Poverty is like punishment for a crime you didn’t commit.
– Eli Khamarov, Lives of the Cognoscenti
Breaking the Cycle of Poverty
The latest Census Bureau figures on poverty in America… confirm a shocking new reality. While a sliver of top earners are doing better than they ever have before, for tens of millions of Americans, insecurity—and, for a distressing number, destitution—is the new norm.
The current Population Survey data show that 15 percent of Americans, roughly 46.5 million people, live at or below the government-defined poverty line—which, as most who work with the hungry, the homeless, the uninsured, and the underpaid or unemployed know, is itself an inadequate measure of poverty. By more reasonable measures, poverty in this country is even more pervasive. (www.thenation.com)
What causes poverty?
“Until recently, poverty was understood largely in terms of income – or a lack of one. To be poor meant that one could not afford the cost of providing a proper diet of home. But poverty is about more than a shortfall of income or calorie intake. It is about the denial of opportunities and choices that are widely regarded as essential to lead a long, healthy, creative life and to enjoy a decent standard of living, freedom, dignity, self-esteem and the respect of others.
Possessing little money, little education, few skills for the marketplace and a multitude of health problems, nearly half of all the people in the world live in poverty, without much opportunity to improve their lives.” (www.un.org)
What can be done to break the cycle of poverty? For years, many scholars blamed it on a culture of poverty — the idea that behavior and attitudes played a key role. That concept, which basically blamed the victims, has been universally shunned. But a new understanding of the “culture of poverty” has recently emerged.
It is also clear that the conditions of poverty that create cyclical or intergenerational poverty must be surrounded and encircled by the efforts and strategies of community members, non-profits and their funder partners to help transform a culture of poverty into a culture of prosperity. There is a rich history of several efforts that have done this, so, why has this culture continued to grow in our country? Could it possibly be the lack of national imagination or the access to opportunity that moves someone beyond the experience of his or her parents? (www.huffingtonpost.com)
In a sense, the effects of poverty must be overcome – or even negated – in order to avoid the previously predominant cyclical/intergenerational poverty levels that continue to exist for far too many people.
What are some immediate and concrete solutions to poverty?
Provide the Basics
Early in life, our poorest babies require basic necessities and support for their mothers and caregivers. The National Diaper Bank Network (NDBN), in conjunction with Huggies’ Every Little Bottom program, generously donated 100,000 diapers to PCI’s California Border Healthy Start (CBHS), to be distributed to families in need in the San Diego community. The diapers were delivered to PCI’s center on behalf of NDBN and are dedicated to providing every child with the supply of diapers needed to remain clean, dry and healthy.
California Border Healthy Start Project serves 85% of local Hispanic families through partner programs such as La Maestra Community Health Centers, San Diego Family Care, Best Start Birth Center, Operation Samahan Community Health Center, Family Health Centers of San Diego and San Diego County HHSA Maternal and Child Health Services Branch.
San Diego’s CBHS program is improving the health of low-income pregnant women, mothers, and their babies in areas that represent the highest levels of poverty and poor birth outcomes in San Diego County by enhancing the capacity of the local maternal and child health social service systems and increasing effective outreach and recruitment into prenatal services early in pregnancy.
Poverty in Africa
In general, the principal causes of poverty are harmful economic systems, conflict, population growth, and environmental factors such as drought and climate change. Poverty itself is a major cause of hunger. All are very important as causes of poverty and hunger in sub-Saharan Africa.
Poverty is the principal cause of hunger in Africa and elsewhere. Simply put, people do not have sufficient income to purchase enough food. Conflict and drought, for example, are certainly important causes of hunger, but the most typical situation is that people just do not have enough income to purchase the food that they need—they could be starving in some slum somewhere, for example. As noted in 2008, 47 percent of the population of sub-Saharan Africa lived on $1.25 a day or less, a principal factor in causing widespread hunger. (www.worldhunger.org)
PCI is playing an important role in the alleviation of global poverty with the Women Empowered initiative (WE), with some of the most dramatic successes occurring through microfinance in Africa. We believe that the economic empowerment of women is especially vital for the future development of these communities.
Microfinance is often defined as financial services for poor and low-income clients offered by different types of service providers. The term is often used more narrowly to refer to loans and other services from providers that identify themselves as “microfinance institutions” (MFIs). These institutions commonly tend to use new methods developed over the last 30 years to deliver very small loans to unsalaried borrowers, taking little or no collateral. These methods include group lending and liability, pre-loan savings requirements, gradually increasing loan sizes, and an implicit guarantee of ready access to future loans if present loans are repaid fully and promptly.
Maweta from Lusaka, Zambia
Maweta Tembo sits among her four small grandchildren in the village of Chiwala, on the outskirts of Lusaka, Zambia. A 72-year-old widow, Maweta has already raised six children of her own, but now she must also care for her grandchildren, whose parents died from AIDS. Each day was a struggle for Maweta. After attending a community orientation, however, Maweta began mobilizing women in her village to form a self-help group.
After only 9 months in the program, Maweta had learned how to read and write, perform basic math and accounting, and was able to save $60 by selling mangoes in her community. Maweta also received a loan from her group, which helped her start a business: buying fast-selling food items in bulk and re-packaging and reselling them in smaller units, at a profit. With the earnings from her business, she is now able to provide for the basic needs and education of her grandchildren.
Ending poverty is a multi-step process. PCI recognizes the vast complexity of needs, including the necessity of individual approaches for each region, and how each level of poverty comes with its own unique set of problems. The work continues as PCI remains ever committed to putting an end to global poverty.