COVID has pushed more than 100 million people into extreme poverty, marking the first increase in about 20 years.
Targeted efforts to improve the income of the world’s poorest households benefit nearly 92 million people in 75 countries, according to a World Bank study.
Designed to lift people out of extreme poverty, these programs typically combine cash or in-kind transfers, training and access to finance, and have seen an “unprecedented surge” in recent years, the lender said in its report on the state of economic inclusion published on Tuesday.
The report comes as the COVID-19 pandemic is expected to push more than 100 million people into extreme poverty, pushing the numbers up for the first time in 20 years.
Currently, around 700 million people live in extreme poverty, which means they survive on less than $ 1.90 a day.
“One of the most enduring development challenges we face is to positively transform the lives of the extremely poor and vulnerable – a problem exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Mari Pangestu, Executive Director of the World Bank development policy and partnerships in a statement.
“This report presents – for the first time – a systematic review of economic inclusion agendas around the world and sheds light on how best to invest governments in social protection, jobs and financial inclusion.”
Conducted through 2020, the report examined more than 200 programs in 75 countries that often involved collaboration between governments and international agencies.
He revealed that governments around the world are increasingly stepping up economic inclusion initiatives through social safety nets and numerous programs focused on helping women.
Shameran Abed, senior director of the development organization BRAC, said the initiatives aimed to provide a “big push” to “help the poorest to enter productive activity” through a complex mix of interventions such as mentoring and income support.
“Within two years, you could really put people on a sustainable path out of poverty,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
“In the new post-COVID world, we need to give people more resilient livelihoods.”
The report also highlighted the main challenges in expanding these interventions to help more people, including concerns about financial sustainability and reaching those who need it most.
“For years, we did not have sufficient knowledge of the costs and effectiveness of programs,” said Michal Rutkowski, global director of social protection and employment at the World Bank.
He added that informal workers in urban areas constitute the majority of those falling into poverty.
“With all the evidence available in the report, I think we will move faster,” he said.