Archive for October, 2008

Blog Action Day on Poverty: Whose Job is it?

Worldwide, more than a billion people live in slums, with as many as one million in Kibera, Africa’s largest slum. October 2007. Manoocher Deghati/IRIN

Manoocher Deghati/IRIN

In preparation for this blog post I have been doing some research on the subject of poverty and have been surprised, and a little overwhelmed by what I’ve learnt. The numbers are available anywhere on the web and I shall not dwell on those. What saddens me is it seems that there is very little one person can do to make a real difference to the situation.

You can help out one person, for sure. Adopt a child. Volunteer to clean up a slum. Donate money to the Red Cross. Run a marathon for poverty. These are useful up to a point and it is better than doing nothing.

The real solutions cannot come from individuals but from governments. Poverty is a problem that affects third world countries with dire, sometimes fatal consequences. It is because of poverty that one can die of preventable diseases; preventable by better public health care. A poor infrastructure, corruption, lack of access to education and conflict all contribute to trapping large numbers of the population in the cycle of poverty.

So what can i do?  Give up? Sit around waiting for the first world to save us with aid, once again? Resign myself to the idea that the third world will always remain the third world as long as the governments of the first world hold us in their grip? Wait for HIV and Malaria to make us extinct?

I don’t think so. Perhaps the answer is to get really pissed off. So pissed off in fact that the next time I go to a ballot booth, I think about the candidate’s policies on tackling the issues instead of what tribe he belongs to.  About his track record in the past and his involvement in shady deals instead of whether he is one of us or not. Because every time a corrupt or ineffectual official is in government, it condemns to death millions of men, women and children as a result of poverty.

All over the world, this year has been an election year to remember. Pakistan, Kenya, Zimbabwe among others as examples of how wrong elections can go and how much suffering that can cause the poorest people. The US election is on the world’s mind right now and if (or when?) that goes wrong, we are in for interesting times, to say the least.

All we can do, as individuals is recognise that poverty affects all of us and we cannot always look the other way when we are confronted with the smelly, dirty truth. We can, instead, take to task those whose job it is to tackle the issues and reduce poverty.

Otherwise, if we ignore it too long, this problem shall come knocking at our doors.

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October 16, 2008 at 5:21 am 5 comments


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