Poverty is a social problem that is very devastating which reduces man to living on handouts and charity barely surviving.
A “factor” of poverty is not the same as the “cause” of poverty. A cause can be seen as something that contributes to the origin of poverty while a factor can also be seen as something that contributes to its continuation after it already exists.
The following are five of the factors of poverty as social problem that are listed here ie, Ignorance, disease, apathy, dishonesty and dependency are to be seen simply as conditions.
If it is the decision of a group of people as in the society or in a community to reduce and remove poverty, they will have to, without value judgement, observe to remove them as a way to eradicating poverty.
This big five factors in turn contribute to secondary factors as lack of markets, poor infrastructure, poor leadership, bad governance, underemployment, lack of skills, lack of capital and others. Each of these are social problems, each of them are caused by one of the big five and each of them contributes to the perpetuation of poverty and their eradication is necessary and critical for the removal of poverty.
Let us look briefly at each of the big five factors in turn.
- IGNORANCE; Having a lack of information, or lack of knowledge.
“Knowledge is power” goes to the saying. Unfortunately, people knowing this; try to keep knowledge to themselves, as a strategy for obtaining knowledge. One should not expect that, if someone is trained in a particular skill, or provide some information, that the skill or the information will naturally trickle or leak into the rest of the community.
It is important to determine what the information is, that is missing. Many planners and good minded people, who want to help the community to become stronger, think that, the solution is EDUCATION. But education means many things. Some information is not relevant to situation, eg; it will not help the farmer to know how parliament as an institution works, but it will be more useful to know which kind of seed will survive in the local soil and which will not. This transfer of information is aimed at strengthening capacity, not for general enlightenment.
- DISEASE: When a community has a high rate of disease, absenteeism high, and productivity is low leading to the creation of less wealth. Aside from the misery, discomfort and death that result from disease, it is also a major factor of poverty in a community.
Being well, not only helps the individuals who are healthy, it contributes to the eradication of poverty in the community.
One of the basic tenets of primary health care is” Prevention is better than cure”. Health contributes immensely to the eradication of poverty in terms of access to safe and portable water, separation of sanitation from the source of water supply. Knowledge of hygiene and disease prevention – much more than Clinics, Doctors and Drugs which are costly curative solutions rather than prevention against diseases.
- APATHY: It is when people do not care or when the feel powerless that they do not try to change things to right or wrong, to fix a mistake or to improve conditions. Sometimes some people feel so unable to achieve something, they are jealous of their family relatives or fellow members of their community who attempt to do so. Then they seek to bring the attempting achiever down to their own level of poverty.(Apathy breeds Apathy). Sometimes apathy is justifies by religious precepts, ”Accept what exists because God has decided your faith”. This fatalism may be misused as an excuse. It is fine to believe God decides our fate. If we decide that God may decide our fate that we should be motivated to improve ourselves. “pray to God but row the shore” we are in God’s hands but we also have the responsibility to help ourselves. We were created with many abilities to chose, co-operate and organise in improving the quality of our lives, we should not let God or Allah be used as an excuse to do nothing. We must pray to God to help us use our God given talents. In fight against poverty, the mobilize use encouragement and praises so that people;
(a) Will want to.
(b) Learn how to – take charge of their own lives.
- DISHONESTY: When resources that are intended to be uses for community services or facilities for the benefit of the community are diverted into the private pockets of someone in the position of power, there is more than morality at stake here. Dishonesty among persons of trust and power is one of the major causes of poverty. The amount stolen from the public, that is received and enjoyed by the individual, is far less than the decrease in wealth that was intended for the public. The amount of money extorted or embezzled is not the amount of lowering of wealth to the community. Economists tell of the “multiple effect” where new wealth is invested, the positive effect on the economy is more than the amount created. When investment money is taken out of circulation, the amount of wealth by which the community is deprived is greater than the amount gained by the embezzler. It is ironic that we get upset when a petty thief steals ten Ghana Cedis wealth of something in the market, yet an official may steal thousand Ghana Cedis from the public purse, which does four thousand Ghana Cedis wealth of damage to the society as a whole, yet we do not punish the official. We respect the official for his/her apparent wealth, and praise that person for helping all his/her relatives and neighbours. In contrast, we need the police to protect the petty thief from being beaten by the people on the street. The official is the major cause of poverty whiles the petty thief may very well be a victim of poverty that is caused by the official. Our attitude as described in above is more than ironic, it is a factor that perpetuates poverty. If the one who cause the major damage and punish only the ones who are really victims, then our misplaced attitudes also contribute to poverty.
- DEPENDENCY: This results from being on the receiving end of charity. In the short run, as after a disaster, that charity may be essential for survival. In the long run, that charity can contribute to the demise of the recipient and certainly the ongoing poverty. It is an attitude, a belief that one is poor, so helpless, that one cannot help oneself, that a group cannot help itself, and that it must depend on assistance from outside or someone. The attitude and shared belief is the biggest self-justifying factor in perpetuating the condition where the self or group must depend on outside help. The Community empowerment methodology is an alternative to giving charity (which weakness), but provides assistance, capital and training aimed at low income communities identifying their own development acquisition. Identification of income generating projects workshops/trainings are given to the people, they can put the skill and knowledge into fruitful use to carry them away from or reduce poverty.
CONCLUSION: The five factors of poverty are not dependent of one another. Disease contributes to ignorance and apathy. Dishonesty contributes to and dependency and so on, they each contribute to each other.
Don’t despair, if each of us make personal commitment to fight the factors of poverty at whatever station in life we occupy then the sum total of all of us doing it, and the multiple effects of our actions on others will contribute to the decay of those factors and the ultimate victory poverty will be attended . Thanks
Mr. R. K. Owusu