“Overcoming poverty is not a gesture of charity. It is an act of justice. It is the protection of a fundamental human right, the right to dignity and a decent life.” – Nelson Mandela, former President of South Africa.
Poverty is generally considered to be a measure of deprivation of the basic needs that a person, household or community requires to have a basic standard of living. Deprivation can be measured either in terms of a lack of resources (for example: income, other assets), capabilities (such as skills, knowledge, technology) or both. Children who grow up in poverty are more likely to be deprived of having health problems and shorter life expectancy , not attending preschool, dropping out of high school and having lower educational attainment.
People can be said to be in poverty when they are deprived of income and other resources needed to obtain the conditions of life such as diets, material goods, amenities, standards and services that enable them to play the roles, meet the obligations and participate in the relationships and customs of their society. Understanding and addressing poverty requires a dynamic view of how poor people and households fare overtime in terms of income and expenditure thresholds. Hence vulnerability is a risk for a person or a household of falling deep into poverty. The other factors include household demographics (which is the size of the household [number of people], the age structure, the dependency ratio and the geographical location which may be rural or urban) , and individual characteristics (such as a person’s sex, age, employment status, level of educational attainment, property owned and socio-economic profession.)
Poverty has various indications such as lack of income and productive resources sufficient to ensure sustainable livelihoods, hunger and malnutrition, ill health, limited or lack of access to education and other basic services, increased morbidity and mortality from illness, homelessness and inadequate housing, unsafe environments , social discrimination and exclusion and is characterized by lack of participation in decision-making and in civil, social and cultural rights. The root cause of poverty is considered to be the increasing population. Rising population is putting the burden on the resources and budget of countries. Governments are finding difficult to provide food, shelter and employment to the rising population. The other causes include lack of employment opportunities ( people who face situations of unemployment and joblessness are unable to fulfill the basic necessities of their family resulting in poverty), lack of education and skills ( limits people’s ability to access decent jobs to develop themselves and participate fully in society) , war, natural disaster, lack of infrastructure , political instability etc. Natural disasters like flood, earthquake also contribute to poverty.
Poverty encompasses not only material deprivation but also many other forms of deprivations in different aspects of life such as unemployment, ill health, lack of education, vulnerability, powerlessness, social exclusion etc. Hence, poverty should be viewed as the deprivation of basic capabilities rather than merely as low level of income and strong, effective economic and social policies should be taken to eradicate poverty and improve people’s lives and the economic productivity of the country.