Much as most of us in the West are aware that there are those less well off, it’s often hard to get a sense of the scale of poverty and the issues associated with it in our world. While many in the Western world are faced with cutbacks no worse than skipping their morning cappuccino, it's worth remembering that while we may look with admiration and envy at the wealthy elite, those on the fringes of society remain worlds apart from the benefits of wealth.
More worryingly, over the last couple of decades the gap between rich and poor has grown ever wider: today in the USA alone 46 million people are living below the poverty line. This statistic proves that the threat and effects of poverty are not simply restricted to some far off, sub-Saharan landscape, but are right under our very noses. And what constitutes poverty in the United States? For a single person it is living on less than $11,490 per year, or for a family of four the figure rises to $23,550. It doesn’t take any maths wiz to realise that that’s not a lot of dough to tie you over, but this is a fortune when place in context next to the world’s poorest. Over half of those living in sub-Saharan Africa live on less than $1.25 a day while in 2005 the World Bank estimated that 1,345 million people globally were living on less than $1 per day.
The result of such extreme living is of course the lack of so many everyday items that most of us take for granted: medical treatment becomes a luxury rather than a necessity. Water shortages or more often than not, insufficient access to clean safe water a major reason for the spread of disease in these regions. Many women across the world spend up to 8 hours- that’s a full day’s work in the west- just walking to get water to cook and clean with, which they carry on the backs to their homes. Charity Water, a charity set up to combat the problem of safe drinking water aruges that it is possible for every person in the world to have access to clean safe water. Similarly many estimates suggest that there is enough wealth to solve the world poverty, we’re simply not distributing it enough. While these statistics are clearly a lot easier to trot off in an article than they are to put into practice, they are still worth remembering. In recognition of this inequality, we’ve compiled ten hard-hitting statistics that put global poverty in perspective.
10 80% of the World’s Population Live on Less than $10 per Day
With 7 billion people living in the world, this means that 5.6 billion of them live on less than $10 per day. To put that in perspective the average annual household earnings in the United States are just above $51,000, which works out at $139 per day.
9 1 in 9 People Don’t have Access to Clean, Safe Drinking Water
Charity Water estimate that around 800 million people in the world don’t have access to safe drinking water, resulting in the spread of many deadly diseases, including malaria, typhoid, cholera, trachoma. Many of these 800 million have to walk for hours every day, just to gain access to water at all, with this back-breaking walk generally carried out by women. Trachoma, a water-borne disease that effects vision, in worst case scenarios turning the sufferer blind. Women are two to three times as likely as men to contract the disease.
8 90% of all Malaria Deaths Occur in Africa: 80% of those who die are Children.
This statistic is particularly shocking when you consider that there are a number of different drugs on the market to treat and cure malaria, they simply are not making it to the parts of the world where they are most needed. Malaria can be contracted by being bitten by female mosquitos, or as is more often the case in the developing world, by drinking water contaminated by the insects. Unicef estimated that every year there are between 300 and 500 million cases of malaria in the world.
7 1 in 7 People live below the Poverty Line in the U.S.
Poverty is not something that affects the poorest, most remote regions of the world, it is something that sadly exists in even the richest of societies. More than half of Americans will experience some form of poverty before they reach the age of 65. The increasing reliance on food stamps, the controversy around healthcare and of course the age old arguments around taxes may seem a continual part of political life but for many, the adjustments in pricing for each of these essentials have serious consequences for low-income families.
6 $6 Billion would Provide Basic Education for Everyone Globally
It goes without saying that the poorest people in the world do not have the chances we in the West do when it comes to education. 17% of the world’s population cannot even read or write, and over two thirds of that 17% are women. To put the figure of $6 billion in context, clothing retailer Zara had profits of $3.23 for 2012 alone. That means in less than two years, the company could generate enough money to offer basic education to everyone in the world.
5 Every Year, 10 Million Children die before their 5th Birthday
Childhood mortality rates are often calculated at a child’s first and fifth birthdays. The idea is that if a child is strong enough to survive to their fifth birthday, they will have built up an immune system that will almost certainly equip them to live to adulthood. In the developing world however, stunted growth, vitamin deficiencies and a basic lack of food and water are they initial disadvantages any child faces before they encounter disease. Diarrhoea is one of the main killers of children under five, with Afghanistan having the highest childhood mortality rate, followed by Mali and Somalia.
4 1 in 4 People in the World Live without Electricity
Electricity in the West is such an integrated part of our daily lives, we have no longer become conscious of it. Try finding a street in an urban area that is not covered by street lamps at night-you’ll be hard pushed to find one. Electricity provides more than just light however, it provides safety: food can be cooked and refrigerated, medical equipment sterilised and water purified all as a result of electricity. Many villages in the developing world rely on generators to provide electricity, but these are often outdated and unreliable. Like education, electricity is something that could be provided the world over.
3 The 85 Richest People Have the Same Wealth as the 3.5 Billion Poorest
3.5 billion people is about half the world’s population, which gives a sense of the inequality of wealth in the world. Only last week the charity Oxfam reported that the richest 1% of the world’s population control over half of the planet’s wealth- that’s an estimated $110 trillion! Disparity of wealth is not simply a statistic and it's not getting better: Oxfam has also been reported that 70% of the global population now live in countries where inequality has actually increased in the past 30 years.
2 1 in 2 Children Around the World Live in Poverty
Women and children are in all parts of the world those most affected by poverty: in 2011, 19,000 children died every day for curable diseases such as pneumonia, malaria and diarrhoea. On top of that 88% of children born with HIV/AIDS are in sub-Saharan Africa.
1 Hunger is the Number One Cause of Death in the World
According to the World Food Programme, hunger is humanity’s biggest killer. Chillingly, every year hunger kills more than HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined do. Not only that, but in the US, 47 million Americans are dependent on food stamps- without which they would almost certainly go hungry.