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UNDP: Effects of COVID-19 expected to increase poverty, inequality in SA

The UNDP on Wednesday presented its findings from the 'Socio-Economic Impact Assessment' report, which looked into the implications of the outbreak in society, the economy, and particularly on vulnerable groups.

Senior citizens queuing for their monthly social grants at the South African Post Office at the Gold Sport shopping centre in Vosloorus, Ekurhuleni on 4 May 2020. Picture: Sethembiso Zulu/EWN

JOHANNESBURG - Global health experts are warning that without an urgent socio-economic response to the COVID-19 pandemic in South Africa, the health crisis could intensify and jeopardise lives for years to come.

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) on Wednesday presented its findings from the Socio-Economic Impact Assessment report, which looked into the implications of the outbreak in society, the economy, and particularly on vulnerable groups.

Addressing panelists from government, the Resident Coordinator of the UN in South Africa, Nardos Bekele-Thomas, said the pandemic had shaken societies to their core.

“The pandemic is more than a health crisis, It’s an economic, a humanitarian, security, and a human rights crisis. Today more than ever, inequalities within and among nations are being exposed and exacerbated by COVID-19 as the poor and venerable are unable to protect themselves,” Bekele-Thomas said.

Bekele-Thomas said while the impact of the pandemic would vary from country to country, it would most likely increase poverty and inequalities on a global scale.

“One of the key findings of the study is the awareness that individuals are susceptible to transition from one level of poverty to an even lower one such as the vulnerable middle class to reduce the likelihood of slipping into poverty,” she said.

WOMEN, MIDDLE CLASS MOST AT RISK

At the same time, the UNDP said that it could take at least five years for the country’s economy to return to the pre-2019 levels unless innovative actions were implemented.

Its report said that the effects of the public health crisis was expected to increase poverty and inequalities on a frightening scale.

Economic advisor Fatou Leigh said that 34% of South Africa’s middle class was likely to fall below the poverty line.
Leigh said the COVID-19 induced lockdown had affected female-headed households fare worse than their male counterparts.

The UNDP recommended that government review its relief measures by targeting individual poverty levels, gender dimensions, and focus on health care workers.

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