Poverty, Covid-19 and Climate Change By Rashid A Mughal

ACCORDING to a latest report on Global poverty, 689 million people live in extreme poverty, surviving on less than $1.90 a day.

Children and youths account for two-thirds of the world’s poor, and women represent a majority in most regions. Extreme poverty is increasingly concentrated in sub-Saharan Africa.

About 40% of the region’s people live on less than $1.90 a day. Extreme poverty rates nearly doubled in the Middle East and North Africa between 2015 and 2018, from 3.8% to 7.2%, mostly because of crises in Syria and Yemen.

Poverty is a multifaceted challenge and providing reliable and responsible financial services to those facing extreme poverty — like education, health care, clean water or access to energy is part of solution.

For poor families in the developing world, living in poverty means trying to survive with few options and opportunities. One illness, poor harvest or major weather event can be catastrophic.

Ultimately poverty impacts individuals and entire economies. A country with 80% of its population lacking access to basic financial services (just as many countries in Africa) cannot progress. The devastating reality of poverty around the world becomes clear when you begin to understand the facts about poverty.

Unfortunately, many young people from underserved communities want to work but lack the resources they need to get and keep a job. Their challenges have been exacerbated by COVID-19.

Without the education, skill and confidence they need to regain their footing on the career ladder, they may never fully recover financially, leaving families and communities even further behind.

Unless someone gives them a chance, they will remain trapped in a cycle of poverty. There are 4.6 million young people aged 16-24 who are neither in school nor at work.

These disconnected youths are sometimes referred to as Opportunity Youth and, if they are not connected to a career pathway by the age 25 they are likely to face a lifetime of struggle with a high risk of unemployment, poverty. One in four young adults aged 20-24 were out of work in April 2020.

Industries hit the hardest by the pandemic, like food and retail, employ a high proportion of young workers.

35% of youth aged 15-29 are employed in low-paid and insecure jobs on average, compared to 15% of people aged 30-50 and 16% of workers aged 51 and above.

Every year, young adults who are not in school or working cost US taxpayers 93 billion annually in lost revenues and increased social services.

Over the course of their lifetimes, a cohort of disconnected youths can cost US taxpayers as much as 1.6 trillion. Orphaned and vulnerable children living in extreme poverty are abused, sick and isolated from their community.

Handouts and begging helps them to survive temporarily. We need solutions to address all their challenges, across eight areas of life, equipping them to overcome poverty with their own efforts — and for good.

Poverty in Pakistan rose to over 5% in 2020, estimates World Bank. The World Bank (WB) has estimated that poverty in Pakistan has increased from 4.4 per cent to 5.4 per cent in 2020, as over two million people have fallen below the poverty line.

Pakistan’s economy has been growing, albeit, slowly over the past two decades though the rest of the world has made huge strides in overcoming global poverty. Since 1990, more than 1.2 billion people have risen out of extreme poverty. Now, 9.2% of the world survives on less than $1.90 a day, compared to nearly 36% in 1990.

But the COVID-19 pandemic threatens to reverse years of progress in the fight against global poverty and income inequalities and it jeopardizes the future of a generation of children.

COVID-19 drove an additional 97 million people into extreme poverty in 2020, according to World Bank estimates.

More than two years into the pandemic, the World Bank stresses, “There is still much we don’t know” concerning its impact on global poverty in 2021.

When families move out of poverty, children’s health and well-being improve. Since 1990, the number of children under the age of 5 dying — mostly from preventable causes such as poverty, hunger and disease — is less than half of what it was, dropping from about 34,200 a day to over 14,200.

Though UN Vision is committed to ending extreme poverty and laying the foundation for every child to experience promise of decent life in all its fullness, yet eradicating global poverty is hard, particularly in fragile contexts but there is hope that things will change, eventually. Ending extreme poverty is a priority for all the nations.

By 2030, as part of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, global leaders aim to eradicate extreme poverty for all people everywhere, by that time.

Although countries impacted by fragility, crises and violence are home to about 10% of the world’s population, they account for more than 40% of people living in extreme poverty. By 2030, an estimated 67% of the world’s poor will live in fragile contexts.

About 70% of people older than 15 who live in extreme poverty will have no schooling or only some basic education.

1.3 billion people in 107 developing countries, which account for 22% of the world’s population, will live in multi-dimensional poverty. About 84.3% of multi-dimensionally poor live in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.

Climate change and poverty are closed interlinked. Climate change looms over all countries, threatening severe droughts, supercharged storms and blistering heat waves. But these consequences are unevenly felt around the world.

Above all, they threaten the most vulnerable populations across the globe. Climate change is going to amplify the already existing divide between those who have resources and those who do not.

We are already seeing the impacts of climate change around the world, and the latest reports clearly illustrate that we are very quickly heading towards experiencing them at a greater scale and degree of severity than we had previously understood.

As global temperatures and sea levels rise, as the oceans acidify and precipitation patterns get rearranged, people living in poverty are the most severely impacted.

Since climate change affects everything from where a person can live to their access to health care, millions of people could be plunged further into poverty as environmental conditions worsen. This is especially true for poor people living in low-income countries.

Just as climate change deepens inequalities within a country, it also further stratifies international relations because some nations are more threatened by it than others. Poor countries have fewer resources to deal with the problem.

The world’s poorest communities often live on the most fragile land, and they are often politically, socially and economically marginalized, making them especially vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.

More frequent and intense storms, flooding, drought, and changes in rainfall patterns are already impacting these communities, making it difficult for them to secure decent livelihoods.

— The writer is former DG (Emigration) and consultant ILO, IOM.​

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