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Inflation has pushed 71 million people into poverty since the war in Ukraine — The Indian Panorama

KYiv (TIP): A further 71 million people around the world are living in poverty due to soaring food and energy prices that soared in the weeks following Ukraine’s invasion of Ukraine. Russia, the United Nations Development Program said in a July 7 report. The UNDP estimates that an additional 51.6 million people fell into poverty in the first three months after the war, living on $1.90 a day or less.

This pushed the global total number to that threshold at 9% of the global population. Another 20 million people have slipped below the poverty line of $3.20 a day. In low-income countries, families spend 42% of their household income on food, but while Western countries have moved to sanction Russia, the price of fuel and basic foodstuffs like wheat, sugar and cooking oil soared. Ukraine’s blocked ports and inability to export grain to low-income countries have further driven prices up, rapidly pushing tens of millions into poverty.

“The impact on the cost of living is almost unprecedented in a generation…and that’s why it’s so severe,” UNDP Administrator Achim Steiner said at the launch of the report.

The speed at which this number of people experienced poverty exceeded the economic pain felt at the height of the pandemic. The UNDP noted that 125 million people experienced poverty for about 18 months during the pandemic shutdowns and closures, compared to more than 71 million in just three months after Russia invaded Ukraine in late February. “The speed of this is very fast,” said UNDP chief economist and report author George Molina. Some of the countries hardest hit by inflation are Haiti, Argentina, Egypt, Iraq, Turkey, Philippines, Rwanda, Sudan, Kenya, Sri Lanka, and Uzbekistan.

In countries like Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Mali, Nigeria and Yemen, the effects of inflation are even harsher for those already at the lowest poverty line. The total number of people living in poverty or vulnerable to poverty is more than 5 billion, or just under 70% of the world’s population.

Another UN report released on Wednesday says world hunger rose last year with 2.3 billion people facing moderate or severe difficulty getting enough to eat – and that was before the war in Ukraine.

The global economy needs to pick up speed, Steiner said, adding that there is enough wealth in the world to handle the crisis, “but our ability to act in unison and quickly is a constraint.”

UNDP recommends that rather than spending billions on general energy subsidies, governments instead target spending to reach those most affected through targeted cash transfers that can prevent an additional 52.6 million people from falling into poverty at $5.50 per day.

For cash-strapped and indebted developing countries to do so, the UNDP called for an extension of debt payments that had been in place during the pandemic among the world’s wealthiest nations. (AP)

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