Human development to decline for first time in 30 years amid COVID-19 chaos

In this picture released by Adhoc news agency students of a rural school wear face masks in Puntas de San Pedro, Colonia department, Uruguay on April 22, 2020. - Half of the elementary rural schools of Uruguay -some 500 out of 973- were reopened Wednesday over a month after classes were suspended, in an attempt of having a "new normality" to coexist with the new coronavirus. (Photo by Daniel Rodriguez / adhoc / AFP) / Uruguay OUT / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT "AFP PHOTO / ADHOC / Daniel RODRIGUEZ " - NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS (Photo by DANIEL RODRIGUEZ/adhoc/AFP via Getty Images)
Students of a rural school wear face masks in Puntas de San Pedro, Colonia department, Uruguay. (AP)

For the first time in 30 years, human development is set to decline as a result of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Aside from the obvious health implications of COVID-19, social and economic inequalities are “ripping at the seams”, according to the United Nations (UN).

The startling report from the UN outlines how the world’s poorest and vulnerable will be those hit hardest by the effects of the pandemic in the long-term.

UN Development Programme (UNDP) administrator Achim Steiner said: “The world has seen many crises over the past 30 years, including the global financial crisis of 2007-09.

“Each has hit human development hard but, overall, development gains accrued globally year-on-year.

“COVID-19 – with its triple hit to health, education, and income – may change this trend.”

He added: “This pandemic is a health crisis. But not just a health crisis. For vast swathes of the globe, the pandemic will leave deep, deep scars.

“Without support from the international community, we risk a massive reversal of gains made over the last two decades, and an entire generation lost, if not in lives then in rights, opportunities and dignity.”

Human development is measured from a combination of global health, education and living standards, which have all taken a hit as a result of worldwide lockdowns.

The report predicts that global per capita income is set to fall by 4%, while those living in extreme poverty will rise to between 40 and 60 million.

The International Labour Organization estimates that half of working people could lose their jobs within the next few months, costing the global economy over £8 trillion.

Meanwhile, the World Food Programme says 265 million people will face crisis levels of hunger unless direct action is taken.

The fall in human development is expected to be higher in developing countries, with children out of school unable to access online learning tools.

With schools closed, UNDP estimates that effective out of school rates could regress to levels last seen in the 1980s – the largest reversal ever.

Pedro Conceicao, director of the Human Development Report Office at UNDP said: “This crisis shows that if we fail to bring equity into the policy toolkit, many will fall further behind.

“This is particularly important for the ‘new necessities’ of the 21st century, such as access to the internet, which is helping us to benefit from tele-education, tele-medicine, and to work from home.”

UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres recently set out three things that must change for the world to recover from coronavirus – including a coordinated health response, support for the vulnerable and a “different economy”.

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