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Poverty is real in developed and undeveloped nations Poverty is real in developed and undeveloped nations

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What is this?

Poverty in the developing world - a devastating problem

Close to 50 percent of the earth's human inhabitants-that's 3 billion people-live in poverty, subsisting on less the $2.50 per day. Of that number, more than 1 billion are children, most of whom do not have access to clean drinking water, adequate shelter, consistent education, or affordable health care.

Poverty in the developed world - a persistant challenge

And yet poverty isn't an issue confined to developing countries. The US, considered the wealthiest nation on earth, has the widest gap in the world between the rich and the poor, with more than half of all Americans spending at least one year of their lives beneath the national poverty line. Citizens in Canada, Australia, and the UK also experience poverty with those living below the poverty line numbering approximately 1.6 million, 2.5 million, and 3.9 million respectively. In fact, most developed countries have a poverty rate somewhere between 10 and 16 percent.

Types of poverty - severity matters

For measurement purposes, many divide poverty into two broad categories:

  1. Relative poverty: Compared to the average person, there is a lack of material goods that prevents the individual from fully participating in daily life.
  2. Absolute poverty: A more severe reality, people in this category lack basic resources to keep body and soul functioning properly.

Other indices measure poverty in terms of specific resources-fuel poverty, environmental poverty, water poverty, and so on.

What impact does it have?

Effects of poverty on health, education, and contributions to society

The effects of poverty are many and complex, but here are a few statistics that will paint a picture of the enormity of the problem:

  • Approximately 30,000 children die every day because they live below the poverty line. It is estimated that 1.8 million children die from diarrhoea annually, a condition that can be prevented by providing safe drinking water.
  • Women without access to clean water supplies must spend several hours every day collecting it from neighbouring wells, taking them away from more profitable enterprises.
  • Children living in persistent poverty are less likely to receive an adequate education, especially girls, and since education is closely linked to economic prosperity, the outlook for these children is rather bleak. 72 million children were absent from primary school in the developing world in 2005.
  • To survive, those living in developing countries often harvest wood and animal dung to burn as fuel, which contributes to serious health and environmental problems.

What has been done about it?

Battling poverty through International aid efforts

Governments, nonprofits, religious organizations, fair trade advocates, and international aid groups all work to eliminate poverty worldwide, but since humanity has struggled to produce universal equality for centuries, it is no surprise that the problem is far from solved. Many factors contribute to short-term and persistent poverty problems, not least of which are:

  • illnesses (both mental and physical)
  • disabilities
  • unemployment
  • environmental degradation
  • domestic and international governance and conflicts
  • demographics

The Millennium Development Goals - big dreams for eliminating poverty

Various international efforts have been developed to generate global solutions, the most recent of which are the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which aim to:

  • Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger
  • Achieve universal primary education
  • Promote gender equality and empower women
  • Reduce child mortality
  • Improve maternal health
  • Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases
  • Ensure environmental sustainability
  • Develop a global partnership for development

Is this action working?

Efforts of governments, NGOs, and international banks to alleviate poverty

Despite the best efforts of developed countries to bring poverty levels down within their borders, the relative size of this group remains approximately the same from decade to decade. For most developing countries, the situation is much worse. Although developed countries provide significant financial and resource aid to developing countries (a number that's much less than that allocated for military expenditures), the gap between rich and poor continues to widen.

Working with the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and the African Development Bank (ADB), the G-7 Finance Ministers have agreed to supply enough funds to cancel a significant portion of the $40-55 billion debt owed by heavily indebted poor countries in order to encourage them to reach the MDGs. But the progress has been uneven at best, with some nations set to realize none of their goals at all.

Why is this?

Conditional aid a roadblock to progress

Unfortunately, donations and debt cancellations that are meant to strengthen a country's economic environment often go sour in the face of corruption and shifts in the balance of power. Critics of current international aid schemes assign failure of these efforts to the donor countries because more often than not, international monetary aid comes with strings attached. The donor country is forced to adopt harmful economic policies, import products from the donor country over cheaper options, or develop their natural resources unsustainably.

Should it continue? On one side, there are those who are against

Positive developments - growing international interest in poverty

Of course, no one believes poverty should continue, and most would say they support efforts to alleviate the most extreme conditions. In recent years, there's been an increased international interest in putting an end to poverty with several high-profile campaigns drawing attention from powerful individuals, celebrities, and common citizens alike.

Should it continue? On the other side, there are those who are all for it

Ongoing skepticism - can aid efforts really work?

There are some, especially those from a capitalistic perspective, who hold that poverty can only be eliminated by letting the free market bring balance to an unequal system. Although these people are not pro-poverty, they are generally sceptical of the efficacy of providing aid to the poor.

Submitted by Maryruth on Oct 8, 2008