Take a moment and picture a child half naked in the streets. His body has been harshly neglected. Little to no calf muscles exist. His ribs are plainly countable. One, two, three up his left side. You can do the same to his right. Malnutrition only vaguely begins to describe his condition. The worst of anorexia doesn’t even compare to this child’s inhumane state. As for shelter, he lives in a dilapidated hut. Food is a luxury, as the child may be fed only three or four times a week. He’s expected to die by the age of five due to severe malnutrition and disease. This is the grim portrait of an Ethiopian child in absolute poverty. His life doesn’t allow for the basic essentials of food, shelter, or clothing. In today’s world poverty is not only viewed in terms of average income/wealth, but as the lower end of distribution regarding income, education, health accessibility, nutrition, productivity, participation in politics, etc.
Thus, poverty is defined as the “economic condition in which people lack sufficient income to obtain certain minimal levels of health services, food, housing, clothing, and education generally recognized as necessary to ensure an adequate standard of living” (Funk & Wagnall 1). Adequate, however, depends on the standard of living for each country. There are two different types of poverty today—relative and absolute. Nearly half of a billion people live in relative poverty—“meaning that some citizens are poor, relative to the wealth enjoyed by their neighbors” (Singer 218). To put these figures in terms one can relate to, it’s estimated that about 10% of human life resides in relative poverty. This is a substantial amount, but their condition is quite well .
. .ay, “prevent something very bad from happening, without [thereby] sacrificing anything of comparable moral significance…” (Singer 229), and we should.
- Hardin, Garret. “Living on a Lifeboat.” Contemporary Moral Problems. American Institute of Biological Sciences, 1974: 246-257.
- “Poverty.” Funk & Wagnall’s New Encyclopedia. 1992: 1-2.
- Quadrini, Vincenzo.; Rios-Rull, Jose-Victor. “Understanding the U.S. Distribution of Wealth.” http://newfirstsearch.oclc.org
- Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis Quarterly Review v. 21 no2. Spring. 1997: 22-36.
- Singer, Peter. “Rich and Poor.” Practical Ethics. 2nd ed. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993: 218-246.
- Speth, James Gustave. “The Plight of the Poor: The Unites States Must Increase Development Aid.” Foreign Affairs v. 78 no3. May/June. 1999: 1-3.