An estimated 767 million people lived below the poverty line of $1.90 per day in 2013, according to the UN.1 In 2014, some 263 million children and youth were not attending school, and more than 70 percent of the out-of-school children who should have been in primary or secondary education lived in sub-Saharan Africa and Southern Asia.2 In the United States, a report revealed that in 2014, “approximately 15 million children under the age of 18 were in families living in poverty.”3
Poverty’s Pervasive Stranglehold
Many impoverished families know education is the long-term solution to their financial troubles, but it is typically out of reach.
The father who works from sunup to sundown seven days a week will have little time to mentor his children. The same could be said of the mother who labors in the fields all day. During their most formative and vulnerable years, millions of children are left alone during the day to wander in their villages. Many will adopt poor social habits and learn nothing of respect or self-discipline. School is out of the picture for them; all the family’s energy must be focused on providing food and shelter.
Often, a family’s financial plight is so desperate that even young children must contribute to the family income. For the roughly 150 million child laborers in the world, there is no school, no delving into their nation’s history, and no adventuring to museums to learn about science and art.
No money means no food, which means malnutrition and increased health problems. No money means no doctor visits, and in the case of a medical emergency, no money may mean indenturing a child to work off the incurred debt after receiving critical treatment.
Living hand to mouth kills dreams. For many impoverished families, ambition becomes unrealistic amid the ever-present fight against starvation. For the majority of children raised in poverty-stricken families and communities, the fruit of their harsh childhood is more of the same. When they become parents, they will raise their children as they themselves were raised—unless they can manage to find a way out, into a new way of life.
There are many causes of poverty, which makes the alleviation of poverty a very complex issue. While the basic definition of extreme poverty is earning less than $1.90 a day, we understand that the economic definition is only a portion of the equation.
The mindset of poverty is powerful. It degrades and constantly reminds a person of their deficiency and external circumstances. This continues generation after generation. When that mindset is broken, hope enters the picture. A person can dream again.
Poverty and education—they perpetuate one another. People who live in poverty often can’t afford education. People who aren’t educated don’t have a way out of poverty.
Reducing extreme poverty is a massive challenge, but the strategies and solutions to poverty are equally promising. Today, $1.90 of daily income is the official marker of extreme poverty and around 736 million people are in this group, many of them children.
Throughout the Bible, we are called to take up the case of the poor and be an advocate for the oppressed. We are to act on behalf of the poor with the understanding that we are serving to further God’s work in the world. Here are some Bible verses about poverty, along with commentary on how we are to respond to God’s Word.
In developing countries, there is a dearth of adult literacy. Approximately 773 million youth and adults cannot read or write. This lack negatively impacts individual’s economic opportunities and many other facets of their life, including parents’ ability to properly care for their children. It also prevents adults from fully participating in their communities and societies.
The cycle of generational poverty can seem impossible to break. Children inherit what their parents teach and show them, a joint report from Ascend: The Aspen Institute and Bernard van Leer Foundation affirms this. “What young children learn from the adults who raise and care for them lays the foundation for future social, emotional, language, and cognitive growth,” the report says.
736 million people are living below the poverty line, many of them are entrenched in cyclical poverty, handed down from one generation to the next. They lack the resources they need, such as education and health care, to succeed in life and break free from this vicious cycle. To help these people escape poverty, organizations such as GFA World assist and empower the poor in various areas of need.
Frequently entrenched in generational poverty, these families often struggle for survival and have little hope of rising out of their poverty. Fortunately, organizations such as GFA World are helping the poor, meeting practical needs and empowering impoverished families in places such as Asia and Africa to overcome the cycle of poverty.
With 17,139,445 square miles and a population of 4,406,273,633, Asia is the largest continent in the world, and it presents some of the greatest needs.1 Poverty in Asia is widespread, affecting many of the people within its borders. Approximately 400 million people in Asia-Pacific live in extreme poverty, earning $1.90 a day or less.
Functional illiteracy means a person can only read and write in basic forms; their abilities aren’t at the level required in the workplace or for societal activities. In contrast … is one who can “engage in all those activities in which literacy is required for effective functioning of his group and community …”
More than 250 million women in Asia are illiterate—they don’t know how to read and write . This makes GFA World’s adult literacy program a crucial need. The women in the program face many challenges in their daily lives, and the income potential is low for those who can’t read.
Many Bible verses about poverty direct Christians to show God’s love and care to people experiencing poverty. Why? Poverty is a burden for many people worldwide. Poverty affects multiple areas of people’s lives, including having enough to eat, clean water, education, medical care and much more.
Along with basic reading and writing, one of the key abilities needed to overcome poverty is numeracy skills. The numeracy definition per Merriam-Webster is the “ability to understand and work with numbers.” This doesn’t necessarily entail something as complex as algebra. Someone just needs to recognize numbers and be able to perform simple addition and subtraction.
From international organizations with global reach to state-based non-profits serving their own population, hundreds of philanthropic groups research, write curriculum and fund solutions that address the question of how to fix illiteracy. Illiteracy has been identified as one of the top problems connected to poverty and its cyclical and generational nature.