Today, there are 1.7 billion people living in poverty — a 300 million or 21% jump from the 925 million that has been the ‘official’ figure cited for the last one year.
What happened? How did world agencies tasked with keeping track of the numbers miss the mark by such a huge gap?
The answer is simple but reflective of just how measuring poverty by income alone has long been a mistaken premise—even by the World Bank.
Horrifying yes — but in my mind, a lot more accurate.
For the longest time, poverty was measured by the World Bank which defines extreme poverty as living on less than USD1.25 a day, and moderate poverty as less than USD2 a day.
Yet, one does not need to be a world-class economist to know that one measure is never enough to give the whole picture on most issues. What more a gut-wrenching issue like poverty - like violence or war - cannot be measured on a one-dimensional scale.
The revised figures are courtesy of the new Multi-Dimensional Poverty Index (MPI) — the economic research centre at Oxford University together with the United Nations Human Development Index.
It studied 10 indicators ranging from child mortality and nutrition levels to years of schooling and access to electricity, clean water and proper flooring to tabulate a much more realistic — if still controversial - picture.
With this new Index, many previously held beliefs about poverty now have to be re-examined as economists and sociologists will no doubt pore over the new data and have to recalibrate successes and projections.
What none can argue about is that the future of humanity is inextricably linked to how we tackle poverty — for it is the breeding ground of helplessness — and its more insidious and toxic twin — hopelessness.
Poverty has many dimensions — and yet in many ways, it is the singular overarching plague that threatens the future of humanity. Pluck a topic out of thin air — education, investment, women’s rights, children’s right, over population—and you will find poverty not just pegged to it, but the underbelly of its manifestations.
According to the 2010 Global Hunger Index, more than 90% of the world’s stunted children (children whose height is low for their age) live in Africa and Asia, where rates of stunting are 40% and 36% respectively.
Every year nearly 11 million children living in poverty die before their 5th birthday. Over 1 billion people go to bed hungry every night. There are over 100 million street children worldwide — at risk from drug and human traffickers, and child prostitution.
Stripped of its multi-layered issues, the facts laid bare paint a picture that is nauseating:
Fact: Of the planet’s 6.6 billion people, 1.7 billion live in extreme poverty.
Translated: They are at risk of malnutrition, disease and early death - negating their contribution to their country’s economy
Fact: Of that 1.7 billion, 75% live in rural areas
Translated: Poverty causes indignity, and indignity leads to a host of socio-economic problems—and multiply at an alarming rate.
Fact: One in three women globally has been beaten coerced into sex or otherwise abused in her lifetime.
Translated: Violence against women is a direct result of poverty When women make up some 60% of populations in every country, the ripple effect of poverty breaks down the family system.
Fact: An estimated 750 million adults (around 16% of the world’s population aged 15 upwards and two of three female) lack basic reading, writing and numeracy skills needed for everyday life.
Translated: Education is the best weapon against poverty. If this vital link is missing, the future of a country is doomed. And in a global world, its repercussions cannot be underestimated.
These facts are just the tip of an iceberg. The thawing is already in full speed — and we can see its effects in riots, wars, terrorism, increased crime and socio-economic instability.
The reality is that most governments spend a lot more on war than they do on taking care of their poor & uplifting the quality of life of their people.
The face of poverty is in Africa. Even with the new MPI statistics, we know that they have the the highest rate of extreme poverty in the world. Thirty-two of the 48 poorest countries are located in this region, which is plagued by conflicts, lack of functional governments, and terrible diseases such HIV/AIDs, malaria and tuberculosis. The of impoverished people has doubled since 1981 — and is perhaps the most important region in the fight against poverty.
Yet, governments there have spend about USD17.4 billion on military expenditure.
On the other side of the world, looming large over this scenario are two giant countries with two giant issues.
India and China — two of the world’s most populous countries which are being wooed for their consumer base and fast growing appetites of the new middle-class — are seeing the gap widen and deepen between the haves and the have-nots.
In india, an estimated 450 million people are poor, while in the China, an estimated 225 million are poor.
The World Bank says the South East Asian region — home to India — accounts for “approximately half of the world’s poor.” Of a population of 1.3 billion, 85% live on less than USD2 a day. The region also has one of the highest illiteracy rates in the world.
Finally, according to the World Bank, the East Asia/Pacific region of which China dominates — 50% of the population lives on less than USD2 a day.
They say the way we use words say a lot about how we think.
We hear the United States talking about the ‘War on Terrorism’.
When we hear about poverty, it’s often the ‘Fight’ against poverty.
These words &mdash in my mind — reinforce the wrong message.
We need to talk about the Push for Peace.
We need to talk about Giving Hope.
We need to help give Dignity Back.
For it must be embedded and reinforced in every person who is in a position to help turn the poverty tsunami around, instead of waiting for governments to take the lead.
History is clear where most governments stand in the Peace and War debate.
History is also clear that creating a change is driven from the ground up, not the top down.
The wealthiest 20% of the world’s population consumes 76.6% of the world’s goods while 80% of humanity gets the remainder.
Hunger does not only weigh on the individual. It also imposes a crushing economic burden on the developing world.
Economists estimate that every child whose physical and mental development is stunted by hunger and malnutrition stands to lose 5-10% in lifetime earnings.
According to UNICEF, 22,000 children die each day due to poverty. And they “die quietly in some of the poorest villages on earth, far removed from the scrutiny and the conscience of the world. Being meek and weak in life makes these dying multitudes even more invisible in death.
That is untenable … and goes against all that makes us human.
We cannot find comfort in the cocoons of our own blessings and not think someday soon — if we don’t turn things around — that our world will be rocked in ways we possibly even cannot begin to imagine.
Helping the poor must become our collective mission because where the future leads depends what actions we take today.
The stark reality is this — There is enough food in the world today for everyone to have the nourishment necessary for a healthy and productive life.
The poor have no present, so they see no future
When they get no help, they want others to suffer
When they lose hope, they have nothing to lose.
And when close to 2 billion people have nothing to lose, the rest of us have everything to lose.
Every day, almost 16,000 children die from hunger-related causes.
That’s one child every five seconds — how many died while you were reading this?
Tan Sri Dato’ Sri Paduka Dr Lim Kok Wing, the Founder and President of Limkokwing University of Creative Technology, does not fit into any ordinary mould that would describe most entrepreneurs.
His journey has been closely linked with the economic and social development of Malaysia.
Malaysia has the third largest bond market in Asia ex-Japan after China and Korea, with more than RM400 billion of outstanding issuance, and is the world’s biggest Islamic bond market.
— Reuters, July 2009
This website won the 'Best in Class' award under the 'Blog' category in the 2011 Interactive Media Awards organized by the Interactive Media Council, Inc. (IMC)
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