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Protesters crowd a food distribution center in Abuja, Nigeria, in October 2020. Photo: Kola Sulaimon/AFP via Getty Images

A new paper makes the case that the increase in extreme poverty triggered by COVID-19 rivals the pandemic's direct health effects.

Why it matters: The pandemic of extreme poverty could be lasting, and it deserves far more of the world's attention and help than it has gotten so far.

By the numbers: Researchers from the London School of Economics (LSE) set out to calculate the impact of the pandemic on human wellbeing by using human life-years to quantify the effects of both increased mortality and higher poverty.

  • They estimated almost 20 million life-years were lost globally between the start of the pandemic and December 2020.
  • Over the same time period — and using the most conservative measurements of impoverishment — over 120 million additional life-years were spent in poverty because of the pandemic.

The big picture: Richer countries like the U.S. — which tended to have older populations more vulnerable to the disease but also the financial ability to cushion their citizens — primarily experienced COVID-19 as a matter of mortality.

  • But most poor and middle-income countries experienced increased poverty as a bigger loss of wellbeing than the disease itself.

What they're saying: While it might seem as if developing countries like Nigeria (2,117 confirmed deaths so far) largely escaped COVID-19, "when the welfare costs of economic deprivation are taken into account poorer countries may have been just as hard hit in 2020," writes Francisco Ferreira, an economist at LSE and one of the co-authors of the paper.

What's next: A double bind for some of the poorest countries in the world.

Go deeper

Sep 10, 2021 - World

UN: Afghanistan "on the brink" of universal poverty

An Afghan girl searches for recylables. Photo: Farshad Usyan/AFP.

Afghanistan is close to universal poverty, according to a United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) report released Thursday.

Why it matters: The U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan along with the COVID-19 pandemic and severe drought have set up the poverty rate to balloon. As much as 97 percent of Afghans could be below the poverty line by mid-2022, according to the UNDP.

Tina Reed, author of Vitals
Sep 10, 2021 - Health

A 9/11 every two days

Doctor Delkhah Shahin checks on a 34-year-old, unvaccinated COVID-19 patient at Providence Cedars-Sinai Tarzana Medical Center in Tarzana, California on September 2, 2021. Photo: Apu GOMES/AFP-Getty Images

This weekend, we commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks which killed nearly 3,000 people. But we've lost track of the fact that at least that many will die of COVID-19 within the span of two days.

The big picture: 9/11 was a shocking attack that sparked massive domestic foreign policy changes and conflict in two countries. While the pandemic has certainly led to enormous policy and lifestyle changes, the daily drumbeat of hundreds of COVID deaths in America isn't garnering the attention it once did.

Judge nixes Gulf of Mexico oil leases in climate-focused ruling

Tug boats prepare to tow the semi-submersible drilling platform Noble Danny Adkins through the Port Aransas Channel into the Gulf of Mexico on December 12, 2020 in Port Aransas, Texas. Photo: Tom Pennington/Getty Images

A federal judge on Thursday canceled the Biden administration's late 2021 sale of new oil-and-gas drilling leases in the Gulf of Mexico.

Why it matters: The ruling that the greenhouse gas emissions analysis by the Interior's Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) was insufficient is a win for green groups that challenged the decision, as they seek to curb fossil fuel production.