Inflation has pushed 71 million people into poverty since the war in Ukraine – WSB-TV Channel 2

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DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — (AP) — An additional 71 million people around the world are living in poverty due to soaring food and energy prices that soared in the weeks following the invasion of Ukraine by Russia, the United Nations Development Program said in a statement. report Thursday.

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. UNDP noted that an additional 125 million people experienced poverty for about 18 months during the pandemic lockdowns and shutdowns, compared to more than 71 million who fell into poverty in just three months after the invasion. Ukraine by Russia at the end of February.

“The speed of this is very fast,” said UNDP chief economist and report author George Molina.

Among the 20 countries hardest hit by inflation are Haiti, Argentina, Egypt, Iraq, Turkey, the Philippines, Rwanda, Sudan, Ghana, Kenya, Sri Lanka and the United States. ‘Uzbekistan. According to the UNDP, more people in these countries, some of which have been rocked by political unrest such as Sudan and Sri Lanka, are facing poverty. In countries like Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Mali, Nigeria and Yemen, the effects of inflation are being felt deeply by 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.

In Ghana, where the daily minimum wage is just $1.80 a day, people are struggling under the weight of inflation. Albert Kowfie, a 27-year-old security guard in Accra, Ghana, said a loaf of bread costs the equivalent of more than $2 and commuting costs another 20 cents.

“It means that at the end of the first week (of work), everything is gone,” he said, expressing his frustration with the government for not doing more to ease the burden. “I no longer answer my mother’s calls because I know she needs help since she has no pension, but what can I do?”

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.

Steiner said this is not just an act of charity, but also “an act of rational self-interest” to avoid other complex trends, such as economic collapse in countries and popular protests already underway. in communities around the world.

The war in Ukraine has shaken a region known as the breadbasket of the world. Before the war, Russia was the world’s largest exporter of natural gas and the second largest exporter of crude oil. Russia and Ukraine combined accounted for nearly a quarter of global wheat exports and more than half of sunflower oil exports.

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Associated Press writer Francis Kokutse contributed to this report from Accra, Ghana.

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