Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Blog Action Day 2008 Poverty

Poverty (also called penury) is deprivation of common necessities that determine the quality of life, including food, clothing, shelter and safe drinking water, and may also include the deprivation of opportunities to learn, to obtain better employment to escape poverty, and/or to enjoy the respect of fellow citizens. According to Mollie Orshansky who developed the poverty measurements used by the U.S. government, "to be poor is to be deprived of those goods and services and pleasures which others around us take for granted."[1] Ongoing debates over causes, effects and best ways to measure poverty, directly influence the design and implementation of poverty-reduction programs and are therefore relevant to the fields of public administration and international development.

Effects of poverty

The effects of poverty may also be causes, as listed above, thus creating a "poverty cycle" operating across multiple levels, individual, local, national and global.

Those living in poverty and lacking access to essential health services, suffering hunger or even starvation,[84] experience mental and physical health problems which make it harder for them to improve their situation.[85] One third of deaths - some 18 million people a year or 50,000 per day - are due to poverty-related causes: in total 270 million people, most of them women and children, have died as a result of poverty since 1990.[86] Those living in poverty suffer lower life expectancy. Every year nearly 11 million children living in poverty die before their fifth birthday. Those living in poverty often suffer from hunger.[87] 800 million people go to bed hungry every night.[88] Poverty increases the risk of homelessness.[89] There are over 100 million street children worldwide.[90] Increased risk of drug abuse may also be associated with poverty.[91]

Diseases of poverty reflect the dynamic relationship between poverty and poor health; while such infectious diseases result directly from poverty, they also perpetuate and deepen impoverishment by sapping personal and national health and financial resources. For example, malaria decreases GDP growth by up to 1.3% in some developing nations, and by killing tens of millions in sub-Saharan Africa, AIDS alone threatens “the economies, social structures, and political stability of entire societies”.[92][93]

Those living in poverty in the developed world may suffer social isolation. Rates of suicide may increase in conditions of poverty. Death of a breadwinner may decrease a household's resilience to poverty conditions and cause a dramatic worsening in their situation. Low income levels and poor employment opportunities for adults in turn create the conditions where households can depend on the income of child members. An estimated 218 million children aged 5 to 17 are in child labor worldwide, excluding child domestic labor.[94] Lacking viable employment opportunities those living in poverty may also engage in the informal economy, or in criminal activity, both of which may on a larger scale discourage investment in the economy, further perpetuating conditions of poverty.

Low income and wealth levels undermine the ability of governments to levy taxes for public service provision, adding to the 'vicious circle' connecting the causes and effects of poverty. Lack of essential infrastructure, poor education and health services, and poor sanitation contribute to the perpetuation of poverty.[95] Poor access to affordable public education can lead to low levels of literacy, further entrenching poverty. Weak public service provision and high levels of poverty can increase states' vulnerability to natural disasters and make states more vulnerable to shocks in the international economy, such as those associated with rising fuel prices, or declining commodity prices.[96][97]

Areas strongly affected by poverty tend to be more violent. In one survey, 67% of children from disadvantaged inner cities said they had witnessed a serious assault, and 33% reported witnessing a homicide.[98] 51% of fifth graders from New Orleans (median income for a household: $27,133) have been found to be victims of violence, compared to 32% in Washington, DC (mean income for a household: $40,127).[99]

The capacity of the state is further undermined by the problem that people living in poverty may be more vulnerable to extremist political persuasion, and may feel less loyalty to a state unable to deliver basic services. For these reasons conditions of poverty may increase the risk of political violence, terrorism, war and genocide, and may make those living in poverty vulnerable to human trafficking, internal displacement and exile as refugees. Countries suffering widespread poverty may experience loss of population, particularly in high-skilled professions, through emigration, which may further undermine their ability to improve their situation.

How can we make a difference?

Buy Fair Trade

I love the little girl dresses made by Global Mamas!
Over the summer I had the pleasure of meeting the founder of Global Mamas at a street festival.


Equal Exchange's Organic Breakfast Blend ($8/12 oz.;; 781-830-0303)

Caffe Ibis's Organic Espresso Roast Blend ($9.49/12 oz.;; 888-740-4777)

Grounds for Change Sumatra Roast ($8.95/12 oz.;; 800-796-6820)

Millstone Coffee ($7.99/10-12 oz.;

Cafe Canopy's triple certified French Roast ($10.50/12 oz.;; 888-299-1147)


La Siembra Group's Cocoa Camino (; 613-235-6122) hot chocolate, chocolate bars. Buy at, and

Green & Black's and Maya Gold Chocolate $3.50-$4 for a 100-gram bar (

Equal Exchange (see above) hot-cocoa mix ($6 for a 12-oz. can)

See Coffee and Chocolate product reports at

Become a Kiva Sponsor!

How Kiva Works

Choose an Entrepreneur, Lend, Get Repaid

The below diagram shows briefly how money gets from you to a developing-world entrepreneur, and back.

1) Lenders like you browse profiles of entrepreneurs in need, and choose someone to lend to. When they lend, using PayPal or their credit cards, Kiva collects the funds and then passes them along to one of our microfinance partners worldwide.

2) Kiva's microfinance partners distribute the loan funds to the selected entrepreneur. Often, our partners also provide training and other assistance to maximize the entrepreneur's chances of success.

3) Over time, the entrepreneur repays their loan. Repayment and other updates are posted on Kiva and emailed to lenders who wish to receive them.

4) When lenders get their money back, they can re-lend to someone else in need, donate their funds to Kiva (to cover operational expenses), or withdraw their funds.

To learn more about Kiva head on over to their website at

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