nishtar5_ABDUL MAJEEDAFP via Getty Images_pakistancoronaviruseconomycash Abdul Majeed/AFP via Getty Images

How Cash Transfers Prevent Lockdown Tragedies

COVID-19 has decimated livelihoods worldwide, squeezing the middle class and pushing low-income households into abject poverty. Social-protection programs such as Pakistan's Ehsaas Emergency Cash offer not only a path forward during the pandemic, but also valuable lessons for the future.

ISLAMABAD – In 2017, I was a candidate to become the next Director-General of the World Health Organization. At the 70th World Health Assembly, I stood before health ministers from around the world and warned that three things could destroy the planet: a celestial event, a third world war, or a pandemic.

The COVID-19 pandemic may not have destroyed the planet, but it is certainly putting public and private institutions to a harsh test. In addition to its dire health consequences, the pandemic has decimated livelihoods worldwide, squeezing the middle class and pushing low-income households into abject poverty.

In Pakistan – the world’s fifth-largest country by population – 24 million breadwinners rely on daily wages or are self-employed in the informal economy. For them, life came to a standstill with the implementation of a lockdown in March, causing a widespread loss of income that began fueling civil unrest and rioting.

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