Information and stories about poverty reduction.

Haitian President Martelly
Despite global outreach following the massive earthquake on January 12, 2010, Haiti has been stalled in effectively alleviating the widespread poverty historic to the island, which has increased dramatically after the disaster. President Michel Martelly, elected twenty months ago, has recently proposed a five-point plan of employment, rule of law, education, environment, and energy to help lift his country out of turmoil. But this plan will not affect stagnation unless Haiti addresses its dysfunctional political system, public frustration, and donor fatigue.

1. Political System
The political system in Haiti is one factor that is working against the Haiti earthquake recovery. The system is conducive to winner-takes-all politics, which makes compromise, an essential aspect of a stable political system, difficult to attain. It is also unhelpful that President Martelly faces an opposition-dominated parliament that only exacerbates the inability to compromise. Haiti does not currently have any strong political parties that represent the majority of its poor citizens. This has lead to a system that relies mainly on cronyism rather than public support in order to get things done.

2. Public Frustration
The unfair political climate has led to frustration among the Haitian public. A staggering 350,000 citizens that lost their homes during the earthquake over two years ago are still living in camp settlements across the capital. These people are waiting to see tangible improvements to their daily lives. Their plight has not been made any easier by the drought, two tropical storms and rising food prices. The president faced 128 public protests across Haiti between the months of August and October alone, according to the International Crisis Group.

3. Donor Fatigue
Not only the general public, but also foreign aid donors are feeling frustration over Haiti’s political gridlock. The lack of transparency with foreign aid funds and lack of progress in reconstruction is causing Canada, one of the biggest supporters of Haitian renewal, to reconsider tens of millions of dollars that was meant for the country. According to figures published by the United Nations, only half of the $6.04 billion pledged to Haiti since the earthquake has been disbursed to the country thus far, and only ten percent of that figure was distributed directly to the government. Until Haiti finds a solution for its political woes, the financial aid that Haiti’s earthquake recovery needs could be in a gridlock of its own.

While these issues are important to consider for the Haiti earthquake recovery, it is also important to keep in mind that the international community is still deeply interested in seeing a Haitian recovery. Identifying the key obstacles to any issue is the first step to solving them. Hopefully, steps two to infinity will present themselves sooner rather than later.

– Sean Morales

Source: AlertNet
Photo: Christian Science Monitor

Volunteering in Guatemala City
While most teenage girls her age are reluctant to take out the trash, Courtney Quigley is begging her parents to return to Guatemala City to help the poverty stricken residents of a garbage dump there. In the past, Courtney has worked with Potter House, a nonprofit which helps the 11,000 people living in the garbage dump. Out of the that population, 6,500 are children.

According the Lake Zurich Patch, Courtney first fell in love with Guatemala when she was nine and her family took a trip to build playgrounds with Kids Around the World, an organization whose primary goal is to provide safe play equipment for children who find it difficult to be “just a kid.” Courtney describes the garbage dump as being 40 acres filled with trash and yet the children somehow manage to stay positive and in high spirits.

While her family has been on other mission trips, Courtney has fallen in love with Guatemala. She was able to return in 2011, meeting a family of seven who lived in a 9 x 10 shack. One of the children, a 15 year old girl, was pregnant and Courtney decided that something needed to be done to help improve their living condition.

To help, Courtney and her friends are hosting a “Hope’s in Style” fashion show fundraiser on February 24 at the Garlands Center in Barrington, Illinois.

Although she is now living in the United States, the memory of the children in Guatemala still remains vivid in her mind.

“There is nothing here that is hopeful, but when you shake hands, hug, and talk to people, they are so full of hope, so full of faith,” Courtney said. Their determination to make the best of their situation is what inspires her to keep moving forward.

 – Pete Grapentien

Source: Lake Zurich Patch

Susan Boyle, the singer who gained international attention for her appearance on the TV singing competition “Britain’s Got Talent”, is spearheading a charitable drive for Lent that aims at eradicating global poverty. Paralympic gold medalist David Smith, along with Boyle, will participate in the Lent campaign called Wee Box, Big Change, which is supported by the Scottish Catholic International Aid Fund (SCIAF).

In keeping with Lent traditions, participants are asked to give something up and then donate the funds they would have spent buying something to the charity, who last year raised 830,000 GBP that went towards impoverished people in Haiti, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Malawi. This year, the money raised through Wee Box, Big Change will benefit communities throughout Asia, Africa and Latin America where SCIAF is active.

Susan Boyle has participated in the campaign for the last three years, and said that she will be giving up “sweets, chocolate, and crisps” for the people throughout the world who “dream of peace, good health, and having enough food to eat.”

The charity uses the funds raised through Lent to provide services to poverty-stricken communities by providing “agricultural training, seeds, and tools,” said David Smith, after remarking on his visit to Burundi with SCIAF, and said he witnessed the “amazing work” that the campaign and SCIAF does.

Christina Kindlon

Source: Christian Today



Minimum Wage
In his State of the Union address, President Obama has called for a national increase in the minimum wage standard of the country. The President has proposed to raise the minimum wage to $9 from its current $7.25. The newly proposed amount would also have safeguards to account for inflation, which the current standard does not.

This demand comes at a time when the National Center for Law and Economic Justice supports that one in seven Americans lives in poverty, with one in sixteen Americans living in deep poverty. Poverty, of course, exacerbates tension and has been linked to decreased social mobility, increased rates of violence, and increased likelihood of being a young parent.

Addressing poverty, both at home and abroad, is a key, central way to better the standard of living for millions as the better able families are to support themselves, the more efficient the employee, the better the consumer, and the more stable the economy.

CNNMoney, however, has debunked the myth that raising the minimum wage in America is the only element necessary to raise a family out of poverty. For a family of four making  at least $9/hr., and while taking advantage of several key tax breaks, Tami Luhby of CNNMoney writes that the new rate would be barely enough to lift the family above the poverty line, and hardly enough to raise their standard of living by much in light of the US’s dependence on a tax code that has been decried as “broken” by many.

While raising the minimum wage would be a step in the right direction towards addressing poverty in the United States, advocates for economic justice argue that helping people find higher-paying jobs is another, more effective, means of fighting poverty.

– Nina Narang

Sources: NCLEJ, CNNMoney
Photo: Occupy

In war-torn Afghanistan, the country’s youth believe that there is something much stronger than a life of poverty and the Taliban regime’s oppressive rule: love.

Although banned by the regime, Valentine’s Day is becoming a popular, albeit secret, celebration among Afghanistan’s romantic young couples. In a country where most marriages are arranged, Suliman and Farzana Sharifi’s marriage is unique, as the 23-year-olds met and married for love and consider Valentine’s Day a special celebration of their relationship, and hopefully even a way to reduce hate and violence in their country. Farzana said, “when love comes even the Taliban can’t stop anybody.”

An American charity operating in the region had the same outlook, and has been using weddings as a tool to fight against rampant poverty and against Taliban recruitment throughout Afghanistan. The act of marriage can be prohibitively expensive in the country, where the average annual income is a mere $500, and a dowry to the bride’s family  for marriage can reach up to $10,000, making a wedding financially impossible.

Comfort Aid International recognized this conundrum and set-up the weddings of 38 couples last year alone, which local representative Sayeed Saleh Qasimi says is a vitally important way to keep young men away from Taliban recruitment: “We did this to prevent our youth from joining the Taliban side. They often join the Taliban because they are single and poor.”

Comfort Aid International has collaborated with local NGOs to negotiate dowry prices down to make it much easier for young couples to marry, and so far has coordinated weddings for over 1,000 couples in Afghanistan. One beneficiary of the charity, Sayeed Hussaini, is young and unemployed but maintains that he would not have been able to marry without the charity’s help. He also points out that young men do not have many choices financially, saying “a lot of people are doing bad things for money like joining the Taliban.”

The Taliban have been known to target regions where severe poverty is rampant, using poor and uneducated youth who have minimal opportunities for survival other than to join the extremist cause that promises food and shelter.

Hussaini goes on to state that he is still very poor, but will not join the Taliban and risk his life, because of his new wife.

Christina Mattos Kindlon

Source: NBC News

Shyamola Begum And Her Two Daughters
A story of poverty reduction in Bangladesh has come in second place in an annual UN Development Programme Competition. The purpose of the competition was to capture the result of transformative development in a story. “These stories highlight UNDP’s critical work on poverty reduction, democratic governance, crisis prevention and recovery, and the environment and sustainable development,” said UNDP chief Helen Clark.

The story involves Shyamola Begum of Dhaka and how she managed to support herself and her two children after her husband left her. Shyamola’s situation is not uncommon in Dhaka. Every year, tens of thousands of women are left by their husbands who have given up hope in the face of poverty and lack of employment opportunities. However, after receiving an entrepreneur grant of roughly $30 from the UK’s Urban Partnerships for Poverty Reduction fund, Shyamola was able to open a tea stall. In just a few months, she had more than doubled her investment.

“Until I became destitute, I had never imagined I could run a business, that I could do accounts, that I could be successful,” said Shyamola.

Her success is also not uncommon. Over the past five years, 55,000 families like Shyamola’s all across Bangladesh have received similar assistance from UPPR, the largest urban poverty reduction initiative in Bangladesh. Over the past decade, Bangladesh’s poverty has decreased by a half, 90% of girl children are enrolled in schools and child mortality has gone down by 60 percent.

Regarding the UNDP stories, Clark said “They remind us that people are and always will be the centre of UNDP’s work.”

– Rafael Panlilio

Source: The Daily StarUNDP




Sometimes we just want to know who is doing what to help those less fortunate, especially what celebrities are doing. Those special individuals who have tremendous wealth and are compelled to give some away in recognition of their good fortune, and in stark contrast to those who have so very little.

The site Look to the Stars lists celebrities and all their philanthropic contributions. The top 7 celebrities who are helping the world’s poor are: Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie who together give to 27 charities and in 2006 alone gave away $8 million. Bono is next on the list, not only contributing to 14 specifically humanitarian groups but actively creating organizations, concerts, programs, strategies, and even clothing to reduce poverty. Then, Bill Clinton follows with contributions to 13 organizations, but primarily focuses on the foundation he created in his name to help with humanitarian causes. Rock legend and well known philanthropist Annie Lennox donates to 11 related charities, principally Amnesty International, and Greenpeace. George Clooney not only contributes to 10 poverty groups but also created his own campaign specifically to help those suffering in Darfur – Not On Our Watch. The seventh leading celebrity actively addressing poverty issues is musician John Legend, supporting 7 related campaigns, and starting his own with partner Jeffrey Sachs – the Poverty Action Tour, trying to educate and inspire US university students to get involved in the cause.

Top charities being supported by celebrities to assist the world’s poor: UNICEF, Save the Children, Oxfam, Entertainment Industry Foundation, Comic Relief, Soles4Souls, Artists for Peace and Justice, ONE Campaign, Sport Relief, (RED).

Interestingly, Bono was compelled to start his charitable work after seeing The Secret Policeman’s Ball in 1979, and John Legend immediately took action after reading The End of Poverty by Earth Institute, director Dr. Jeffrey Sachs.

– Mary Purcell

Source: Look To The Stars
Photo: Hollywoodnose

End Poverty 2015
Over the past decade, the developing world has seen much progress in the fight to end absolute poverty. Recent research has predicted that the end of absolute poverty could occur within our lifetime by the year 2030.

Drawing on previous research done, Martin Ravallion, former director of the World Bank’s research department, assessed how long it would take to “lift one billion people out of such extreme poverty.” In 1990, 43% of the population of the developing world lived on less than $1.25 a day. By 2010, that number had dropped to 21%. This was attributed to strong GDP growth over the past decade in East Asia, South Asia, and sub-Saharan Africa, three regions accounting for the bulk of absolute poverty. If this rate of growth continues, we may expect to see as little as 0.2 billion people in absolute poverty by 2027.

As of 2012, 1.2 billion people around the world still live on less than $1.25 a day. Essentials such as shelter, clothing, and proper health care and education have to be forgone to afford food to eat. Though Ravallion’s research indicates a good outlook, there is still much work to be done. To maintain this path, what is needed is ongoing success in poverty reduction, including maintaining “the conditions for continued, reasonably rapid, economic growth.” Poor people need ongoing access to schooling, health care, job opportunities, and financial resources in order to sustain this economic growth.

Charles Kenny, Senior Fellow at the Center for Global Development, believes that it should be the concern of the rich world’s policy makers to keep this outlook consistent. He cites a need to continue providing financial aid and support to poverty reduction policies, along with increasing economic trade with the developing world, increasing immigration from poor countries, and supporting the development of new technologies. Ivan Lewis, Shadow Secretary for International Development, emphasizes a need to focus on this goal of ending absolute poverty. “In the next 20 years we should judge the scale of our ambition and our commitment primarily by whether we can change the life chances for the poorest 20% in every country, and those trapped in the misery of conflict ridden states,” said Lewis.

Rapid economic growth is occurring throughout the world. The world average GDP per capita and life expectancy is increasing and infant mortality is declining. Literacy and access to internet and safe drinking water is on the rise. Matt Ridley, a British author and journalist, writes in his book, The Rational Optimist: How Prosperity Evolves, “I am a rational optimist: rational, because I have arrived at optimism not through temperament or instinct, but by looking at the evidence.” For now, we can all be rational optimists.

– Rafael Panlilio

Source: FAO The Globe And MailThe GuardianWorld Bank
Photo: End Poverty 2015

obama global poverty

President Obama’s State of the Union speech for 2013 is a grand vision of America, mapping out the ambitious future he sees for it. He spoke of fellow citizens who put their neighbors and civil “obligations” before their own needs, as examples of the American identity. He said, “America must remain a beacon to all who seek freedom.” And he affirmed the necessity to eradicate extreme poverty around the world, as a matter of principle and self-interest.

“We also know that progress in the most impoverished parts of our world enriches us all. Not only because it creates new markets, more stable order in certain regions of the world, but also because it’s the right thing to do.”

Obama went on to say that the United States would join with their international allies in a mission to end “extreme poverty in the next two decades.” A proclamation of concerted effort to connect more people to the global economy, to elevate women’s social status, encourage Americans to serve communities in need – to help them help themselves, save children from preventable death, and work towards eliminating AIDS.

Obama talked of Americans living in poverty, asking Congress to raise the minimum wage to $9.00 so that no one working full time would still have to suffer from lack of adequate pay. Additionally, he stressed how fare and free international trade would “support millions of American jobs,” thus helping to increase income for everyone.

In the President’s eloquent fashion, he connected the strength and honor of American citizens to citizens all over the world fighting for human rights and integrity. In the end, he asked citizens to be “the authors of the next great chapter in our American story.”

– Mary Purcell

Source: You Tube

David Cameron

At the African Union Summit, British Prime Minister and Chairman of the G8, David Cameron re-asserted his conviction today to end extreme poverty. Patrick Wintour of The Guardian notes Cameron’s emphasis on “responsible capitalism” and accountability, the latter to which Cameron cited there will be “an accountability report when the G8 meets in Northern Ireland in June”.

Accountability seems to be a buzzword in recent politics as the pressure mounts for the United Nations to succeed in achieving the Millennium Development Goals, set to expire in 2015. The time is coming for individual nations to own up to the promises they had made to succeed these goals in 2010.

The Guardian reports that Cameron promises to pressure western countries that have been less proactive on their aid pledges. The news source contends, “Britain has maintained its pledge to ringfence 0.7% of its gross domestic product for aid, something which has been fiercely opposed by some in Cameron’s party.”

This percentage yields a large impact and is a higher percentage of gross domestic product than what the United States has contributed, which was reported to only contribute 0.19% of its gross domestic product in 2010. Although the size of the American economy is much bigger than that of most nations, the country may be held accountable for its false promises. In the past few years, the allocation of funding for foreign aid in the U.S. Budget has decreased because politicians seek to assuage the repercussions of the 2008 financial crisis.

– Nina Narang

Sources: The Guardian, The Huffington Post
Photo: The Muslim Weekly