Children are often the most affected when it comes to poverty. Not only does poverty prevent a proper education for many children, but it also affects them through hunger, a lack of medical resources, and diseases which come because of a lack of clean water access and proper sanitation. Because of poverty, tens of thousands of children die needlessly every year.
Yet poverty isn’t something that affects only the developing world. The United States experiences child poverty as well. It is believed that 20% of children in the US face food scarcity issues right now, despite the fact that the United States on the whole consumes up to one-quarter of the world’s total resources annually.
As these child poverty statistics prove, our social structures have created an artificial level of poverty that doesn’t need to exist. This means our societies are needlessly putting children at risk every day and it is costing lives.
Why Are Children So Vulnerable Because of Poverty?
- There are an estimated 160+ million children who are estimated to be stunted in the world today because of poverty. This is only for children who are in the 0-5 age demographic.
- About half of all the children who are stunted live in Asia, with another one-third of this group living in African according to data provided by UNICEF.
- Wasting because of poverty-related hunger is also an issue. 51 million children each year fit into this category, with 17 million children being classified as severely wasted.
- Wasting prevalence is at 8%, with severe wasting prevalence at 3%, for the total population of children in the world today.
- The population distribution for wasting is the same as it is for stunting.
- About 40% of children in developing countries of preschool age are believed to already be anemic.
- Iron deficiencies in developing countries are aggravated by diseases and parasitic infections, such as malaria, tuberculosis, HIV, and worm infections.
- Anemia is a contributing factor in 1 out of 5 all maternal deaths, which also affects the viability of the child during birth.
- An estimated 250 million children in poverty are believed to be deficient in vitamin A, with up to 500,00 children becoming blind due to their deficiency. 50% of the children who go blind because of a lack of vitamin A will die within 12 months of their blindness.
- 54 countries that deal with high levels of poverty have serious issues with iodine deficiencies despite the widely available iodized salt.
- Based on school enrollment data, 72 million children who live in poverty every year were not enrolled in school. That’s about 1 in 6 children who live in poverty. Nearly 60% of these children who are not in school are girls – and these figures are considered to be “optimistic.”
Here’s the most disturbing fact of all: it would only take $60 billion each year to put the world’s most vulnerable children into a meaningful education program. That amount is about equal to what the US spends on its own education every year. It also equals about 10-15% of what the US spends on military programs each year. In reality, the US budget dedicates less than 1% of its annual budget to fight the effects of extreme poverty each year, yet the return on investments to combat poverty can often bring returns that are double or triple the investment.
There may be 7 billion people in the world today, but 2.2 billion of that population is children. There are 1 billion children, or every other child in the world today, is living in poverty. 33% of children are living without adequate shelter right now. 20% of children have no access to safe water. 1 in 7 children have no access to health services. In total, there are 121 million children who do not have access to the education they need to improve their circumstances.
Why does this happen? Because families are expecting their children to die. More than 10 million children die each year before the age of 5. The most common reason? A lack of sanitation and safe drinking water. This means the deaths due to child poverty are completely preventable.
What Does Poverty Bring Children? Two Words: Hunger. Disease.
- There are 3 million children who die every year simply because they don’t have enough food to eat.
- This means 22,000 children are dying every day because of the conditions of poverty. Nearly 1 billion people today, most in developing countries, are living on an amount that is the equivalent of just $1.90 per day.
- This means, on average, one child dies every 10 seconds in the world today simply because they don’t have enough to eat. Considering the world produces more food than is required for every person to eat a healthy diet, this child poverty statistic is one that is completely preventable.
- 88% of all children who are living with HIV are in sub-Saharan African. 6.3 million children died in 2013, according to The Hunger Project, from preventable health issues that include malaria, pneumonia, and diarrhea.
- Half of all pregnant women in developing countries lack access to proper maternal care, which puts hundreds of thousands of pregnancies into an at-risk category. More than 300,000 women die annually from childbirth from conditions that are directly attributed to poverty.
- 1 in 6 infants are born with a low birth weight in the developing world.
- 70% of the world’s poorest families live in rural areas. They depend on agricultural activities and similar actions for their livelihood, which often means taking children out of school to work on the family farm.
- Half of all the hungry people in the world belong to a farming family. This means 1.5 million children, on average, are helping to grow the foods we all eat, but don’t have enough food for themselves and die from hunger-related disease.
- Poverty is often concentrated in rural areas where the poorest earn an income from agriculture.
Bono from U2 put it this way: “Where you live should not determine whether you live or whether you die.”
Virtually all of the fatalities which occur because of child poverty are completely preventable. Families are spending upwards of 80% of their gross income on food resources and even then, it is often not enough to prevent stunting, malnutrition, or worse. The simple fact that the world produces enough food for everyone, but millions of children are dying from hunger, should be a wake-up call.
But because more than 60% of child poverty deaths tend to occur in sub-Saharan African or South Asia, it doesn’t affect the rest of the world. Because of this, the threat of poverty continues to grow.
What does this mean?
We have created our own artificial poverty. That’s the bad news. The good news is that since humanity has caused these issues, we can also fix them.
It begins by increasing access to food resources. It means people must hold governments responsible for the wastes they create. Only 2 countries in sub-Saharan Africa, one of the most poverty-stricken regions in the world, publish public spending accounts that allow people to see were funds are going. If there is no accountability for the most vulnerable of humanity, then what hope does the rest of humanity have?
Then there is the issue of resource consumption. The African continent consumes just 3% of the world’s resources, despite being the home to 12% of the global population. In comparison, the US typically consumes one-quarter of the annual resources that are available.
It’s not up to the most vulnerable to save their children. It’s up to the developed world to make this happen.
How Water Access Affects Child Poverty Statistics
- There are 2.4 billion people in the world today which do not have access to adequate sanitation facilities.
- An estimated 660 million people lack access to clean water on a regular basis.
- In terms of child poverty statistics, this means about 1,000 children die every day because of preventable water or sanitation diseases.
- A majority of the households who lack water or sanitation access, if not both, are surviving on less than $2 per day. One in three households are surviving on less than $1 per day.
- Piped water is only accessible to 1 in 4 households within the poorest 20% of the global population. This increases the chances of water-related illnesses, which accounts for almost 450 million missed school days for children every year.
- One-third of the world’s poor in the developing world are children who are 0-12 years in age.
- Indigenous peoples make up about 5% of the global population, but make up 15% of those who are dealing with poverty on a regular basis.
- 92% of children live in developing countries. 7% of them will not survive beyond the age of 5 because of a lack of water access, health care, or proper nutrition.
Thankfully, access to clean water is becoming less of an issue with every passing day. Organizations like Blood:Water Mission and LifeStraw are making it possible for more villages to have access to the water they need. Through the drilling of new wells or the provision of long-term filtering products, ongoing safe water can be provided to immediately begin reducing water-related illnesses that affect children so often.
Something as simple as a filtering straw can provide a child with enough safe water to drink for an entire year. The retail cost of such a filter? Just $20.
This is our reality. It costs next to nothing to begin saving the lives of children in the world’s most vulnerable areas. All of us can do a little, which means together we can do a lot to begin saving lives.
Families are having more children in the developing world because children are seen as an asset. They can help with chores, earn an income, and support the family. Many parents fear that they will lose a child, so they have more children to ensure their assets.
This is no way to live, but it’s life for 9 out of 10 kids on our planet today.
The United States Is Among the Worst in the Developed World for Child Poverty
- 21% of all children in the United States live in families that have an income which falls below the Federal poverty threshold.
- Research from the National Center for Children in Poverty shows that families need an income of about double the Federal poverty threshold in the US to meet basic expenses, which means 42% of children live in a low-income family by US definitions.
- Child poverty rates in the US are the highest in minority groups, with African-Americans, Latinos, and American Indian children the most at risk.
- Some states have child poverty rates which are much higher than the national average. New Mexico has the worst child poverty rates in the US, with 41% of children living in households that do not meet the poverty threshold for income.
- This means a total of more than 24 million children in the US may not know where their next meal may come from or when it may be.
- Since 2008, there are an additional 1.7 million children who are living in poverty in the United States. Out of all the newly poor children in the developed world, more than 30% of them are in the United States. This has occurred at the same time 18 other developed nations were able to reduce childhood poverty rates.
- According to a published report from UNICEF, between 2006-2011, child poverty increased in 34 states in the US.
- In a survey from The Barna Group, more than 80% of Americans were unaware that global poverty has decreased by more than 50% in the past 30 years. Two out of three respondents thought that global poverty was increasing over this time period.
- Concern about extreme poverty amongst US adults has decreased from 21% to 16% over the past two years.
Poverty in the US may be very different than it is in the rest of the world, but child poverty in any form should never be ignored. Although a household income of $30,000 puts a family in the top 1.3% of global income earners, this doesn’t change the fact that nearly half of all kids in some states are going to bed without enough food to eat.
It should be an embarrassment for what is arguably the richest nation in the world to have one of the world’s highest child poverty rates. Unfortunately, child poverty statistics are either not published or blatantly ignored and so nothing gets done. It is a reflection that the government has failed in its duty to serve its families and most vulnerable populations on several core levels.
Overall, child poverty statistics are improving from a global perspective. There are fewer people living in extreme poverty. The world is producing more food than ever before. Health care access, clean water access, and adequate sanitation levels are improving. If there were an annual per capita consumption growth of 4% in every country, even if there was no change in income distribution, child poverty would be reduced to just 3% by the year 2030.
We can be the generation that stops the negative effects of poverty. Now is the time to keep pushing forward so that no child needs to die needlessly from preventable causes any more. The lives of millions of children depend on us taking action today.
Blog Post Author Credentials
Louise Gaille is the author of this post. She received her B.A. in Economics from the University of Washington. In addition to being a seasoned writer, Louise has almost a decade of experience in Banking and Finance. If you have any suggestions on how to make this post better, then go here to contact our team.