Poverty is not having access to food, clothing, shelter, safe drinking water, and adequate sanitation systems. It may also include the lack of access to opportunities such as education and employment which can aid the escape from poverty and allow one to enjoy the respect of one's fellow citizens. Poverty is a lack of accessible, affordable health care information and services. Poverty is not being able to produce enough food to feed your family. Poverty can affect individuals or groups and is not confined to developing nations. Poverty in developed countries often manifests itself as social problems, including homelessness and "ghetto" housing clusters.
Poverty slaughters the young. Today, the "average" person on the edge of survival is a child and within the next hour 1,200 more will die.
We Have What It Takes
It is a question of will and working smarter. For the wealthy nations, it is the will to listen harder to those we would serve, to experiment, to adapt, and to work smarter. For the poorest nations, it is the will to push past disappointment, past corruption and cynicism, leave behind the legacy of colonialism, and believe in what is possible.
The world has the resources to end poverty. The world's richest 500 individuals have the same income as the poorest half-billion, but taking from the rich and giving to the poor is not the answer. Such tactics breed resentment and laziness, respectively. Rather, it comes down to the need for education and a change in attitude. Charity and self-reliance are the respective goals, but they must be sought with an ever-attentive eye to balance. Those who have should freely contribute to the development of empowerment and self-reliance for those who have not, but the emphasis on one should never outweigh that on the other.
Start With The Basics
Eradicating poverty should start with an all-out effort to provide every man, woman and child with that which is essential for human well-being and development: basic, fundamental education and qualified, professional health care; clean, safe, drinking water; adequate nutrition, housing, and sanitation. Special attention should be given to the children, women, elderly, and infirm. All children should receive the care and assistance needed to develop their full physical and mental potential so they can become a strong foundation for the future.
In poorer countries, we need to provide increased agricultural training and access to low-cost, basic farm equipment to help farmers increase crop yields and conserve the environment.
In richer countries, we need to improve the quality of education and opportunities for poor children as a whole. We need to provide opportunities and incentives for poor, young females to have children only when they are able to care for them. We need to develop work opportunities and incentives for the poor so they can provide well for themselves and their families.
To intelligently and effectively address the problem of poverty, we must recognize and confront its causes:
- Ignorance: a lack of information or knowledge. What information is missing? Provide information aimed at strengthening capacity.
- Disease: Prevention is better than cure. A healthy population contributes to the eradication of poverty, in many ways.
- Apathy: Determine the motivators for the target population. Use those motivators to encourage people to want to, and learn how to, take charge of their own lives.
- Dishonesty: Stop the misappropriation of resources intended for community services or facilities. There is a "multiplier" that comes into play in community funding. New wealth invested in an economy has a greater, overall positive effect than the actual amount invested. Likewise, money taken out of an economy through embezzlement has a greater, overall negative effect than the actual amount stolen by the embezzler. When a Government official takes a 100 dollar bribe, social investment is decreased by as much as a 400 dollar decrease in the wealth of the society.
- Dependency: Dependency results from being on the receiving end of charity. Great care must be taken when assistance is being provided that an attitude, a belief, that one is so poor, so helpless, that one can not help one's self, that a group cannot help itself, that it must depend on assistance from outside — does not develop. Community empowerment by providing the assistance, capital, and training needed for a community to identify their own resources and opportunities for self-reliance is the goal.
Eradicating abject poverty is the basis for self-sustaining growth. This doesn't mean that we can expect to solve the whole world's problems. It does mean that we should allocate adequate attention and resources to ensuring the survival and progress of those least fortunate.
Where to begin...
Helping to end world poverty is as close as your keyboard and mouse. You can help establish the sustainable performance of small enterprise through investing in entrepreneurs in developing countries at sites such as Kiva.org and Opportunity.org. ChangingThePresent.org and GlobalGiving.com let you invest in, provide, or buy a friend or loved one a small stake in, say, a clean water project in Mozambique.
Visit ONE.org and get started today.