Berlin Students Poverty Line
A small number of Berlin’s financially secure recently underwent self-imposed poverty to raise awareness of Germany’s poor, as well as the millions worldwide who live below the poverty line.

Students of Berlin High School (BHS) took the Live Below the Line Challenge by eating only $1.50 worth of food each day for five days. That is the equivalent of two small candy bars or a cheeseburger from McDonald’s.

The idea behind the “walk-a-mile-in-their-shoes” event was to fight global hunger by proving that poverty exists in even the most prosperous countries.

BHS maintained a Facebook page to document the progress of its students. Only four out of 20 participating students completed the five-day challenge, standing as “a testament to how difficult [it is] and hungry nearly one billion humans are around the world every day.”

Zach Ingrasci, co-producer of the 2013 documentary “A Dollar a Day,” describes in his film the difficulty of earning a living on such a low-calorie diet. Ingrasci and three friends lived on a dollar a day for two months while traveling through rural Guatemala.

“When you’re not eating anything, you become incredibly lethargic,” he says in the documentary. “You have zero energy.”

Since the end of World War II, Germany has become the fifth richest country in the world. However, 12.5 million Germans are struggling to make ends meet. In Berlin alone, 21.4 percent of the population lives in poverty.

“We would have the chance to fight this poverty as the fifth richest country in the world, but obviously we have extreme problems of distribution in times of increasing prosperity,” Ulrich Schneider, Head of Germany’s Equal Welfare Organization, told Euro News.

Like Germany, many countries struggle to address the needs of all their citizens. As countries develop and move forward, the poor often fall through the cracks of public awareness. In 2015, the World Bank estimated nearly 10 percent of the global population lives on $1.90 or less per day. Yet that fact has not received the recognition it deserves.

In addition to developing empathy for the critically impoverished, BHS students encouraged family and friends to sponsor their Live Below the Line Challenge. Donations raised by the event went to Heifer International, a charity-based organization that donates livestock to struggling rural communities.

“Our animals provide partners with both food and reliable income, as agricultural products such as milk, eggs and honey can be traded or sold at market,” said Heifer International’s statement.

Experiences such as the Live Below the Line Challenge will help foster a generation that fully understands the detrimental effects of global hunger. Exposure to the issue will better equip future leaders to fight global poverty and put an end to it for good.

Sarah Prellwitz

Sources: Heifer 1, Euronews, Facebook, Heifer 2, World Bank, YouTube
Photo: Berlin Citizen

The South-American country of Bolivia has struggled as on the poorest countries in South America. Wealth inequality is a critical issue for the country of 10 million. 65 percent of the population resides in poverty, with “nearly 40 percent” of the population in extreme poverty.

Bolivia boasts a elevated population of indigenous South Americans, who are the most dangerously affected by poverty. Bolivians of Spanish descent dominate the political and economic life of the nation, depriving the indigenous population of many economic opportunities. Many of the impoverished residents of Bolivia subside on “subsistence” farming, and working as “miners, small traders or artisans.”

Bolivia is home to a well-built informal economy, which has distressed the primary economy of Bolivia. The indigenous population which is perilously unemployed, survive through their own means, not effectively participating in the national economic structure.

The nation is habitat to countless natural resources, chiefly natural gas. Despite the abundance of natural resources, the nation is more often than not exploited by foreign corporations and by it’s own political elites. The profits from such ventures rarely make it back to the poorer residents, allowing for a widening gap in income inequality.

The rural population which are primarily American Indians are critically malnourished, unable to access adequate health-care, less enrolled in education, and suffer from a lack of infrastructure. Urban areas suffer less from poverty, while rural areas such as Pando and Chuquisaca have the highest rates of poverty. Urban areas are not free of poverty though.

Urban populations suffer from “low quality employment” and the downward spiral of income levels. People are finding it complicated to find work, and those who work, are making less capital. Bolivia has struggled with employing its population.

The country remains primarily invested in “natural resource-based” exports as its economic crutch. This has led to many people unemployed as this economic base does not require many people to function properly.

Few educational opportunities for poorer residents have prevented many citizens from escaping extreme poverty. The country has not taken advantage of it’s ‘human capital.” With many residents not gaining proper higher education, or even primary education, has resulted in a poorly trained populace who can not work in many sectors besides the labor sector.

With many jobs not available in that sector, employment opportunities remain few and far in-between.

The country remains stifled by not adjusting it’s infrastructure to improve the amount of job opportunities. Bolivia has not made many attempts to modernize much of the nation, allowing unemployment to persist. Many observers argue Bolivia modernizing its economic approach is the only “necessary condition to reduce poverty and inequality” in the nation, and supporting new economic policies will help “improve labor productivity” and help curb unemployment.

Joseph Abay

Sources: BBC, UNICEF, World Bank, BBC , World Bank
Photo: The Guardian

The global income inequality numbers are staggering. According to a new report from Oxfam International, 85 people control as much wealth as half the world’s population, or 3.5 billion people.

The study also found that 70 percent of all people live in countries where this income gap is growing. Oxfam calls this economic trend “ a major risk to human progress.”

The research, focused on the global stage, echoes the sentiment of both United States President Barack Obama, who called American income inequality, “the defining challenge of our time” and Pope Francis’ indictment of global capitalism. It now seems the whole world is paying attention to the growing divide between rich and poor.

However, in spite of growing awareness, the problem seems to be getting worse, not better.

The Oxfam report raises concerns about the effects of economic inequality on democratic systems of government, saying that the concentration of money in the hands of a few undermines the influence of ordinary people.

They argue that markets are not impartial phenomena, but are the construction of the wealthy elite—rigged to move more money and assets into their hands. The report goes on to provide short, specific examples from across the globe indicating how capital corrupts (and breaks) political processes.

But it is not all finger pointing. Oxfam does offer specific recommendations as to how people can face this problem in the coming years. Their policy recommendations include tax reform, living wages, labor safety and healthcare legislation, stronger regulation and the reduced political influence of capital.

The cost of not adopting these recommendations, the claim, will likely prove catastrophic for the world’s poor and for democracy abroad.

– Chase Colton

Sources: Oxfam, Al Jazeera, NPR
Photo: Borgen Project