The struggle to eradicate poverty

The United Nations (UN) International Day for the Eradication of Poverty has been observed on October 17 each year since 1993. It promotes people’s awareness of the need to eradicate poverty and destitution worldwide, particularly in developing countries.

This year’s theme is: “Moving from humiliation and exclusion to participation: Ending poverty in all its forms”.

The UN’s Sustainable Development Goal to “end poverty in all its forms everywhere” explicitly recognises that poverty results not from the lack of just one thing but from many different interrelated factors that affect the lives of people living in poverty.

This means we must go beyond seeing poverty merely as the lack of income or what is necessary for material well-being — such as food, housing, land, and other assets – in order to fully understand poverty in its multiple dimensions.

The theme this year – selected in consultation with activists, civil society and Non-Governmental Organisations – highlights how important it is to recognise and address the humiliation and exclusion endured by many people living in poverty.

According to the last official poverty measurement survey in 2006, 36.1 per cent of Guyana’s population lives in poverty, including 18.6 per cent that were living in extreme poverty.

The 2006 measurements confirmed that poverty and extreme poverty were stronger in the interior areas of the country, and were uneven if regions were taken into consideration.

Further, the UNICEF Situation Analysis of Children and Women in Guyana 2016 found that 47.5 per cent of children 16 years old and younger are living in poverty in Guyana. These are indeed startling statistics. The report says that “poverty in Guyana has a child’s face”.

The report emphasised that out of all poor people in the country, most of them were living in areas categorised as rural coastal, followed by urban areas and rural interior. It noted that due to the population distribution in the country, most of the poor people would be living in Region Four; nonetheless, in percentage terms, poverty is massive in Regions Eight, One and Nine, where more than 70 per cent of the population living in those areas were considered poor.

One of the challenges in calculating poverty in Guyana, the report indicated, is to find a measurement that can encompass different cultures and lifestyles that are present in the country. Guyana has signed onto the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which advance on the Millennium Development Goals call to end poverty. “This time the SDGs on its target 1.2 openly indicate that poverty must be reduced among women and children,” the report said.

UNICEF recommends following SDG targets 1.1 and 1.242, to develop and implement a methodology to yearly measure poverty and vulnerabilities, capturing the different cultural peculiarities in the country. “The method should allow for monitoring poverty at national level, and, at the same time disaggregate poverty for different ages, regions, geographical areas and ethnicities. The method for monitoring poverty should clearly define child poverty, and should adopt a multidimensional measure that complements the monetary method,” the report stressed.

It added that the country should take into consideration strengthening support to families in situations of vulnerability, in particular single-parent families through systematic, long-term policies and programmes to ensure access to social services and sustainable income opportunities.

Given this reality in Guyana, it is vital that everyone, more importantly the policymakers and officials, take note of how we can surmount this problem within a specified timeframe, following the recommended guidelines.

Eradicating poverty in Guyana is a long-term goal that will require more than talk and promises and needs to go beyond one day a year for raising awareness of this issue. All Guyanese deserve equal opportunities to prosper and more importantly, they deserve to have a government that works diligently and one that recognises the urgency in fighting to end poverty.

In her message on the occasion, UNESCO Director General Irina Bokova said: “Delivering the poverty eradication goal of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development demands renewed policy approaches and more comprehensive and sophisticated knowledge. Beyond traditional mechanisms of poverty reduction, poverty can be only solved by tackling inequalities. So long as injustice and exploitation are embedded in economic, social and cultural systems, poverty will continue to devastate the lives of millions of women and men.”