Deepening inequalities a cause for concern - GulfToday

Deepening inequalities a cause for concern


A man looks at his phone as he walks out of the courthouse past a man arranging his bags in Los Angeles, California. Reuters

There are vast inequalities across countries, and among the poorer segments of societies, as per the 2019 global Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) report from the UN Development Programme (UNDP), and the subject needs to be addressed earnestly.

In the 101 countries studied — 31 low income, 68 middle income and 2 high income — 1.3 billion people are “multi-dimensionally poor” (which means that poverty is defined not simply by income, but by a number of indicators, including poor health, poor quality of work and the threat of violence).

Action against poverty is needed in all developing regions, as the report points out.

It should be noted that Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia are home to the largest proportion of poor people, some 84.5 per cent.

Within these regions, the level of inequality is described as “massive”: In Sub-Saharan Africa it ranges from 6.3 per cent in South Africa to 91.9 per cent in South Sudan. The disparity in South Asia is from 0.8 per cent in the Maldives, to 55.9 per cent in Afghanistan.

Many of the countries studied in the report show “extensive” internal levels of inequality: in Uganda, for example, the incidence of multidimensional poverty in the different provinces, ranges from six per cent in Kampala, to 96.3 per cent in Karamoja.

It’s children who bear the greatest burden.

Over half of the 1.3 billion people identified as poor, some 663 million, are children under the age of 18, and around a third (some 428 million) are under the age of 10.

The vast majority of these children, around 85 per cent, live in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa, split roughly equally between the two regions.

The picture is particularly dire in Burkina Faso, Chad, Ethiopia, Niger and South Sudan, where 90 per cent or more of children under the age of 10, are considered to be multi-dimensionally poor.

Unfortunately, the global response to realizing poverty and environmental goals agreed by world leaders in 2015 has not been ambitious enough, as recently pointed out by UN Secretary-General António Guterres.

In his latest report on the progress towards meeting the targets of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals or SDGs, the UN chief made it clear that while a “wealth of action” had been taken by governments across the world “the most vulnerable people and countries continue to suffer the most.”

The 17 SDGs commit countries to mobilize efforts to end all forms of poverty, fight inequalities and tackle climate change.

Extreme poverty, which the UN defines as a condition characterised by severe deprivation of basic human needs, continues to decline but the decline has slowed to the extent that the world is not on track to achieve the target of less than three per cent of the world living in extreme poverty, by 2030.

It’s more likely on current estimates to be around six per cent — that’s around 420 million people — definitely a situation of grave concern.

In the Arab region, extreme poverty had previously been below three per cent. However, the conflicts in countries like Syria have raised the region’s poverty rate and left more people hungry and homeless.

Africa needs more attention as it remains the continent with the highest prevalence of undernourishment, affecting one fifth of its population, that’s more than 256 million people.

What adds to the concern is the fact that public investment in agriculture is declining globally.

Deepening inequalities are a matter that needs to be addressed collectively by the world community.

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