No end in sight to economic crisis for hard-hit developing world – UN report

Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro

18 September 2009 – The global economic crisis continues to push millions of the world’s most vulnerable people into poverty, hunger and early death, a new United Nations report warns, stressing that “green shoots” of recovery are not being felt by the poor in the developing world.

Estimates suggest that the worldwide recession has pushed 100 million more people below the poverty line and 61 million people have been added to the number of jobless over the last two years, according to the report.

“The ‘near poor’ are becoming the ‘new poor,’” Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro told reporters in New York at the launch of the Voices of the Vulnerable: the Economic Crisis from the Ground Up report.

“Workers in both the formal and informal sectors are being badly hit, particularly in manufacturing, commerce and construction,” said Ms. Migiro, before quoting one construction worker who said that the “monster” economic crisis is “devouring the poor.”

She added that migrants are finding their situation increasingly precarious, with forecasts predicting that remittances to developing countries will be reduced by over seven per cent this year.

“Youth unemployment is dramatically increasing,” Ms. Migiro stressed. “The number of unemployed youth has increased by as many as 18.2 million over the last year.”

In addition, the report – part of a new UN initiative to monitor and draw attention to emerging crises – notes that an increase of 100 million people suffer from hunger and infant mortality rates are set to rise by an additional 200,000 to 400,000 deaths each year from now to 2015, if the crisis persists.

“Many of the poor and vulnerable are running out of coping strategies,” said Ms. Migiro. “They are being exhausted by crisis after crisis,” including the global food and fuel price hike crises that struck last year, on top of local floods, droughts and conflicts.

The crises may have long-term consequences, with tens of millions of children suffering from cognitive and physical injury caused by malnutrition as a result of the food and economic crises.

Ms. Migiro warned that the spread of the H1N1 influenza pandemic to countries already devastated by the economic crisis, or the onset of new natural disasters, are among the last straws that may “break the back of overstretched populations and governments.”

The report is part of larger UN initiative called the Global Impact and Vulnerability Alert System (GIVAS), developed to provide early, real-time data to the international community on how external shocks, such as the economic crisis, are affecting the welfare of the vulnerable and poor.

The Secretary-General is slated to present the report to the annual high-level debate at the General Assembly in New York next week, which takes place ahead of the summit in Pittsburgh, United States, for the Group of 20 (G20) leading economic nations.

Both forums will address the impact of the ongoing economic crisis, with the report underscoring the need to protect not only the poor and vulnerable but also the increasing number of middle class families slipping into poverty.


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