While explaining CEED and its mission, I often get asked, “what about the poor children in America?” It’s a fair question. Especially if you haven’t traveled to a third world country and seen firsthand what third world poverty looks like. Here’s the difference, in Africa, child poverty means hunger, disease, illiteracy, abuse, lack of healthcare, and death. The poorest of poor American’s often have access to life’s necessities, clean water, healthcare and education.
While traveling in Africa, I was struck one day by a young boy walking down the road. The child looked like you would imagine a kid in Africa would. Tattered clothes, no shoes and probably hadn’t bathed for days. Struck by his sadness, I asked about him later that day. I learned the boy was part of a family who sold on the street all day—his mother took him out of school because she needed the help. Probably not older than eight—this would be the start of his “work life.” I later learned this is a common thread. Often children are taken out of school to help support a struggling family. According to a recent report by UNICEF, 134 million children between the ages of 7 and 18 are severely educationally deprived – they either have been forced to drop out early or in some cases have never been.
Gender also plays a significant role in third world poverty. At the global level, the study shows significant gender discrepancies in education. Girls are at least 60% more likely than boys to be severely educationally deprived. They suffer particularly high rates in parts of Africa, where they are three times more likely than boys to be without primary or secondary school.
Education aside, (although I truly believe when you place more importance on it—it helps end the cycle of poverty) living conditions are less than desirable. According to the same UNICEF report, more than half of the world’s children in developing countries (56%) – just over one billion children –are severely deprived of basic human needs, in Sub-Saharan Africa the deprivation rate is over 80%. Severe shelter and severe sanitation deprivation are the problems affecting the highest proportion of children. Studies show nearly 376 million children (20%) in the developing world are using unsafe (open) water sources or have more than a 15-minute walk to water. 265 million children in the developing world (15%) have not been immunized against any diseases or have had a recent illness and have not received any medical advice or treatment.
It’s true there are kids who suffer in America. CEED’s work in Africa and organizations like ours don’t ever want to take away from that. But we also want to raise awareness of the severity of absolute poverty. The same UNICEF report also stated by the time it was published; many of the children will have died as a direct consequence of their appalling living conditions. Many others will have had their development so severely impaired that they may be unable to escape from a lifetime of grinding poverty.
What CEED is looking to do is offer opportunity. Our organization is raising awareness of the devastating impact that real poverty has on children and their families in third world countries. We want to help people start looking through a different lens. Help them understand the difference between first world and third world poverty. We believe most people who begin to wrap their head around it, begin to understand truly what absolute poverty is, realize how important it is to reach out and make a real difference.
CEED- Change. Employ. Empower. Dignify