Many of us have heard the phrase a dollar a day. This catchy term was created by economists who proposed it as a solution to mitigate poverty globally in 1993. The phrase and notion have stuck throughout the ages. Certainly, the American dollar goes a long way, particularly in developing countries. In Chile, you can buy one Italian-style hot dog, in Malta a famous pastry known as pastizzi, in Kenya one bag of milk, in Indonesia two kilos of bananas, and in India two whole nutritious meals. The phrase A dollar a day was so powerful that for a few decades it was the focus of most of the humanitarian aid that was distributed from the richest countries to the poorest. However, this golden standard has been changing in the last 10 years. Professionals and organizations in the humanitarian field understand that a dollar a day is no longer an adequate response to global poverty.
The World Bank is recognized as a worldwide authority on “extreme poverty”. The bank keeps a way to measure what is called the international poverty line. Today the international poverty line (also known as the absolute poverty line) is defined as those who live on less than US$1.90 per day. This has increased from one dollar since the ’90s. Below this line, people are unable to meet their basic needs for food, water, and shelter. There are 698 million people or 9% of the global population that currently lives below the absolute poverty line.
There have been numerous recommendations by modern economists to have more poverty lines and a potential increase even further from $1.90 to be a more realistic one. However, there is pushback from the different organizations involved. Lant Pritchett, an ex-World Bank economist who is now Professor of the Practice of International Development at Harvard University's Kennedy School says, "a dollar a day was a wildly
successful PR device that I think has been a failure in terms of achieving the objectives of improving human well-being in the world," he says.
Pritchett is also a big promoter of the development of economies and the fair distribution of resources to aid the poorest nations. The importance of the development of a nation's economy and infrastructure is essential in eliminating or lowering the instances of poverty.
Prichett and other economists encourage citizens of the wealthier nations to consider supporting charities and government projects that have multifaceted approaches that target both relief and development. Look for a charity, organization, or political project that aims to give immediate aid and provide poor communities opportunities to grow economically. For example, a charity or organization that gives micro-loans and business coaching to women has the potential to stimulate the local economy and generate income for business owners, employees, and their networks.
Humanitarian aid and developmental aid go hand and hand. Humanitarian aid saves lives and eases suffering during and in the aftermath of emergencies. Development aid provides support and fixes structural issues, that are the root causes of economic, institutional, and social development. When we invest in both we build a country's capacity to have resilient communities and sustainable livelihoods. If we actively participate in both, there is the potential for us to be able to solve world poverty as a collective.
LIFE oversees projects all over the world and supports displaced and underserved people. Our breadth of experience, influence, and expertise have provided us with the knowledge and network to create innovative, cost-effective, sustainable solutions to social and economic developmental issues. It is through our work that we can see an improvement in the communities that we have been servicing for close to 30 years. LIFE will continue to strive to be an advocate and a supporter of those living below the poverty line with consistent and persistent action in both relief and development.