When most people think of child poverty they immediately think of Africa, India, places like that. Famine comes to mind, as does drought and disease and bringing up the rear, death, death and death. We often hear of harrowing stories and see pictures of children close to death from malnutrition, diarrhoea brought on by polluted water. Such is hell, who needs the devil! There are so many cases that can be cited, we’ll settle for two:
Nepal: 66% severely deprived 40% in absolute poverty, malnutrition a major problem. (unicefglobalstudy.blogspot.co.uk)
Haiti: 54% live in abject poverty, 40% depend on subsistence farming to survive. (upoak.com)
Contrast those figures with those of JRF that 3% of children in the UK suffer from ‘chronic’ poverty. This is not to suggest that being poor in the developed nations is easy. However, it should not involve a shortage of: food, shelter, clothing or medicine which can be very much a reality in the places mentioned and in various parts of Africa and the sub-continent of India.
….. lives with her disabled husband and one-year-old son in a rented home in Coventry. Despite struggling financially, she questions the current definition of poverty.
“Compared to where I grew up in South Africa, people here are ridiculously wealthy. In Africa if you do not work, you do not eat. It is normal to see children walking to school without shoes on and digging for food in the dustbins.”
“Poverty there is also the fear that you are replaceable if you do not turn up for work. There is no protection.”
“The British government want to change the way poverty is measured, but if you choose to buy alcohol or drugs, you choose to put yourself into poverty.”
“The poverty we live under is mental poverty, not true poverty.” Case study from BBC June 2012 (bbc.co.uk)
Seen from her two perspectives, is this woman right?
Moreover, a number of academics pour scorn on the West’s notion of poverty:
“Relative poverty rates are not poverty at all; they are measures of inequality…”
Professor of Economics, Miles Corak, (The Globe & Mail, May2012)
“There is no consensus about what constitutes poverty; it is essentially a political issue.”
(A. Walker, 1990)
“Statistically, relative poverty is a measure of inequality in the bottom half of the income distribution.”
Kristen Niemietz, (A New Understanding of Poverty, 2011) If you like a sound factual approach you’ll like this. (iea.org.uk)
Can we reconcile the diametrically opposite views of poverty? One screams at you from the TV, while the other goes largely unnoticed. When there is a disaster like a famine or earthquake most people put some money in the can. The tragedy is visible, it’s in your face, and adverts milk the emotion of the event to maximize your donation.
Throughout the world poverty stalks the unfortunate like a fiend with no compassion. To help solve the situation we need to think long and hard. The aid donors in particular need to re-think their strategy on how they spend, monitor and evaluate their aid. There is absolutely no value in continuing with the present shambles of throwing money at the problem. For how many years has money been poured in and yet the plight of the people seems no better. Until the donor nations put their money into planning, construction, water supply and irrigation then I don’t think anything will change. It needs a root and branch re-think!
We should insist that the donors sit around a table and/or join via a conference call and find a strategy that all can work towards. Then they need to empty their bulging pockets onto the table and use the money to systematically improve a given situation. A whole gaggle flying in on separate expense accounts is a mockery of their stated aim and an insult to those in desperate need. How much money is wasted by having the horde of NGO’s charging in, with their know best attitude, doing their little bit, tinkering at the edges, putting a brick where a hundred houses should stand with all the necessary drainage etc:?
Cut the waste; don’t build in haste, plan, and plan to build good living space.
If you missed Child Poverty 1 or 2 please check here: