The fall-out of the current COVID-19 pandemic is significant – not only are millions of people worldwide contracting the disease and suffering as a result (many of whom are dying), but also economies are shrinking and millions of people are losing their jobs. Although some progress had been made in relation to addressing poverty, the United Nations poverty alleviation goal “End poverty in all its forms everywhere by 2030” was off track before COVID-19 made its unwelcome appearance. Now, COVID-19 has caused the first significant increase in global poverty in decades where over 71 million more people have been or will be pushed into extreme poverty in 2020 (surviving on less than $1.25 per day). Already, over one billion children worldwide lack access to proper nutrition, clean drinking water and adequate health services – this figure will increase as a result of the pandemic.
The pandemic has engendered loss – a loss of the following:
- Physical health – a high probability of contracting the virus if one is not in a position to self-isolate fully
- Social cohesion – people feel alienated, neglected and alone as a result of inadequate support from meaningful relationships with trusted associates
- Control – personal decision-making ability is pruned as the state makes decisions for citizens during lockdown rules
- Employment – for many, the loss of their jobs is inducing higher levels of anxiety and stress
- Feelings of inclusion – decisions are now being taken virtually when you are not around or not invited to participate in that decision-making process
- Hope – mental health issues are on the increase, resulting in dysfunctionality in many
- Self-respect and self-efficacy – doubting one’s own ability to support oneself and make meaningful contributions
Addressing global poverty issues requires a holistic response from everyone – not just governments and non-profit organisations. It includes specific targets to eradicate extreme poverty and ensure proper access to economic resources for all individuals around the world. It calls for the mobilisation of resources from a variety of sources, as well as partnerships between developing and developed countries. Foundationally, however, it should instil and maintain the dignity of the human being and facilitate financial inclusion for them in its efforts.
Addressing global poverty issues is about empowerment – where communities themselves take action to address the issues they are facing, thus improving their own lives and the lives of others with whom they relate. Bringing an end to poverty is thus an empowering process, not simply a charity, where:
- Communities are enabled when their hearts and minds are changed regarding their intrinsic worth and value to humankind as a whole – they can be of positive influence to each other and can do something about their situation. They are able, resourceful and creative as people.
- Communities are enabled when they are connected to sources of knowledge and are able to grow their skills and use their education practically.
- Communities are enabled when support systems are well-established, well-managed and well-executed.
- Communities are enabled when they are linked to relevant think-tanks, sources of business acumen and other important networks.
- Communities are enabled when they are proactive and take responsibility for their own issues.
- Communities are enabled when they are inclusive in collaborating with women and children to find solutions. The perspectives of young people on poverty reduction are especially relevant given that 60% of populations in low-income countries are under 25 years old. In the United Nation’s Academic Impact document – Addressing Poverty, they state: “… young people are not merely a target group, but also initiators, participants, decision-makers and leaders”. So is this also true of women. They must be viewed as a resource for change in society.
Addressing post-pandemic poverty problems is everyone’s responsibility – whilst charity may be helpful to some degree, on its own it will not make much difference to the prevalent poverty issues that are being faced in the world today. The world needs a holistic and empowering approach to facilitate enabled communities who actively participate in establishing their own financial stability.