Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. It is a great honour for me to take this chance in helping us engage in a conversation about a subject that has been the source of many problems in the world. It is a problem that continues to affect a big part of the world population today. I want us to talk about poverty.
Poverty is a state of scarcity, the lack of material possessions to such extent that people have difficulties in providing for their basic needs. It touches on many aspects of human life including economic, political and social elements. The reason why I need us to look into this topic is because poverty has assumed a dynamic character, changing with patterns of consumption, progress in technology, as well as social behaviour. Eradication of global poverty and hunger is the number one millennium development goal. These aims had been projected to be achieved by the year 2015. However, in the year 2015 the goal is far from realization. It is, therefore, of utmost importance that we brainstorm on this topic.
First, it is important that we make a distinction between absolute and relative poverty. Absolute poverty refers to the state of people being deprived of basic needs which are food, clothing, shelter, healthcare, and sanitation. Relative poverty, on the other hand, implies a condition where there is economic inequality in a society. In the year 2008 the World Bank estimated that about 1.29 billion people were exposed to absolute poverty. The areas mostly affected by this problem are Sub-Saharan Africa, India and China (Pogge, 2008).
According to Robert McNamara, a former World Bank president, extreme poverty is limited by illiteracy, malnutrition, disease and high infant mortality rate, squalid conditions of living and low life expectancy. Previously, people were described as living in absolute poverty if they survived on less than US$ 1 per day. This has been revised over the years and currently starts at less than US$ 1.25 per person per day. Those who live on less than 2 dollars per day are in moderate hardship. Measurement of relative poverty reflects the proportion of a population that earns less than a fixed proportion of median income in an economy. It is a better measure of poorness than absolute one since it is not under the influence of exchange rates.
We should also look at other aspects of poverty. Economically, a persisting lack of income makes people unable to support a good standard of living since they cannot afford basic necessities. Socially, a need denies people the access to education, information, healthcare, and political power. Social exclusion in terms of resources and relationships also implies difficulty.
It is also important for us to understand the characteristics of a society living in poverty. First, there is rampant abuse by people in power, disempowerment of institutions in the jurisdiction, gender inequality, insecurity, precarious livelihoods, and weak organizations in the community. All these problems have been very evident in developing countries.
One of the aspects that are affected by poverty in a very fundamental way is health. It is estimated that about 18 million people succumb to death every year due to causes related to hardship. It exposes people to hunger and disease. Hunger and starvation lead to malnutrition which is a major cause of child mortality. Maternal death is also related to poverty. Disability as well is more likely to occur in the poor than the affluent. In the developed world, infectious diseases such as Tuberculosis consume a greater part of people income, thereby perpetuating the state of poverty. The government in these countries spends a large part of their GDP in combating disease other than in the implementation of development agendas. It is, therefore, quite clear that poverty has far reaching consequences on the health of an individual and that of the whole population.
Hardship causes hunger in a big part of the world population. The poor spend a bigger percentage of their earnings on food than the affluent. This has made poor people more vulnerable to even little food crises. The vicious cycle of soil fertility exhaustion due to poverty is the result of intensive farming in an effort to curb hunger. This leads to even more severe starvation because of the reduction in agricultural yields. Based on this observation, it is right to say that poverty and hunger provoke each other creating a vicious cycle.
Education is also affected by a need in a very significant way. Learning achievement is low among children who come from poor families. The rate of dropping out of school is also high in needy communities. Schools in areas suffering from extreme poverty cannot provide enabling environment to children for learning. In these districts, high rates of crime, violence, and war-like conditions lead to decreasing academic interest. The education of poor children suffers greatly from teenage pregnancy, delinquency and economic dependency. Children absence from school due to hunger or poor health also affects their learning adversely. It can, therefore, be safely stated that the low education rates in poor communities can be attributed to poverty.
The risk of homelessness is also increased by hardship. In the developing world, the rise in number of slum dwellers is a worrying trend. These people live under deplorable conditions and are deprived of human dignity. Sanitation is very poor which causes many diseases. Many youths have fled from their homes to become street urchins. These kids then become victims of child labour and abuse. Most of them who live in orphanages, do so because of poverty.
We all understand that a provision of utilities in any society is turned in the direction of the affluent residences. The poor then take to stealing public facilities such as water. The maintenance of this collapses due to lack of incentive. It is poverty that drives people to illegal connections of power and water. It also makes them more prone to destruction of the environment. The use of firewood by poor people leads to deforestation. How are we going to win the war on global warming if we do not fight poverty?
The rise in social evils such as prostitution can be attributed to hardship. People turn to these as a way of survival due to desperation. Those women who end being victims of human trafficking are from poor backgrounds. In some countries, girls turn to sex for food in an effort to survive. To avoid such social evils, the problem of poverty needs to be addressed.
I would also like us to focus on the relation between poverty and cancer. Hardship has been identified as a risk factor for human cancer. The poor have limited resources and are subjected to various environmental risks. Air polluted by compounds such as asbestos is a risk factor for lung cancer. Mortality due to this disease is higher among people of low social economic status. The access to quality healthcare by the poor is limited which means that cancers can only be discovered in the late stage making treatment difficult. The bad diet of the poor that lacks fresh fruits is a risk factor for gastrointestinal disorders (Heidary et al, 2013). It is, therefore, true that there is a clear association between poverty and cancer.
To conclude with, I would like to bring to your attention some of the things that can be done to reduce poverty. The supply of basic needs to all people should be made a priority. These include food, shelter, healthcare, clothes and sanitation. People should be empowered through education and economic freedom. In order to create a better world, fighting poverty should be a number one question. Thank you.
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