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5 Major Successes in the Global War on Poverty-TBP

This month will mark the 50th anniversary of Medicare and Medicaid, just two of the programs that constitute the American War on Poverty. Although remaining under constant threat and scrutiny, social programs such as these have noticeably decreased poverty levels in the United States from 26% in 1967 to 16% in 2012. To Americans, those figures might seem significant. However, they pale in comparison to much of the progress made on a global scale. Below is a list of five quantifiable successes in the global war on poverty that put America’s efforts to shame.

1. Between 1990 and 2010 extreme global poverty was cut in half.

Obviously, this is fantastic news for humanity. In 1990, half of the population living in the developing world lived on less than $1.25 per day. Only two decades later, the rate fell to 22%. At this pace the levels of global poverty declined enough to meet the 2015 Millennium Development Goals set by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) five years ahead of schedule. Nevertheless, work still lies ahead for the UNDP. Recent economic stagnation has deflated the prospects for job growth in many developing countries with 56% of all employment deemed vulnerable. Not surprisingly, this employment risk is greater for women, who show higher rates of vulnerable employment across the board. Overall, though, this is a monumental achievement that bodes well for the 21st century.

2. Hunger is expected to decline by half by the end of 2015.

If all goes according to plan this year, global hunger should also meet the UNDP’s Millenium Development Goals. In developing regions, the rate has fallen from 26% in 1990-92 to 14.3% in 2011 to 2013. This adds up 173 million people no longer suffering from chronic hunger. While in 1990, 40% of young children had inadequate height for their age, today this figure stands at 25%. Despite progress, global hunger remains a pressing issue; in total, 842 million people still suffer from chronic hunger. In regions such as Sub-Saharan Africa, one in four remain malnourished. While much more still needs to be done, the heads of three U.N. food agencies encouragingly wrote, “This is proof that we can win the war against hunger and should inspire countries to move forward, with the assistance of the international community as needed.”

3. The debt burden of developing countries has fallen greatly.

While concerns over debts have risen recently in developed countries the opposite is true in the developing world. In 2012, the debt burden—or the proportion of external debt to export revenue— was 3.1%, a quarter of what it was in 2000. This is due in part to increased trade, better management of debt and foreign aid from the developed world that have reduced the debts of many of the poorest countries in the developing world.

4. Modern communications is taking off in the developing world.

At the end of 2014, the number of Internet-users worldwide hit nearly three billion people, or essentially 40% of the global population. Of these three billion, two-thirds lived in developing countries, where, according to a UNDP report, “the number of Internet users doubled in just five years between 2009 and 2014.” Africa represents the vanguard of this transition with 20% of inhabitants now on the Internet, in comparison to just 10% in 2010. Still, four billion lack access to the Internet with 90% of these people from the developing world. While today only a third of the youth in developing nations are digital connoisseurs, with five years of experience on the Internet, this number is expected double in the next five years. The global spread of communications technology relies greatly upon young digital natives welcoming technology into the developing world.

5. Africa is actually making notable progress.

Despite its reputation as perpetually impoverished and continuously unstable, Africa has experienced a variety of successes in recent years. Most notably, headway has been made in disease prevention and control. Many countries have experienced dramatic increases in retroviral therapy coverage for AIDS/HIV. Rwanda increased coverage from just 1% in 2003 to 71% in 2007, while Namibia’s coverage grew from 1% in 2003 to 88% in 2007. The Southern African Initiative has also worked to eliminate childhood death from measles in seven countries through vaccination efforts. Economic growth has also expanded, with countries such as Mozambique paving the way. Since the end of its civil war in 1992, Mozambique grew at a rate of 8% annually on average. Between 1997 and 2003, its rate of poverty fell by 15%, lifting almost three million people out of extreme poverty. However, half of its population is still impoverished. Mozambique represents much of Africa’s recent improvements; good, but not yet good enough.

Andrew Logan

Sources: The United Nations, United Nations Development Fund 1, United Nations Development Fund 2, United Nations Development Fund 3, The Washington Post, The World Bank
Photo: Wikipedia

Malnutrition-in-Lesotho
Like many countries in Africa, Lesotho faces a multifaceted humanitarian crisis in which issues are intertwined and often exacerbated by each other’s presence. The Lesotho government estimates that around 725,000 people, or about a third of the population, are in need of some form of humanitarian aid. Lesotho has the third highest prevalence of HIV/AIDS with almost a full quarter of adults ages 15-49 infected with the virus.

Furthermore, the United Nations estimates that almost 9,000 children under the age of 5 are severely malnourished in Lesotho. In 2009, a study conducted by the World Food Program (WFP) estimated that 39 percent of children under 5 years old exhibited signs of stunted growth resulting from malnutrition. UN research shows that school attendance for young boys and girls has been decreasing in recent years as well. This is likely due to families reliance on children to assist with increasing agricultural responsibilities.

Unpredictable weather conditions such as floods and droughts have burdened the production and availability of food in addition to other necessary resources. These factors have also contributed to increases in soil erosion and infertile lands. Minimal access to secure, high yielding seeds has also been an obstacle. These fluctuations of climate, coupled with the constant demand for staples such as maize, oil and sugar have caused prices to increase. All of these factors have contributed to malnutrition in Lesotho.

In an effort to combat the drastic price increases, UNICEF, WFP and the Lesotho government are working to implement relief measures. Efforts to adapt to irregular climate conditions are also in place. The Food & Agriculture Organization of the UN has created the Emergency & Resilience Program along with the Lesotho government to implement long term procedures such as subsistence farming and agro-conservation tactics. So far, the program has aided almost 20,000 farmers in Lesotho.

In 2007, UNICEF helped create the Lesotho Child Grants Program that affords impoverished families 40 U.S. dollars each quarter to purchase basic necessities. The program helps over 10,000 families and is being expanded to provide assistance to over 15,000. In addition, the dollar amount allocated to each family will be increased by 94 U.S. dollars.

Puseletso Tsiu is a recipient of the child grant who has greatly benefited from the program’s assistance. Tsiu’s two daughters died of AIDS and she has assumed responsibility for their childrens’ care. As a result of the extra support, she has been able to buy pairs of shoes for her orphaned grandchildren to wear to school. A commonplace purchase in the first world, such as the purchase of shoes, is viewed as a crucial investment in countries like Lesotho.

The National School Feeding Policy, sponsored by the WFP, provides two meals per day for students who can meet attendance requirements. For many families, the program provides an added educational and economic incentive to send young children to school. Families like Tsiu’s rely heavily upon the meals provided in schools so they can save money by not feeding them at home. In total, this program provides meals for over 400,000 students in Lesotho.

In the case of Lesotho, it has been demonstrated that international unity between organizations and governments can make a positive difference. “Kopano ke matla” is an old saying in Lesotho that roughly translates to “unity is power.” When faced with such adverse conditions, the meaning and power of this phrase must not be underestimated.

– Frasier Petersen

Sources: UNICEF, WFP, UNECOSOC, FAO
Photo: World Food Programme