Millions had risen out of poverty. Coronavirus is pulling them back.

For the first time since 1998, the World Bank says, global poverty rates are forecast to rise. By the end of this year – in the U.S., and around the world – half a billion people may be pushed into destitution, largely because of the pandemic.

A United Nations working paper on COVID-19 and global poverty says even a small contraction in per capita income as a result of COVID-19 “could lead to an increase in the incidence of income-based poverty for the first time since 1990.”

Shahida Khatun was just 12 when she dropped out of school and began clocking in for endless shifts at one of the garment factories springing up in Bangladesh, hoping to pull her family out of poverty.

Her fingers ached from stitching pants and shirts destined for sale in the United States and Europe, but the $30 the young woman made each month meant that for the first time, her family had regular meals, even luxuries like chicken and milk.

A decade later, she was providing a better life for her own child than she had ever imagined.

Then the world locked down, and Khatun, like millions of low-wage workers around the world, found herself back in the poverty she thought she had left behind.

In a matter of mere months, the coronavirus has wiped out global gains that took two decades to achieve, leaving an estimated two billion people at risk of abject poverty. However indiscriminate the virus may be in its spread, it has repeatedly proven itself anything but that when it comes to its effect on the world’s most vulnerable communities.

Read the full story at The New York Times.

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