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Poverty can be defined in many different ways. A condition characterized by severe deprivation of basic human needs, including food, safe drinking water, sanitation facilities, health, shelter, education and information. ” When people are unable to eat, go to school, or have any access to health care, then they can be considered to be in poverty, regardless of their income.
At the 2005 World Summit, the international community reaffirmed its commitment to cut in half the number of people living in extreme poverty by 2015 and achieve the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), a series of time-bound and quantified targets to attack poverty’s root causes in a multi-dimensional way. The scale of the challenges, and the benefits of success to individuals, communities and the family of nation, are enormous: Global population is expected to increase from about 7billion today to 9. billion by 2050, and the population of the 48 Least Developed Countries will more than double to reach 1. 7 billion.
Almost all of the net increase in population is occurring in the urban areas developing countries, and in many of them, the number of people living in poverty is rising. Moreover, the supportive development environment that prevailed in the early years of this decade is now threatened as the world faces a global economic slowdown and a food security crisis. At the same time, the effects of climate change are becoming more apparent.
Substantial evidence suggests that slower population growth and investments in reproductive health and HIV prevention (particularly among adolescents), education, women’s empowerment and gender equality reduce poverty. Carrying out the Programme of Action adopted at the International Conference Population and Development (ICPD) in Cairo and reaching its goal of universal access to reproductive health information and services by 2015 is an essential condition for achieving the MDGs.
A central premise of the ICPD is that the size, growth, age structure and rural-urban distribution of a country’s population have a critical impact on its development prospects and on the living standards of the poor. Poverty is multidimensional: impoverished people are deprived of services, resources and opportunities, as well as income. The ICPD realized that investing in people and empowering individual women and men with education, equal opportunities and the means to determine the number, timing and spacing of their children could create the conditions to allow the poor to break out of the poverty trap.
The countries in which poverty levels are the highest are generally those that have the most rapid increases in population and the highest fertility levels. Countries that have reduced fertility and mortality by investing in universal health care, including reproductive health, as well as education and gender equality, have made economic gains. A 2001 study of 45 countries, for example, found that if they had reduced fertility by five births per 1,000 people in the 1980s, the average national incidence of poverty of 18. per cent in the mid-1980s would have been reduced to 12. 6 per cent between 1990 and 1995. How do investments in reproductive health, education and gender equality reduce poverty?
•Enabling people to have fewer children contributes to upward mobility and helps to stimulate development. •When women can negotiate their reproductive health decisions with men, this exercise of their rights leads to an increased decision-making role within families and communities that benefits all. Because smaller families share income among fewer people, average per-capita income increases. •Fewer pregnancies lead to lower maternal mortality and morbidity and often to more education and economic opportunities for women. These, in turn, can lead to higher family income. •As women become more educated, they tend to have fewer children, and participate more fully in the labour market. •Families with lower fertility are better able to invest in the health and education of each child. Spaced births and fewer pregnancies overall improve child survival.
•Sexual and reproductive health services are key to curbing HIV. The pandemic is killing large numbers of people in their most productive years, increasing the ratio of dependents to the working-age population. •Preventing AIDS-related disabilities and premature deaths translates into a healthier, more productive labour force that can improve a countrys economic prospects Many developing countries have large youth populations. Reproductive health programmes that address the greater vulnerability of adolescents to unprotected sex, sexual coercion, HIV and other sexually transmitted infections, unintended early pregnancies and unsafe abortions, and enable young women to delay pregnancy and marriage are important factors in breaking the intergenerational cycle of poverty. •Investments in reproductive health, particularly in family planning, that result in lowered fertility can open a one-time only ‘demographic window’ of economic opportunity.