The fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic could push 40 to 60 million people into extreme poverty, the World Bank projects. The organization’s "best estimate" is that 49 million people will be pushed into extreme poverty.
This would be the first increase in global poverty since 1998.
"In the more pessimistic scenarios, global poverty in 2020 would be close to the level in 2017 — meaning that world’s progress in eliminating extreme poverty would be set back by three years," the World Bank’s projection says.
Global poverty is defined by the World Bank as the share of the world’s population living on less than $1.90 a day. Globally, 736 million people live in extreme poverty. Nearly half the world’s population, meanwhile, subsists on less than $5.50 a day.
In recent decades, efforts to improve quality of life standars have led to a decline in extreme poverty. However, the massive economic impact of the pandemic could roll back these hard-fought gains, the World Bank warns.
Low- and middle-income countries will be hit the hardest, according to the organization. It projects that 23 million people in sub-Saharan Africa and 16 million in South Asia will be pushed into extreme poverty.
"Though sub-Saharan Africa so far has been hit relatively less by the virus from a health perspective, our projections suggest that it will be the region hit hardest in terms of extreme poverty," the World Bank says.
India, Nigeria, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo are the three countries projected to have the largest change in the number of poor. Indonesia, South Africa, and China are also projected to have over a million people pushed into extreme poverty.
The United Nations' number one Global Goal is eliminating poverty by 2030. However, even before the COVID-19 pandemic, global poverty reduction had been slowing down, and the World Bank had said this goal was unlikely to be met.