A Child Named Poor
IN A small African village, a man named Okot and his wife, Matina, rejoiced at the birth of their first child, a daughter. Relatives and friends traveled to the village to bring gifts and to express their hope that the child would have a long and happy life.
The couple lived a hard and humble existence. They farmed a small plot of land, and their home, where Matina gave birth, was a mud-block structure with a thatched roof. They were determined to work hard to make things easier for their firstborn than it had been for them. To remind themselves of this goal, they named their daughter Acan, meaning “I Am Poor.”
What does the future hold for Acan? If her life follows the pattern of many in her country, she may never learn to read and write. When she becomes an adult, if she can find work, she may earn little more than $190 per year. And in her country, life expectancy is only 42 years.
Acan’s plight is not unique. Of the nearly 6 billion people on earth, some 1.3 billion make less than $370 a year. The average in rich nations is $21,598. Each day, 67,000 more join the legions of the poor, about 25 million every year. Most live in the developing world—in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. But even in rich nations, there are pockets of poverty. And 7 in 10 of the world’s poor are female.
Most people never escape abject poverty. It denies them their most basic needs—food, clothing, and shelter. It can rob them of freedom, dignity, education, and good health. The World Health Organization says: “Poverty wields its destructive influence at every stage of human life, from the moment of conception to the grave. It conspires with the most deadly and painful diseases to bring a wretched existence to all who suffer from it.”
But is not the standard of living in developing nations improving? In some, yes. In many others, no. The human development magazine Choices describes the notion that “the poor are catching up” as ‘a dangerous myth.’ Instead, it states: “We live in a world that has in fact become more polarized economically, both among countries and within them.”
Will poverty continue to plague humankind forever? In the next two articles, Awake! examines this complex subject and shows what the solution will be.