My friend, Roger, posted a comment a while back, which got me thinking about a new post. Poverty is a big subject, well beyond what I'm capable of describing. But I do have some experiences I can share.
There's a lot to be said about world poverty. I'm not at all an expert, just a man with a perspective from having seen much of it. I've been to some really poor areas of the world and have seen, first hand, the realities of it.
I'll start by saying poverty is a relative thing. People relate their situation with their neighbors. If everyone around you are in the same economic position, it's hard to see you're poor. You look like everyone else. I think if it were not for internet and television, most of the world would be oblivious to poverty.
But what are the real woes of poverty in the world? I'll relay to you my observations, which are simply data points and not a thorough analysis.
At its extreme, poverty can mean hunger. If you don't have enough food, life can surely be miserable. But I'll say this is the exception in my travel experience. In the poorer areas of the world they grow their own food or raise hogs or chickens. They are good at finding food even in the jungles by cutting baby bamboo and the like.
But, as I documented in this story:
sometimes hunger can be extreme. When governments don't look out after their people, and satisfy their own desires over the needs of the masses they govern, then a food shortage can exist. Normally people can find food within their economic structure, but when the government strips the agricultural lifeline of a country, then the poverty of the people manifests into hunger as the high cost of imported food is beyond their means:
In other places poverty may not lead to hunger, but it can lead to a disabling life. I've shown this young boy before here:
If he lived in a Western economy, he would have access to health care which could correct his affliction. But the operation is beyond his means living in remote India. And even if he could afford it, the doctors who perform are not as high quality as the more affluent areas.
I was amazed to see this on the streets of Kolcutta, public bathing still exists? In the modern world we take running water for granted.
The inner cities of some of the poorer metropolis areas of the world are ripe with diseases. Malaria, hepatitis, yellow fever, encephalitis, and a host of other maladies manifest in these type of environments. Poverty and disease have a strong correlation.
Similar to diseases is the ability to fight them. I visited this African tribe In Zimbabwe. I documented that story here:
The tribal people lived in single room huts. They cooked, slept, and lived in the same small space. I don't think that undermined their quality of life as they seemed to enjoy it.
But what I did garner from this experience is they relied on home grown remedies to cure illness. Things such as Devil's claw and local medicine doctors for cures of serious diseases. I don't know, nor does anyone, the efficacy of these tribal practices, but I expect they are substantially lower than modern prescriptions. But in areas of remote poverty, this is what they rely on.
I really don't know why, but I found the saddest type poverty in the Philippines. I've visited several small villages and saw a pattern of boredom and depression. They don't lack food (for the most part from what I saw), and they have free public healthcare (though not great), but their poverty manifested in what I saw as a longing to escape.
The homes are often thrown together with what building materials they can find. The floods can cause them to abandon the lower floor and use handmade canoes to reach dry land.
There is often a village meeting area where women and children congregate during the day to socialize and commiserate with one another. Alcoholism is rampant among the men, if they're still around and haven't abandoned their families.
I witnessed a lot of longing for a better life here than I've witnessed in other impoverished areas. I'm guessing because of the strong Western influence here. They're more aware of a better life in other areas. Whatever the reason, the poverty here hit me more than other areas that we might think have it worse. Depression is worse than hunger in my view.
This is my naive take on poverty around the world. Just one man's perspective, no better than anyone else who has a different view from their travels. But I will say I've delved into the lives of the people in these places more than most choose to do. But that's not always a good thing, because the emotions are contagious.