Millions more may fall into poverty in Pakistan due to COVID-19, UNDP warns

Millions more may fall into poverty in Pakistan due to COVID-19, UNDP warns

Due to the economic slowdown, 40% of Pakistan’s population may fall below the poverty line

Millions of more people can go under the poverty line in Pakistan, according an impact assessment carried out by the UNDP. Pakistan is expected to be one of the worst hit countries by the coronavirus.

According to statistics from 2015, the poverty level in Pakistan is approximately 24%, a 40% drop in the level in the two preceding decades. However, with the novel coronavirus badly effecting all sectors of business and forcing lockdowns, the poverty level could jump up to 40%, as per IMF. The real GDP growth has slowed down due to less active manufacturing and services industry and will clock a 3% growth.  

Pakistan already is grappling with the shortage of medical staff. As per the estimates, Pakistan has about 200,000 doctors and 1.4 million nurses. However, considering the population of the country has gone beyond 220 million, these numbers are adequate enough. The country also lacks universal health care.

The groups facing the most risk include those already living below poverty line, women, children, and people with disabilities, the elderly, and other marginalized groups. Their livelihood and nutrition as well as access to the basic needs is the least secure.

The assessment suggests that there is a need of a “deliberate effort to reach out to the furthest and most vulnerable through economic relief packages and social sector services.” There will, however, be challenges of various natures to this and the government will need to have a really well coordinated effort to achieve the desired results.

The government of Pakistan has marked 1.2 trillion rupees as a response package for economic woes created by the coronavirus. This includes 144 billion rupees to be distributed to poor households in 12,000 rupees tranches. The government has also allocated funds subsidizing certain essential products for the masses to lower the burden of expenses for them.

UN study suggests following response to cope with the challenge:

  • Making essential health services available to those in need and protecting health systems.
  • Helping people cope through social protections and ensuring basic services and food security.
  • Protecting jobs, supporting small and medium-sized enterprises, and supporting vulnerable workers through economic recovery programs.
  • Guiding a badly needed surge in fiscal and financial stimuli and strengthening multilateral and regional responses.
  • Promoting social cohesion and investing in community-led resilience and response systems.

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