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Extreme Poverty

Extreme poverty is defined as being characterized by social exclusion and by an accumulation of insecurities in many areas of life: inefficient food and water, a lack of identity papers, unsafe housing, and a lack of access to health care and to education.

These insecurities tend to cut people off from the rest of society. Their compounded result is a cycle of extreme poverty passed down from one generation to the next.

More than one billion people--one-sixth of the world's population--live in extreme poverty on less than $1 a day.

A malnourished child.

A Global Emergency

When you are poor, you go through times when life is out of balance, but your life makes sense. Improving your station in life is not an idle dream but what you strive toward daily. Little by little, your efforts bear fruit.

But in extreme poverty, your efforts do not bear fruit. What grows every day, all the time, are your problems. And you just can’t fix things: your child falls ill, you can’t afford the medicine, and then it’s your wife who falls ill. It never ends.

The custom here in working-class families is to be discreet and to hide any suffering from others. But when a family is in extreme poverty, everyone in the home wails in despair. There’s just no room in the hut, so you spend most of your life outdoors in full view of everyone else.

When your home floods, the toilet can’t be used. The stagnant water has a stench that you can’t possibly hide. This is extreme destitution: your roof is barely one meter above the ground and your rooms are half flooded, with rubbish everywhere. You cannot hide your misery.

You have to pick up and move once a year. Everyone can see the imbalance of your life.

Complexity of Extreme Poverty

In order to effectively support the poorest children and families, policy-makers must first understand how the complexity of extreme poverty can make those who experience it particularly hard to reach.

Some of the characteristics of extreme poverty include shame and stigmatization, separation of children from their families, lack of civil registration, and lack of access to education and health care.

Because of stigmatization, reaching the poorest people requires more than just making services available; only specific outreach can ensure the inclusion of all. The most effective policies are those elaborated in direct consultation with the poorest children and their families.

Only this direct consultation makes it possible for actions to reach and benefit the very poorest among the poor, and to push back against their stigmatization, thus strengthening their connections to the rest of society.

Our Impact

At the Kara Universal, we take a “human needs" approach to developing solutions to address extreme poverty. Our researchers, scientists and development practitioners help fight global poverty by addressing its root causes: hunger and malnutrition, access to health care, water, sanitation, energy, trade barriers, gender equality, access to education and so forth.

The human needs approach follows the framework of fighting poverty at the village level through community-led development, providing an escape from the extreme poverty trap.

By applying this scalable model to give them a hand up, not a hand out, people of this generation can get on the ladder of development and start climbing on their own.

We harness science to fight global poverty by figuring out what is needed to fix the problems, and then organizing efforts and finances around those solutions.


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