Is poverty in Africa self-inflicted?

Poverty in Africa

As pauperized men, women and children anguish in starvation despite Africa’s rich resources, our gluttonous leaders and politicians are predominantly occupied discussing politics and power as their main agenda. When will Africa learn and cease depending on foreign aid?

Poverty has been a major challenge and grave disaster to most African countries. Donations and foreign aid funding has been granted to nations in order to curb and eradicate poverty in the region, sadly, some leaders and individuals use these funds as an advantage in satisfying their own interests.

Considering that prices of basic food commodities and high costs of living persist each day in escalation; images of malnourished-bloated bellied children, deaths, crime and depravity among other vices that invokes rage at “why?” will ensue relentlessly perpetuating exclusive scenes that depict horrific human suffering accustomed to the devastated region.

Who cares when a family sleeps outside in the cold on an empty belly? As long as one is warm and comfortable in a fully furnished apartment, whatever happens outside is of no concern. Who will genuinely accommodate the dirty children in slums who rummage through garbage heaps, searching for food, scrap metals, empty bottles and milk sachets to sell and earn some few coins to sustain themselves?

It is well-known for African leaders and politicians to be entangled with numerous accusations regarding corruption scandals. They either swindled or embezzled funds donated by organizations like; the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the United Nations (UN) and many others who put their financial muscle behind Africa in trying to rescue the deeply rooted cases of poverty. With the complexities surrounding our Judiciaries, bribe grants them absolute liberty. Very few are convicted.

For ages, leaders have connived with foreign investors to forcefully take land from natives, while the inhabitants ever since depended on these lands for their entire livelihood. Surely, if fraud and moral decay against fellow citizens are the two major contending forces, Africa cannot save itself from the perpetuity of hyper poverty and corruption.

People scourge living in abject poverty as most leaders are insensitive to the calamities of others. African plight makes me wonder, are we equally human? As per the situation today, apparently we are not. The margin at which the rich and the poor are leveled at, it has turned out disastrous to the entire region.

The World Bank previously estimated that, Sub-Saharan Africa was at 47 per cent in terms of regional populations. It was declared the highest incidence rate of absolute poverty. Supply of basic needs has customarily been restricted by constraints on government services that include; corruption, debt, loan conditions, encroachment of land meant for agriculture, and brain-drain of local health care and educational professionals. They travel abroad in lieu of greener pastures.

Over population growth

Despite fruitless attempts, governments are in limbo while dealing with the pressing issues of poverty eradication. This is because, decisions in homes on timing, spacing and planning on the number of births, has huge spin offs for families across Africa. As a result, population growth has increased tremendously in numbers.

It is evident that Africa is extremely overwhelmed in managing the overpopulated region. What will happen when the world’s population reaches nearly 9 billion in 2040 and in Africa, doubling from 1 billion to 2 billion by 2050 as projected? Am very certain the situation will be horrific if measures are not put in place.

Some argue that, overpopulation and lack of access to birth control leads to population increase exceeding food production and other resources. However, the reverse is also true; poverty causes overpopulation as it gives women little power to control giving birth, or to have educational attainment or career.

Strict laws are ultimately imposed by governments, but then, adolescent girls in poor communities continue to face serious obstacles that include; early marriage and childbearing. This impedes their ability to make healthy transitions into adulthood.

Sexual coercion is what most girls undergo, leading to committal of illegal atrocities like abortion, the first killer to girls of 15-24 of age. No leader has come out clearly in trying to alleviate the ongoing deadly occurrences with awareness campaigns or advocacy.

Today, one in four women in Africa has expressed desire to use contraceptives but do not have access to them. Empowering women with better education and more control of their lives, makes them more successful in bringing down rapid population growth as they have more say in family planning.

Threat to public health

One third of deaths counting to 18 million people a year or 50,000 per day, are due to poverty related causes. In total 270 million people, mostly women and children have died as a result of poverty since 1990.

Those living in poverty suffer disproportionately from hunger, starvation and diseases that are far greater with likelihoods of others having or incurring a disability within lifetime. According to World Health Organization(WHO), hunger and malnutrition (the biggest contributors to child mortality) are the single gravest threats to the world’s public health. This has decreased life expectancy in Africa.

According to the Global Hunger Index, Sub-Saharan Africa had the highest child malnutrition rate of the world’s regions over the 2001-2006 periods. Almost 90 per cent maternal deaths occur during childbirth, compared to less than 1 per cent in developed world. Every year, nearly 11 million children living in poverty die before their fifth birthday; 1.2 billion people go to bed hungry every night.

Africa has the highest burden of diseases in the world, also the lowest investor in health sector. Poor children have a great deal of fewer healthcare centers, this ultimately results in many absences from the academic year. Additionally, these children are more likely to suffer from hunger, fatigue, irritability, headaches, ear infections, flu, and colds.

These illnesses could potentially restrict a child or student’s focus and concentration. Nations do not necessarily need wealth to gain health; it requires just simple measures put in place. Initiating health awareness campaigns to the general public followed by activating the operations of all health centers. These initiatives will surely work magic for present and future generation.

High cost of living

Rises in cost of living has made them less able to afford items. They spend greater portions of their budget on food than richer people. As a result, poor households are particularly vulnerable to increases in food prices. For instance, in late 2007 increases of grains price led to food riots in many countries. The World Bank warned that 100 million people were at great risk of sinking deeper into poverty.

Currently, due to high demand and exports of food within Africa and beyond, prices has gone high exceptionally resulting to intensive farming. This has led to vicious cycle of exhaustion of soil fertility and decline of agricultural yields. It is approximated that 40 per cent of the world’s agricultural land is seriously degraded.

If current trends of soil degradation continue, Africa might be able to feed just 25 per cent of its population by 2025; this is according to United Nations University’s Ghana-based Institute for Natural Resources in Africa. It is therefore appropriate to consider food security measures by implementing policies that will help boost yields to curb the rising food shortage supply in the huger stricken region.

Quality of education

On education, research has found that there is a high risk of educational underachievement for children who are from low-income housing circumstances. This process often begins in primary school for less fortunate children. There are indeed many explanations for why students tend to drop out of school.

For children with low resources, the risk factors are similar to others such as juvenile delinquency rates; higher levels of teenage pregnancy; and economic dependency upon their low income parent or parents.

Higher rates of early childbearing with all the connected risks to family, health and well-being are majorly important issues to address since education from pre-school to high school are both identifiably meaningful in life.

Sadly though, unemployment is a challenge to the large number of struggling-poor educated youths. This trend has raised dangers of over dependency to the states and in turn, a detrimental security risk to the region.

Poverty drastically affects children’s success in life. A child’s home activities, preferences and mannerisms must align with the world. In cases that they do not, students are disadvantaged at school and socially in public environments.

Lack of education and unemployment are profound one of the major reasons why most youths are enticed and recruited in joining the militia groups like the Al-Shaabab and others, later to carry out terrorist attacks. You deny children a pen (education) in Africa, they will turn to guns.

There are over 100 million street children worldwide. Annoyingly, people start children centers and orphanages with ill motives. On getting funds from donors, they ultimately exploit the children’s suffering by exposing them to inhumane traumatizing conditions at the centers.

Most children living in these institutions, have a surviving parent or close relative, and in most cases entered orphanages because of poverty. Experts and children advocates maintain that, orphanages are expensive and often harm children’s development by separating them from their families.

It is speculated that, flush with money, orphanages are increasing and push for children to join even though demographic data show that even the poorest extended families usually take in children whose parents have died.

These cruel acts are commissioned by our top most leaders who allow operations of such centers later getting fractions of grants and donations pledged by donors meant to support the poor.

Deterioration of living conditions can often compel children from abandoning school in order to contribute to family income, putting them at risk of being exploited. In Africa, due to increased poverty levels, a number of young girls young as 12 years of age, turn to prostitution for food to survive. These girls are usually exposed to serious assault and homicide activities and in most cases, they have been found to be victims of such atrocities.

Poverty reduction strategies are broadly based on whether they make more of the basic human needs available or increase the disposable income needed to purchase those needs.

Codified plans in the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) have lofty objectives. Poverty and hunger eradication; achieving universal primary education; promoting gender equality; improving maternal health; combating HIV/AIDS and ensuring environmental sustainability. This could be the only remaining hope for Africa.

By Michael Wandati