Oftentimes, when one thinks of ending global hunger and poverty, raising and donating money comes to mind. However, analysis of anti-global poverty policies and programs has shown that ending global poverty is so much more than just giving money to individuals and communities. As much as money is important to the creation and implementation of effective programs, giving money directly to the poor is not always the best way to lift people out of poverty in the long term. Rather, it is important not only to invest in the programs that actually work well but also to invest in analysis of ongoing programs to recognize those who do have a positive impact. Moreover, pre-existing programs must constantly undergo updates and improvements as more education emerges about the populations they serve.
In reality, poverty is a much more complicated issue than just a lack of money and thus it requires a more elaborate solution than just pledging cash. Successful anti-poverty programs usually target social infrastructures such as access to health care, education and financial resources. Additionally, anti-poverty policies aim to help citizens not fall prey to exploitation and poor financial decisions. However, in the end, these programs are not successful unless they receive proper implementation and maintenance.
The Problem with Some Anti-Global Poverty Policies
The Borgen Project spoke with Dr. Gabriela Salvador, the Regional Director of Latin America and the Caribbean at AmeriCares; a health-focused poverty and disaster relief organization. Dr. Salvador argues that anti-global poverty policies fail because of a lack of understanding of the problems of individuals living in poverty, as well as a lack of proper implementation of such policies. Her emphasis on understanding the needs of the individual and their living situation stems from her firsthand experience with impoverished communities.
Salvador began her career as a pediatric eye surgeon in Mexico but soon realized that she was only scratching the tip of the iceberg with her work. She believed that it was too late for most of the serious cases and a lot of them could have experienced prevention to begin with. The lack of access to health care systems in impoverished communities blocked people from getting proper care in the first place, and thus, the cases she faced were much worse than they could have been.
Being one person alone, Salvador felt that she could make more of a difference by implementing programs to strengthen weak health care systems and provide relief to struggling communities. She returned to school to study global health and business to learn how to create effective and creative financial solutions to complicated health issues. With over five years of experience working in Latin America designing financially responsible health delivery programs, Salvador now creates and heads a wide variety of programs that include direct provision of services and emergency relief for natural and humanitarian crises.
Collaborating with Communities
Salvador believes that when stripped of religion and culture, the issues facing impoverished individuals are essentially the same globally. Salvador explains that although many programs have the best interest of their target community at heart, they often fail to recognize the barriers that prevent individuals from participating in them. For example, if a sexual health testing and medicine distribution clinic exists in an impoverished community, women may not utilize its resources because they have competing priorities such as child and elderly care, domestic abuse, lack of transportation and other domestic responsibilities. Additionally, Salvador explains that the programs that people launch and leave to work without experiencing proper integration into the local infrastructure of the community do not turn out to be very effective.
She finds that the most effective programs are those that emerge when local officials and professionals collaborate with international aid to understand how to overcome the barriers of individuals in the area. When approaching a new problem, Salvador explains that she first asks the client who the patients are and what their priorities are so that she can best tailor a treatment solution to them. Her goals in targeting global health issues are to generate pragmatic solutions that create direct benefit and resiliency in communities.
The Challenges of Implementing Anti-Poverty Programs
The implementation challenge of anti-poverty programs is clearly one of the biggest reasons why fighting global poverty is such a difficult issue. Connecting with impoverished individuals and identifying their barriers is difficult because of the lack of access to information about specific populations and the abundant funding it takes to collect that information. There is also the issue of choosing who gets the benefit of certain programs; incredibly tough decisions that Salvador cites as perhaps the hardest part of her job. Yet, there is still a way to try and understand the plight of impoverished individuals through human experience.
Salvador emphasizes empathy and an understanding of her privileges as key components of her job. She believes that people need to “roll up their sleeves” and do the work themselves since many are prone to entitlement.
In a 2018 study of Challenges to Global Development Education, researchers Buchanan and Varadharajan underlined the importance of community engagement and individual agency as well. The study also advised strategies that implement drawing attention to understanding the misinformation and closed-mindedness around social and political conditions of impoverished communities. Similar to Salvador, the study suggests creating partnerships between organizations and local communities as well as providing resources to create resilience as an effective way to alleviate poverty issues.
In the end, people must make an effort to understand more about creating and implementing effective solutions to fight global poverty. However, it is clear that no matter how well designed anti-poverty programs are, they cannot be truly effective unless the communities they are targeting are engaged in their creation and implementation processes.
Data collection and the continued monitoring and analysis of current anti-global poverty policies and programs are impertinent to the future understanding and implementation of successful programs as well. As Dr. Salvador stresses, it is important to remember that impoverished communities contain individuals who have unique problems and issues that may be difficult to understand and relate to. Open-mindedness and a willingness to empathize with and learn about diverse populations is key to creating effective anti-poverty programs. At this time, Salvador continues to combat the COVID-19 stigma and prioritize resiliency and relief as she mitigates the effects of the global downturn of the economy and health care systems due to the pandemic.
– Giulia Silver