Category Archives: Poverty


Richest 1% Own Almost Half the World’s Wealth


Gearing up for the 2014 World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, OxFam released a study that finds the richest 1% own nearly half the world’s wealth. Ever since the mortgage-financial crisis, the public’s attention has focused on the glaring economic inequality both within the United States and around the globe.  For this reason, studies revealing said economic disparity comes across as unsurprising, and without the garnered interest it has had in the past. Except when reports come out that the 85 richest people anywhere are as wealthy as the poorest half of the world, the thought raises our eyebrows and has us wondering what us humans are doing to better the lives of the world’ls overall population.

Oxfam International is a non-profit organization with the explicit goal to change the world with the power of people to fight against poverty, and the injustices that cause poverty. One of the main themes of this year’s WEF is economic inequality, which will highlight some of the talking points from this study as some of the world’s most distinguished businessmen, entrepreneurs, celebrities, government officials and scholars convene in Davos this week.

Of course, the WEF is known almost as much for the noticeable faces that are absent as it is for the members that make appearances, including Warren E. Buffett, Timothy Cook (Apple), and the founders of Google Larry Paige and Sergey Brin.  Such is the nature of these events, which offer both the opportunity to stir change through discussion, or at the least function predominantly as a public relations/networking event. However you look at it, the WEF brings a platform that heightens awareness and promotes discussion of important subjects like economic inequality to a global audience in an effort to help better our world. It’s worth checking out, and you can many an informed discussion when you browse through the topics.

For now though, check out Oxfam’s full report here (PDF).

And this helpful infographic via USA Today



Images via Oxfam




What is Water Poverty?


Starting from a young age, we are taught the vital importance that water has in our lives. We are taught it makes up more than 50% of our own bodies, we cannot survive more than three days without water, how water is, perhaps outside of high intensive exercise, the most hydrating fluid we can have daily. What we are not taught explicitly, is be aware of how lucky we are to have consistent, clean sources of water at our disposal. We are not taught that there is a term for not having running water, the ability to take a shower every day, to cook, to hydrate, to fight illness. This term, water poverty, is a state in which over 782 million people worldwide find themselves. 782 million people that are disrupted from working, going to school, and other basic staples of living in our American society.

Water poverty is comprised of three key issues, quantity, quality, and cost. These issues are outlined here by the End Water Poverty coalition:

  • Quantity - If a water source is more than a 30 minute round trip away, then studies show that much less water is brought back (not surprisingly) and so less is available for washing and drinking.
  • Quality – The main water quality issue is contamination both with faeces which leads to diseases like cholera, and with chemicals from the ground such as fluoride which causes a very painful disease called flouridosis.
  • Cost - If a pump costs too much to keep up, then it will fall into disrepair. This is extremely common. Often, in urban areas, this means that people have to rely on standpipes or water deliveries by lorries. These methods can cost a large proportion of a family’s income, plus the firewood to boil the water also has to be paid for.

These issues add up to an insurmountable situation for water impoverished people, who have little choice but to choose between paying for water or paying for medicine, dealing with constant weakness, dealing with vaccines that are less effective without proper hydration, spinning in a “cycle of poverty”. Disrupting this cycle of poverty is what the End Water Poverty coalition seeks to achieve, and why over 18,000 Ghanians have appealed to the United Nations during their most recent gathering of world leaders this past week. They are part of a petition crafted by the End Water Poverty organization in demanding safe sanitation and drinking water for all. Finding solutions to these problems is a global challenge, but hard, collaborative efforts like End Water Poverty and related organization are paving the way for change, making our wold more inclusive and better conditions for human life everywhere.



How Hunger Affects Early Childhood Development


When discussing why American children are failing in school, one should start by asking what they had to eat outside of it. Kids going to school hungry is not a new phenomenon in this country, but much the like rich/poor divide, it is increasing. What is surprising is not the fact that hunger affects early childhood development adversely, but that it is becoming a a growing health crisis in the United States. Child hunger is an issue that affects urban, suburban, and rural communities, with studies showing that teachers are increasingly seeing children that are too hungry to learn in the classroom. Understanding how hunger affects early childhood development, and  how it affects learning overall can help give clarity to the emphasis needed to address poverty in this country and abroad.

It is difficult for anyone, especially children, to focus cognitively if they are hungry. As Ernest Mendes, P.h.D. points out in his book, “Empty the Cup…Before You Fill It Up“, you don’t have to look further than Abraham Maslow’s motivation theory and hierarchy of needs.

Basic needs must be met before growth needs will be pursued. Safety and a sense of belong come before cognitive needs…When lower level needs are not met first, a person will seek to meet those before the cognitive ones.”

Grumbling tummies are included in these lower level needs. Food deprivation for children living in poverty can often induce stress and affect a child’s ability to focus in a classroom environment. 30-40 years after Maslow’s study, “brain science has observed changes in the brain under stressful and non-safe circumstances versus healthy challenge and low threat environments.”

The effects of child poverty have been a focus for pediatricians throughout the country who are advocating for better awareness of the issue. Dr. Bernard Dreyer, a Professor of pediatrics at New York University (NYU) was recently interviewed on NBC News to discuss some of the problems he has seen arise from child poverty. Having worked with low-income families for four decades, Dr. Dreyer noted the most significant symptom from child poverty is “toxic stress”, which goes hand in hand with poor language development, poor cognitive development, poor school performance, and so on. When families come in for doctor visits, he often feels obligated to ask if there are nights when the family goes to bed hungry. “The answer is always yes. If I don’t ask it, they don’t tell me those things. It is heartbreaking.”

The chronic problems of  child poverty has led to what Dr. Dreyer calls “nursery school drop outs” where children are so dysfunctional, they are kicked out of the Headstart program. “That’s when it became clear that at 3 or 4 years old, they were already in a situation where their social and emotional development and their language development was so delayed or problematic that they were never going to make it. There was no way they were going to catch up.”

Of course, poverty in America is relative compared to less developed countries. Poverty in India for example, is more concrete. It is very evident impoverished people in India literally do not have food to eat, whereas here in America it is more about a lack of the bare necessities, malnutrition, and other factors that we do not usually  lump together with other developed countries.  In that sense, impoverished American children seem lucky compared to those in other countries, where education is an afterthought and children our deprived of the most basic human needs. That being said, the inability to receive an effective education is only underscored by the state of child poverty both in America and abroad. Regardless of location, child poverty and hunger affect early childhood development, inhibiting cognitive and social developments that are crucial for learning and growing in this world.