It is difficult to rank poverty into objective levels of better and worse, as though human suffering can be quantified. Are the crowded slums of India, for example, worse than the isolated villages in rural Brazil? Answering the question of where the worst poverty in the world is depends on the factors one considers.
In statistical terms, the Democratic Republic of the Congo earns the dubious distinction of having repeatedly been labelled the world’s poorest country. With a GDP per capita of less than $400 and wracked by instability, the DRC has come to be an all around worst-case scenario. Traveller Giovanni Contadino described his trip to the Congo: “Everyone was very keen to tell me how hard life was, and how much better things must be where I am from… Whenever I pressed people as to why their situation was so difficult, it was always the fault of the fighting.” Contandino also described the lack of infrastructure and the rife corruption in the city, where bribes were an everyday occurrence and politicians expected to live well beyond their means, with no protest from the people.
Many have pointed out the psychological devastation of being among the poorest in the United States. Though it is the richest country in the world, the United States is also plagued by devastating poverty. Affected areas include urban communities like infamous Hunt’s Point in New York City or Detroit, which was labelled the most miserable city in the United States and has lower earnings than any other city and a high crime rate. It is a condition that must be made more intolerable by the knowledge of your countrymen’s affluence as well as living in a culture that thrives on materialism and consumption.
Syrian refugees are undergoing one of the world’s most horrendous crises at the moment, losing homes, belongings, livelihoods, subject to random violence and rampant sexual assaults, forced into underserved communities and robbed of any hope of future security while their country burns around them. The poverty to be found in a refugee camp breeds severe physical and psychological trauma. It would be difficult to look at a refugee and state that their suffering was less profound than that to be found in the Congo, simply because it began more recently.
All poverty is bad poverty. All poverty creates suffering and undermines dignity. To ask if one is worse than the other is an impossible and misguided question with little purpose; the most we should be asking is why there is poverty at all.
– Farahnaz Mohammed