Picture a time when you became angry and miserable because you missed a meal. It doesn’t happen too often, but when it does, it is unpleasant right? Now, imagine a situation where you simply don’t have enough money to eat and you have no choice but to go to bed hungry. This is the status quo for 736 million people, who are earning less than $1.25 a day! That is roughly the population of Europe. That is an entire continent worth of people who are extremely poor. I’ll let that sink in.
I am going to be brave and say something controversial; no one wants to be poor. However, as we all know, life is unfair and sometimes you do not have a choice. You have no control when you are born into poverty, which automatically limits your opportunities. You spend your days worrying about how you are going to survive – where you are going to sleep, whether you’ll be able to eat, can you find a decent contractual job that will get you through the month. This is not a world we want everyone to live in.
As poverty is still a massive problem in the world, I wanted to take a moment and talk about it. So, in this blog, I’ll try my best to shed some light on:
- What progress the world has made to eradicate poverty
- Why the issue of poverty still exists?
- How do we make progress to reduce poverty?
SDG 1: No Poverty – It is not all Doom and Gloom
Ever since the 90s, the world has made remarkable progress in reducing global poverty. A key objective of the UN’s Millennium Development Goal (MDG) was to cut the 1990’s poverty rate in half by 2015. We achieved these five years ahead of schedule, in 2010. Extreme poverty rates fell from 1.9 billion in 1990 to 736 million in 2015. However, it is still much too early to celebrate the progress we have made. We still have a very long way to go:
- 55% of our population do not have access to social protection
- 1 out of 5 children live in extreme poverty and only 1/3rd of children are successfully covered by social protection
- 8% of our workforce and their families still live in extreme poverty
- 59% of women giving birth do not receive any form of maternity cash benefits
- 72% of people with severe disabilities do not receive any form of cash benefits
Source of statistics – The Sustainable Development Goals Report 2019
This indicates that with current business as usual trends, we will not be on track to achieve the UN’s first sustainable development goal (SDG) – no poverty. This is such a shame because solving the poverty issue can have a positive impact on multiple SDG goals
- GOAL 2: Zero Hunger
- GOAL 3: Good Health and Well-being
- GOAL 4: Quality Education
- GOAL 5: Gender Equality
- GOAL 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth
- GOAL 9: Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure
- GOAL 10: Reduced Inequality
- GOAL 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities
- GOAL 16: Peace and Justice Strong Institutions
So, why aren’t we all hands-on deck, trying to solve the issue of poverty?
Watch – A Davos Moment with Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Kailash Satyarthi
Poverty – A Global North and South Issue
One of the main reasons why poverty continues to exist is the assumption that ending poverty only requires economic growth. Unfortunately, it is not as simple as that. Studies have shown that the more developed or rich a country becomes, the wider the income inequality gap becomes. Take the example of the United States of America. Since 1967 their Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has been steadily increasing. However, during this interval, the US has been witnessing an increase in income inequality.
Source – What’s Missing from GDP
Even in the UK, as of 2018-19, 4.1 million children are living in poverty (source). That is a staggering 30% of kids in the UK. When an epidemic such as the corona-virus threatens to shut down schools in the UK, which provides free dinners, 3 million children could be at risk of hunger because of it. How heart-wrenching is that? By viewing poverty as a purely economic or only a global south issue, we are turning a blind eye to these types of problems.
Watch – SLX Story on Akshay Patra: Fighting Hunger in India
Now, of course, there are also other direct and indirect factors that contribute to poverty such as
- Lack of employment opportunities
- Climate change
- Lack of infrastructure
- Mismanagement of government funding
- Inadequate access to clean water and food
- Political Conflict
However, these issues are deeply intertwined with each other. Therefore, for me to do justice, I’ll need to do a deep dive, explaining each problem in detail. I will do this in future blogs, so stay tuned for that. For now, all you need to know is that eradicating poverty is not straightforward and simply throwing money at the problem will not make it go away.
Is there a Magic Bullet to Solve Poverty?
You might have already guessed it, there is no single solution that will solve the global poverty issue. That is not to say the world has not spent time adding sugar, spice, and everything nice to create solutions for ending poverty. Some of the more universally popular solutions are as follows:
- Knowledge is power – making sure quality education and upskilling are available to everyone. This will enable children to find good jobs and better even, help bring more innovative creations to the table.
- Inclusion is everyone’s business – if we are trying to eradicate poverty, doesn’t it make sense to involve them in the decision-making process? Not only will this empower them, but it will also help ensure that funding is invested in the right programs.
- Looking out for each other – we need strong social protection systems to aid those who cannot support themselves, i.e., young children and severely disabled people.
- Universal basic access – by removing the stress of needing to find food, sanitation, healthcare, shelter, water, and electricity, we make it easier for more people to participate and contribute to attaining sustainable growth.
Watch – SLX Factli on Sharing is Caring
In the end, everything boils down to this single question, is eradicating poverty possible? I believe it is, now more than ever. We have the necessary technology and tools required to end it. However, it is a herculean task. So, let us approach the poverty challenge with strength, skill, and courage, like how in Greek mythology, Hercules used these to conquer evil.
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