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According to UN statistics there are
approximately 1.3 billion people living on less than US$1 per day
and everyday approximately 25,000 people die of hunger or hunger
related causes – that is 1 person every 3½ hours. In
1984 the EU defined poverty as the situation of people whose ‘resources
(material, social and cultural) are so limited as to exclude them
from the minimum acceptable way of life in the countries in which
Poverty respects no one – it
affects humans across age, race and gender and possesses the uncanny
characteristic of perpetuating itself in successive generations.
The poor are voiceless; they live in marginal conditions without
access to what we loftily consider to be the basic necessities of
life. Often they are unseen and unheard. Those who exist within
its grasp are subject to hunger, malnutrition, homelessness, social
discrimination, inadequate housing, lack of or limited education
and an increased risk of disease due to lack of healthcare. Their
reality is starkly different from that which most of us dare to
conceive. We often exist beside them never seeing them unconsciously
perpetuating the scourge of poverty.
No one seems able to provide a definitive
answer regarding the origins of poverty. However, it doesn’t
appear to be purely coincidental and one wonders whether there are
invisible hands orchestrating this resident evil. The world has
come to an agreement that there should be concentrated efforts directed
at eradicating this phenomenon and while most agree there are some
sceptics. They insist that poverty eradication is not achievable
while others are of the view that to set goals for poverty eradication
is to fight a losing battle. However the idea that the poor will
always be with us has been carefully inculcated in the psyche of
successive generations and today we are victims of that warped mindset.
However, if we continue to believe in and accept poverty we will
never actively engage in its eradication. Change your mindset!
Trillions of dollars are spent on waging
war, millions spent on campaigning for political office, while those
who are elected to serve the people continue to ‘misappropriate
funds’. A large volume of food is dumped each day while millions
go to sleep at night without being the recipient of that which the
privileged seem so quick to dispose of. All of this takes place
while we attempt to achieve sustainable human development. Is it
that our generation is unaware of the issues or is it that we do
not care to acknowledge them?
Poverty eradication is essential in
the pursuit of sustainable human development and so, in recognition
of this, the international community, in 2000, made a collective
commitment to work toward poverty eradication by adopting and working
towards The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The deadline for
achieving these goals is 2015.
The MDGs promote poverty eradication,
education, gender equality, maternal health and aim at combating
HIV/ AIDS and other diseases. Environmental sustainability and the
development of global partnership for development are also promoted.
Poverty is a complex phenomenon and
so designs to eradicate it must take a holistic approach. People
must be empowered through education, which is an indispensable tool
such a battle. Education, the gateway to greatness which incidentally
is rapidly becoming an article of trade, is also an invaluable key
to wealth creation.
Along with millions around the world,
UNA-UWI celebrated International Day for the Eradication of Poverty/
World Food Day on October 17. The group launched a food drive which
was well responded to by the student population on campus. The Trinidad
and Tobago Student’s Association on Cave Hill campus supported
UNA-UWI’s food and clothes drive by donating the food and
also clothes they received from their respective charity drives.
The food items collected were donated to the HIV Food bank and the
Salvation Army. On Friday Oct 26 the group made a presentation to
Mr. Alan O’Neil a resident of St. Thomas.
||Representatives of UNA-UWI presentation
to the HIV food bank
The Story of Alan O’Neil
At age 50 the average male is looking
towards the glorious destination called retirement. There is the
security of a pension and the opportunity to do all that they never
had the time to do while they were caught in the web intricately
woven by a capitalist society. Not so for Alan O’Neil. He
lives in deplorable conditions. Being a stranger to the community
one would never assume that the partially collapsed and rotted structure
is the dwelling place of a human being.
However, having realized that this
was not someone’s sick idea of a joke a closer look served
to shock you into the harsh realities of life. There is no flooring,
one side of the house is covered by tarpaulin while the zinc roof
seems about to collapse at any moment. There is no evidence of electricity
or running water. There is no lamp, and in this ‘modern’
day, no toilet facilities. There is a noticeable absence of cooking
facilities and as any human would, Mr. O’Neil sometimes cooks
on the earth in front of his home.
||A view of Mr. O’Neil’s
home. Notice the cooking area in the foreground.
What could have led to this? Mr. O’Neil
recounts the days when he worked on a neighbouring estate. Times
were good but then tragedy struck. He fell ill and received the
appropriate medical attention however, he was unable to work. He
received welfare money from the government but this stopped. When
asked the reason for the stoppage of this benefit he sadly alluded
to the influence of a family.
His house was burnt to the ground and
he later purchased the house he currently lives in. He has been
living on that plot of land for 15 years. As Mr. O’Neil shared
how dejected and sad he feels at times from somewhere deep within
emerged hope. He flashes a radiant smile saying “I have lots
to be thankful for”.
||Mr. O’Neil stands in front
of his home
His neighbour, Ms Bruce, cooks for
him and he is free to access water from her premises. The people
of the community assist him with clothing and even though things
took a long time in coming, representatives from a government agency
had visited him to assess the situation and cut the foliage that
sought to cover the house.
As we left, pictures of a long night
spent in stench emanating from a piece of foam in less than hospitable
conditions assailed my mind. I knew, this is it, we have only one
chance! This is our generation and it is the time when we must effect
change. We can’t do it when we are dead. Are you in for the
||A view of Mr. Oneil’s home
|Mr O’Neil and Ms. Bruce along
with representatives of UNA-UWI
In 2001 Nelson Mandela asked “will
the legacy of our generation be more than a series of broken promise?”
Today the same question is being asked and it is not meant to be
a rhetorical one.
Successfully eradicating poverty is
highly dependent on the willingness and the commitment of those
who those who never knew poverty and those who have escaped its
tentacles, to assist in its elimination.
“We have time to reach the MDG
– worldwide and in most, or even all, individual countries-
but only if we break with business as usual. We cannot win overnight.
Success will require sustained action across the entire decade between
now and the deadline. It takes time to train teachers, nurses and
engineers; to build roads, schools and hospitals; to grow the small
and large businesses able to create the jobs and income needed.
So we must start now ….”
United Nations Secretary General – Ban Ki-moon
||Student make a presentation to
the Salvation Army
“The curse of poverty has no
justification in our age. It is socially as cruel and blind as the
practice of cannibalism at the dawn of civilization, when men ate
each other because they had not yet learned to take food from the
soil or to consume the abundant animal life around them. The time
has come for us to civilize ourselves by the total, direct and immediate
abolition of poverty.”
Martin Luther King Jr