Issues related to Poverty and Hunger
Approximately 896 million people in developing countries live on $1.90 a day or less. Between 1990 and 2008, efforts to impact this issue were successful, and the number of people living in poverty decreased by nearly half, from 48 to 26 percent.
Poverty, food prices and hunger are inextricably linked. Poverty causes hunger. Not every poor person is hungry, but almost all hungry people are poor. Millions live with hunger and malnourishment because they simply cannot afford to buy enough food, cannot afford nutritious foods or cannot afford the farming supplies they need to grow enough good food of their own. Hunger can be viewed as a dimension of extreme poverty. It is often called the most severe and critical manifestation of poverty.
Rural households are the most heavily burdened by the consequences of poverty and hunger. In addition to causing hunger, poverty limits a rural community’s ability to invest in its own development. Over 30 percent of rural girls living in poverty are kept out of school to save money, opposed to the 15 percent of urban girls not in school. Studies have shown that lack of general education leads to higher adolescent birth rates; births that in turn over-burden an already economically strained community, perpetuating a cycle of gender inequality, poverty and hunger.
Recognizing the urgency of this issue, world leaders have made poverty a top priority as a part of Millennium Development Goal 1.
What is the relationship between hunger and nutrition?
Hunger can be temporary, such as not having enough to eat for a meal or a day, or can be long lasting when the person does not get enough to eat to maintain his or her physical needs over many days, weeks, months or years. When a person has hunger for a sustained period of time, he or she can develop malnutrition, either mild or severe, depending on one’s body needs and food intake.
Malnutrition is defined as any disorder of nutrition. It may result from an unbalanced, insufficient or excessive diet or from impaired absorption, assimilation or use of foods. Over nutrition, a condition of excess nutrient and energy intake overtime, may be regarded as a form of malnutrition when it leads to morbid obesity. Under nutrition is a condition of malnutrition caused by an inadequate food supply or an inability to use the nutrients in food.
The term ‘Chronic malnutrition’ refers to lower intake of nutrients than the body needs over a long period of time. This type of undernutrition can cause young children to be
1. stunted in height,
3. delayed in developmental capacities such as brain function, and
4. more prone to disease.
5. Additionally, undernutrition can cause:
6. swollen and bleeding gums,
7. diaainess and fatigue,
8. decaying teeth, among other symptoms.
It is not as visible as severe malnutrition, hence receives less media attention than famines or outright starvation, for instance, nevertheless it is a much larger and chronic problem. Severe malnutrition, particularly in young children and infants, can lead to death.
Extent of the Problem
Hunger is the world’s number one health risk, greater than HIV and AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria combined. Statistics from the 2014 State of Food Insecurity in the World from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimate that 805 million people in the world are chronically malnourished, down more than 200 million over the last decade, indicating progress.
Under nutrition can begin in the womb. If under nutrition carries on in the first 1,000 days of a child’s life it can also lead to stunted growth, which is irreversible at that point and associated with impaired cognitive ability and reduced performance in school and later in life at work. Undernourished children that are chronically malnourished are more likely to become short adults that birth smaller infants who have lower educational achievement and economic status in adulthood (Lancet 2008).
This cycle carries on from mother to child when chronic under nutrition continues generation to generation. Stunting and its effects typically become permanent because reversal usually means changing the basic and underlying causes of malnutrition.
Who is most at risk for undernutrition?
The most vulnerable are:
1. children under five, pregnant and lactating women, and the elderly and disabled;
2. poor people;
3. people who live in developing countries in Asia and the Pacific;
4. people in Africa.
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 98 million children under five years of age are underweight, or about one in every six children. Most underweight children live in Southern Asia (WHO 2013).
Poverty is about not having enough money to meet basic needs including food, clothing and shelter. However, poverty is more, much more than just not having enough money.
The World Bank Organization describes poverty in this way: “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 has many faces, changing from place to place and across time, and has been described in many ways. Most often, poverty is a situation people want to escape. So poverty is a call to action — for the poor and the wealthy alike — a call to change the world so that many more may have enough to eat, adequate shelter, access to education and health, protection from violence, and a voice in what happens in their communities.”
In addition to a lack of money, poverty is about not being able to participate in recreational activities; not being able to send children on a day trip with their schoolmates or to a birthday party; not being able to pay for medications for an illness. These are all costs of being poor. Those people who are barely able to pay for food and shelter simply can’t consider these other expenses.
When people are excluded within a society, when they are not well educated and when they have a higher incidence of illness, there are negative consequences for society. We all pay the price for poverty. The increased cost on the health system, the justice system and other systems that provide supports to those living in poverty has an impact on our economy.
While much progress has been made in measuring and analyzing poverty, the World Bank Organization is doing more work to identify indicators for the other dimensions of poverty. This work includes identifying social indicators to track education, health, access to services, vulnerability, and social exclusion.
Despite the many definitions, one thing is certain; poverty is a complex societal issue. No matter how poverty is defined, it can be agreed that it is an issue that requires everyone’s attention. It is important that all members of our society work together to provide the opportunities for all our members to reach their full potential. It helps all of us to help one another.
Poor health services
Poverty and poor health worldwide are inextricably linked. The causes of poor health for millions globally are rooted in political, social and economic injustices. Poverty is both a cause and a consequence of poor health. Poverty increases the chances of poor health. Poor health in turn traps communities in poverty. Infectious and neglected tropical diseases kill and weaken millions of the poorest and most vulnerable people each year.
The economic and political structures which sustain poverty and discrimination need to be transformed in order for poverty and poor health to be tackled. Marginalised groups and vulnerable individuals are often worst affected, deprived of the information, money or access to health services that would help them prevent and treat disease. Very poor and vulnerable people may have to make harsh choices – knowingly putting their health at risk because they cannot see their children go hungry, for example.
The cultural and social barriers faced by marginalised groups – including indigenous communities – can mean they use health services less, with serious consequences for their health. This perpetuates their disproportionate levels of poverty.
Overcrowded and poor living conditions can contribute to the spread of airborne diseases such as tuberculosis and respiratory infections such as pneumonia. Reliance on open fires or traditional stoves can lead to deadly indoor air pollution. A lack of food, clean water and sanitation can also be fatal.
Insufficient education and training:
Insufficient schooling, or worse, lack of access to school education is one of the single most limiting factors in life, preventing people to develop and use their full potential. This human deprivation also limits people’s ability to find a job, to access well-remunerated employment, or to develop some of their entrepreneurial skills, and is therefore one of the main causes of income poverty.
Those who are illiterate are doubly disadvantaged, as they can less easily improve their skills or know where and how to look for remunerated activities. Vice versa, poverty often precludes children from going to school, forces many of them to work to survive or to increase the family’s income, and hampers many people’s access to adequate education – thus fuelling a vicious circle that makes it hard to uplift oneself out of poverty.
Inadequacy between jobs offered and people’s qualification is one of the causes of unemployment and under-employment. In rural areas, insufficient access to education and to information makes it difficult for poor people to manage agricultural production in a sound way. This may result in lower income and loss of yielding capacity. It may also be a major obstacle to an optimal commercialisation of their products with negative consequences on income.
Where children are in school, but are underfed or malnourished, they do not draw full benefit from their education, as it is difficult to concentrate and follow lessons. Where communities are too poor, as well as where local or national governments do not have sufficient resources, the school structures may not exist or be inadequate, pedagogical material may be lacking, furniture or stationary may be insufficient, modern technology often non-existent, classrooms overfilled, and teachers insufficiently trained or paid. All these elements are detrimental to the education of the community members.
Lack of resources also hampers the development of vocational training, thus depriving people of opportunities. Moreover, distance sometimes makes the existing schools and vocational training centres unavailable to children from suburbs, slums, and poor rural areas.
In some places, good schools are private, thus discriminatory to poor people. Poverty also precludes many from accessing higher levels of education. Lack of education or insufficient levels of education can also lead to social exclusion. Moreover, insufficient education and lack of access to information make it difficult for millions of people throughout the world to understand how to prevent and cure diseases or take care of dental health. Education for women and girls helps reduce birth rates, improve the family health and impacts strongly on the family income and use of resources.