Poverty Affects Different Age GroupsExtreme poverty affects people all over the world in many different ways. Some countries experience endemic poverty where it is incredibly hard for their citizens to overcome their circumstances and break the cycle of poverty. On the other hand, some countries have been able to reduce their poverty rates due to economic growth, development and investment. However, regardless of these differences, many countries align on how extreme poverty affects different age groups.

Poverty’s Effect on Children and Teens

Firstly, adolescents are one of the most vulnerable age groups to be affected by extreme poverty. UNICEF reveals that 148 million children under the age of five are underweight; 101 million children are not enrolled in schooling, and almost nine million children under five years old die each year. These statistics are incredibly revealing especially when paired with the fact that malnutrition, lack of clean water and proper sanitation, diarrhea and pneumonia are the main causes of death among children.

Secondly, teenagers and young adults also experience difficulties in overcoming extreme poverty. For instance, lack of education and proper schooling is a major issue for many countries around the world. These young adults that are not in school may become subject to child labor or even become child soldiers in many countries. According to the UN Secretary General’s Global Initiative on Education, “Basic literacy and numeracy skills could lift 171 million people out of poverty, resulting in a 12% cut in global poverty.” This information elucidates the essential role primary education plays in breaking the cycle of poverty that many youths face in low-income countries.

One way to ensure adequate school enrollment is by supplying meals for children and teens. The World Food Programme explains how providing daily meals to children in school creates an incentive to send children to school. Not only do these meals increase attendance and decrease dropout rates, but they also improve children’s academic aptitude. Consequently, children acquire the skills and knowledge necessary to secure future jobs and escape extreme poverty.

Poverty’s Effect on Adults

Lastly, extreme poverty affects different age groups, the detrimental effects of which are also seen in adults. The main impact is the significantly lower life expectancy seen in lower-income countries. Life expectancy is “20-24 years lower in poor nations” for both men and women than it is in developed countries. Additionally, poor countries tend to have a higher maternal mortality rate for a variety of reasons ranging from improper and lack of healthcare and poor nutrition during pregnancy.

Although the way extreme poverty affects different age groups may seem separate and diverging, teenagers and adults face many similar hardships. For instance, illiteracy is a huge barrier to obtaining and maintaining a job. The World Literacy Foundation (WLF) explains that without basic literacy skills, tasks such as composing emails, reading daily memos, checking a bank account and even applying for a job in the first place become difficult. These examples do not even include the requirements of many white-collar jobs, such as interpreting data and spreadsheets or reading documents.

As a result, many citizens of developing countries cannot receive comparable income to those in developed countries. This leaves these poor citizens open to food scarcity and extreme poverty (working for less than $1.90 a day). These issues are especially taxing for adults with families and more than one mouth to feed.

Additionally, while children are more likely to die from malnutrition and lack of sanitation, many adults face similar realities. Poor nutrition can weaken one’s immune system, muscles, bones and sleep cycles which all contribute to the body’s healthy daily functions. If these body systems are not well-maintained, adults can struggle and even die from preventable diseases and health complications.

Organizations Working to Help

There are many organizations worldwide working to lift children out of poverty, such as the WLF, UNICEF and International Child Care (ICC). The former two work to improve education for young children, while the latter strives to improve health for children and their families. There are also numerous organizations that help young adults and adults, including End Poverty Now, Oxfam International and Global Citizen. These groups mainly work to tackle the systemic cycle of poverty by improving healthcare and income equality.

Poverty affects different age groups pervasively and it is difficult to alleviate. Impoverished people of all ages experience conditions and hardships that many developed nations do not face. To enact and obtain real economic and social change, it is essential to understand how extreme poverty affects different age groups. Then, governments, organizations, businesses and people around the world can work to implement strategies and policies to bring all ages out of poverty.

Sophia McWilliams
Photo: Pixabay

malnutrition in latin american children
Families residing in Latin America are currently experiencing a problem with nutrition, specifically with children being drastically underweight or overweight. This issue stems from inadequate health education, lack of access to healthy foods, and in some poorer communities, no access to any food at all. Reports in 2018 determined that 20% of children under the age of 5 were not growing at a normal pace due to some form of malnourishment. As a result, these children faced stunted growth and/or obesity. Organizations are tackling this issue by addressing poverty as the root cause of malnutrition in Latin American children.

How Poverty Leads to Malnutrition

In 2017, 184 million Latin Americans were living in poverty while 62 million were experiencing extreme poverty, creating an increased risk for child malnourishment. Low-income households often cannot purchase food, afford healthy foods or are food insecure, which perpetuates unhealthy development. This means children in poor homes are unable to consume the required number of food groups to support their growth. The poorest Latin American countries have it the worst. In 2019, one in two Guatemalan children under the age of 5 had stunted growth.

Children in marginalized households also face obesity. Obesity can lead to long-term health risks such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular ailments and mental health complications in adulthood. In 2017, 20% of children under the age of 20 were either obese or overweight in Latin America. A major reason for the continent’s growing obesity rate is the marketing of inappropriate diets. The U.N. highlighted a common marketing trend in Latin American countries: the cheaper choice receives heavy promotion, therefore outselling the healthier choice. This creates a higher demand for processed foods. Processed foods are more readily available in grocery stores than nutritious foods, perpetuating unhealthy habits among children in poverty.

Who is Helping?

There are many organizations that are working to end malnutrition in Latin American children. The nonprofit Save the Children currently has multiple programs in action that specifically target child malnourishment in Latin America by uplifting inclusive markets and strengthening household incomes. So far this nonprofit has provided over 350,000 Haitian children with vital nourishment. Kids Alive International also reaches out to vulnerable children by providing nutritious meals in the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Haiti and Peru.

UNICEF calculated in 2019 that malnutrition affected 5.1 million children under the age of 5, with children from the poorest households being four times more likely to experience malnourishment. UNICEF is working toward making the Sustainable Development Goals a reality for Latin American children. It hopes to end poverty and the effects of malnutrition by 2030.

Malnutrition in Latin American children continues to be a health crisis with poverty being a primary source. Every child should have the right to healthy food and a healthy lifestyle. International aid helps make those rights a reality.

Radley Tan
Photo: Pixabay

U.S. Virgin IslandsThe U.S. Virgin Islands’ (USVI) tourism industry was just beginning to recover from back-to-back hurricanes Irma and Maria, which swept through the island in 2017. Its economy—including schools, hospitals and hotels—was just starting to rebuild and reopen. The aftermath of these hurricanes coupled with the coronavirus leaves the USVI ill-prepared for the financial woes of a lagging travel season. However, additional aid and outside support are alleviating the USVI economy.

Home to roughly 105,000 people, the USVI’s population faces an unknown level of poverty; the most recent data fails to account for the hurricane destruction. It was last reported in the 2010 U.S. Census Bureau that 22% of the USVI population lived below the poverty line. However, it is likely that the estimate has risen since the hurricanes and will continue to rise due to global economic impacts from the pandemic.

A High Price for Paradise

Located off the east coast of Puerto Rico and Miami, Florida, the USVI is dependent on the outside world. The island welcomes cruises and flights filled with tourists to its resorts and imports most of its food and supplies. Only 2% of the USVI’s gross domestic product (GDP) comes from agriculture, compared to 20% of its GDP generating from industries that include tourism.

But for islanders, the imbalance between these two markets further contributes to a high cost of living and financial insecurity in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Importing food is costly for USVI citizens. In order to make repairs from the hurricane destruction to buildings and homes, supplies must also be imported. Despite the high cost of living, incomes in the USVI are lower than in the U.S.—about 25% lower than the U.S.’s median income; workers in tourism industries are paid low wages.

Due to travel restrictions from the coronavirus, the global tourism industry is predicted to lose between 850 million and 1.1 billion tourists this year, placing over a hundred million jobs at risk. The unemployment rate already sits at nearly 11% in the USVI; this event is likely to place greater pressure on an already stretched-thin economy.

In the aftermath of the hurricanes, the USVI’s health care system has also developed a dependency on the mainland. Due to the lack of patient beds, facilities and a dwindling nursing staff, some patients have to fly to the U.S. for surgical procedures. This becomes another factor that increases the cost of living for some residents. Fortunately, USVI hospitals have not had high coronavirus cases. The Virgin Islands Department of Health has reported only 156 active coronavirus cases and six deaths.

Child Development in the U.S. Virgin Islands

According to the U.S. Virgin Island’s 2016 Kids Count Data Book, 37% of children live in families below the poverty level. Examining single-parent households, single mothers are more at risk of falling into poverty, representing 76% of all families in poverty.

Impoverished conditions significantly impact the education of children. Although many children come from poor families, school is no longer an escape from their everyday reality. NPR reported in 2019 that education facilities damaged by the 2017 hurricanes were still unrepaired, inhibiting students from moving forward in their education.

Students are either learning in hazardous building conditions or attending half-day sessions. As a result, teachers have reported that their students have fallen behind academically despite how the USVI education system was already struggling before the hurricanes hit.

According to a 2014 academic assessment test for USVI public schools, upon completing a literacy assessment, 59.4% of USVI students performed below the test standard. As for the Mathematics assessment results, 74.1% of students were below the test standard. Now, the coronavirus is likely to further prolong the pause on its children’s education.

The Good News

Progress in recovery and rebuilding has continued in the USVI, but full economic recovery is still years away. The USVI government estimates it will need $7.5 billion, almost twice the territory’s GDP, to rebuild the U.S. territory.

All Hands and Hearts, a non-government organization that dispatches volunteers to areas ravaged by natural disasters, sent nearly 2,000 volunteers to the USVI to restore homes and schools damaged by Hurricanes Irma and Maria. On the USVI island St. John, the volunteers’ work positively impacted 24% of the island. In July 2019, the U.S. Virgin Islands disaster relief program marked its completion by leaving behind structures built to outlast upcoming storms.

In addition, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which has been providing aid to the U.S. Virgin Islands since the 2017 hurricanes, is continuing to support the USVI. Just this past January, FEMA approved over $2 billion in Public Assistance funds for the USVI. It will be used to restore homes and hospitals damaged by the hurricanes in 2017.


Grace Mayer
Photo: Wikimedia