New poverty estimates published by the World Bank reveal that 1.4 billion people in the developing world were living on less than US$1.25 a day in 2005, down from 1.9 billion in 1981. These revised numbers reflect improved household data from a greater number of countries. They are based the International Comparison Programme (ICP) and 675 household surveys covering 116 countries and spanning the period 1981 to 2005. The new numbers show that poverty has become more widespread across the developing world over the past 25 years than previously estimated, but also that there has been strong – if regionally uneven – progress toward reducing overall poverty. On the other hand, they also demonstrate that the developing world is still on track to meet the first Millennium Development Goal of halving extreme poverty by 2015.
Poverty and health
This UNESCO policy paper reports that the global poverty rate could be more than halved if all adults completed secondary school. Yet, new data from the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS) show persistently high out-of-school rates in many countries, making it likely that completion levels in education will remain well below that target for generations to come. The paper demonstrates the importance of recognising education as a core lever for ending poverty in all its forms, everywhere. The analysis of education’s impact on poverty shows that nearly 60 million people could escape poverty if all adults had just two more years of schooling. Despite education’s potential, new UIS data show that there has been virtually no progress in reducing out-of-school rates in recent years. Globally, 9% of all children of primary school age are still denied their right to education, with rates reaching 16% and 37% for youth of lower and upper secondary ages, respectively. In total, 264 million children, adolescents and youth were out of school in 2015. UNESCO argues that education must reach the poorest households to maximise its benefits and reduce income inequality.
Storms and hurricanes are becoming more severe due to warmer sea temperatures. Low lying island nations, like the Maldives, now experience annual flooding with the seawater contaminating groundwater supplies. Whether flooding, drought or other climate-related catastrophic events, the author observes that low income countries nations and their populations suffer most, given their lack of resources, infrastructure, emergency services and preparedness. They also point to a further consequence relating to the quality of food. Rising CO2 levels speed up plant growth increasing carbohydrates through plant sugars and diluting nutrition due to reduced minerals and protein. The nutrient quality of our food is expected to fall as CO2 levels rise this century. The effect will be worst felt by the world's poorer populations relying on a plant diet. Extreme weather events affect production, distribution, spoilage and contamination. The author notes that those most affected will be people in Africa, Asia and the Americas.
What effect does the degree of a family's poverty have on the health of young children? Are girls the losers when it comes to healthcare in Tanzania? The Ifakara Health Research and Development Centre, together with colleagues from research groups in six countries, studied health care for children under five in poor rural areas of southern Tanzania.
New data on the nutritional status of Zimbabwe’s children reveals that more than one third of Zimbabwe’s children under the age of five are chronically malnourished and consequently stunted. Zimbabwe’s current food production remains too low to meet national requirements. Years of persistent droughts and the downturn of the Zimbabwean economy over the past decade have adversely affected food availability in many homes in Zimbabwe. The report calls for accelerated action to reverse chronic malnutrition and maintain the low levels of acute malnutrition highlighted by the report. Chronic malnutrition poses long-term survival and development challenges for Zimbabwe. The survey also shows plummeting exclusive breastfeeding rates. However, the low and stable rates of severe acute malnutrition that were found are a sign that the food security programmes supported by the international community are reaping benefits. The report also acknowledges the tremendous coping mechanisms of the Zimbabwean people at a time of great difficulty.
The UN Children's Fund says the children of Zimbabwe have entered a new phase of hardship. UNICEF says millions of children are missing out on their most basic needs because of a severe drought and the dramatic deterioration of Zimbabwe's economy. The unprecedented hardship facing Zimbabwe is biting particularly hard among children and quality health care in the country's schools has all but collapsed.
Zimbabwe will be the first country in Southern Africa to adopt a new food security analysis tool, developed in Somalia in 2004. The Integrated Food Security Phase Classification Framework (IPC) categorises the severity of a situation using a five-phase scale ranging from 'generally food secure' to 'famine/humanitarian catastrophe', based on comprehensive data on the impact of a crisis on food security and nutrition.
The author reports that food is becoming scarce in large parts of rural Zimbabwe with United Nations agencies and government warning more than one in three Zimbabweans may need food assistance by next March. The government has appealed for $1.5 billion in emergence support to cover the food and nutrition, agriculture, water, education, and health sectors. Mbire is a traditionally rain starved area, which lies in the Zambezi escarpment, near the border with Zambia. In Mbire, George Nyarugwe, the Acting District Administrator, said at the local clinics there was growing anecdotal evidence of forced child marriages with many of the young mothers telling nurses they were forced to marry because of the drought. Similar reports have been made in Mt Darwin in the country’s northeast and in Seke, near Harare, according to the Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment Committee report released in January. Between last December and April, UNICEF says 3,042 new child protection cases were reported in 65 districts in Zimbabwe, with child neglect showing the highest incidence at 568, followed by sexual abuse at 306 and physical abuse at 218. There are plans to train government, non-government organisation and community social workers to better protect children in drought afflicted areas.
In response to the advent of the El Nino phenomena which has resulted in the country experiencing long dry spells, the ZimVAC undertook a rapid assessment focussing on updating the ZimVAC May 2015 results. The process followed a 3 pronged approach which were, a review of existing food and nutrition secondary data, qualitative district Focus Group Discussions (FGDs) and for other variables a quantitative household survey which in most cases are representative at provincial and national level. This report provides a summation of the results for the 3 processes undertaken. The report concludes that there is an urgent need to strengthen and expand current livestock support programmes to prevent further deterioration of livestock condition and deaths; to implement a Drought Relief Policy and Food Deficit Mitigation Strategy through multi-sectoral participation of all relevant Government structures, and to adopt registration, distribution and monitoring strategies that are inclusive. Gender based violence cases were found to be on the increase in most districts, while noting that this may be attributable to an increase in awareness and reporting and not necessarily to an increase in incidents.
The Food Sovereignty Campaign is a movement of emerging farmers and farm dwellers is based in the Western and Northern Cape provinces. They point out that while property rights are enshrined in the constitution of the country, in a land reform programme based on a ‘willing buyer, willing seller’ model, land is being priced out of reach of the poor and of the state. The authors argue that there is no provision in law, as in Brazil, to allow hungry people to grow food on unused land of absent owners. Land occupations are happening in South Africa, fuelled by growing frustration among the rural poor due to persistent and unaddressed inequality. The Food Sovereignty Campaign argues that land occupations are an expression amongst small farmers and farm dwellers of their frustration over their landlessness, powerlessness and exploitation.