Poverty remains one of the plagues that has haunted humanity and her societies for centuries. For a long time, poverty has been a steady reality of life because of the structure of societies, but with advances in modernity and way of life progress has been made towards eradicating poverty from all levels and in all angels of the world. The United Nations have set a series of sustainable development goals in which ending poverty in the world is listed as number one.
While the number of people living in extreme poverty dropped by more than half between 1990 and 2015, too many are still struggling for the most basic human needs, too many people still live in abject poverty or in circumstances that makes them lead less than fulfilling lives without the means to adequately afford the essential things in life. Many factors have been responsible for this continuing menace. Even with the great progress achieved through the efforts of civil societies and social groups, millions of people still live on less than US$1.90 a day; many lack food, clean drinking water and sanitation. Rapid growth in countries such as China and India has lifted millions out of poverty, but progress has still beenneven, and in other regions rapid growth in population has meant fewer resources and more poverty. Women are also more likely to be poor than men because they have less paid work, education, and own less property.
Progress has also been limited in other regions, such as South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, which account for 80 percent of those living in extreme poverty. New threats brought on by climate change, wars, insurgency and food insecurity, COVID-19 pandemic, mean even more work is needed to be done in order to bring the people out of poverty. According to records kept by The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), 736 million people still live in extreme poverty, which accounts for about 10% of the world’s population. 1.3 billion people live in multidimensional poverty, 50% of people living in poverty are under 18 years of age. These statistics tell a bleak story, 1 in every 10 people in the world lives in extreme poverty, however looking at where the world used to be and how bad the poverty metric was (10% of the world’s population lives in poverty now but it was 36% in 1990!), there is good sense and hope for betterment. Civil societies like the UNDP continue to strive to rid the world of poverty and to this end a plan was set on how to go about this. 6 goals were set with the vision set for 2030, they are:
- By 2030, reduce at least by half the proportion of men, women and children of all ages living in poverty in all its dimensions according to national definitions
- Implement nationally appropriate social protection systems and measures for all, including floors, and by 2030 achieve substantial coverage of the poor and the vulnerable
- By 2030, ensure that all men and women, in particular the poor and the vulnerable, have equal rights to economic resources, as well as access to basic services, ownership and control over land and other forms of property, inheritance, natural resources, appropriate new technology and financial services, including microfinance
- By 2030, build the resilience of the poor and those in vulnerable situations and reduce their exposure and vulnerability to climate-related extreme events and other economic, social and environmental shocks and disasters
- Ensure significant mobilization of resources from a variety of sources, including through enhanced development cooperation, in order to provide adequate and predictable means for developing countries, in particular least developed countries, to implement programmes and policies to end poverty in all its dimensions.
- Create sound policy frameworks at the national, regional and international levels, based on pro-poor and gender-sensitive development strategies, to support accelerated investment in poverty eradication actions.
The plans are great but 2020 was a year where many plans were proven to be subject to unforeseen changes. The COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020 and made the situation graver and progress more imperative as the weight of surviving has been heavier on the poor, with the compulsory lock down in many countries and especially in countries where poverty is a constant menace. The structures by which the people have been managing to survive were put on hold, leaving the people at the mercy of whatever relief packages their governments and civil groups can provide for them. In many cases the reliefs were provided but due to different circumstances did not get to the targeted populations.
António Guterres, UN Secretary-General, in a UN report on the progress of sustainable development goals (SDGs) noted findings that the global extreme poverty rate rose for the first time in over 20 years, 119 to 124 million people were pushed back into extreme poverty in 2020, and an additional 101 million children fell below the minimum reading proficiency level. It was also reported that the pandemic led to the loss of the equivalent of 255 million full-time jobs and Child labor rose to 160 million in 2020, which represents the first increase in two decades. The World hence has a setback to her goals of eradicating poverty (The global poverty rate is projected to be 7% in 2030, which would mean the target on eradicating poverty will be missed). The UN Under-Secretary-General Liu Zhenmin also said in the report that, “The pandemic has halted, or reversed, years, or even decades of development progress. Global extreme poverty rose for the first time since 1998. The poorest and most vulnerable continue to be at greater risk of becoming infected by the virus and have borne the brunt of the economic fallout”. “This report paints a worrying picture regarding the state of the SDGs, yet it also highlights stories of resilience, adaptability and innovation during the crisis, which indicate a brighter future is possible”, Mr Liu added. The effects of the pandemic on World economy and poverty rates cannot be overstated, it has been a setback but one which civil organisations hope to overcome quickly in order to get the world back on track in her grand plan to overcome poverty.