10 Disturbing 10 Disturbing Facts About Global Poverty
Global poverty is one of the most pressing issues currently facing the international community. Individuals mired in poverty often lack access to clean food and water and many do not receive proper health care or education. Listed below are 10 of the most disturbing facts about global poverty.

10 Disturbing Facts About Global Poverty

  1. More than 3 billion people live on less than $2.50 a day. The world’s current population is roughly 7.5 billion people meaning that almost half of the world lives on less than $2.50 a day. This $2.50 often has to support not just single individuals but entire families.
  2. Approximately 2.4 billion people do not have access to proper sanitation. This is often a result of poor infrastructure and a lack of monetary investment by governments into adequate sanitation facilities. These conditions often lead to individuals engaging in unsanitary practices such as open defecation, which can lead to the contraction of diseases like diarrhea and cholera. Developing countries, however, are looking at developing many technologies to help improve sanitation. One such technology is the Janicki Omni Processor (JOP), which turns human waste into clean, drinkable water. The JOP has been successfully implemented in Dakar, Senegal and is likely to expand into other countries in Africa soon.
  3. About 1.5 billion individuals worldwide have inadequate shelter. This has a number of causes including lack of job and education opportunities. Many of these individuals live in slum settlements in large cities like Mumbai and Cairo.
  4. More than 757 million adults worldwide are illiterate. Many poverty-stricken individuals do not have the resources to receive a proper education, which limits their future job and income prospects. This, of course, perpetuates the cycle of poverty. However, organizations are doing significant work to help solve this problem. In 2015, the nonprofit organization, Worldreader, launched the Read to Kids initiative, which reached 200,000 families across India. The initiative leveraged the increasing popularity of mobile phones in the country by creating a free app that provides users with an expansive library of books.
  5. Currently, 780 million people live without access to clean water. Many of these individuals have to resort to drinking dirty, contaminated water, which can result in the transmission of numerous harmful waterborne diseases. To make matters worse, this water is often far away, requiring long journeys to obtain it. This prevents individuals from attending schools or working, furthering the cycle of poverty. With that said, afflicted countries are making good progress towards ensuring more individuals have access to clean drinking water. Much of this progress has come via the implementation of technologies like rainwater catchment systems and sand dams, both of which have proven to be effective, sustainable solutions for communities throughout the developing world.
  6. Sixty-four percent of the world’s extreme poor lives in just five countries: India, China, Nigeria, Bangladesh and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). There are various hypotheses as to why these five countries have such high rates of poverty. Many point to corruption, as well as poor government policies and inadequate education systems as the main culprits. However, countries are making progress towards the alleviation of many of these issues. Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, has received praise for his anti-corruption efforts while in office; additionally, the government of the DRC has made major strides in its educational system over the past 17 years (70 percent of children now complete primary school, compared to 29 percent in 2002).
  7. There are more than 820 million chronically malnourished people worldwide. While the world produces enough food to feed everyone, the distribution of this food is grossly unequal. Individuals in rural communities suffer the most as they often have to resort to growing their own food (subsistence farming) due to the lack of accessible, affordable food sold nearby.
  8. Approximately 1 billion people do not have access to proper electricity. While electricity is readily available in most wealthy, industrialized countries, hundreds of millions of individuals that go without this luxury every single day. However, initiatives such as the Electrify Africa Act (2016) are aiming to change this. The EAA will provide 50 million people throughout sub-Saharan Africa with access to reliable electricity by 2020.
  9. More than 3 million people worldwide die every year from vaccine-preventable diseases. While coverage has improved in recent years, many individuals still do not have access to proper health care to receive critical vaccinations. As a result, preventable diseases such as measles and tetanus, as well as whooping cough, have persisted in many developing countries.
  10. Children make up more than 40 percent of the world’s extreme poor. Child poverty is one of the biggest contributors to the poverty cycle as children who grow up poor are unlikely to be able to obtain a quality education, meaning that when they have children, their children will likely be in the same situation that they were once in. Preventing this cycle is one of the main areas of focus for poverty reduction campaigns around the world. UNICEF’s Schools for Africa Initiative is a good example of these efforts. By helping to build schools and train teachers, the initiative has provided more than 21 million children with the opportunity to pursue an education.

While the list above detailing 10 of the most disturbing facts about poverty may be slightly depressing, there is hope for the future. Since 1981, the percentage of the world population living on less than $1.25/day has decreased by nearly 30 percent. In addition, new technologies and agricultural practices promise to make it easier than ever to obtain access to clean water and nutritious food. However, as detailed in this article, billions of individuals still suffer from extreme poverty every day; as such, it is imperative that progress continues towards eliminating global poverty.

– Kiran Matthias
Photo: Flickr

accomplishments of ONEThe ONE Campaign is an advocacy organization of more than nine million people around the world taking action to end extreme poverty and preventable disease, particularly in Africa. The accomplishments of ONE have been achieved through their work of raising public awareness and educating policymakers about the importance of smart and effective policies and programs to save those in the poorest countries. They engage in grassroots and direct advocacy with policymakers and key influencers around the world in support of such policies and programs.

Four of the major accomplishments of ONE include:

  • Helping secure at least $37.5 billion in funding for historic health initiatives, including the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria, and GAVI, the Vaccine Alliance.
  • Helping secure legislation in the U.S., Canada and the EU on transparency in the extractives sector to help fight corruption and ensure that more money from oil and gas revenues in Africa is used to fight poverty.
  • Successfully advocating for official development assistance, which has increased globally by $35.7 billion between 2005 and 2014.
  • Helping to get new U.S. legislation passed on energy poverty, such as the Electrify Africa Act of 2016.

ONE highlights 17 global goals for sustainable development including quality education, gender equality and more.

Through the Promising Practices in Refugee Education initiative, a partnership of Save the Children, Pearson and UNHCR, ONE shows how the global community can improve access to education for refugee girls in three ways:

  • Promote more gender-friendly education systems
    ONE’s focus is to develop a curriculum that includes female role models, encourages children to pursue non-traditional professions and supports teachers to increase their awareness on gender inequality.
  • Strengthen digital literacy
    Digital skills need to be taught in the classroom and training programs in online research and popular software programs are necessary to supporting refugee youth’s education.
  • Explore opportunities to expand Canada’s private refugee sponsorship model
    By expanding this program, private sponsorship will allow more people to be resettled at lower costs for national governments.

The accomplishments of ONE are seen in their efforts to empower girls, women, refugees and people in poverty through education, legislation and advocacy. Their goals, policies and programs are a key part of the global fight to end poverty.

– Julia Lee

Photo: Flickr

Shell and GravityLight Illuminate Off-Grid Regions in KenyaWhile access to electricity does not yet span the globe, the force of gravity is universal. The GravityLight Foundation has taken advantage of Newtonian physics to create a cost-effective light source that runs on gravity. Simply by lifting a weight and letting it descend, GravityLight can provide light and transform impoverished homes.

In 2015, GravityLight’s inventive engineering earned it the Shell Springboard Award, a grant of nearly $200,000 used to fund innovative businesses with low carbon footprints. Together, Shell and the GravityLight Foundation have successfully put GravityLights into production and introduced them to 50 communities in Kenya.

Kenya, which has one of the largest economies in Sub-Saharan Africa, has expended considerable effort to create an impressive power sector. In just four years, Kenya has increased the amount of households with access to electricity from 25 percent to 46 percent. Kenyan companies such as KenGen are working to utilize renewable energy sources, and geothermal energy looks promising.

A capacity of approximately 2,295 MW is available on Kenya’s power grid. However, off the grid, in remote areas of the country, only 11.5 MW are currently available. The Shell and GravityLight partnership intends to provide electric light to those off-grid regions in Kenya.

Electricity is crucial to improving the lives of the world’s poor. Access to light alone improves education and the economy by allowing people to study and work after daylight hours. However, the resources required to produce light can be extremely expensive, especially for those living in poverty. The world’s poor spend an estimated 30 percent of their income on kerosene needed to burn in lamps. GravityLight eliminates the need for kerosene to produce light, which is not only cheaper but also safer. Kerosene fumes are known carcinogens that are toxic for both humans and the environment.

Because the GravityLight Foundation uses local people and businesses to organize the sale of its product, marketing for GravityLight supplies Kenyans with jobs. By providing employment, GravityLight is bringing bright futures as well as bright homes to off-grid regions in Kenya.

Shell and GravityLight are not the only groups seeking to improve energy accessibility in order to aid impoverished populations in Africa. In 2015, the same year GravityLight won the Springboard grant, the U.S. government passed the Electrify Africa Act. The act aims to provide 60 million households and businesses throughout Africa with electricity.

Around the globe, 1.2 billion people lack access to electricity. If GravityLight’s debut in Kenya is successful, the foundation plans to continue spreading light throughout the world.

Mary Efird

Photo: Flickr

America Has Strong Advocates for the Global PoorBy virtue of the democratic process in America, the country is one of the most influential allies to the global poor. The U.S. approaches foreign assistance through a multitude of dimensions. A critical body of which is the legislative component of the tripartite government system.

The U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs and the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations possess the constitutional authority and resources to manage national security, international health crises, and address human rights abuses. On a daily basis, congressional members are strong advocates for the global poor.

To address the complexity of the international affairs, the governing bodies established regional subcommittees and assigned specific representatives to create solutions that are tailored to the unique needs of the diverse and multi-polar system.

Rep. Christopher Smith, with Rep. Karen Bass as the Ranking Member, chairs the U.S. House of Representative’s Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Human Rights, and International Organizations. Past actions of the committee include calls for the promotion of good governance in Eritrea; accountability in human rights reports; and cooperation with the U.N. to stabilize South Sudan.

Sen. Jeff Flake, with Sen. Edward J. Markey as its ranking member, chairs the U.S. Senate Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa and Global Health Policy. The committee has recently passed legislation highlighting their dedication to being an ally to the global poor. The legislation is called Electrify Africa, which partners with sub-Saharan governments to provide power services for at least 50 million people.

Other responsibilities of the Senate Subcommittee promote good government and identify threats for the intelligence and military community to further evaluate. These elected representatives work diligently to be effective advocates for the global poor.

However, congressional leaders are elected to serve the American people. If you are one of millions of Americans who care about the globally impoverished, then have your voice heard.

By emailing, calling or writing, individual Americans can lobby their representatives to support bills that demonstrate their allegiance to assisting the global poor. Often times, it does not take more than five constituents reaching out to make something become a topic of discussion. It’s amazing to think that individual American citizens can have a big impact by being influential advocates for the global poor.

There has never been a more important time to get involved. The world is at a pivotal point: continue improving the living conditions of those who live on less than a dollar a day or forfeit the hard work of generations. The choice is up to every American to become an ally of the global poor.

Adam George

Photo: Flickr

Improve Mobile BankingTo improve mobile banking, First National Bank (FNB) in South Africa has launched a new line of smartphones that revolutionizes online and mobile banking and improves accessibility to the Internet.

Manufactured by the Chinese telecommunications company ZTE, the FNB-branded Android ConeXis A1 and X1 devices are both constructed with good quality and are fairly priced for the average citizen of South Africa.

Compared to a cash-based system, digital and mobile banking carries less risk, is more convenient and has become increasingly more accessible and affordable in developing countries. Along with smartphones, FNB also has a banking application, which, when combined, hopes to reduce unnecessary and excessive fees and reclaim transparency in the industry’s process.

Released in 2011, the FNB Banking App for smartphone and tablet offers convenience and security with 24/7 banking, as well as the ability to promote businesses.

Increasing the availability of technology products and services such as those offered by FNB could potentially create an environment of financial inclusion leading to less poverty.

South Africa is currently the most promising country in Africa when it comes to elevating Internet access and smartphone usage. According to the Spring 2015 Global Attitudes survey, 37 percent of adult inhabitants of South Africa reported owning a smartphone, and 42 percent stated they use the Internet.

Additionally, 48.7 percent of South African households were occupied with at least one member who had access to or used the Internet in 2014. The ConeXis A1 supports 3G and is priced at R59/month while the more advanced ConeXis X1 utilizes both 3G and 4G and is made available for R150/month.

ZTE looks forward to possibly partnering with FNB once again to produce upgraded models of smartphones for mobile banking purposes. Just this year alone, Africa has seen a multitude of promising advances for the future.

From the passing of the Electrify Africa Act in February, and now with the release of FNB smartphones, both inhabitants of South Africa and the country itself appear to be in for a bright digital future. FNB’s actions will not only improve mobile banking, but the organization could be the push for more positive change across the globe.

Jordan J. Phelan

Photo: Flickr

Africa Matters to the U.S.

The dichotomy between the “global north” and the “global south” continues to persist around the world, especially in the case of Africa. That is why it is essential for citizens of the most powerful country on earth to realize that Africa matters to the U.S.

While many Americans might envision a far-away land home to exotic animals and people plagued by famine, crime or sickness, the continent’s reality is much brighter.

Enrollment rates in secondary education increased by 48 percent from 2000 to 2008, life expectancy has increased roughly 10 percent and real income per person has increased by over 30 percent across the continent, according to the Economist.

The IMF also predicts that three of this year’s 10 fastest growing economies will be the Ivory Coast, Tanzania and Senegal.

The future of Africa could be brighter still with continued U.S. involvement. Not only can U.S. aid efforts help diminish poverty, they can simultaneously promote U.S. interests abroad. Through encouraging peace and security, expanding Africa’s energy sector, competing with China and opening up new markets for U.S. businesses, both the U.S. and Africa can flourish.

It is for these reasons that Africa matters to the U.S. and the U.S. matters to Africa.

Peace and Security are Global Needs

The United Nations cites “violence and fragility” as the biggest barriers to achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the first aim of which is to cut the number of people living in extreme poverty in half. African countries face numerous security risks including transnational crime syndicates, corrupt governments and terrorist groups. These obstacles perpetuate the cycle of poverty and must be properly addressed if U.S. companies hope to find success in Africa.

According to Lesley Anne Warner, a top research fellow at the National Defense University, the U.S. can help mitigate these challenges by better resourcing agencies like the State Department and USAID instead of solely relying on the Department of Defense. This would make our country’s engagement with African countries more “proactive” instead of “reactive,” and help deescalate and prevent conflicts.

Congress took notice of why Africa matters to the U.S. in February when it passed the Electrify Africa Act to increase African energy access. However, more work can be done to lift people out of poverty while simultaneously advancing U.S. national security interests.

“Energy poverty undermines economic development, fueling political instability and the creation of failed states that can harbor our enemies and threaten our allies,” John P. Banks, a nonresident fellow at the Brookings Institution, writes in his paper, “Key Sub-Sarahan Energy Trends and their Importance for the U.S.”

A U.S. policy that supports further energy access initiatives in Africa would not only improve the living conditions of thousands, but also weaken the global threat of terrorism.

China Cannot Ethically Deliver Aid

With a record lacking transparency, democratic values and concern for the environment, the U.S. must be wary of China’s increased involvement in Africa.

Just last year, China offered the continent $60 billion in development assistance. Moreover, the Center for Global Development reports that there were almost 2,000 Chinese development projects in the region from the years 2000 to 2011 totaling up to $75 billion.

It is imperative that the U.S. partner with China to effectively and morally deliver aid, explains Yun Sun, a visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution. In addition, she suggests the U.S. work with African countries to explain the damaging impact the unilateral Chinese approach would have on their future success.

U.S. Markets Need Diversification

The U.S. would also benefit from expanding its markets and increasing foreign direct investment (FDI) in African countries. As previously stated, three of the world’s 10 fastest growing economies are located in Africa, and if U.S. companies fail to tap into these growing economies, they will lose out on major business opportunities.

Last year, Congress passed a measure lengthening the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) into the fiscal year of 2025 as a sign of hope for the future of U.S.-African business relations. Yet only one percent of U.S. FDI is spent in Africa, and the total number of U.S. exports to sub-Saharan Africa in 2013 decreased by 20 percent compared to 2012, according to the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative.

There is no doubt that the U.S. has a multifaceted role to play throughout the world. Africa matters to the U.S. because its development can reduce poverty, create a safer, more secure world, fill Chinese foreign assistance voids and diversify U.S. businesses.

-Kristina Evans

Photo: Pinterest

Global Poverty Bills

The Borgen Project advocates for global poverty bills to be passed in the House and the Senate of Congress. The Borgen Project is currently fighting for three bills that could have a massive impact on global poverty.

First, the Electrify Africa Act, introduced in 2015, seeks to provide sub-Saharan African countries access to affordable and reliable power through a plan spanning several years.

The bill has two main goals: create a group comprised of several organizations–including the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), U.S. Agency for International Development, the Trade and Development Agency and the Millennium Challenge Corporation–which will help coordinate the U.S. government regarding creating reliable sustainable energy on the African continent, and effectively utilize the United States’ influence as a world power to build international support for African energy programs.

Next, the Reach Every Mother and Child Act, also introduced in 2015, seeks to end preventable maternal and newborn deaths around the world.

According to WHO, around 830 women around the world die every day from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth, such as severe bleeding, infections, eclampsia/pre-eclampsia (high blood pressure that develops during pregnancy) and unsafe abortions. That adds up to over 300,000 women dying every year, of which 99 percent of those deaths occur in developing countries.

The Reach Every Mother and Child Act would allow the United States to create an interagency group dedicated to ending maternal and child deaths in developing countries, including overseeing maternal and child health and nutrition funding.

Finally, The Borgen Project supports the Food for Peace Reform Act of 2015, which would overhaul the current U.S. programs for providing emergency food aid around the world, involving:

· improving product packaging and storage

· adjusting products to cost-effectively meet nutrient needs of target populations

· adopting new, or improving existing, specifications for micronutrient fortified food aid products to meet a population’s nutrient needs

· evaluating performance and cost-effectiveness of food products and programs for vulnerable groups, such as pregnant mothers and young children

Visit for more information on global poverty bills and how you can help end global poverty by contacting your government representatives in the House and Senate.

Bayley McComb

Photo: ABC News

Electrify Africa
President Obama has signed into law the Electrify Africa Act of 2015, which will bring electricity to millions in Africa.

About two-thirds of people in Africa do not have access to reliable power, according to BBC News. The Electrify Africa Act will establish a strategy to help sub-Saharan countries implement power solutions to promote economic growth and reduce poverty.

For people without electricity, simple tasks such as cooking or reading are complicated without a light source at night. Many people in Africa are also unable to use modern technologies, like cell phones or computers, or do basic tasks such as refrigerating food and medicine.

The lack of electricity causes some families in Africa to use fossil fuels or charcoal, which has a negative effect on the environment and health.

According to BBC News, House Committee on Foreign Affairs Chairman Ed Royce stated that this initiative will “improve the lives of millions in sub-Saharan Africa by helping to reduce reliance on charcoal and other toxic fuel sources that produce fumes that kill more than HIV/Aids and malaria combined.”

Electrify Africa
Power Africa was launched by President Obama in 2013. It took nearly two years for it to pass through the Senate and House of Representatives and become the Electrify Africa Act of 2015.

The U.S. initially invested $7 billion in the project but that number has since risen to nearly $43 billion. According to Voice of America, the high cost of energy in sub-Saharan Africa makes producing exports impossible, so it would be beneficial to the U.S. to help Africa become a major trading partner.

In addition to the U.S. government, African governments and private companies are involved in the development of the Power Africa initiative. The Electrify Africa Act provides a framework for companies to invest in African energy solutions.

The long-term goal is to double the amount of electricity available to people in sub-Saharan Africa, bringing electricity to 50 million people in the region by 2020.

Kaitlyn Arford

Sources: BBC, Christian Science Monitor, Voice of America

Electrify Africa Act
The Electrify Africa Act has passed a full vote in the House of Representatives – an action welcomed by The Borgen Project.

Having been approved by the Senate in December, it will now go to President Obama for signature.

Since the legislation was first introduced in 2013, The Borgen Project has held nearly 400 meetings with Congressional offices. The organization has also mobilized over 6,300 emails from constituents to their members of Congress in support of the bill.

Congressman Ed Royce, Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, praised passage of the bill, calling it a big deal for Africa and for U.S. job creators. “Increasing access to electricity will dramatically improve lives, create jobs and expand opportunities in both Africa and America,” he said in a statement released after the vote.

The legislation, which received bipartisan support, is a commitment by the United States to promote first-time access to electricity for over 50 million people living in both rural and urban areas of sub-Saharan Africa by 2020.

It requires the President to create an interagency working group that will develop strategies to meet energy goals using a broad range of power solutions. It encourages development partners to prioritize funding that supports private investment in electricity projects. And, it requires the working group to submit performance reports to congress to ensure the initiative stays on track.

Through these actions, Congress is hoping to install at least 20,000 megawatts of electrical power throughout the region.

Over 70 percent of people in sub-Saharan Africa live without access to electricity – nearly 580 million people without lights, refrigeration, modern medical technology, or reliable educational environments. Lack of electricity is considered to be the continent’s most pressing obstacle to economic development and trade.

Electrify Africa will build on the success of USAID’s Power Africa Initiative, which has created over 26,000 megawatts of electrical energy in the region since it began. The program has enjoyed success with its off-the-grid power solutions, including pay-as-you-go solar panels that families and small businesses can use to power lights, cell phones and other basic appliances.

Development partners are hopeful these kinds of projects will spread under Electrify Africa, opening up new markets, new investment opportunities and re-energized development across the continent.

– Ron Minard

Sources: House Foreign Affairs, The Borgen Project, USAID

On June 23, 2015, California Representative Ed Royce introduced an updated version of his “Electrify Africa Act” in hopes that, after a year of gaining attention, the bill would have more traction in 2015.

First introduced nearly two years earlier, H.R. 2847 (2014 version, H.R. 2548), known as the Electrify Africa Act, seeks “to encourage African countries to provide first-time access to electricity and power services for at least 50,000,000 people in Sub-Saharan Africa.”

Though certain language has been rearranged and some bill descriptions altered between the years, both versions address the same goal: to have the U.S. Government establish policy to “partner, consult, and coordinate” with the governments of Sub-Saharan Africa and international agencies in order to provide reliable access to electricity.

Findings reported to Congress in the 2014 act showed that an estimated 68% of Sub-Saharan Africans lacked access to electricity as of 2010; with Africa’s rapid rate of population growth, this percentage is likely even higher today. At a minimum, first-time access to electricity must be provided to 50 million people in the region, some 10% of the estimated population lacking power.

Residents of Sub-Saharan Africa living without electricity are forced to use time-consuming and inefficient heating and cooking methods, such as using wood and dung for fuel. In addition to being time-consuming, the fuels utilized in these regions can produce toxic fumes, which, according to the report, cause nearly 3 million premature deaths due to respiratory disease each year.

The Electrify Africa Act of 2015 would establish a precedent in U.S. foreign policy to aid developing nations in creating and expanding their electrical infrastructure in a sustainable and effective way. Expansion of the electrical grid would reduce the prevalence of carbon-emitting and toxic materials being used for heating and cooking purposes, as well as reduce poverty by creating jobs, expanding entrepreneurial opportunities and lowering energy prices.

The bill further calls for a focus on expanding and promoting energy development strategies, including the use of renewable and cleaner energy sources as a way to build the overall economy by increasing investment across the region.

Electrify Africa 2014 (first introduced in June 2013) passed the U.S. House of Representatives with significant bipartisan support and a vote of 297 to 117. However, the bill stalled out once it hit the U.S. Senate floor, where it was read twice before being referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations, as documented on

The Electrify Africa Act 2015 has since been referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, where it awaits further action. Though the bill has garnered significant support in 2014, the 2015 version will need to raise the bar in order to make it all the way to the President in this legislative session.

– Gina Lehner

Sources: EAA 2014, EAA 2015
Photo: Huffington Post