Original Articles

Pinch of Poverty – by Azhar Nadeem

The Pinch of Poverty, Thomas Benjamin Kennington, 1891

The Pinch of poverty 1891 is a famous painting by Thomas Benjamin Kensington. It is a famous oil painting which shows a small girl selling flowers along with her Mum and two siblings at a street corner in London. This painting depicted the harsh realities of life for the poor in Britain in a manner that played on the onlooker’s emotions. It depicts a small courageous girl who is hopeful to support her family.

However, this may have depicted a harsh story of life back in 1891 but harshness of such realities has grown manifold in 21st century. Compared with contemporary same like pictures/paintings its harshness decreases by a great deal. We can have a look at current harsh realities/pinch of poverty.

At least 80% of world population lives on less than $10 a day. Almost 20% or 1.4 billion souls survive on less than $1.25 a day.

2011's Pinch of Poverty

Every  family which represents these 1.4 billion souls has one additional nonhuman family member which they recognize well i.e. their poverty. Poverty remains their childhood companion throughout their life. It is the oldest surviving specie in their societies. Poverty greeted them when they were born in the same way their grandfathers were greeted at least.

Poverty renders them hopeless. They cannot dream about a full stomach meal in daylight. They work hard to beat poverty bur they are often beaten by poverty because poverty never sleeps. It works round the clock and does not take any day off. Poverty remains with them all the time and pinch them every moment of it.

Poverty is a companion which is very undesirable in poor societies like south Asia and sub-Saharan Africa specifically and around the globe generally. They feel that poverty is their enemy. They want to keep it out of their homes but they cannot. They feel the pinch of poverty whenever they see

Their children dying but there is hardly anything they could do about it. According to UNICEF, 22,000 children die each day due to poverty. And they “die quietly in some of the poorest villages on earth, far removed from the scrutiny and the conscience of the world. Being meek and weak in life makes these dying multitudes even more invisible in death.”

Their Families especially women and children go to bed with an empty stomach
According to FAO some 925 million people are undernourished. This represents 13.6 percent of the estimated world population of 6.8 billion. Nearly all of the undernourished are in developing countries.

v   Their children roaming in streets rather than being in schools.
Poverty keeps their children out of school as they cannot afford education. Based on enrollment data, about 69 million children of primary school age in the developing world were not in school. 57 per cent of them are girls. And these are regarded as optimistic numbers. Nearly a billion people entered the 21st century unable to read a book or sign their names.

Their poverty is growing-Widening Income divide

The top 1 per cent of the world’s richest people earns as much as the poorest 57 per cent. The Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the 41 heavily indebted poor countries is less than the combined wealth of the world’s 7 richest people.

Price Controls are more valuable than Humanity.

Pinch of Poverty is even more when they learn that food is being dumped into to keep the price level while 925 million souls go to bed hungry. They feel this pinch even more when they come to know that the world produces enough food to feed everyone. World agriculture produces 17 per cent more calories per person today than it did 30 years ago, despite a 70 per cent population increase.

There is access to clean water for them

Their makes them feel its presence when they do not find access to clean water. Some 884 million people lack access to safe drinking water approximately one in eight people. The pinch of poverty is felt more severely when they come to know that a bathtub in modern house can hold up to 151 Liter water while they struggle for every drop of it. People living in the slums often pay 5-10 times more per liter of water than wealthy people living in the same city. In just one day, more than 200 million hours of women’s time is consumed for the most basic of human needs — collecting water for domestic use. Poverty forces Millions of women and children to spend several hours daily collecting water from distant, often polluted sources.

As we have noted above there is there is plenty of food in the world for everyone. The problem is that hungry people are trapped in severe poverty and they lack the money to buy enough food to nourish them. Being constantly malnourished, they become weaker and often sick. This makes them increasingly less able to work, which then makes them even poorer and hungrier. This downward spiral often continues until death for them and their families.

Poverty came into limelight in last quarter of 20th century. After that there are effective programs designed to vicious cycle of poverty. Innovative approaches like “food for work”, Cash for work, asset transfers and many other such like programs are being adopted for adults to achieve multiple tasks. Similarly for children there are “food for education” programs where the children are provided with food when they attend school. Their education will help them to escape from hunger and global poverty.

Such approaches are paying dividends and number of poor has declined over a period of almost twenty years. Keeping in view the Millennium development goal 1 which pledges to reduce poverty to half by 2015 we can say that a lot of work is still to be done. We cannot take a break from our duty of saving humanity from pinch of poverty.