Throughout the world, efforts are being made to eliminate extreme poverty. The World Bank has identified that between 1990 and 2005, extreme poverty fell from 1.8 billion to 1.4 billion. Today, the United Nations World Food Programme estimates that number of people living in poverty has gone down to 925 million people.
Despite this significant reduction, the World Bank predicts that in 2010 alone the global economic crisis will drive an extra 90 million people below the poverty line. And its continuing impact could cause up to 200,000 to 400,000 additional child deaths per year until 2015 if the crisis persists.*
Behind these confronting statistics are the heartbreaking human stories of the men, women and children who, despite their tenacity, courage and perseverance, continue to experience the powerlessness of everyday poverty. People who desperately need the opportunity to improve their incomes to be able to better provide for their families.
Empowering women is particularly important. Currently, women represent 70% of the world’s poor. Their work is often unpaid – in Africa, women do around 75% of the agricultural work, yet earn only 10% of African incomes and own 1% of the continent’s assets. These gaps highlight the need to expand the opportunities available to women, and this starts with ensuring women are able to access quality education.
Investing in education increases women’s ability to directly contribute to the economy, helps reduce the impact of economic shocks upon families, and reduces infant mortality. The ripple effects of education upon economic growth are significant, and help women to become powerful agents of change in their families, communities and nations.
In order to improve incomes collaboration is essential. Across countries and continents local government, the private sector, not-for-profit organisations and local communities can join forces. By collaborating effectively, they can implement initiatives that will stimulate economic growth, and help improve the incomes of those living in poverty.
These initiatives need to be tailored to each community’s specific needs and requirements. There is no blueprint for success. What works in one context may not automatically transfer to another.
Ultimately, poor families and communities must be empowered to solve their own problems.
When individuals and communities are assisted to help themselves – when they are given a hand-up, rather than a hand-out – poverty can be reduced and lives can be transformed.
Through supporting programs such as World Vision’s Child Sponsorship, you can be part of the transformation of people’s lives.
*The Impact of the Financial Crisis on Progress towards the Millennium Development Goals in Human Development. World Bank Internal Policy Note, 2009.
This was originally published on the 14th of September 2009.