Poverty spreads again in war-hit Middle East

Haider Al Lawati –
haiderdawood@hotmail.com –

As the year ends and a new one begins, humanity remains perplexed by the weakness, poverty and suffering caused by wars, murder and terrorism inflicted on many people at their place of work, gathering, worship and livelihoods in general, along with the crises resulting from continuous wars.
This is what we see today in many Arab countries such as Yemen, Syria, Iraq, Egypt, Libya and Morocco, which were rich but over the years became poor. Whilst some people around the world were stricken by poverty, countries such as China, India, Brazil and other emerging countries became rich.
Crises that gripped the world has stricken many people with poverty whilst the percentage of rich has increased, but which is still very small and does not exceed even one per cent of the world’s population.
Today, crises are caused by a decline in the countries’ revenues as a result of oil price fluctuation.
However, the world’s rich got richer in 2016 by $237 billion, according to a report published by Bloomberg agency a few days ago. It also indicated that the wealth amassed by billionaires on the Bloomberg Index stood at nearly $4.8 trillion as on December 27, 2016.
In contrast, it is a tragedy for the poor despite some experts believing the people are becoming wealthier across the world. When it comes to Arab countries, I see a lot of poverty. Unemployment is rampant in many Arab countries as a result of continuing wars and unrest.
“The world today has become an island of the rich surrounded by seas of the poor,” said the president of an African nation once while speaking at the Earth Summit in Johannesburg.
According to him, the dilemma of poverty was exacerbated every day despite the advancement achieved by mankind in various fields along with the utilisation of the planet’s bounties. All experts, he said, agree these are sufficient to provide for the welfare of the 7.5 billion people, if equally distributed.
Regardless of the UN-declared annual Poverty Day, nothing new has happened in many Arab countries except for “another year of austerity” filled with death, disease and hunger as a result of wars and destruction inflicted on the world’s innocent poor.
Several years ago, we had found the wealth of world’s three richest people was equivalent to the GDP of 48 poorest countries and wealth of 200 richest men in the world surpassed the income of 41 per cent of the world’s population.
Although 7.5 billion people are living on the earth, mostly in developing countries, over three billion live below poverty line.
Figures indicate that industrialised countries and international transcontinental companies own 97 per cent of global franchises and 90 per cent of technical, production and marketing concessions consecutively. More than 80 per cent of profits of total foreign direct investment in the developing countries goes to 20 rich countries.
Meanwhile, one-third of the world’s population suffers from water shortage, decent housing, regular health services, malnutrition and lack of education. All these figures highlight a large imbalance in the concentration of global capital. It also indicates how we have turned a blind eye to this “ethical scandal” which threatens social peace.
Despite this pessimism over poverty and humanity, an opinion in a foreign affairs article published in the beginning of last year noted that since the beginning of the 1990s, life in poor countries changed dramatically for the better: one billion people recovered from extreme poverty, infant death rates fell dramatically, millions of girls entered school, periodic famine fell by half and deaths from endemic diseases such as malaria and Aids dropped sharply.
However, terrorism and wars that hit the Middle East, including the Arab countries, have destroyed many of the positive outcomes, and poverty has started spreading again. Humanity needs some more years to reverse this negative equation.