Celebrating World Poverty Day with a bold commitment

A woman from Darfur. Oct. 17 marks the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty. Photo by: David Darg / InterAction

This post is part of a series produced by the NGO alliance InterAction and Devex around the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty.

We live in a world where more than 1 billion people struggle to find enough to eat every day. More than 1 billion live in homes with inadequate roofs and no latrines. Basic services like schools and health centers are out of reach. For many individuals, life remains a struggle to find the most basic human dignity.

This is our world today. But it does not have to be our world tomorrow.

Oct. 17 marks the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, and it falls amid a global movement working to end extreme poverty — not in 100 years, not in 50, but by 2030. The target of ending extreme poverty in our generation is bold, but achievable. Already, extreme poverty rates are half what they were two decades ago.

Getting to zero in our generation will require us to accelerate progress, and it will not be easy. But as World Bank President Jim Yong Kim recently said, “We cannot let over a billion people suffer in extreme poverty when we have the tools and the research to change their lives for the better. … We can do better. We have to do better.” U.S. NGOs are part of the solution.

This week, for the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, the NGO alliance InterAction and our 180-plus members — U.S.-based nongovernmental organizations — are highlighting programs around the world that already are making an impact. Youth, women farmers, people living with HIV and AIDS and others are changing their lives through these programs — many with the support of the American people and U.S. foreign assistance.

Consider these examples. A World Vision program in Zambia, supported by the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, has helped more than a quarter million children access health care, education and psycho-social support, as well as trained nearly 40,000 volunteer caregivers to help people living with HIV across the country. More than 1 million small-holder producers in Ethiopia are expected to benefit from an ACDI/VOCA program that is developing the country’s coffee sector via associations and cooperatives. And in Senegal, International Relief and Development is building the capacity of cashew farmers and processors to produce a high-quality product and to promote sound business models that lead to sustainable incomes.

Already, through efforts such as these, we have made immense progress. In 1990, nearly one in two people in the developing world lived on less than $1.25 a day (the definition of extreme poverty). Today, it is about one in five. Since 1990 thanks to the work of many institutions — from governments to community based groups — we have cut child deaths nearly in half and doubled the percentage of women who have a doctor or midwife helping them to give birth. The number of undernourished people has fallen from 1 billion in 1992 to an estimated 842 million today — all while the world’s population has increased by more than 1.5 billion.

These numbers represent changed lives and futures. When people lift themselves out of poverty, we all benefit. By focusing on it, we not only improve lives but promote stability and create markets around the globe. Greater global stability and economic opportunity are good for all.

We can end extreme poverty. We are already making significant strides. It is well worth the investment — in fact, it’s hard to think of another effort that can do that much good in as many different ways. Please join us, today and every day, in supporting the global efforts that will end extreme poverty. We must commit to making it happen. And the next commitment starts with you.

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The views in this opinion piece do not necessarily reflect Devex's editorial views.

About the author

  • Sam Worthington

    Sam Worthington is the president and CEO of InterAction, the largest alliance of U.S.-based relief and development NGOs working overseas. He has served as vice chair of InterAction's board of Directors, chaired its PVO standards and membership committee, and was co-chair of its Commission on the Advancement of Women. Previously, he served as CEO Plan USA.