While the entire world is basking in the sun of the millennium, poverty is still more of a curse than a sociological catastrophe. The multiple dimensions of poverty sometimes force us to ponder upon our social lifecycle. The cause of poverty may just be primarily being limited to money; but the effects are multifarious. I feel heath and education are few of the primary concerns. Generally poor people mainly from the developing countries do not get any relief from government programs and thus are forced to remain in the vicious circle of poverty. Total lack of security can be one of the major effects of poverty. Lack of proper housing and sanitation, makes them prone to anti-social violence and easy prey for social evils like drugs, prostitution, child abuse, theft and even crime.
The World Bank is the world's largest source of development assistance, providing nearly $16 billion in loans annually to its client countries. It uses its financial resources, highly trained staff, and extensive knowledge base to help each developing country onto a path of stable, sustainable, and equitable growth in the fight against poverty. The Bank offers a wide range of services to support the development and implementation of its poverty-reduction activities in its member countries. They can be categorized into financial services, analytic & advisory services, and capacity building.
Efforts on behalf of the government and other world organizations often do not trickle down to the needy. Corruption in poverty alleviation schemes is rampant throughout the world. The poor often face extreme difficulty when they attempt to seek health care, educate their children, claim social assistance, get paid, attempt to access justice or police protection, and seek to enter the marketplace. In their dealings with officials, poor men and women are subject to insults, rudeness, harassment, and sometimes assault by officials.
Obviously, the voices of the poor are often not heard aloud by the governmental machinery and hence the only ray of hope for the downtrodden are the thousands of NGOs operating throughout the world. NGOs generally operate at a local level and they are the best to appreciate regional differences and cope with local situations. NGOs especially in Africa and Asia have demonstrated exceptional skills in coping with natural disasters like drought, flood, typhoons, famine and man made disasters like epidemics. But sometimes, they too come under the strong focus of public and media light. The resources of these NGOs are sometimes not optimally utilized and questions of work ethics often arise. There are a lot of NGOs in the world, whose primary objective is to force religious conversions. I have lived in a locality extremely close to Mother Teresa's Missionaries of Charity in Calcutta. Although no one can doubt their credentials, but there have been lots of hue and cries about the conversions they force to bring the poor to their umbrella of shelter.
Should we be extremely skeptical of the entire situation? Is there nothing left for the common man in this millennium? The World Bank and other international associations have together aimed to:
Halve the proportion of the people living in extreme poverty by 2015.
Achieving universal primary education in all countries by 2015.
Demonstrating progress toward gender equality and the empowerment of women by eliminating gender disparities in primary and secondary education by 2005.
Reducing by two-thirds the mortality rates for infants and children under 5 and by three-fourths the mortality rates for mothers by 2015.
Implementing national strategies for sustainable development by 2005 to ensure that the current loss of environmental resources is reversed globally and nationally by 2015.
Graphics Source - www.worldbank.org
James D Woldensohn, President, The World Bank Group quoted recently, 'The World Bank Group is repositioning itself to meet the demands of a new millennium ' an institution committed to results, partnerships, and inclusive development. The 4.8 billion people who are our ultimate clients deserve nothing less'. Many of us would say the process of poverty elevation that we are looking at is too slow a process; but looking at the number of poor in this world which is increasing as we read this; the task is pretty uphill. We certainly hope that the dawn of the millennium ushers in a rainbow of light for the common man of the world.