Today, October 17, marks the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty. Here, BOMA CEO John Stephens shares why he is hopeful for the future.
Has your life ever depended on $2.15 per day? That is the reality for 719 million people worldwide who are living in extreme poverty — which the World Bank recently reported is rising for the first time in decades.
Sixty percent of those facing extreme poverty — 389 million people — live in sub-Saharan Africa. Through catastrophes like the COVID-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine, the poorest have been hit the hardest.
I don’t think all hope is lost, however. The World Bank’s forecast that we will not reach sustainable development goal one, to eradicate extreme poverty by 2030, has left some wondering if poverty alleviation is a lost cause.
While I can’t deny that the challenges are daunting, I believe that we can see the end of extreme poverty in our lifetimes. Here’s why.
We know what works. Efficient and high-impact programs that put money into the hands of those who need it most are key to ending extreme poverty, according to the World Bank. In particular, the poverty graduation approach — which empowers marginalized populations including women, youth, and refugees with the opportunity to build lasting, independent income — is a solution that can be scaled up to reach millions of people with the right investment.
I’ve seen the transformation. I met Mary Lesordonke in Samburu county, Kenya, about a year into the COVID-19 pandemic. Not long before, Mary had been living in extreme poverty — unsure of where the next meal for her family would come from, unable to pay school fees for her children, and constantly challenged by a changing climate. But after two years of training and an investment of $300, Mary launched a kiosk business selling staples like maize flower and cooking oil. She developed a lasting income that helped her family increase their savings, assets, and opportunities for the future.
Now, we need to mobilize the resources. The World Bank report makes one thing clear — extreme poverty is an urgent crisis that cannot be ignored. Do you see that blue box that Mary is holding? Inside that box are the hard-earned savings from Mary’s business. For me, this blue box symbolizes our investment in a future without extreme poverty. With continued funding from philanthropists like MacKenzie Scott, and buy-in from global leadership, we can transform the lives of millions living on less than $2.15 a day.
Few of us can relate to the reality of extreme poverty but — after the last few years — I think we all understand the devastating toll that long-lasting uncertainty can have. As global inequality rises and millions more face the crushing uncertainty of extreme poverty, we must scale up solutions that change real lives without breaking the bank. We need to invest in the places and people who need it the most.