The Sustaining of Poverty

The Oxfam America site asks In a World of Abundance, Why Hunger? (July 8, 2002)

Poverty and hunger are the world’s greatest challenges

  • 1.2 billion people–one out of five–live on less than $1 a day.
  • More than 800 million people are hungry, including 31 million in the United States.
  • Every day, 24,000 people die from hunger and other preventable causes. One billion people do not have adequate shelter, and 2.4 billion people do not have access to proper sanitation. More than 1 billion people in developing countries lack access to safe water.
  • Yet enough food is produced in the world to feed everyone.
  • Overpopulation is not the main cause of hunger. In Japan, a densely populated country with 125 million people, hunger is rare compared to other countries. Many larger countries with fewer people, like Peru and Sudan, have much higher rates of hunger.
  • The problem is inequality in access to education, resources, and power.

I have a slightly different take on the question of poverty and hunger. I think that ultimately, without the active participation of the world’s poor, poverty cannot be sustained. I believe that we have been looking for the solution to poverty everywhere else except at the source of poverty. The source of poverty is the poor. The poor sustain poverty.

I am not absolving anyone of blame by locating the source of sustained poverty among the poor. On the contrary, the non-poor also actively participate in helping the poor sustain poverty. But in the ultimate analysis, the poor have the power to kill poverty. How to awaken them to that realization is the challenge that those who wish to see poverty eradicated face.

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