Poverty is a major abuse of human rights. Today, 1.5 billion people live in abject poverty world-wide. More than 600 million people are chronically hungry. 2.6 million people are threatened with starvation in Sudan alone. UNICEF estimates more than half of all the children in the south of the country are malnourished. World-wide, 900 million women live on less than $1 dollar a day.
Poverty is measured by the gap between those who have and those who do not. The 'gap' between the richest 10% and poorest 20% of the population is 3 to 5 times in Australia, over 20 times in Brazil and Guatemala.
Poverty is also measured by the quality of life of those who are poor. It is telling that those who are subjected to discrimination - women, children, ethnic and religious minorities - are also the poorest.
At least 40 million people die every year from hunger-related diseases - half of them children (that is about equivalent to 300 airliner crashes a day, with no survivors).
In 1998, OECD countries' global aid budgets were reduced by 14.2%. In stark contrast, surveys underlined the fact that the majority of these states citizens supported international humanitarian aid programs. Poverty should invoke our compassion and our response. We can address the causes of poverty with training, support, providing essential services, and development assistance. Many non-government aid organisations like, Community Aid Abroad, provide education and skills so that communities and villages currently in crisis will become permanently self-supporting. Governments must begin to match their rhetoric with increased foreign aid budgets. We are all bound by our common humanity to help those less fortunate than ourselves.
In a globalised economy, where multinational companies invest in production where they can pay the lowest wages and production costs, the flow of foreign investment is guided by free market principles that often ignore the interests of the poorest and most vulnerable members of society. In 1994, one multinational company was selling garments made by children in an Asian country for 1000% more than it cost to make them. In many developing countries an unreasonable debt burden owed to the world's richest countries, cripples the efforts of governments to alleviate their people's suffering.
The world's distribution of wealth is unequal. A handful of countries have the lion's share of international income - the US, Switzerland the United Arab Emirates top the list - followed by countries like the UK, much of Europe, Japan, and Australia. Countries that can't guarantee their citizens enough food are in crisis. Those who cannot afford to feed and house their children adequately, or pay for their education, are caught in a perpetual cycle of poverty and misery. The best protection from poverty is the possession of useable skills. This comes from education, training, and access to paid work.
Nobody who is really poor has the luxury of enjoying 'civilisation'. It takes all their energy just to stay alive. The measure of poverty differs in every society, but it always means marginalisation, and being unable to participate in society because the poor cannot purchase any status in it.
World Food Programme
World Vision International