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Radwan Chowdhury – What is Hunger and Poverty?
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What is Hunger and Poverty?

What is Poverty?

Poverty is an acid that drips on pride until all pride is worn away. Poverty is a chisel that chips on honor until honor is worn away. Some of you say that you would do something in my situation, and maybe you would, for the first week or the first month, but for year after year after year?

Poverty is about not having enough money to meet basic needs including food, clothing and shelter. However, poverty is more, much more than just not having enough money.

Poverty is getting up every morning from a dirt- and illness-stained mattress. The sheets have long since been used for diapers. Poverty is living in a smell that never leaves. This is a smell of urine, sour milk, and spoiling food sometimes joined with the strong smell of long-cooked onions. Onions are cheap. If you have smelled this smell, you did not know how it came. It is the smell of the outdoor privy. It is the smell of young children who cannot walk the long dark way in the night. It is the smell of the mattresses where years of “accidents” have happened. It is the smell of the milk which has gone sour because the refrigerator long has not worked, and it costs money to get it fixed. It is the smell of rotting garbage. I could bury it, but where is the shovel? Shovels cost money.

Poverty is being tired. I have always been tired. They told me at the hospital when the last baby came that I had chronic anemia caused from poor diet, a bad case of worms, and that I needed a corrective operation. I listened politely – the poor are always polite. The poor always listen. They don’t say that there is no money for iron pills, or better food, or worm medicine. The idea of an operation is frightening and costs so much that, if I had dared, I would have laughed. Who takes care of my children? Recovery from an operation takes a long time. I have three children. When I left them with “Granny” the last time I had a job, I came home to find the baby covered with fly specks, and a diaper that had not been changed since I left. When the dried diaper came off, bits of my baby’s flesh came with it. My other child was playing with a sharp bit of broken glass, and my oldest was playing alone at the edge of a lake. I made twenty-two dollars a week, and a good nursery school costs twenty dollars a week for three children. I quit my job.

Poverty is dirt. You can say in your clean clothes coming from your clean house, “Anybody can be clean.” Let me explain about housekeeping with no money. For breakfast I give my children grits with no oleo or cornbread without eggs and oleo. This does not use up many dishes. What dishes there are, I wash in cold water and with no soap. Even the cheapest soap has to be saved for the baby’s diapers. Look at my hands, so cracked and red. Once I saved for two months to buy a jar of Vaseline for my hands and the baby’s diaper rash. When I had saved enough, I went to buy it and the price had gone up two cents. The baby and I suffered on. I have to decide every day if I can bear to put my cracked sore hands into the cold water and strong soap. But you ask, why not hot water? Fuel costs money. If you have a wood fire it costs money. If you burn electricity, it costs money. Hot water is a luxury. I do not have luxuries. I know you will be surprised when I tell you how young I am. I look so much older. My back has been bent over the wash tubs every day for so long, I cannot remember when I ever did anything else. Every night I wash every stitch my school age child has on and just hope her clothes will be dry by morning.

Poverty is staying up all night on’ cold nights to watch the fire knowing one spark on the newspaper covering the walls means your sleeping child dies in flames. In summer poverty is watching gnats and flies devour your baby’s tears when he cries. The screens are torn and you pay so little rent you know they will never be fixed. Poverty means insects in your food, in your nose, in your eyes, and crawling over you when you sleep. Poverty is hoping it never rains because diapers won’t dry when it rains and soon you are using newspapers. Poverty is seeing your children forever with runny noses. Paper handkerchiefs cost money and all your rags you need for other things. Even more costly are antihistamines. Poverty is cooking without food and cleaning without soap.

Poverty is asking for help. Have you ever had to ask for help, knowing 6 your children will suffer unless you get it? Think about asking for a loan from a relative, if this is the only way you can imagine asking for help. I will tell you how it feels. You find out where the office is that you are supposed to visit. You circle that block four or five times. Thinking of your children, you go in. Everyone is very busy. Finally, someone comes out and you tell her that you need help. That never is the person you need to see. You go see another person, and after spilling the whole shame of your poverty all over the desk between you, you find that this isn’t the right office after all-you must repeat the whole process, and it never is any easier at the next place.

You have asked for help, and after all it has a cost. You are again told to wait. You are told why, but you don’t really hear because of the red cloud of shame and the rising cloud of despair.

Poverty is remembering. It is remembering quitting school in junior high because “nice” children had been so cruel about my clothes and my smell. The attendance officer came. My mother told him I was pregnant. I wasn’t, but she thought that I could get a job and help out. I had jobs off and on, but never long enough to learn anything. Mostly I remember being married. I was so young then. I am still young. For a time, we had all the things you have. There was a little house in another town, with hot water and everything. Then my husband lost his job. There was unemployment insurance for a while and what few jobs I could get. Soon, all our nice things were repossessed and we moved back here. I was pregnant then. This house didn’t look so bad when we first moved in. Every week it gets worse. Nothing is ever fixed. We now had no money. There were a few odd jobs for my husband, but everything went for food then, as it does now. I don’t know how we lived through three years and three babies, but we did. I’ll tell you something, after the last baby I destroyed my marriage. It had been a good one, but could you keep on bringing children in this dirt? Did you ever think how much it costs for any kind of birth control? I knew my husband was leaving the day he left, but there were no goodbye between us. I hope he has been able to climb out of this mess somewhere. He never could hope with us to drag him down.

That’s when I asked for help. When I got it, you know how much it was? It was, and is, seventy-eight dollars a month for the four of us; that is all I ever can get. Now you know why there is no soap, no needles and thread, no hot water, no aspirin, no worm medicine, no hand cream, no shampoo. None of these things forever and ever and ever. So that you can see clearly, I pay twenty dollars a month rent, and most of the rest goes for food. For grits and cornmeal, and rice and milk and beans. I try my best to use only the minimum electricity. If I use more, there is that much less for food.

Poverty is looking into a black future. Your children won’t play with my boys. They will turn to other boys who steal to get what they want. I can already see them behind the bars of their prison instead of behind the bars of my poverty. Or they will turn to the freedom of alcohol or drugs, and find themselves enslaved. And my daughter? At best, there is for her a life like mine.

Even the poor can dream. A dream of a time when there is money. Money for the right kinds of food, for worm medicine, for iron pills, for toothbrushes, for hand cream, for a hammer and nails and a bit of screening, for a shovel, for a bit of paint, for some sheeting, for needles and thread. Money to pay in money for a trip to town. And, oh, money for hot water and money for soap. A dream of when asking for help does not eat away the last bit of pride. When the office you visit is as nice as the offices of other governmental agencies, when there are enough workers to help you quickly, when workers do not quit in defeat and despair. When you have to tell your story to only one person, and that person can send you for other help and you don’t have to prove your poverty over and over and over again.

Hunger and World Poverty

About 21,000 people die every day of hunger or hunger-related causes, according to the United Nations. This is one person every four seconds, as you can see on this display. Sadly, it is children who die most often.

Yet there is plenty of food in the world for everyone. The problem is that hungry people are trapped in severe poverty. They lack the money to buy enough food to nourish themselves. Being constantly malnourished, they become weaker and often sick. This makes them increasingly less able to work, which then makes them even poorer and hungrier. This downward spiral often continues until death for them and their families.

There are effective programs to break this spiral. For adults, there are “food for work” programs where the adults are paid with food to build schools, dig wells, make roads, and so on. This both nourishes them and builds infrastructure to end the poverty. For children, there are “food for education” programs where the children are provided with food when they attend school. Their education will help them to escape from hunger and global poverty.

The World Bank Organization describes poverty in this way:

“Poverty is hunger. Poverty is lack of shelter. Poverty is being sick and not being able to see a doctor. Poverty is not having access to school and not knowing how to read. Poverty is not having a job, is fear for the future, living one day at a time.

Poverty has many faces, changing from place to place and across time, and has been described in many ways. Most often, poverty is a situation people want to escape. So poverty is a call to action — for the poor and the wealthy alike — a call to change the world so that many more may have enough to eat, adequate shelter, access to education and health, protection from violence, and a voice in what happens in their communities.”

In addition to a lack of money, poverty is about not being able to participate in recreational activities; not being able to send children on a day trip with their schoolmates or to a birthday party; not being able to pay for medications for an illness. These are all costs of being poor. Those people who are barely able to pay for food and shelter simply can’t consider these other expenses. When people are excluded within a society, when they are not well educated and when they have a higher incidence of illness, there are negative consequences for society. We all pay the price for poverty. The increased cost on the health system, the justice system and other systems that provide supports to those living in poverty has an impact on our economy.

While much progress has been made in measuring and analyzing poverty, the World Bank Organization is doing more work to identify indicators for the other dimensions of poverty. This work includes identifying social indicators to track education, health, access to services, vulnerability, and social exclusion.

There is no one cause of poverty, and the results of it are different in every case. Poverty varies considerably depending on the situation. Feeling poor in Canada is different from living in poverty in Russia or Zimbabwe. The differences between rich and poor within the borders of a country can also be great.

Despite the many definitions, one thing is certain; poverty is a complex societal issue. No matter how poverty is defined, it can be agreed that it is an issue that requires everyone’s attention. It is important that all members of our society work together to provide the opportunities for all our members to reach their full potential. It helps all of us to help one another.

World Population

World Poverty

  • Total Percentage of World Population that lives on less than $2.50 a day 50%
  • Total number of people that live on less than $2.50 a day 3 Billion
  • Total Percentage of People that live on less than $10 a day 80%
  • Total percent of World Populations that live where income differentials are widening 80%
  • Total Percentage of World Income the richest 20% account for 75%
  • Total Number of children that die each day due to Poverty 22,000
  • Total Number of People in Developing Countries with Inadequate Access to Water 1.1 billion
  • Total Number of School Days lost to Water Related Illness 443 million school days

Child World Poverty

  • Number of children in the world 2 billion
  • Number of Children that live in Poverty 1 billion
  • Total Number of Children that live without adequate shelter 640 million (1 in 3)
  • Total Number of Children without access to safe water 400 million (1 in 5)
  • Total Number of Children with no access to Health Services 270 million (1 in 7)
  • Total Number of Children who die annually from lack of access to safe drinking water and adequate sanitation 1.4 million

World Hunger

  • 870 million people do not have enough to eat — more than the populations of USA and the European Union combined.
  • 98% of the world’s undernourished people live in developing countries.
  • Two-thirds of the world’s hungry live in just 7 countries: Bangladesh, China, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, India, Indonesia and Pakistan.
  • Where is hunger the worst?
  1. Asia and the Pacific: 578 million
  2. Sub-Saharan Africa: 239 million
  3. Latin America and the Caribbean: 53 million

Women and Children

  • 60 percent of the world’s hungry are women.
  • 50 percent of pregnant women in developing countries lack proper maternal care, resulting in over 300,000 maternal deaths annually from childbirth.
  • 1 out of 6 infants are born with a low birth weight in developing countries.
  • Malnutrition is the key factor contributing to more than one-third of all global child deaths resulting in 2.6 million deaths per year.
  • A third of all childhood death in sub-Saharan Africa is caused by hunger.
  • Every five seconds, a child dies from hunger-related diseases.

HIV/AIDS and other Diseases

  • 35 million people are living with HIV/AIDS.
  • 65 percent of young people living with HIV/AIDS are women.
  • 90 percent of all children and 60 percent of all women living with HIV are in sub-Saharan Africa.
  • More than 11 million children die each year from preventable health issues such as malaria, diarrhea and pneumonia.

Water

  • 7 billion People lack access to clean water.
  • 3 billion People suffer from water-borne diseases each year.
  • 12 percent of the world’s population uses 85 percent of its water, and none of the 12 percent lives in developing countries.

Agriculture

  • 75 percent of the world’s poorest people — 1.4 billion women, children, and men — live in rural areas and depend on agriculture and related activities for their livelihood.
  • 50 percent of hungry people are farming families.

References:

Hunger & Poverty Statistics in the United States of America

Although related, food insecurity and poverty are not the same. Unemployment rather than poverty is a stronger predictor of food insecurity.

Poverty

  1. In 2012, 46.5 million people (15.0 percent) were in poverty.
  2. In 2012, 26.5 million (13.7 percent) of people ages 18-64 were in poverty.
  3. In 2012, 16.1 million (21.8 percent) children under the age of 18 were in poverty.
  4. In 2012, 3.9 million (9.1 percent) seniors 65 and older were in poverty.
  5. The overall poverty rate according to the Supplemental Poverty Measure is 16.1%, as compared with the official poverty rate of 15.1%.
  6. Under the Supplemental Poverty Measure, there are 49.7 million people living in poverty, 3.1 million more than are represented by the official poverty measure (46.5 million).

Food Insecurity and Very Low Food Security

  1. In 2012, 49.0 million Americans lived in food insecure households, 33.1 million adults and 15.9 million children.
  2. In 2012, 14.5 percent of households (17.6 million households) were food insecure.
  3. In 2012, 5.7 percent of households (7.0 million households) experienced very low food security.
  4. In 2012, households with children reported food insecurity at a significantly higher rate than those without children, 20.0 percent compared to 11.9 percent.
  5. In 2012, households that had higher rates of food insecurity than the national average included households with children (20.0 percent), especially households with children headed by single women (35.4 percent) or single men (23.6 percent), Black non-Hispanic households (24.6 percent) and Hispanic households (23.3 percent).
  6. In 2011, 4.8 million seniors (over age 60), or 8.4% of all seniors were food insecure.
  7. Food insecurity exists in every county in America, ranging from a low of 2.4 percent in Slope County, ND to a high of 35.2 percent in Holmes County, MS.
  8. Ten states exhibited statistically significant higher household food insecurity rates than the U.S. national average 2000-2012:

United States                   14.7%

Mississippi                       20.9%

Arkansas                          19.7%

Texas                                 18.4%

Alabama                             17.9%

North Carolina                   17.0%

Georgia                               16.9%

Missouri                             16.7%

Nevada                              16.6%

Ohio                                     16.1%

California                             15.6%

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