Why Child Poverty
Globally, it is estimated that 1 in every 2 children worldwide are affected by poverty. Poverty is multi-dimensional, meaning there are different aspects that comprise poverty, beyond the lack of basic material resources. Poverty experiences during the childhood years, can continue to impact the person well into their adulthood, and further on to the next generation. Child poverty deprives the child of a life where their dignity and wellbeing are fully actualised.
Over the years, drivers of poverty including; conflicts, climate change, violence against children, and lately the COVID-19 pandemic have greatly escalated child poverty. Experts have observed that children who were already disadvantaged by poverty and more vulnerable are being affected even more gravely by the pandemic and their very development and even survival are threatened. In 2020, as COVID-19 turned into a global crisis, the Global Coalition to End Child Poverty estimated that the global downturn in economic growth could push 117 million more children into poverty by the end of that year alone, 2020. The world bank in a report in 2021 further noted that the Covid-19 pandemic could increase learning poverty among children by an additional 72 million to 454 million.
The statistics are endless and all tell a sorry state of the world’s children. We need to change this. Despite this grim reality, we realise that we – all of society – can and must take action to tackle poverty, and build a better life for all children. Lifting children out of poverty will make a huge difference in their lives, and those of the families, communities, and countries in which they live.
At Arigatou International – End Child Poverty, we are committed to mobilizing faith-inspired resources towards building a world free of child poverty by addressing both the human and structural root causes of poverty through; theological reflection and action, advocacy, knowledge generation, and mobilizing grassroots actions towards ending child poverty.
Fast Facts on Child Poverty
- Children bear the greatest brunt of poverty; and, globally, are twice more likely to live in extreme poverty than adults.
- To date, 1 in 2 people living in poverty is a child.
- More than 250 million children suffer from 2 or more deprivations in Sub-Saharan Africa alone, while 75 million children are living in relative poverty in the world’s richest countries.
- Child poverty causes lifelong damage to individual life outcomes with great costs for families and communities.
- Children’s precarious exposure to poverty has been made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic with millions more falling into deeper poverty.
- Child Poverty is a denial of human rights that uniquely affects children.
- There are proven, effective and often inexpensive solutions to child poverty; including the provision of social protection for all children, and supporting families with adequate social safety nets, which ought to be scaled up in the event of a crisis such as the COVID-19 pandemic.
What is child poverty?
Child poverty is often described as being absolute poverty (extreme poverty) or relative poverty, depending on the indicators of deprivation that a given community or country chooses to recognise.
Though the definitions of child poverty vary, there is an innate understanding that child poverty means a “lack of” something essential to the wellbeing, dignity and full realisation of rights of the child. For children, poverty can mean being deprived of material aspects of life like adequate nutrition, health, water, education, protection and shelter; as well as being deprived of intangible aspects such as experiencing love, care, positive values and ethics, and nurturing spirituality. As such, poverty is a violation of child rights and denies children the chance to survive, grow and thrive.
What causes child poverty?
The root structural factors which cause and drive child poverty in society, vary from community to community, country to country, as do the consequences of child poverty. However, it is clear that child poverty stems from structural policies and practices, as much as from socio-cultural factors. It also includes complex interactions involving the body, mind, soul and emotions.
The structural causes of poverty require changes in policies and practices that build our communities at micro and macro levels, from grassroots to global systems. Attitudes and behaviours such a greed, ignorance, fear and hatred, reflect internal poverty in the human heart, which we believe can be overcome.
The impacts of poverty on children
Children experience poverty in different ways from adults. Poverty impacts more acutely on children than on adults, as they are more vulnerable to the effects of deprivation (both immediate and long-term), less able to address or change their situation, and more greatly at risk of exploitation and other failures to meet and protect their rights.
Whilst poverty hurts all human beings, it is more threatening to children. Childhood is a time of unique opportunity and vulnerability, and experiencing poverty in its various dimensions can be particularly damaging to a child’s development. Poverty denies children their right to grow up free from deprivation and want, and develop healthily to their full potential.
Often, the effects of childhood poverty last well into their adult life. The negative impacts of child poverty can affect a child’s physical, psychological (mental and emotional), psychosocial (social and behavioural), spiritual wellbeing and health.
Furthermore, a child who lived in poverty during their younger years is more likely to experience poverty as an adult as well – due to lost opportunities and impacts of the multiple deprivations that they faced. As adults living in poverty, they stand a higher chance of starting a family in poverty and living with children in the same circumstance. Thus, the cycle of poverty is perpetuated from generation to generation, unless there is a suitable response to break this cycle.
What can we do about child poverty?
It the responsibility of the family, the child’s community, school, government, and all those in the child’s life – to prevent child poverty from occurring. When it occurs, the child needs to be shielded from the negative impacts of child poverty. Efforts must be made to seek ways to get children out of poverty and build supportive structures around them to ensure that she/he lives healthy, with dignity and free of involuntary poverty.
Since child poverty is multidimensional, the eradication of poverty is not merely an intellectual exercise of science, technology or economics — on the contrary, it involves an inner change in the individual as well.
It is for this reason that End Child Poverty recognises the necessity to transform the paradigm of development by taking cognisance of the spirituality, ethics and values that promote sustainable development.
Indeed, we believe that any poverty eradication initiative ought to go beyond conventional economic approaches to succeed. The measures must address not only the systemic structures, but also the root causes of the problems in the human heart, which stem from attitudes and perceptions such as greed, ignorance, hatred and fear.
Opportunities and solutions are present and can be leveraged towards ending child poverty. From global development progress and frameworks, to social and technological innovations; from positive spiritual values, to resources available in communities.
We believe that together, we can end child poverty worldwide.