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Economic fallout from COVID-19 pandemic can push 86mn children into poverty: UNICEF

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Children pose for a portrait at a camp for internally displaced people in Barsalogho, Burkina Faso, on January 27, 2020. (Photo by AFP)

The economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic can put up to 86 million children at the risk of poverty worldwide by the end of 2020 and roll back years of progress in eradicating child poverty, the UN Children’s Agency warns.

The results of a joint study by the UNICEF and the UK-based Save the Children humanitarian organization also warned that if this huge number of children plunged in poverty, the total number of children affected by poverty across the globe would reach 672 million.

It added that the total number showed an increase of 15 percent compared to last year, saying that nearly two-thirds of those children overall live in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.  

The pandemic-triggered increase, however, is expected to occur mainly in Europe and Central Asia, added the study, which is based on findings by the World Bank and International Monetary Fund projections and also population data from some 100 countries.

Earlier this month, the World Bank predicted that the pandemic threatens to put up to 60 million people at the risk of plunging into extreme poverty, wiping out the gains made in recent years.

"The scale and depth of financial hardship among families threatens to roll back years of progress in reducing child poverty and to leave children deprived of essential services," UNICEF executive director Henrietta Fore said in a statement.

The chief of the Save the Children, Inger Ashing, also said that with immediate and decisive action, “we can prevent and contain the pandemic threat facing the poorest countries and some of the most vulnerable children.”

She warned that children are “highly vulnerable to even short periods of hunger and malnutrition – potentially affecting them for their whole life.”

Both organizations urged governments to immediately expand their social security systems and school meals programs to mitigate the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, which as of Thursday, has infected more than 5,839,900 people and killed over 359,064 others worldwide.

UN chief calls for more debt relief  

On Thursday, UN chief Antonio Guterres called for debt relief to be given to all developing and middle-income countries as the COVID-19 rages across the world. He urged the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to consider increasing global liquidity through issuing a new allocation of its Special Drawing Rights (SDR) currency.

“Alleviating crushing debt cannot be limited to the Least Developed Countries,” Guterres said at a high-level UN meeting on how to handle the pandemic’s economic consequences.

“It must be extended to all developing and middle-income countries that request forbearance as they lose access to financial markets,” the UN chief added.

He also said many developing and middle-income countries are highly vulnerable and already in debt distress, or will soon become so, due to the global recession.

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