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Eliminating Extreme Poverty Through InnovationThe Bangladesh Rehabilitation Assistance Committee (BRAC) was formed in 1972 by Sir Fazle Hasan Abed. BRAC, the world’s largest NGO, is an excellent example of a nonprofit bringing transformation through strong business practices.

Today, BRAC reaches around 138 million poor spread over nine countries in Asia and Africa, and employs 125,000 people, primarily women. And yet, BRAC has remained quite unknown in the West. BRAC U.S. and BRAC U.K. were launched to spread awareness about its approach and mobilize its resources as well as raise funds for its fight to eliminate extreme poverty through innovation. It has created self-employment opportunity for 8.5 million people, educated over 3.8 million children from 66,000 of its schools, and given microloans to six million borrowers. Its approach is, “small is beautiful but big is necessary.”

What They Do

The following goals are listed on the official BRAC website:

  1. Improve well-being and resilience through disaster management and climate change, health, nutrition, water, sanitation and hygiene.
  2. Assist economic development and social protection – agriculture and food security, microfinance, enterprises and investment, targeting the ultra-poor.
  3. Expand horizons of education, migration and skills development.
  4. Empower communities, women and disadvantaged, human rights and legal aid, with urban development.
  5. Support programs for governance, management and capacity building.

Social Innovation Lab (SIL)

BRAC believes in eliminating extreme poverty through innovation. SIL was formed to explore the best practices and ways of creating impact at scale and incubating new ideas. It began in the 1980s, when diarrhea was the biggest killer of children under the age of five. BRAC successfully made the most illiterate population in the world adopt oral rehydration therapy, teaching poor households to prepare homemade saline. Now, they continue to work toward bringing family planning to people despite social opposition.

BRAC has accomplished quite a lot through frugal innovation, making Bangladesh the fastest-growing mobile money market with 13 million users, and creating large-scale financial inclusion.

Current Efforts

Hundreds of Rohingya children are living in Cox’s Bazaar on the border of Bangladesh. BRAC has made initiatives to ensure prevention of widespread diseases, by providing 167,000 individuals with oral cholera vaccinations. 153,000 health services through 60 mobile health camps and 10 fixed camps have been provided to treat fever, pneumonia and diarrhea. BRAC is providing access to safe water, sanitation, child-friendly spaces and critical supplies.

The “poverty graduation” scheme offers a way of eliminating extreme poverty through innovation by tackling poverty as well as providing social confidence. Women are given an asset, usually livestock. In return, they must look after the animal, their children must be sent to school and they must save a small amount of income, along with a tiny stipend to cover their food needs. A BRAC member visits them regularly to assess improvements for two years, after which they are expected to “graduate,” or break the chain of ultra-poverty.

In the next five years, BRAC plans to empower 20 million people to gain access to resources. They are working toward completely eliminating extreme poverty through innovation by 2020 with integrated efforts.

Tripti Sinha

Photo: Flickr

Extreme PovertyNot all poverty is created equal. Poverty in a developed country is not the same as poverty in a developing nation. Here are 5 things the U.S. needs to know about extreme poverty.

  1. People who live in extreme poverty are deprived of basic human needs such as access to food, clean water and shelter. To be classified as a person living in extreme poverty, one must be living on or below $1.90 a day.
  2. Extreme poverty in a developing nation is different from poverty in a developed nation. The U.S. is a developed nation. In the U.S., government benefits keep millions of Americans out of poverty. These programs mostly tend to target women, children and the elderly, the nation’s (and the world’s) most vulnerable populations. Due to programs such as Social Security, unemployment benefits and food stamps, these people are shielded from the harsh realities of extreme poverty.
  3. Unfortunately, government benefits tend not to exist in developing countries to aid their poor. In addition, due to fear of corruption, the world’s poorest do not receive as much foreign aid as their better-off peers. Low-income countries remain in poverty due to being too poor to be trusted with funds. An effect of this is that the most defenseless population in the world, children, suffers the consequences. The World Health Organization estimates that about 16,000 children under the age of five die each day from preventable causes associated with extreme poverty. The causes of death are lack of access to clean water, lack of access to healthcare, malaria, newborn infections, poor nutrition and diarrhea. Death from these ails is unfathomable in developed countries.
  4. An estimated 766,010,000 people live in extreme poverty today. This is double the size of the U.S.’s population
  5. The number of people in extreme poverty is declining. In 1990, there were 1.1 billion people living in extreme poverty. Today the number is 766 million. This is an amazing feat that can be attributed to a combination of factors such as trade between developed nations and developing nations, foreign aid that reinvigorated economies, increased education, improved infrastructures and investment in basic health.

As with most things in life, poverty cannot be viewed through a single lens. It is a complex social issue, but gains over the past few decades have shown that it is a solvable issue. With continued foreign aid and trade, the world can get that much closer to realizing the goal of eradicating extreme poverty by 2030.

Jeanine Thomas

Photo: Flickr

Effects of Poverty
Of all the social issues faced by a developing country, poverty often feels especially overwhelming. Of the many factors working against the poor, the effects of poverty on the brain development of children is probably the most daunting yet.

Researchers have long suspected a correlation between a child’s behavior and cognitive abilities and their socio-economic status. This correlation becomes even more apparent among people living in extreme poverty. In a 2015 study published in Nature Neuroscience, a team led by neuroscientists Kimberly Noble from Columbia University in New York City and Elizabeth Sowell from Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, California, imaged the brains of 1,099 children, adolescents and young adults in several U.S. cities. Their findings revealed that children from the lowest income bracket of less than $25,000 had up to six percent less surface area than children from families making more than $150,000. Within the poorest families themselves, income inequalities of a few thousand dollars were associated with major differences in brain structure and cognitive skills.

Within countries that live on less than a dollar a day, researchers have found other developmental problems such as stunted growth and cognitive issues. In an unprecedented study conducted in 1960, a team of researchers began giving out nutritional supplements to young children in rural Guatemala. The study was aimed at collecting data to test the theory that providing enough supplements during a child’s formative years would help in reducing stunted growth. This theory was proved in the early 2000s, when the researchers returned to check on the children who had received the supplements in the first three years of their life. They found that not only did the children grow one to two centimeters more than the control group; they even scored higher in cognitive tests. This experiment proved the effects of poverty on the brain development of children.

In 2006, the World Health Organization (WHO) published a study into the heights and weights of children between birth and age five in Brazil, Ghana, India, Norway, Oman and the United States. The results showed that healthy children, regardless of their home countries, follow a very similar growth trajectory. Based on these results, the WHO established benchmarks for atypical growth. In countries like Bangladesh, India, Guatemala and Nigeria, over 40 percent of children meet the definition of stunted growth. In light of the growing awareness and consensus around effects of stunting, the WHO included the reduction in the number of children under five with stunted growth by 40 percent as one of its six global nutritional targets for 2025.

Similar studies were conducted in Brazil, Peru, Jamaica, the Philippines, Kenya and Zimbabwe, all with the same conclusion. However, pediatric cognitive development is a complex multidimensional problem and not all stunted growth, which affects an estimated 160 million children worldwide, is connected to malnutrition. Malnutrition is one side of this multifaceted problem; poor sanitation, stressful home environments, exposure to industrial chemicals, lack of access to good education and income disparities are other possible factors.

It would not be an overstatement to say that all research points to an urgent need to address the problem of world poverty. Factors such as lack of education, poor hygiene, lack of pre-post-natal care, nutritional deficiency, exposure to chemicals and stressful childhood are some of the paralyzing issues faced by those in extreme poverty. The daunting effects of poverty on the brain development of children have already been proven by researchers and new research and studies are further fortifying what is already known. In essence, even as officials start to take action in providing adequate nutrition, research cannot be clearer in building the case for the urgent need to eliminate world poverty.

Jagriti Misra

Photo: Flickr

Extreme PovertyLooking at the World Bank’s records, the proportion of households in developing countries below the extreme poverty line has declined sharply, from 52 percent in 1980 to 43 percent in 1990 to 34 percent in 1999, and finally to 21 percent in 2010. Though the figures look optimistic, the United Nations’ number one Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) to end poverty in all its manifestations everywhere by 2030 will only become more difficult to achieve as time progresses.

The World Bank defines “extreme poverty” as living on less than $1.90 per person per day. The multidimensional aspects of poverty are captured to measure extreme poverty through data collection encompassing climate variations, caloric intake, clothing, shelter, health and other variables.

For the past two decades, East Asia has held the largest population of impoverished individuals. According to the Economist, in 1981, roughly 88 percent of China’s citizens lived below the poverty line. Since that time, China has eradicated a large amount of poverty in cities and reduced the number of rural people living below its poverty line of 2,300 yuan or a little over $340 per year. In 2013, due to continual infrastructural and economic growth, and the cultivation of private businesses and corporations, only 2 percent of Chinese citizens fell under the World Bank’s definition of extreme poverty.

Due to the changing landscape in East Asia, much of the world’s remaining poverty is in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. Weeding poverty out of these areas will prove to be more difficult due to the lack of available welfare programs and support systems.

Although free markets, trade and economic growth will remain vital to meeting the U.N. SDG, continued progress will depend heavily on infrastructural and health investments by the government, including in water, electricity and healthcare. According to the New York Times and the Harvard FXB Center for Health and Human Rights, decreases in mortality rate as well as public funds to finance scientific and technological breakthroughs such as the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria have made massive contributions to fighting global poverty to date.

As organizations and nations worldwide move towards eliminating extreme poverty, new challenges will undoubtedly arise. The Brookings Institute reminds global citizens that “as global poverty approaches zero, it becomes increasingly concentrated in countries where the record of and prospects for poverty reduction are weakest.” Despite the fact, the possibility still exists to improve quality of life worldwide, and the opportunity still remains to progress the elimination of poverty through further investment and advocacy efforts across all national barriers.

Katherine Wang

Photo: Pixabay

What is Advocacy
What is advocacy? Merriam-Webster defines an advocate as someone who “argues for or supports a cause or policy.” Other definitions paint advocates as defenders, either of a cause or of a person. Lastly, an advocate can also be defined as a promoter of another’s interests.

 

What is Advocacy in Terms of Global Poverty?

 

With almost 10 percent of the world’s population living on less that $2 a day, ignoring the global poor is like ignoring someone who is injured and cannot get to their feet.

In the case of the global poor, an advocate is one who supports, defends and promotes the human rights of those suffering in extreme poverty. A person is an advocate when they support policies that aid struggling populations stricken with hunger, disease and a lack of access to education or sanitation.

Eradicating global poverty can seem like a daunting task. Who is equipped to change the world in such a way? Notice that the definition does not say an advocate is an implicit solution to the problem. On the contrary, an advocate is someone who works to find a solution and appeals to the powers that can make a difference.

Today, being an advocate for the global poor does not require immense effort. In fact, it is as easy as sending a few emails and making a few phone calls. By contacting our representatives in Congress and showing our support for foreign aid, we can act as intermediaries for the millions who do not have the means to do so themselves.

Advocacy is more powerful in groups. By spreading awareness of the global poor and demonstrating how easy it is to support their cause, we can multiply our impact. With enough people promoting the same interests, leaders will take notice. If we do not have the power to eradicate poverty on our own, the governments of the world certainly do.

The actions of advocates have had a profound effect. Since 2011, a projected 200 million people are no longer in extreme poverty. Nevertheless, there are still millions more that are crying for help with the hope that someone will take notice and champion their cause.

Emiliano Perez

Photo: Flickr

global poverty levels

The International Labor Organization (ILO) released a new report, “World Employment and Social Outlook 2016 – Transforming Jobs to End Poverty”, which assesses current global poverty levels. Director-General Guy Ryder states that poverty continues to remain frustratingly high in Africa and parts of Asia.

“For example, more than 40 percent of the African population continues to live in extreme poverty and some 64 percent in extreme or moderate poverty. Another element, which I think we have to pay attention to, is the fact that in the developed world, there has been an increase, an absolute increase in poverty, notably in this continent of Europe.”

According to the ILO, this is most likely due to the high number of refugees seeking comfort in Europe in the past few years.

Income inequality is becoming a bigger problem in these regions, cautions Ryder. After years of decline, the disparity between the “haves” and the “have-nots” is currently expanding and slowly turning the wheel of the socioeconomic inequality cycle.

“In addition, the ability of growth to reduce poverty is compromised by the inequitable income distribution, showing that the rich are taking a disproportionately high share of the benefits of growth and, in a way, could be considered partly responsible for this perpetuation of poverty.”

Despite Ryder’s precautions however, global poverty levels are the lowest they have been in history. Vast advances have been made in China and a majority of Latin America.

ILO approximates the number of people living in extreme poverty in 107 emerging and developing countries, with incomes of less than $2 a day, has dropped from 50 percent in 1990 to roughly under 15 percent in 2012. If this trend continues, poverty levels should continue to drop in the future.

The ILO continues to work with the United Nations to eradicate poverty worldwide. A study performed by ILO revealed an estimated $10 trillion will be needed to eliminate extreme and moderate poverty all across the nations by 2030. ILO also stated, “Quality jobs that provide social protection must play a central role to end poverty.”

Rachel Hutchinson

BOMA ProjectAccording to the U.N., the majority of people living in extreme poverty are women. This unfortunate reality is commonly referred to as the “Feminization of Poverty.” Lack of resources, education and income for women are among the various reasons this phenomenon exists.

However, organizations like The BOMA Project are fighting to end this gender disparity among the world’s poor.

The BOMA Project is a U.S. non-profit organization as well as a Kenyan NGO. The organization was recently chosen to receive a prestigious grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Notably, the organization seeks to help impoverished women in drought-prone areas. The BOMA Project is currently operating in two Kenyan counties: Marsabit and Samburu. Both of these areas suffer from arid climates that make it difficult for their residents to thrive.

The BOMA Project’s two-year program is known as the Rural Entrepreneur Access Project (REAP). This program empowers and educates women to sustain small businesses.

The organization states that REAP, “replaces aid with sustainable income and helps women ‘graduate’ from extreme poverty by giving them the tools they need to start small businesses in their communities.”

REAP is accomplished through five major phases:

  1. Targeting the most vulnerable women within communities using a wealth ranking system.
  2. Assigning village mentors who assist in writing business plans as well as visit monthly over the two-year period.
  3. Providing two installments of grants to help women acquire the necessary resources to start their businesses.
  4. Training women how to run their businesses successfully.
  5. Forming savings associations comprised of 3 to 4 other BOMA businesses.

The BOMA Project also teaches women how to keep track of daily budgets, be secure during unexpected shocks and save for future purchases. This all-encompassing system has been the foundation of the organization’s success since its beginnings in 2009.

Since then, 9,432 women have enrolled in the program. Of the women who have already completed their two-year training, 93 percent are no longer living in extreme poverty (according to the organization’s criteria) and 98 percent now have savings.

While these numbers are promising, The BOMA Project is aiming to expand its reach, helping 100,000 women and children by 2018 and 1 million by 2021.

Saroja Koneru

Photo: Flickr

How to Help the World's Poor

Ways to Help the World’s Poor

Do you want to know some easy ways to help the world’s poor? Well, here are 10 simple ways to help the world’s poor, which can often be done without even having to leave your home!

 

1. Donate

One of the quickest and most obvious ways to help the world’s poor is to donate to charity. Click here to donate to The Borgen Project.

 

2. Call Congress

This way to help the world’s poor is surprisingly simple. Every person in the United States has 3 representatives in Congress (2 Senators and 1 Representative in the House). By calling these 3 peoples’ offices each week, individuals can show the Congressmen the issues that they care about. Calling your Congressmen is a simple process. Generally, an intern will answers the phone, or you can leave a message after hours.

The message you need to say is simple: “My name is ___, I live in ___, and I want to raise the funding for helping the world’s poor,” or something similar. As few as 7 people calling in can make a Congressman change his mind on a bill: Congressmen want those they are serving in the U.S. to be happy so if you let them know what you want, they are more likely to listen. Go here for more detailed instructions.

 

3. Inform Yourself

This is one of the simplest ways to help the world’s poor, and also it helps you to do the other things more effectively. Basically, all you need to do is stay informed on the issues. Pay attention to what is happening in Congress and read up on current poverty-related events. It may surprise you to find out that poverty has made some great strides in the past few years. Indeed, in the past 20 years, the world’s undernourished has decreased by 50%. Life expectancy has also increased by 1/3.

(Browse The Borgen Project to find out more interesting facts about poverty).

 

4. Build Buzz/Raise Awareness

Now that you’ve done your research, you can use your new information as tools to build buzz, or to raise the awareness of those around you. If you care about the world’s poor, you can be sure that other people do too, but may just be unaware of how they can help. You can share info on different poverty-fighting organizations with your colleagues, family, and friends (see: 1. Donate for ideas). You can also call in to radio shows, write to editors, speak locally about the cause, send ideas to the media, or anything else that may bring the idea of helping the world’s poor to the forefront of people’s vision and thoughts.

 

5. Social Media

Recently, social media has become one of the most fantastical ways a person can help the world’s poor (among other ventures). This is perhaps the easiest way to help, as well. Many Congressional leaders (your members of Congress) have Facebook pages, Twitters, or websites. All you need to do is either post on their pages to bring up the idea of helping the world’s poor, or post on your own about the various issues. Also, you can easily follow many different organizations, including The Borgen Project, and retweet them or post about them on Facebook or other websites. Overall, your voice will be heard. (The Social Media of Congress can be found here and here). (Also, follow us on Twitter!)

 

6. Get Political

Although you can call Congress, or post on their Facebook pages, there are other ways to help the world’s poor and to “get political.” If you are willing, you can always arrange a meeting with Congressional staffers to tell them what issues (like reducing global poverty) you are interested in. You can also mobilize those around you; just one person calling into Congress will make a difference, but if multiple people in an area call Congress about the same issue and around the same time, there will be a bigger effect. Finally, you can “bird dog” Congress, which means to go to where a legislator is speaking, and ask them publicly about poverty (For example, “What are you doing to help poverty?” or “Will you support helping reduce global poverty?”, etc).

 

7. Fundraising

Another one of the ways to help the world’s poor is fundraising. Contact people about various organizations to donate to, or use sites like Crowd Rise to start a campaign. You can also run marathons or accomplish other feats as a way to raise money, as long as you ask people to be your sponsor. You can also ask for donations to different charities rather than receiving gifts for your birthdays, weddings, or other events.

 

8. Be a Consumer with a Cause

One of the surprising ways to help the world’s poor is simply by being a consumer, or something who buys things. This can be done by buying products from websites that donate a portion of their proceeds to charity, or from nonprofit organizations that sell shirts or other merchandise to help the cause. The Borgen Project even has a Visa Card that has no annual fee, and some unique card designs. Basically, when possible, buy from places that will help the cause.

 

9. Arrange Events

One of the harder ways to help the world’s poor is arranging events. Of course, this does not need to be too difficult: you could host parties (or movie/TV show marathons with your friends!) and have a $5 (suggested donation) to get in. This can be done by living your life as normal, but adding in charity donation so that everyone can get involved. On the other hand, you can also host poverty-based events, or parties with the pure purpose of raising awareness on poverty and discussing its issues. Finally, you can have a “non-event” event, where instead of going out that night, everyone donates a certain amount and stays in.

 

10. Volunteer

Finally, one of the most difficult (but, arguably, most rewarding) ways to help the world’s poor is through volunteering. This can encompass many different things: volunteer for a political campaign, volunteer for a nonprofit organization, volunteer for a movement to fight poverty, or grab an internship. Personally, I am an intern writing for The Borgen Project; I do not get paid, but it helps get the message out to the world. Overall, you can find volunteer opportunities online (for example, through Idealist), but there are also local opportunities that may be available if you ask around.

To see even more easy ways to help the world’s poor, look here.

– Corina Balsamo

Source: The Borgen Project
Photo: Asheri

Syria Aid DistributionPolicy experts and aid initiatives are revealing that programs providing aid for Syria are not necessarily the best solution, given that four out of five individuals are still living in extreme poverty.

“Given the brutality that has come to characterize Syria’s four-year war, it is understandable that the discussion of the conflict has focused on violent deaths,” says an article in the newspaper, The Guardian.

According to news source IRIN, there is another scourge destroying lives in the country: “economic ruin and crippling poverty, what a U.N. backed report called an equally horrendous, but silent disaster.”

Traditional humanitarian aid is simply not enough. On the contrary, policy makers need to implement long-term, sustainable solutions that foster prosperity and social development in order to lift Syria out of crisis.

Even some Syrians have recognized that a new kind of approach regarding humanitarian aid is necessary to begin to progress. One aid worker based in northeast Syria told IRIN, “Syrians were requesting support with farming…something more productive than just being given food parcels.”

The northern part of the country used to be known as the breadbasket because agricultural development was popular in this area. Nonetheless, due to the social, economic and political conditions, this once productive territory is now almost dormant.

According to IRIN, displacement caused by shifting frontlines has resulted in missed harvest and planting seasons, and 6.6 million Syrians in total have been internally displaced by the violence inside their country.

“People who returned to areas vacated by the so-called Islamic State, for example, have come home to neglected soil and could not afford seeds,” says the IRIN article.

Moreover, the demand for agricultural products has diminished since humanitarian aid for Syria was introduced in the last year.

Government-issued agricultural subsidies have reduced and in some areas disappeared, according to the Guardian. “Prior to the conflict, the regime of President Bashar al Assad was the primary purchaser of wheat and maize; it still buys these products in some places, but on a far smaller scale,” the Guardian states.

A different kind of aid for Syria will promote sustainability, and social and economic development. Livelihood projects are essential for the population to progress.

Rim Turkami, a researcher from the London School of Economics, suggested that livelihood support is even essential to abate the war economy. Her investigation showed that individuals are joining the armed forces because it is the only opportunity to earn a salary.

As IRIN suggested, “Even in Syria, people are trying to cope.”

Isabella Rölz

Sources: IRIN, TheGuardian
Photo: DCHRS

Bolsa_FamiliaMore than a decade ago, in Brazil, President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva spearheaded a national social welfare program as a part of his network of federal assistance. Bolsa Familia was born in 2003 as a poverty reduction initiative that relied on conditional cash transfers in a country where income inequality has persisted for decades.

Since that time, Bolsa Familia has blossomed into one of the largest programs of its kind, with close to 14 million Brazilian families receiving funds.

In 2001, Brazil’s Gini coefficient, a tool used to measure inequality, hovered at around 0.6, which is particularly high for global standards. On the Gini coefficient scale, the closer the number is to 0 the better, “0” denotes perfect equality whereas “1” represents perfect inequality where one individual owns all the wealth.

However, between 2001 and 2013 the measure declined, thanks in part to Bolsa Familia and other poverty reduction programs.

Bolsa Familia targets families below the poverty line and creates stipulations for receiving funds meant to increase human capital. For instance, children under the age of 17 must regularly attend school and mothers need to ensure their children are vaccinated.

According to a 2010 analysis of polling data and media coverage by the World Bank, the strict conditions for government assistance legitimized Bolsa Família with Brazilian voters and generated widespread support on both ends of the political spectrum.

The program has also been lauded for being highly affordable. “The amount spent on Bolsa Família is nothing,” Yoshiaki Nakano, the director of the São Paulo School of Economics, said in an interview with Foreign Affairs. As one of the world’s largest poverty reduction programs, Bolsa Familia costs Brazilian taxpayers less than 0.5 percent of the country’s $2.3 trillion GDP.

Bolsa Familia was structured to benefit not only those living in extreme poverty, but all Brazilians.

President Lula explained the benefits to Foreign Affairs when he first introduced Bolsa Familia, “When millions can go to the supermarket to buy milk, to buy bread, the economy will work better,” he said. “The miserable will become consumers.”

Daniel Liddicoet

Sources: World Bank 1, Estadao, World Bank 2, Foreign Affairs
Picture: Google Images