Deepened inequalities due to the COVID-19 pandemic

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The short-term wellbeing costs of COVID-19 have been severe. The pandemic is having profound effects on poor and marginalized groups, increasing poverty rates and widening gaps between different groups in society. SDG Watch Europe calls for urgent actions!

SDG Watch Europe


SDG Watch Europe is Europe’s largest cross-sectoral civil society alliance for sustainable development, bringing together more than more than 150 organisations, networks and coalitions that focus on environment, social, welfare and health, human rights, fair trade, education, humanitarian aid and development. 

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The pandemic has heavily impacted the progress in the fight against poverty putting our global goals at great risk. According to the World Bank, the pandemic is pushing between 88 and 115 million people into poverty because of the crisis. Almost half of the estimated new poor will be in South Asia and more than one-third in Sub-Saharan Africa. Objectively, COVID-19 has been the worst obstacle to reducing global poverty in the last three decades.

The pandemic is exacerbating the challenges faced by people struck by poverty. Inequalities are impacting the poorest, more vulnerable, and highly indebted countries of the world. Along with a health crisis, we are witnessing a worldwide hunger crisis. This is a global issue calling for solidarity by the most privileged countries, yet we are still to see real action being taken.

And what about other women, people with disabilities, older people, Roma communities, LGBTQI+, indigenous? How are they affected? These communities are being forgotten and left behind. The architects of systems that encourage greed and injustice do little to honor their commitments. 

Women have the biggest share in providing essential services (making up to 76% of healthcare workers in the EU), and assume the highest share of unpaid care work, with their rights being neglected. What is more, women are now at higher risk of domestic violence, while also having less power in decision-making processes.

UNICEF reported the story of a girl of Asian descent being constantly excluded and stigmatized. Yet discrimination goes beyond race. We’ve seen stories of LGBTQI+, migrants, refugees, and indigenous populations routinely facing discrimination. SDG Watch Europe calls for additional resources to protect these strata of society.

In the meanwhile, persons with disabilities have had their support systems suddenly disappear. Access to healthcare, food, and medicine has been problematic. This also concerns Roma communities, which experience a significant loss of livelihood, jobs, and child poverty. Lockdowns of entire Roma communities in Europe have hampered access to quality healthcare and prevention measures.

Older people with no access to vaccines are the most susceptible to serious cases of COVID-19. In fact, low-income countries have high mortality rates among elderly men.

Finally, 75% of all COVID-19 vaccine doses have gone just to ten countries. This is a vaccine apartheid, proof of the failure of current policy.

Leave no one behind” was pledged by UN Member States with the adoption of the 2030 Agenda. Yet, once again, this is one of those commitments that is not being respected, as minorities are literally being left behind, and treated with harsher measures than those imposed on the rest. At SDG Watch Europe, we have one clear command: Governments should keep their promises!

In our Covid Statement, we demanded that Member States would show transformative global action against poverty and hunger. We also called upon on the Commission to present an ambitious and comprehensive strategy for a Sustainable Europe 2030, which would aim at fighting poverty and inequality too.

We believe political attention must be placed on the protection of poor and marginalized communities. Social equity can – and must – prevail. Governments must put cash into the hands of people in the most need: migrants and refugees, LGBTQI+, disabled people, elderly people, women and unemployed people.  

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