Fight poverty, not the poor!

Fight poverty, not the poor!

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Nove Joy Losbañes started this petition to Youth Volunteers and

COVID-19 is the changing face of extreme poverty. Income falls rapidly and yet, the government turns a blind eye to this recurring issue in the Philippines. Therefore, there is no easy way out except if we start the change in ourselves and call for a fight where poverty could not foster and stop programs systematically aimed at fighting the poor. This concept paper engages officials and authorities working in government services, traditional public works, local community groups, non-profit organizations, and private sector, advocating decent pay for all, job guarantee programs, free education and health services, as well as deep national movement that could bring justice and equity. This is structured as follows: What we know about poverty, what we do not know about it, and what can we do to make an impact and break the ignominy in our country’s policies regarding this cause.

Poverty can be defined as the lack of basic necessities in life- food, clean water, shelter, and clothing. However, it goes beyond on that notion because poverty is a complex societal issue requiring everyone’s attention, especially government leaders. To fully understand this conception, World Bank Organization, an international financial institution that helps in providing finance, loans, and grants to developing nations, describes poverty in this way:

“Poverty is hunger. Poverty is lack of shelter. Poverty is being sick and not being able to see a doctor. Poverty is not having access to school and not knowing how to read. Poverty is not having a job, is fear for the future, living one day at a time.

Poverty has many faces, changing from place to place and across time, and has been described in many ways. Most often, poverty is a situation people want to escape. So poverty is a call to action -- for the poor and the wealthy alike -- a call to change the world so that many more may have enough to eat, adequate shelter, access to education and health, protection from violence, and a voice in what happens in their communities.”

How COVID-19 affected extreme poverty across the whole Philippines is a big question to ponder. Since the outbreak of the virus has started, government tend to overlook its effects on other issues and one of which is poverty. According to Igoe (2020), COVID-19 pandemic gives a new face for extreme poverty and has also forced upward 100 million people below the poverty line. There have been many organizations fighting for this cause but the issue seems to never stop. As a matter of fact, poverty is one of the worst problems that we are facing today where Filipino children are often hungry, have little or no opportunity to education, and suffer from much poorer health. Moreover, Karas (2020) stated that today’s pattern is quite different and poverty in 2020 could rise by 120 million people which is generally higher compared to the data collected in 2019.

COVID-19 also restricted Filipinos as a whole to use their ability and resourcefulness in finding a job thus, some are left with no choice but to engage with some illegal activities such as pornography, human trafficking, and robbery. In connection, people mostly doing these come from vulnerable groups such as students for a particular reason that education has shifted to online and they have to pay for internet or other bills but their parents have no sources of money.

A large share of the extreme poor are rural but today, there is a birth of “the new poor” whose incomes fall below 95 pesos per day and are actually living in the urban, better educated, and working in large companies. Reports said that many of the new poor whose economic activity is influenced by lockdowns and other mobility restrictions as well as mandatory social distancing are more exposed in doing informal services, construction, and manufacturing. Indeed, COVID-19 is a temporary shock to economic growth when we are aware of it and the economic damage therefore, could be more long-lasting- a real risk to families that have been pushed below the poverty and line and those who lost their sources of income.

Living in the poverty during these trying times is harsh. Although there might be various coping mechanisms that some of families find conducive including assistance from government, selling of assets, and aid from neighbors, relatives, and other support groups, these are still not enough to fill the gaps. In the long run, poverty leaves permanent scars in health, education, and economy. As citizens living in a country where the rich continues to be rich and the poor continues to be poor, are we ready to face another generation of scarcity? Of a system that uses force and power over integrity and equitability? Of a country that is rich in natural resources and agricultural lands but is one of the top 100 poorest countries in the world?

Given the data above, there is an immediate need to not only halt the spread of COVID-19 but also responding effectively to the global economic crisis it has precipitated. Extensive effort and research is needed to take into account deprivations in education, electricity, water, and sanitation. We are accelerating our efforts to drive inclusive, sustainable economic growth, build resilience to shocks and threats, and help the country invest more for Filipinos. Measuring poverty means measuring people’s well-being so we need to look at how resources will be distributed with the help of DSWD, youth volunteers, non-government organizations, public sectors, and the government. It is our role to open their eyes and hearts for this will not only help the marginalized but our families, community, and more importantly, ourselves.

Our goal is to challenge political will and international leadership on the issue through creating awareness, taking actions on our own, and educating people so they could create tangible solutions, one of which is creating more jobs. There are different reasons for poverty in each country and so, there will never be a single solution for all. Nevertheless, it is important to understand the roots of the problems that cause poverty.

Ending poverty is our mission and to address such concern is a complex challenge, but individual efforts when taken collectively could make a difference. We call for people with power that economic growth must be strong, economic growth must occur hand-in-hand with a decline in inequality within countries, and special attention needs to be given to citizens experiencing extreme deprivation. Be the answer to the call because the longer such responses are delayed, the more intense and consequential these effects will be, especially for the last, the least, and the lost. 

 

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