Fighting Poverty

Despite the tremendous economic growth around the world in the last thirty years, the number of people living in poverty has gone up, except in China. Thus, it seems clear that, while economic growth is necessary for poverty reduction, it is not enough: Prosperity has not “trickled down” to the poor. About two-fifths of the world population can be classified as poor, living on less than $2.00 per day, and about a fifth is considered extremely poor, living on less than $1.25 per day. UNICEF reports that 24,000 children die each day due to poverty, that is about 9 million children a year. The impact of poverty on children is heartbreaking.

Sidebar 1.1 Global Poverty

  • • 2.6 billion people live on less than $2 per day.
  • • The poorest 39% of the world’s population accounts for 2% of global consumption.
  • • 1.2 billion people are hungry.
  • • 1 billon people are illiterate.
  • • 884 million people have inadequate access to clean water.
  • • 2.6 billion people lack basic sanitation.
  • • 1.6 billion people live without electricity.

Sidebar 1.2 The Impact of Poverty on Children

  • • About half the children in the world live in poverty.
  • • 9 million children die every year before their fifth birthday due to poverty.
  • • 4 million newborns die in the first month of life.
  • • 22 million infants do not get routine immunization.
  • • 101 million children (more girls than boys) are not attending primary school.
  • • 148 million children under the age of five are underweight.
  • • 1.8 million children die of diarrhea every year.
  • • 2 million children under the age of 15 are living with HIV.
  • • 150 million children under the age of 14 are engaged in child labor.

Policies and actions directed at reducing global poverty have not been effective, despite the considerable attention and resources such efforts have garnered. Developed countries, international institutions such as the World Bank and United Nations, various aid agencies, and civil society have all contributed trillions of dollars to the fight against poverty. Local governments in less developed countries have contributed even more resources. Academics, consultants, government officials, and many experts have brought intellectual energy to the fight. In September 2000, building upon a decade of major United Nations conferences and summits, world leaders came together at UN headquarters in New York City to adopt the United Nations Millennium Declaration, committing their nations to a new global partnership to reduce extreme poverty and setting out a series of time-bound targets—with a deadline of 2015— that have become known as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). While the agreement has galvanized unprecedented efforts, poverty persists on a large scale. Some progress has been achieved, but not enough.

Sidebar 1.3 Millennium Development Goals

Goal 1: Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger

  • • Halve, between 1990 and 2015, the proportion of people whose income is less than $1 a day.
  • • Achieve full and productive employment and decent work for all, including women and young people.
  • • Halve, between 1990 and 2015, the proportion of people who suffer from hunger.

Goal 2: Achieve universal primary education

• Ensure that, by 2015, children everywhere, boys and girls alike, will be able to complete a full course of primary schooling.

Goal 3: Promote gender equality and empower women

• Eliminate gender disparity in primary and secondary education, preferably by 2005, and in all levels of education no later than 2015.

Goal 4: Reduce child mortality

• Reduce by two thirds, between 1990 and 2015, the under- five mortality rate.

Goal 5: Improve maternal health

  • • Reduce by three quarters the maternal mortality ratio.
  • • Achieve universal access to reproductive health.

Goal 6: Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases

  • • Have halted and begun to reverse the spread of HIV/AIDS by 2015.
  • • Achieve, by 2010, universal access to treatment for HIV/ AIDS for all those who need it.
  • • Have halted and begun to reverse the incidence of malaria and other major diseases by 2015.

Goal 7: Ensure environmental sustainability

  • • Integrate the principles of sustainable development into country policies and programs, and reverse the loss of environmental resources,
  • • Reduce biodiversity loss, achieving, by 2010, a significant reduction in the rate of loss.
  • • Halve, by 2015, the proportion of the population without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation.
  • • By 2020, to have achieved a significant improvement in the lives of at least 100 million slum dwellers.

Goal 8: Develop a global partnership for development

  • • Address the special needs of least developed countries, landlocked countries and small island developing states.
  • • Further develop an open, rule-based, predictable, nondiscriminatory trading and financial system.
  • • Deal comprehensively with developing countries’ debt.
  • • In cooperation with pharmaceutical companies, provide access to affordable essential drugs in developing countries.
  • • In cooperation with the private sector, make available benefits of new technologies, especially information and communications.
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