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The first goal of United Nation’s sustainable development goals (SDGs) is ending poverty in all forms by 2030. However, the progress on the goal has been cut short massively in the past two years. As the pandemic spread around the globe, growth forecasts were brought down and impact of global poverty was increased. According to the World Bank estimates, around 100 million people across the world were pushed into poverty due to COVID pandemic in 2020. And in 2021, it continued to inflict the poor at the same pace, if not more.

At home too, progress on poverty has been regressive too; while it has been a challenge to address the multidimensional poverty in general, the last two years with the pandemic have been several steps backwards with rising inflation, lower real income as well as unemployment.

The pandemic induced poverty has had a couple of key implications: one is the inequality that continued to rise; and the other is the rising health related poverty. A per the World Health Organization and the World Bank, the pandemic has crushed global progress towards universal health coverage, making the situation worse for a world where over 500 million people were already in extreme poverty.

Ironically, the inequality has worsened. The economic crisis around the world and the disproportionate recovery, gender disparity and unequal opportunity for revival as well as vaccination access, all further heightened inequality.

Beyond 2021, the world leaders and organizations have predicted that poverty will decline and return to pre-pandemic levels. A key factor for the projections for lower poverty are the stimulus packages and fiscal incentives offered by the government to avert economic crises in various countries. But is that all what is needed? While the threat from COVID is not over especially with the new variant, Omicron spreading to over 100 countries, the need to jump start progress on the universal goal is what the world leaders should focus on.

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