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Poverty as a Global Social Problem Essay

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Updated: Jun 19th, 2022

Poverty is a social problem defined as a situation where one has inadequate material possessions or income to cater to one’s basic needs. Billions of people worldwide live in intense poverty, and half of the world population lives with income below 2.50 dollars (“Net direct investment, billions of US dollars”, 2021). Destitution entails more than just the absence of productive resources and income. It encompasses limited education access and inadequate health services, poor sanitation, and social discrimination. Poverty is classified in two ways, relative and absolute, where absolute poverty is a consistent set of standards between countries over time. It refers to a condition associated with severe scarcity of basic human needs, including sanitation facilities, food, shelter, health, safe drinking water, education, and information.

Relative poverty is considered socially defined and needs a social context, which argues that needs, which are considered fundamental, are not the objectives measures of insufficiency. Vulnerability to this issue is widespread in many developing nations, where one-fourth of the population is deficient, and one –third is slipping into and out of scarceness (Min & Chandrasekhar, 2019). Poverty is caused by gender discrimination, absence of social services, joblessness, lack of access to health care, physical disabilities, food insecurity, limited access to clean water resources, and lack of shelter. Poverty is viewed in two ways, either positive or negative. It is a hostile entity that poses a threat to many developing countries. It can also be considered a fundamental social problem since it aids in reusing goods.

Poverty in Kenya

Kenya is among the developing countries in the African continent, thus facing the challenges encountered by other unindustrialized countries to eradicate poverty. UNICEF’s latest report shows that around 46% of Kenyans fell below the poverty line, although many overlooked the issue (BALAJI, 2020). Many people earn less than 2 dollars a day illustration that most Kenyan cannot access the basic human wants (Rimmer, 2018).

Unemployment is a major issue that leads to some part of populations moving from rural to urban areas searching for jobs. Many people who move to towns do not secure employment due to illiteracy; thus, they live in slums. For example, the research shows that Kibera is the largest slum in the country, and this is where many people move to settle after losing hope of getting employed in towns (Meredith & MacDonald, 2017). People in the slums experience low living standards, and many children are unable to access primary education. There is also limited access to healthcare, sanitation, and clean water. This results in many youths indulging in the use of drugs that harm their health.

An increase in population is another problem associated with the rise in poverty level in the country. Many families who live below the poverty line have between 4-6 children (Elliott, 2018). Food shortage becomes a problem since parents are unable to provide food to their children. As a result, many children have retorted growth accompanied by malnutrition diseases such as marasmus (Dyer, 2018). The increase in population contributes to congestion in towns and families, resulting in a high spread of infectious diseases. This leads to many people congesting in health centers leading to poor sanitation.

Furthermore, pandemics such as COVID-19 and Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) also contribute to high poverty levels in Kenya. HIV and AIDS scourge widely spread, forcing many Kenyan to continue living in poverty. Many families live under pressing financial circumstances; for example, furnishing patients with anti-retro virus (ARV) medicine and a balanced diet to increase their immunity become a problem. This results in increased mortality rates leaving behind orphans who end up becoming homeless.

Comparison of the Poverty Level in South Africa and that of Kenya and Their Solutions

South Africa is a country in Africa where poverty is manifested in many ways similar to those of Kenya. Unemployment due to many women entering the labor market despite having unskilled labor personnel is a significant cause of poverty. Many people relocate from rural to urban areas in search of jobs. This migration gives rise to slums as many people are unable to secure employment. For example, the research shows that the Flamingo and Santin in slums are the largest slums in South Africa occupied by poor people living under poverty-stricken conditions (Ng’ayu, 2019). Social evils such as robbery, prostitution, and murder arise as people look for ways to put food on the table.

The problem of food shortage has stricken many people in South Africa, leading to their suffering. The research shows that food security is stimulated by an increase in population as many families have many children whose parents are unable to provide food (Guo, 2019). This problem of decreased food contributes to lack of education to many families a hence parents are unable to pay fees to their children. Food shortage leads to many people developing diseases, resulting in congestion in hospitals as many people go there to seek medical attention.

COVID-19, HIV, and AIDS pandemic are other problems that lead to the spread of poverty. UNAIDS, an organization in the world, estimates that South Africa accounts for half of the new HIV infection (“Yogan Pillay: integrating tuberculosis and HIV care in South Africa”, 2018) Increased AIDS meant that death is inevitable; thus, many people who depend on the victim for survival continue living in poverty. COVID-19 is a threat due to the government’s extraordinary measures in an attempt to reduce its spread. Many people lose jobs while others are forced to work for fewer hours due to curfew, incurring significant business losses.

South Africa has different ways to reduce the rising poverty level in the state. The government works on ensuring that job opportunities are created, especially for the youth. This is by setting up industries in rural areas and making employment, thus reducing rural-urban migration. There is a reduction in slums as many people opt to go back to their villages to secure jobs. The government has also introduced free primary and tertiary education and offered scholarships to the best students.

Comparison of Poverty Levels in Nigeria and that of Kenya and their Solution

Nigeria is the second leading country in terms of poverty in the world. Parallel to Kenya, Nigeria experiences the emergence of slums as new immigrants arrive in towns from rural areas searching for employment. This increases pressure on the already impoverished living conditions. Research shows that Makoko and Ilaje are the biggest slums in the country, with many people living under poor living conditions (Wise, 2016). Lack of basic social amenities such as toilets, proper sanitation, contributes to widespread diseases such as cholera.

HIV and AIDS are other pandemics that revolve in the state, resulting in many people living in absolute poverty. Many people lose their jobs; thus, they cannot provide basic needs to their family members. This situation leads to an increase in population as many people are idle, which increases poverty since parents cannot provide basic needs to their many kids. COVID-19 also leads to food shortages and a lack of capital to educate their children, increasing their illiteracy level. People also pamper in immoral behaviors such as prostitution which increases the rate of HIV and AIDS spread.

The Nigerian government found out ways to solve these problems to reduce the increasing poverty levels. The government demolished the slums and introduced the housing and slums policies to ensure access to good and affordable housing for every citizen. The country also looked for solutions to solve the spread of HIV and AIDS by campaigning and offering education on preventing the virus by introducing courses on HIV and AIDS awareness in the curricular. The government also insists on family planning methods in place to reduce the high rate of population growth.

Lessons that can Help Policy Debate in Kenya Learned from a Comparison of South Africa and Nigeria

The policy discussion in Kenya should aim their arguments on solutions to curb poverty in the country, basing their reference to solutions applied in South Africa and Nigeria. Kenya’s government should introduce free education in all sectors to ensure that everyone can access primary education. It should also introduce slum and housing policies to ensure a favorable environment to reduce the spread of both water and infectious diseases. The government should introduce family planning methods to reduce population growth. The curriculum should change to include life skills, such as HIV, and ways to avoid its spread. There will be a reduction in the poverty level, and thus, the development will take place by applying this.


In conclusion, poverty can be viewed as a global social issue affecting many developing countries, making them lag in development terms. Its leading causes include the flawed education system, unemployment, disease pandemics, drug abuse, and rapid population growth. These problems result in high mortality rates due to inadequate health facilities, rural-urban migration due to an increase in population, resulting in the evolution of slums. The government should implement measures to reduce poverty by providing a new education curriculum, creating job opportunities, and setting up industries in rural areas to reduce rural-urban migration.


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