Recent decades have seen a general trend toward prosperity in much of the world, but too many people are still being left behind,1 trapped in a cycle of persistent poverty. Alleviating extreme poverty remains one of the most daunting challenges of our time.
From 2015 to 2019, the number of people living in extreme poverty worldwide was projected to drop from 744 million to 655 million.2 The downward trend was on track to continue, but then the COVID-19 pandemic hit. In 2020, the projected number of people in extreme poverty shot back up to 732 million. For 2021, the projected number was marginally better at 711 million.
That means a population twice that of the United States still lacks even the most basic necessities of life. They can’t afford the simple improvements that would make life easier. They can’t access decent medical care. They can’t send their children to school. These are people who live on $1.90 or less per day, which is just enough to keep them alive until the next day.
Poverty is present in all parts of the world, but is concentrated especially in Africa. Most of the 30 poorest countries in the world are in Africa, with Central African Republic, Burundi, and the Democratic Republic of Congo topping the list.3 Relentless war, political upheaval and public corruption have all contributed to the troubles in these nations, but drought, disease and poor farming methods are also to blame.
The countries of South Asia, with their huge populations, are only somewhat better off. One-third of the world’s poor live in this region, most of them in undeveloped rural areas.4 In recent years, industrial development and rising living standards in these countries inspired high hopes. But the COVID-19 epidemic hit Asian nations especially hard. The region was already afflicted with high poverty rates and inadequate infrastructure. Most people in Asia have only limited access to clean water, sanitation facilities or medical care.
Along with these reasons for poverty, are the ongoing hardships of generational poverty, which we explain in more detail below. There are also some rays of hope like adult literacy, education and other ways of helping the poor.
Adult literacy has a significant impact on a person’s ability to break the cycle of poverty for themselves and their family. Illiteracy limits economic opportunities, inhibits a parent’s ability to properly care for their children and often perpetuates the cycle of poverty.
Parents always want the best for their kids, but when it comes to generational poverty, a lack of resources means they can’t help but pass the cycle onto their children. When more than two generations of a family live in poverty, it creates a sense of hopelessness and physical barriers families usually can’t rise above on their own.
The world experiences a self-perpetuating problem with poverty and education. In a sense, it’s a “chicken and egg” type of situation. Which came first: low education or poverty? When parents are stuck in a cycle of generational poverty, they often raise their children without education.
In 1975, the literacy rate in South Asia By the end of 2019, the literacy rate in South Asia had gone up to 72.95 percent. This kind of steady incline is attributable, in part, to various organizations’ adult literacy programs that tackle one of the most significant barriers to overcoming extreme poverty: the ability to read and write.
Poverty is a complex issue that affects much of the world. The World Bank estimates that roughly 9.2% of the world, or 689 million people, experience extreme poverty. Poverty relegates millions of people to hazardous jobs, poor living conditions and disease. There are many reasons for poverty.
Helping the poor is a noble goal and one that organizations have been working toward for decades. GFA World has been serving the poor since 1979 in Asia and has recently began serving in Africa as well. We serve the “least of these,” often in places where no one else is working.
In many impoverished countries, illiteracy is a barrier that holds people back from higher-paying jobs and more fulfilling opportunities. Illiteracy is a key factor in the continuing cycle of poverty—generation after generation locked in privation. Classes that share how to learn how to read, for adults or children, create a practical solution to a solvable problem.
Parents always want the best for their kids, but when it comes to generational poverty, a lack of resources means they can’t help but pass the cycle onto their children. When more than two generations of a family live in poverty, it creates a sense of hopelessness and physical barriers families usually can’t rise above on their own.1 Without help, families remain stuck. Poverty causes everything from hunger and illness to anxiety and despair.
From continent to continent and from country to country, whether they are called barrios, chawls, shantytowns, ghettos, or favelas, another word for slums are urban areas where the impoverished reside. While the geopolitical culture of slum areas may differ, the social context is often quite similar.
Although giving money to nonprofits like GFA World is one tangible way of helping the poor, there are plenty of other ways to assist—and to increase any individual monetary donation that God calls you to make. For example, you can donate your time advocating for the poor. For example, you can donate your time advocating for the poor. There are a variety of ways.
Finding poverty solutions is more important than ever. For the last 25 years leading up to the pandemic, global poverty had declined steadily and significantly. But COVID-19, changing weather patterns and conflict has reversed that trend. Extreme poverty increased more from 2019 to 2020 than at any other time since the World Bank started tracking global poverty.
The definition of a poverty mindset held by people living on less than $1.90 a day stands in stark contrast to the way financial gurus in the United States define it. Malnourished child in poverty While 9.5% of people worldwide (about 696 million) live on less than $1.90 a day, malnourished and struggling to afford enough food to fill their growling stomachs, many more—1.3 billion—are multidimensionally poor.
1 How’s Life? OECD. https://www.oecd-ilibrary.org/sites/9870c393-en/index.html?itemId=/content/publication/9870c393-en. March 9, 2020
2 Gerszon Mahler, Daniel; Yonzan, Nishant; Lakner, Christoph; Castaneda Aguilar, R. Andres; Wu, Haoyu. Updated estimates of the impact of COVID-19 on global poverty: Turning the corner on the pandemic in 2021?https://blogs.worldbank.org/opendata/updated-estimates-impact-covid-19-global-poverty-turning-corner-pandemic-2021. June 24, 2021.
3 The Poorest Countries in the World. World Atlas. https://www.worldatlas.com/articles/the-poorest-countries-in-the-world.html. Accessed September 9, 2021.
4 Socio-Economic Implications of COVID-19 Pandemic in South Asia: Emerging Risks and Growing Challenges.National Center for Biotechnology Information.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8022444/. February 24, 2021.