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Kids' Health Issues: 2014

Fighting Poverty

5 Global Kids’ Health Issues

Huge progress has been made in many critical areas involving children’s health. Yet there is still important work to be done, and most of it doesn’t involve expensive new drugs or surgical procedures. Instead, it’s about the basics that most of us take for granted. We have identified 5 issues that desperately need the world’s attention for the sake of children and their families, and suggest some ways that you and your family can help.

Fighting Poverty

Can you imagine living on less than $2.50 a day? It doesn’t seem possible, yet that’s the reality for almost half the world’s population — more than 3 billion people. And 1.4 billion of those are in extreme poverty, earning less than $1.25 a day.

In developing countries, poverty means starvation, disease, squalid living conditions, unclean water and poor sanitation, limited or no access to education and medical care, and high crime rates. Seven countries account for 65% of the world’s hungry: India, China, Indonesia, Pakistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Bangladesh, and Ethiopia.

But it’s not just people in developing countries who struggle — about 15% of Americans fall below the poverty line ($23,492 for a family of four); and 44% of those (20.4 million, or 6.6% of Americans) live in deep poverty, which is defined as an income 50% or more below the poverty line.

Children suffer the most in poverty-stricken areas. According to UNICEF, 22,000 children die each day because of poverty-related causes. Almost 30% of all children in developing countries are thought to be underweight or have stunted growth, with South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa especially hard hit. This feeds the cycle of poverty, as these kids are less likely later to be able to earn a living wage to support themselves and their families.

The issue of extreme poverty was at the forefront of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) developed in 2000. In this global partnership, world leaders committed their nations to eliminating poverty and hunger, which would help ensure the right of “each person on the planet to health, education, shelter, and security.” MDG 1 is to “eradicate extreme poverty and hunger.” Much progress has been made since then, but poverty and food insecurity still mean that an estimated 842 million people — about 1 in 8 — suffer from chronic hunger.

Often, reading about or seeing the effects of poverty makes people to want to help — especially around the holidays. Although it can be hard to know where to start, numerous charities and organizations have stepped up to fight the many facets of poverty. Even families with little or no extra money to donate can contribute in other ways — for example, showing support via social media, organizing an event and donating the funds raised, and educating others.

If you want to help fight poverty in general, consider contributing to these organizations:

  • UNICEF (The United Nations Children’s Fund): As little as 50 cents a day can make a big difference, and there are many volunteer opportunities. Remember trick-or-treating for UNICEF? That Kids Helping Kids campaign continues today.
  • Grameen Foundation: This group provides financial services, as well as information on agriculture and health, to poor households and communities.
  • BRAC: The focus is on giving loans for enterprises that can pull some of the world’s poorest families out of poverty (for instance, raising chickens for eggs and meat). Besides lending the money, BRAC provides training and support to its borrowers.
  • Freedom From Hunger: This international development organization offers sustainable, self-help solutions in 24 countries.

To focus help in these specific areas, read on:

Reviewed by: Steven Dowshen, MD
Date reviewed: December 2013