The virus that shut down the world


Over the past 12 months, COVID-19 has deepened these inequalities, a view highlighted in February by the UN-focused agency, the ILO, which stated that the two billion people working in the informal sector were particularly vulnerable. .

In March, the agency followed up with projections suggesting that millions could be pushed into unemployment, underemployment or the abrasive state of incapacity for work.

“This is not only a global health crisis, it is also a major labor market and economic crisis that is having a huge impact on people,” said ILO Director-General Guy Ryder. The Agency published recommendations on ways to reduce livelihood damage, which included employee protection in the workplace, economic and employment incentives, and income and job support.

Keeps food supplies afloat

In April, the scale of global suffering became clear with a UN-backed report showing that poverty and hunger were getting worse and that countries already affected by food crises were very vulnerable to the pandemic. “We need to keep critical food supply chains in place so that people have access to life-sustaining food,” the study said, stressing the urgency of maintaining the delivery of humanitarian aid “to keep people in crisis fed and alive.”

From using public transportation such as food hubs, traditional forms of home delivery, and mobile markets, communities have had to find innovative ways to feed the poor and vulnerable while addressing COVID-19 movement restrictions.

These are all examples of ways that cities in Latin America came together to support their people and reflect warnings from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) that the health risk to many city dwellers is high during the pandemic, especially the 1.2 billion. living in slums and other informal settlements.

Women bear the burden

“Women bear the burden of the COVID-19 crisis as they are more likely to lose their source of income and less likely to be covered by social protection measures”. It was Achim Steiner, head of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), who noted the impact of the pandemic on women and pointed to data released in September.

It revealed that the poverty rate for women has increased by more than nine percent, corresponding to approx. 47 million women: this represents a turnaround of decades of progress in eradicating extreme poverty in the last few decades.

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, executive director of UN Women, said the rise in women’s extreme poverty is a “strong accusation of deep shortcomings” in the way society and the economy are structured.

Nevertheless, Mr. Steiner believes that the tools existed to create a huge improvement in women’s lives, even during the current crisis. For example, more than 100 million women and girls could be lifted out of poverty if governments improved access to education and family planning and ensured that wages were fair and equal to men’s.

One in six children was affected

Progress in reducing child poverty also got a hit this year. The United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF and the World Bank reported in October that some 365 million children were living in poverty before the pandemic began, predicting that these numbers would rise significantly as a result of the crisis.

Extreme poverty deprives hundreds of millions of children of the opportunity to reach their real potential in terms of physical and cognitive development and threatens their ability to get good jobs in adulthood.

“These numbers alone should shock anyone,” said Sanjay Wijesekera, UNICEF’s Director of Programs. “Governments urgently need a child recovery plan to prevent countless more children and their families from reaching poverty levels unseen for many, many years.”

Support for record numbers

In December, the UN predicted that a record 235 million people would need humanitarian aid by 2021, an increase of around 40 percent by 2020, which is almost exclusively a consequence of the pandemic.

“The picture we are presenting is the gloomiest and darkest perspective on humanitarian needs in the coming period that we have ever set ourselves,” said UN Chief of Staff Mark Lowcock. “It is a reflection of the fact that the COVID pandemic has caused bloodshed across the most fragile and vulnerable countries on the planet.”

Mr. Lowcock warned that the scale of the challenges facing humanitarian next year is massive – and growing. “If we get through 2021 without major famines, it will be a significant achievement,” he said. “The red lights are flashing and the alarm bells are ringing.”

Time for a new global agreement

At the end of the year, the UN chief issued a reminder that levels of poverty and inequality seen this year are far from inevitable and that a fairer world is still possible, regardless of acute shocks such as the pandemic.

In December, Guterres spoke of his hope that the pandemic could trigger the transformations needed to achieve stronger social protection systems around the world.

Reflecting on his comments on inequality made a year earlier before the pandemic was on the horizon, the UN chief said the world needs a new global agreement, “where power, resources and opportunities are better shared by international decision-making tables. and governance mechanisms better reflect the realities of today ”.

SOURCE UN News Center

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