For another year the 17th of October has seen the celebration of the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty. In 1992, the UN General Assembly warmly welcomed the fact that on the 17th of October of that year, a group of NGOs led by another NGO – the France based ATD Fourth World – had observed the World Day to Overcome Extreme Poverty with wide international success, laying the foundation for the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty.
Today’s figures mark a stark contrast with the spirit of that UN proposal from 18 years ago.
SOME STATISTICS WE SHOULD CONSIDER
* Over 3000 million people struggle to survive on less than 1 € a day.
* 5100 million people live in developing countries. The total world population comes to 6550 million people.
* 8 million children die on annually due to extreme living conditions and hardship. Half of all deaths of children under 5 in the world occur in sub-Saharan Africa and are caused by poverty. Every day 16000 children in the world die from starvation. 150 million children are affected by malnutrition. 100 million children live on the streets in conditions of absolute poverty.
* As of today there are over 2000 million people suffering from anemia due to a lack of iron in their diet. Those living in poverty are unable to ingest the minimum quantities of basic calories, vitamins and nutrients essential to maintain good health and normal growth. An adult needs approximately 2100 calories per day while children need approximately 1500 calories.
* 1200 million people have no access to clean drinking water. 4 in 10 people on the planet have no access to healthcare. 2000 million have no access to medicines.
* The disease that causes most deaths in the developing world is simply diarrhea. It is followed by respiratory diseases, measles and malaria. Malnutrition combined with an absence of preventative methods increases the risk of death. 1000 million people are homeless.
In September 2000, world leaders met at the UN, in a meeting dubbed “The Millennium Summit”, and committed themselves to halving the percentage of people living in poverty by 2015.
They agreed to:
1. Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger.
2. Achieve universal primary education.
3. Promote gender equality and empower women.
4. Reduce child mortality.
5. Improve maternal health.
6. Combat HIV/ AIDS, malaria and other diseases.
7. Ensure environmental sustainability.
8. Develop a global partnership for development.
On the 17th of October, the “International Day for the Eradication of Poverty” attempts to get the attention of all the political and social international groups to raise awareness about the dehumanizing reality that is suffered day to day, every day, by millions of human beings, in very basic, primary areas for personal human survival: food, health, shelter and education. Yet poverty does not just affect such basic issues of human subsistence, it also affects human dignity, an even more profound and internal aspect for people; poverty in general is linked to violence, exploitation, extremism, immigration…
We live in history’s most advanced society, with the greatest technological and scientific development and with the highest standard of living for 15% of the population; however, we have created the highest percentage of poor people in history. At the present, we live in a society where the above statistics are very often just cold and distant details within our reality, but it does not mean that they should cease to stir our consciences.
The eradication of poverty, like so many other associated and as-yet-unsolved issues, such as human rights, pacifism, the environment…are issues in which a lack of real social and political will cannot be justified by just characterizing them as utopian, they arise solely and almost exclusively from political intentions and decisions. From a rather in-vogue economic and political point of view, eradicating poverty is much cheaper and profitable than investing in armament.
On a day like today, themes such as the revision of the international free trade agreements, cancellations of foreign debt or the transferral of military spending to social issues, international cooperation, and the development of disadvantaged areas, are seen as simple initial steps towards the start of the eradication of poverty.
*(Translation provided by Sirio Ibáñez López)*