293766228 - Poverty alleviation: the role of the engineer...

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THE ARUP JOURNAL 1/2003 3 Introduction The statistics on world poverty are frightening. Close to half the world’s 6bn people live on less than US$2 a day; conversely 1% of the population has an income equal to that of the entire bottom 57% 1 . But poverty is not only about lack of wealth in monetary terms; it also implies the ‘denial of various choices and opportunities basic to human development. These include the ability to lead a long, creative and healthy life, to acquire knowledge, to have freedom, dignity, self-respect and respect for others, and to have access to the resources needed for a decent standard of living.’ 2 Community infrastructure is key to alleviating poverty – and thus engineers have an essential role to play. Without ready access to clean water and sanitation, productivity is severely reduced through illness and time spent in water collection. Without roads, the poor are unable to sell their goods at market. Basic infrastructure is not a luxury that can wait for better economic times, but a precondition for creating them, and its provision is an urgent and ongoing requirement. The Economist has observed that ‘over the past 50 years rich nations have given US$1 trillion in aid to poor ones. This stupendous sum has failed spectacularly to improve the lot of its intended beneficiaries. Poor countries that receive lots of aid do no better, on average, than those that receive very little’ 3 . Poverty is thus not being ignored, but alleviation strategies must be more effective for relief to be achieved. The origins of poverty To begin solving poverty, its origins must be clearly understood. The basic causes are: • lack of access to safe water and sanitation • lack of facilities for adequate health care • lack of access to educational opportunities • shortage of adequate nutrition • lack of adequately paid employment • inadequate or expensive transport facilities • limited or expensive power supplies. Urban and rural poverty generally have different causes, though not mutually exclusive. The main causes of urban poverty are likely to be: • lack of adequate income or no income, due to underemployment or unemployment • inadequate housing, sanitation, and water supply • limited opportunities for education • inadequate or expensive transport facilities. Poor health and lack of access to education tend to minimize skills, compounding the problems of un- or underemployment, leading to reduction of income-earning capacity. The predominant causes of rural poverty are likely to be: • lack of access to health care and education • inadequate shelter, sanitation, and water supply • lack of access to markets for agricultural products • limited opportunity to earn income • inadequate or expensive transport facilities • no access to power and telecommunications facilities. Poverty in rural areas tends to be more widespread and more
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293766228 - Poverty alleviation: the role of the engineer...

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