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The challenges of eradicating poverty

By Dionisio Da Cruz Pereira - posted Thursday, 14 May 2015

Every year, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) releases its Human Development Index (HDI) reports comparing countries' development using life expectancy, access to education and per capita income as indicators. These indicators are used by the UNDP to measure how countries have achieved their development goals as enshrined in the Millennium Development Goals.

Countries ranked highest on the HDI are regarded as developed economies. Citizens living in these countries achieve high per capital income, improved access to education and very high life expectancy. They enjoy a high level of security and have ability to make decisions affecting their life.

In contrast, countries placed in the bottom ranks are mostly those continuously plagued by poverty. Countries falling under this category are characterized by issues such as a high mortality rate, widespread malnutrition, high gender inequality, low level of school enrollment, prone to environmental degradation, and others.


Poverty in developing countries is so rampant and addressing it is a real challenge. Consider health for instance; according to the World Health Organization Report (2014), 6.3 million children under the age of five died in 2013. More than half of these early child deaths are due to conditions that could have been prevented.

According to the report, the leading causes of death in under-five children are pre-term birth complications, pneumonia, birth asphyxia, diarrhea, and malaria. In addition, about 45% of all child deaths are linked to malnutrition. Children in sub-Saharan Africa are more than 15 times more likely to die before the age of five than children in developed regions.

A recent report by the World Bank suggested that in 2011, 17 percent of people in the developing world lived at or under $1.25 a day. Of this number, over 80 percent of the extremely poor lived in South Asia (399 million) and Sub-Saharan Africa (415 million). In addition, 161 million lived in East Asia and Pacific, and 50 million of the extremely poor lived in Latin America and the Caribbean. Middle East and North Africa and Eastern Europe and Central Asia combined.

The above figures do pose questions as to why, despite billions of dollars spent on international development assistance to developing countries are not really yielding the expected impacts-they remain underdeveloped. A prominent author such as Dambisa Moyo in her book Dead Aid clearly points out that International aid tends to produce a long-term dependency on recipient nations and lead to prolonging the vicious cycle of impoverishment.

Likewise, Joseph Stiglitz, author of Globalization and its Discontent argues that international financial institutions such as the World Bank and IMF are to blame for failing developing countries. According to Stiglitz shortsighted, policies of these two institutions in promoting free market lead to exacerbating poverty in developing nations.

While arguments against the world financial institutions and international aid are justified, numerous studies strongly suggest that - bad governance, lack of technology and knowledge, the absence of modern infrastructure have been the primary factors.


First, bad governance is viewed as a condition where the institution is unable to perform its functions as it should have been. It refers to corruption, distortion of government budgets, inequitable growth, social exclusion, lack of trust in authorities.

In Afghanistan, for instance, the Transparency International estimated that around $1 billion of the $8 billion donated in the past eight years was lost to corruption. Bribe payments, ranging for enrolling in elementary school to getting a permit, have doubled between 2007 and 2009, and topped $1 billion a year.

According to the same study, in countries like Ghana, Madagascar, Morocco, Niger, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Uganda, around 44 percent of the parents surveyed had paid illegal fees for schooling.

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About the Author

Dionisio Da Cruz Pereira is pursuing an M.Sc in International Development at the University of Birmingham, United Kingdom.

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