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Regional themes > Poverty reduction frameworks and critiques Last update: 2020-11-27  

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Poverty eradication and the current debates

Jack Jones Zulu

Southern African Regional Poverty Network (SARPN)

SARPN acknowledges the author as a source of this document.
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Over 1 billion people live on less than $1 a day with nearly half the world's population (2.8 billion) living on less than $2 a day. More than a billion people, one in five of the world's population, live in extreme poverty.

Ten million children die before their fifth birthday, most of them from preventable diseases. More people have died from extreme poverty in the last ten years, than all of the wars of the 20th century combined1.

And the most tragic thing is that we can afford to stop these deaths. The world has never been richer, yet we have never left so many to die.

More than 113 million children do not go to school. The crisis of poverty and inequality has reached an unbelievable and alarming scale. In a world of growing wealth, such levels of human suffering and wasted potential are not only morally wrong, they are also against our own interests2.

Poverty is a Political Problem and Misplaced Priorities!

The tragedy of today's poverty is that it is more of a political problem than anything else. This article echoes the strong words of Madiba who noted:
"Like slavery and apartheid, poverty is not natural. It is man-made and it can be overcome and eradicated by the actions of human beings. And overcoming poverty is not a gesture of charity. It is an act of justice. It is the protection of a fundamental human right, the right to dignity and a decent life. While poverty persists, there is no true freedom... I say to all those leaders: do not look the other way; do not hesitate. Recognise that the world is hungry for action, not words. Act with courage and vision. ...Make Poverty History in 2005. Make History in 2005. Then we can all stand with our heads held high3."

In the world of plenty, how do we explain the fact that over one billion people suffer from dietary deficiencies? How can we say there is no money when the war in Iraq costs an average of $30 billion per month or $360 billion per year and a nuclear sub-marine costs $2.4 billion? If this money were spent on vaccinations instead, it would be enough to immunise 70 million children against killer diseases in the world! It is not lack of resources that is keeping people in poverty but lack of political will to put money where human needs are!

Today, many of the problems which mankind face, such as war and conflict, international crime, refugees, the trade in illegal drugs and the spread of diseases like HIV and AIDS are caused or made worse by poverty, political rhetoric usually coated with 'sweet statements' and a general lack of political will to act decisively! It will therefore take more than just political wishes to get rid of poverty and hence pave the way for a better world for everybody.

  1. in an article 'There is an Emergency'!
  2. in an article: What are we doing to tackle world poverty?
  3. Former South African President Nelson Mandela pledging his support for the GCAP, London, 03.02.05.

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