The UN Trade and Development Agency (UNCTAD) said that 32 million people could be pulled into extreme poverty due to the economic repercussions of the pandemic. The effects could have dire long-term consequences for poverty reduction, education, and hunger.
The UN, which defines extreme poverty as living off of less than $1.90 per day, is actively working to reduce global poverty rates.
There are currently 47 countries designated by the UN as LDCs, according to per capita income, human assets, and economic and environmental vulnerability. An estimated 1.06 billion people live across these countries, but the population only accounts for 1.3% of global economic turnover as many people live in poverty.
Although the health impact in LDCs has been less significant than the impact in more developed countries, the pandemic's economic repercussions of the pandemic in LDCs have been significantly worse.
Between October 2019 and October 2020, the economic growth forecast in LDCs dropped from an anticipated 5% to -0.4%. It is the most severe economic downturn for this group of countries in recent history and is expected to reduce the average per capita income by 2.6%.
Economists say that this downturn represents a significant reversal in the economic and social progress achieved in these countries before the pandemic. It also makes the possibility of achieving the Global Goals by 2030 less likely.
"The least developed countries today are undergoing the worst recession in 30 years," UNCTAD Secretary-General Mukhisa Kituyi wrote in the report.
"Their already low standards of living are falling,” Kituyi continued. “Their stubbornly high poverty rates are rising further, reversing the slow improvement they had achieved prior to the pandemic. Progress toward achievements on nutrition, health, and education are being undone by the onslaught of the crisis."
The report warned that low socioeconomic development could be a driver for instability, conflict, and migration, making living conditions in these countries even worse for the population and exacerbating inequalities.
It also reiterated the international community’s commitment to “leave no one behind” to achieve the Global Goals and called on developed countries to offer more support to LDCs, where stability and poverty reduction will be a necessity in achieving the goals worldwide.
“The international community needs to show its support to the least developed countries, through a holistic view of their development, which includes decisive and effective support measures that address the root causes of weak productive capacities," Kituyi wrote.