SEATTLE, Washington — Three main organizations have shaped global policy in the last few decades: the United Nations, the World Economic Forum, and more recently, the Gates Foundation. Altogether, these three organizations have worked to end poverty worldwide for many years prior to the pandemic. In the last few months, the organizations have continued to analyze poverty while cooperating to stop the spread of COVID-19. The organizations have discovered that COVID-19 and poverty are more interconnected than meets the eye. COVID-19 has certainly widened the gender poverty gap, amplified inequality and is predicted to have long-term effects on poverty. Ironically, COVID-19 may have helped in the sense that it exposes global inequalities that may not have surfaced in its absence. The United Nations (U.N), World Economic Forum (WEF) and the Gates Foundation have made findings and recommendations concerning COVID-19 and poverty.
The United Nations
A recent U.N. report finds that the pandemic has had disastrous effects on the world’s vulnerable and further diminished their ability to catch up. Agenda 2030, a 15-year global effort to improve human life through the fulfillment of 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) has been further disrupted by the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic. Among the 17 goals were initiatives to expand electricity access, increase female representation in politics and improve the health of mothers and children. Not surprisingly, those hit hardest by the pandemic include women, children, the elderly, disabled persons, refugees and migrant workers. The U.N. report outlined key findings:
Around 71 million people are estimated to face extreme poverty in 2020 due to job losses, no social protection and rising food prices. This increase surpasses the last rise in global poverty, which was in 1998.
Mass lay-offs and unemployment means over 1.6 billion people in the informal sector will be significantly affected, with incomes estimated to have fallen 60% at the start of the pandemic.
More than one billion slum dwellers worldwide are at greater risk of COVID-19 because they lack reliable housing, sanitary toilets and access to proper healthcare facilities.
Cases of violence against women have surged since the beginning of the pandemic.
The increase of families facing extreme poverty means more children are at risk of child labor, child marriage and child trafficking.
The U.N. hopes to continue with the completion of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It is optimistic that progression towards Agenda 2030 will result in the eradication of the damage caused by COVID-19. It will do so by monitoring the world’s implementation of said goals, with advice from international and regional organizations and experts.
The World Economic Forum
The organization focused on economic progress from a global standpoint, have a more hopeful outlook on the pandemic. WEF notes that the Multidimensional Poverty Index reports that many countries made great progress in improving the lives of the impoverished during the 2010s. The WEF maintains that instead of allowing these gains to be diminished by the pandemic, countries must use the moment to strengthen efforts to weather the effects. WEF observes that this is not an impossible task as Sierra Leone managed to reduce poverty the fastest in 2014, despite dealing with an Ebola epidemic. The WEF provided suggestions regarding COVID-19 and poverty as well as findings regarding gender gaps.
WEF’s Recommendations on COVID-19 and Poverty
WEF suggests using the Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) as a metric in which to compare and contrast the pandemic’s burden on countries struggling with living standards, education and poverty. The data the MPI provides covers dozens of nations. The organization notes the success of the MPI in reducing Colombia’s poverty by 11% within eight years.
A rationing system to ensure everyone gets food during shortages. This was a successful strategy in Britain during World War II. It also increased life expectancy, which is an impressive stride in the time of global conflict.
WEF’s Findings Regarding the Gender Gap in Poverty
Job losses have disproportionately affected sectors dominated by women.
Because jobs occupied by women tend to be informal, they are more likely to lose their jobs compared to their male counterparts.
An estimated 47 million girls and women will be pushed into poverty because of COVID-19, bringing the total to 435 million.
Informal female workers are hit the hardest in Sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America.
One way to mitigate these troubling numbers, according to the WEF, is for governments to enact measures that assist women in low-paying jobs. Another idea with a long-term solution would be to increase education among girls and women in developing countries and focus on equal wages for both women and men.
The Gates Foundation
The Gates Foundation has recently become known for its involvement in the race for a vaccine to end the COVID-19 pandemic. The Foundation has vouched for the implementation of vaccines in developing countries struggling with lethal diseases for years. It has focused on global health equity and made several findings that may shed some light on COVID-19. The Gates Foundation notes that due to COVID-19, the world has regressed on SDG goals. The Foundation suggests that to end the pandemic the world needs to collaborate on three tasks:
- Develop diagnostics and treatments to manage the pandemic in the short term and vaccines to end it in the medium term.
- Manufacture as many tests and doses as possible at a fast rate.
- Deliver these tools equitably to those who need them most, no matter where they are located or their economic status.
While the United Nations, World Economic Forum and the Gates Foundation are separate organizations, all three are working together to address the effects of COVID-19 on impoverished countries while facilitating the creation of tests and a vaccine. The hope is to end the COVID-19 pandemic so the world can continue in the direction of ending poverty.
– Faven Woldetatyos