Did you know that while one person wakes up to a healthy breakfast in the morning, several others spend their nights on in the cold hungry and there is no breakfast for them? While others receive the best treatment from private hospitals, many others die every day from treatable diseases. This is the grim face of the world, a face characterized by joy on one side and total misery on the other. It is the grim face of poverty. According to McNeill & StClair (11), one of the greatest moral challenges facing the world today is severe poverty. Much of the world’s economic policy has been focused on improving the quality of life for people as well as promoting economic growth. However, almost half the population of the world does not share the benefits of improved global prosperity. What this means is that nearly 3 billion people live in poverty and earn less than 2 dollars a day. In a society that tries to uphold humanity, such a huge number of people facing poverty is unacceptable. This is because it presents a situation whereby a group of people is throwing food off in garbage bins, while another group of people is dying of hunger or starvation. The weight of this matter can be examined by defining poverty and examining some statistics.
Defining poverty is quite difficult because poverty can mean different things in different contexts, societal settings or countries. The social definition is that poverty is a condition that is characterized by severe deprivation or lack of essential needs which include food, health, safe drinking water, education, sanitation facilities and shelter (Sewell 4). Therefore, when a person cannot have food to eat, cannot be able to go to school, cannot have access to health, cannot access safe drinking water, then he or she is living in poverty. The statistics are astounding when it comes to poverty.
About 50% of people in the world live on less than $2.50 a day. This translates to about 3 billion people. About 80% of the people in the world live on less than $10 a day. The number of persons who do not have adequate access to clean water in developing countries is put at 1.1 billion people. Children are not spared either. About 1 billion children in the world live in poverty. Of this number, 640 million do not have adequate shelter, 400 million do not access to safe drinking water, 270 million do not have access to health services, and as a result, about 1.4 million children die every year due to lack of adequate sanitation and safe drinking water (Statistic Brain 1). It is not the best of scenes when a child with ribs sticking out is shown in pictures to highlight the humanitarian crisis in some parts of the world. There are stories of children being used as sex slaves so that their parents can make a living. Poverty relegates people to the level of helplessness, hopelessness and despair.
The sad thing is that poverty is the root cause of many evils. These include social, economic, health and political problems. Poverty results in health problems such as deaths and diseases. For example, UNICEF observes that 22000 children die daily due to poverty (Shah 1). This goes unnoticed because they die ‘quietly’ in some of the world’s poorest villages that are far removed from the conscience and scrutiny of the world. About 28 percent of all children living in developing nations are estimated to have stunted growth or underweight (Shah 1). The question that lingers is; why should some people perish from hunger, disease and devastation while others sit comfortably in their living rooms and laugh at their excesses? It beats any moral aspect of humanity. It is poverty that drives people to social disorder.
Picture a young man in Kenya who is extremely bright. Though his family does not have much, he benefits from the country’s free primary and secondary education. After excelling in his form four exams, the young man cannot proceed to University to pursue a course in medicine. Another young man, who is from a well-off family, scores an average grade and manages to enroll in a parallel programme for medicine. This way, poverty has denied one person a dream and a future while money has bought this dream and future for another person. That is the cruelty and reality of poverty. It denies many people a chance in life. Therefore, while we still walk in the streets and find beggars, homeless people, burglars, gangs, sex workers and street children, then we should know that poverty is haunting us.
McNeill, Desmond, and StClair, Lera. Global Poverty, Ethics and Human Rights. New York: Routledge, 2009.
Sewell, John W. Poverty: Combating the Global Crisis. New York: Better World Campaign, 2010.
Shah, Anup. Poverty Facts and Stats. Global Issues 07 January 2013. Web. 14 April 2013.
Statistic Brain. World Poverty Statistics. Statistic Brain, 23 July 2012. Web. 14 April 2013.