For now at least, covid-19 seems to be largely a disease of the rich, developed world, with 74 percent of the 4.4 million cases reported worldwide occurring in North America and Europe, along with an overwhelming 85 percent of the deaths.

But it is in developing countries, where the vast majority of the world’s population lives, that the most damaging long-term repercussions could be felt, economists and U.N. officials say.

International agencies have released stark figures in recent weeks highlighting the risk that poverty and hunger could end up killing even more people worldwide than the 40 million victims that researchers had projected would die from the virus if no control measures were taken.

Some 1.6 billion of the world’s 2 billion informal workers, or nearly half the global workforce, have already lost their jobs, according to the International Labor Organization. They include gig workers in Western economies, but the vast majority are in developing countries, where most employment is informal and families live hand-to-mouth, relying on a daily wage if they are to eat at the end of the day.