Global “catastrophe” looms as Covid-19 fuels inequality | News from the world

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The pandemic has revealed and reinforced deep inequalities around the world, the real extent of which remains to be seen, according to a new major report.The crisis in the poorest countries threatens to degenerate into a catastrophe as job losses and food insecurity increase. “The economic, social and political impacts are just beginning to show,” says Rebuilding back with justice: dismantling inequalities after Covid-19, which will be published by Christian Aid later this month.

The number of people facing acute hunger could double to a quarter of a billion in 2020 without urgent support. Some countries have already experienced a sharp increase in the cost of food. In parts of Afghanistan, for example, wheat prices have increased by 20%.

In India, 80 million migrant workers have lost their jobs in cities, leaving them hungry and homeless and their families without the essential remittances on which they depend.

Routine health care, such as immunization and maternity care, has been severely disrupted. “In many countries, disruption of non-coronavirus health care could cause more deaths than the virus itself,” said the report.

Precautions against Covid-19, such as regular hand washing, are more difficult in countries where sanitation is poor. According to the report, three billion people – around 40% of the world’s population – do not have access to a home handwashing facility. In Ethiopia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the second and fourth most populous country in Africa, less than one in 10 people can wash their hands at home.

Hand washing facilities
Percentage of households with handwashing facilities in the poorest countries of the world.

Nine out of ten students worldwide have lost part of their education. Many – especially girls – in poor countries may never return. “Experience from the Ebola epidemic in West Africa shows that school closings have resulted in higher permanent dropout rates for girls and increased child labor, neglect, sexual abuse, teenage pregnancy and early marriage.

The report adds: “It is increasingly evident that women bear the heaviest social and economic burden during the crisis.” Women perform most social and health care activities and tend to hold the lowest-paid jobs in these sectors. They are more likely to work in the informal economy, face a higher burden of home care and are more exposed to violence during an economic crisis.

The report highlights the contrast in the way that rich countries have mobilized huge sums of money to support their economies with the response of poor countries already burdened with massive debt. Germany and Italy spent more than 25% of their GDP on economic stabilization while Malawi, Kenya and the DRC spent less than 1%.

Debt repayment for the world’s poorest countries has been suspended from May 1 to the end of this year, but Christian Aid calls for “a full 12-month cancellation of principal and interest payments for 76 low-income countries ” Debt cancellation, he said, “could be one of the quickest ways to free up resources for some of the countries most affected by the pandemic and its economic repercussions.”

The charity also wants to see a crackdown on tax abuse and tax evasion, and the introduction of wealth tax. For example, in India, a 4% wealth tax on 953 ultra-wealthy families could increase just over 1% of GDP, allowing the government to double its health care budget, he said.

The pandemic requires coordinated action at the global, national and local levels, but the response has been “characterized more by competition than collaboration”. The UN and international financial institutions have been sidelined, with governments prioritizing national responses.

The way out of the crisis must be green and sustainable, according to the report. “The level of the challenge should not be underestimated. However, the crisis has also shown that governments can act decisively when the scale of an emergency is clear and the public supports the action. The objective must be to decouple the growth of greenhouse gas emissions, to halve global emissions by 2030 and to be decarbonized by 2050. ”

In a preface to the report, Jayati Ghosh, a leading development economist, says that vision and ambition are necessary to prevent disaster and “to enable a broad and equitable global recovery that radically transforms our economic and social relations, and puts people and the planet at its center. “

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