in the organization’s 75-year history. “The hard-earned progress we’ve made in child poverty, school education, nutrition, child protection – they’re basically being reversed because of the pandemic.”
The World Bank estimates that at least 7 million children in the hardest hit countries have dropped out of school since the start of the pandemic, driving them in turn into situations of child labour, early marriage and malnutrition, added Williams-Ayedun.
Another study found that COVID-19 took just two years to orphan 5 million children. By comparison, HIV/AIDS has taken a decade to orphan so many children. “We are now up to 5.2 million children who have lost one or both parents, or a caregiver, to COVID,” she said.
The status of already vulnerable women has also dropped to appalling levels during the pandemic, including a frightening increase in physical violence, Williams-Ayedun said.
Increased threats to women
“Even before COVID, one in three women worldwide experienced physical or sexual violence, mostly from an intimate partner. New reports show us that all types of violence against women and girls, and in particular domestic violence, have increased since the start of the pandemic. And the situation is made worse by overwhelmed health systems that cannot support women in these situations with prenatal and postnatal care, life support and survivorship care.
“Child marriages are rising after years of decline, with a projected 10 million more girls at risk due to COVID-19.”
The World Relief report explained that COVID-19 lockdown procedures have led to spikes in calls to domestic violence helplines and shelters. “Pre-pandemic livelihoods and freedom of movement may have more contained violence in the home (although it still existed), but the results of economic strain and poor mental health during this pandemic have had devastating consequences for women and children. who live in close and constant contact with violent partners and caregivers.
Another worrying trend accentuated during the pandemic concerns forced marriages for girls, according to the report. “Child marriages are on the rise after years of decline, with 10 million more girls at risk due to COVID-19. The reasons for this are many and include families needing extra money, having one less child at home means one less person to feed, and school closures making learning inaccessible. .
Women have also borne the brunt of the pandemic-induced financial setbacks, World Relief reported. “Women around the world have disproportionately suffered the socio-economic impacts of COVID-19 due to job losses, reduced hours, increased pressures of care and domestic work, and stresses on physical and emotional health. . Globally, mothers were almost three times more likely than fathers to report taking on most or all of the extra unpaid care work associated with school or daycare closures. Additionally, mothers of children under 12 were the most likely to transition from employed to non-employee status.
The report adds that “29% of women living with children lost their jobs compared to 20% of men living with children. Women and girls are also much less likely to receive assistance from governments or NGOs.
But entire populations have also suffered the economic and health consequences of the global pandemic, World Relief found. “Expectations since the start of the pandemic have shown that the number of people facing acute food insecurity will nearly double to 265 million by the end of 2020.”
But current forecasts show that acute food insecurity is likely to worsen even further in 20 West African countries alone: ”The world’s young children bear the brunt of the devastation, with 50 million of people suffering from wasting (low weight/height ratio). There is virtually no aspect of livelihoods and employment that COVID-19 has not interfered with. »
Conditions are even worse in places where malaria and HIV are also on the rise, said Matilda Matitha, country director for World Relief in Malawi. “It’s a huge burden on health services.”
Drought is another hazard complicated by COVID-19, said Elias Kamau, country director in Kenya, where 2.8 million people are currently in need of food assistance.
“This created a risk of starvation for humans and also for their livestock. What you have is this huge drought situation that is decimating foliage and pasture for animals and therefore affecting food availability. So, layer upon layer of crisis, people are unable to cope with the effects of COVID-19. »
Health care systems have also been hit hard, the report adds. “Across Africa, the pandemic has disrupted essential health services and undermined years of progress in the fight against other deadly diseases, including HIV, tuberculosis and malaria. And the distribution, education and availability of the COVID-19 vaccine has been an issue. The poorest countries have discarded more than 100 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines in a single month due to insufficient storage facilities, vaccine hesitancy and overstretched health systems.
Believers can push back against these trends by partnering with global humanitarian organizations and tackling hunger in their own neighborhoods, said Jenny Yang, vice president of advocacy and policy at World Relief.
“We fundamentally believe that it is through the influence and care of churches and governments around the world that we can deliver a future with communities on the ground to mitigate the impacts of COVID-19 and to truly reduce poverty in the world as well,” she says.
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