Hunger and Poverty

Poverty and hunger are pandemic in our world, although we in the USA seem shielded from knowing or seeing the vast suffering it causes. Half of humanity survives on $2-a-day or less, without reliable access to safe water. Twenty percent of humanity — some $1.3 billion people — survive on $1-a-day or less with little hope of safe water. Because of this poverty, and the absence of simple health care or disease control, some 29,000 people, mostly children, die every day as a result of disease and malnutrition. That’s more that 10 million deaths per year which were preventable … certainly a Holocaust by any measure.

The good news is that it need not be so: Low-cost and cost-effective programs implemented at the local level for disease control and prevention, Vitamin A, Oral Rehydration Therapy, immunization & inoculation, basic education and literacy, safe water and sanitation, Micro-Credit Lending for Self-Employment, all are demonstrating that the simplest assistance directed toward the most impoverished societies reveal a passionate desire to escape poverty, and insure a better life for children.

Our 25-year study of hunger & poverty in association with organizations including Bread For the World, RESULTS and OXFAM, leads us to the conclusion that poverty can be relieved simply by removing blockages to resource acquisition that impose poverty on the vast majority of those who are impoverished, in this country and around the world.

Hunger exists not because there is not enough food, but rather because people do not have money to buy. The solution to hunger is implementing methodologies that eliminate the worst impoverishment (read on). This is best achieved NOT by sending food or giving away money (!) but rather by creating conditions in which impoverished people can improve their own circumstances, make a living, and/or grow food that they need.

Mohammad Yunus received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007 for having founded the Grameen Bank in Bangladesh 25 years ago which implemented his revolutionary idea of extending credit for self-development to the most impoverished people in Bangladesh. Tiny loans of less than $100 have enabled millions of borrowers to capitalize a humble skill into a micro-business, often doubling or quadrupling their daily income overnight. Today, 25 years later, Grameen Bank lends some $50 million a month to borrowers, in loans averaging $100, through some 25,000 bank representatives, who travel to the villages and the borrowers. The payback rate for the loans is an amazing 96%, and the Grameen model is being replicated by private foundations the world around. Grameen has been entirely self-sufficient for many years, growing through the interest rates paid by the borrowers. Micro-finance works!

Relieving the worst poverty contributes to sustainability in the human family. When child death rates fall in impoverished societies, birth rates also fall, even in the absence of family planning programs. Family planning information and resource distribution are gratefully embraced by women in impoverished societies, who know that extra births enforce poverty upon their own family and their whole society. And, experience proves that education about how STDs (sexually transmitted diseases) are spread, combined with ready access to condoms, result in healthier societies where women can protect themselves from disease and punishing excessive pregnancies (in the most impoverished societies, some 10% of pregnancies can result in the death of the woman. Many are permanently disfigured by pregnancies in the absence of medical support or even sanitation).

The websites of RESULTS, OXFAM and Bread for the World are easy to find, offering individuals myriad ways to TAKE ACTION for policies addressing poverty. Most religious denominations also have “social justice” arms offering programs and actions directly or indirectly relieving human suffering caused by poverty.