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All of the world’s 10 poorest countries by GDP are in Africa. These countries generally have poor government infrastructures and corrupt officials. They are wracked with violence and disease. Climate change severely affects the rural areas. However, anti-poverty strategies have already been successful. Thanks in part to efforts by the U.N., the number of people living in extreme poverty has been cut in half over the past 27 years. Here is a list of and facts about the world’s 10 poorest countries and the efforts to reduce poverty in them:

  1. Madagascar is exposed to droughts brought on by climate change. After multiple poor harvests, roughly 450,000 people suffer severe food shortages. The country has the fourth-highest child malnutrition rate in the world. Freedom from Hunger and the World Bank Fund combat poverty in this country through micro-loans and safety net programs.
  2. Eritrea is still recovering from a revolution in which it gained independence from Ethiopia. The country is in self-imposed isolation, causing economic stagnation. A harsh military conscription keeps young men and women in military camps and out of work. Eritrea has rejected recent U.N. humanitarian aid offers.
  3. Guinea is very oil-rich, but while corrupt officials amass vast capital, the government spends an estimated 17 percent of its oil revenue on health and education. Meanwhile, infant mortality rates are high, and roughly 40 percent of young children go without education. The first democratically elected President Conde has stated that he plans to focus on fighting corruption to solve these problems.
  4. Mozambique is still dealing with the impacts of a 16-year civil war. Fifty percent of the population is below the poverty line. Poverty is highest in rural areas, where as many as 45 percent of people suffer from chronic malnutrition. Poverty reduction programs in the country have been successful by focusing on agricultural aid and educating farmers in agricultural development.
  5. Malawi was hit hard by the AIDS epidemic, which orphaned over a million children. Climate change severely hurt the nation because it relies heavily on subsistence farming. Food shortages are common, and 47 percent of children suffer from stunted growth. President Mutharika has made steps to fight agricultural insecurity by investing in agriculture and individual farmers.
  6. In Niger, corruption and political apathy allow for Boko Haram and bands of cattle rustlers to terrorize local communities that are already plagued by drought. The country has a 70 percent illiteracy rate. To address this, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Nigerian government have made steps to improve schools in the country.
  7. Liberia suffered heavily during the Ebola crisis. The quarantined zones designed to combat the virus hurt trade and stopped farmers from working together. During the epidemic, countless farm plots had been abandoned, leaving much of the population with food insecurity. USAID continues to work with the Liberian government to combat poverty and the impacts of the Ebola virus.
  8. In Burundi, political violence is rampant. Hundreds of people were killed during the fallout of the latest election and nearly 245,000 have fled the country. The country is at the top of the global hunger index, and violence increases malnutrition rates. The EU, Burundi’s biggest humanitarian aid donor, has cut aid, hoping it will force the government to do more to end the bloodshed.
  9. The Democratic Republic of Congo is still recovering from a civil war that revolved around natural resources. As a result, the country suffers from widespread disease and malnutrition. Poverty levels are at 64 percent. The U.N. estimated that there are 2.3 million refugees living in the country. The U.N. has recently taken steps to bring humanitarian aid to refugees and bring investors into the country.
  10. In the Central African Republic (CAR), ethnic violence is widespread, displacing millions. Because of this, the CAR has the world’s highest malnutrition rates, despite its fertile soil. According to the U.N., nearly half the population is in need of humanitarian assistance. The U.N. has asked for and recently received nearly $400 million to combat starvation and poverty.

While poverty, starvation and violence are prevalent in these countries, major improvements have been made in the world’s poorest countries. Sub-Saharan Africa has seen a 20 percent increase in primary school attendance. From 1995 to 2003, advanced medical techniques saved 7.6 million people from the AIDS virus. Child mortality has been cut roughly in half despite a boom in global population. This is all thanks to foreign aid, which has been proven effective. Nevertheless, it is clear there is a long way to go toward ending global poverty. This is why it is so important that global leaders remain strong in their fight against poverty.

Bruce Truax

Photo: Flickr

Disadvantaged Children
The United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) warned that 69 million disadvantaged children under the age of five will die of preventable causes by 2030 unless countries strengthen their anti-poverty efforts.

The World’s Children

UNICEF’s annual flagship report, the “State of the World’s Children 2016,” said that based on current trends, 167 million adolescents will live in poverty and 750 million women will have been married as children by 2030.

Despite recent advances in reducing global poverty, the report reflected the increasing risk that the world’s most disadvantaged face and the need for governments and aid organizations to do more to tackle inequality.

Many countries in the West were unwilling to accept millions of refugees and migrants fleeing poverty and conflict, mostly in the Middle East and Africa, around the time the 172-page report was released.

In a foreword to the report, Anthony Lake, the executive director of UNICEF said that inequities are shaping the survival rates of poor children and “perpetuat[ing] intergenerational cycles of disadvantage and inequity that undermine the stability of societies.”

Progress is Progress, but We Need More

The report acknowledged that progress was made to expand development and improve the plight of the world’s poor. Extreme poverty and global under-five mortality rates have been nearly halved since the 1990s and boys and girls attend primary school in equal numbers in 129 countries.

However, the report noted the benefits of anti-poverty efforts have been unequal and limited in many developing areas around the world.

Children born to uneducated mothers are three times more likely to die before the age of five than those born to women with secondary education in sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia. Girls who grow up in extreme poverty are also twice as likely to be married as children than girls from the wealthiest neighborhoods.

Nearly half of the 69 million disadvantaged children projected to perish from preventable causes will reside in sub-Saharan Africa where 247 children live in multidimensional poverty.

The report also found that insufficient access to quality education is still prevalent. Between 2010 and 2013, development assistance for basic education declined by 11%.

The number of children who do not attend school has also increased since 2011 and almost two in five adolescents who do finish primary school have not learned to read, write or do basic arithmetic.

The report recommended an increase in the investment of youth and education in order to guarantee a better future for the world’s children. According to UNICEF, cash transfers have helped children stay in school longer and each additional year of education that a child receives can increase his or her adult earnings by 10%.

Disadvantaged children need strengthened anti-poverty efforts for increased access to education, disease prevention and lower mortality rates — tasks that the global community can help accomplish.

Sam Turken

Photo: Flickr

anti-poverty_campaignDropping oil prices and tightening budgets across nations in the Gulf are making it difficult to raise money for charity causes. But Bill Gates, with a growing culture of philanthropy in the region, is hoping to attract wealthy regional donors with the Anti-Poverty Campaign.

By visiting the region, Gates, the co-founder of Microsoft and a well-known philanthropist, is actively seeking donations toward his foundation’s $2.5 billion ‘Lives and Livelihood Fund.’ The fund is philanthropy which aims to reduce poverty and disease across 30 countries in the Middle East, Africa and Asia.

The Lives and Livelihood Fund is a joint project with the Jeddah-based Islamic Development Bank (IDB). Launched in June, the IDB and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation formally announced the $500 million grant facility.

Through the innovative facility, IDB, the Gates Foundation and potential future donors will support over five years of poverty-focused programs worth $2.5 billion in primary healthcare, disease control, smallholder agriculture and basic rural infrastructure in IDB member countries, with a special focus on low-income countries.

At the launch, Gates appealed to donors saying, “we now have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to improve the quality of life for each of the nearly 2 billion people living in the bank’s member countries. It is an honor to join you in this historic effort.”

IDB has committed $2 billion in loans financing the Gates Foundation if they are able to raise $500 million in donations (of which the Gates Foundation has pledged $100 million). Donations, for the remaining difference, are expected to be drawn from wealthy Gulf nations.

Speaking in the United Arab Emirates during an interview with Reuters, Gates said, “Certainly the price of oil means that these countries are having to prioritize both domestic and international things they do. It would be easier if oil was $100 a barrel.”

Oil prices have fallen 60 percent since mid-2014, and the benchmark Brent crude was trading around $42.80 in December 2015.

Despite this, “Philanthropy is growing here and every time I come to the region I get a chance to sit and talk with people who are considering giving and I hear a lot of enthusiasm,” Gates said.

According to Gates, the anti-poverty campaign has several key partners in the region. Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal is one such partner.

Back in July, the prince said he would gradually donate his entire $32 billion fortune to charities that promote health, disease eradication, disaster relief and women’s rights.

Days later, United Arab Emirates businessman Abdullah Ahmad al-Ghurair gave more than $1 billion, a third of his business empire, to a foundation supporting education in the Arab world.

Large-scale donations like these could mark a new trend among the Gulf’s wealthiest. The changes that could come as a result of their generosity are promising, to say the least.

Kara Buckley

Sources: Business Insider, ISDB
Photo: Quotes Gram

From Millennium Development Goals to Sustainable Development Goals
The final report of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) says it has been the most successful anti-poverty effort in history. But despite significant gains, there are many global poverty issues that still need to be addressed. These include sanitation, gender equality, maternal and children’s health, and access to family planning, among others.

After 15 years, the transition from MDGs to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) begins. The new goals will be adopted this September at the United Nations Sustainable Development Summit, which will provide a guideline for policy and funding for the next 15 years. There are set to be 17 goals and 169 indicators to measure the progress of these goals.

Among the proposed goals are the following:

  • No poverty
  • Zero hunger
  • Good health and well being
  • Quality Education
  • Gender Equality
  • Clean Water and Sanitation
  • Affordable and Clean Energy
  • Decent Work and Economic Growth
  • Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure
  • Reduced Inequalities
  • Sustainable Cities and Communities
  • Responsible Consumption and Production
  • Climate Action
  • Life Below Water
  • Life on Land
  • Peace and Justice, Strong Institutions
  • Partnerships for the Goals

The goals were conceived through a collaboration of the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and the UN Development Group (UNDG), which undertook an unprecedented global conversation among a diverse group of stakeholders over the last three years. Stakeholders included women, young people, people with disabilities, the private sector and all levels of government.

For example, the UN’s online My World Survey, which asked participants to rank their six highest priority issues, gathered the ranked priorities for the future of 7.3 million people.

In addition, the UNDG collected the perspectives from over one million people on “the world we want,” eliciting 88 national consultations and input on 11 thematic dialogues.

“As member states consult on the shape and content of a successor framework to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) beyond 2015, it is hoped that the opportunity to listen to these voices will contribute to reaching consensus on what is needed to move towards a common sustainable future,” states the World We Want website.

Partnerships will be key to realizing the proposed goals. Some of the important players that will assist in partnerships and collaboration between different entities are the Department of State’s Office of Global Partnerships, which will work with public and private sectors. The U.S. Agency for International Development will work with corporations, foundations, NGOs and others in developing countries through the Global Development Alliance.

Looking ahead, the need to work together across stakeholder groups is paramount. “World leaders have an unprecedented opportunity this year to shift the world onto a path of inclusive, sustainable and resilient development,” said Helen Clark, UNDP Administrator. And the message from the global conversation was clear: People want to be involved in the process of accomplishing these goals and to hold governments and businesses accountable for their promises and commitments.

Paula Acevedo

Sources: Millennium Development Goals Final Report, Devex, United Nations Development Programme
Photo: Flickr

anti-poverty 2015
Australia is preparing for Anti-Poverty Week, an annual event that raises awareness about poverty in Australia and around the world. During the week, people are encouraged to participate in activities and events that highlight issues of poverty.

This year, Anti-Poverty Week will take place from October 11-17. The event was originally established as an addition to the United Nation’s International Anti-Poverty Day, which is October 17.

Organizations, businesses and individuals are encouraged to fully participate in the events. Various activities will be held all over Australia to engage and educate others. Some of these events include providing food for those in need, educating children on what it means to be hungry and courses on how to save and donate finances.

In addition to attending events, people have the opportunity to organize an event of their own. Some of these events could include holding conferences, writing letters to newspapers or setting up fundraisers and exhibitions. Leaders of Anti-Poverty Week encourage participants to be creative and have published activity ideas.

An important aspect of Anti-Poverty Week includes involving and educating children about poverty. Schools can become involved in three ways: by organizing an event, by teaching students about the causes and consequences of poverty and/or by launching programs that help students assist others who face poverty.

Anti-Poverty Week also strives to connect with local government and communities. In the past, the event has created posters that are given to councils that are willing to participate with Anti-Poverty Week. However small the chance, Anti-Poverty Week leaders hope that local councils will embrace the opportunity to educate and assist those in need.

During Anti-Poverty Week 2014, 400 activities occurred. Six hundred organizations, including welfare agencies, overseas organizations, religious groups, businesses and schools, participated and sponsored events. The activities consisted of a wide range, from speeches to film nights to clothing drives. More than 150 articles were written about the event and more than 1,300 people followed Anti-Poverty Week on Twitter.

Every year for the last five years, the number of organized events has exceeded 400. Leaders hope that 2015 will be just as, if not more, successful as previous years.

So what does Australia’s annual event teach Americans? Their Anti-Poverty Week has succeeded in educating others and raising awareness about poverty. With a group of dedicated people, the event has changed lives. This event proves that in only seven days, people can change the face of poverty.

To find out more, visit Anti-Poverty’s website.

Kelsey Parrotte

Sources: Salvation Army, Australian Government, Anti-Poverty Week
Photo: Arab Council

end_poverty
On July 16th, Chinese Finance Minister Lou Jiwei and World Bank Group President Jim Young Kim signed a groundbreaking agreement. The new deal between China and the World Bank establishes a $50 million trust fund to end poverty and promote development across the globe.

As the World Bank’s third-largest shareholder, this new agreement strengthens the growing partnership between China and the Bank. President Kim commented on the partnership, stating, “I look forward to a continued strong, cooperative, and productive relationship, which will benefit developing countries around the world.”

The trust fund is expected to start later this year. In addition to enhancing cooperation between China and the World Bank, the fund aims to leverage the resources that developing countries need to escape poverty. It will finance investment projects, operations, knowledge development and human-resource cooperation.

Finance Minister Lou commented on the new fund, stating, “The establishment of this trust fund signals that our partnership with existing multilateral development banks is growing, even as we support new ones.” Secretary General Jin echoed Lou’s enthusiasm, pledging his full confidence in the new fund, and in the existing partnership.

China has remained the largest contributor to world growth since the global financial crisis. In fact, over the last few years, approximately 30 percent of global growth has come from China alone. China is a global leader in development. Over the past 25 years, the country has lifted more than 600 million people out of poverty.

That number is greater than the number of people lifted out of poverty by the rest of the world combined over the same time period. There is no doubt that China is doing all that it can to lead the worldwide anti-poverty charge.

In fact, during Kim’s two-day visit to the county, he also met with Secretary General Jib Liqun of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank Multilateral Interim Secretariat to discuss further cooperation between the two institutions. Both leaders agreed to expand their cooperation and invest in future development projects.

Last month, the prospective founding members of the AIIB signed the Articles of Agreement, making way for the bank to be operational by the end of 2015. By increasing funding for infrastructure, they are tackling the poverty problem at its deepest roots.

According to Secretary General Jin, with the emerging AIIB too, the World Bank “has been very generous in sharing its expertise, lessons of experience and global good practice knowledge with the Secretariat.” He went on to express full confidence in the powerful partnership’s ability to improve the lives of countless impoverished citizens.

Cooperative partnerships such as these represent the quickest, most efficient means of tackling poverty and promoting development worldwide. As one of the world’s strongest powers with the second largest economy, China is unquestionably the perfect contender to combat poverty.

America sits proudly beside China in a position of global power. As possessors of the power needed to put an end to poverty, we maintain a global responsibility to co-lead the anti-poverty fight. There is no better way to achieve this than to collaborate our resources through such cooperative partnerships.

Sarah Bernard

Sources: The Financial, The World Bank, Sputnik News
Photo: Sputnik News

Tragedy at Bangladesh Garment Factory

Until now, more than 1000 people are estimated to have been killed in the collapse of the Bangladesh garment factory. Statistics make this accident one of the worst garment factory disasters in modern history. As governments, organizations, and conscientious consumers look for solutions and ways to prevent another catastrophic loss of life, some are considering the role a company or consumer boycott of clothing made in Bangladesh would have. But how should consumers respond? Is pushing for a boycott of Bangladeshi products really the solution? Experts differ on the possible effects of such a move.

Professor Linda Scott at Oxford University says no:

The most obvious thing to do is to take away shopping dollars, and I do appreciate that stopping power, but I am just afraid that moves the problem someplace else. There is always another country that is happy to take on garment manufacturing. That is why it moves around so much. If the factories move elsewhere, it does not really solve the problem. It just moves misery somewhere else. And it takes away work from the people in Bangladesh.

Paul Collins of the British Anti-poverty Group War on Want also hesitates to endorse such a move:

We take our lead from our partner, the National Garment Workers’ Federation in Bangladesh, and they take their lead from the trade union members they support – mainly women – who say that these jobs should be decent jobs that are safe, pay a living wage and do not force them to work excessive hours. But they fear that a boycott campaign would mean they would lose their jobs. They come from rural areas and abject poverty, so they have not asked us to mount a boycott campaign.

Jamie Terzi, Bangladesh Country Director for CARE International, offered the following perspective:

I think for an incident of this magnitude to occur, we are talking about a systemic failure, where there are multiple responsibilities and, more strongly, culpabilities. It is not particularly helpful to pick one person or group, the problem is simply too large and too complex. It is absolutely the government; it is absolutely the people of Bangladesh calling on their government to be more accountable; it is up to the factory owners; it is up to the buyers and it absolutely is up to the consumers in Western countries.

Elizabeth L. Cline, author of Over-Dressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion emphasizes the same point made by Terzi:

Bangladesh is a very poor country so even if they wanted to implement changes there is not a lot of money to do so. We’re talking about a $500,000 (£320,000) investment per factory to get some of these changes implemented and the brands can afford it. The factories can’t. Consumers are ready for ethical fashion. They want to see fair labor standards implemented and abided by, and they would support it if the brands made headway on that.

For consumers, particularly those in the west, who decide to respond to the tragedy, all of these experts agree that there are a number of complex and interlocking issues to be considered here. Everyone, from governments to multi-nationals, to consumers will have a role to play in developing a solution to save lives in the future.

– Délice Williams

Source: BBC, CBS
Photo: CNN

world-water-day-2013-water-cooperation_opt
Is water a commodity or a human right? Too many people, governments, and institutions see water as something merely to be bought and sold, and not as something every person on earth needs for survival. Like food, health care, educational and economic opportunities, and many of the other things we write about on the blog, safe water is a human right and necessity.

Since 1993, the UN has designated March 22 as World Water Day. World Water Day serves to bring attention to, advocate for sustainable management of, and celebrate clean, fresh water.

2013 has also been designated the International Year of Water Cooperation, so this year’s World Water Day holds special significance. Events will be held across the globe to foster international cooperation around water. Because of the organization’s interdisciplinary approach to world problems, the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) will coordinate World Water Day on behalf of UN-Water.

World Water Day serves many purposes, including raising public awareness of water issues facing the globe and advocating for improvements in water management. Access to clean, safe drinking water is a major health concern among the world’s poorest populations. 88 percent of cases of diarrhea, the number one cause of death and illness in the world, are due to a lack of access to clean water and sanitation facilities. Almost a billion people do not have access to improved water sources, while 2.5 billion live without adequate sanitation facilities.

While the statistics are disturbing, we can do something to improve these conditions. World Water Day is an opportunity to learn about water issues and take action on behalf of those whose basic water needs are not being met. To learn more about World Water Day 2013 and the International Year of Water Cooperation, visit the UN’s World Water Day page.

– Kat Henrichs
Source: UN-Water
Photo:UN