A Primer On World Poverty Research Paper Example
Poverty continues to be a global issue. It is not something exclusive to a country, but rather one that is felt in various part of the world. Poverty is an individual’s inability to support his or her basic needs such as food, shelter, clothing, education, and health, among others. In the past, poverty is only apparent in continents such as Asia and Africa. But not anymore. Poverty is also felt in advanced countries in Europe and in America. In spite of being one of the most developed countries in the world, around 40 million Americans live in poverty. Governments throughout the world recognize the enormity of the problem and realize that it is difficult, if not impossible, to eradicate poverty. Regardless what the median income, unemployment statistics, or overall prosperity level is, the fact remains that homeless and hungry people will always be there. Although poverty has been a consistent problem since time immemorial, there are still people who are struggling to find shelter, acquire warm clothing, and feed the children. Poverty is a social and global issue that affects millions of people regardless of race, age, or gender, leaving people dependent on welfare, the government, and without food or shelter.
BACKGROUND ON POVERTY
Poverty has been a constant issue since the olden times. This societal dilemma has an assortment of impacts on diverse organizations and people. Nevertheless, there are realistic and possible solutions that are on hand to improve and lighten this social crisis. In discussing poverty, awareness on the reasons why the situation exists, identifying areas most affected by poverty, and recognizing the consequences and its effects on society helps in combating poverty and coming up with solutions to alleviate the situation.
Root Causes of Poverty
According to studies conducted by the United Nations, an estimated 21,000 people die every day because of hunger or hunger-related problems. Mostly, these numbers are composed of a high number of children than adults. Ironically, there is a huge supply of food for everyone to share. The problem is that the “hungry people are trapped in severe poverty” (Poverty.com) situations where they do not have the resources to buy food for their own nourishment. As a result, they become malnourished, weak, and sickly, which further inhibits them from finding the means to earn money to buy food. This makes their situation worse and they become hungrier. If this situation persists, the results can be devastating for the family as it could lead to death for them and their families (Poverty.com).
Agricultural cycles. Some families depend on agriculture for their subsistence. Typically, these are the people who experience cycles of changing lifestyles considering the cycles of relative abundance and scarcity. Farmer families experience periods of hunger usually before harvest time, which is the reason why they lack adequate resources to meet their minimum daily requirements. Understanding these periods of abundance and scarcity will help them predict and prepare for periods of their daily needs.
Natural disasters. Among the leading causes of poverty are natural occurrences, including earthquakes, typhoons, and hurricanes. Usually, developing countries suffer the consequences of these natural events that cause great destructions because of “limited resources [that] inhibit the construction of adequate housing, infrastructure, and mechanisms for responding to crises” (GDRC). Droughts and flooding, which are also natural events, contribute to poverty especially when crops are destroyed and animals die. As an example, the flooding in Bangladesh, the 2005 earthquake in Haiti, and the drought in the Horn of Africa have made poverty-stricken people refugees in their own countries as they lost all they had, including their homes, and becoming dependent on others for their own survival. Without the continuous help of wealthier countries, governments in these countries will not be able to address the needs of their people (Williams).
Colonial histories. History suggests that most of the countries that experience poverty were former colonies. Colonizers have helped develop these countries up to a certain extent, but colonialism and its legacies have created the poor conditions that inhibit many of the people from purchasing land, obtaining proper education, and other resources. In many instances, these colonizers helped develop the local economies for their own benefit in order to gain access to local resources for their own economic growth and development (Williams).
War and political instability. These two factors are always tied up to colonial histories of various countries. Regardless of the reasons for war and political turmoil, the safety, security, and stability of a nation is put to risk and as a result, even a nation’s economic growth and prosperity. Without these fundamental needs, a country’s natural resources cannot be bound together whether independently or communally. Education, skills, and technological abilities will not push people to work and enjoy the benefits of their hard work if their lives are always at risk. Additionally, laws to protect the rights of individuals, property, and investments must be in place to ensure small business owners and farmers can safely invest their money and resources in the country’s economy. Without these laws, people and resources might be subjected to abuse and unfair treatment (Williams).
On the other hand, warfare further cements a nation to poverty when instead of allocating resources and money to solve poverty; the government spends more money and resources to maintaining its military guard. As an example, the 1999 and 2000 war that happened between Ethiopia and Eritrea on conflict over borders made the dire situation of both countries even more dismal considering that both were already having severe food shortages due to drought. Thus, instead of using their resources to resolve their problems on poverty, both countries focused more on building ammunitions instead of buying food or finding ways to multiply their resources (GDRG).
Centralization of power and corruption. Governments in most developing nations centralize political power, which results to unequal distribution of decision-making and responsibilities. Most often, “politicians make decisions about places that they are unfamiliar with, lacking sufficient knowledge about the context to design effective and appropriate policies and programs” (GDRG). In this type of political system, leaders do not feel they have to be accountable to the people they serve, thus, instead of investing government money to development projects that would improve the lives of the people, including improving the poverty situation, political leaders only throw in support to select groups and their followers only.
Discrimination and social inequality. While poverty and inequality are not the same, inequality results to poverty and discrimination as caused by placing people in different classes based on race, ethnicity, gender, religion, and social classes, among others (Francis 5). For instance, apartheid laws in South Africa were based on a binary caste system that dispensed different kinds of rights and social opportunities to people based on their skin color, whether they are Whites or Blacks (GDRG). In addition, tools and resources that can help people support themselves vary depending on the person’s social class. Those belonging to the lower levels of society often experience “inequalities in income distribution and access to productive resources, basic social services, opportunities, markets, and information” (qtd. in Williams), which further aggravates the poverty situation.
Areas Most Affected by Poverty
Among the poorest countries in the world can be found in Africa. This is not unexpected considering that war and famine ravaged the continent during the last four decades. Additionally, most of the poor countries were protectorates or territories of Europe. In the past, poverty was concentrated mostly in China and India, both of which were known for their huge populations, high illiteracy rates, and enormous untapped resources. However, through improved educational programs, both countries were able to progress into what they are today.
In Africa, most of the poor countries are a result of poor governance caused by civil war, political unrest, and instability. Corrupt officials take money from the economy and redirect foreign aid to other government causes instead of what the aid is intended for. In reality, Africa is rich in natural resources with Nigeria considered as one of the largest countries that produce oil. Other African countries, although having massive access to natural resources, are not able to take advantage of the richness of their soil and country for lack of capital needed to upgrade infrastructure. Others have limited money resources to actually take advantage of their lands, while some have insignificant mineral deposits, gas, or oil (24/7 Wall St.). Considering this situation, most African countries are apt to remain poor and dependent on financial aid coming from other richer nations.
Republic of Liberia. With a population of 3.7 million, Liberia continues to suffer from economic poverty and suffering since the military coup in 1980. What appears as a saving grace for the country is the abundance of water supply, mineral resources, and timber. Yet, Liberia remains poor and is ranked as the 4th poorest nation in the world (24/7 Wall St.).
Republic of Burundi. Deficient in natural resources, Burundi is the world’s 3rd poorest country with high levels of uneducated people, including children, and high numbers of people suffering from HIV/AIDS. The civil war between the Hutu and Tutsi factions has also pushed Burundi to experience economic challenges, although there is a certain degree of political stability now. Burundi’s population is almost 10 million (24/7 Wall St.).
Republic of Zimbabwe. With a population of almost 12 million, Zimbabwe is the 2nd poorest nation in the world with a GDP per capita of $354 only. Its economy suffered greatly after the war with the Democratic Republic of Congo and over-inflation resulting from overprinting of currency. As well, potential foreign investors pulled out their intent to invest in the country after learning about a vicious land redistribution operation (24/7 Wall St.).
Democratic Republic of Congo. Ranked as the poorest among all countries, Congo has a population of more than 70 million and GDP per capita of $332 only. Despite having rich economic resources, war and corruption pushed down its economy although it was once considered as Africa’s second most industrialized country. Without improved infrastructure and with the existence of war and political turmoil, business packed up and left the country, leaving Congo barely surviving with a GDP per capita of only $332 (24/7 Wall St.).
Consequences of Poverty
Regardless of its causes, world poverty puts forth distressing consequences for people who experience extreme levels of poverty. According to studies, poor children are more likely to remain poor even in adulthood, become teenaged parents, and have employment issues.
Family problems. Poor families are more likely to experience problems within their family, ranging from domestic violence to divorce. This could be the result of dealing with stressful conditions such as running the household, lack of food, lack of money, and dealing with issues with children, among others. While these problems are also widely felt in families that are not really poor, the amount of stress doubles in poor families because unlike in households where they have other resources for food and money, poor families have lesser sources of income to buy food and keep up with their daily living.
Homelessness. Poverty can lead to an individual becoming homeless for lack of money and other resources to afford renting a house or buying their own homes. Unlike families living in poor conditions but having their own homes, homeless families are more likely to suffer from malnutrition and less likely to receive immunization for diseases. This also equates to some women giving birth to babies with lower birth rates, miscarriages, and infant mortality, which may be attributed to not having access to proper nutrition and prenatal care. Apart from these situations, homeless people experience disruptions in family relationships, school, and work, among others.
Health and illnesses. Poverty leads to the development of various kinds of health problems including infant mortality, early adulthood mortality, mental illnesses, HIV/AIDS, and other types of communicable diseases such as malaria, tuberculosis, pneumonia, and diarrhoea, among others. Children from poor families may also suffer from behavioural and cognitive problems, which could affect the children’s performance in school or their employment (“Key Facts: Poverty and Poor Health”). Poverty could also result in much shorter lives for people, which is very much true for ethnic minorities in any poor country as they are the very first ones to experience discrimination and unfair treatments (“Causes & Effects of Poverty On Society, Children & Violence”). These poor people are not only ravaged by material poverty but also by social exclusion and regardless of the reason for degradation of the mental or physical health, the result is still the same, that is, poor people live shorter lives than other who have material resources at their disposal.
Education. Poverty also prevents children from attending quality schools, thus, they end up in schools with inadequate educational facilities and receive insufficient schooling. Unlike children from wealthier nations, poor children are deprived of the opportunity to obtain a high school diploma, which could help them find better employment. Especially for countries that are war torn, children typically stop attending school as they fear for their safety outside their homes.
Crime and victimization. Poverty also results to poor people being victims of crimes and at the same time, being the perpetrators of crime. While there are many reasons for street crimes to occur, the lack of money or opportunities to improve one’s life pushes poor people to commit crimes and victimize other people. Therefore, for children who live in an environment of hostility and where committing crimes is natural, then a child, through observation, absorbs what he or she sees and follow what the adults are doing.
Increased risk of war. Countries that experience problems with world economy, deficient in raw materials and markets for their limited goods may resort to war in order to obtain new markets for their goods and at the same time, obtain raw materials to keep up with their trade requirements. However, this often leads to conflicts with other countries especially when laws and regulations make it difficult for poorer countries to purchase their needs (“Poverty at Large: A Dark Spot in Humanity”).
Mass emigration. Considering the economic situation of a country, the possibility of people migrating to another country that could provide better opportunities is imminent. In a country that could provide profitable trading opportunities, with better economic conditions, and low cost of living, people are prone to move for better prospects. The downside of this migration is that the poor country may even have difficulty recuperating from the effects of poverty (“Poverty at Large: A Dark Spot in Humanity”).
Terrorism. There is an apparent link between extreme poverty and terrorism as exemplified in community development activities by terrorist organizations. In most instances, terrorist organizations provide social, cultural, welfare, agricultural, healthcare, and educational opportunities to poor countries where they operate, but in exchange, poor countries experience economic oppression and intimidation into brutal and cruel activities (Harriman).
GLOBAL COMMUNITY RESPONSE
World leaders and international organizations have realized the prevalence of poverty worldwide. The widespread effect of poverty has not only affected the poor countries as it also opened the eyes of more affluent countries, pushing them to help smaller and poorer countries and by providing relief goods and financial aid. Reducing poverty, improving nutrition and making sure people have access to safe water and sanitation, as well as strengthening national health systems are the thrusts of the governments and private organizations extending help to poor nations. However, apart from food and financial aid, other factors that contribute to world hunger should also be addressed, such as inequality and injustices committed to people.
Because governments in lead-developed countries have limited access to resources, fighting extreme poverty and providing better living conditions to people is particularly difficult. Therefore, world leaders must agree, especially those from more affluent countries, to come up with a financing strategy that could address the needs of the poor countries, especially the poorest people living in these countries. For now, special programs such as the food for work programs where adults are paid with food to help in building schools and infrastructures are options that would help poor families address poverty. For children, there are foods for education programs, which provide children food when they attend classes in schools.
World poverty is a huge phenomenon that needs a solution in order to save other nations from sure death. As many people die due to hunger and extreme poverty, it is about time to help one another and come up with solutions that can support each other. Poverty is not limited to one race, gender, ethnicity, religion, or age. It is a global phenomenon brought about by factors such as war, corrupt government, and inequality, among others. What should be remembered is that poverty can be solved if only all nations come together and offer support in whatever form to the least-developed countries.
24/7 Wall St. “Here are the Poorest Nations in the World.” 2010. Web. 5 February 2015. <http://www.businessinsider.com/poorest-countries-in-the-world-2010-8?op=>.
“Causes & Effects of Poverty On Society, Children & Violence.” 2011. Web. 6 February 2015. <http://www.poverties.org/effects-of-poverty.html>.
Francis, Elizabeth. “Poverty: Causes, Responses and Consequences in Rural South Africa.” 2006. Web. 6 February 2015. <http://www.chronicpoverty.org/uploads/publication_files/WP60_Francis.pdf>.
GDRC. “Causes of Poverty.” N.d. Web. 4 February 2015. <http://www.gdrc.org/icm/poverty-causes.htm>.
Harriman, Jake. “Linking extreme Poverty and Global Terrorism.” 2012. Web. 6 February 2015. <http://kristof.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/03/13/linking-extreme-poverty-and-global-terrorism/?_r=0>.
“Key Facts: Poverty and Poor Health.” N.d. 6 February 2015. <http://www.healthpovertyaction.org/policy-and-resources/the-cycle-of-poverty-and-poor-health/the-cycle-of-poverty-and-poor-health1/>.
“Poverty at Large: A Dark Spot in Humanity.” N.d. Web. 6 February 2015. <http://povertyhci.weebly.com/consequences-of-poverty.html>.
Williams, Delice. “What are Causes of Global Poverty.” 2013. Web. 5 February 2015. <http://borgenproject.org/what-causes-global-poverty/>.