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Urban poverty startles CSOs

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The National Civil Society Taskforce on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) has expressed shock over the extent of urban poverty in the country which it argues is being neglected in development policies.

The taskforce, which is currently soliciting views from Malawians to inform the recommendations for delegates to the Third International Conference on Financing for Development (FfD3), warns that urban poverty is a ticking time bomb.

The conference is expected to take place in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, from today to the 16th of July and is anticipated to be attended by all heads of state and government, ministers and international organisations, among others.

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The CSOs observe that in the absence of essential social services like schools and health facilities, urban poverty becomes a vicious trap that widens the rift between the rich and the poor.

Speaking on Saturday at Ng’oma – one of Lilongwe’s most piteous slums just next to Area 18 – Simekinala Kaluzi, from the Council for Non-Governmental Organisations (Congoma), underscored the need to consider urban slums in development agendas.

“This is one of the semi-urban areas where poverty is very big, so we came here to inform the people that our leaders will be going to Addis Ababa do discuss financing for development. We wanted to collect information regarding what people are saying about their development.

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“That complements what we have always been saying. There are a lot of issues to do with poverty, climate challenges, human rights and many more which as a country we need to address,” said Simekinala.

He said the absence of a school and a health centre in Ng’oma is something prevalent in other semi-urban areas and charged that this is something very pathetic for a country that has been independent for 51 years.

“We believe that the Addis Ababa conference provides an opportunity for Malawi to share what we have in terms of our poverty challenges. Otherwise people are languishing in poverty and it is an abuse of their rights,” said Simekinala.

He observed that a lot of emphasis is placed on rural poverty at the expense of urban poverty “yet there actually is more poverty in towns than in rural areas”.

Meanwhile, the taskforce, which has its secretariat at Congoma, has urged delegates to the conference to revisit the role of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in unlocking aid, especially to developing countries.

The IMF is often accused of deliberately coaxing countries into debt while maintaining a stranglehold on their economies apart from forcing them to adopt anti-development economic policies.

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