Poverty

The state of being extremely poor is known as poverty. The most widely held and understood definition of absolute poverty measures poverty strictly in economic terms earning less than 142 Rupees a day. Poverty can have diverse social, economic, and political causes and effects. Social forces, such as a gender, disability or race or ethnicity, can exacerbate issues of poverty with women, children and minorities frequently bearing unequal burdens of poverty. Moreover, impoverished individuals are more vulnerable to the effects of other social issues, such as the environmental effects of industry or the impacts of climate change or other natural disasters or extreme weather events. Poverty can also make other social problems worse, economic pressures on impoverished communities frequently play a part in deforestation, biodiversity loss and ethnic conflicts.

Poverty Impacts children, families and individuals in a variety of different ways through:

  1. High infant mortality
  2. Malnutrition
  3. Child labour
  4. Lack of education
  5. Child marriage

The High Infant Mortality Rate – Infant mortality is the death of young children under the age of 1. This death toll is measured by the infant mortality rate (IMR), which is the probability of deaths of children under one year of age per 1000 live births.

  • Causes of infant mortality directly lead to the death.
  • Environmental and social barriers prevent access to basic medical resources and thus contribute to an increasing infant mortality rate; 99% of infant deaths occur in developing countries, and 86% of these deaths are due to infections, premature births, complications during delivery, and perinatal asphyxia and birth injuries.
  • Greatest percentage reduction of infant mortality occurs in countries that already have low rates of infant mortality.
  • Common causes are preventable with low-cost measures. Pneumonia, malaria and diarrheal diseases as well as chronic malnutrition are the most frequent causes of death.

Malnutrition – Malnutrition occurs when the body doesn’t get enough nutrients. Causes include a poor diet, digestive conditions or another disease. Symptoms are fatigue, dizziness and weight loss. Untreated malnutrition can cause physical or mental disability.

  • The term malnutrition covers two broad groups of conditions. One is ‘under-nutrition’ which includes stunting (low height for age), wasting (low weight for height), underweight (low weight for age) and micronutrient deficiencies or insufficiency (a lack of important vitamins and minerals). The other is overweight, obesity and diet-related noncommunicable diseases (such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and cancer).
  • Malnutrition affects people in every country. Around 1.9 billion adults worldwide are overweight, while 462 million are underweight. An estimated 41 million children under the age of 5 years are overweight or obese, while some 159 million are stunted and 50 million are wasted.
  • Adding to this burden are the 528 million or 29% of women of reproductive age around the world affected by anaemia, for which approximately half would be amenable to iron supplementation.
  • Many families cannot afford or access enough nutritious foods like fresh fruit and vegetables, legumes, meat, and milk, while foods and drinks high in fat, sugar, and salt are cheaper and more readily available, leading to a rapid rise in the number of children and adults who are overweight and obese, in poor as well as rich countries.
Percentage of population suffering from hunger, World Food Programme, 2020

Child labour – Child labour refers to the exploitation of children through any form of work that deprives children of their childhood, interferes with their ability to attend regular school, and is mentally, physically, socially and morally harmful.

  • For impoverished households, income from a child’s work is usually crucial for his or her own survival or for that of the household. Income from working children, even if small, may be between 25 and 40% of the household income.
  • Roughly 160 million children were subjected to child labour at the beginning of 2020, with 9 million additional children at risk due to the impact of COVID-19.
  • Child labour compounds social inequality and discrimination, and robs girls and boys of their childhood.
  • Unlike activities that help children develop, such as contributing to light housework or taking on a job during school holidays, child labour limits access to education and harms a child’s physical, mental and social growth.
  • Especially for girls, the “triple burden” of school, work and household chores heightens their risk of falling behind, making them even more vulnerable to poverty and exclusion.

Lack of Education – Children living in poverty face many barriers to accessing an education.

  • Increasing access to education can improve the overall health and longevity of a society, grow economies, and even combat climate change.
  • Yet in many developing countries, children’s access to education can be limited by numerous factors. Language barriers, gender roles, and reliance on child labor can all stall progress to provide quality education.
  • The world’s most vulnerable children from disadvantaged communities are more likely to miss out on school. This includes young girls and children with disabilities.
  • A child cannot learn without the right environment.
  • When girls don’t have access to safe toilets, they are often harassed or attacked when looking for a private place to go. Girls also miss or drop out of school when they begin menstruating if they don’t have the sanitation facilities or sanitary products to manage their periods with pride and dignity.
  • Students with disabilities have lower attendance rates and are more likely to be out of school or leave school before completing primary education. They are suspended or expelled at a rate more than double the rate of their non-special education peers.
  • The impact of hunger on education systems is gravely under-reported. Being severely malnourished, to the point it impacts on brain development, can be the same as losing four grades of schooling. It is estimated that around 155 million children under the age of five are estimated to be stunted.

Child marriage – A patriarchal mind-set is one of the main reasons for most child marriages in India: young girls, and women in general are perceived to be natural homemakers. Their lives are to be limited within the four walls, as they are unqualified to protect themselves from the dangerous world outside. They need not be educated, nor employed, as they are born to serve and care for the men in the family. The lack of basic awareness about family planning and budgeting, we have a blazing cause for the shocking rates of child marriages in the country. The married girls grow up illiterate and unskilled to earn their own livelihood, leading to a continuation of poverty.

World population living in extreme poverty, 1990-2015

“Poverty is hunger. Poverty is lack of shelter. Poverty is being sick and not being able to see a doctor. Poverty is not having access to school and not knowing how to read. Poverty is not having a job, is fear for the future, living one day at a time. Poverty is losing a child to illness brought about by unclean water. Poverty is powerlessness, lack of representation and freedom.”