What Sparks Change? How Can We End Poverty?


This page in:

Read this post in Español, Français, عربي


What will it take to end poverty?What inspires change? What has impact on policy? What really motivates us to do social good?

Here’s one story from my past that I’ll never forget.

In 1987, Dr. Paul Farmer and I and a few others helped start a group called Partners in Health to provide access to quality health care to the poor. In the beginning, the majority of our work was centered in Haiti. Seven years later, in 1994, we set up a program in Carabayllo, a settlement on the outskirts of Lima, Peru.

We began our program in Peru because a good friend of ours -- Father Jack Roussin – said we must. He said the area needed a much stronger primary health system, and so we helped build a cadre of community health workers. Our organization there, Socios en Salud, worked to improve the health care of people in the community, employed 20 local young people, built a pharmacy, and then conducted a health assessment for the town.

Then Father Jack became ill. He started losing weight. I urged him to return to his home in Boston. When he finally did, tests revealed that his lungs were full of tuberculosis (TB). And it wasn’t any TB. It was multi drug-resistant TB (MDR-TB). His disease was resistant to the four major drugs used to treat TB. Soon after, Father Jack died.

We went back to Carabayllo and investigated. Why did he have drug-resistant TB? We found an alarming number of cases of MDR-TB. We did two things: First, we immediately started looking for supplies of the drugs that could treat TB cases we discovered. We gave those to patients, and to our great relief we were able to cure most of them. Second, we started to push for a global program to treat poor people everywhere suffering from drug-resistant TB.

We fought and fought. It took years, but we finally succeeded in helping to create a new global plan for tackling MDR-TB, and the World Health Organization established guidelines for all countries on how to treat those with the disease. Today -- even though drug-resistant TB remains an incredibly difficult problem globally that deserves far more attention -- I am proud to say Peru is a global leader in fighting drug-resistant TB. And I’m also proud to say that Socios en Salud has become a major contributor to the health care of many, many Peruvians – 18 years after we started.

Change happened in this case because one person, Father Jack, witnessed social injustice and urged us to respond. It happened because he inspired me and many others at Partners in Health to act. That inspired still others. We didn’t give up. We were motivated by our core value that every person has the right to access health care.

Now, as World Bank Group president, my colleagues and I are motivated by another huge challenge: Ending extreme poverty by working with governments, civil society, the private sector, foundations, and people in impoverished communities, who have been caught for too long in dire circumstances.

The world has made great strides in the last 25 years, cutting the percentage of people living in absolute poverty in half, but we can do much more.

What will it take now to end poverty? We want to hear from you. Please send us a comment using hashtag #whatwillittake on Twitter. We are taking this effort global and we want your inspiration.

Change – dramatic change – is possible.

Related Links:


Join the Conversation

Dawood B. Yusuf
October 03, 2012

Resource cycle needs to have control mechanisms that balance reward for entrepreneurial effort with social responsibility but more fundamentally at the macro level, public policy should be more prudent in recognizing and scoping economic impact beyond geographical boundaries.

Hal Z Zhao
October 03, 2012

Great citizenship motivates great social change that we all want to see.

Musamali Washington Steven
October 03, 2012

It is sad that countries endowed with vast natural resources are the ones lagging behind development in all respect. A lot has been done to aleviate this scourge but it is not relenting. We must all start with our mind set especially on the accumulation of wealth. Rich countries want more and more wealth which has created a certain world order that has distorted the social and developmental fibric unique to each setting. This has lead to huge quantities of wealth to be lost. To me wealthy expires just like human life does. Accumulating it is to suffocate or deny other a chance to better their lives, especially the slow thinkers and those with no exposure. Unless we all read from the same page in terms of ending human misery, then all effort seem to exacarbate the problem than solving it. The order created has left many especially the most vulnerable out of order.

October 08, 2012

I recently viewed :

The proposal is to offset fuel consumption by carbon storage. Now, the
developing world either burns charcoal for domestic use or wood. The system
currently leads to deforestation. In the future, ironically, yours truly,
the proponent, says "produce even more charcoal." The added production (-
instead of burned to ash) is plowed into farm plots.

The pre-Columbian amazon "terra preta soil" was made in this way and has
thick charcoal horizons thousands of years old. At the current price of
charcoal, if the policy were adopted today, my debt could roughly come out
to $1500 annually, to support my household. Let me repeat - $1500 annually
- from my family alone - going to some of the poorest people in rural

The reasons charcoal works: Often, the charcoal kilns already exist. The
wood is hauled to the kiln already, so roads exist. What is missing? Carbon
taxes placed on carbon fuel burners which will go to rural charcoal
producers. Certificates (some kind of ISO standard needed here) verify the
disposal of the carbon into the soil or simply, I can take delivery of my
personal burden of carbon (charcoal) and bury it myself.

I have to find a place for 5 tons of charcoal annually. My yard is a
candidate for disposal. I have to do something for this poor quality clay
soil! I would rather Bangladeshi producers find a home for the charcoal.
There, charcoal, in mass production, can solve another problem - arsenic in

I cannot say charcoal will solve all the world's problems. Clearly, a
transparent program is needed for the transfer of carbon from the atmosphere
to soil (more honest, than, say, the amazing LIBOR ! The debt industry has
crowded trillions of dollars into credit default swaps and interest rate
swaps because, somehow, stakeholder/counterparty consensus said derivatives
were important to do). When I see the short time for derivatives to come
into being (and then drive the world economy into a swoon), it is a
certainty that we can execute another (and beneficial) policy centered on

October 08, 2012

Selflessness is one of the hallmarks of a good father. Kindness is the response of a father. Remind all going into positions of responsibility that they are held to a standard .

October 12, 2012

Deforestation in Uganda is being countered by not very aggressive afforestation because players need quick benefits. It calls for tremendous sacrifice to plant ,protect and watch a tree grow for 2, 7, 10,20 years depending on species.

Not much thought is given to what happened before we came into being for the current resource of wood lot we are enjoying today to reach the current volumes.

A lot of seedlings are raised, however their servival rate is miserably low.

We need a scientific assessment linking current forest consumption, replacement, how much should planted to just replace what is being consumed or to accumulate a forest resource for future generations.

I am lay as far as forestry is concerned but over the last years the cost of charcoal has gone up more than 500%.

November 03, 2012

I personally think for us to be fully able to achieve full change and also stop the problem of poverty, then first we should be able to state or note down our constraints in relation to what we want to achieve. Thus when we embark on the journey of change then we are able to know what is the maximum we can achieve subject to the constraints we found and just achieving that maximum alone regardless of how small it is will be a stepping stone to achieving an even greater goal in the long-run.

James A. Singmaster, III, Ph.D.
October 26, 2012

President Kim; I have been stating on many blogs(Dotearth & Green NYTimes, NRDC's Switchboard, Yale's E360 and elsewhere that we will be wasting our kids' futures by the way we are mishandling our organic wastes, especially biowastes. No one seems to recognize that biowastes are an already harvested forever biofuel supply line needing no land, water or fertilizer to be taken from growing food. A process called pyrolysis can be used on collected biowastes including separated sewage solids and cattle feed lot wastage, to get an expelled volatile organic mix that can be trapped to get a renewable fuel supply system or to be refined to raw materials for making drugs, soaps, etc.. That process also destroys germs drugs and toxics in the wastes, but some other toxics may get formed that will have to cleaned out in the trapping operation. The destroying of those hazards would save billions of $$$s presently wasted in trying to keep dumps monitored to prevent escapes of those hazards. About 50% of the waste would become charcoal to be used as a soil amendment as it will have some plant nutrients. AND THAT REPRESENTS A CARBON AND ENERGY NEGATIVE ACTION TO REVERSE CC. I can send you a much more detailed statement on this action to actual reduce the overloads of heat energy and CO2 in the biosphere, AND with the benefits accruing of destroying those hazards so that they have no chances of escaping to pollute our kids off earth.
Again let's not let our mishandling of our organic waste messes be what wastes our children's futures!!!!