How Diseases Lead to Poverty

What causes poverty? When looking at the factors that can lead to poverty in a region, there are many things that could be highlighted. One can look at the government, at conflict, at the lack of natural resources, or at the shortage of quality education in a region. However, poverty in a region is not only caused by conflict or inadequate education, but also by diseases. Increasing health in a region can significantly reduce global poverty, in effective and unexpected ways.

People in developing countries face challenges due to diseases that those in developed nations do not. For instance, in a developing country, someone who gets sick may have to sell their possessions to pay for medicine. Parents, not expecting their children to survive, have more children and spend less on education. Tropical diseases, and other health risks specific to a region limit tourism and foreign direct investment, affecting the potential prosperity of a nation.

According to research done in 2011 by The Foundation for AIDS Research (amfAR), more than two-thirds of all people living with AIDS (23 million) lived in sub-Saharan Africa. An estimated 1.2 million people died from the disease, accounting for 71 percent of all the AIDS related deaths in the world. Not surprisingly, sub-Saharan Africa is also one of the poorest regions in the world.

But while the problem of AIDS – and the poverty it causes – might seem insurmountable, it only takes around $100 a year to save one AIDS victim.  To put this amount in perspective: the United States spends roughly $600 billion annually on its military, nearly twice as much as the second highest spender, China.  How different would the world be if the United States decided to trim the amount it spends on its military, and use that to help other countries eradicate diseases?

People from poor countries need help to get healthier. Unfortunately, most developing countries simply do not have the resources to provide healthcare for their people. The richer nations need to make an involved effort in helping these countries eradicate diseases such as AIDS and malaria. By increasing the amount of aid that the United States and other developed nations give to combat diseases, the world will see a decrease in death from preventable diseases, and, as a result, a decrease in global poverty.

Travis Whinery

Sources: WHO, UN AIDS, Economist
Photo: China Daily