Eliminating poverty is a major challenge faced by the world today. It is an impediment towards building a stable, global community. “Eradicating poverty, in all its forms and dimensions, including extreme poverty, is the greatest global challenge and an indispensable requirement for sustainable development”, underlines the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
A significant reminder of why charity is important
To help sustain the movement against poverty, September 5 is celebrated as the International Day of Charity. The objective of celebrating the day is to sensitize and mobilize people, NGOs, and stakeholders, all around the world, to help others through charity, volunteering and other philanthropic activities. On this day, the work of charities operating in different parts of the world is publicized and celebrated. People are encouraged to donate and volunteer, to sustain and expand the ongoing charitable and humanitarian work.
Spreading the message of charity and raising global awareness about it, is not a one-day project. It needs to be sustained over a longer period. War, conflicts, political crises, mass displacement, extreme poverty, famine, lack of water, are just a few examples of the challenges faced by our civilization.
Poverty is visible all around, including in the developed world. More than 700 million people, or 10 percent of the global population, live today in extreme poverty, struggling to fulfill the most basic needs of life – health, education, access to water and sanitation. One out of five children is faced with extreme poverty. Homeless individuals are a common sight, even in major cities of the developed world. The challenge is big.
Humankind has stood up to meet this challenge. Natural and human-made calamities have propelled many, from Mother Teresa to William Booth, and from Florence Nightingale to Abdul Sattar Edhi, to take up charity as a life-long mission.
We all must play our part
Severe famine and hunger crisis in Ethiopia in the 80s, was one of the worst humanitarian events of the 20th century, with an estimated 1 million deaths. The famine prompted a global response. Islamic Relief Worldwide (IRW) was founded to respond to humanitarian and charitable work during this famine and hunger crisis, and today it has become the largest Western-based international Muslim relief and development NGO.
Driven by faith, as Muslims, one has an obligation to respond to such crises and help people in need. Over the decades, Islamic Relief has spread its wings all around the globe. Today, it is involved in charity work in 40 countries – from Iraq to Palestine and Somalia to Afghanistan.
The International Day of Charity emphasizes the role of charity in alleviating human suffering within and among nations, for it provides real social bonding, contributing to the creation of inclusive and more resilient societies.
This is a work in progress. At the beginning of the millennium, the UN adopted the Millennium Declaration Goals (MDGs), with an eight-point agenda to be achieved by 2015. The first of these goals was to reduce “extreme poverty and hunger” in the world. With more than 1 billion people lifted out of extreme poverty since 1990, the target of reducing extreme poverty rates by half was met, five years ahead of the 2015 deadline.
Analyzing 17 sustainable development goals by UN
Later, in September 2015, the UN General Assembly adopted 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to be achieved by 2030. Once again, the first of these targets was to “end poverty in all its forms, everywhere.” Unfortunately five years later, in 2020, primarily due to the global pandemic, the UN reported that 71 million people are expected to be pushed back into extreme poverty, the first rise in global poverty since 1998.
As more families fall into extreme poverty, children in poor and disadvantaged communities are at much greater risk of child labor, child marriage and child trafficking. In fact, the global gains in reducing child labor are likely to be reversed for the first time in 20 years.
Combating poverty is manifested in many ways. Citizen empowerment, investment in quality education, striving for civil liberties all around, recognizing and energizing the role of civil societies, sectors and organizations towards achieving the SDGs, motivating the youth towards volunteering, helping people living in rural areas enhance their earning capacities, and promoting harmony within the societies – all remain the building blocks of the movement towards eradicating poverty from the face of the world.
The process is long and arduous, yet achievable. Like Islamic Relief, global charities continue to play a significant role in achieving SDG goals. Yet, it will take collective action to tackle the causes of this worsening global challenge.
Dr. Hany El-Banna founded Islamic Relief in 1984, one of the largest humanitarian aid organizations globally, and traveled to 80 of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable countries. He is also the founder of The Humanitarian Forum which is now called The World Humanitarian Action Forum (WHAF). He also holds an MBBCh, MD and an Honorary Doctorate (DUniv). He has been awarded the Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (OBE) for his humanitarian service.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.