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The United Nations’ Fight Against Poverty

The United Nations' Fight Against Poverty
The United Nations’ fight against poverty began as early as 1945. The U.N. General Assembly declared the years 1997 to 2006 as the First United Nations Decade for the Eradication of Poverty. The Second U.N. Decade for the Eradication of Poverty then ran from 2008 to 2017 and the Third U.N. Decade for the Eradication of Poverty began in 2018 with an end date of 2027. The United Nations Millennium Declaration, signed by U.N. member states in September 2000, is a commitment from global leaders to “combat poverty, hunger, disease, illiteracy, environmental degradation and discrimination against women.” The Millenium Development Goals (MDGs) formed part of this Declaration and set targets to reach by 2015.

Progress in Reducing Extreme Poverty and Hunger

The target of reducing global extreme poverty rates by 50% occurred “five years ahead of the 2015 deadline,” the U.N. website notes. Since 1990, more than 1 billion individuals rose out of extreme poverty. Close to 50% of people in underdeveloped countries in 1990 survived on less than $1.25 per day. In 2015, this rate declined to 14%.

Furthermore, since 1990, the percentage of undernourished individuals in developing regions has decreased by about 50%. However, the percentage of employed working-age people reduced from 62% in 1991 to 60% in 2015, with a particularly notable decline occurring during the global recession of 2008/2009.

Here are three significant programs and funds aiding in the United Nations’ fight against poverty.

United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)

A pledge to “eradicate poverty everywhere, in all its forms and dimensions by 2030” is at the core of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which came about in 2015 after the MDG deadline. The UNDP is the “U.N.’s global development network” that works across 170 nations and territories to help further the SDGs. Its work also centers around “democratic governance and peacebuilding” as well as “climate and disaster resilience.”

From 2019 to 2021, thanks to the UNDP, 71 million individuals in 36 nations obtained “access to essential services” and labor market policies safeguarded 1 million jobs globally, the UNDP website highlights.

About 81 nations adopted “policies based on COVID-19 socio-economic impact assessments” and “82 countries adopted more than 580 digital solutions for e-commerce and e-governance.” While “2.4 million rural households in 33 countries benefited from clean, affordable and sustainable energy,” about 3 million individuals across 29 nations “benefited from jobs and improved livelihoods in crisis or post-crisis settings,” the UNDP website notes.


In more than 190 nations and territories, UNICEF strives to protect children’s lives, uphold their rights and assist them in realizing their full potential from infancy through adolescence. Thanks to UNICEF, several million children by 1950 received “garments made of wool, leather and cotton” and more than 6 million received meals on a daily basis.

By 1973, UNICEF had assisted approximately 70 nations in reducing the number of deaths resulting from ingesting contaminated water. The Child Survival and Development Revolution, which UNICEF started in 1982, aimed to save more children by implementing four main strategies: tracking development, delivering immunizations, encouraging breastfeeding and providing oral rehydration therapy.

Compared to the end of World War II, life expectancy rates had climbed by more than 33% by 1993. A rise in school attendance coincided with a sharp decline in child mortality rates. The standard of living was also fast increasing; many households who had previously struggled to find clean water now had easy access. More recently, in 2012, polio saw eradication in India thanks to UNICEF’s global immunization program for the poor. Africa celebrated one year without any confirmed cases of polio on August 11, 2015.

World Food Programme (WFP)

The WFP is the largest humanitarian organization in the world, saving lives in dire situations and utilizing food aid to create a road to peace, stability and prosperity for those recovering from war, natural disasters and the effects of environmental changes.

The WFP collaborates with governments and humanitarian partners on the front lines, responding to an increasing number of disasters, such as droughts and floods, which can destroy crops, disrupt markets and demolish roads and bridges. The WFP also implements preventative measures that lessen the number of people in need of humanitarian aid. In 2021, 12.2 million individuals from 47 different nations benefited from climate risk management strategies, including 2.7 million in 14 nations who were insured against climate-related risks.

The WFP has shifted its emphasis in recent years from emergency interventions to tackling all types of malnutrition, including vitamin and mineral deficiencies, overweight and obesity. In 2021, 23.5 million people, a 36% increase from 2020, mostly children, pregnant and lactating females, benefited from WFP programs to treat or prevent malnutrition.

Smallholder farmers produce most of the world’s food yet also ironically suffer from hunger. In 2021, WFP and partners provided assistance to around 947,000 smallholder farmers in 44 countries. In 2021, WFP purchased 117,000 metric tons of food from smallholder farmers in 27 countries, valued at $51.9 million.

Looking Ahead in the United Nations’ Fight Against Poverty

Apart from these three programs, other U.N. initiatives also play a significant role in supporting the world’s most impoverished. For example, the United Nations Population Fund, the United Nations Environment Programme, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees, U.N. Women and U.N.-Habitat. The World Bank, the IMF, the WHO, the ILO, the FAO and other U.N. Specialized Agencies play a significant part in addressing emerging global issues. Overall, the United Nations has had a positive influence on the eradication of poverty worldwide.

– Karisma Maran
Photo: Flickr