By Ayo Oyoze Baje
The global scourge of rampaging poverty has always been a clear and present danger taxing the creative ingenuity and political will of world leaders for centuries. The challenge however, is that most of them have said more than they have done in reining in the monster. Some have, by their inept, visionless and corrupt leadership driven by greed sent many more citizens into the ignoble pit of poverty. Worse still, by starting or stoking the fires of preventable wars and political crises, including terrorism, not a few of them have exacerbated the pangs of poverty, claiming millions of innocent lives every year.
Add that to natural disasters such as drought, floods, tsunamis, tornados, hurricanes heightened by climate change and the picture of the increasing negative impact of poverty gets clearer. At the end of the day, humanity keeps seeking solutions to life-claiming tragedies that could have been prevented right from the outset.
Be that as it may, it is a noble move by the United Nations to frontally tackle the menace through its Millennium Development Goals that will end in 2015.These include putting in place measures to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger, promote gender equality and empower women. Others are to reduce child mortality, improve maternal health, combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases.
To strengthen these, the UN is now kick-starting its Sustainable Development Goals. The global focus which began on September 25, has given countries the opportunity to adopt a set of global goals to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure prosperity for all. Each goal has specific targets to be achieved over the next 15 years. For, poverty, in its mindless wave, is a socio-economic situation whereby its victims lack adequate access to quality, safe and nutritious diet, decent shelter and clothing as well as standard and affordable health care delivery. They simply lack both the capacity and capability to live a decent life.
For instance, according to UNICEF, in developing countries, one in three children do not have adequate shelter, one in five lack access to safe water and one in seven have no access to sound health care delivery. Also, more than nine million under-5 children die every year globally and more than two-thirds of them from malnutrition. Of the 1.8 billion children in developing countries, 600 million live on less than one dollar per day. Most of these voiceless victims live in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia. Several deaths could be traced to ill health, job losses, drought and ill-managed pregnancy. About 790 million people in developing countries are under-nourished with most of them found in Asia and the Pacific. Hunger may have been reduced globally but some 805 million people are still under-nourished.
The International Day for the Eradication of Poverty celebrated since 1993 on October 17, with the new development framework, is designed to replace and carry forward the aims of the MDGs. So far, all countries are committed to “ending poverty in all its forms and dimensions.”
The sordid poverty situation is no less cheering in Nigeria, even as we celebrate political independence at 55. Available statistics on maternal and infant mortality rates, stunting, wasting, youth unemployment, access to primary health care delivery, number of school-aged children out of school remain parlous. To walk the talk and bridge the gap between the rich and the poor, our leaders should adopt the UN’s collective approach strategy.
According to available information, “The Global Strategy for Women’s and Children’s Health has the potential of saving the lives of more than 16 million women and children, preventing 33 million unwanted pregnancies, protecting 120 million children from pneumonia and 88 million children from stunting due to malnutrition, advancing the control of deadly diseases such as malaria and HIV/AIDS, and ensuring access for women and children to quality health facilities and skilled health workers.”
We require more partnerships between the public and private sectors, Non- Governmental Organisations and the civil society groups to successful bring the monster of poverty to its begging knees. Beyond the Buhari-led administration’s fight against the insidious blaze of corruption in high places is the need to reduce the emoluments of political office holders and deploy the huge sums so recovered to improve the quality of life of the average citizen, especially children and women who are the greatest victims. Only a few know what has been achieved with the recovered Abacha loot.
We also need stable infrastructure, (adequate electric power and water supply as well as good roads), access to credit facility at single digit interest rate and boosting of small and medium scale enterprises. The other is to inculcate entrepreneurship training in our youths right from the secondary school level. And because the incubus of poverty haunts us all, it must never be politicised.
Baje is a Lagos-based author and media consultant