Editorial: The 100th million and the poor and near poor

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Friday, July 25, 2014

TOMORROW, around 12:06 a.m. Sunday, the Philippine population will hit 100-million.

As reported, the figure was derived from the population projections by the Philippine Statistics Authority, which places the Philippine birth rate at three babies per minute. Guess where the momentum is coming from?

The 2014 Human Development Report released just last Thursday by the UN Development Programme (UNDP) says, “According to income-based measures of poverty, 1.2 billion people live with $1.25 or less a day. However, according to the UNDP Multidimensional Poverty Index, almost 1.5 billion people in 91 developing countries are living in poverty with overlapping deprivations in health, education and living standards. And although poverty is declining overall, almost 800 million people are at risk of falling back into poverty if setbacks occur. Many people face either structural or life-cycle vulnerabilities.”


The report entitled “Sustaining Human Progress: Reducing Vulnerabilities and Building Resilience” also points to a slowing down in human development growth worldwide. Threats like financial crises, fluctuations in food prices, natural disasters, and violent conflict has been impeding progress.

"Reducing both poverty and people's vulnerability to falling into poverty must be a central objective of the post-2015 agenda," the Report states. "Eliminating extreme poverty is not just about 'getting to zero'; it is also about staying there."

Over here in the Philippines, more than 40,000 are still in evacuation centers in urbanized Zamboanga City, ten months since the national government ordered an all-out siege on Moro National Liberation Front rebels there.

The families who were displaced by fire in Isla Verde in the first quarter of this year are still struggling to recover. Banana plantations in typhoon Pablo-ravaged areas are teetering on the brink under the threat of fusarium wilt. Throw in typhoon Yolanda, and you get the picture of the poor and near-poor who continue to grow after every man-made and nature-induced disasters.

This calls on concerned officials to focus on key interventions at the right time. Let’s give up on the national government, it has done nothing to alleviate our woes here anyway and just bores us with their arguments and counter-arguments on how they pocketed government money. Let’s focus on ourselves and how we, as one community, can view the problem for better sustained solutions.

In the report is a discussion on the so-called live cycle vulnerabilities, that local executives and their program implementers can learn from. Life cycle vulnerabilities are the sensitive points in life that can make or break the future.

Among the recognized sensitive points are the first 1,000 days of life, and the transitions from school to work, and from work to retirement.

"Capabilities accumulate over an individual's lifetime and have to be nurtured and maintained; otherwise they can stagnate and even decline," it warns. "Life capabilities are affected by investments made in preceding stages of life, and there can be long-term consequences of exposure to short-term shocks."

This gives us a clue on when interventions can create the bigger impact and it’s telling us that the elderly need some help as they move from productive employed stage to retirement stage, also the young as they start the hunt for a job after moving out from school, and the very young as they struggle through poor education facilities.

Then there is the overall inequality, that while have declined slight in most regions worldwide because of improvements in health, income inequality and high disparities in education persists and is rising. That’s easy to see. Think slum areas and public schools and you get the whole picture right away.

“The Report shows that older generations continue to struggle with illiteracy, while younger ones are having difficulty making the leap from primary to secondary schooling,” a press release on the report says.

Clearly, we are very far from getting over the hump even as the 15-year Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) draws to a close next year. We’re not making it, and the Human Development Report is giving us clues on where to focus. May we find time to read it. It’s downloadable: http://hdr.undp.org/en/content/human-development-report-2014

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on July 26, 2014.


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