Poverty Basics

Quick Facts

How big is the problem?
  • Every 5 seconds, a child dies from poverty-related causes. That’s 6,200,000 every year.1
  • Sub-Saharan Africa has 149 million more people in the most extreme poverty than in 1990 (only $1.90 a day).2

This is driven by inequality:

    • The world’s richest eight people have as much wealth as the poorest 3.6 billion.3
    • More than 3.6 billion people – half the world’s population – struggle to live on less than $5.50 a day, not enough for a decent life.4

The more you know, the more you can help:

Why is There Extreme Poverty?

The world’s poorest are hurt by an unfair global economic system.

Aid does some real good, but it could be far more effective. And charity does not make up for the much larger damages done by rigged trade deals and loans, land grabs, tax evasion and corruption from the wealthy nations, the unequal costs of climate change and other injustices.

The world’s poorest people and nations provide massive aid to the world’s richest – by one documented estimate, a net $3 trillion. Every year.5

Compared to all the economic foreign aid from all the world’s wealthy nations6, for every dollar rich nations give, they take $18. That’s like trying to fill a bucket with a big hole in the bottom, a tablespoon at a time.

And what happens anywhere affects us everywhere:

The dangers

Extreme global poverty threatens us, too:

      • Famine not only hurts one region. It also increases food prices for everyone around the world.
      • Epidemics spread more easily. Ebola and COVID are only two examples.
      • Environmental destruction – in a struggle for survival, people are forced to use resources unsustainably. This endangers everyone.
      • Political chaos can spread. This leads to riots and wars. Failed states are safe havens for pirates and terrorists. An unfair global system leads to authoritarian regimes that actively threaten democracy and freedom worldwide.
      • Refugee crises strain the resources and stability of many nations.
      • Terrorism – Extreme poverty and gross inequality spur resentment and encourage acts of terror.

To help prevent all this, we can learn from:

Big Mistakes

Handouts do not solve poverty. It’s much less expensive to prevent famines than to keep sending emergency aid.

Thousands of nonprofits work directly with some of the world’s poorest people. but charities can only help a limited number of people in limited ways. This leaves millions of people in extreme poverty. Nonprofits lack the massive resources and influence of wealthy nation governments.

Since 1945, the US has spent more than $2.4 trillion on foreign aid7. Billions more dollars were spent by other wealthy nations. If these resources were better spent, much more could’ve been accomplished. Meanwhile, poverty in many nations is getting worse:

  • 768 million people still go hungry. That’s 118 million more people than the previous year.8

There’s no good reason for this:

All the food and resources to end extreme poverty are available. When enough people like you and me support better policies, extreme poverty can end.

We don’t want to guilt you. But knowing how it feels – and that we all can help – kindles our compassion and keeps us motivated:

How does poverty feel?
  • Walking for hours in the hot sun, just to get some water.
  • Feeling weak, suffering from easily preventable diseases.
  • A mother watching her child slowly waste away, because she has no milk to give.
  • Breathing unhealthy air while working 100 hours a week for bare survival pay, when a loan of $100 could start a small business.
  • Being hungry. Very hungry.
How does it feel to be part of the solution?

It feels good! And it’s easy to get started.

Make your voice heard! Contact us.

And it’s good to know:

What Works

With your help the world’s poorest can escape the cycle of poverty.

The most effective solutions empower people to help themselves, without having to endlessly depend on foreign aid.

The best giving removes the need for charity.
To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.
 –Buckminster Fuller

Hearts and Minds has a better plan: Our Platform

  1. World Health Organization (WHO), 2018.
  2. World Bank: As of 2018, there were 433 million sub-Saharan Africans struggling to survive on less than $1.90 a day, far less than the minimum required for a decent life. Since 2018, with disruptions due to COVID and rising food and energy prices due to global instability, this is likely to be millions more people.
  3. Oxfam, 2017
  4. World Bank updated proportional to current total population, not including additional COVID and other disruptions
  5. Jason Hickel, The Divide. Hearts and Minds is doing further research to evaluate, confirm and update his statistics.
  6. Global Affairs Review, The Center for Global Affairs, New York University: “Official development assistance (ODA) is defined by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) as grants and soft loans, administered with the intent of improving economic development and social welfare in developing nations.” In 2018 total ODA from all the wealthy nations surpassed $165 billion.
  7. ForeignAssistance.gov.
  8. FAO, IFAD, UNICEF, WFP and WHO. 2021. The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2021. Transforming food systems for food security, improved nutrition and affordable healthy diets for all. Rome, FAO: An estimated 768 million people were undernourished in 2020, 9.9 percent of the global population. That’s 118 million more people facing hunger than in 2019. This number is likely to rapidly increase due to COVID, war in Ukraine (a major food exporter) and growing inequality worldwide.
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