October 17: International Day for the Eradication of Poverty

On October 17, 1987 over 100 thousand people gathered at the site where the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was signed in 1948 to bring attention and honour people who live in extreme poverty, violence and hunger. Since then, people all around the world come together to renew their commitment and show solidarity with those living under these circumstances.

This year’s theme is Acting together to achieve social and environmental justice for all. It was chosen by the United Nations, in consultation with people living in poverty and social justice organizations. “It recognizes that everyone must join forces to end poverty and discrimination in order to build a sustainable future in which the needs of the present are met without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”[i]

The United Nations noted that often due to having no other choice, people living in extreme poverty are the first to act in response to poverty, climate change and environmental challenges. Unfortunately, their efforts are often overlooked and their ability to contribute is often ignored.

People living in poverty already face numerous challenges such as dangerous working conditions, unsafe housing, lack of proper nutritious foods or lack of access to medical resources. These conditions are only exacerbated by COVID-19.

In February 2020, pre-COVID, Global News reported that “3.2 Million Canadians, including 560,000 children in Canada are living in Poverty”.  The National Statistics office stated that Canada’s poverty rate has fallen to a historic low in one of the sharpest three-year declines on record, but millions of Canadians still live below the poverty line.

Statistics Canada reported:

  • 4% of Canadians were living in deep poverty in 2018
  • 7% of Canadian households had housing needs in 2016
  • 2% of Canadians 12 years and older reported not receiving health care when they felt they needed it in 2014
  • 7% of households were food insecure in 2017/2018

The fallout from the coronavirus pandemic has created an economic crisis — one that experts are increasingly concerned could push more people into poverty.

In a presentation at the September 2020 meeting of the UN General Assembly, Olivier De Schutter, a Belgian legal scholar appointed by the U.N. Human Rights Council as special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, cautioned world leaders. “The social safety nets put into place are full of holes…These current measures are generally short-term, the funding is insufficient, and many people will inevitably fall between the cracks.” [ii]

With many government programs that were designed as short-term measures to help people during this first part of the COVID-19 crisis coming to an end, there is fear that the number of those in poverty will dramatically increase. De Schutter noted that the economic downturn resulting from the pandemic is unprecedented in times of peace since the Great Depression in the 1930s. At his presentation he said, “Families in poverty have by now used up whatever reserves they had and sold their assets…The worst impacts of the crisis on poverty are still to come.”

Join the #EndPoverty global campaign

The #EndPoverty global campaign is to help give voice for the need to bring an end to poverty around the world. Everyone, regardless of income or ability, needs to do their part in addressing the lack of a decent wages and way of life for all.

For more information about what you can do, visit the website:

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[i] https://www.un.org/en/observances/day-for-eradicating-poverty/background

[ii] https://apnews.com/article/poverty-pandemics-united-nations-virus-outbreak-archive-55c4dc66432b842295b16e8167545dd1

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