An American economist, Jeffrey Sachs, once said, “Extremepoverty is the best breeding ground on earth for disease, politicalinstability, and terrorism.” An obvious message implied in this quote is thatthere is a direct link between poverty and disease, especially among vulnerablegroups of people and countries. Poverty can beconsidered one of the most problematic issues to be addressed in our world.Because of this, eradicating poverty has been put as the first of seventeenSustainable Development Goals in 2015: ‘No poverty’ (Kumar, Kumar &Vivekadhish, 2016).
Povertycan be measured in many ways by different individuals. While the World Bank’smeasure of poverty is ‘the percentage of people living below an income of oneUS dollar per day’, this is not the case of those with no income but still meettheir basic needs for daily survival, and this measure does not considerdifferent average spending and different values of one US dollar betweencountries (Parker & Wilson, 2000, p. 83). In fact, poverty is not being ableto get access to basic needs such as food, shelter, clothing and clean water, basiceducation and healthcare. Poverty makes people moreprone to disease (Walraven, 2011, p. 4), and thus, this essay addresses diseasesand health conditions that are more widespread among the poor, called “diseasesof poverty”. Infectious diseases (e.g.
measles), parasitic diseases (e.g.malaria) and respiratory diseases (e.g. tuberculous) are among most common anddreadful diseases of poverty, especially in children.
The Health Poverty Action(2017) states that millions of the poorest and most vulnerable people are killedevery year by communicable diseases such as diarrhoea, tuberculosis, malaria,and HIV. They are linked with the lack of income, clean waterand sanitation, food, access to healthcare and basic education which are thecharacteristics of poor communities and countries (Rowson, 2001). One extremelyside of poverty is malnutrition. Malnutrition, more importantlyundernutrition, cause many problems, especially to children.
Undernutrition hasstrong links with diseases like diarrhoea, measles, and tuberculosis because undernutritioncan weaken resistance to acquire diseases and lower the ability to fight thedisease once it occurs; in other words, undernutrition weakens one’s immunesystem (Parker & Wilson, 2000, p. 84). Accordingto World Health Organization (2017), about 45% of deaths in children under 5worldwide are attributable to undernutrition (Children: reducing mortality). Inaddition to malnutrition, unsafe drinking water and poor sanitation are also characteristicsof poverty that cause health problems among people.
Despite the fact that the accessto clean water is important to support our lives, there are people who havelittle or no access to safe drinking water across the globe. According to WorldHealth Organization, in 2015, 2.1 people live without safely managed water sources,meaning they live on unprotected and untreated water from lakes, ponds, rivers,and streams (Drinking-water). People living in such kind of conditions areprone to water-borne diseases like diarrhoea. Moreover, poor sanitation alsoplay an important role in spreading diarrhoea. According to the Health PovertyAction (2017), approximately two million people die from diarrhoea each year,especially among children in developing countries. When discussingabout diseases of poverty, HIV and AIDS should not be forgotten. Human immuno-deficiencyvirus (HIV) is considered as a relatively new and fatal virus for low-income countriesand as the cause of acquired immuno-deficiency syndrome (AIDS) (Parker &Wilson, 2000, p.
89). HIV/AIDS is not just a sexually transmitted disease asmany would consider. Millionsof children have been born with the disease while others have been infectedwith the virus through receiving blood from infected person or using sharedneedles with infected person. HIV/AIDS is a disease of poverty because it hasemerged as the disease of the poor both in developed and developing nations. According to UNAIDS report, in 2016, approximately 36.
7 millionpeople, 2.1 million of which being children under 15, were living with HIV/AIDS.And, not surprisingly, a vast majority of infected individuals live in poorcommunities. One not-so-direct link between HIV/AIDS and poverty is education.
Vandemoortele and Delamonica (2000) introduced a term, “Education Vaccine”against HIV. Education, especially women’s schooling, is the most effective vaccineagainst HIV. Illiterate women are more ignorant about the basic facts aboutHIV/AIDS and more importantly, they are not aware that the HIV virus can betransmitted from mother to child (Vandemoortele & Delamonica, 2000). WorldBank (1993) stated that ‘Education greatly strengthens women’s ability toperform their vital role in creating healthy households’ (Parker & Wilson,2000, p. 82).
If women (and men) are educated with STDs (sexually transmitteddiseases), protected sex relationships, and basic knowledge about HIV/AIDS, manymore people each year will be protected from being infected with the disease. Unfortunately,sex education is mostly offered at schools and a large portion of world populationcan not go to school and are illiterate due to poverty.