The last months of 2008 saw the global economic system suffer its worst meltdown since the 1930s, one that would push millions into greater poverty.
2008 was also the halfway point to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), a series of anti-poverty targets signed in 2000 by almost every country and aimed at raising millions of people out of poverty in fifteen years.
Halfway to 2015, increased aid commitments and historic debt relief have lifted millions out of poverty. But some countries are not headed in the right directions. The number of people going hungry is increasing.
Caritas and its supporters called for concrete commitments on reversing cuts in aid from some of the world’s richest countries and improving the way aid is spent. Millions of people don’t want to see billions of people living in poverty. They want to see action from world leaders.
Caritas attended a series of high level events to press rich countries to keep their promises on aid, trade and debt and make progress towards achieving the MDGs.
Caritas in poor communities provided support to people finding their own solutions to poverty. A spike in food prices around the globe made that task more difficult. In Haiti, the cost of staples went up 50 percent in January and February alone.
By September, financial markets around the world plunged and major companies went bankrupt. Trillions were found to rescue the banking system, while some rich countries like Ireland and Italy were cutting aid budgets.
In the developed world, notably Europe and the USA, Caritas member organisations like Catholic Charities USA, Caritas Spain, Caritas Luxembourg and Caritas Germany saw an increase in the number of poorer citizens visiting their soup kitchens and drop-in centres. In December and January alone, over one million workers in the United States were laid off.
At least 53 million more people will be driven into poverty in developing countries as a result of the financial crisis. This is on top of the additional 135–150 million people driven into poverty by the increases in food and fuel prices last year.