A recent commentary by one of our columnists indicated that the recently unpublished Poverty Assessment Report (2007) on St. Kitts and Nevis by the Caribbean Development Bank “is not flattering to the government. The Report identifies 23.5% of the population of St. Kitts as being poor. “With a population of 38,000, this means that 8,903 persons can only afford a plate of food daily. In addition the report stated that 53.5% (4,770 persons) of those classified as poor are 125% poorer than everyone in that category. In plain language they are desperate.”Despite persistent calls by the United Nations over the past year, gains made in the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) have begun to slip backwards and downwards in a spiral that could spell even worse hunger and poverty in the world than what obtained prior to the targets being set. Not all eight of the goals are threatened at present, but as it has been proven, if there are no advances in the fight to end poverty and hunger or at least take a bite out of them, all of the others will eventually be affected as they are all linked. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who launched the 2009 MDGs report in Geneva, Switzerland on Monday, noted that one of the major bugbears was the higher food prices, which really began to take effect last year, and “have reversed the nearly two-decade trend in reducing hunger.”In plain language, one year of the current crisis has set back the anti-hunger moves by nearly twenty years. In addition, he noted the slowing of the momentum to reduce overall poverty in the developing world. Entire industries, shot down by the global financial crisis, have simply folded leaving tens of millions of people jobless and hopeless. This is a mirror of what has also been happening in developed countries. The UN Secretary-General has always advocated that having the correct policies, adequate funding and political will would yield results, and the gains made in the past have proved him to be correct. It is for this reason that he has been consistently pleading with donor countries and organisations not to fall back on their pledges and let aid become a fatality of the financial crisis. But this is precisely what has happened. The G8 and G20 nations, which made specific commitments to increase financial and technical support to developing countries by 2010 to help them achieve the MDGs have been slow in doling this out. The disbursement of aid to Africa, where poverty and hunger are at perhaps the highest levels of all the continents, is at least $20 billion below the targets set and pledges made. This year’s MDGs report, which has pulled data from over 20 organisations both within and outside the UN system, is considered the most comprehensive global MDG assessment to date. It must have been a disappointment although it could not have been surprising; the slippages were obvious. But the report was not all gloomy, there have been promising gains in universal primary education and in the provision of safe drinking water; fewer people are dying of AIDS and strategies to combat malaria and measles have been working, which could see a concomitant decrease in child mortality as these are among the major killers of children. The report also found that ‘the number of people living on less than $1.25 a day decreased from 1.8 billion to 1.4 billion in the period from 1990 to 2005.”The concern now is that this could all go south if current trends continue. The crisis is not yet past and recovery in some countries will be slow. If efforts are not made to halt delays in the delivery of aid and ramp up programmes like aid for trade the effects of the financial crisis will be more far reaching than is envisaged at present.
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