Since the beginning of the Covid pandemic in early 2020, Ecuador has lost at least a decade of progress in its battle against poverty. In its report “Covid-19, the Tragedy of the Poor,” the Donum Research Foundation reports that 35 percent of Ecuadorians now live below the poverty level while 15 percent live in extreme poverty.
“We have not seen these numbers since 2009 and 2010 and we worry that they could go even higher,” says researcher Juan Cajas. “The impact of the pandemic has been devastating for the poor, socially, economically and in in terms of health.” He said that Ecuador is not alone with the rising poverty rates. “This is effecting almost all of Latin America.”
In a survey of 250 households, Donum found that the majority reported loss of income due to unemployment, under-employment or decreased sales if they operated businesses. More than 10 percent of households reported they had lost a family member or close friend to the Covid-19 virus.
The report claims there is a “lack of visibility” of poverty among national leaders and the media. “Because the Covid cases are dropping and because the price of some raw materials, such as oil, are rising, there is the impression that the situation is improving, but this is a mirage,” says Cajas. “There is terrible suffering in the country, including many cases of hunger, and the crisis must become part of the national discussion. In many respects, we can compare the current situation to the Great Depression of the early 1930s.”
Cajas says that the large numbers of street beggars in the larger cities, most of them Venezuelan and Colombian refuges, has “numbed” many Ecuadorians to the problem of poverty. “There are half a million Venezuelans in the country and as many as 200,000 live in extreme poverty. This issue must be addressed too.”
The Donum study recommends an immediate “injection of financial resources” into the social sectors suffering the most. Among its proposals is the application of a five percent tax to the assets of the 300 largest economic groups in the country. Such a tax would generate about $ 2.4 billion in revenue. “We need radical action to address the problem and we need it now,” says Cajas.
Donum says that the government has vastly underestimated the jobs lost since early 2020, putting the number at 95,000. “The real number is 532,000,” the study says, “and this does not include those who have lost wages through reduced hours and sales.”