Globe, Human Rights, Latin America, Politics, United Kingdom

Unemployment, poverty and famine: what Covid will leave behind

The scourge of a pandemic that claims hundreds of thousands of deaths, combined with the inequalities that still prevail in the 21st century, today pushes millions of people towards poverty and hunger. In Latin America the situation is looking disastrous.


Ivette Fernandez


Despite the fact that, according to FAO calculations, before the epidemic between 15% and 30% of the food produced annually was lost or wasted, hunger crippled 690 million people around the world during the last year, about 10 million more than in 2018, according to the United Nations.

Now that the deadly virus is seriously affecting all production processes, disrupting international trade, and is filling the markets with scepticism and fear, the outlook is more than worrying. According to the non-governmental agency Oxfam, by the end of the year up to 12,000 hunger-related deaths could occur each day as a result of the social and economic consequences of the pandemic.

The World Food Programme revealed an equally catastrophic prediction.

According to the organisation’s estimates, the impact of the disease could push another 135 million people into serious food insecurity, adding to the 821 million individuals who were already in this situation.

All of this was partly generated by the closure of borders and markets and movement restrictions adopted to prevent the spread of the virus, which led to serious damage to the supply and availability of food.

For Latin America, the region with the greatest inequality in the world, the situation is tremendously challenging in terms of food security.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) revealed that the region will not meet the goal of zero hunger by 2030 because it would have 67 million hungry by that date. However, the most recent report does not include the damages of Covid-19.

“With the impact of the coronavirus the reality will be worse than what we project in this study. We need an extraordinary response from governments, the private sector, civil society and multilateral organisations,” said the FAO regional representative for Latin America and the Caribbean, Julio Berdegué, regarding the presentation of the report.

According to the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), the regional unemployment rate is expected to be at 13.5% at the end of 2020, which represents an upward revision (two percentage points) of the estimate presented in April, and an increase of 5.4 percentage points compared to 2019 (8.1%).

Thus, the numbers of unemployed would reach 44.1 million people, representing an increase of 18 million compared to the 2019 level (26.1 million).

These figures, ECLAC argues, are significantly higher than those observed during the world financial crisis, when the unemployment rate increased from 6.7% in 2008 to 7.3% in 2009 (0.6 percentage points).

The fall of 9% of the Gross Domestic Product, and the increase in unemployment, would have a direct negative effect on household income and their possibility of having sufficient resources to satisfy basic needs.

In this context, ECLAC projects that the number of people in poverty will increase by 45.4 million in 2020, with which the total in this condition would go from 185.5 million in 2019 to 230.9 million in 2020, a figure that represents 37.3% of the Latin American population.

Within this group, the number of people in situations of extreme poverty would increase by 28.5 million, from 67.7 million in 2019 to 96.2 million in 2020, a number equivalent to 15.5 percent of the total.

In the midst of this context, responses are urgent, especially those related to international cooperation to expand the policy space through greater financing under favourable conditions and debt relief. (PL)

(Translated by Hannah Phelvin – Email: – Photos: Pixabay

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