Efforts to alleviate world poverty have proven to be hugely successful in the past decades. Today, just 10% of the world is living in extreme poverty, a huge improvement from 29% in 1995. However, there is still much to be done.
Statistics on Poverty
The Global Poverty Report 2020 revealed that a third of the entire urban population is living in a slum, unsafe or unhealthy homes in a crowded city. Over 700 million people across the world are living on less than $1.90 a day, the World Bank’s international for extreme poverty. About 41% of the population in Sub-Saharan Africa is living at less than $1.90. These people who extreme experience poverty can often feel a lack of control over their own outcomes and circumstances. But, everything is a little better now for people living in Sub-Saharan Africa. In 1996, 59% of the population was living in extreme poverty.
This shows that while the region is still facing natural disasters, conflict, and more, the region is steadily progressing. Despite the progress made in reducing poverty, the number of people living in extreme poverty in the region remains unacceptably high. Reports show that the number of poor in Sub-Saharan Africa increased by nine million, with 413 million people living on less than $1.90 a day in 2015, more than all the other regions combined. If the trend continues, nearly 9 out of 10 extreme poor will be in Sub-Saharan Africa by 2030.
Poverty statistics also showed that we still have a long way to go before fully alleviating poverty. Previous reports revealed that millions and millions of people live in extreme poverty and suffer from hunger, with fragile and conflict-torn states experiencing the highest poverty rates; 5.9 million children under age five died in 2015 - a staggering 16,000 every day; about 2.6 billion people (half the developing world) lack even a simple ‘improved’ latrine, and 1.1 billion people have no access to any type of improved drinking source of water.
Some countries have experienced more than others in reducing extreme poverty like China. According to the World Economic Forum, an independent international organization committed to improving the state of the world by engaging business, political, academic, and other leaders of society to shape global, regional, and industry agendas, China has taken more than 850 million citizens out of extreme in the past 40 years.
An average of 1.6% of the population in 15 countries was moved out of extreme poverty every year between about 2000 and 2015. This is equivalent to around 802 million fewer people living in extreme poverty during that period. Tanzania, for instance, almost halved its extreme poverty rate between 2000 and 2011. From 86% of the population living in poverty in 2000, it dropped to 49.1% by 2011.
Promoting Peace is the Answer
One of the arguments that could explain why millions of people still suffer from poverty is the governments’ misplaced priorities. They tend to fund the military more instead of putting more funds into helping marginalized communities. Reports show that the military expenditure across the world amounted to 2.3% global GDP. About 10% of this would be enough to fund the global goals agreed upon by the UN to end poverty and hunger by 2030.
Decades of research have proven one thing: poverty fuels conflict and conflict fuels poverty. When people suffer from hunger and have little to no means to survive, and they know their rulers have more than they need, it can and eventually will produce anger, uprisings, and revolt. In today’s world, that great disparity between the rich and the poor has become extremely pronounced. BahaiTeachings.org, the web's go-to site for insightful, intelligent and inspiring Baha'i perspectives, reported that the richest 20% of the world’s population accounts for 75% of the world’s total income, while the remaining 80% of the world’s people live on less than $10 per day.
The unfairness and inequality often produce anger, rebellion, and revolution. But, poverty extends beyond economic injustice. It is a condition of deprivation and wants that pushes its victims to the periphery of their societies. Poverty is also political. Many factors work to perpetuate the cycle of poverty such as abuse of rights, denial of education, structures of discrimination, poor access to water, vulnerability to shocks, lack of freedom, violence, and conflict.
Previous studies have shown that many conflicts across the world can trace their origins to chronic poverty, economic inequality, hunger, and lack of control over resources. For instance, a drastic drop in income levels, high unemployment rates, and lack of access to health and education in Haiti have significantly contributed to the ongoing civil strife in the island nation since 1994. In West Africa, unemployed young men were encouraged to join rebel movements because they gain access to food and clothing that is usually unavailable to them.
As a UNDP report said: “hopelessness and frustrations as a result of unemployment and widespread poverty have therefore lured the largely youthful population to embrace resistance.”
This is why many international organizations and institutions are finding ways to integrate peace in conflict-affected countries because they believe that peace could be key to eradicating poverty. According to Brookings.edu, an American research group, addressing immediate fragility, conflict, and violence (FCV) challenges and setting the foundations for peace and stability are necessary to reduce poverty over the long term.
Many studies have proven this. For instance, one study revealed that nations chronically in fragility and conflict over the past two decades have seen their poverty rates stuck at over 40%. Meanwhile, countries that have escaped fragility during this same period have cut their poverty rates by more than half.
The per capita income of Sri Lanka, for example, has doubled whilst poverty rates have dropped from 15.2% - 7.6%. Research attributed this progress to the end of the conflict as a key factor in stimulating growth over the last five years. Experts identified a ‘peace dividend’ as a primary cause of Sri Lanka’s increasing prosperity. According to Global Citizen, a movement of engaged citizens who are using their collective voice to end poverty, Sri Lanka has become one of the fastest-growing economies in the world as its government spends more on its people than its military.