Poverty in Sub-Saharan Women and Children

Poverty among the woman and children in Sub-Saharan Africa has long been a topic of charities, celebrities, and governments. Seven of the ten most unequal countries in the world are in Africa, most of them southern. According to the World Bank that places the monetary level of poverty at less than $1.90 a day, there are 48.5% living on less than $1.25 a day. (Lanker, 2018) The rate of poverty decrease is among the slowest in the world. Most surveys to assess poverty are done every 2.8 years for the rest of the world, while in most of Africa they are only done every 6.1 years. As of 2012 only 27 of the 48 countries had executed at least two comparable surveys since 1990 to track poverty (Anon 2016) .There are areas of Africa that have no degree of poverty at all. While this makes it almost unviable to sufficiently measure the levels of poverty, it is even more so when then GDP fills the gaps of data in with their best guesses. While according to these surveys’ poverty reduced from 57% in 1990 to 43% in 2012, one needs to contemplate that number of the deprived people that were indicated in those surveys went from 288 million in 1990 to 389 million in 2012. (Anon 2016). Africa has a rapidly rising population, due to circumstances that will be discussed later in this essay. The lack of dependable and prudent statistics in Africa across a range of areas is progressively recognized as a matter compelling greater international consideration. The headcount poverty rate is a minimal degree of the portion of the population living below the poverty line, it does not make a distinction among the poor. According to the Population Reference Bureau, the Sub-Saharan population will more than double in size between now and 2050. Growing from 1.1 billion to 2.4 billion people. (Lazuta 2013) Of the approximate 19 million children in Sub-Sahara Africa, almost two-thirds of them live in poverty. What is considered one of the world’s poorest and underprivileged regions will face not only the present poverty and increasing deaths, but it will be faced with a new epidemic of over population. In a region that already can not economically take care of its people, a devastating growth in population will most likely cause even more issues among poverty, illness, increase in births, increase in deaths, and malnourishment. It will also impact the unemployment rates and further land degradation. Some fear that it will also affect the foreign aid from donors who are already straining with the increasing population and other areas that need aid.

One struggle with the poverty in Sub-Saharan Africa is the land degradation. With increasing land degradation comes increasing poverty. Without the natural resources to harvest food and economical growth, poverty will only continue to rise. Thousands have died due to famishment from degradation, Millions are facing pressing dangers due to their water drying up, the land not cultivated enough for livestock to survive and the soil not rich enough to derive crops from. Africa’s harsh environmental difficulties such as soil erosion, deteriorating soil richness, deforestation and contamination of water are life-threatening fears for African people every single day (Anon 2018.2). Another concern that the Sub-Saharan African people must face is that the standard of living has radically declined due to the absence of a resourceful system of domestic and industrial waste management. Even if they get rainfall, it will most likely be contaminated and unusable, but because of the desperation it will be used and consumed, only to lead to more illnesses and deaths. It is a cycle that will continue to grow as the population increases and time passes without addressing these issues. Even in the areas that have access to water within their dwellings or communities, most find that the cost is too high to be able to pay. They do not make it so it is more affordable to the poor. In a poverty level of less than $1.25 a day, how is one supposed to be able to afford the cost of a water bill? They are struggling to eat and survive day by day, it just seems almost impossible to expect them to be able to afford that on top of it all.

Another issue that faces the women and children of Sub-Sahara are the civil wars that are being fought. The tensions between rebels and the government have caused several issues with the civilians living within the area. (Anon 2018.1) The World Bank has sent aid to try and help the poverty issue, but the money very rarely makes it and only minimal amounts ever do. The corruption that takes the money for the greed of themselves will keep the county in a impoverish state. The wars have driven out the people who cultivated the land, leaving crops to waste, land to go barren and the ungoverned, uncontrolled deforestation. The wars also take away the men to go fight, leaving the women to struggle on their own, trying to take care of family, providing for their family, and just trying to survive another day in tumultuous, dangerous and violent surroundings.

The next issue to discuss is medical care. There is a growing and unprecedented epidemic of HIV/AIDS spreading thru Africa. Approximately 55% or 12.2 million women in Sub-Saharan Africa are living with HIV/AIDS (Hunter-Gault 2006). This number is increasing due to men going to work in the mines, and procreating outside of their family, many who start second families. Whilst continuing to spread the disease. Then they come home and spread it there. While there are medications and organizations that are trying to help with this, the fact of the matter is that the women living in rural areas are not able to travel back to where they need to in order to get more medication. The new mothers who receive formula either don’t have the clean water to mix it with or run out and are unable to journey to replenish their needs, so they are forced to breastfeed, giving their child the disease they so desperately tried to avoid. The healthier among the villages or dwellings will try to travel to get the medicines and necessities for the other women, but often they are needed to care for the sick and children so they are unable to make the journey. Medical care also extends to the number of deaths during childbirth. One in 250 women dies during childbirth. After birth, on in 15 children die from a preventable disease. (Anon 2018.5) Having just one trained midwife could drastically lower the number of deaths during childbirth. Having one person with medical training in modern medicine could help save hundreds if not thousands of lives. Half population are children and up to 20% are disabled and an increasing number are growing up stunted because of the challenges of malnutrition. Diseases like HIV/AIDS are leaving kids orphaned and in charge of their households at very young ages. An estimated 50 million orphans live in Africa. Not only do they have to deal with the dangers of HIV/AIDS, but also Malaria. Malaria kills 3,000 African children per day. (Anon 2018.3) Deaths that could have been prevented with proper medical attention and resources. They don’t have the resources or the education necessary for this though. Something as simple as clean water could save even more. There are so many things that we take for granted every day. Bathrooms, showers, doctors, hospitals, emergency rooms, even Band-Aids. Many things that we don’t see at that important would prove to be invaluable over there.

Another reason for poverty in women and children is the lack of educational resources. Without proper education and growth, the cycles are almost guaranteed to repeat over and over again. While the opportunities have grown tremendously, the more rural areas still lack a great deal of attendance. Many families cannot afford the school fees or the cost of uniforms for their child to attend school. Many have to travel too far or have too many responsibilities at home to be able to attend. They are raised to have a predisposition to their standings, their expectations of their future and fate. Even if enrolled in primary school, many won’t make it high school because the cost is just too high. In an already impoverished area, such luxuries are just not affordable. Without the education and being taught the skills to advance their livelihood, impoverishment will continue to increase, and destitution will continue to be their tomorrow.

Women experience higher levels of poverty because they are not seen as individually valuable. They have lower social standings, they are seen as near the bottom of the list of importance. They are mainly seen as belongings and sublets of their men. They do not have equal rights to family resources, land or livestock and they have unequal rights within their family structure. They are subjected to discrimination and subjugation inside and outside of their homes (Kehler 2001). Unemployment among the rural women in Sub-Sahara is approximately 55% compared to that of the men which is approximately 37% (Kehler 2001). Women have limited access to education and training in skills that could advance their social standings. Their access to resources are controlled by things such as race and class. For instance, the poor black woman has substantially less access to resources, opportunities, and education as well as access to growth and wealth of the country. They are expected to work under all conditions, including pregnancy. For example, there is no such thing as maternity leave for a pregnant woman working on a farm. They are expected to continue to work their 10-12-hour days in all conditions, with no breaks. If they take more time off than allowed, it is deducted from their wages. They are expected to continue to use chemicals and pesticides without protection. They do not have a guarantee that their job will be back for them after they have the baby. Many times, they work up until the days or day before giving birth and under extreme conditions return to work within a week. There is no such thing as childcare so many times they have to leave their jobs and be dependent on the men. The number of women headed households are increasing due to many factors: divorce, becoming widows and being abandoned are among the top. Many times they are left with caring alone for the children or elderly family. While many advances have been made in women’s rights, they have not fully been enforced in many areas. When they try to stand for their rights they are often threated or abused into compliance. (Kehler 2001)

One of the causes of the population growth that occurs is the fertility levels are so high. Another concerning factor is that many parts still have cleansing rituals when a girl comes of age. During this “cleaning ritual”, they are required to have sex with the older men who come in disguised as hyenas. (Hunter-Gault 2006) This also leads to the spread of diseases and increased pregnancy. While many of the women have banded together to try and force this to stop happening, it is still a sickening reality to most young girls. “Births to teenage mothers account for more than half of all the births in this region: an estimated 101 births per 1000 women aged 15 to 19” (Mkwananzi, 2015). Many of the young women and girls are left unprotected and vulnerable to rape, assault and abuse. They enter into arranged marriages at very young ages and forced to procreate.

Women and children have very limited access to resources and the training necessary for them to build a better tomorrow. They are among the most impoverished because of this. They have the least amount of rights and are forced to accept this by the corrupt government and men. Strides have been taken to help reduce this and I hope someday that poverty will be something of the past. The pictures and videos that you see of the children over there is just heartbreaking. They are among the most malnourished and because of this they are the most susceptible to diseases and illness that almost always leads to death. With the population crisis on the horizon I can only hope that answers and action plans are put in place before it’s too late.

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