Poverty Among Indigenous Peoples in Central America
Indigenous people in Central America have struggled against prejudice and a lack of visibility for hundreds of years. This struggle to maintain their place throughout the region has taken a toll on the living conditions and health among their communities. Here is more information about poverty among indigenous peoples in Central America.

Costa Rica

Approximately 1.5 percent of the population of Costa Rica is made up of indigenous people. They are considered among the most marginalized and economically excluded minorities in Central America. Approximately 95 percent of people living in Costa Rica have access to electricity. The majority of indigenous peoples in the country are included in the remaining five percent. Many believe this is due to a lack of attention from the government in the concerns of indigenous people and the living conditions in their communities.

A lack of education is also a problem among indigenous peoples in Costa Rica. The average indigenous child in Costa Rica receives only 3.6 years of schooling and 30 percent of the indigenous population is illiterate. In the hopes of reaching out to indigenous communities and reducing their poverty rates, the University of Costa Rica instituted a plan in 2014 to encourage admissions from indigenous peoples from across the country. By 2017, the program was involved in the mentoring of 400 indigenous high school students and saw 32 new indigenous students applying for the university.

Guatemala

Indigenous peoples make up about 40 percent of the population in Guatemala and approximately 79 percent of the indigenous population live in poverty. Forty percent of the indigenous population lives in extreme poverty. With these levels of poverty among the indigenous people, many are forced to migrate, as the poorest are threatened with violence among their communities. Ninety-five percent of those under the age of 18 who migrate from Guatemala are indigenous.

One organization working to improve the living conditions for indigenous people in Guatemala is the Organization for the Development of the Indigenous Maya (ODIM). ODIM, which was started with the intention to support the indigenous Maya people, focuses on providing health care and education to indigenous people in Guatemala. One program it supports is called “Healthy Mommy and Me,” which focuses on offering mothers and their young children access to health care, food and education. These efforts are benefiting 250 indigenous women and children across Guatemala.

Honduras

In Honduras, 88.7 percent of indigenous children lived in poverty in 2016. Approximately 44.7 percent of indigenous adults were unemployed. Nineteen percent of the Honduran indigenous population is illiterate, in comparison to 13 percent of the general population. Despite the wide span of indigenous peoples across Honduras, they struggle to claim ownership of land that belonged to their ancestors. Only 10 percent of indigenous people in Honduras have a government-accredited land title.

Due to the poverty indigenous people in Honduras face, many seek opportunities in more urban areas, but the cities simply don’t have the capacity to support them all. As a result, many settle just outside of the cities to be close to opportunities. There are more than 400 unofficial settlements near the capital of Honduras, Tegucigalpa. Despite the difficulties they face in living just outside of a city that has no room for them, being in urban areas does have its benefits for indigenous people. Ninety-four percent of indigenous people living in urban Honduras are literate, versus 79 percent in rural areas.

For those among the indigenous peoples in Honduras who struggle with poverty, Habitat for Humanity has put a special focus on indigenous people in its construction programs. Habitat for Humanity worked with different ethnic groups within the indigenous community to provide homes for those most in need, reaching 13,810 people throughout Honduras.

Panama

Poverty affects more than 70 percent of indigenous people in Panama. Among their communities, health problems and a lack of access to clean water are common.

In 2018, the World Bank approved a project to improve health, education, water and sanitation among 12 different indigenous groups in Panama. The Comprehensive National Plan for Indigenous Peoples of Panama aims to implement positive development in indigenous communities while protecting and maintaining the culture within those communities.

The aim of this project is to create a positive relationship between indigenous peoples and the government in Panama to further developments of their communities down the road. It is projected to assist some 200,000 people through improved living conditions and infrastructure among indigenous communities.

With poor access to an education and a certain level of prejudice fueling a wage gap between indigenous and non-indigenous people, natives globally face a unique challenge in their efforts to escape poverty. In many countries around the world, indigenous people are forgotten and often fall to the bottom of the socio-economic ladder. This creates particularly difficult circumstances for indigenous peoples of regions that already have high poverty rates overall. However, people like those who work with the World Bank are working to see a reduction in poverty among indigenous peoples in Central America and see that indigenous people are not forgotten and are no longer neglected.

Amanda Gibson
Photo: Flickr

China Reduced its Poverty
China reduced its poverty from 97 percent in 1978 to 1.7 percent in late 2018. In the late 1970s, China began focusing on poverty reduction and economic development. Through various economic efforts, China became market-oriented to decrease poverty, which subsequently grew the private sector, created modern banks, reformed the agricultural industry, developed the stock market and spurred foreign trade and investment. China aims to reduce poverty rates to 0 percent in 2020, which is in line with the U.N. Sustainable Development Goal of eliminating global poverty.

China’s Alleviation Method

The International Poverty Reduction Center in China reported lifting more than 850 million of its people out of poverty from 1981 to 2013. During that time period, extreme poverty decreased from 88 percent to 1.85 percent. To achieve a 0 percent poverty rate, China is using extensive expertise in helping Chinese nationals who reside in poorer regions. The current poverty rate of 1.7 percent primarily encompasses those in poor rural regions. 

Similar to the approach that China took in the 1970s and 1980s, it aims to increase efforts to open the economy for trade, diversify the marketplace, improve agricultural practices and implement education reform.

Poverty is still an issue throughout the agricultural industry, but the government is aiming to completely eliminate the Chinese poor. China created a poverty registration system that enables tracking of information relevant to those in poverty. It gathered data from more than 128,000 villages and 290,000 households that indicated that many of the poor reside in Guizhou, Yunan, Henan, Hunan, Guangxi and Sichuan. China aims to accomplish additional poverty reduction techniques through policies based on industrial development, relocation, eco-compensation, education and social security improvement. The Chinese government has managed to reduce poverty through direct involvement in hard-to-reach rural areas that have innately higher levels of poverty.

To support economic growth, the Chinese government is pushing for new industries in these poor regions, such as e-commerce and tourism. Furthermore, the relocation of poor families residing in areas prone to earthquakes or landslides has supported Chinese poverty reduction measures. The country is also emphasizing education and occupational training. Public health services will be available to the poor, especially in the remote mountainous regions. These actions indicate that China has reduced poverty not only through broad approaches but also through direct impacts.

Direct Progress

Progress is already underway in the government’s push for new industries. China has reduced poverty through these industries that benefit hundreds of thousands of Chinese citizens. China E-commerce centers, known as Taobao villages, enable the Chinese to sell their produce and specialties online. In 2015, 780 Taobao villages employed more than one million people and included more than 200,000 active online storeowners. Comparatively, in 2019, the number of Taobao villages grew to 4,310 and active online shops totaled to more than 660,000.

China’s Investments in Africa 

China also helps other countries with economic development and poverty reduction. As an economy grows, poverty trends to gradually lower; on the other hand, job growth, economic diversification and agricultural productivity improve. One can see a specific example of China’s method for poverty reduction through its investments in African countries to build foreign economies. China has provided more than $57 billion in financial aid to more than 170 countries. In 2018, China accounted for almost 20 percent of all infrastructure and capital project investment in Africa.

A Chinese Poverty-Reduction Model for Global Use

China reduced its poverty through economic development and direct impact. In 2016, China sent 775,000 officials to poor regions to alleviate poverty. The country sent these officials out to work in one to three-year posts. This direct impact demonstrates how a country can eliminate poverty through strong economic growth in remote regions. 

Brett Rierson, China representative for the World Food Program said, “China invested in agriculture to reduce poverty and successful agricultural projects were built up from the grassroots.” Rierson believes China is a good model for how to reduce poverty in developing countries.

Although China has been a positive influence on developing economies, one country alone cannot eliminate global poverty. Other developed countries could use China as a model for reducing poverty and improving living standards.

– Lucas Schmidt
Photo: Flickr

History of Poverty in South Korea
While K-Pop and Korean culture has appeared in mainstream media, the looming presence of poverty in South Korea has not. According to the World Bank’s 2018 GDP rankings, the Republic of Korea stands as the world’s 12th largest economy, making it understandable that poverty in South Korea is not making global headlines. For the people of South Korea, a country roughly the size of the state of Illinois, this economic achievement is a massive source of national pride. As the “miracle of the Han River,” South Korea’s economic transformation from 1961 to 1997 strengthened the narrative of South Korea as an Asian economic powerhouse. Here is some information about the history of poverty in South Korea.

History of the Korean Economy

Poverty in South Korea has always held a place in history. Korea received liberation from the Japanese empire’s 35-year colonial rule in 1945. When the Korean War broke out in 1950, the Korean economy was largely agrarian. By the time the War concluded in 1953, an estimated 5 million people died. Among the 5 million dead, half of the casualties were civilians and the nation’s economy suffered equal devastation. By the conclusion of the Korean War in 1953, the GDP of South Korea was only $40.9 million. In comparison, South Korea’s GDP in 2015 was $1,485 trillion.

Economic Growth Igniting in the 1960s

Korean historians note the 1960s as a time of rapid economic growth in South Korea. Initially, the South Korean economy still depended largely upon foreign aid, although South Korea went through rapid industrialization under President Park Jeong Hee, an army general who seized government control in 1961. The major challenge facing President Park Jeong Hee was the lack of natural and raw resources after the war. Most of the natural resources in the Korean peninsula were in North Korea; therefore, South Korea had limited products for export. In 1964, the South Korean government hatched a plan to start the export of wigs. South Korean women began selling hair to wig factories and by 1970, wigs accounted for 9.3 percent of South Korea’s overall exports.

Japanese Manufacturing to South Korea

In conjunction, many Japanese textile and electronics companies began moving labor-intensive assembly plants to South Korea. As companies hired Koreans as plant employees, they gained knowledge which eventually aided in the start of Korean owned electronics corporations. Further, the South Korean government aided in funding business conglomerates, such as Samsung and LG, by providing substantial subsidies and loans. Despite this profound economic growth, poverty in South Korea was still present from the Korean War.

The poverty-stricken Korean assembly workers made the miracle of the Han River possible. During South Korea’s rapid growth, the government’s focus on cheap exports resulted in the repression of workers’ rights. For example, competing within the international market, Korean chaebols maintained a low labor cost, resulting in underpaid workers. Additionally, it was common for manufacturing workers to work 10-hour days for every day of the week. Employers and the government often ignored safety regulations and concerns too. President Park Jeong Hee outlawed unionization, making it impossible for workers to fight for rights.

In a Washington Post 1977 report, the reality of Korean workers during the 1970s was clear. William Chapman shadowed a Korean woman, Miss Lee, and found, “[that] while Korea has gleaming new factories and a growing middle class, it remains a land of miserable poverty and Dickensian wage and employment conditions for the working class.” Chapman reports abuse such as low daily wage, long working hours and lack of workers’ bargaining powers. Chapman’s work reflected terrible working conditions and those implications on poverty in South Korea.

South Korean Poverty Today

While poverty rates have significantly decreased since the 1970s, poverty in South Korea is still present. Today, two major groups experience poverty in South Korea: the non-regular workers and the elderly.

The term non-regular workers refers to the fixed-term, part-time and dispatched workers who constitute one-third of employees in South Korea. In addition to a lack of job security, non-regular workers typically earn one-third less than regular workers. This income inequality is titled market dualism. Because of the income gap, non-regular workers have less access to insurance and company-based benefits.

Many of the South Korean elderlies also live in poverty. Because of their high seniority-based wages and dated industry knowledge, most workers must leave their companies at around age 50. In 2017, the unemployment rate for the 55 to 64 age group was 67.5 percent, which is above the OECD average of 59.2 percent. Those who are employed usually find themselves in temporary employment with low wages. While South Korea has a national pension service, the recent rise in the elderly population is putting a strain on the system.

The history of poverty in South Korea comes from the country’s war-torn society. The rapid economic growth during the 1960s and the 1970s came at the cost of workers’ rights and exploitation, and ultimately, the poor in South Korea. In 2020, South Korea still struggles to make equitable working conditions for the elderly and non-regular workers.

– YongJin Yi
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in China’s Xinjiang ProvinceXinjiang is a remote autonomous region in northwest China. While Xinjiang had periods of independence, the province became part of communist China in 1949. There are 40 different ethnic groups in Xinjiang, but the Uighurs, who are the traditional inhabitants of the area, and the Hans Chinese compose the ethnic majority of the region. While the economic disparity between the Hans and Uighurs gave rise to a certain amount of ethnic tension, the Chinese government’s recent treatment of the Uighurs in Xinjiang led to many human rights violations and poverty in Xinjiang.

Poverty in China’s Xinjiang Province

The historic racial tension between the Uighurs and Hans seems to be the root cause of poverty in Xinjiang. The Uighurs are a Turkic-speaking Sunni Muslim minority in China. In general, the Hans Chinese and the Uighurs disagree on who has the historic claim to Xinjiang. Since 1949, and centuries before, the Uighurs resisted the Chinese control over Xinjiang. After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, there was a surge of support for the Uighur separatist groups within Xinjiang. The Chinese government feared that this Uighur support for separatism might lead to the region declaring itself as a separate state called the East Turkestan. Due to this fear, the Chinese government started to characterize the Muslim traditions, practices and activities of the Uighurs as a national security threat.

The Chinese government’s hostile stance against the Uighurs had a wide-reaching effect throughout Chinese society. After years of the Chinese government’s repression of Uighurs’ religious practices and culture, it has presented the Uighurs as terrorist sympathizers to the general Chinese public. This perception of the Uighurs is a further cause of poverty in Xinjiang. According to The Guardian’s reporter Gene A. Bunin, it is common for businesses to deny service to a Uighur person. Due to the Chinese government’s crackdown on the Uighurs, many Uighurs are losing their rights, livelihoods and potentially their lives. Bunin reported that Uighur restaurants in inner-China are the only ones on their street that Chinese flags and posters about the determined struggle against terrorism cover.

China’s Strike Hard Campaign

In 2014, the Chinese government launched the Strike Hard campaign, which aimed to quell these Uighur separatist sentiments. While the government presented this campaign as a campaign to eradicate terrorism within China, the Strike Hard campaign justified the establishment of political reeducation camps throughout Xinjiang. An estimated 800,000 to 2 million detainees are Uighurs and other Muslims. Reports suggest that Chinese authorities arrested these detainees for trivial reasons such as traveling to a Muslim country, attending services at mosques and sending texts containing Quranic verses. While official reports about the detention camps are scarce, some have made allegations against the Chinese government for torture, sexual abuse and mistreatment of the detainees.

The Xinjiang Economy

While Xinjiang’s economy largely depends on agriculture, there is a recent push to develop the region’s mineral resource harvesting and heavy industries. The recent growth in China’s energy needs further increased the importance of the region to the Chinese government. Some estimations state that Xinjiang has 38 percent of coal reserves, 30 percent of crude oil output and 30 percent of natural gas output in China. During China’s economic boom in the 1990s, the Chinese government invested heavily in Xinjiang’s industrial and energy projects. This, however, meant the mass migration of the Hans Chinese into Xinjiang. The Chinese government stated that this mass migration of the Hans to Xinjiang happens in the name of national unity and inter-ethnic mingling. However, many Uighurs protested that the Hans Chinese were taking their jobs, making it difficult for the Uighurs to support themselves.

In 2018, the Chinese government launched a three-year plan to eradicate poverty in Xinjiang. While people do not know the exact amount of money the Chinese government will spend on its poverty relief program, the $960 million the Chinese government spent in 2017 gives hope to many people in Xinjiang. In addition, many think that the forced detention of the Uighurs, which caused poverty in Xinjiang, is the result of the Chinese government’s desire to secure Xinjiang in its Belt and Road Initiative. Since Xinjiang will play a big part in the project, many think that the Chinese government is trying to eradicate any possibility of separatist activity in Xinjiang.

Poverty in Xinjiang presents a bleak picture. More specifically, poverty in Xinjiang is the story of the Uighurs. The picture of Uighurs forcefully detained against their will is reminiscent of the Orwellian dystopia that many are familiar with. While the Chinese government’s heavy investment in Xinjiang might have improved the economic conditions in the region, many are still doubtful that this improved economy is benefiting the already marginalized Uighurs. The international community still looks to China, hoping that China will improve its human rights abuses in Xinjiang.

YongJin Yi
Photo: Flickr

Life expectancy in Bosnia and Herzegovina
Bosnia and Herzegovina is a country located in the Balkan region of Eastern Europe. The country has been one of the center points of the Yugoslavian Wars that tore across the area in the 1990s. It was the location of countless atrocities, such as the massacre at Srebrenica in 1995. The impact of these events still exists across the country today, despite 25 years of improvements and advancements. Part of this impact was the reduction in life expectancy in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Bosnia and Herzegovina

  1. Life Expectancy: Life expectancy in Bosnia and Herzegovina is around 77 years. This is more than most of the other countries in the Balkans, surpassed only by Greece, Montenegro and Croatia. However, in the European Union, life expectancy is the average of 81 or the Balkan average of 77. All of the Balkan countries are above the world average of 72 years despite genocide and war afflicting them.
  2. Instability: The country’s average life expectancy was on a linear growth before the wars and peaked at 71.6 in 1987. However, the loss of life and general prosperity from the instability of late Yugoslavia followed by the violence of the wars and genocide caused a massive dip in this figure. In fact, its life expectancy did not return to prewar figures until 1995.
  3. Reduced Life Expectancy: Before the war, the population peaked at 4.5 million people in 1989. In contrast, up to an estimated 300,000 fatalities massively dented this figure. By 1996, a quarter of the pre-war population displaced while around 1.2 million fled the country in a mass migration. Additionally, high-income families generally have a higher life expectancy which links to the reason behind the life expectancy loss.
  4. Life Expectancy Growth: Life expectancy in Bosnia and Herzegovina has grown by 6.6 percent from 1996 until 2017. This is slower than the world growth of 8.7 percent in the same time frame. This is likely due to poor economic growth and countless health issues.
  5. Air Pollution: Large amounts of air pollution result in many premature deaths. It also reduces general life expectancy in Bosnia and Herzegovina by at least 1.1 years overall. Poor control over energy generation pollution output has cost the people of the country 130,000 years of life overall in the last 10 years. This is due to poorer respiratory health and increased incidences of lung cancers. To combat this, cities and decisionmakers within the country are coordinating with an organization like the U.N. Environment. They will switch energy production from polluting sources such as old coal generators to renewables. For example, the project District Heating in Cities Initiative is attempting to replace the heating oil system of the city Banja Luka to biomass generators. This will cut emissions by 90 percent.
  6. Life Expectancy Disparities Between Genders: The differences in life expectancy between genders are significant. As men live an average of 74.6 years, while women live five years more on average at 79.5 years. This is likely caused by various social conditions such as the expectation for men to take on more dangerous jobs. In addition, suicide rates are disparately high in men compared to women.
  7. Death Rate: Bosnia has a very high death rate. It is the 39th highest in the world at 10 deaths for every 1,000 people. This is due to air pollution, destroyed infrastructure from the war and water shortages. Also, many areas of the country have poorly rebuilt electric networks and poor train lines or road systems. Due to this, reactive health care has suffered in many areas, making it impossible for people to get to hospitals. However, with investments and concentrated efforts, this has been changing for the better. As the country rebuilds train lines and improves roads, motorway fatalities have gone from dozens a year to simply two in 2014.
  8. The Poverty Rate: The poverty rate in the country is 2.2 percent, but lack of health does not contribute greatly to its poverty rate. This means many of those in poverty do not struggle with health care issues. This is due to the fact that the government provides health insurance to even the unemployed, reducing out-of-pocket costs for the country’s poor on these issues.
  9. Health Care Spending: The majority of health care spending in the country is government spending. Around 71 percent of all health care spending is public funding. Of the 29 percent private expenditures, nearly all of it is purchases of household health materials such as bandages and medicine. Meanwhile, the country spends 1 percent on other expenses, indicating that these private expenses are less likely to be costly affairs that may serve to hurt the financial stature of citizens.
  10. Preventative Care: Preventative care is minimal in the country as programs like education and advising programs, immunization programs, epidemiological monitoring and disease risk control and disaster response programs only make up 1.8 percent of total health care funding. This likely plays a large part in the death rate as preventative care is extremely important in ensuring long lifespans. However, the government of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the European Union have been working in tandem with NGO projects to boost immunizations in the country including World TB Day, Immunization Week, Anti-TB Week and World AIDS Day. Additionally, the aim is to build trust in vaccines amongst the general populace.

These 10 facts show how damaging the war has been on the general health and lifespan of the population. While the years since have seen improvements, they have not been enough to bring Bosnia and Herzegovina to par with the rest of the world. Damaged public infrastructure, lack of focus on preventative care and deteriorating environmental conditions are some of the primary reasons behind the slow increase of the country’s life expectancy.

– Neil Singh
Photo: Flickr

 

Poetry, one of the most ancient art forms, serves as an outlet for poets to convey their most profound emotions. Poetry is magical because it paints a picture with words and navigates the reader through a flurry of feelings. While few reach glory, many poets go unrecognized or misunderstood in their pursuits. These are four poems about poverty.

Song of the Shirt

“Work—work—work!

From weary chime to chime,

Work—work—work,

As prisoners work for crime!

Band, and gusset, and seam,

Seam, and gusset, and band,

Till the heart is sick, and the brain benumbed,

As well as the weary hand.

[…]

In poverty, hunger, and dirt, And still with a voice of dolorous pitch,—Would that its tone could reach the Rich!—   She sang this “Song of the Shirt!”

This excerpt from the 19th-century poem by Thomas Hood talks about the labor exploitation of the middle class by the aristocracy. A woman works hard night and day, through tiredness and sickness, with dreams ranging from a simple meal to eternal prosperity. Unfortunately, she drowns in the pit of poverty and despite her efforts, is unable to climb out. This issue has spanned the centuries and labor exploitation remains a problem in the 21st century. Especially in developing countries where instances of trafficking and child labor are all too common. More than 150 million children are subjected to child labor around the world. The U.N. is currently working on enforcing appropriate legislation in countries to absolve the use of child labor.

Refugee Blues

“Say this city has ten million souls,
Some are living in mansions, some are living in holes:
Yet there’s no place for us, my dear, yet there’s no place for us.

Once we had a country and we thought it fair,
Look in the atlas and you’ll find it there:
We cannot go there now, my dear, we cannot go there now.

[…]

Dreamed I saw a building with a thousand floors,
A thousand windows and a thousand doors:
Not one of them was ours, my dear, not one of them was ours.

Stood on a great plain in the falling snow;
Ten thousand soldiers marched to and fro:
Looking for you and me, my dear, looking for you and me.”

W.H. Auden, a 20th-century poet, originally wrote this poem about the Jewish refugees who were seeking refugee status in the United States. The theme, however, extends beyond the grim years of World War II. At the end of 2018, there were roughly 71 million forcibly displaced people in the world. They were forced to leave due to conflict, violence or persecution. Many have not found homes or countries that are willing to take them in. Countries are beginning to pay attention. World leaders in the U.N. are working on implementing programs that will help refugees without disappointing host nations.

Poverty

I saw an old cottage of clay,

And only of mud was the floor;

It was all falling into decay,

And the snow drifted in at the door.

Yet there a poor family dwelt,

In a hovel so dismal and rude;

And though gnawing hunger they felt,

They had not a morsel of food.

The children were crying for bread,

And to their poor mother they’d run;

[…]

O then, let the wealthy and gay

But see such a hovel as this,

That in a poor cottage of clay

They may know what true misery is.

And what I may have to bestow

I never will squander away,

While many poor people I know

Around me are wretched as they.

This sorrowful poem written by Jane Taylor in the 19th century paints a vivid picture of the horrid conditions associated with poverty. Taylor writes about a family that lives in an unsafe cottage without an ounce of food. The children starve and beg for food that the mother is incapable of providing. As seen in this poem, poverty is an exclusively uphill battle. There are a million forces exerting pressure on the lives of the impoverished but many must keep persevering to survive.

More than 3 billion people in the world today are living on less than $2.50 per day. More than 1.3 billion are living on less than $1.25 per day. Hundreds of millions of children and adults are malnourished and do not have access to basic healthcare. While this is a depressing statistic, the rate of extreme poverty in the world has decreased in the last several decades.

Poor Children

“They are the future of humanity
But many of them living in poverty
And without shelter homeless on the street
Searching through rubbish bins for scraps of food to eat.
Poor children are victims of circumstance
In life they never really get a chance
Or have opportunities as privileged children do
The road from the poor suburb to prison leads them to.

[…]
Poor children without homes and sleeping rough
And life for them already hard enough
At the wrong end of the social divide
Any chance of a good future to them is denied.”

This poem by Francis Duggan, while relatively recent compared the other poems on this list of four poems about poverty, speaks volumes about the struggles associated with child poverty. Roughly one billion children are currently living in poverty and according to UNICEF; approximately 22,000 children die daily due to poverty. A pattern of malnutrition and disease weakens the body to a point of no return. Coupled with the social repercussions of impoverishment, the odds of survival are slim. A recent study revealed that children who succumbed to childhood poverty were seven times more likely to harm themselves and 13 times more likely to engage in violent crime than their more affluent counterparts.

These four poems about poverty are quite striking. They convey deep emotions and spread ideas that have been prevalent for generations. Poverty is not skin-deep; the consequences of impoverishment extend to all elements of life. It is vital that people take action against poverty by reaching out to elected officials who have the ability to implement legislation that aids those in dire need.

Jai Shah
Photo: Flickr

7 Facts About Poverty in Iran
In recent years, absolute poverty in Iran has risen drastically. Action is necessary in order to provide basic needs and prevent more Iranians from falling under the poverty line. Here are seven facts about poverty in Iran.

7 Facts About Poverty in Iran

  1. Economic Downshift: According to the Iranian Parliament’s Research Center, between 23 to 40 percent of Iran’s population will be living in absolute poverty soon. This is due to an increase in unemployment, inflation and a downward trend in economic growth. The Research Center’s report shows that the inflation rate has risen to 47 percent from 2018 to 2019 and estimates that 57 million more Iranians will fall into poverty over 2020.
  2. Support Packages: The Iranian Parliament’s research center recommends that the government send support packages to the Iranians suffering under the worst conditions in order to supply them with basic needs. The government would provide support packages four times a year. It would also include cash cards that people can use only for food items.
  3. Crossing into Poverty: For a family of four living in Tehran, the poverty line rose to a monthly income of 27 million rials or $650 per month. Now, anyone living with a monthly income of $650 per month and under is considered to be living in poverty. The Research Center’s report shows a 22 percent increase in people living in poverty since 2017. The increase means that Tehrani families of four that were not under the poverty line in 2017, now are.
  4. Organizations that Help: The Imam Khomeini Relief Foundation is an Iranian organization that provides support to families living in poverty. The government and private donors support the foundation. The Imam Khomeini Relief Foundation invested almost $155 million in solar plants to assist families living in poverty.
  5. The Weakened Rial: In May 2019, President Hassan Rouhani announced his decision to partially withdraw from the 2015 nuclear agreement. Shortly after, the rial decreased by 3,500 points. In 15 months, the rial went from 40,000 to 156,500 to the dollar.
  6. Sanctions and Corruption: Iran’s banking and oil sectors are its backbone, but U.S. sanctions have greatly affected these sectors, causing an economic crisis in Iran. Many Iranian’s have fallen victim to panic-buying due to fear of price increases. Internal corruption has led to an occasional scarcity of goods due to merchants and entrepreneurs hoarding goods to increase prices.
  7.  Plan B: To generate income, Iranian officials say that they are ramping up non-oil goods. They have also built up a network of traders, money collectors and exchange companies in other countries to get around banking and financial sanctions. If sanctions remain, they plan to export other goods to prevent further economic despair.

In Iran, 26 million people are living in absolute poverty. However, with more support from the Iranian government and better relations with the U.S., Iran’s increase in poverty can come to a halt.

Lisa Di Nuzzo
Photo: Flickr

Professional Athletes Who Grew Up Impoverished
The world’s population of human beings is vast and immensely complex. Across the planet, thousands of different languages, religions and traditions contribute to the everyday lives of its people. However, nearly all civilizations have one thing in common: sports. Since the development of the most ancient civilizations, humans have created numerous ways to come together and pass the time with recreation. It continues to be a major aspect of society today, so much so that athletes such as Argentinian soccer player Lionel Messi receive as much as $127 million per year. It is no secret that professionals like Messi are some of the highest-paid individuals in the world, but many of them had extremely difficult upbringings. Here are four professional athletes who grew up impoverished and used their past as motivation for the improvement of their future.

4 Professional Athletes Who Grew Up Impoverished

  1. Pelé: Pelé, one of the greatest soccer players of all time, has helped his Brazilian team win three World Cups throughout his career. He was born in Três Corações, Brazil, in 1940. He lived in extreme poverty during his childhood and developed most of his early soccer skills by playing with a makeshift bundle of rags that hardly resembled a soccer ball. Pelé’s story is a prime example of how a common cultural element such as recreation has the power to propel someone into an entirely new way of life. In 2018, Pelé launched a self-named foundation “to help children of the world better their lives as people in [his] childhood helped [him] to better [his].” The Pelé Foundation has since partnered with Pencils of Promise and Charity: Water to fulfill its mission of helping the world’s impoverished youth.
  2. Bibiano Fernandes: Bibiano Fernandes, also known as “The Flash” for his ability to finish fights so early, is one of the most successful fighters in both Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and mixed martial arts (MMA). He was born in Manaus, a city located near the Amazon rainforest. After his mother died and his father abandoned the family, 8-year-old Fernandes took to the jungle as a means of survival. He lived off of the land for approximately two years before returning to the city. Once he went back to Manaus, he worked as a window washer. During this seemingly hopeless point in his life, he met a group of men who practiced Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. They accepted him into their training group and he grew into a champion. For a child who took to the forest to avoid starvation, the grappling sport was a lifeline, an opportunity for Fernandes to quite literally fight his way out of poverty. Today, he aims to reach retirement and continue to provide for his wife and children. He prides himself on having worked hard for his accomplishments and encourages his fans to pursue their goals regardless of how impossible they may seem.
  3. Yasiel Puig: Yasiel Puig has played for three major American baseball teams: the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Cincinnati Reds and now the Cleveland Indians. His nickname is “The Wild Horse” because of his unpredictable, exciting way of playing. Born into poor conditions in Cuba, Puig developed an interest in baseball at a very early age. His desire to escape his hometown and play for Mexico resulted in a journey that would change his life forever. At the age of 21, Puig snuck out of Cuba on a cigarette boat. What should have been a relatively smooth journey became complicated by the fact that the smugglers did not receive the pay they were to receive for transporting the baseball player. Restless and angry, they held him captive, occasionally threatening to cut off an arm or a finger so that he would never play baseball again. Several long, difficult weeks passed before Puig finally reached his destination. A staged kidnapping ambushed his captors and soon landed Puig at his audition to play for Mexico City. Puig proves that no matter how treacherous life’s ventures may be, the child inside remains alive and strong enough to push one forward towards their wildest dreams.
  4. Kassim Ouma: Kassim Ouma has one of the most unique stories among these professional athletes who grew up impoverished. He was born in Uganda and lived in extreme poverty until the age of 6 when his life abruptly flipped upside down. It was at this age that the National Resistance Army kidnapped Ouma, a militant force revolting against the Ugandan government. The resistance forced him to fight as a child soldier until the war ceased roughly three years later. Once he returned home, he began working to build a better future for him and his family. He took up boxing and trained his way to the Ugandan national boxing team, and later decided to stay in the U.S. after visiting for a tournament. Ouma serves as an example to all that even the darkest beginnings can lead to light at the end of the tunnel. He now uses his influence to advocate for change in Africa and runs a charity organization called Natabonic, which helps to fund education for his friends and family in his home village of Maga Maga.

These professional athletes who grew up impoverished serve as reminders that with hope and compassion, one can fight (and win) even the most impossible battles. Of course, not every starving child on the planet is going to become a world-renowned athlete and sports will not lead all participants out of poverty.  However sports can be a path to a better life and these stories emphasize that recreation brings people together, and where people come together, anything is possible.

– Harley Goebel
Photo: Flickr

What is Poverty?
There are two types of poverty that affect millions of people worldwide: relative poverty and extreme poverty. Relative poverty refers to the levels of social poverty of a community, while extreme poverty defines the standard of living throughout the world. There is a global deficiency line set at $1.90 per day. The limitations of the poor determine the ability to pay for medical care, food, clothing and the essentials of daily life. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) have established goals and targets to help the poor have equal rights to economic resources, basic services, microfinance and land ownership. By teaching the poor about finance and resilience, there could be potential to build the community and slowly grow the economy of poor countries like Southeast Asia and Africa.

It is very important for a low economic class to obtain financial knowledge because although people are living in harsh conditions, learning ways to escape poverty will ultimately allow people to be able to support their families. Parents would be able to afford basic necessities for children and the materials needed to send each child to school and obtain an education.

Women’s Hygiene

Another issue that plagues the poor is the lack of hygienic products. Many women struggle from a lack of proper care for their menstrual needs. In the United States, there are millions of women who go without having adequate menstrual products. Is someone who is simply running low on funds in poverty? Or does poverty mean not having the means of providing for oneself at all? The difference is that while in one scenario the individual has a recurring income and may fall under relative poverty, the latter is when the individual does not have an income and is accustomed to finding other ways to take care of daily needs. There are organizations, such as Freedom4Girls, #HappyPeriod and Pads4Girls, that focus on providing areas, like Sub-Saharan Africa and Asia, with pads, tampons and any other form of hygienic products so that women can have sterile and clean forms of personal care.

Education to Reduce Poverty

High levels of poverty in communities affect developing countries the most. Many people, organizations and companies work together to eliminate radical conditions. Charities, like the Build Africa Organization, understand that returning education to children suffering from economic limitations could eradicate poverty because they would receive the basic knowledge necessary to succeed. The organization focuses on providing children and teens with core knowledge and works in countries in rural Africa to teach students the basics they require to lead a healthy life.

Agriculture and Poverty

An appropriate way to help those in need is to educate people on how to grow their own food through agriculture as well as promoting local farmers. As a result, farmers may be able to improve their financial standing by selling crops to supermarkets and local restaurants. Organizations, like the International Fund for Agriculture Development (IAFD), finance agricultural development projects worldwide. Some of the projects that the IAFD put into place include reducing vulnerability to climate change, food and nutrition security and making family farmers the forefront of the world’s agriculture transformation.

If older teens and adults could learn about farming as a trade, they might be able to grow crops for food as well as gain a form of income. Local farming would promote healthier lifestyles as well as feeding those who are malnourished. The fact that people would be eating healthier could help eliminate diseases and even deaths that starvation causes. The World Food Programme provides food for men, women and children during emergency situations in over 80 different countries.

Shelter

Furthermore, there are people in underdeveloped countries and developed communities that fail to meet the primary needs of their families, making it difficult to have a stable home. Fortunately, there are organizations like The Salvation Army that help people provide for those who do not have a place to live, food to eat or clothing to wear. The Salvation Army provides those in need with resources and avenues to get back on the right path to a successful life. Aside from shelter, The Salvation Army also provides counseling services, educational support and vocational services. Parents with young children also are able to use the shelter’s address to apply for jobs and to send children to school.

Although those in poverty may experience limited food, shelter or access to materials for hygiene, there are several organizations attempting to help. With the continued work of IAFD, The Salvation Army and The World Food Programme, hopefully, people will continue to rise out of poverty.

Paola Quezada
Photo: Flickr

 

Flooding in Jakarta
Citizens of Jakarta rang in the new decade with fervor and enjoyment, accompanied by slowly rising brown floodwaters. The citizens ascended to the streets, but before long some found themselves swept up in one of Indonesia’s worst floods in the past 150 years – one that the country could not have prepared for. The floods have displaced over 400,000 people and 66 people have died within the first week of 2020. But importantly, this crisis of flooding in Jakarta has disproportionately affected the impoverished regions of the city, which received little public attention.

Increasing Population Affecting Poverty

Jakarta, like many quickly expanding metropolitan areas today, faces the challenge of a rapidly increasing population accompanied by many migrants to the city – a number which experts expect to reach 70 percent of Indonesia’s population by 2025. This rapidly expanding population makes it difficult for the current infrastructure and housing to adequately accommodate the increasing demand, therefore increasing construction rates and skyrocketing real estate prices. As a result, the poorest citizens are living dangerously close to areas that flood almost every year under normal conditions.

Adverse Weather Patterns Creating  an Impoverished Population

Unlike typical cities, half of Jakarta lies under sea level. The city has been sinking roughly 10 centimeters every year due to years of uncontrolled groundwater draining by large companies. This sinking conjoined with regular seasonal flooding creates enormous problems in terms of designing infrastructure. Further, increasingly dramatic typical weather patterns in Jakarta have made the extreme weather events less predictable, specifically flooding in Jakarta. The combination of dramatic weather events and poverty in Jakarta creates a cyclic system where temporary aid seems to be adequate when in reality it only serves as a temporary fix, allowing the cycle of destruction to propagate.

The government of Indonesia has taken measures to house displaced residents of Jakarta. Additionally, most of the electricity in the area is up and running again. However, the long term goals of President Joko Wikodo reflect a sentiment that does not seem to include the protection of citizens and the prevention of these incidents. Instead of continuing plans for a sea wall to protect the city from rising sea levels, President Wikodo intends to move the capital to a less populated, drier site on Borneo island. Though this might be a valid idea, this all but abandons the poorer communities in Jakarta, leaving these citizens behind without the resources to move.

Aid to Reduce Current Flooding in Jakarta

In the meantime, many aid measures occurred to help with the most recent round of flooding in Jakarta. All of the local shelters have sufficient food and medical supplies to harbor the 400,000 displaced people. Moreover, most of Jakarta’s citizens returned to their homes by the second week of January 2020. Aid methods, ranging from foreign financial and medical support to internal medical workers, continue to prove an effective yet temporary fix for the greater problem of the flooding in Jakarta.

– Anna Sarah Langlois
Photo: Wikimedia