The United Nations forecasts that even if the world economy rebounds in the second half of the year, the economic downturn would increase the numbers in extreme poverty up by anything from 84 million to 132 million. The recession would reverse years of progress in the fight against child mortality in the developing world. The UN’s World Food Program predicts that by the end of the year, the numbers facing acute hunger will double to 265 million. These are staggering figures. If this were to be the result of a natural disaster, it would be worldwide news. Now, it’s just seen as a footnote in the side-effects of lockdown.
Take the number of infants and small children dying in developing countries: five million in 2017 (when the last count was taken). A tragic figure, but it would have been 10.6 million had it not been for the improvements made in the past two decades. Progress made each year against diseases and malnutrition means that 300,000 fewer children will die compared with the previous year. When these numbers are compounded, the progress made in a given year saves an additional three million young lives each decade. When that stops, as it now has, the cost can be counted in lives. If lockdown is to cost us two years’ growth, as some have argued, it would end up taking nearly six million young lives in the coming decade.
Combine this with a return to levels of childhood mortality of just five years ago, and this would lead to a loss of more than 20 million young lives over the next ten years.