A week ago, I got invited to a very interesting talk organized by the Sultan Qaboos University – Medical Student Group (SQU-MSG) about poverty, hunger and ways to combat these two issues globally and locally. During the talk, I learnt that poverty by definition is earning less than $1.25 per day which is a situation that Oman does not have according to the Supreme Council of Planning (SCP). But then just because we don’t fall under global standards of poverty, does it mean we all have enough money to sustain our needs?
According to SCP, 2.7% of Omani nationals live under the poverty line in the country. And let me tell you that the moment this statistic was mentioned, gasps and chatter filled the auditorium. Why this percentage, if you just said we are not poor? Well, SCP came up with its own local definition based on the social determinants of health. There are six indicators, according to Dr. Muna Al Siyabi from Ministry of Health (MoH), with the main big four being access to clean water, access to clean cooking gas, availability of housing, and years of education. So if one of these indicators is missing from an individual, he or she is considered to fall under the poverty line in Oman and obviously each case is qualitative depending on the indicators.
So what’s the solution to tackle the issue of the 2.7%? MoH says simply get everyone involved through community health. Omani communities for the majority of the time have no role but to criticize, thanks to our typical Arab culture. We are so caught up in the vortex of getting everything handed to us on a silver platter that we don’t know any better. The concept works beautifully in breaking this mentality by instilling responsibility and ownership of the community to situations and issues concerning them. They found that once the community was included as part of the solution and not the problem, things that were the cause behind the standstill started to evaporate.
|Dr. Muna Al Siyabi during the talk|
An example is the town of Umq Al Rabakh in Quriyat, which if you are a fan of hiking or off-roading is a gem in disguise. This village is remote in the sense that you need to climb uphill and then go downhill just to reach the place, which means that basic necessities that we take for granted like food in Muscat is a whole different journey in that town. So what did MoH do? Build the capacity of everyone and spread the culture of communal ownership, where the notion of waiting for the municipality or other stakeholders to do something for them was replaced with the community becoming movers and shakers of the town. The main issue there was food security and as a result of the change of mentality, the community ended up empowering a woman to become an SME owner. She established a farm and a food supply business. The end result was that the community who had major food supply issues were now self sufficient and able to produce their very own eggs, meat, milk and various vegetables and fruits. Food security at its finest!
|Umq al Rubakh Village|
One of the millennial development goals agreed worldwide is to abolish poverty in all its forms, so that all young and old have the chance to embrace the real meaning of life and taste the flavor of their dreams and aspirations. So rather than just waiting or begging for change, you have to be part of the change. Moral of the story; if you have a sense of ownership to something, you’ll feel obligated to it. If it was just handed to you well you’d simply not care.