Tuesday, October 31, 2006

[Uganda] ...to halve poverty

from New Vision

By Vision Reporter & Agencies

The World Bank has named Uganda as one of the six countries on course to halve poverty by 2010.

“Since the second half of the 1990s, many low income African countries including Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Ghana, Mozambique, Senegal and Uganda have lifted significant percentages of their citizens above the poverty line,” the Bank said in its “Africa Economic Indicators, 2006” report.

“Many countries are still on course to meet the income poverty Millennium Development Goals target of halving poverty by 2015,” the report said.

The eradication of extreme poverty and hunger is one of the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) agreed upon by 189 countries in New York in 2000, with a target date of 2015.

Other MDG targets are achievement of universal primary education, promotion of gender equality and women’s empowerment, child mortality reduction, improvements in maternal health, combating HIV/Aids, malaria and other diseases, ensuring environmental sustainability and a global partnership for development.

Uganda was ranked fourth under the category “sustained growth countries” between 1996–2005 behind Mozambique, Rwanda and Cape Verde.

During that period the Ugandan economy averaged 6.1% annual growth while Kenya grew by 2.8%, Rwanda 7.5% and Tanzania by 5.4%.

In addition, the World Bank said fewer conflicts and increased economic growth had led to the dubbing of 2005 “The Year of Africa,” a turning point for the continent.
Its annual study of the continent found that 16 African states had managed to maintain annual economic growth of more than 4.5% since the 1990s.

This had enabled them to lift more of their citizens above the poverty line.
Meanwhile, the number of African conflicts fell from 16 in 2002 to five in 2005, the report said.

“Africa today is a continent on the move, making tangible progress on delivering better health, education, growth, trade and poverty-reduction outcomes,” said Gobind Nankani, the World Bank vice-president for Africa.

The bank’s African Development Indicators report highlighted the extreme diversity of economic achievement in Africa.

On one hand, Zimbabwe’s economy shrunk by 2.4% in 2004, while Equatorial Guinea’s economy surged 20.9%.

But the report also noted that inflation on the continent was down to historic lows and that the region weathered the impact of higher oil prices in recent years.
However, the bank said foreign investment in the continent was $10.1b in 2004, only 1.6% of global foreign investment.

[Africa] Continent 'Showing Tangible Progress' - WB

from All Africa

Business in Africa (Johannesburg)


Many African countries, including Senegal, Mozambique, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Uganda, Ghana and Cape Verde, have lifted significant percentages of their citizens above the poverty line and might well be on course to meeting the income poverty Millennium Development Goal (MDG) target of halving poverty by 2010, according to a World Bank report.

"Africa is today a continent on the move, making tangible progress on delivering better health, education, growth, trade and poverty-reduction outcomes," said Gobind Nankani, the World Bank vice-president for Africa.

The annual World Bank publication, African Development Indicators (ADI) 2006, depicts a diverse continent, with several countries making remarkable progress, some stagnating and others lagging seriously behind. The full spectrum of achievers and laggards stretches from Zimbabwe, which recorded a negative growth rate of 2.4 percent - the only country with a negative growth rate in 2004 on the continent - to Equatorial Guinea, which recorded a 20.9 percent growth rate.

[John Edwards] calls for actions to eliminate poverty

from The Buffalo News

News Staff Reporter

Former Democratic vice-presidential candidate John Edwards called Monday for eliminating poverty within 30 years by enhancing savings, raising the minimum wage, giving people more access to education, housing and jobs and cracking down on abuses.

Speaking before a crowd of more than 500 at the University at Buffalo's Center for the Arts, Edwards said the nation can't ignore a problem that causes 37 million people to "wake up every day worrying about feeding and clothing their children."

"I see this as a great moral cause," said the former senator from North Carolina. "For the wealthiest country in the world, this is not acceptable."

He said the American people have the will to take action but need national leadership from the government. He said government leaders must come up with "solutions that make sense" and that "are based on values Americans believe in."

"If we want to have credibility in the world, we need to also be a model at home," he said. "There are huge opportunities to show the world what America is all about."

Edwards came to UB as the keynote speaker at the Western New York Poverty Symposium. His speech followed a panel discussion by seven community advocates, educators and government representatives.

The symposium and Edwards' remarks come four months after a Buffalo News series on "The High Cost of Being Poor," which explored ways in which low-income people pay extra for basic financial services because they don't have cash or credit.

Edwards, who now heads the Center on Poverty, Work and Opportunity at the University of North Carolina, called for raising the federal minimum wage, now at $5.15 an hour, which he called a "national disgrace." In addition, he said the government needs to make it easier for 50 million service workers to unionize, saying the difference in pay between union and non-union businesses is the gap between the middle and lower classes.

He also urged expansion of the federal Earned Income Tax Credit for low-income working families, including making it more available to single workers. And he recommended the use of special savings accounts, with matching funds and financial education, to build wealth.

At the same time, though, he called for "seriously cracking down on payday and predatory lenders who strip assets from people" and "prey on the most vulnerable Americans."

He recommended creation of "steppingstone" jobs in parks and communities where millions of unemployed workers can learn skills and enter the work force. And he criticized the federal government for taking billions of dollars out of financial aid programs for college, saying that's "the last thing America should be doing."

Finally, he said the nation's public housing policy "is completely broken," denouncing it for clustering low-income people together and continuing an unhealthy cycle. He said the government needs to give families money to move to new neighborhoods if they want.

"This is not something we can wait on others to do," Edwards said. "We all have to be involved. I think it's a cause well worth investing in."

[Angola] Church denounces oil-rich Angola's crippling poverty

from Yahoo News

LUANDA (AFP) - The Roman Catholic church in Angola deplored the extreme poverty in sub-Saharan Africa's second largest oil producer where some 70 percent of the population earn less than a dollar a day.

It called for stepped up social spending and a more equitable distribution of wealth to uplift the masses, struggling to eke out a living after a 27-year civil war ended in 2002 and left the southern African nation in tatters.

"We are blessed with fertile land and other resources, we are the second biggest oil producer in Africa, but at the same time we are one of the world's poorest nations," a joint statement by Roman Catholic bishops said.

The statement condemned this "paradox" and denounced the "great social inequalities" in a country where the vast majority live in crippling poverty while a tiny fraction has a wildly ostentatious and luxurious lifestyle.

"In 2005, the Gross Domestic Product of Angola was over 2,000 dollars per person but 68 percent of the population earned less than a dollar a day," it said.

The bishops called upon the state to ensure "economic justice" by significantly increasing spending on health, education and farming.

Despite its vast mineral riches, including substantial reserves of oil and diamonds, a new United Nations-sponsored report earlier this month said 70 percent of Angola's 14 million population make do on 1.7 dollars a day or less.

[Ghana] IMF approves 39 million dollars for Ghana

from My Joy Online

The Executive Board of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has approved a final loan of about 39 million dollars to become available to the country before Tuesday, October 31.

The Board approved the amount after completing the sixth and final review of Ghana's economic performance under a Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility (PRGF) arrangement that expires on October 31.

A statement on the IMF website said the Board also approved Ghana's request for waiver for the non-observance of the quantitative performance criterion on the net domestic assets of the Bank of Ghana for end-June 2006.

Ghana's three-year PRGF arrangement was approved on May 9, 2003 for about 272.7 million dollars.

Mr. Takatoshi Kato, Deputy Managing Director and Acting Chairman, said economic performance continued to improve in Ghana during the first half of 2006, supported by strong macroeconomic policy implementation and a favourable external environment.

“Growth is relatively strong, inflation is falling, and the external position has strengthened considerably, allowing a build-up of international reserves that provides a cushion against shocks.

“Ghana's program implementation during the PRGF-supported programme has been satisfactory.”

Mr Kato said fiscal policy appeared on course in 2006 to deliver the targeted reductions in the ratio of domestic debt to GDP.

The fiscal consolidation that had occurred during the PRGF-supported programme had resulted in a significant reduction in domestic debt service and allowed the crowding-in of private sector investment through continuing declines in interest rates, while increasing poverty-related spending, he said.

"Monetary policy is expected to remain firm, geared toward achieving single-digit inflation. Ghana has made important strides in financial sector reforms, including eliminating the secondary reserve requirement for banks.

“These reforms will help make the banking system more efficient, and encourage financial deepening and growth of private sector credit.”

Mr Kato said further structural reforms were needed to support efficiency and growth prospects.

He said as part of the agenda to strengthen transparency and economic governance, recent improvements in fiscal reporting and public expenditure management would contribute to the efficient use of resources—including those from debt relief—in line with the government's poverty reduction strategy.

While the recent move to monthly review of petroleum product prices should improve the financial and operational performance of the Tema Oil Refinery, the authorities should execute, in the near future, their plan to divest a majority of government shares in the refinery, Mr Kato said.

He noted that the government's economic strategy was now focused on accelerating growth, in the context of a relatively stable macroeconomic framework.

Mr. Kato said looking forward, the main challenge for Ghana was to find the necessary resources to undertake the investment plan, while preserving debt sustainability.

“The authorities have indicated they will exercise great caution in contracting new loans, particularly given the risks to the medium-term outlook and continuing vulnerability to shocks." Mr. Kato said.

The PRGF is the IMF's concessional facility for low-income countries. PRGF-supported programs are based on country-owned poverty reduction strategies adopted in a participatory process involving civil society and development partners and articulated in the Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP).

This is intended to ensure that PRGF-supported programs are consistent with a comprehensive framework for macroeconomic, structural, and social policies to foster growth and reduce poverty. PRGF loans carry an annual interest rate of 0.5 percent and are repayable over 10 years with a 5½-year grace period on principal payments.
Source: GNA

[Zimbabwe] WB: Zim 'not beating poverty'

from News 24 South Africa

Johannesburg - Many African countries, including Mozambique, might meet the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) target of halving poverty by 2010, but Zimbabwe was not one of them, said a World Bank report on Monday.

Gobind Nankani, the World Bank vice-president for Africa, said: "Africa is today a continent on the move, making tangible progress on delivering better health, education, growth, trade and poverty-reduction outcomes."

The annual World Bank publication, "African Development Indicators (ADI) 2006," depicted a diverse continent, with several countries making remarkable progress, some stagnating and others lagging seriously behind.

Many countries, including Mozambique, Senegal, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Uganda, Ghana and Cape Verde, had lifted significant percentages of their citizens above the poverty line and might well be on course to meet the MDG target of halving poverty by 2010.

Economic outcomes 'increasingly diverse'

The full spectrum of achievers and laggards stretched from Zimbabwe, which recorded a negative growth rate of 2.4% - the only country with a negative growth rate in 2004 on the continent - to Equatorial Guinea, with a 20.9% growth rate.

John Page, the World Bank's chief economist for the Africa region, said: "While economic outcomes are increasingly diverse, Africa has made near uniform progress in social outcomes, notably education and health."

He said that Africa's per capita income was now increasing in tandem with other developing countries.

The ADI 2006 confirmed that 16 African countries had sustained annual GDP growth rates in excess of 4.5% since the mid-1990s; inflation on the continent was down to historic lows; most exchange rate distortions had been eliminated; and fiscal deficits were dropping.

Several countries increase exports

The continent weathered higher oil prices better than previous shocks and its real GDP grew by 4.3%, compared to 5.4% in 2004.

Productivity in Africa's best performing firms was on par with competitors in Asia (India and Vietnam).

Factory-floor costs in Africa's best economies compared well with India and China, but Africa had overall lost market share in traditional exports although several countries increased exports by more than 10%.

The good news included primary enrolment rates rising significantly across the continent. HIV/Aids prevalence and child mortality rates had started to fall and the gender gap had started to shrink in several countries.

Page said: "Gross primary enrolment rates as a share of the relevant age group - a standard indicator of investment in the poor - shot up to 93% in 2004 from 72% in 1990, contributing to a rise in literacy rates from 50% in 1997 to 65% in 2002."

The ADI 2006 highlighted the numerous challenges facing Africa, the lone region of the world, where the number of the poor continued to rise.

[Serena Williams] urges next generation to beat poverty

from Sioux City Journal

UNITED NATIONS (AP) -- Tennis star Serena Williams challenged the next generation of leaders Monday to take immediate action against poverty and disease and said she will travel to Africa to encourage people to overcome hardships they face.

Williams joined Senegal's President Abdoulaye Wade and others at a U.N. press conference to promote the first U.N. Global Youth Leadership Summit.

The meeting began Sunday and brings together two representatives from each of the 192 member U.N. states -- a young man and a woman between the ages of 18 and 30 -- to discuss helping the organization achieve its Millennium Development Goals.

The goals including cutting extreme poverty by half, ensuring that all people have access to clean water and sanitation, and universal primary education -- all by 2015.

Williams, 25, said that, as a member of the next generation of leaders, it was important for her to speak in support of the summit.

"Now is the time to realize that we're here, this is our generation, and we can make a statement and we can fight different diseases and we can fight poverty and we beat this," she said.

Williams said she is will travel to Ghana and Senegal later this week to promote that message and impart "a little knowledge and a little self-esteem -- it can go miles and miles and miles."

[Bangladesh] Poverty can facilitate HIV/AIDS in Bangladesh

from News from Bangladesh

Mohammad Khairul Alam

HIV/AIDS endemic is already having destroyed social and economical system in some countries. It makes threat to move backward the progress that economies have made in many poor countries. HIV/AIDS affects everyone in both developed and poor countries. It is not a disease of poverty.

It is not individual problem. However the pandemic does push people deeper into poverty, making it more difficult for them to sustain or recover their earlier livelihoods. That, in turn, can make people and their families more vulnerable to HIV/AIDS infection. Globally, every day 14,000 people getting infected HIV and among them 90% of less developed countries.

Poverty does not cause HIV/AIDS infection; it can facilitate transmission, Poverty makes people more vulnerable to HIV infection, due to lack of health care knowledge, lack of proper digest, and lack of sufficient nutrition, which can result in a weaker immune system. They also have less access to healthcare facilities and education on health issues such as HIV prevention. So it is fact, poverty & gender discrimination would be the main cause of the spread of AIDS in Bangladesh, The rate of vulnerability to HIV/AIDS is our country is higher then the many parts of the world.

Unfortunately we are bound to say, HIV is only transmitted through man. We don’t get infect it by other living or death species. The overwhelming majority of people infected with HIV do not know they carry the virus. Many millions more know nothing or too little about HIV/AIDS to protect themselves against it. So it is true that men destroy themselves and others.

The most common reason of HIV/AIDS is considered to be the unsafe or unprotected sex. Sex without taking proper precaution like condom is very much responsible for HIV/AIDS. AIDS is usually transmitted from man to man through the semen or blood. Since 1981, more than 60 million people have been infected by HIV of which over 22 million people already died. Now, over 50 million people are living with HIV.

The health care system is low in Bangladesh. Thousands of people die in every year by several common diseases. Although some health or prevention knowledge would lessen this fatal mortality. Capital city’s health care system is upgraded in some extent but rural level health care system is nominal. Several NGO’s are working on HIV/AIDS prevention sector. But we found that there is a massive need of facilities and manpower to deliver comprehensive HIV care and laboratory facilities to support and monitor the therapy. There is a similar lack of medical personnel with enough knowledge of antiretroviral therapy. Possibilities for drug distribution to remote corners are limited and storage facilities are often insufficient.

Rainbow Nari O Shishu Kallyan Foundation found extremely high levels of infections among adolescent girls, which are higher than those for boys. This is mainly because of the fact that at young age, boys have sex with girls of similar age, while girls have relations with older men, who are more likely to be infected. Sexual harassment of schoolgirls by older men sometime may be the cause of HIV infection. Poverty also drives many adolescent girls to accept relationships with 'sugar daddies' (older men who are prepared to give money, goods or favors in return for sex).

As mention AIDS Researcher Mr. Roger Tatoud, “To "think" about women and their role in society is already to empower them. It is the first step that leads to power-sharing between men and women, and as such should be at the heart of the responsible and hopefully successful strategies much needed in the fight against HIV and Aids. Undoubtedly gender mainstreaming requires political will and commitment, often in the hands of men.”

Since the join and traditional familitical system playing a vital role to prevent HIV/AIDS without our concern in Bangladesh, this disease is not turning into an epidemic in a poor and illiterate country like us. Our religious belief, respect to other people’s thought, politeness as a nation and restricted social system etc. and the education which we get from our families, are protecting us from many unsocial activities and bad jobs. But in these days, our social values and the social structure are facing a great threat following the western cultures. Familitical ties are breaking; pre-marital relation and unsocial activities are increasing day by day. That is why to protect the traditional social system and to make aware the people – we have to be alert.

Reference: World Bank, UNAIDS

[One Campaign] Link to their new TV commercial

The One Campaign asked if we could could provide a link to their new TV commercial, and were more than happy to oblige. You can also view all of their spots at their You Tube page.

Monday, October 30, 2006

[Africa] ...on the move but still battles poverty -report

from Reuters AlertNet

By Lesley Wroughton

WASHINGTON, Oct 30 (Reuters) - Economic growth in Africa is strong, exports are increasing and more people have access to health and education, but the continent is still battling high poverty rates, a new World Bank report said on Monday.

The bank's annual Africa Development Indicators for 2006 report said progress in halving poverty rates by 2015 is posing a challenge for most African countries, with nearly half of the continent's people still living below the poverty line.

The report said there were fewer conflicts on the continent, economic performance had improved and a dozen or so "high performers" had clearly emerged with growth rates of over 5 percent a year.

"Despite progress, a lot more needs to be done especially in the areas such as governance, civil society, private sector development, and human development, to make economic growth sustainable, less exposed and more resilient to shocks," the report said.

It said surveys of African firms also showed inadequate roads, inefficient ports and power outages hindered their efforts to access international markets.

The bank said Africa's infrastructure spending will need to double to $20 billion a year if countries want to reach the growth rates needed to meet the 2015 target for the globally agreed Millennium Development Goals, known as the MDGs.

It said African economies needed to grow about 7 percent annually and invest 5 percent of their gross domestic product in infrastructure to reach the MDG target.

Lack of infrastructure investment is starting to constrain growth even for economic stars like Mozambique, Ghana, Tanzania, Rwanda and Uganda, said John Page, the World Bank's chief economist for Africa.

"What we are beginning to see is that the lack of attention -- and I would say the responsibility has to be borne in part by the international community -- to addressing the infrastructure and institution-needs in these countries," Page said.

He said industrialized countries needed to make good on promises they made last year of increasing aid to Africa by $25 billion a year by 2010, which will help African governments invest in infrastructure.

Failing to meet those commitments would be a "missed opportunity," Page said.

Still, despite those promises, development assistance by industrial countries to Africa between 2006 and 2008 would consist mainly of debt relief and emergency food aid, the report said.

It said rebuilding infrastructure, tackling HIV/AIDS and malaria, and building competitiveness were medium-to-long term challenges for Africa.

"Realistically, the work will be done over a decade or more," the report said, adding that progress is bound to move at different speeds across the region.

In contrast to the economic "high performers," the report said 13 countries have averaged growth rates of only 1.3 percent.

Meanwhile, growth in Africa's oil-producing countries has been as high as 20.9 percent for Equatorial Guinea and as low as 1.7 percent for Gabon, the bank said.

The report said between 2000 and 2010 some $200 billion in oil revenues will accrue to African governments, while 2004 estimates of profits range from 9 percent of government revenue in Gabon to 56 percent in Equatorial Guinea.

Page said African countries had coped well with higher global energy prices compared to previous episodes of price increases.

"While many countries have sustained a hit, they have not really had the kind of growth deceleration that we saw in the past and it's a combination of favorable international circumstances (and) also much better economic management," Page said.

[UK] How a thief saw the light and helps poverty-stricken orphans

from IC Surrey

AN EX-CONVICT from Crawley has brought hope to poverty-stricken orphans in Africa after swapping crime for charity.

Gerry George,66, of Pound Hill, overcame a past life of offending and hardship to establish a Christian charity in Kiyindi, Uganda.

Mr George said: "I was once a gambler and a thief on a suicide course.

"But now I'm building an orphanage for 100 African children with my wife.I can't believe what we have already achieved."

Retired Mr George and his wife Rose,who sells kitchens,established their charity,Advance International Ministries,after first visiting Uganda in 1997.

Mr George said: "Kiyindi is a fishing village on the edge of beautiful Lake Victoria. It's a very deprived area."

"But our charity has built a school, a skills trading centre,and a medical unit with a maternity ward. More than 40 babies have been born there safely.We also have 10 orphans already living in the orphanage.

"The orphans' parents have commonly died from Aids.This is the scourge of Uganda.

"We found our first orphan, Derek, feeding himself from a rubbish dump at the age of six. He's sponsored now and doing well."

Mr George has reached out to Uganda's deprived children after enduring a childhood of deprivation.

He said: "I was one child of nine siblings born in the impoverished East End of London. I never received much love.Before long I was a rebel with an aggressive nature.I spent some time in borstal.

"I ended up a gambler and a thief.But I wasn't much good at breaking and entering. Before long I got caught and spent a year in jail.

"At the age of 44 I was back in a bookies when I stole money from the counter and ran. It didn't take the police half-an-hour to find me.

"I was told this time to expect a two-year stretch. I fell to my knees and asked God to save me.

"I received a chance visit from door-knocking Christians before I was sentenced. They said they would pray for me.I felt love for the first time.In the end I only received 30 hours' community service.Jesus had entered my life and he will always be with me."

Those who want to support Advance International Ministries should call 01293 424320 or visit www.advanceinternational.org.

[US] Local steps against global poverty

from The Houston Chonicle

National walk helps foundation fund projects in Africa and Asia


For many of the 8,000 people who participated in the Partnership Walk to end global poverty at the University of Houston on Sunday, the developing world once was home.

The crowd, along with others in Dallas, Atlanta, Chicago and Los Angeles, walked to raise awareness and money for the Aga Khan Foundation U.S.A., a nonprofit group that aims to alleviate poverty in Africa and Asia.

"The whole cause is close to me," said Feisal Kanja, a native of Kenya who traveled from San Antonio with his 5-year-old daughter, Imaan. "(We're) helping the really marginalized — they tend to get forgotten."

The foundation helps needy communities become self-sufficient by promoting education, improving health care and providing tools for economic empowerment. It has raised nearly $23 million for such projects during the past decade.

"We don't give money because giving money does not bring dignity to a person," said Mahmoud Eboo, a member of the group's committee. "You give them the means by which they can sustain themselves."

The strength of that approach was echoed by those who attended the event.

"They (Aga Khan Foundation) don't want to hand out. They want to be helping hands," explained one Pakistani couple from Beaumont who asked not to be named. Like many other participants, they attend the event every year to show support.

Before and after the walk, people of all ages and nationalities enjoyed live music, dancing and free food at the festival. Children chased each other around in the grass with paint on their faces.

Various state and local lawmakers attended, including U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Houston, who praised the foundation for delivering sewing machines to families in Pakistan displaced by a devastating earthquake last year.

Some of the group's other recent projects include rebuilding destroyed schools and training teachers in Afghanistan, teaching communities in India how to harvest rain water, and giving milk to students who show up for school in Tajikistan.

"People are looking for a way to give back to their communities," said Martha Sipple, a spokeswoman for the foundation. "This is another way of connecting."

[Canada] Poverty group urges increases in wages and benefits

from Yahoo News

NEW BRUNSWICK (CBC) - A New Brunswick poverty group wants the province to offer loans only to companies that pay substantially more than minimum wage and that set aside jobs for people coming off welfare.

The suggestions are part of the Common Front for Social Justice's action plan to reduce poverty in New Brunswick, which also includes a list of demands for the public and private sectors.

The plan calls for significant increases in social assistance rates and employment insurance benefits, and a raise in the minimum wage to $8.55 per hour, a rate the group says would keep people at about the poverty line.

Mary Ann Leblanc, the group's treasurer, says increasing the minimum wage would entice more people to work.

"Premier [Shawn] Graham is talking about making the province self-sufficient. Well, let's get people, individual people, families, to be better able to take care of themselves, [give them a] better income to be able to go into the community, to boost the economy, [and] maybe the province will start building up its self-sufficiency," she said.

Rita Fortin-Lee, a retired teacher and an anti-poverty activist, applauds the action plan and says there's no time to lose.

"People are living in parks, are living in rooms with five people together. They don't have money," she said. "Are we asking those people to keep on sleeping in parks and wait two or three years until the government is ready?"

The group's action plan also suggests compiling a list of businesses that pay wages less than $8.55 per hour, and encouraging people to boycott them.

[Ghana] Social Accountability And Poverty Reduction

from All Africa

Akua Adufa Aboagye

The Centre for Budget Advocacy (CBA) of the Integrated Social Development Centre (ISODEC), a Ghanaian Non-Governmental Research and Advocacy Organisation, has conducted a community assessment on Social Accountability and Poverty Reduction in five Pilot Districts.

Speaking at the launch, Mr. Vitus Azeem who is the Coordinator for CBA said the study was conducted in two parts but in the same areas - community assessment of poverty reduction interventions and service provision at the community level.

Mr. Azeem said the objective of the study was to enable communities to make assessment of poverty reduction interventions and service provision at the community level, and provide them the opportunity to interact with their service providers.

He said the study sought to verify whether resources allocated to vulnerable and excluded groups for poverty reduction expenditures actually get to them and how they are used.

Mr. Azeem said the study was conducted to get communities to evaluate service delivery, the implementation of the Growth and Poverty Reduction Strategy (GPRS) in selected districts. It was also to promote social and public accountability at the District Assembly level by empowering communities to hold public officials and service providers accountable for their work towards reducing poverty and improving the quality of the people.

He said the study made use of a combination of Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA) and Participatory Poverty Assessment (PPA) approaches, using the Community Score Card (CSC) as its main instrument.

He said the study found that service providers have recognized that service delivery area is an essential ingredient in meeting community needs.

He said the communities hold strong views about the quality implementation of projects and wished they were given the opportunity to query service providers on the quality of service delivery.

He said the communities recommended that projects should be demand-driven with periodic reviews of projects at project sites by community members and service providers. In addition, he said, there should be sensitization of communities, which should include specifying the roles expected of each group and the active involvement of community members at every stage of policy design and implementation.

The President of the Africa Institute of Journalism and Communication and a board member of the Public Agenda newspaper, Mr. Kojo Yankah, called on all those who are genuinely interested in seeing poverty reduced in Ghana not to impose projects on the communities as the people know what they need and therefore must be consulted.

He advised the media and other social agents to equip themselves with the demands of the people so they can help in sensitization exercises to bring the people closer to their needs.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

[Africa] Return to Africa: Haunted by poverty, writer travels to Sierra Leone to 'give back'

from The Miami Herald


Anatomy of a mid-life crisis.

You grow up a welfare kid in a bad part of town.

You study hard and go to college.

Your career climb is long and slow.

You keep working.

Then one day, a few decades gone, you look up and see that things have changed. You no longer drive a car that sprays gray smoke. You go out to dinner a few times a month. You buy books in hardback.

You have, as the commercial used to say, come a long way, baby. And yet . . .

You catch your own eye in the mirror sometimes, feel yourself convicted by the whisper of a still, small voice that is not impressed with you. That says there is more you could do, should do, need to do to earn your space on this ride. That reminds you that none of what you do in life matters if it accrues only to the benefit of you and yours.

You've got to do more. You are supposed to do more. You know this in the very pit of you. But you don't know what that more is. You ponder this question without answer for months turning to years. Then you go to Africa for the first time. It is the summer of 2004.


Writer, sons experience

'difference' of Africa

It is a dark and stormy night in the summer of 2006, and I am back in Africa for the first time in two years. Sierra Leone, to be exact. I have just survived customs and baggage claim and am now on my way into town. This requires a helicopter ride.

There's no sensation of leaving the ground as the copter rises from the airport, no sense of being in the air as it ferries us across Lungi Bay, no bump of returning to the ground as it sets down minutes later at the jetport in Freetown. You simply close the door on one night dark view and open it on another.

My traveling companions -- two of my sons -- and I collect our bags and get a ride from one of the drivers who crowd the jetport, jockeying aggressively for fares. Our bags are smashed into the back of a small, ancient hatchback. The hatch won't close. Our driver waves us into the car anyway.

We pile on top of each other. Marlon, 24, is concerned about the bags. He wants to know what will happen if they fall out. I tell him we'll stop, pick them up and put them back in.

You're in Africa, I say. Things are different here.

I have brought Marlon and his 32-year-old stepbrother Markise here in order that they might experience that difference. Two years ago when I got back from my first-ever journey to the mother continent, they and everybody else I knew kept asking the same questions: Did you have a good time? Did you have fun?

And I kept trying to tell people the terms did not apply. Those are questions you ask when someone gets back from Las Vegas or Honolulu. Going to Africa, at least the poor and ragged parts of it to which I have gone, is not fun. It is transfiguring. And saddening. And centering. You come back knowing you have heard a paean to the resilience of human soul.

Two years ago, I came seeking heritage. I had contracted with africanancestry.com, an online service that matches your DNA against a database of African tribes and nations to tell you where your ancestry traces to. The results came back showing that I am of the Songhay tribe of Niger on my mother's side, the Mende of Sierra Leone on my father's. I came here seeking to understand what that meant.

Spent a week and a half traversing the cities, villages and countryside of West Africa. Passed an afternoon in the Nigerien village of Tera watching the crowds go to market. Sat with the maimed at a Freetown camp for those who lost limbs in Sierra Leone's brutal civil war.

Everywhere, there was need. Need so immense it crushed you just to see. A woman in Niamey, Niger crawling across a floor, her limbs twisted by polio to angles that legs do not go. A man with no arms reaching out, begging, at the Freetown jetport. Children playing by open sewers filled with brackish gray water.

And then, there was this woman I met in Kroo Bay. That's a shantytown, a maze of corrugated metal shacks in Freetown, the capital city of one of poorest nations on earth. She was a ''petty trader,'' meaning that she sold little bags of rice and containers of palm oil from a table in front of her home. We spoke in the front ''room'' if you want it call it that -- a dark, unlit space not much wider or longer than the average sofa in the average American home.

Her name was Kadiatu Sesay. I have not been able to get her -- or what she told me -- out of my mind for two years. She is the main reason I have come back here to the other side of the world.


Americans don't care,

local people tell him

Summer, 2004.

You step out of the hired vehicle into Kroo Bay. Your driver calls you back, motions you to tuck your pendant inside your shirt. It is a modest cross on a modest chain and it surprises you to think anyone would consider it worth stealing. But you're in Africa. Things are different here. So you do as he says and then enter Kroo Bay, notebook and tape recorder at the ready.

One of the first people you try to talk to turns you down. His name is David and he is a handsome man with an attitude. He has no interest in doing an interview for an American newspaper because he doesn't believe it will amount to anything, doesn't believe you will do anything with what you learn except forget it the moment you return home.

You explain that the stories you write will tell Americans what it is like here. Americans don't understand, you say. You are here to paint the picture so your countrymen can help.

It is a weak answer. He lets you pass anyway.

You interview a man who worked as a janitor before the war. Now he has no work. Now he spends his afternoons sitting in Kroo Bay with his grandfather.

You interview a man who says he wants to be an artist. He shows you some of his work. His dream is to go the United States and make his fortune.

Then you ask Kadiatu Sesay if you might have a moment of her time. She agrees to talk with you about her life, but like David, she is wary of you.

She says people tell her Americans don't care about places like Kroo Bay. For Americans, they say, the wretchedness of a place like this is something to joke about once they are out of earshot.

``They take their pictures and laugh at them, you see? So now, I've given you my name. So I want you to take this deep into your heart.''

She drills you with her eyes. ``I want you people to help me, me and my children.''

She has four girls. Her dream is that they will go college, then escape overseas. ''Education comes first,'' she says. Her voice and accent are heavy.

As a petty trader, she earns the equivalent of $1.65 a day. Her husband makes roughly the same. ''In Sierra Leone now,'' she says, ``we, the women, we are the men. Because we can do more than our husbands can do, we the women. Now my husband have no job. So I am the husband and the wife.''

Her husband Ahmed is sitting right there. He doesn't speak. You feel sorry for him.

You ask her if she really believes people in America will laugh at her. ''That is what people are saying,'' she says. ' `When they go, they will just forget about us. They will not help us.' So now, we want to get them to help us. We need your help. It's very, very hard for us.''


Shantytown family:

can you find it?

Summer, 2006.

Morning dawns rainy gray. I get dressed, then spend a few minutes standing on the balcony of my room at the Hotel Kimbima, the West African equivalent of a luxury hotel. The carpet on the stairs is threadbare and the shower water iffy, but the food is good and from nearly every room the building offers majestic Atlantic views.

From my balcony, I can also see the skeleton of an unfinished building maybe four stories high. There are many such structures in Freetown, places where the money ran out before the building was done.

Families squat in those places, cooking over open fires. This morning, a little girl plays hopscotch under a ledge that shelters her from the rain.

I have a daughter a few years older, a pouty teenager who requires hours on the cellphone, frequent trips to the mall and tennis shoes in every style and shade in order to be minimally happy.

The little girl below me has no hopscotch grid, no one to play with. It doesn't seem to matter. She hops and skips in a dry, quiet place out of the rain.

The deluge has let up by the time we plunge into the city. It dawns on me, not the first time, what a task I've set myself here. I've spent thousands of dollars of this newspaper's money and thousands of dollars of my own, brought my sons to the other side of the world, all on a crazy bet that I can find one particular needle in this bustling haystack.

To go into Freetown is to be mugged by sights and sounds. There are no sidewalks. Open sewers are laid across with planks to bridge the gap between streets and doors. You pass block after block of tumble down shacks, stalls, shanties with corrugated metal roofs leaning wearily against one another. Crudely painted signs hawk the Club Zanzibar, the PlayStation 2 parlor. A billboard shows a couple -- the guy looks like Will Smith circa The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air -- hawking pineapple soda. You can't extend an arm in any direction without hitting someone. The streets seethe with people, girls walking about with trays of peanuts balanced on their heads, boys in western style tees and jeans, women, sharp in professional wear going to offices, boys and men darting in and out of traffic hawking biscuits, cell cards, candy bars, sticks of gum, anything. A blind albino walks through chaos with confidence and no cane, his step certain, his face a high beam of serendipity.

Fourah Bay College sits on a quiet hill overlooking all this. There, administrator David L. Coomber listens patiently as I describe my mission. I met a woman here two years ago, I say. I want to send her oldest daughter to college. When I'm done, he asks me a few questions.

Do I know the girl's name? I do not.

Do I know what her grades are? Sure don't.

Do I know if she's taken her placement tests yet? Beats me.

Do I know what she wants to study? No.

Do I know where she lives? In Kroo Bay. Somewhere.

He is nice enough not to laugh at me. Yes, he says, it is possible for a foreigner to sponsor a Freetown child at Fourah Bay. But first the foreigner must find the child in question.


$700 can change

a child's life

Summer, 2004.

Do you know how much it costs to send a child to college in Sierra Leone? A year's tuition at Fourah Bay College, founded in 1827 and considered one of the finer institutions in West Africa, costs about $700, give or take. A little more with books and living expenses.

Back at home, you keep staring at the page on the computer screen, keep doing and re-doing the math, trying to figure out what you've misread, how you've misfigured the exchange rate. Seven hundred dollars? Some of us spend more than that each year on going to dinner and buying hardback books. Surely that little bit cannot be all that separates a shantytown child from opportunity. Surely it can't be that easy to change -- maybe even save -- somebody's life.

Seven hundred dollars.

That number haunts you. You share it with audiences who've come to hear you speak. You share it with people who ask if you had fun in Africa. You share it with strangers. Seven hundred dollars.

Something else haunts you, too: Kadiatu Sesay pinning your eyes with hers. ``We need your help. It's very, very hard for us.''

You realize she was talking to Americans in general. ''You people,'' she said. But you find yourself taking it personally.

Women like her are a staple of newspaper and magazine stories about Africa. How many times have you read it, the woeful tale of some woman trying to survive on $3 a day? It's an existence you can't even imagine. After a moment, you stop trying because doing so only depresses you. So you turn the page. You move on. It's not like you can do anything about that woman's problems.

It is a conclusion that is only reinforced when you get to Africa and find nearly every hand is wanting. You draw up defensively. What do they think you can do? What to they expect? You cannot help everybody.

But -- it strikes you all at once -- maybe you can help one. Maybe, instead of being paralyzed by the immensity of the need, you break it down to a number you can deal with: One. So maybe you can just send this one woman's kid to school. How hard can that be?

Common sense keeps trying to talk you out of it. You don't know exactly where the family lives. Don't know if they have moved on since you met them. Don't know if they will have reasons of their own, reasons you can't begin to guess, for saying no. Can you really go back to the other side of the world on a maybe?


'The gall of me' --

and a rare opportunity

Summer, 2006.

We drive down into Kroo Bay searching for two landmarks: a road that takes a sharp turn and a tall, pink building that showed up in the background of some of the pictures taken two years ago. This is literally all we have to go on.

The streets are narrow. We nose slowly through crowds of people. They stare at us. We are exotic. An oddity.

We have been driving maybe five minutes when the road turns. Not as sharp a turn as I remember, but still . . .

I tell the driver to stop the car and I get out. Glancing up, I note that there's a pink building overlooking this valley of shanties. But otherwise, nothing looks right. Nothing feels right.

I draw a crowd just standing there trying to get my bearings. I do my best to ignore them.

The shack that sits where Kadiatu Sesay's shack would if this were the right place looks nothing like hers. False alarm. This isn't the place. Close, maybe, but not the place.

I'm ready to go, but the driver suggests I talk to the ''counselor,'' apparently the man in charge in this area. He is a tall, thin guy. I tell him I'm looking for a woman named Kadiatu Sesay. He doesn't know the name. I hold up a 2-year-old copy of the travel section of The Miami Herald with my story and her picture. He takes it, looks at it, walks away with it. I follow him to the shanty I passed on the way in, the one that sat where Sesay's would have sat but didn't resemble it.

And there she is.

She looks up in surprise to see me at her door, half of Kroo Bay behind me.

We sit together in the tiny room. A crowd of people presses at the door. She is smaller than I remember. She is pregnant. I ask if she remembers me. I remind her of what she said. I tell her that it stayed with me. I tell her I am going to send her daughter to college.

Through all of this, her face has that look of confusion, inability to take it all in, one sometimes sees with lottery winners. Except that after a few moments, lottery winners usually start whooping and cheering and celebrating like, well, they just won the lottery. Sesay does not. She barely smiles. She looks stunned. Overwhelmed.

A few hours later, we gather in Coomber's office. Me, Kadiatu and Ahmed Sesay, and their oldest daughter. And we get answers to the questions he asked me just the day before.

The girl's name? Fatmata (pronounced Fatima) Sesay. She is 15. Her grades are good. She hasn't taken her tests yet. She wants to be a nurse.

Coomber explains to her parents the deadlines she'll need to meet and the papers they must fill out. Then he begins to lecture Fatmata. He speaks sharply to her in Krio, the local dialect, and I am only able to make out a few words. But I get the gist of it.

I hear him tell her that she has been given a rare opportunity, but opportunity is fragile like glass, so she must safeguard it. I hear him tell her she must apply herself and continue getting good grades. I hear him warn her not to fall prey to the temptations that so often run young lives off the rails. And I hear him say that in the three years between now and when she is ready to begin school, he is going to be keeping an eye on her -- ''persecuting'' her -- to make sure she does well.

The poor child looks persecuted already. She looks as if she might cry, standing there at attention. Can you blame her? She woke up this morning and it was just another day and suddenly she's here in this office with her mother and father and this strange American looking on and a photographer taking pictures and this man she never met before threatening to persecute her.

She swallows hard and promises to do her best.

I feel sorry for her. I feel a lot of things, in fact, including remorse at the gall of me, playing God with the life of this child. But I feel good, too. Paradoxically, good.

I ask her to make me a promise. Twenty or 30 years from now, when you're able, I tell her, please find somebody you don't know and do something good for them. She says she will.

Each one reach one, reach one, teach one. That's what the pop slogan says.

Whoever saves one life saves the whole world. That's what it says in the Talmud and the Koran.

Outside, the photographer takes more pictures. At one point, Kadiatu Sesay stands next to me. She smiles. ''I am so happy,'' she says.

That's all she says, but it's worth an hour of lottery winner whooping and I know that I'll be hearing it for a long time. Her heavy voice, her accent flattening the ``a.''

So heppy.

In a few days, I will buy stamps at the Freetown post office and give them to Fatmata with the instruction to stay in touch with me. Coomber promises that he will be in communication as well. But for now, we say our goodbyes there on the hill overlooking the city. The taxi bearing the Sesay family follows us down. At the bottom, our car turns, my sons and I returning to the West African equivalent of a luxury hotel. The Sesays continue straight, heading for Kroo Bay. Filthy, crowded Kroo Bay. But three years from now, I remind myself, Fatmata Sesay will leave that place, will climb back up this hill to begin her studies.

There is chatter in the car, but I pay little attention. I am somewhere else. The still, small voice that brought me here is quiet, but I know I'll hear it again. I'll always hear it, I think -- periodically, inconveniently, nudging me. And I think that's a good thing.

But now I hear nothing, feel nothing except a rare contentment, an unusual sense of being, for once in life, at peace. With everything.

The sun is high. The streets are crowded. We nose through traffic in the land of my fathers.

I am so heppy.

[Fiji] Diplomat underlines Fiji's poverty plight

from Fiji Live

Rising poverty is a major challenge facing Fiji with more than 250,000 people living in hardship, Fiji's ambassador to the United States Jesoni Vitusagavulu said.

Speaking as guest speaker at the Rotary Club of Hagerstown in Maryland, close to Washington DC, Vitusagavulu said the Fiji Government and service organisations like Rotary were working hard to eradicate the problem.

This he said may shatter the image of Fiji in their minds - a tropical South Pacific paradise where life is largely blissful.

"We have that happy side but we also have an ugly side - rising poverty," he said.

Vitusagavulu said the Fiji Government was grateful for the work service organisations like Rotary were doing to alleviate the hardship and supplement government's efforts.

"We have 13 Rotary clubs in Fiji which are doing a good job in reducing hardships faced by many people in Fiji," he said.

The Fiji Government, he said, believes that the most effective way to eradicate poverty was to greatly grow the economy.

"Government's attention is focused on expanding the economy to eradicate poverty. An expanding economy creates much-needed income opportunities for those who are poor due to unemployment and raises overall income levels," Vitusagavulu said.

Vitusagavulu said earnings from tourism, remittances and from new industries like movie production, call centres and data processing centres were helping to cushion the reduction in exports.

"However they are not sufficient to offset the impact on the economy of a major contraction in exports that we are experiencing," he said.

Vitusagavulu added that Fiji's overseas missions were putting greater emphasis on economic diplomacy and to seek ways of finding new access for Fiji's exports to tackle this problem.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

[Niger] Extreme Poverty in Niger

from The Progress Report

by Frederic Mousseau and Anuradha Mittal

In the summer of 2005, the world rocked to Live Aid concerts, and the Make Poverty History Movement celebrated developed countries' fresh commitments toward the International Development Goals (IDG), development assistance, and debt cancellation at the G8 summit in Gleneagles.

Some three thousands miles south of this euphoria, a nation witnessed thousands of its children die of hunger. This was summer 2005 in Niger, the poorest country in the world.

Niger is a land-locked country in Central West Africa. With an estimated 2005 population of 12.4 million largely concentrated in a narrow band of arable land along its southern border, Niger transitioned to a democratically elected government in 1999, following almost a decade of political instability. Rural subsistence agriculture, livestock, uranium-mining, and informal trading activities dominate Niger's economy. Rainfed agriculture contributed 40% to Niger's GDP in 2005, while livestock production accounts for about one-third of the country's value-added sector.

A vast but poor country, Niger ranked last out of 177 countries on the UN Development Program's Human Development Index in 2005. Sixty-three percent of Niger's population lives on less than a dollar a day, and the per capita gross domestic product (GDP) was $280 in 2005. Social indicators are low: the infant mortality rate is 151.8 per 1,000, life expectancy is 44.7 years, and the literacy rate is 17%. Even when harvests are good, a shocking 40% of children -- one million -- suffer from chronic malnutrition, and Niger's under-five mortality rate is the second highest in the world. A September 2005 nutritional survey conducted by UNICEF, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, and the government of Niger confirmed that 15.3% of children under five years of age suffer from acute malnutrition.

Niger's poverty and widespread hunger hit the world news in 2005 with the terrible food crisis that affected millions of people and led to widespread child malnutrition. Between January and October 2005, relief organizations treated some 230,000 children under the age of five, including 60,000 who were severely malnourished—surpassing past records of relief intervention. Despite this large-scale effort, thousands of children died of hunger-related causes.

Roots of the Problem

The 2005 food crisis in Niger has been blamed on locust invasion and drought. Yet Niger did not face an exceptional drop in production in the 2004–2005 agricultural year. Production at the end of 2004 was only 7.5% below the national food requirement. In fact, the 2005 crisis cannot be singled out as an isolated episode in Niger's history, as the country faces a chronic nutritional emergency.

According to Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), an independent international medical humanitarian organization that delivers emergency aid, malnutrition remains pervasive even in years of bountiful harvests (such as 2001 and 2003) and is most prevalent in the Maradi region, which has been nicknamed the breadbasket of Niger. Acute malnutrition is rampant in Niger and admission to feeding programs in the Maradi region have been increasing year after year, with peak admissions between June and September—just before the harvest. In July 2006, MSF reported that they treated 10,000 to 20,000 children annually in the Maradi region in 2004, but during the first quarter of 2006 they provided treatment to more than 26,000 children suffering from acute malnutrition.

Niger is not alone. UN aid workers estimate West Africa is among the most dangerous places for children, with an estimated 300,000 children under the age of five facing the risk of death from malnutrition every year in the Sahel -- which includes Senegal, Mauritania, Mali, Niger, Chad, and Burkina Faso.

A key reason for the persistent hunger in Niger and elsewhere has been the impact of so-called free market economic reforms. In Niger, the government removed critical regulations on the grains market, which led to large seasonal fluctuation in prices. High food prices in turn not only made food inaccessible but diverted family income away from health and education expenditures. Farmers growing cash crops, farm workers, and small-scale farmers who are unable to produce enough food to cover the full extent of their food needs have been the most adversely affected by the high food prices. In addition to the problem of inflation, Niger exported food at a time of food deficits.

Telling Example

Niger's story is one of entrenched and deepening poverty. Relying on the market to solve food shortages has only left the poorest people hungrier and driven more of the population into chronic poverty. Development policies that promoted economic liberalization and encouraged regional integration along with specialization, commercialization of agriculture, and the withdrawal of the state from regulating the market have left Niger less able to meet its own needs than ever. The monopoly power of large traders over the national grains trade has centralized control over food access, and global economic factors, such as rising cereal prices and fluctuating currency prices, have destabilized regional markets.

If solutions are to be found to Niger's chronic food shortage, political will and international commitment will be necessary, as well as a shift away from the so-called free market ideology that has been a key factor in the country's descent. Alternative agricultural development models such as agro-forestry have been shown to yield profound and lasting improvements in food security, but they require a long-term and systemic view of development that is not characteristic of how the international community approaches the fight against hunger. Small-scale farmers are those primarily affected by hunger and should be at the center of development policies.

The 2005 food crisis in Niger is a telling example of how emergency aid is an inadequate -- and yet essential -- component of development policy when food security is left solely to market forces. The global community must choose between continuously shoring up the faltering economies of countries such as Niger or making an effort to find solutions that will allow the world's poorest country to forever shake off that title.


Various solutions to Niger's food insecurity have been proposed in the aftermath of the 2005 crisis. Some suggest that better early warning systems are the key to timely management of food shortages, but early warning systems in fact did forecast Niger's crisis in 2005. Instead, others propose that some form of government-led market regulation as well as a boost and a re-orientation of development programs are the only systemic ways to address Niger's chronic poverty and food insecurity.

A new report from the Oakland Institute, Sahel: A Prisoner of Starvation? makes the following recommendations:

Promote the consumption and production of local crops raised by small, sustainable farms and through the protection and development of agro-forestry—rather than rely on the production of cash crops for export and imported food.

Encourage the Niger government and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to rapidly put in place market regulation mechanisms that support and protect West African farmers.

Provide the Niger government with sufficient budgetary capacity to maintain national reserves to be used in times of food shortages.

Create a Marshall Plan for Africa that includes unconditional 100% debt relief and a considerable boost in foreign aid in order to durably address the problem of hunger in the continent.
For the full report on Niger's food crisis, Sahel: A Prisoner of Starvation? visit the Oakland Institute's website.


Frederic Mousseau, a senior fellow at the Oakland Institute, is a food security consultant who works with international relief agences including Doctors Without Borders, Action Contre La Faim, and Oxfam International. Anuradha Mittal, the executive director of the Oakland Institute, is an internationally renowned expert on trade, agriculture, development, and human rights issues.

Friday, October 27, 2006

[Ohio] Poverty discussion captures attention of students

from The Mansfield News Journal

MANSFIELD -- Poverty, and its various forms, was the topic of six Richland County speakers gathered Thursday in the Student Union at The Ohio State University-Mansfield.

When Vicki Kane, director of Harmony House, spoke on homelessness, the subject hit home for one former OSU student. Hank Osborne, who recently graduated from the campus, said he experienced homelessness firsthand in the 1980s.

"(Vicki) says people who are homeless have a history, and that's right," said Osborne, 53, of Mansfield, "I was born in a welfare family ... and we were homeless for a time, and then I found myself homeless as well. It's not unusual for it to happen this way."

Don Mitchell, executive director of the Fair Housing Commission and Community Development, said most people, students included, are two paychecks from poverty.

"Most people tend to ignore poverty," Mitchell said. "Because if they don't pay attention to it, then it's not there."

Mitchell told students Richland County has some of the best resources for food, yet numerous people go hungry or don't get balanced diets. He said government should combat rising poverty by raising the minimum wage.

Veronna Drane, of Habitat for Humanity, said hundreds of families apply for housing assistance each year, but few make the cut.

"(Habitat for Humanity) works with volunteers to build houses with families who qualify," Kane said. "It's important to realize we're also not giving these houses away."

The final speaker, Dan Dickman, of Job and Family Services, told students issues of poverty could affect any of them at any minute.

"How we choose to take care of each other is going to make a major impact on our future because we live in a global society," Dickman said.

He said students can start determining their future by voting on Nov. 7.

"I think the speakers helped to dispel stereotypes of the poor and raised of a lot awareness," said Dean Evelyn Freeman.

"This forum was excellent in terms of informing the community," Osborne said. "You constantly need to bring these issues to the people because if you don't, they'll forget and ignore it."

Thursday, October 26, 2006

[US] For the lowest-income workers, a slide into poverty

from The Northwest Pennsylvania Business Journal

By: Dave Gardner

Stress on low-income families is being compounded by ongoing earnings stagnation, and rising costs for the essentials of life.

The Keystone Research Center (KRC) reports that poverty is on the rise. According to KRC, in the last five years, poverty in Pennsylvania has increased by approximately 25 percent and almost one out of every six Pennsylvania families is poverty stricken.
KRC reports that falling earnings have played a role in the poverty growth, and that Pennsylvania's lowest paid workers have lost ground with wages for the third straight year.

The spread of poverty is not limited to Pennsylvania. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 37 million Americans live below the poverty line. This is four million more than during the 2001 recession.

Stagnant earnings have become a fact of life for many Americans. The current median annual income is essentially unchanged from its 2001 totals, and more than 46 million Americans are without health insurance. This total is rising.

The percentage of households making more than $100,000 a year has also grown along with the poverty levels. In 2005, 17.2 percent of households earned six-figure incomes, while in 1990 only 12 percent made the inflation-adjusted equivalent.

Varying definitions

Jim Calderone, Ph.D., dean of the College of Professional Studies and Social Science at College Misericordia, explains that there are many different ways to define poverty. He says the official federal definition involves a family of four with an annual income not exceeding $19,350.

Dr. Calderone states that the gap is growing between the "haves" and "have-nots" in America. He says Pennsylvania is one of seven states with growing poverty.
While the national rate for overall poverty is 12 percent, statistics for northeastern Pennsylvania (NEPA) indicate that poverty around the region is somewhat uniform. In Luzerne County, 11 percent of the residents live in poverty, with Lackawanna County at 10.6 percent and Wyoming at 10.2 percent.

"It's vital to understand this does not include people in near-poverty or the working poor," says Dr. Calderone. "It's also a fact that rural or suburban poverty can be invisible."

Dr. Calderone says there are numerous implications if a family works and the resultant wages are not meeting their needs. These include illness, the acceptance of risky jobs and family members who are more likely to use a hospital emergency room in place of a family physician.

Poor prenatal care is also a long-term healthcare implication that is kindled by poverty. Other negative consequences of poverty include single households with poor working mothers who endure sub-standard housing. Parental fatigue and inattention can also create long-term probelms.

"Poverty saps hope, and cuts across all color lines," says Dr. Calderone. "A sense of not being able to get ahead takes place, along with a feeling that there is no seat at the table for them."

Negative trends

Dr. Calderone says, as society feels financially squeezed, it tends to increase bigotry and the "blame game" sets in. He says immigrants are being blamed for job losses, and this sense of victimization can translate into negative actions.
"College could also become only for the elite if costs continue to mount," says Dr. Calderone. "These are all ripples to poverty."

If the cost of living continues to increase for essentials such as energy and healthcare, and the ongoing earnings squeeze grows, Dr. Calderone believes a dangerous situation will intensify and the resultant blame game will result in a demand for quick fixes.

"It's very dangerous for us to start believing tomorrow won't be better," says Dr. Calderone. "Pessimism breeds an 'us versus them' mentality."

Bill George, president of the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO, says that the ongoing earnings stagnation, coupled with huge cost increases for essential items such as energy and healthcare have been very hard on virtually all Americans but have been exceptionally tough on low-income families.

"There also have been legislative changes that increase a utility company's right to shut off service due to an inability to pay," says George. "I fear that if we have a harsh winter, human suffering and death will result."

Wilkes University's Jeff Alves, Ph.D., describes poverty as a motivational problem. "This is a societal issue," says Dr. Alves. "We must be better at using people's individual value to promote them. Satisfaction is the key. A downward spiral occurs when we have nothing to look forward to."

Working poor

Monsignor Joseph Kelly of Catholic Social Services comments that, by the end of September, his organization's Scranton office had already distributed the same amount of rent assistance as in all of 2005. He agrees that the middle class is under financial assault, and that many struggling people have been coming to his organization for help.

"I'm sorry to say Catholic Social Services is out of money for 2006," says Kelly. "Fuel and rent costs are absolutely hurting people. I'm thrilled to see the housing growth in NEPA, but now there is no real low-rent housing available. Out-of-pocket healthcare costs also are hurting."

Kelly says his various charity shelters have been filled to capacity all summer long, and that this is the first time this has happened at Scranton's St. Anthony's Haven in 17 years. One local soup kitchen is serving more than 400 meals daily, and 20 percent of the people being fed are 20 to 25 years of age.

"Many people arrive in work clothes and come from jobs for a meal just to make ends meet," says Kelly. "They are simply being squeezed by food, utilities, rent, stagnant wages and disappearing benefit packages. These are the working poor."

Joan Rogan, executive director with Family Services of Lackawanna County, says her organization is witnessing tighter family budgets putting stress on families.
Rogan notes that some regional wage earners are working two or three jobs, and are away from the home from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. This places great stress on families with children.

"I don't know how some of these people are doing it," says Rogan. "If professionals are feeling the budget pinch, imagine how it is for those with lower income."
An ominous problem identified by Rogan is how the loss of health insurance or rising co-payments can result in medication not being taken as prescribed. This is particularly grim and can be dangerous for users of psychotropic drugs that treat mental health disorders.

In the event the current earning's gap continues to widen, creating more and more disparity between the "haves" and the "have-nots," Rogan issues a troubling forecast. She envisions a future with more incentives for the working poor to simply use assistance programs, along with a society plagued by more violence.

"There also may be more and more lashing out at minorities at a time when the overall country is becoming more diverse," adds Rogan. "When hopelessness and helplessness develop, emotions run wild and people make bad decisions."

[Kenya] Poverty Fuelling Crime, Says Police Chief

from All Africa

The East African Standard (Nairobi)

Cyrus Ombati

Despite a general decline in crime, unemployment continues to feed criminal gangs with new recruits, Police Commissioner Maj-Gen Hussein Ali has said.

Ali cited joblessness and poverty as the main obstacles to the fight against insecurity.

"What you see in the society is as a result of joblessness and poverty, but we are trying to deal with it," he said on Wednesday.

He denied claims that crime was on the rise, but did not give figures to back his assertion.

"Those are mere speculations because as far as I am concerned we are on top of things," he said.

He cited the skirmishes in Kuresoi, Laikipia, hawkers in Nairobi and cattle rustling in Marsabit as some of the incidents the force is addressing.

Ali spoke while opening a seminar for Provincial Police Officers and commanders at the CID Training School, Nairobi. He said the Government is equipping the Police Department to enable the officers to serve the public better.

He at the same time denied reports that the suspension of Criminal Investigations Department Director, Mr Joseph Kamau, had affected operations.

The police chief denied that the suspension had caused divisions in the force. The seminar is meant to equip senior officers with crime and financial management skills.

Ali said the officers would be attending such meetings regularly.

"This will enable us know what to do, when and how. We will ensure that the officers are conversant with latest methods of addressing issues in the society," he added.

[Make Poverty History] Stars campaign against poverty in ad

from ITV

Matt Damon and George Clooney are just two of Hollywood's finest actors to star in a new advert to support Make Poverty History.

Damon and Clooney are joined by Julia Roberts, Don Cheadle, George's journalist father Nick Clooney, country singer Toby Keith and former Desperate Housewives star Alfre Woodard, among others.

Matt Damon narrates the advert which urges its viewers to help fight extreme poverty and global Aids as part of the ONE campaign.

It also calls for US congress to increase humanitarian aid by one per cent of the federal budget.

In the ad, Damon explains taking action will mean a better, safer world for all.

He said: "The fact that a kid is dying every 15 seconds because they don't have access to clean water and sanitation is disgusting and it's unnecessary."

Damon added: "There are solutions that can be implemented if we just do it. It's pennies, it's like that old saying 'An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure'."

ONE is a coalition of over 2.4 million people and 100 of the nation's top relief, humanitarian and advocacy organisations.

[India] Poverty-free India in 20 years: PM

from IBN

Mahbubnagar (Andhra Pradesh): Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Thursday asserted that poverty, illiteracy and unemployment would be eradicated from the country in 10 to 20 years.

Speaking at a public meeting after laying the foundation stone for the four-lane of the stretch of Nagpur-Hyderabad and Hyderabad-Bangalore section on North-South Corridor at Kothakota in this district, Dr Singh said, India was developing at a rapid pace.

''A growth rate of eight to nine per cent, which was not considered feasible a few years ago, was not only possible now but we can hope to grow further at ten per cent in the near future,'' he said.

''With such rapid growth, it is our expectation that in ten to 20 years, we will remove poverty and other social problems from the country'', Dr Singh added.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

[UK] Don't let us rot in poverty - OAPs

from Yahoo UK News

Pensioners from around the country have demanded that they not be left "to rot in poverty".

One thousand gathered to lobby Parliament to increase the basic state pension.

Many were dressed as skeletons to underline the fact that half a million pensioners die every year, and that three million will miss out on Government plans to link the payment to earnings in 2012.

Ministers announced earlier this year that they would restore the link, abolished under Margaret Thatcher in 1980, as part of widespread reform to the pensions system.

But campaigners on Wednesday poured scorn on the idea that introducing the link immediately was unaffordable.

They loudly cheered speakers at a meeting in Westminster who compared the lack of spending on the elderly with the billions used for defence.

One of the protestors, Jay Ginn, 67, of Coulsdon, Surrey, said: "I think it is time the government took notice of pensioners.

"They have increased money for the NHS, which is great, and for education, but the one big thing they haven't done is increased money for pensioners. In fact they have effectively reduced it.

"There are people here who fought in the war, who built this country up to what it is.

"They have worked hard all their lives building the country and now we are just left to rot in poverty. We are very angry about it."

Monday, October 23, 2006

[Canada] Anti-poverty squat a 'last resort'

from The CBC

Vancouver homeless activists have taken over an abandoned hotel in the city's Downtown Eastside as part of their campaign for more social housing.

The Anti-Poverty Committee, which organized the squat, staged a rally of about 100 people outside the former North Star hotel on Sunday afternoon but allowed only eight in to occupy the building in a bid to avoid a confrontation with police.

Half a dozen police officers watched from across the street, but did not make any moves to stop the occupation.

"We are not going into the building until we contact the owner or until there is perhaps a health and safety issue," Vancouver police spokesman Const. Tim Fanning said.

The action came after Vancouver city council's decision last week to defer a vote on a proposed moratorium on the conversion of single-room residential hotels.

Anti-Poverty Committee spokesman David Cunningham said the occupation is the only way to get the attention of politicians.

Everybody has exhausted the legal obligation that one needs to undergo to demand social housing. Push has come to shove. We need to occupy these buildings because we feel that's the last resort that poor people have."

Cunningham said his group wants city council to convert the building to social housing, and find "decent housing" for the homeless until the hotel conversion is completed.

The Anti-Poverty Committee also organized the Woodwards squat in the Downtown Eastside in 2002. That protest lasted three months.

[US] Half of NYC children born in poverty

from Frost Illustrated

By Saeed Shabazz Special to the NNPA from the Final Call

NEW YORK (NNPA)-The Mayor's Commission for Economic Opportunity has stated that 50 percent of the children born in New York City are born in poverty. This translates into more than 300,000 children in the city not having health insurance. New York City's billionaire mayor, Michael Bloomberg, said the local government must provide health insurance for those children who are uninsured.

"We need to look at things like enrolling children in health insurance at the time they're born and enrolling parents," writes Donna Lawrence, executive director of the Children's Defense Fund-NY, in an article that appeared in the Gotham Gazette on Sept. 25.

Addressing the mayor's commissioned report on poverty, Lawrence stated: "As a blueprint, it's great. The fact that the mayor has done this and is taking leadership is a good signal."

Lawrence's lament, however, was that the mayor did not go into any detail on how he will get the uninsured children insured.

New York City is not the only locality struggling with this issue and politicians are not the only ones dealing with the issue of the uninsured. But, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, in recent years states have stepped in, passing incremental reforms trying to fill the coverage gaps.

"Much of what passes for wisdom about the uninsured in policy circles is not founded on strong theory, writes Catherine McLaughlin in the book "Health Policy and the Uninsured." She noted the tension between academics and policymakers.

"Social scientists will always look for better answers, whereas policymakers want the best available answers. Social scientists can wait; policymakers cannot."

Nationally, the poverty rate for children under age 18 in 2005 (17.6 percent) remained higher than that of 18 to 64-year-olds (11.1 percent) and that of people 65 and older (10.1 percent), according to a U.S. Census Bureau report that was issued in August.

The report also shows that the number of uninsured children increased nationally between 2004 and 2005, from 10.8 percent to 11.2 percent (7.9 million to 8.3 million respectively). Black children comprise an estimated 12.5 percent of those not insured nationally.

"With an uninsured rate at 19.0 percent in 2005, children in poverty were more likely to be uninsured than all children," the census report stated.

The U.S. Office of Management and Budget, using the Consumer Price Index, states that the average poverty threshold for a family of four in 2005 was $19,971; for a family of three, $15,577; for a family of two, $12,755.

In the Census Bureau's "Income, Poverty and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2005" report, real median income rose in the U.S. by 1.1 percent between 2004 and 2005 at $46,326. Black households had the lowest median income in 2005 ($30,858). Asians had the highest median income ($61,094); white households at $50,784, with Latino households at $35,967. The three-year average for Native Americans and Alaska Native households was $35,967, according to the current Census Population Survey (CPS).

The percentage of people without health insurance coverage rose from 15.6 percent to 15.9 percent (46.6 million people). Blacks comprised 19.6 percent (7.2 million) of those uninsured. For Latinos, the numbers increased from 2004 to 2005, from 13.5 million to 14.1 million (or 32.7 percent). Whites who are uninsured remained statistically unchanged from 2004 to 2005 at 11.3 percent, or 22.1 million. For Asians during that same period, the uninsured rate increased to 2.3 million, up from two million, or a percentage increase from 16.5 percent to 17.9 percent. The three-year average for Native Americans and Alaska Natives without health insurance was 29.9 percent.

"The health care safety net- that is, state and federal government sponsored programs intended to "catch" people unable to access services in the private market- is being increasingly strained," according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

In 2006, Massachusetts and Vermont passed legislation to ensure that all state residents have health insurance; Chapter 58 of the Acts of 2006 promises that every person in the Commonwealth will have health care access by 2009.

While the legislative trend in the states is to fill the gaps public and private systems leave behind, some states are still considering a single-payer, universal health insurance system that would cover every citizen within their borders. San Francisco passed the Health Access Plan which is aimed at covering 82,000 city residents. So far in 2006, eight states have been considering universal health care bills. Seven states have commissioned studies to look at the possibility of such a system.

"Every state wrestles with the impact that rising healthcare costs and numbers of uninsured have on the economy and budget," writes Nina Owcharenko, senior policy analyst for the conservative Heritage Foundation's Health Care division and Robert Moffit, director of the Center for Health also at the Heritage Foundation.

"Nonetheless, every state has its own healthcare delivery system that operates in a unique political, cultural, legal and regulatory climate. The process illustrates that states, regardless of their differing characteristics, can tackle the difficult healthcare issues."

Sunday, October 22, 2006

[UK] 'Radical rethink' on child poverty in Wales

from E Politix

The Welsh Assembly Government has promised a "radical re-think of policy" in order to achieve its goal of ending child poverty by 2020.

Deputy minister for social justice and regeneration Huw Lewis unveiled an ambitious set of interim targets for poverty reduction on Monday.

At present one in four children in Wales are described as living in poverty - in a home where the income is below 60 per cent of the median income for similar households.

Ministers hope to cut that figure from its current level of 28 per cent to 17 per cent by 2010/11, and by 2020 to have matched the lowest child poverty rate in Europe.

To do this it has proposed a range of measures - including helping 14,000 lone parents into employment by 2016 - which it is estimated would take 20,000 children out of poverty.

Launching the new targets, Lewis said: "Nothing can be more important than eradicating child poverty.

"It is central to all of the Welsh Assembly Government's priorities and impacts on every portfolio.

"Although we have made good progress and seen a 21 per cent reduction since 1999, it is clear that to achieve our 2020 goal we need a radical re-think of policy across the assembly government."

He added that the targets and milestones "will be subject to change, depending on their usefulness", but insisted the overall aim "will remain as one of the most important goals we have ever set".

Friday, October 20, 2006

[European Aid] SA to get euros to help fight poverty

from I Africa

The executive arm of the European Union — the European Commission (EC) — is in the process of approving more than R1 billion a year to fight poverty in South Africa over the next seven years.

A joint press release issued by the government and the EC on Thursday said that an amount similar to the R5-billion allocated for the past three years was being finalised for the period 2007 to 2013.

This week, an EC delegation reviewed the European Programme for Reconstruction and Development (EPRD) in South Africa.

"The programme, made up of EC grants in excess of R1-billion annually, is the largest programme of its kind in South Africa," said EC delegation spokesperson Frank Oberholzer.

"It is complemented by a similar amount available in European Investment Bank loans for infrastructure and industrial development."

The government and the EC said the EPRD mid-term review, completed earlier this year, would be an important item on the agenda of the ministerial level Joint Co-operation Council meeting scheduled for November, in Brussels.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

[California] More L.A. County Children Live in Poverty

from The L A Times

Nearly three-quarters of the families with children are struggling, says a new report. Home prices are a big factor.
By Susannah Rosenblatt
Times Staff Writer

Reversing a longtime downward trend, child poverty is on the rise across Los Angeles County as housing costs spiral out of reach for working-class families, according to a report to be released today.

An estimated three-quarters of the county's more than 1.2 million households with children struggle economically, according to this year's Children's ScoreCard, released every two years by the Los Angeles County Children's Planning Council. The cost of living has spiked more than 40% since 1999, as the county's median wage inched up to $15.28 last year.

Many parents are forced to live in less safe but more affordable neighborhoods, jam several families into a single residence or work several jobs to pay the rent. Just 14% of county households could afford to buy a home in 2005, compared with 50% nationwide. And while 11% of Westside rental units are overcrowded, two-thirds of rentals in Bell Gardens, South El Monte and Lennox were packed with too many residents. As a result, children suffer as they grow up in low-income households.

"We've set it up for these kids to fail," said Yolie Flores Aguilar, chief executive officer of the council.

The study tracks recent statistics that offer a sketch of the county's families.

Underscoring long-standing geographic disparities, data show that children in the dense urban neighborhoods of Central and South Los Angeles continue to live in the toughest economic conditions while Westside families enjoy relative prosperity.

Yet family incomes are suffering countywide; the study "lays bare the reality that poverty is afflicting every geographic community of Los Angeles," said Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, chairman of the council.

Latino and African American children still lag behind whites and Asians in health and education indicators.

African American children are more likely to be born underweight or with asthma, or to be arrested, than peers of other ethnicities. More Latino children come from low-income families than other groups, have the least-educated parents and are the worst-prepared for college. Asian youngsters perform the best in education measures, while white children fare better economically.

"There's a strong correlation between race and how well kids are doing across the county," Flores Aguilar said. She emphasized the "ripple effects" of poverty, which can undermine a child's health, performance at school and eventual success as an adult.

Although more children than ever — 92% — are insured, the number of underweight babies has been climbing since 2000, the report said.

Violent crime as well as child abuse and neglect are down since 2000, but juvenile felony arrests and youth homicides increased after years of decline.

And while the percent of fully credentialed teachers rose by nearly a fifth since 2000, high school graduation rates have been slipping.

While the number of computers being placed in public schools has jumped 72% in four years, the number of library books checked out by children and teens is falling.

For the first time, the study incorporated the comments of residents from 64 community forums.

Residents' observations showed, "It is getting increasingly difficult to raise children in Los Angeles," said Jacquelyn McCroskey, a USC professor of social work who helped compile the statistics.

[South Africa] Government blames commercial farmers for poverty

from Independent On Line

South Africa has a food surplus, yet 14 million people face poverty daily. Government has laid the blame for this at the door of commercial farmers, as attention is focused on addressing global poverty through World Food Day today.

It is estimated that 850 million people around the world are poverty stricken. The majority are in Africa, with sub-Sahara accounting for about 200 million people.

As the major economic powerhouse on the continent, South Africa produces enough food to feed the region. Despite this, an estimated 14 million people live in poverty.

"Those that produce food are more interested in profit and to be able to make money, they export the food because they believe they will make more money out of that. So the majority of people who need the food cannot afford it,” said Lulu Xingwana, the agriculture and land affairs minister.

KwaZulu-Natal gets R107 million from Flemish government
The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the UN says South Africa is on course to meet its Millenium Development Goals of halving poverty by 2015. The same cannot be said of much of Africa which is lagging behind its targets.

"The food production per capita has been declining. That's a worrying thing, but the solution to that is for sub-Saharan Africa to increase food production," said George Mburathi of the FAO.

Mburathi says African governments need to increase their investments in agriculture. The KwaZulu-Natal provincial government, for instance, has been given R107 million by the Flemish government.

"In essence, this money is used in many ways but essentially we try to develop our emerging farmers," Gabriel Ndabandaba, the KwaZulu-Natal MEC for agriculture and environmental affairs.

Government is encouraged by its efforts in assisting in the development of emerging farmers, but concern remains about the priorities of commercial farmers.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

[Botswana] Anti-Poverty Measures Worry Experts

from All Africa

Mmegi/The Reporter (Gaborone)

Tuduetso Setsiba

Professor Happy Siphambe of the University of Botswana (UB) Economics Department has warned that poverty would still exist in Botswana by 2016 if certain things are not done. Speaking at the breakfast meeting that marked the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty yesterday, the UB don called on the government to come up with policies that will protect the poor from exploitation.

Botswana has set a number of targets, among them poverty eradication, to be achieved in 2016 but the UB don has serious reservations about whether this will be possible. "If we continue to do things the way we do, we would not achieve the goals that we have set for ourselves. If we do, it would be after the time that we have set," said Siphambe.

He asserted that empowerment programmes should be established so that people could benefit fully from the schemes that the government has set up. He explained that government schemes like Citizen Entrepreneurial Development Agency (CEDA) would not benefit the people if government does not know what they want to achieve with the scheme.

He said that contradictory government policies should be done away with like the re-introduction of school fees. He said the fees contradicted government's promise to empower children through provision of education. He called on government to channel resources to areas that have high incidents of poverty.

Dr Tebogo Seleka from the Botswana Institute for Development Policy Analysis (BIDPA) said increasing inequality between the poor and the rich have accompanied high economic growth in Botswana. He said that economic growth has benefited the non-poor and that people in rural areas bore the brunt of poverty compared to urban dwellers. He revealed that studies have indicated that individuals residing in female-headed households are more likely to be poor and poverty is usually high among children. "This is because poor households often have more children," he said.

Seleka questioned whether the government rations' scheme is sustainable although malnutrition is on the decline. He expressed fear that the situation might reverse once the government feeding programmes stop.

He feels that diversification into other sectors has been slow despite the substantial government outlays in programmes such as FAP, CEDA, ARAP. He said the programmes have not made a significant mark at the national level despite the massive amounts of money pumped into them. The slow creation of jobs has resulted in high unemployment among the youth. Statistics indicate that in 2001, the unemployment rate among the youth was 41 percent compared to the overall unemployment rate of 19 percent. "While efforts have been made to assist the youth invest in agricultural projects, there is need to deal with the issues of access to suitable resources for agriculture such as land," Seleka said.

To address the problem, he suggested that focus should be placed on developing vibrant Small and Medium Enterprises (SME) to reach the poor. He said restrictions in the informal sector should be reduced, as it is the area with many poor people. He said inequalities on asset ownership should be addressed and that the poor should be represented in policy making and performance monitoring.

The institutional and social barriers such as discrimination on the basis of gender, ethnicity, religion and social status has to be removed, he said.

According to Vision 2016, by the year 2016, Botswana will be a compassionate and caring nation.

Income will be distributed equitably. Poverty will have been eradicated and there will be an efficient social safety net for those who suffer misfortune.