Covid-19’s Impact on Nigeria
Philanthropists in Nigeria have played a pivotal role in addressing national emergencies, but the scope of their partnership widened beyond expectations during the COVID-19 pandemic. At a time when families increasingly struggle to buy food due to low economic activities during the pandemic, such efforts are significantly crucial. Private sector institutions and wealthy individuals have donated large sums of money in an effort to mitigate COVID-19’s impact on Nigeria. The initiative, named Private Sector Coalition Against COVID-19 (CACOVID) is one such endeavor, which raised well above N25.8 billion (approximately $620,192,307.6 at the time) as additional financial resources to complement the government’s effort.

Furthermore, Nigerians in the diaspora and other international donors contributed considerable money to support the government’s effort to address COVID-19’s impact on Nigeria. They made their contributions noticeable through a nonprofit organization called Nigeria Solidarity Support Fund (NSSF). The NSSF, created in 2020 as a “multi-donor institutional mechanism” for raising funds for interventions in the health sector, uses its funds to target vulnerable groups and re-skilling the youths for post-COVID-19. The NSSF has been actively involved in vaccine advocacy campaigns and training health care workers in Nigeria.

Motivation

In Nigeria, charitable giving has strong ties to religious and cultural traditions. Both Christian and Islamic beliefs emphasize the importance of helping others. The glaring negative impact of the pandemic on individuals and households has invited the private sector to provide assistance in curbing the large-scale impact of COVID-19. This includes the Private Sector Coalition Against COVID-19 CACOVID Fund, which delivers effective assistance to improving the public and private health sectors. Funds that CACOVID collected totaled $55.7 million, 5.1 million of which have been received via donations from the Central Bank.

According to a World Bank report on COVID-19’s impact on Nigeria, the strict measures adopted by the government to contain the virus, coupled with the declining prices of petroleum products, a significant earner of national income by 60%, brought hardship to most households. The Nigeria Bureau of Statistics (NBS) in 2022, also reported that about 133 million Nigerians, or 63%,  are multi-dimensionally poor, compared to the pre-COVID period figure of about 80 million before the pandemic.

Implementation and Accountability

The government of Nigeria introduced a regulatory measure titled, Framework for the Management of COVID-19 Funds in Nigeria under the Treasury Single Account. The aim of this framework is to support adequate transparency pertaining to COVID-19 funds. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation containing $1 million, also supported Nigerians rebuilding and addressing the ramifications following COVID-19.

The public-private partnership model to address national emergencies is emerging as a regular pattern in Nigeria. In the second half of 2022, widespread flooding took place across the country, particularly in Benue state. The Dangote Flood Committee, which Mr. Aliko Dangote heads, helps flood victims across the country. During the late 2022 flooding incident, the committee raised a significant amount of money totaling N1.5 billion from philanthropists to provide relief and food resources to flood victims in the country. Such relief efforts are of particular significance, as UNICEF reports the destruction of 82,000 homes. This was in addition to the government’s efforts and the $21.4 million aid from the United States.

Public spiritedness, charity or philanthropy are emerging as extra tiers of solutions to national and global challenges. While citizens expect that governments assume primary responsibility, philanthropist partnerships with the government contribute hugely in relation to financial assistance to address COVID-19’s impact on Nigeria. This intervention brought immense relief to larger sections of the population beyond the scope that the government provided.

– Friday Okai
Photo: Flickr

 COVID-19’s Impact on the Sustainable Development Goals
The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are 17 goals that the United Nations Department of Social Affairs created in 2015 to set up a path for countries to follow to end poverty, improve health and education, create economic growth and reduce inequality by 2030. Disruption of these goals occurred with the emergence of COVID-19 in 2019. COVID-19’s impact on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) means that the following goals are in need of even more assistance. The U.N. Department of Economic and Social Affairs is working with countries to accomplish the following 17 goals:

  1. “End poverty in all forms.”
  2. End hunger and food insecurity, improve nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture.
  3. Ensure health and well-being for all ages.
  4. Ensure quality, inclusive and equitable education for all with lifelong learning opportunities.
  5. “Achieve gender equality and empower all women.”
  6. Ensure sustainability and availability of clean water and sanitation.
  7. Ensure access to reliable, affordable and sustainable clean energy.
  8. Promote sustainable economic growth with productive, decent employment for all.
  9. Build resilient infrastructure with an emphasis on industry and innovation.
  10. Reduce inequalities among countries.
  11. Make sustainable, inclusive cities and communities.
  12. Ensure responsible, sustainable consumption and production.
  13. “Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts.”
  14. Sustainably conserve the oceans, seas and marine resources.
  15. Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of life on land, combat deforestation and halt biodiversity loss.
  16. Promote peaceful, inclusive societies for sustainable development and provide justice for all using effective, accountable and inclusive institutions.
  17. Strengthen the means for implementing and revitalizing the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development.

The 2030 Agenda

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is a plan of action that seeks to create a strong, peaceful planet with a main focus on eradicating poverty. Many consider it the “greatest global challenge and indispensable requirement for sustainable development.” This 2030 agenda demonstrates the targets set out to accomplish in 15 years that involve economic, environmental and social empowerment. The 17 SDGs are associated with 169 associated targets that world leaders pledged to work on. These goals and targets came into effect on January 1, 2016, to guide countries in achieving the SDGs by 2030. However, COVID-19’s impact poses serious concerns for reaching the SDG goals established in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The Impact of COVID-19 on the Sustainable Development Goals

The SDG Summit in September 2022 revisited the 2030 agenda to review the status of the 17 SDGs. The Summit noted that COVID-19’s impact on the SDGs has been huge as each goal experienced setbacks. The pandemic erased more than four years of progress against poverty (SDG 1) and one out of 10 people suffers from hunger as food security increases worldwide (SDG 2). Additionally, COVID-19 infected more than 500 million people worldwide and led to 15 million deaths (SDG 3). It also disrupted health services in 92% of countries and stopped progress toward universal health coverage (SDG 3). Global life expectancy and immunization coverage have also decreased (SDG 3). Meanwhile, the global learning crisis increased as 147 million children missed in-person school (SDG 4) and women accounted for 45% of global employment losses in 2020 due to the pandemic (SDG 5).

As of 2019, more than 733 million people lived in countries with high levels of water stress (SDG 6). Additionally, new waves of COVID-19 impacted the global economic recovery and global unemployment will remain above the pre-pandemic level until 2023 if not longer (SDG 8). The passenger airline industry experienced a loss of half its customers after 2019 (SDG 9). The pandemic caused the first rise in income inequality between countries in a generation (SDG 10). The pandemic led to 90% of the world’s fishers who have employment in small-scale fisheries in need of accelerated support (SDG 14). Meanwhile, the COVID-19 recovery spending has hugely neglected biodiversity (SDG 15). Developing countries face obstacles during the pandemic recovery because of the rising debt burdens (SDG 17).

COVID-19 and Poverty

According to the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition’s assessment of the world before COVID-19 in comparison to the world two years into the global pandemic, COVID-19 has pushed the target to meet the SDGs back to nearly two decades. The time to accomplish the SDG goals has changed from 2030 to 2092. Before COVID-19, one out of 45 people worldwide needed humanitarian assistance but now one in every 28 people worldwide is in need of humanitarian assistance. In regard to poverty, the pandemic increased the number of people living in poverty from 650 million worldwide to 700 million.

Moving Forward

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. Congress allocated $18 billion to emergency COVID-19 international response funds. This money goes to support humanitarian and global health needs around the world. In addition, USAID and the U.S. State Department committed more than $1.6 billion to emergency assistance in more than 120 countries that are considered the most at-risk facing the pandemic. The money protects health care facilities, supports laboratory work, disease-surveillance and addresses the secondary impacts of the pandemic like increased hunger and poverty. The United Nations created a $10.3 billion campaign to support testing and laboratory needs in 60 of the world’s vulnerable nations.

The World Bank has also provided $160 billion to support 100 developing countries as they respond to the pandemic’s social, economic and health impacts. Other entities aiding countries experiencing crises due to COVID-19’s impact on the SDGs are private philanthropy and foundations like the COVID-19 Solidarity Fund, which has raised more than $246 million for COVID-19 preparation and response efforts. In July 2022, The High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development pushed for a new, accelerated plan in order to progress toward the SDGs after COVID-19. With the help of U.S. aid programs, global and multilateral institutions, private philanthropy and foundations, aid is available and increasing with the hope that the world will achieve the 17 SDGs despite COVID-19’s impact on the Sustainable Development Goals.

– Arden Schraff
Photo: Wikipedia Commons

Impact of COVID-19 on Poverty in Malawi
The COVID-19 pandemic displayed a significant impact on the world’s economic situation and presented numerous challenges for several countries. One such country is Malawi, located in the Southern part of Africa. In 2020, Malawi stood at 174 from a sum of 189 countries on the Human Development Index. This article delves deeper into the impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Malawi in terms of economic activity, education and food security.

Economy

In response to the pandemic, several governments around the world adopted restriction measures on imports and exports. Such safety measures displayed numerous ramifications on Malawi’s economy. This is especially since it heavily relies on imports pertinent to energy, agriculture and health among others. For instance, 80% of the overall population is employed by the agricultural sector, which also accounts for 30% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Scarce availability of such rudimentary resources caused the cost of living to increase, and in 2020, 17% of the general public lived below the poverty line. One can attribute such a decline in Malawi’s economic activity to heightened government spending during the pandemic, which accounted for $345 million. In 2020, the fiscal deficit stood at 7.7%, and economic growth declined to 1.7% compared to 5.7% in 2019.

To help curb the impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Malawi, the country’s government launched cash aid for affected households and small-sized business entities. The cash aid encapsulates aiding around 1 million eligible households and businesses with $40 monthly payments, equivalent to 35,000 Malawi Kwacha.

Education

The emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic forced many countries to shift from traditional to virtual education. This shift placed much emphasis on access to technological facilities among pupils. Increased poverty rates in Malawi, impeded learners’ ability to access online education due to limited internet facilities. According to UNICEF, COVID-19 caused students’ performance to plummet across the country. As a result, the Malawi government contracted with Telecom Network Malawi (TNM). TLM is an internet company, which, as part of the agreement, provided free unlimited internet packages to students. This agreement enabled learners across all different levels to obtain equal access to online education, especially since COVID-19 halted the education for 5.4 million students from both schools and universities.

Food Security

The impact of COVID-19 economic growth and poverty in Malawi yielded devastating results for the overall population. The outbreak of COVID-19 contributed to widespread disproportionate food insecurity. One can primarily attribute challenges relevant to nutritional support to rising poverty and declining agricultural productivity. To mitigate against food insecurity, UNICEF for instance, supported the government of Malawi in the delivery of adequate nutritional support. Other efforts to curtail hunger include World Food Programme assistance (WFP). Through funding via USAID, WFP provides financial and nutritional support to 382,000 food-deprived Malawians. Efforts such as those, assist the Malawian people to recover and survive in the midst of a food crisis, as well as allow the general public to lead healthy and sustainable lives.

The emergence of the pandemic on the global level, contributed to increased poverty and unemployment rates, alongside a declining economy. Measures and initiatives such as those that the WFP and government implemented enable the nation to undergrow economic recovery, as well as improve the living conditions across the country.

– Lisa Dzuwa
Photo: Unsplash

Impact of COVID-19 on Poverty in Jordan
Though the pandemic left no one unscathed, it hit impoverished people in developing countries harder with poverty rates skyrocketing, social tensions brewing and education systems crumbling. Jordan, a Middle Eastern country, faced immediate effects. The World Bank is taking action to address the impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Jordan.

Rising Poverty Rates in Jordan

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit Jordan, it had a prompt effect on poverty rates. At the peak of the pandemic, according to the World Bank, there was a 38% increase in poverty rates among Jordanians, with respect to the national poverty line of 67 Jordanian dinars per person per month. Regarding Syrian refugees in Jordan, the number of Syrians living under the national poverty line rose by 18%. This percentage is lower than the poverty rate among Jordanians likely because pre-pandemic, “many Syrians were already below the poverty line, limiting how many more could fall into poverty,” the World Bank explains.

Other Impacts

As jobs and resources became scarce, so did social tensions. The World Bank reports that during the lockdowns implemented, reports of domestic violence rose. Moreover, with school shutdowns, children faced difficulty accessing education, either left to attend school virtually or unable to continue their studies at all due to a  lack of access to the internet and technology.

Due to the impacts of the pandemic, in 2020, unemployment rates in Jordan reached a high of 25% for the general population and exceeded 50% among the youth.

As time went on, these difficulties further harmed Jordan’s economic state. With a declining job market, tensions rising and educational disparity, Jordan’s GDP declined by 1.6% from 2019 to 2020.

Hunger in Jordan

In 2022, the Global Hunger Index gives Jordan a score of 10.6, an increase of 1.8 points from 2020, equating to a moderate level of hunger. This ranks Jordan 53rd out of 121 countries in terms of hunger. In 2020, Jordan scored even better — 8.8, which equates to a low level of hunger. In terms of hunger levels, GHI indicates the severity of hunger in a country, with 100 representing the most severe levels of hunger and zero representing no hunger. The number of undernourished Jordanians rose to almost 17% in 2022, up from 6% in 2014.

In 2022, Jordan’s GHI (10.6) dropped below its pre-pandemic score — 0.2 points lower than in 2000 (10.8), according to the World Bank. Meaning, following the pandemic, hunger severity levels in Jordan are still lower than two decades ago.

Recovery in Jordan

Ultimately, following the pandemic, Jordan’s poor faced increased rates of malnourishment while disadvantaged youths faced education gaps and the working class dealt with unemployment and job scarcity. Yet, in 2022, with the help of emergency relief, Jordan is on its way to rebuilding itself.

On March 22, 2022, the World Bank approved $350 million worth of added funding for Jordan’s COVID-19 Emergency Response Project to provide cash transfer support for Jordan’s poor and those most negatively affected by COVID-19. The World Bank initially provided the first round of funding of $20 million to Jordan in April 2020.

These cash transfers enable low-income households in Jordan to meet their basic needs. This means households can put their income toward health and education services, both of which will aid in developing Jordan’s human capital.

While COVID-19 imposed some of the direst consequences, the world is recovering and developing countries like Jordan are back on track to reduce poverty and build their economies up.

With support from other countries and aid from the World Bank, the world’s poor can continue to progress. Though these are positive indicators of Jordan’s comeback, more aid is necessary to resolve the impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Jordan.

– Micaella Balderrama
Photo: Wikipedia Commons

COVID-19’s Impact on Gambia
Gambia is currently classified as one of the least developed countries in the world with a GDP per capita of $835 in 2021 and more than 50% of the country’s population living in poverty in 2022, the World Bank reports. The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated Gambia’s economic and healthcare-related problems, which prompted the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to provide the country with about $21 million worth of Special Drawing Rights emergency funding in 2020 to keep the nation from collapsing. COVID-19’s impact on Gambia is significant, but not irreversible.

Economic Problems

Gambia is the smallest country within mainland Africa and lacks economic diversity because of its heavy reliance upon its agricultural sector, which accounts for 30% of Gambia’s GDP. In Gambia, 70% of the labor force relies upon crops and livestock in order to secure their livelihoods.

Gambia’s economy is also reliant upon its service sector and hospitality industry as its abundant wildlife and attractive coastline make the country a desirable tourist destination. The pandemic severely affected Gambia and exacerbated the country’s economic problems by bringing a halt to industries and putting a strain upon its fragile healthcare system and limited resources. COVID-19’s impact on Gambia is still ongoing as Gambia’s tourism industry is struggling to rebound to pre-pandemic success.

The Impact on Agriculture

COVID-19’s impact on Gambia exposed how sensitive Gambia’s food systems are to external shocks. The pandemic brought to light Gambia’s heavy reliance upon its vulnerable agricultural economy and highlighted a need for more sustainable investments in rural and agricultural development. The transition to a more resilient and environmentally sustainable food system would likely strengthen Gambia’s socioeconomic landscape and protect Gambia against future crises. In 2021, more than 13% of Gambia’s population experienced food insecurity, and currently, more than 10% of the population suffers from acute malnourishment.

The pandemic magnified food insecurity in the nation because Gambia is a net food importer country. As a result, supply chain constraints and rising global food prices hit the country especially hard. COVID-19’s impact on Gambia in 2020 is estimated to have increased poverty in urban areas by about 5% and 92% of households nationwide experienced a loss in total income by August 2020.

Recovery

Gambia is continuing to recover from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Russia-Ukraine conflict is expected to affect this recovery by driving up the cost of resources that Gambia imports. Gambia relies on imports for important resources such as fertilizer, food and fuel. As the prices of these resources rise, these imports become more difficult for Gambia to obtain. Despite these challenges, Gambia can potentially achieve economic growth and rebound from the pandemic in the coming years if its leaders adopt new governmental reforms.

Strengthening the Agricultural Sector

In November 2021, Gambia secured $40 million through the World Bank for the Gambia Inclusive and Resilient Agricultural Value Chain Development Project (GIRAV).

The GIRAV project supports Gambia’s national goal of poverty reduction by strengthening food and agricultural production through improved value chain coordination. This process entails a shift from subsistence agriculture to market-oriented agriculture and aims to address constraints in Gambia’s agricultural supply chain. GIRAV is expected to strengthen the livelihoods of about 50,000 farmers. To reduce poverty among the most vulnerable groups, women will account for at least half of the project beneficiaries and Gambia’s youth will account for 30% of beneficiaries.

Through a focus on climate-smart agriculture, the project aims to increase resilience in the agricultural sector. Apart from boosting income generation among Gambians, the project will also reduce food insecurity. GIRAV and future investments of this nature show promise for Gambia and are strategies that set the stage for a country-wide recovery from the effects of COVID-19. Gambia’s government has the potential to improve the welfare of its people and accelerate economic growth by adopting new economic policies and investing in its future.

– Dylan Priday
Photo: Flickr

Mental Health in Chile
Depression and anxiety have risen in post-COVID-19 Chile. Prolonged confinement, uncertainty and lack of social contact triggered a dramatic increase in these pathologies. However, these frightening figures have made these diseases visible at levels never seen before, which is the first step to achieving important changes.

Depression and Anxiety on the Rise

Mental health is often a silenced topic in Chile, as well as in most parts of the world. One can see the unequal treatment that patients suffering from mental illness compared to physical illnesses received by the lack of services dedicated to these and the discrimination that mentally ill individuals have suffered. These are diseases that the media has traditionally not highlighted and that many treat as minor problems. Undoubtedly, this generates mistrust on the part of the affected person when seeking help.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, depression and anxiety are some of the most worrying results of the lockdown. A study that the Catholic University of Chile conducted, in collaboration with the Chilean Safety Association (ACHS), indicated that mental health issues were among 35% of respondents by 2020. While, in 2020, the number of people that some symptoms of depression affected was 13%, in 2022, it rose to 16% due to unemployment and economic instability due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Meanwhile, as many as 28% suffered from anxiety.

Despite the problems with mental health in Chile, the total budget dedicated to mental health is currently at 2%, which is the lowest among all OECD countries. Without a doubt, this situation requires governmental action to achieve a change in strategy and an increase in the budget.

Mental Health: Challenges and Solutions

The impact that mental instability has on one’s performance and on society reaches consequences that affect the whole country. Giving these illnesses the importance they require and establishing a prompt response can have a positive impact on society’s well-being but also on reducing poverty. For example, mental issues have massive indirect costs that have links to the lack of productivity and motivation of the affected person. According to the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), mental health problems are the main cause of disability in Chile. Chile is also one of the Latin American countries with the highest depression rates, especially among the lowest-income groups. This suggests that chronic depression or severe anxiety disorders cause the inability to perform well in society, increasing the possibility of unemployment, drug addiction, and therefore, the risk of poverty.

Thus, mental health problems increase the levels of poverty while poverty increases the chances of suffering from mental issues. In order to break this vicious cycle, mental illnesses ought to receive treatment in time. Accepting the reality that mental health is equally important to physical health and making this reality visible, not only brings urgency to the matter but also incentivizes people to reach out without being scared or shameful to do so. Breaking the social stigma that mental instability is a symbol of weakness or insanity is the first step toward an effective response.

The First Signs of Grass Shoots

Fortunately, there is a change for the better. The World Health Organization (WHO) has stressed the importance of mental health in a series of guidelines that it published earlier in 2022. These are in the Comprehensive Mental Health Action Plan 2013-2030. In fact, the WHO argues that every country can move towards progress simply by making the problem visible. It promotes:

  • Raising awareness about mental health so that everyone understands the importance of it.
  • Eliminating the stigma of mental illness.
  • Improving access to mental health treatment.

Mental health in Chile became more visible since COVID-19. In 2021, Chile increases its budget by 310% compared to the previous year. The funds go toward:

  • Strengthening the human resources in mental health care for children and teenagers.
  • Improving primary health care in mental health.
  • The introduction of the Remote Brief Psychological Intervention Program, which people can use to communicate with a doctor through a video call.

Some of the most recent updates in Chile show even more positive progress. The national budget for public spending in 2023 that the President of the Republic, Gabriel Boric, announced dedicated more than $18 billion to strengthen Chile’s response to mental diseases.

As Boric stated “mental health matters and we are not going to leave them alone.” Meanwhile, global mental health day was celebrated on October 10, 2022, and the Health Minister from Chile, Ximena Aguilar, reaffirmed the same idea stating that people will no longer have to face their mental health issues alone. The Government of Chile establishes as a priority to advance the improvement of the treatment of mental illnesses while protecting the rights of the people who suffer from them.

– Carla Tomas Laserna
Photo: Unsplash

Impact of COVID-19 on Poverty in The Gambia
The Gambia is a small country in West Africa with a population of only 2.4 million people. The most recent statistics from the World Bank have indicated that as of 2015, 10.3% of the population was living below the poverty line. The pandemic has had a devastating impact on The Gambia, both in terms of its people and the country’s economic stability.

The U.N. has been working with the Gambian government, development partners and other stakeholders to nurture a comprehensive partnership to build back for the better. This is part of a global effort to ensure that the disruption that the COVID-19 pandemic caused does not lead to more challenges than the virus itself.

The Impact on Employment in The Gambia

The COVID-19 pandemic has had an impact on employment in The Gambia. For example, the International Labour Organization (ILO) has predicted that unemployment rates increased from 9.5% to 11.2% from 2019 to 2021. This is because many businesses had to close or reduce operations in response to the pandemic.

The COVID-19 pandemic in The Gambia has led to a reduction in economic activity since people’s incomes have decreased and the prices of goods and services have increased.

Additionally, COVID-19 in The Gambia has led to the decline of many economic sectors including the tourism industry. For example, the number of tourists in the country dropped to 53.7% from February to March 2020. According to the Gambian Bureau of Statistics, out of 266 formal tourism establishments, 167 had to reduce their trained staff while the other 65 establishments reduced the pay of their staff.

The Economic Impacts

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on poverty in The Gambia. The country was already struggling with high levels of poverty, and the pandemic has made it even harder for people to make ends meet.

The impact of COVID-19 on poverty in The Gambia has led to slower economic growth in the country. The Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs indicated that the economic impact of COVID-19 would lead to a loss of 2.5 million Gambian dalasis equivalent to almost $50,000. As a result, the economy would shrink from 6.3% in 2020 to 3.3%.

Solutions

The government of The Gambia has responded to the outbreak by implementing a number of measures to support those the pandemic has affected. These include providing financial assistance to households impacted by job losses, increasing food production and expanding access to health care.

In April 2020, the government started a food relief program to help almost 84% of the population, providing them with 50 kg of rice, cooking oil and sugar. Additionally, The Gambia provided loans to small and medium Enterprises (SME) so that they do not lay off their staff members and can boost their business.

The impact of COVID-19 pandemic has had a dramatic socio-economic impact on poverty in The Gambia. This is mainly due to the fact that the pandemic has caused a decline in economic activity. However, with the help and support from the government, The Gambia was able to stabilize after the pandemic also with the help from donors such as WHO who were able to provide masks and vaccines to people and also aid from USAID that helped improve the livelihood of people from The Gambia.

Without this support, many more people would live in poverty in the Gambia. While the pandemic has been a tragedy for so many, it is heartening to see that there are some people and organizations who are working to make a difference.

– Frida Sendoro
Photo: Flickr

The Impact of COVID-19 On Poverty In Australia
While the rest of the world became vulnerable to poverty during the COVID-19 pandemic, Australia showed a remarkable immunity to the pandemic’s effects on poverty. In fact, in 2020, Australia managed to reduce poverty by 50% and “significantly reduce income inequality.” As such, this Oceania country became a model for other countries. However, after 2020, Australia began to abandon the measures it implemented to protect people from poverty, worsening the impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Australia.

Initial Impact of COVID-19 on Poverty in Australia

Typically, poverty increases during a recession. However, this was not the case in Australia during the Alpha wave of the pandemic. A recent report released by the UNSW Sydney and ACOSS Poverty and Inequality Partnership in March 2022 highlights how Australia decreased poverty from March 2020 to December 2020.

Despite unemployment rates increasing from 5.1% to 17% and the gross domestic product (GDP) shrinking by 7% during the June quarter of 2020, the “average incomes of the lowest 80% of households” expanded from March 2020 to December 2020. More specifically, the average income of the lowest 20% income population increased by 8% and the middle 20% saw an average income increase of 11%.

In 2019, about 3 million people lived in poverty in Australia, but in June 2020, poverty affected 2.6 million people, which is about 50% less than Australia expected.

This is largely due to the Coronavirus Supplement, which is an additional top-up payment for people on welfare. It supplemented the JobSeeker Payment, which began in March 2020 as a government-issued support to help employers retain employees.

Because of the coupled efforts of the Coronavirus Supplement and the JobSeeker Payment, 9.9% of the population stood below the line of poverty in June 2020 compared to the 22.7% expected poverty percentage without further income support.

Poverty among people on JobSeeker Payment support also reduced sharply, dropping from 76% in 2019 to 15% in 2020.

How the Impact of COVID-19 on Poverty in Australia Reversed

During the Delta wave of the pandemic in 2021, Australia imposed lockdowns and “the effective unemployment rate” (individuals working no hours and people who exited the workforce) increased to 9%. This is because, by April 2021, Australia had eliminated both the Coronavirus Supplement and JobKeeper Payment. It introduced the COVID Disaster Payment in September 2021, but this support had a more narrow target — “80[%] of those on the lowest income support payment were excluded,” says UNSW Sydney. Subsequently, poverty rates increased by roughly 20% and income inequality rose along with it.

In September 2021, only 17% of “people under the lockdown on the lowest income support payments” received the COVID-19 Disaster Payment, which most likely left the remaining people, 765,000, in poverty. When Australia phased out the COVID-19 Disaster Payment, around 1.6 million people were on “lowest income support payments” — roughly “25% more than before the pandemic” in 2019.

The Government and Poverty

Australia’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic shows that the government can end poverty. As Dr. Cassandra Goldie said in an article by UNSW Sydney, poverty and income inequality grow because of government policies, but when governments introduce effective social policies, like the Coranavirus Supplement, poverty can also greatly reduce. By spending on essentials and sending out vital help, the government was able to keep people in jobs, softening the impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Australia. Thus, Australia’s unique situation during the pandemic reveals the power the government holds in exacerbating or ending poverty.

– Samyukta Gaddam
Photo: Unsplash

The impact of COVID-19 on poverty in ThailandThe second country, after China, to report a COVID-19 case, Thailand has experienced tumultuous economic and social fluctuations following the COVID-19 pandemic in late 2020. Thailand was particularly impacted in late 2020 and early 2021, during which the nation suffered from high unemployment rates, reduced incomes and increased food insecurity. Consequently, the pandemic plunged an estimated 800,000 people into poverty in Thailand.

Exacerbated Economic Ramifications

At a glance, Thailand’s GDP fell by 6.1% in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Thailand saw an eight-point decline in unemployment in urban areas and based on a 2020 World Bank survey, 50% of respondents reported that the pandemic negatively affected their jobs. Similarly, 70% of respondents reported a decline in household income, with the pandemic hitting rural, low-income households the hardest.

The country’s tourism sector, accounting for 20% of nationwide employment and a fifth of the nation’s GDP, faced stagnant tourism flows amid travel bans. Consequently, Thailand’s tourism slowdown significantly affected low-skilled workers, particularly women and children, in the tourism industry.

Government Initiatives Amid COVID-19 Pandemic

In light of pandemic adversities, the Thai government responded swiftly to mitigate the crisis. A policy package, consisting of a fiscal stimulus equivalent to 10% of GDP helped the nation avoid an economic and social crisis. The World Bank reported that 780,000 additional people would have fallen into poverty without the Thai government’s introduction of financial packages.

The government’s “No One Left Behind” program in 2020 also helped mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Thailand; the government provided 80% of farming households with monthly cash transfers. In addition, the introduction of a farmers’ assistance program reached 63% of the government’s target audience.

The Current Status of Poverty Levels in Thailand

Thailand’s road to recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic remains promising. The  unemployment rate declined by 0.5% in the first quarter of 2022 and estimates indicate that poverty levels should decline to the country’s pre-pandemic levels. Overall, the country’s economy is projected to expand by 2.9% by the end of 2022. Notably, more than 57.3 million people, more than 80% of Thailand’s overall population, have received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Nonetheless, while Thailand’s economic and social sectors have improved since 2020, the nation is still facing the impacts of COVID-19 on poverty in Thailand. According to the World Bank, Thai households’ average labor income has declined while household debt has increased by 25%, resulting in increased loans to support lifestyles.

Future Undertakings

Thailand is continuing to increase its vaccination rates and boost its tourism sector to revitalize its economy. As of October 1, 2022, the Tourism of Authority of Thailand has lifted Thailand’s border restrictions, allowing travelers to visit Thailand without proof of a negative COVID-19 test. Additionally, in August 2022, the Thai government extended the previously 30-day tourist stay in Thailand to 45 days.

Amid Thailand’s reintroduction of tourism, future poverty levels remain elusive. Granting visitors extended stay without proof of a COVID-19 test could potentially bring a new wave of cases to the nation. Nonetheless, Thailand’s revitalized tourism sector will surely help mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Thailand. Hopefully, increased tourism will reinvigorate Thailand’s slow economy, declining poverty levels and boosting household income for good.

– Emma He
Photo: Unsplash

Canadian Job Market
Following the outbreak of COVID-19, Canada’s unemployment rate first jumped to the highest it had been in more than two decades. In just two years, it dropped to almost the lowest it has ever been.
As in many countries, the Canadian job market struggled after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many people had trouble finding work during the first few months of the pandemic. However, Canada has managed to create a staggering number of jobs since then. Now, the country’s job market is, arguably, in better shape than it was prior to the start of the pandemic.

Pre-COVID-19

 Before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Canadian job market had been enjoying a prolonged period of prosperity. From 2009 until 2019, Canada’s unemployment rate decreased almost every year, with a low in 2019 0f 5.7%, an all-time low for the country.

In February 2020, just before the start of the pandemic, Canada’s unemployment rate was at 5.5%, only a slight increase from 2019 and there were some signs of encouragement. Employment amongst youth had increased, although with little change to other age groups. Additionally, a number of provinces had also seen increases in employment. Most notably, Quebec increased its employment by 20,000. Other provinces that had increased employment during this same period were Alberta, Nova Scotia and Manitoba.

How COVID-19 Affected the Job Market

As COVID-19 began to spread, many nations required massive shutdowns of companies and businesses to combat the virus. People worldwide either had to work remotely or lost their jobs entirely. Canada was no exception to this as the number of jobs available decreased by more than 3 million in the months of March and April 2020.

Canada’s unemployment rate rose to 13.7% in May 2020, the highest it had been since 1993. Most of the jobs that Canada lost had been recovered during the summer of 2020 and yet, recovery efforts slowed as the virus began to ramp up again that fall. Another wave of job losses also occurred in January 2022 as a result of precautionary shutdowns in response to the Omicron variant.

The pandemic had the largest impact on women, young workers and workers with low wages. Unemployment for those between the ages of 15-24 rose far more sharply than any other age group. Before the pandemic, women had a lower unemployment rate than men. However, in May, unemployment spiked for both genders and women had the higher rate.

Post-COVID-19

In just two years since the start of the pandemic, the Canadian job market has rebounded in impressive fashion. Not only did the country’s unemployment rate return to where it was prior to the shutdowns, but it was also even lower than it was in early 2020. In February 2022, Canada’s unemployment rate stood at 5.5%, lower than the 5.7% rate it was in February 2020. That is also just about the all-time low of 5.4% that it reached in 2019.

Much of the decrease in the unemployment rate can be due to Canada’s unprecedented job creation. The nation has been able to create thousands of jobs per month over several months. In November 2021, 154,000 jobs were added and 54,700 jobs were created in December. Following the temporary Omicron shutdown, Canada added 337,000 more jobs in February 2022.

While many jobs recovered thanks to businesses reopening after the start of the pandemic, the Canadian government also introduced various measures to improve the state of the job market. One of these was the Canada Recovery Hiring Program which helped employers rehire employees with an added boost to their salaries. The Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy allowed millions of Canadians to keep their jobs so that their employers could rehire them once the positions were available again. The Canada Recovery Hiring Program provided assistance to employers that would help them rehire employees, create new jobs and increase hours for those jobs. The combination of the policies and others allowed Canada’s job market to rebound tremendously.

Looking Ahead

After losing more than 3 million jobs at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Canada has managed to get its job market in a better position than it was prior to the pandemic. Rapid job creation that shattered expectations has allowed millions of citizens to return to work and many to begin working. It appears that Canada has made the best of what was, otherwise, an unfortunate situation.

– Tyshon Johnson
Photo: Flickr