The World Bank estimates that 97 million people around the world fell into poverty due to the pandemic in 2020, living on less than $ 2 a day.
“We barely had enough to get home,” Dipali Roy said in an interview in Bengali from the family home, a corrugated iron hut in a village in northern Bangladesh.
As the couple searched for new ways to make a living, they struggled to adjust. They tried to find a loan to start a small business, but at first no one was able or willing to help them. Some local associations the organizations asked for guarantees, which they did not have.
In the hope of getting a job in agriculture, Pradip Roy approaches a few farmers. But he was fired as a “man from Dhaka” who would not be able to cope with the harsh weather conditions, his wife said.
Mainly, “the food was the biggest problem,” said Dipali Roy, 20, who was pregnant at the time and could sometimes only have one meal a day thanks to a public rationing program. “I didn’t know what to doâ¦ We just had to sit down and wait when they brought food.”
Carolina SÃ¡nchez-PÃ¡ramo, global director of poverty and equity at the World Bank, compared the pandemic to a natural disaster that would rapidly spread beyond its epicenter in East Asia.
âWe knew the tsunami was coming,â she told CNN Business.
“The question was not whether this [economic shock] would reach other developing regions, but when. “
Shameran Abed, executive director of BRAC International, a non-profit organization fighting poverty in Asia and Africa, highlighted the widening wealth gap, saying “the three richest people in the world” could possibly eliminate extreme poverty on Earth.
“It is not their only responsibility,” he added. “But I’m just saying that in general there are enough resources [to tackle the problem]. “
Recently, the richest 1% have come under pressure to get involved in humanitarian issues.
In an interview with CNN’s Becky Anderson, David Beasley said giving $ 6 billion, or roughly 2% of Musk’s net worth, could help solve world hunger.
“[It’s] $ 6 billion to help 42 million people who will literally die if we don’t reach them. It’s not complicated, âhe added.
The call received a direct response from Musk, who later said on Twitter that if the organization could explain “exactly how” the funding would solve the problem, it “would sell Tesla shares right now and do it.”
What is needed now
“We have the know-how to lift a lot of people out of poverty,” said the nonprofit executive, whose team helped the Roys with a loan that the couple said got them back on their feet. .
âThere is a lot of evidence of what works, what doesn’t. “
Experts say the first task is to focus on vaccinations.
“We have to make sure that everyone has access to vaccines or some kind of treatment for the pandemic, because until you can control the health shock, it is very difficult to think about economic recovery, not is this not?” says SÃ¡nchez-PÃ¡ramo. “It’s almost like a necessary condition for anything else to happen.”
And as governments continue to rebuild, they should also focus on reactivating an economic activity that generates jobs, such as in the service sector, according to SÃ¡nchez-PÃ¡ramo.
SÃ¡nchez-PÃ¡ramo noted that while many have since suffered a “tax burden” on the amount they have spent, it was important not to cancel safety net programs too quickly.
“They [should] wait for employment to resume before withdrawing income assistance from some of these most vulnerable households, âshe said.
“Because if we consolidate and roll back support too quickly, we might actually see a second wave of rising poverty because the jobs are not there yet.”
Glimmers of hope
Back in Bangladesh, the Roys are seeing better days.
After securing a loan of 40,000 taka ($ 466), the couple bought a van and a goat to support themselves, they said.
Pradip Roy now works as a driver with his van, carrying passengers for the equivalent of around $ 6 per day. He said the family had no plans to return to town and were now saving to buy a cow and farmland.
While the two are technically lifted out of poverty, the hardships of the coronavirus crisis have left their mark.
Dipali Roy, who described the hunger pangs while pregnant as the “most painful” time of her life, said “if I think back to those times, or remember those times, my heart bursts with tears “.
âBut now we’re having a very good day,â she added, saying she had regained hope for the future and dreamed that their six-month-old son would graduate with a master’s degree.
Yet they have a reminder for the international community: don’t forget those who remain.
âThere are a lot of people like us who have fallen to the bottom of the abyss,â Pradip Roy said. “So if you stand next to them, they too can get up like us, slowly.”
– Esha Mitra in New Delhi and Ivana KottasovÃ¡ in London contributed to this report.