Around the world, in rich or poor countries, poverty has always been present. In most nations today, inequality–the gap between the rich and the poor–is quite high and often widening. The causes are numerous, including a lack of individual responsibility, bad government policy, exploitation by people, and business with power and influence or some combination of these and other factors. Many feel that high levels of inequality will affect some social cohesion and lead to problems such as increasing crime and violence.
Inequality is often a measure of relative poverty. Absolute poverty is also a concern. World Bank figures for world poverty reveals a high number of people live in poverty than previously thought. For example, the new poverty line is defined as living on the equivalent of $1. 25 a day. With that measure based on latest data available, 1. 4 billion people live on or below that line. Furthermore almost half the world–over three billion people–live on less than $2. 50 a day and at least 80 percent of humanity lives on less than $10 a day.
When I traveled last fall to Southeast Asia (Cambodia, Laos, and Thailand), I personally witnessed some extent of poverty as I lived in three separate villages for a week each. In order to put an end to global poverty once and for all, the governments of the 48 least developed countries must establish an efficient policy that’s fair, more people must become aware of this current issue, and individual responsibility must be in order. Last fall, I started my gap year in Southeast Asia in Cambodia. I went with a travel company called Rustic Pathways where I traveled around different countries with other kids my age.
I took a gap year because I felt I needed a new perspective on my outlook on the world around me and I wanted a new adventure and experience different cultures. That’s exactly what I got in Cambodia; a very different culture. While I was in Cambodia, we ventured to different orphanages and that’s where I first saw true poverty. The children were wearing dirty and raggedy old clothing and the building was very tiny–only 2 classrooms (one for the smaller children and one for the teenagers)–and the rest of the rooms were dormitories with creaky old bunk beds and the children only received one blanket each.
From Cambodia, we went to Laos where we saw much of the same thing and then we spent a month in Thailand where we lived in three different villages each for one week. Once again we saw more poverty, but this time it was a much different experience because we were actually living in them. While we were in the villages we helped them rebuild some of their homes because during their Monsoon season, they got an over abundance of rain. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw how these people lived their lives everyday for their entire lives.
This time, there were no beds; we slept on bamboo floors with a mat, a pillow, and a blanket. To explain the situation further, most of the children only attend the village school until age thirteen and then most of them stay home to help their parents or if the family can afford to send their children to high school, then they went to boarding school in the city five hours away. I couldn’t believe my eyes of what I experienced for only a short amount of time and it seriously made me appreciate all that I’ve been given my whole life and this experience taught me to not take advantage of the opportunities I have here.
Foreign aid fulfills an invaluable role in lifting millions of people out of poverty, in building government institutions and in pioneering new ideas for development. Separate quantifiable commitments are in place to increase the whole level of foreign aid, the proportion of aid targeted at the 48 Least Developed Countries and the amount of aid to Sub-Saharan Africa. None have been fulfilled by more than a handful of donor countries. And a similar pattern of unsubstantiated promises of financial support is emerging in the fight against climate change.
However, it is important to recognize that aid alone cannot create the ideas, ambition and opportunities necessary to transform the world’s poorest economies. Foreign aid is a necessary but insufficient solution to global poverty. Greater justice in international economic governance may improve the fortunes of developing countries but the outlook for global poverty depends ultimately on their internal social policies. In terms of sectorial priority, it is generally accepted that investment in the rural economy is the most cost effect means of reducing poverty.
Many governments in Africa have renewed their commitments to raise spending on agriculture. The bastions of land reform and the subservient role of women in farming must also be overcome if this strategy is to succeed. The dominant feature of recent social protection plans is the surge in interest in household cash transfers, often conditional on children’s attendance at school and for immunization. Empowering the poor through secure purchasing capacity is viewed as the solution to the most pressing contemporary problems–malnutrition, short term local economic shocks and long term chronic poverty.
Inspiration comes from Brazil and Mexico, countries once renowned for extremes of inequality. Poverty reduction and stronger economic performance in these countries have been attributed in part to the success of their respective family-based income-support programs, known as Bolsa Familia and Oportunidades. Cash transfers represent overdose recognition of the rights of the poor, as opposed to their needs. Such fundamental reordering of priorities is the surest remedy for the global poor, as indeed it may be for all of us in search of a sustainable future.
In order to fully grasp the true concept of what global poverty means for the majority of people that live on this planet Earth, it is important to understand the facts. This is only a small handful of facts to further explain the harsh realities for most people: three billion people live on less than $2. 50 a day, 22,000 children die each day due to poverty, 1. 1 billion people in developing countries have inadequate access to water, and there’s 443 million school days lost due to water related illness (Statistic Brain). According to most recent estimates of the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations, the number of hungry people worldwide is 963 million…” (Rethinking Poverty). Probably the most disturbing and most frustrating fact is that we do have enough food to be able to produce to the developing countries. The only hindering problem in being able to put an end to world hunger and poverty is that, according to worldhunger. org, “is that many people in the world do not have sufficient land to grow, or income purchase, enough food. “