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Coronavirus and the Global South

Systematic quantitative evidence on economic conditions during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic remains scarce for most low- and middle-income countries. Combining surveys from nine countries across Africa, Asia and Latin America, an international team of researchers has assembled data on the economic impact of coronavirus and concurrent lockdown policies. The authors, including WZB-director Macartan Humphreys, reports massive income drops and growing levels of food insecurity across all surveyed countries.

The team has analyzed over 30,000 household surveys from Burkina Faso, Ghana, Kenya, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Bangladesh, Nepal, Philippines, and Colombia. They find that household strategies and government assistance were insufficient to sustain pre-crisis living standards, resulting in widespread food insecurity and dire economic conditions even 3 months into the crisis. Rural areas have been hit particularly hard by temporary unemployment, income loss and food deprivation.

The authors discuss promising policy responses to limit the risk of persistent adverse effects, especially among children and other vulnerable groups. The study calls for the priority of countering poverty and hunger, which might in turn maximize adherence to contact restrictions. The authors propose direct money transfers to cell phones as an effective means of targeting aid. Real mitigation requires further analysis still. To that end, surveys, cell phone data, and satellite imagery could be utilized in the future.


8 February 2021

Porträtfoto Macartan Humphreys
Jacobia Dahm

The study forms the basis for a recent policy brief by the nongovernmental organization Innovations for Poverty Action.