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What is poverty?

A simple answer defines poverty as not having enough resources to meet your minimum needs. But that’s a dry definition which distances us from the human reality. Living in poverty is fear, hunger, untreated sickness, uncertainty and insecurity. Waking up every day feeling hopeless, powerless and trapped by circumstances you cannot change.

It’s useful to measure poverty: The World Bank defines extreme poverty as living on less than $1.90 per day. The most recent figures available (2015) show ten per cent of the world’s population is still living at this level – that’s 736 million people.

Poverty is not evenly spread. More than half the world’s extreme poor live in sub-Saharan Africa, where rates of extreme poverty are actually rising. In 2015, 413 million people in sub-Saharan Africa were living on less than $1.90 per day, more than all the other regions of the world combined.  If trends continue, by 2030 nine out of ten people living in extreme poverty will be in sub-Saharan Africa.

But it’s not enough to think of poverty only in financial terms. Poverty is complex. You need to consider factors like education, clean water and sanitation, health care and security. The World Bank estimates that if you measure poverty using a broader definition, including consumption, education and access to basic utilities, numbers of people living in extreme poverty rise by at least another 50%. They say this “reveals a world in which poverty is a much broader, more entrenched problem.”

How can we end poverty?

To understand how we can tackle poverty, we need to ask the question, ‘what causes poverty?’

Here are five key factors:

1. Poor Education.

Global Care puts education at the heart of all our work with children. Education opens doors. Education enables change. Education reduces exploitation. Education improves life opportunities. UNESCO estimate (2017) that 171 million people would be lifted out of poverty if all children left school with basic reading skills, and that global poverty would be cut in half if all young people completed secondary education.

2. No access to clean water and sanitation

Global Care builds toilets and provides clean water for children and families in poverty. Clean water and sanitation prevent disease. When you’re sick, you can’t study or work. When you’re sick, your healthcare costs increase. If there is no local access to clean water, you spend many hours each day collecting water, further reducing your ability to study or work. If you can’t study or work, your standard of living will deteriorate with no hope of improvement.

3. Conflict

Global Care helps children in countries riven by conflict, including Syria and South Sudan. Conflict will even bring stable societies to a grinding halt. Syria was a country where extreme poverty was rare, but after eight years of civil war, a staggering 83% of the population now live in poverty. In South Sudan, which experienced war for over 50 years, conflict has reduced basic infrastructure and services to unbelievably low levels. For example, over 70% of children aged between six and 17 have never set foot in a classroom. They are denied even the most basic education, keeping another generation of children in poverty.

4. Inequality

Inequality is not just financial. Global Care helps children who face discrimination in addition to poverty. Discrimination on the grounds of ethnicity, gender and disability are common in many societies, pushing people into poverty, or ensuring they can never escape. For a Dalit in India, a member of the lowest caste group, or a girl in Syria, or a child with disability in Uganda, access to education, employment or any kind of community empowerment or improvement is severely restricted. They need extra help to break the poverty cycle.

5. Climate Change

According to the World Bank, an additional 100 million people will be pushed into poverty by climate change impacts in the next decade, without urgent action. Climate change hits the poorest the hardest. They feel the impact first and worst, having no resources to fall back on when hit by drought, floods, cyclones and other weather-related challenges.  Studies also show that higher temperatures decrease productivity, reduce crop yields, and affect cognitive functioning – factors which combine to keep people in poverty, and make efforts to lift people out of poverty less effective.

What is Global Care doing to reduce poverty?

Global Care is committed to supporting children and families living in extreme poverty, mainly through grassroots initiatives improving access to education and the quality of learning. As we work to remove barriers preventing vulnerable children from learning, the strategies we use vary according to each context. It might be training teachers in South Sudan, advocating for Dalit children in India, mentoring street children in Guatemala or building classrooms in Uganda and Zambia. Our child sponsorship programme worldwide keeps children in education and opens up opportunity. This video shows ten barriers to education, and shows what Global Care is doing to bring change.

What can I do to reduce poverty?

Join us on the journey! If you live in a developed nation like the UK and earn even close to the 2019 national average wage of £29K you are among the top 1% of rich people worldwide. Even a small amount of giving can begin to make a difference to children living in extreme poverty.

Global Care has a variety of regular giving programmes starting at just £3 per month, or you can give direct to any of our international projectsSponsoring an individual child allows a personal link over the long term, so you can see for yourself the impact of your generosity.