In 2015, 736 million people lived below the international poverty line of surviving on less than $1.90 per day. Three years later (2018), nearly 8% of workers in the globe and their families lived below the US $1.90 daily for each person in the family. Majority of the people from these figures reside in Southern Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. A high rate of poverty is synonymous with areas that are small, fragile, and conflict-ridden. In 2018, 55% of the world’s population lacked access to at least one cash benefit for social protection. It is a moral outrage that we are living in a world characterized by an unprecedented level of economic development, technological advancement, and financial resources, yet millions of people live in extreme poverty.
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Aside from being an economic problem, poverty is multidimensional as it means a lack of income and basic necessities to live a dignified life. Poor people face numerous interrelated and mutually reinforcing deprivations that hinder them from knowing their rights and perpetuating their poverty. Some of these deprivations range from lack of nutritious food, unsafe housing, limited access to quality health care, dangerous working conditions, unequal access to justice, and lack of political power.
The history of the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty can be backtracked to October 17, 1987, when over 100,000 converged at the Trocadéro in Paris, France, (the same venue where the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was signed in 1948), to campaign for and honour people that have fallen victim to extreme poverty, violence, and hunger. During this day, poverty was declared a violation of human rights, and the need for unity towards ensuring that the rights of people that live in extreme poverty are respected was affirmed. From then, people of different backgrounds, social origins, and beliefs around the globe, gather to reaffirm their commitment and solidarity towards the plights of the poor, every October 17. Owing to these developments, the United Nations General Assembly on December 22, 1992, officially proclaimed October 17 of every year as International Day for the Eradication of Poverty.
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Today, October 17, 2020, marks the 27th anniversary of the UN’s declaration of October 17 as International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, and the 32nd anniversary of Father Joseph Wresinski’s Call to Action which served as inspiration for the observance of October 17 as a day meant for overcoming extreme poverty as well as its official recognition by the United Nations. This year’s commemoration is accompanied with the theme ‘’ Acting together to achieve social and environmental justice for all.’’ The theme addresses the challenges confronting the globe towards actualizing the goal of social and environmental justice for all people. Often times, people living in extreme poverty, through sheer necessity are the initial responders within their communities to issues such as poverty, climate change, and environmental problems. However, their efforts are mostly unrecognized, unnoticed, and not appreciated. It is time for the globe to shift from neglecting the positive contributions of people living in extreme poverty, to appreciating their knowledge, participation, and experience in building a sustainable and equitable world.
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