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

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. Analysis of past disease outbreaks such as SARS and Ebola suggests that income poverty is an important factor in disease transmission. Given the nature of Covid-19 and its transmission, containment and mitigation policies need to cover everyone, while also recognising that poorer people may be at greater risk of contracting Covid-19. Governments must also be sensitive to the short- and longer-term welfare impacts. Long-term poverty risks may be exacerbated through a vicious cycle of disease, destitution and death, whereby poverty contributes to disease transmission, and contagion fuels poverty. There may also be a trade-off between public health measures and the likely heavy economic and food security impacts. Poor and vulnerable people may not be able to cope with these second-order effects. This brief outlines countries, sub-national areas and populations in or near poverty that need to be explicitly prioritised in the response to coronavirus.