The Poverty Cycle
The Poverty Cycle is the “set of factors or events by which poverty, once started, is likely to continue unless there is outside intervention” (source: Wikipedia). It is defined as a phenomenon where poor families become impoverished when they do not have access to economic and social resources such as education, financial capital and connections. As a result of their poverty, their subsequent generations will be mired in the same circumstances and thus complete and continue the Poverty Cycle.
Simplified into five major phases as shown in the above diagram, the Poverty Cycle afflicts impoverished families who have very little or no access to economic resources. When children are born into the poverty of such families, they are immediately disadvantaged by the circumstances and conditions that deny them the foundations for proper growth. It is by no means the ultimate representation of the poverty cycle because it varies with different communities and their associated root causes and social environment.
Universally, hunger and malnutrition are widely associated with poverty. Often, children growing up in conditions where regular meals, let alone well-balanced diets are a luxury will find themselves deprived of the nutritional foundations they need to develop healthy bodies. If malnutrition happens during their infancy and early childhood, they will most likely experience physical and mental developmental delays, weight loss, and a weak immune system during their growing years.
Subsequently, even if they are able to gain access to education, they will experience difficulties in learning and acquiring knowledge and skills because of their delayed physical and mental growth. This will eventually lead to unemployment and leave them economically disadvantaged in their adolescence and adult years. When they begin families of their own, their children will be mired in the same circumstances that kept them in poverty and the vicious cycle begins for the next generation.
Breaking the Poverty Cycle
There are many organisations currently working on breaking the poverty cycle in many communities, and indeed in many countries around the world. Their solutions are as varied as the situations that create the poverty traps for the communities and people they are trying to help. The many programs that are implemented to help break the poverty cycle include reducing hunger, improving nutrition, building schools and improving education, providing vocational and skill training, micro financing, health and sanitation, clean water, maternal care, employment and economic empowerment, and many more.
There are varying models depicting the Poverty Cycle of different communities or regions, each showing the complexities of the problems that continue to impoverish the affected population. While the Poverty Cycle can be typically simplified to the model shown above, it is by no means a complete representation of the problems that all communities face. It does however show that an intervention at a link that connects any two different phases could result in changing the outcome of the subsequent phase.
The three key areas of intervention, or break points, in our simplified model of the Poverty Cycle will be at:
- preventing hunger and malnutrition
- providing and improving access to education and training
- empower adults with economic opportunities
When all three interventions are in place and working in tandem, the poverty cycle has a very high chance of being broken once the empowered individuals begin to uplift their lives from the impoverished circumstances of their younger years. Eventually, when they begin their own families, their children will be born into better conditions and have a greater chance for a brighter future.