A report recently released by international charity, Oxfam, says the coronavirus pandemic has the potential to lead to an increase in inequality in almost every country at once, something the organisation describes as unprecedented.
The report, titled “The Inequality Virus: Bringing together a world torn apart by coronavirus through a fair, just and sustainable economy” suggests that the COVID-19 women, children and the poor will emerge the biggest victims.
Responding to iHubOnline regarding the Malawian context, Governance Programme Manager Mathias Kafunda said the situation is not any better.
He said just like the rest of the world, the virus has expanded or created grounds for increased inequalities in terms of wealth, gender and race.
“Rigged economies, like in our context of Malawi are funnelling wealth to a rich elite who are riding out the pandemic in luxury, while those on the frontline of the pandemic.
“Shop assistants, health workers, market vendors (especially women)- are struggling to pay the bills and put food on the table,” observes Kafunda.
He stressed that women and the working poor are bearing the brunt of this crisis.
“They are likely to be pushed into poverty, more likely to go hungry and more likely to be excluded from health care,” he said.
Over two million people have died, and hundreds of millions of people are being forced into poverty while many of the richest – individuals and corporations – are thriving.
The report laments that billionaire fortunes returned to their pre-pandemic highs in just nine months, while
recovery for the world’s poorest people could take over a decade.
The Oxfam report also challenges government to work on improving the health sector and improve people’s livelihoods.
In order to cushion those suffering from the shocks of COVID-19, Kafunda urges government to implement a Social Protection programme for vulnerable and marginalised members especially daily wage and piece workers.
“The Urban Cash Transfers programme touted in previous administration is a must start right now.”
Oxfam fears that the continued high prevalence of poverty in Malawi compared to other Sub-Saharan African nations may suggest deeper crisis for the majority poor.
Malawi’s poverty rate based on the US$1.90 threshold has declined by 3 percentage points from 2004 to 2016, from 73.4 to 70.3 percent.
This compares to an 11-percentage point drop for Sub-Saharan Africa, from 53.2 to 42.3 percent.
According to the World Bank December 2020 Malawi Economic Monitor, Poverty reduction in Malawi has stagnated in the last 15 years and is expected to worsen with the pandemic, observes the Oxfam report.