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Extreme poverty affects 1 in 8 globally

While poverty has been drastically reduced in Latin America recently, the UN has warned about vulnerable populations facing external shocks.

UN says Latin America leads the way in tackling hunger, but warns over high homicide rates

The number of people living in extreme poverty across the world has halved over a 10-year period, a report by the United Nations declared yesterday. The same report made it clear that the goals of eradicating hunger and poverty over the next 15 years face daunting challenges, especially in Latin America, where social gains over the past decade have begun to stall.

On the day that a mass soup kitchen protest snarled traffic in the nation’s capital, drawing attention to the rising numbers of people living in poverty here, the UN said that one in eight live in extreme poverty globally.

Despite a significant drop from 2002 to 2012, the UN warned that 13 percent of the global population still remain mired in extreme poverty. Although progress has made under its Millenium Development Goals plan, there are still significant leaps that must be taken before the eradication of hunger and poverty is achieved, the body cautioned.

The global figures came from a UN assessment of its baseline for the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that have been set for 2030 by the global community. Two of those goals — the eradication of poverty and hunger across the globe over the next 15 years — face daunting challenges, especially in Latin America, where the region’s social gains over the past decade are under threat. Another consideration is homicide rates, which regionally are much higher than in any other part of the world.

According to the Sustainable Development Goals Report, the proportion of the global population living below the extreme poverty line dropped by half between 2002 and 2012, from 26 to 13 percent.

“This translated to one in eight people worldwide living in extreme poverty in 2012. Poverty remains widespread in sub-Saharan Africa, where more than 40 percent of people lived on less than 1.90 US dollars a day in 2012,” the document said.

Latin America, where the proportion of the population living on less than the equivalent of US$1.90 per day has been cut from 13 percent to six percent in the period from 2002 to 2012, a leader in the developing world in terms of its poverty rates but United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) warns that up to 30 million people in the region are vulnerable to shocks that could send them sliding back into poverty.

Speaking in Asunción yesterday, George Gray — the UNDP’s chief economist for Latin America — said that between 2003 and 2013, 72 million people in the region lifted themselves out of poverty and that another 94 million entered the middle class. However, there are still 224 million people in Latin America who remain vulnerable to downturns and the UNDP has advocated for a commitment to public policies that guarantee social protections and a fairer distribution of remunerated and non-remunerated work between men and women.

A recent UNDP report has pointed to slowing economic growth in the region which has led to “a reversal of poverty reduction rates” of late. The report said, “in 2015 and 2016, for the first time in decades, the region saw a rise in the number of poor women and men.”

Officials from the UNDP also note that damaging historic gender, racial and ethnic gaps are persistent, warning pointedly that poverty can “not be resolved with economic growth alone” and that policy must be into place to counter the discrimination that runs along gender, ethnic and racial lines.

Back in May, an urgent report published by the United Nations’ Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) warned that almost one in three children live in poverty in Argentina, with an estimated 8.4 percent of girls and boys up to the age of 17 in extreme poverty. The report used “multidimensional” criteria — as did the UNDP’s document — to judge poverty levels by examining factors such as education and housing, rather than focusing on traditional income thresholds in such investigations addressing destitution.

Rooting out hunger

The UN and its member states have committed themselves to ending hunger and guaranteeing food security by 2030, and there are precedents suggesting that the experts know how ensure that people have access to food.

“The proportion of the population suffering from hunger declined globally from 15 per cent in 2000-2002 to 11 per cent in 2014-2016. However, nearly 800 million people worldwide still lack access to adequate food. More than half of the adult population in sub-Saharan Africa faced moderate or severe food insecurity in 2015; the level was severe for one-quarter of adults in the region” says the report.

In addition, UN has repeatedly that hunger is not the result of insufficient food production but rather of distribution. “The persistence of hunger is no longer a matter of food availability. Rather, in many countries that failed to reach the Millennium Development Goals hunger target, natural and human-induced disasters or political instability have resulted in food insecurity affecting large swathes of the population.”

While roughly 800 million people are undernourished globally, Latin America is again among of the leaders in terms of access to food with some 34 million or roughly six percent of the population facing difficulties in that regard in the period 2014-2016. In 2000-2002 approximately 60 million people were undernourished in the Latin American and Caribbean, comparatively.

Despite the improvements, nearly 11 percent of children under the age of five in the region have stunted growth due to chronic undernutrition and another seven percent are overweight. Coincidentally, the increase in the proportion of young children who are overweight in the last ten years was recorded in nearly every part of the world. Forty-one million children under five are overweight; almost half of them live in Asia and one quarter live in Africa.

Homicide rates off the charts

While the Latin American and Caribbean countries have some of the least ground to cover in terms of poverty and hunger, the indicators for homicide rates in the neighbourhood are by far the worst in the world as the 22.5 homicides per 100,000 people is four times greater than the global average.

Not only is Latin America well above the global average, it is also an outlier in terms of the rest of the developing world — which has a homicide rate of 5.9 per 100,000 people. Sub-saharan Africa takes the unwanted second position in the ranking, with 9.5 murders per 100,000 people.

The UN groups its homicide statistics under the SDG seeking to “promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.”

Herald staff

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