POVERTY IS COMPLICATED

Poverty is complicated, and it is a much more complex problem than just being poor. To cut even deeper and say something like, chronically poor, doesn’t give away how debilitating poverty actually is.

Yes, it can be defined by numbers and dollar amounts. The global community calculate a dollar figure for the poverty line. By definition, extreme poverty is those people who are living on US $1.25 a day or less. That’s under $9.00 a week. While it’s good to have a measure, this is still just a financial way of defining the poor. A lack of finances doesn’t capture the lack of resources a person in poverty is faced with.


A poor person living on a city street in a prospering country has access to medical supplies, counselling, homeless shelters, soup vans, public toilets, public libraries and even legal aid if required. A person living in poverty has none of these resources. The most basic human needs, shelter, clean living, clean water and food are absent. There are no services to access and no way of getting to existing services.

It’s not simply a matter of people going without. Sleeping in the open and lack of nutrition leaves people exposed to preventable diseases, diseases that quickly become lethal, especially to children. Malaria. Diarrhea. Pneumonia. Each year, without immunisation and basic medical care as many as six million children in poverty-stricken areas will not live to be five years old. Malnutrition alone is responsible for 45% of infant deaths. That’s just under three million children under the age of five, who starve to death.

There are many reasons for poverty to befall a community. Natural disasters, like drought, an inability to finance the cultivation of crops, soil and natural resource degradation through lack of agricultural education, farmers forced out of work due to poor health, war, displacement from homeland, each one on their own will lead to stress and fears around where a next meal will come from.

In areas of poverty education is scare and, what is available is inferior to basic learning standards. Even when education is available, it is often felt that a child is more useful at home, helping provide for the family through paid work or domestic labour, gathering firewood, water or looking after siblings rather than going to school.

Poverty isn’t a state of being poor. It is a complex arrangement of hindering circumstances that mean survival is limited. These limited or non-existing resources are not just a definition of poverty, but the cause of it as well.


Providing parents with enough assistance at home so they can send their children to school is the best way to break through the complex cycle. With the next generation educated in sustainable farming, nutrition, health, hygiene, AIDS and immunisation we can set a solid foundation for ending poverty.

Statistics prove it’s possible. In 2011 in excess of one billion people lived below the bank’s demonstrated poverty line. That meant almost 1/7th of the world’s population lived in extreme poverty. Millennium Development Goals were put in place to cut that number in half by the year 2015. They were able to achieve this goal as early as 2010. They halved the global extreme poverty number five years ahead of plan.

The new goal raises the bar. The global community has its sights firmly set on eradicating extreme poverty by 2030. African Volunteer Aid is dedicated to meeting the global community goal. Like the goal set before it, we want it to be completed in record time. The AVA volunteer programmes work hand in hand with the leaders of African communities who are struggling in extreme poverty. We assist them in building sustainable crops through educating farmers about produce, stock and irrigation systems. We educate on hygiene and raise funds to provide clean drinking water in close proximity to the village so hours a day are not wasted gathering water. We raise money to send children to school, plus provide children with books and meals so they can concentrate.

We are committed to providing sustainable living resources and educating communities living in poverty. We know this is a very big, and very rewarding task to take up and it calls for both short and long-term solutions and contributions from every corner of the globe.

When we work together and each give what we can, it puts hope into a hopeless situation. When we give people enough food, medicine and the ability to sustain that through education, we allow them to change their fortune.

Jess Charlotte

(Read more about her story here)