• Saturday, May 25, 2024
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BusinessDay

Poor souls

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The Vatican has been putting a lot of pressure on the United Nations to devote the entire General Assembly in New York from 16th September to 29th September 2014 to the poor and their special needs.

Both the Secretary-General of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon and the President of the World Bank Jim Yong Kim responded promptly and favourably too.  The pair did not stop there, they proceeded to jointly visit the poorest nations on earth particularly those in Africa where they were confronted with really abject poverty in: Zimboda, Somalia, Eritrea, Chad, Niger, Mauritania, Mali; and Guinea

The strategy they adopted was that the United Nations Secretary-General would identify the “Red Hot” tragic cases and the President of the World Bank would provide the technical back-up as well as funding to alleviate the plight of the desperately poor.

Both were quite pleased with the initial success but just when the project was beginning to gather traction, Ebola crept in and matters were abruptly derailed.  What a cruel twist of fate that the worst affected were the poorest nations as if they were not already suffering enough in: Liberia, Sierra Leone, Senegal, Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Guinea Republic

The Holy Father, Pope Francis I has nevertheless remained steadfast.  He threatened to boycott the United Nations General Assembly unless the agenda is firmly focused on poverty.

The Pontiff resorted to Spanish to convey his message and anguish to the Secretary-General of the United Nations:

“Hay gente tan pobre que lo unico que tiene es dinero.”

(There are some people so poor, that the only thing they have is money).

Pope Francis chose to remind us of another Pope.  Being a profoundly compassionate man, the Pope added a quotation from Alexander Pope the 18th Century English poet (1688 to 1744) best known for his satirical verse and for his translation of Homer’s “The Odyssey” and “Iliad”.

Alexander Pope’s “Essay on Man” is a philosophical poem written in heroic couplets and published between 1732 and 1934.  The poem is an attempt to “vindicate the ways of God to Man”, a variation on Milton’s attempt in “Paradise Lost” to “justify the ways of God to Man.”  It assumes that man (particularly Nigerian!!) has fallen and must seek his own salvation.

I may not have got it entirely right, but permit me to rely on jaded memory (after an excellent lunch with Marcus Brandler at Galvin Bistrot de Luxe at 66 Baker Street, London WIU 7DJ.

“Presume not God to scan

The proper study of mankind is Man

The Bliss of man, could Pride that blessings find

Is not to act or think beyond mankind.”

Alexander Pope’s immersion in Christian and Biblical culture combined with moral vision provided the anchor sheet for his unique style and technical excellence.

Here is a quotation from Wikipedia:

The poem is an affirmative poem of faith: life seems to be chaotic and confusing to man when he is the centre of it, but according to Pope it is really divinely ordered.  In Pope’s world, God exists and is what he centres the universe around in order to have an ordered structure.  The limited intelligence of man can only take in tiny portions of this order and can experience only partial truths; hence man must rely on hope which then lends into faith.  Man must be aware of his existence in the Universe and what he brings to it, in terms of riches, power and fame.  It is man’s duty to be good regardless of other situations (or distractions/adversity).

It remains an eternal masterpiece.

What is most remarkable is that Alexander Pope’s formal education was limited.  The Catholic schools he attended in London were illegal on account of the recently passed Test Acts which upheld the status of the established Church of England and banned Catholics from teaching, attending university, voting or holding public office on pain of perpetual imprisonment.

It was rather surprising that when the World Bank Group of Executive Directors announced as “Breaking News” on CNN that it had approved a $105m grant to finance Ebola-containment efforts in West African countries infected with the dreaded Ebola Virus Disease, Nigeria was excluded as a beneficiary of the fund.

At a crowded international press conference to which the “Seventy Senior Elders” from Nigeria were specially invited, the President of the World Bank Jim Yong Kim (previously 17th President of Dartmouth College) declared as follows:

“I would like to personally thank our Board of Directors for responding so quickly to this crisis.  This new World Bank grant, which will arrive soon in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, will have an immediate and positive impact on their collective Ebola campaigns.  The world needs to do much, much more to respond to the Ebola crisis in these three countries.

The Ebola funds have a long-term regional development impact and it is an important part of a coordinated international response led by the United Nations and the World Health Organization.  The World Bank Group will almost certainly mobilize more financing for the three affected countries since the immediate response is still significantly under-sourced for the purposes of curbing the outbreak.”

At this juncture, proceedings were halted in order to allow the President of the World Bank to make a special announcement with the Secretary-General of the United Nations standing right beside him.  Their joint statement is as follows:

“We are grateful to the “Seventy Senior Elders” from Nigeria who have offered to render professional services free of charge.  They are ex-KPMG partners who are waiting to collect their gratuity and pension.

We have prepared a project document for the new operation.  The new grant is part of the $200 million Ebola emergency mobilization which the World Bank Group announced in early August ahead of the General Assembly.  The fund would help families and communities in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone to cope with the economic impact of the Ebola crisis as well as rebuild and strengthen essential public health systems in the three worst-affected countries in order to guard against future disease outbreaks.

We wish to assure the elders that the allocation of the Ebola fund is calculated according to the World Health Organization’s roadmap and assessments of relative severity of the epidemic in each country.

Consequently, we shall mobilize $52 million for Liberia, the country with the highest number of Ebola infections; $28 million for Sierra Leone and $25 million for Guinea.

Both the United Nations and the World Bank are fully aware that Ebola-related restrictions on people’s movements are leading to food crises in the quarantined and most affected areas where the three countries intersect.

Indeed in the Mano River region, food insecurity is spreading rapidly.  More than one million people in the region are facing a food crisis in the coming months.  Furthermore, as the crisis continues to evolve, this threat may spread to other areas due to quarantine or other disruptions in movement of goods and people.”

The frantic efforts of the World Health Organization to contain the Ebola crisis has brought it very much into the limelight simultaneously with the searchlight. 

J.K Randle