When Can We Make Poverty History?

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Dear Friends, Twenty years back, on October 17th, 1987, over hundred thousand people gathered on the Human Rights and Liberties Plaza at the Trocadéro in Paris, the place where the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was signed in 1948, to honour victims of poverty, hunger, violence and fear. That historic day is now being celebrated as the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty. People gathered there proclaimed that poverty is a violation of human rights and affirmed the need to come together to ensure that these rights are respected. These convictions are inscribed in a commemorative stone unveiled on this day[...]. It says,
Wherever men and women are condemned to live in extreme poverty, human rights are violated. To come together to ensure that these rights be respected is our solemn duty
Since then, people of all backgrounds, beliefs and social origins have gathered every year on October 17th to renew their commitment and show their solidarity with the poor. Replicas of the commemorative stone have been unveiled around the world and serve as a gathering place to celebrate the Day. [Click here to see UN Page on this].

In 1992, United Nations officially recognized October 17th as International Day for the Eradication of Poverty. Yet another ritual day? "One-third of all people (without access to water) fall below the $1-a-day absolute poverty threshold. Another third live on no more than $2 a day"[...]. That means, There are 1.2 billion people living without access to safe drinking water, 2.6 billion people without access to sanitation[Human Development Report 2006]. Do you know that every human being needs at least 20 litres of water per day? Of those 1.2 billion people, most of them gets only about 5 litres per day, that is one-tenth of the average daily amount used in rich countries to flush toilets. On an average, people in Europe use more than 200 litres per day, in United States the figure is more than 400 litres. When an European person flushes a toilet or an American person showers, he or she is using more water than what is available to hundreds of millions of individuals living in urban slums or arid areas of the developing countries[Source, Yojana]. In Africa, out of 630 million people, 420 million people fall below poverty line. On the other hand, out of 1130 million people in OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) countries, there is not even a single citizen earning less than 1$ per day!! (HDR 2005).

Check out this Video, The African Dream: Ending Extreme Poverty

Why? Why do we have such inequalities? Is Darwin's principle of "Survival of the fittest" still applicable to the mankind? Why some section of the population still feel that there is a "Struggle for existence"? These questions remain unanswered as long as the poverty becomes history.

Do you think the world is not doing anything to make poverty history? Of course it is doing something, but its not good enough. United Nations gave the highest priority to 'Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger' in its Millennium Development Goals. As a result of this, All the member nations have a legal obligation to to fulfill this goal. "The International Development Association (IDA) of the World Bank that helps the earth’s poorest countries reduce poverty by providing interest-free loans and grants for programs aimed at boosting economic growth and improving living conditions". There are thousands of NGOs and private organizations dedicated to eradicate extreme poverty. There are some richest charitable organizations like Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (B&MGF) to fund for the noble cause. There are generous tycoons like Warren Buffett, Bill Gates, Narayan Murthy, Azim Premji and others who are contributing millions of dollars to help the helpless. Many countries are finding out innovative public policies to eradicate poverty. For example, National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme in India, AGETIP - employment programs in Africa (with the help of the World Bank, German development co-operation and other donors).

In spite of all that, why do we still continue to see poverty in our society? There is a lack of collective action from all of us. Because of this, some people, notably the poor are systematically denied the life with dignity. What can we do? "STAND UP and SPEAK OUT against poverty and refuse to stay silent or seated in the face of poverty". "Educate and Organize" the "actual poor" to make their life beautiful. Help as much as you can. Your help is not a charity, Its a justice to the poor. Lets learn to share what we have.

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This work by Manjunath Singe is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 India License. The views and opinions expressed in this work are strictly those of the author and do not represent his employer's views in anyway.