Why should we care about poverty?

By Ahmed Alagil

The world’s poor are the ones who do not have access to shelter, nutrition, clean water, sanitation, education, or health care. Basically, they are the ones who cannot afford the essentials of life, or in other words the needs to survive. Poor people exist in every continent since the beginning of human civilization. In fact, almost half of the world lives on poverty line. Over three billion people live on less than $2.50 a day (Shah). Unfortunately, poverty has become the state for the majority of the world’s people and nations; therefore, it is a very important issue to carry about. Poverty also has many negative effects, which in return devastate the poor people’s lives drastically. This raises a central question that is what contributes to poverty? Poverty has various root causes, but the main ones include lack or no access to education, unemployment, overpopulation, unstable political situations, and even environmental issues. Yet, despite all of this, there is a potential for solving this problem with the help of college students since they are the ones who can and will make the change.

Many people, especially college students, shifted their attention from the suffering of the poor to other global and more economical issues, and the fight against poverty has been largely abandoned although it is one of the most important global and economical issues. Such global and economical issues that caught student’s attention are the recent terrorist attacks, the state of the global economy, and the widely spread environmental issues. According to my survey, most college students have abandoned the poverty issue because they believe that the poverty issue is actually coming to an end with all of the investments in education and the new advancements in technology and health care. However, this is not what is really happening, especially with the continuous increase in population and the number of children born in poor families .We should shift our attention back to the poverty issue and declare a war against it again because of its horrifying results. According to Anup Shah, around 21,000 children die every day around the world because of poverty and its side effects. As a result of poverty, poor people face serious problems of hunger and malnutrition and are %90 more prone to diseases such as Malaria and AIDS (Parker). In addition, infants of poor families do not have access to vaccines which causes many children to die at an early age. This brings the overpopulation issue to the stage as well because poor families, who live in real poverty, tend to have a lot of children in case if some did not survive.

Furthermore, experiencing starvation is a challenging period for most poor people. To illustrate this phase even more, imagine living with constant hunger and pain in your stomach everyday that you really cannot do anything to get over it. To simplify it even more for you, imagine yourself living next to a bakery but you can not afford a piece of bread to fed yourself or your family. Unfortunately, poor people cannot simply get over their hunger by stepping into their kitchen just like we do, if they actually have a kitchen. In addition, poverty results in the illiteracy of its victims. This is defiantly because of the fact that education is expensive and not many people can afford it, even some middle and upper class individuals find it expensive; hence, they tend to take loans to fund their educational program. However, poor people are not able to take loans or benefits from the services of their local banks maybe because they do not have a credit history or the fact that they are just “poor”. Thus, they do not have access to education because there is no way to fund their educational program. Adding to that, the poor are also characteristically discriminated and marginalized from their societies and have little representation and voice in public and political debates, making it even harder for its people to escape the poverty cycle. Therefore, an intervention is needed to bring poverty to an end and to stop this poisoning issue from spreading since this is a huge problem facing humanity that we need to care about.

On the other hand, lets look at the real contributors of poverty or in other words its “root causes”. When talking about the “root causes” of poverty, there are many different contributors for poverty which constantly change according to the region and the time period. However, I will be focusing on the major and most important ones. First, lets look at the lack of education and its contribution to this issue. Not having a proper education, in other words “higher education”, is the main catalyst of poverty especially in the 21st century. Because if poor people have had the opportunity to complete their education, they would find decent jobs that would get them out of poverty and its side effects. As the economy is developing and moving to prosperity, the workforce requires more educated and skilled workers. Therefore, not having the proper skills and the education background necessary for a certain job will result in another main contributor of poverty that is the unemployment rate. There is no doubt that the “lack or no access to education” root cause results in the illiteracy of its people. This brings another root cause of poverty to the stage as well, which is the unemployment.

Whether the unemployment is an effect of poverty or a main contributor, is a debatable and a controversial question. In this case, we would assume that it is a root cause of poverty. In fact, the causes and the effects of poverty are interwoven. To illustrate more, an environmental issue or even the overpopulation issue can be both a cause of poverty and a side effect. This is why we tend to call it “the poverty cycle”. Several issues like hunger, illness and thirst are both causes and effects. For instance, not having water and food means you’re poor, but being poor also means you can’t afford water or food. In a sense, they’re a characteristic of poverty. Therefore, the overpopulation and the unemployment issue are intermingled as well. The overpopulation issue will increase the demand for jobs in a certain economy, as there will be more workers actively seeking jobs. Eventually, this will results in the “demand-deficient unemployment” when there is not enough jobs for all the job seekers (Ashby). Here we start seeing the poverty rate increasing as the unemployment rate is increasing. This is clearly because people can not find jobs for living and to support their families, which ultimately causes many side effects of poverty to appear and devastate their lives even further. Nevertheless, I believe that unemployment can be both an effect and a contributor of poverty because it solely depends on how you view it.

Poverty is a constant struggle for almost half of the world’s population (Shah). Many college students need to come to the realization that poverty does not only affect poor people; instead, it affects the society as a whole. Therefore, the poverty issue cannot be ignored anymore. As college students, we can all contribute to defeat poverty. There are many community service programs and activates that look for young people, especially college students because they are young and well-educated, to participate in their programs in order to reduce poverty and hopefully brings it to an end. Therefore, we can join those programs and activates organized by our universities or other non-profit organizations so that we all work together to fight poverty. For example, Northeastern University offers each year a dialogue of civilization program during the summer for its students, which focuses on the poverty issue in the United States. The program addresses the topic of growing economic inequality and poverty in the US, and the role that business and “college students” can play in potentially reducing inequality and poverty. Such programs that students can participate in will widen their horizon, especially when looking at the poverty issue and its complicated causes and effects. Most importantly, such programs will enable the student to look at the possible solutions in ending poverty from different dimensions and angles. According to the college students who participated in this program, the students were able to engage in many activates that was organized by their faculty leader and some nonprofit organizations. For instance, they volunteered around a 100 hours to tutor young students whose parent’s are illiterate and cannot afford a private tutor. In addition, they volunteered many hours of services to poor schools sponsored events and helped them to finance their budget.

Furthermore, there were some college students form different schools as well who participated in other programs that aim to reduce poverty in the Sub-Saharan Africa. To illustrate more, they would travel to a specific village in the Sub-Saharan Africa to provide the poor families with the basic conditions of healthy living. For example, they would look at each village independently and conclude what are the main elements of living that a specific village lacks. Such elements that they lack can be: a safe place to keep the vaccines, efficient sanitation system, access to clean water by providing wells, and efficient and new methods of farming. Then they would implement those elements in each village. But most importantly, they would teach its inhabitants how to use and benefit from them. Because as the proverb says, “GIVE a man a fish, you feed him for a day. TEACH a man how to fish, you feed him for a lifetime”. Therefore, foreign aids are not really good solutions to end poverty because they are just short-term solutions for long-term problem. In addition, very few foreign aids go to the right cause “Foreign aid is a waste, with money inevitably vanishing into the pockets of corrupt officials or being misspent by inept bureaucracies” (Gates). Hence, according to Bill Gates, foreign aids are not anymore a solution to end poverty because many of that money are actually kept by the “corrupt officials“ or are misspent. Nevertheless, with the help of such programs, college students are motivated and encouraged to analyze and to look at the “root causes” of poverty for specific region independently and come up with the appropriate solution, which will eventually bring poverty to an end.

To conclude, poverty has serious and horrible effects that truly devastate not only the poor people, but also the economy as a whole. In addition, those side effects will also generate other side effects and there is where the issue gets even more complicated and the results become even more horrifying. Furthermore, there are various contributors of poverty that varies according to the region and the time period. Also, there are some root causes and effects of poverty that are interwoven. Therefore, we should be more specific and concise when it comes to finding an appropriate solution to reduce and end poverty. Nevertheless, we should always remember that human capital is king, and the best way to build it is through education. “No society has ever seen a broad-based reduction in poverty without major and sustained investments in the rights of its people to health, nutrition and basic education” (UNICEF).

 Work Cited:

“Poverty Reduction Starts with Children.” UNICEF. N.p Web. 21 April. 2003.

Parker, Richard. “The Global HIV/AIDS Pandemic, Structural Inequalities, and the Politics of International Health.” American Journal of Public Health. © American Journal of Public Health 2002.

“Causes of Poverty.” – Global Issues. N.p., 24 Sept. 2011.

“Bill Gates Talks to TIME About the Three Myths of Global Aid.” Time. Time, 21 Jan. 2014.

“Programs by Term: Summer I + Dialogue of Civilizations.” Dialogue of Civilizations + Summer I. N.p., n.d.