Child Poverty

By Kelechi Eleanya

Generalized assessments have consistently hidden some dimension of poverty that should be of utmost priority.

Poverty: One definition states, living on less than $2 a day which has impacted heavily on populations.

A critical dimension is poverty relating to the child: CHILD POVERTY.  Child poverty is a significant lack of the basic needs required for healthy, physical, mental, emotional and spiritual development. Child poverty is also a lack of opportunities (capability deprivation), a lack of control over one’s life through social isolation and discriminatory treatment at the hands of others. Child poverty is characterized by a lack of access to basic education, a healthy diet and adequate health care.

The facts are clear.  Globally – about 700 million children live in extreme poverty; every 3.6 seconds someone in the world dies of hunger – 75% of the casualties are children.

Child poverty has a severe impact in rural areas where people’s livelihoods are largely based on subsistence agriculture; where there is limited access to social services of quality and where families can barely afford school fees and other educational materials, clothing for children and health services.  There is even a high tendency for children’s respiratory diseases due to unclean cooking and heating fuel and very unsafe water.  In Africa, 200,000 child slaves are sold every year.  There are an estimated 8,000 girl-slaves in West Africa alone.

About 120,000 African children are participating in armed conflicts.  Some are as young as 7 years old.  Children account for half of all civilian casualties in wars in Africa.  One in six African children dies before the age of five.  Most of these deaths could be prevented.  Nearly one third of children in Sub-Saharan Africa are underweight.  In Sub-Saharan Africa, measles takes the life of a child nearly every minute of every day.  An effective measles vaccine costs as little as $1 per child.

Between 12 and 14 million African children have been orphaned by HIV/AIDS.  Nearly 2 million children under 14 years old are HIV positive.  43% of children in Sub-Saharan Africa do not have safe, accessible drinking water.  64% of children in Sub-Saharan Africa do not have adequate sanitation.  Only 57% of African children are enrolled in primary education, and one in three of those do not complete school.  For every 100 boys there are only 83 girls enrolled at primary school.

In the USA, nearly 15 million American children live in poverty.  The effects of poverty take the lives of 27 children daily and families with children account for nearly 40% of the people who become homeless.  50% of people who became poor each year are children and since 1975, the child poverty rate has increased by over 40%; also 12 million American children have no health insurance.  In Canada nearly 1.5 million children live in poverty.

All across the globe the call for attention to our future giants is alarming.

These facts repeatedly present a challenge to us all and like Charles Darwin put it: “if the misery of the poor be caused not by the laws of nature, but by our own institutions, great is our sin”.

For us all – the only time we have is NOW … Action! Action! Action is the key!  Act now!

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