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Poverty, the state of one who lacks a usual or socially acceptable amount of money or material possessions. Poverty is said to exist when people lack the means to satisfy their basic needs. In this context, the identification of poor people first requires a determination of what constitutes basic needs. These may be defined as narrowly as “those necessary for survival” or as broadly as “those reflecting the prevailing standard of living in the community.” The first criterion would cover only those people near the borderline of starvation or death from exposure; the second would extend to people whose nutrition, housing, and clothing, though adequate to preserve life, do not measure up to those of the population as a whole. The problem of definition is further compounded by the noneconomic connotations that the word poverty has acquired. Poverty has been associated, for example, with poor health, low levels of education or skills, an inability or an unwillingness to work, high rates of disruptive or disorderly behavior, and improvidence. While these attributes have often been found to exist with poverty, their inclusion in a definition of poverty would tend to obscure the relation between them and the inability to provide for one’s basic needs. Whatever definition one uses, authorities and laypersons alike commonly assume that the effects of poverty are harmful to both individuals and society.

Although poverty is a phenomenon as old as human history, its significance has changed over time. Under traditional (i.e., nonindustrial zed) modes of economic production, widespread poverty had been accepted as inevitable. The total output of goods and services, even if equally distributed, would still have been insufficient to give the entire population a comfortable standard of living by prevailing standards. With the economic productivity that resulted from industrialization, however, this ceased to be the case—especially in the world’s most industrialized countries, where national outputs were sufficient to raise the entire population to a comfortable level if the necessary redistribution could be arranged without adversely affecting output.

 How does poverty affect children?
Children usually depend on their parents or guardians. They don’t have the resources to pull themselves out of poverty. This makes them more likely to experience the problems common to poverty, including:

  • Illness due to unsafe water and poor sanitation
  • Malnutrition (for example, leading to stunted growth)
  • Lack of access to education (for example, leading to depressed future productivity)
  • Inadequate health care

Child poverty has other negative effects. It can trigger a cycle of poverty that lasts generations, increase the incidence of early marriage and raise psychological issues of stress and shame. However, with the right response, starting with education, the cycle of poverty can be broken.

 What can I do to reduce poverty?
You can find and support creditable organizations that are working to reduce poverty in the world’s poorest communities. There are a variety of organizations focused on different aspects of poverty. These can include access to health care and education services, labor rights and conditions, or by demographic such as women and children.

Supporting these organizations can involve everything from making financial donations, to volunteering, to advocacy work. With World Vision, there are several ways that you can get involved in the fight against poverty. You can donate through our Gift Cataloguebecome a child ambassadorsupport a community and more.

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