What Is Poverty?

What Is Poverty and How Is GFA World Helping?

Answering the “what is poverty” question is a bit more complicated than saying someone lives under a certain income. Merriam-Webster says poverty is “the state of one who lacks a usual or socially acceptable amount of money or material possessions.”[1] However, poverty is more than that. It also the lack of a many of things such as:

  • Health
  • Education
  • Access to clean drinking water
  • Capability to improve one’s circumstances and life
  • Sanitation
  • Security
  • Voice.[2]

There are over 600 million living in extreme poverty around the world with thousands people falling into poverty each day.[3] This is 10 percent of the world’s population, which is a huge improvement over the last 25 years since the poverty rate was as high as 29 percent in 1995. Specific parts of the world have a much higher incidence of poverty, meaning the percentages in those areas are much higher. In Sub-Saharan Africa, 41 percent of the population lives below the international poverty line though that region has improved significantly from 59 percent of the people living in poverty in 1996. Even with the shrinking numbers, much work is still to be done.[4]

Half of the population of people living in extreme poverty are children, and 75 percent of those children live in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia. The problem is worsened by the fact that 263 million children globally under 17 are not in school, which is about one in five children.[5] The UNICEF Child Mortality report from 2017 states that one child in 36 dies in their first month of life in poorer areas, while in high-income countries, that ratio is lower at one in every 333.[6] Most under-age-five deaths are caused by preventable diseases like malaria, diarrhea and pneumonia, and the main causes of those diseases are malnutrition, contaminated water and poor sanitation and hygiene. According to UNICEF, the simple practice of hand-washing can reduce the incidence of these often-deadly diseases by 40 percent, but less than half of rural populations have the knowledge or the clean water to do so.[7]

Thus, “what does poverty mean” has a more complicated answer than simply not having enough money. Poor health, water and education all contribute to a state of extreme poverty. There are actually two major types of poverty. There is absolute poverty, which is when the family’s income is not enough to maintain a basic lifestyle,. Then, relative poverty is a living on a standard that is lower than social expectations in an area.[8]

When GFA World addresses what is poverty, we are focused on absolute poverty and helping those most impacted by its effects—the children and families of sub-Saharan Africa and Asia. It is also significant that about a third of the UN’s least-developed countries are also the least churched.[9] This is why GFA’s work in those places is so important. We work to alleviate poverty through income-generating gifts like animals or sewing machines and show them the love of God. The supplies are only part of the answer; people need to develop new skills to escape poor-paying circumstances. Our efforts include general and specific education, such as literacy training and hands-on skills like sewing and welding.

Women who receive a sewing machine and begin working as seamstresses can increase their daily income four or five times from what they made doing menial labor.[10] This is especially important for those living under the extreme poverty definition, which the World Bank considers living on less than $2.15 daily.[11]

Therefore, GFA World continues to work on meeting people’s physical needs and showing God’s love to those who need it most. For over forty years, GFA has been working in Asia, and now we have expanded into Africa as well, some of the most-impacted areas from poverty. GFA provides farm animals like goats, cows and chickens. These creatures give the family meat, milk and eggs to sell and eat, supplementing both their income and diet. Not only that, but the animals can breed more animals to be sold, and the bigger ones can even help with fertilizing and plowing crops, which increases their yield and profitability as well.[12]

Raylea was a widowed mother of two children. Being a widow in an Asian culture, she was blamed for her husband’s death, making it difficult for her to provide for her children, so she had a bleak outlook moving forward. Things changed for Raylea when she received two goats through a GFA Christmas gift distribution. Their milk provided her children with protein and calcium, and she could finally earn money to change the family’s circumstances for the better. Raylea could buy more clothing, more food and even school uniforms. She was then able to bless others by donating a goat to her church, giving another family the same opportunity that she received.[13]

Consider helping GFA World address what is poverty and donating to the organization to help us keep providing these animals and other income-generating gifts. Also, consider sponsoring a child to provide poverty-ending education. It doesn’t take much to change someone’s world.

Learn more about child poverty

[1] “Poverty.” Merriam-Webster. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/poverty. Accessed November 14, 2022.
[2] “Poverty – Definition, Types, Causes, Examples.” Geeks for Geeks. https://www.geeksforgeeks.org/poverty-definition-types-causes-examples. March 29, 2022.
[3] “World Poverty Clock.” World Data Lab. https://worldpoverty.io/headline. Accessed November 14, 2022.
[4] “9 World Poverty Statistics that Everyone Should Know.” Lifewater. https://lifewater.org/blog/9-world-poverty-statistics-to-know-today/. January 28, 2020.
[5] Ibid.
[6] “Levels & Trends in Child Mortality Report 2017.” UNICEF. https://www.unicef.org/media/48871/file/Child_Mortality_Report_2017.pdf. Accessed November 14, 2022.
[7] Ibid.
[8] “Poverty – Definition, Types, Causes, Examples.” Geeks for Geeks. https://www.geeksforgeeks.org/poverty-definition-types-causes-examples. March 29, 2022.
[9] “9 World Poverty Statistics that Everyone Should Know.” Lifewater. https://lifewater.org/blog/9-world-poverty-statistics-to-know-today. January 28, 2020.
[10] Holt, Palmer. “Poverty: Public Enemy #1.” GFA World Special Report. https://www.gfa.org/special-report/poverty-alleviation. October 17, 2019.
[11] “Poverty.” World Bank. https://www.worldbank.org/en/topic/poverty/overview. Accessed November 14, 2022.
[12] Holt, Palmer. “A Surprising Antidote to World Poverty: Farm Animals.” GFA World Special Report. https://www.gfa.org/special-report/solutions-poverty-farm-animals. November 30, 2021.
[13] Ibid.