By Zachary Guiod
The two regions with the most people living in extreme poverty are Sub-Saharan Africa and Southern Asia. In Southern Asia, 30 million children have no access to education to try to escape the poverty in which they are trapped. Sub-Saharan Africa is not faring much better, with 23 million school age children in Africa going to class hungry, according to the United Nations. As these children go to school undernourished, they will not be able to learn as well as students who are properly fed.
No area has been affected by wealth inequality more than Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). SSA is a region that includes 46 of Africa’s 54 sovereign countries, more than half of the continent.
Compared to their counterparts in the developing world, these countries are still lagging behind. Rising from 74 cents a day in 1981 to 87 cents in 2010, the developing world, as a whole, has seen a very slow increase in per capita income for those living in extreme poverty. Sub-Saharan Africa has actually declined! In 1981 the average daily income of the extreme poor in SSA was 72 cents. In 2010 it is only 71 cents.
This level of income for those in poverty is unacceptable in a world with so much wealth. With so much wealth in so few hands, the fact that the income of the extreme poor in SSA has declined is beyond reprehensible.
Not all the areas where extreme poverty is blatant are “poor countries.” Think about the size of South Asia. It includes Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. The region has a growing middle class, but it still has the largest concentrated group of extremely poor people. According to the World Bank, 500 million people live in extreme poverty in Southern Asia. Women and children are affected the most. More than 250 million children are undernourished. The percentage of women in the workplace there is among the lowest in the world.
As citizens of the world, we need to ask ourselves if this unjust reality is inevitable. Forget countries and nationalities — we all occupy this world. We may be separated by oceans and continents, but these people are our brothers and sisters and we are letting them starve. Imaginary lines on maps, drawn by imperialist powers, should not make us think that their suffering does not affect us. What if the cure for cancer is inside the brain of a child in South Asia or SSA who has no access to education? Uplifting those at the bottom of society will uplift us all.
This article is the second part of a series on global wealth inequality. Part 1 was published in the Other World section of the March 27 Beacon issue.