How is Coronavirus Affecting Developing Countries?

It is worth distinguishing first of all between the negative health effects of the virus itself and the negative effects of government lockdowns. The severity of lockdowns and the capacity to enforce them vary from country to country, and so the consequences of this politically imposed response to the pandemic will vary greatly across countries.

EVEN IF the stats are unreliable, governments the world over have responded with lockdown measures in response to public concern, which has very real consequences.

Lockdowns are pushing people into poverty, hunger and children are being pulled out of school

This brief report from the ODI puts a human face on the consequences of Covid-19. They provide a case study of one woman in Nairobi, Kenya, who was eating three meals a day and sending her children to school pre-lockdown.

However, lockdown forced the shutdown of her street food stall and now she is eating one meal a day, the children are meal sharing at another household and she doesn’t have the money to send them back to school.

Coronavirus has pushed another 71 million people into extreme poverty

The World Bank estimates that 71 million more people will be pushed into extreme poverty in 2021 as a result of coronavirus, an increase of 0.5% and taking the total to nearly 9% of the world population, eradicating all progress towards ending extreme poverty since 2017.

A further 170 million people in low to middle income countries will be pushed below the global poverty lines of $3.20 and $5.50 a day.

How covid-19 has affected households in developing countries

Another World Bank report from December 2020 used phone surveys to interview people in IDA (countries qualifying for development assistance, mostly the poorest countries) and non-IDA countries.

The results show that the consequences have generally been harsher for people in developing countries:

  • People in IDA countries are less likely to have stopped working but more likely to have taken cuts in wages.
  • They are more likely to have skipped a meal.
  • Children’s education has suffered much more in IDA countries compared to non-IDA countries
  • Government bail outs are much less common in IDA countries.

This united Nations article suggests that poorer countries lack the capacity to respond to a global pandemic and that coronavirus could create further burdens in those countries having to deal with other major health problems such as aids and malaria.

It further notes that closure of borders will affect those countries reliant on trade, and reduce remittances from abroad (money sent home), reduce migrant labour opportunities and affect those countries which rely on tourism for income.

Covid-19 will increase inequality

A final World Bank report suggests that inequality will increase as a result of Covid-19.

This is based on evidence from how countries have recovered from previous Pandemics.

The theory is that households with resources are better able to weather the negative affects of a downturn, by keeping their children in school for example, and by using savings rather than taking on debt, and so can just ‘carry on’ as normal when economic recover comes, while poorer people are having to play catch up.

It’s explained in this handy infographic:

Those working in the informal sector are hardest hit

This LSE. blog post reminds us that many more people work informally in developed countries – and these people will be the hardest hit by lockdown policies – they are the first to be laid-off when work is reduced and they do not qualify for any government assistance measures either.

Other potential impacts

You should be able to find out about other impacts, such as:

  • In the long term more countries might cut their foreign aid budgets, like Britain has done recently.
  • Charities such as Oxfam are likely to receive less money from the general public.
  • It will be more difficult for migrant labourers to find work because of border restrictions.
  • I dread to think how all of this has affected the movement of refugees!
  • There have probably been more cases of domestic abuse worldwide as a result of lockdowns.
  • Possibly the most devastating long-term affect is the number of days of schooling that children in poorer countries would have missed – low income countries have much less capacity to offer home based, online learning, compared to wealthier countries.

Relevance to A-level sociology

This is mainly relevant to the health and global development topic, but there are also some useful links here to social constructionism and social action theory.

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