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From pandemics to poverty: hotspots of vulnerability in times of crisis

Briefing/policy papers

Written by Vidya Diwakar

As governments rush to respond to coronavirus, there is an urgent need to ensure that the measures they take are sensitive to the needs of their poorest and most vulnerable people.This brief outlines countries, sub-national areas and populations in or near poverty that need to be explicitly prioritised in the response to coronavirus.

Key messages

  • In the international response to Covid-19, the furthest behind must be supported to limit transmission and mitigate negative impacts on welfare. The focus should be on countries facing multiple vulnerabilities, with weak healthcare systems and limited coping capacities, as well as people in poverty or at risk of falling into poverty.
  • For rural populations in low-income countries, advice around regular handwashing may simply be impossible to follow, potentially rendering these people at heightened risk.
  • Constraints on livelihoods, for instance if informal modes of work are limited in an effort to ensure social distance or migration is curtailed due to border closures, can over time restrict pathways out of poverty and contribute to re-impoverishment, food insecurity and destitution in the absence of adequate safety nets.
  • There is a need to maintain and even expand existing pro-poor interventions across a range of sectors, including food production and food assistance, social protection and education.

This publication is part of ODI’s series on coronavirus. It showcases emerging ideas and rapid initial analysis from ODI experts.

Vidya Diwakar

Correction published: 4 September 2020
Staff added to the Acknowledgements section.

Correction published: 6 May 2020
Funder added to the Acknowledgements section.

Original published: 9 April 2020