The poor are invisible
Working with women living in extreme poverty around the world, I learned right away that they and their families are invisible even to their own neighbors. And they know it. It’s not surprising. How often does each of us turn away from people asking for help on the streets of Washington, D.C., where I live, let alone those living in extreme poverty in developing countries around the globe? This is just one of the many cruel aspects of ultra-poverty; those afflicted by it are often rendered invisible — to neighbors, distant policymakers, and nearly everyone in between.
This is why BRAC’s Ultra-Poor Graduation Initiative is committed to making every single person visible, particularly to those who decide how financial aid and social resources are spent. For decades, the global extreme poverty rate fell rapidly, from 36 percent in 1990 to 10 percent in 2015. This progress sparked optimism that we might soon remove extreme poverty from the face of the earth, but this optimism is now waning. As the percent of people living in extreme poverty has declined overall, the poorest of this group, the ultra-poor, have remained trapped, and remained invisible, lacking access to even the structures designed to include them.
The World Bank’s 2018 Poverty and Prosperity report warns that to bring extreme poverty below 3 percent (it’s standard for eradication) by 2030, the world’s poorest countries must grow at a rate that far surpasses their historical experience. Even if just 4 percent of the world’s population remains below the threshold in 2030, this will be 340 million people, more than the current population of the United States — hardly a footnote or a rounding error. This is unacceptable from a moral, rights-based standpoint. It is also an inefficient use of global human potential, creating less opportunity and progress for us all.
“This is unacceptable from a moral, rights-based standpoint.”