Africa and Poverty

This article was published on July 16, 2020.

Africa – a continent known for its lush jungles, vast deserts, various cultures, and unfortunately, poverty. Africa’s poverty is known around the world, but the reasons aren’t talked about that often. Africa used to be extremely wealthy during the 1200s. An example of this is Mansa Musa I, who was the king of Mali during that time. It was said that he had a lot of wealth. He was considered extremely influential worldwide and even developed embassies in Spain, Morocco, and Egypt. Unfortunately, European conquest diminished the wealth in Africa. Great Britain, Portugal, France, and many other European countries conquered Africa, each putting a stake in the wealth there. After African countries developed their freedom, it was too late. The entire continent had to start from scratch.

The situation gets worse from there. Governments in many African countries are ruled by dictators, army generals, or the extremely wealthy. This type of ruling has never benefited the common people because the rulers are busy trying to look out for themselves and their comforts. The common man never receives the attention they deserve and basic institutions are never developed. The lack of hygienic water, proper housing, education, food, infrastructure, and immunization all add to the problem as well. According to The Hunger Project, 736 million people are living in poor conditions in Africa. Although there are many protests going on to establish a democratic system, they are often suppressed and put out by the ruling leader(s).

Africa is also a host of many diseases. Malaria, Ebola, Zika, and many others are a huge problem in Africa. With the lack of proper institutions, immunization is hard to get through as well. Many children and adults die every year due to the lack of immunization. According to SOS Children’s Villages, 25 million Africans have HIV. This is quite a huge number. SOS Children’s Villages has also stated that 1 in 11 children in Africa dies before their 5th birthday, which is even more heartbreaking. What is so sad and scary is that the fact that the leaders of African countries are aware of this, but unfortunately, they aren’t doing anything to help the situation.

Education is another huge problem in Africa. Most children do not have the opportunity to go to school. SOS Children’s Villages has stated that “59 million children between the ages of 5-17 go to work instead of attending school.” This is child labor. Kids at this age should be learning about how the world around them works and should be playing out in the sun with their friends, not doing manual labor! This, again, has partly to do with the poor institutions in Africa, but it also had to do with extremist groups.

Extremist groups such as al-Qaeda, Boko Haram, ISIS, Ansar-al-Sharia, and Al Shabab are further deteriorating the lives of many innocent people. Why? It’s because these groups want to establish the sharia law. These groups often take extreme measures to get what they want. Such groups create an environment of turmoil and destruction, which would not help the common people. Because of this, many African countries struggle to give what the common people want. These extremists leave countries as a war-zones. They spread hatred and destruction, which further hurts the people. Boko Haram, one of the extremist groups, kidnapped 276 school girls. According to BBC, 163 of these girls have gone back to their families, with 112 girls still in captivity. BBC has said that a Nigerian reporter who has ties to Boko Haram claimed that 15 of those 112 girls are alive.

It gives me the chills to know that all of this is going on. Just think about it. Parents don’t know whether their child will come back safely or not. Children don’t have enough to eat. Children are working in factories or farms to make sure their family has enough money to pay for food and shelter. Millions of people are dying due to famine, diseases, or war. People have to drink polluted and contaminated water. People are revolting against their government because they are tired of being oppressed. Children and adults are living in constant fear over whether they will be alive the next day or not because of an extremist group in their country. This is happening to an entire continent! The sad and unfortunate part of this scenario is that there are not much countries can do, but, and here comes a huge but, we as individuals can help the situation. If each and every one of us can contribute a little, then we can make changes and help those in need.

One thing that you can do is donate to UNICEF. UNICEF is a non-profit organization that helps children around the world by providing them basic necessities. You can choose the amount of money you want to donate, and that donation will go toward a child in need. You can also buy one of their gifts in their store. You can choose either an inspired gift or a regular gift. An inspired gift means you choose a specific item to buy and that gift goes to those in need. An example of this is vaccination for certain diseases. You can buy a kit that has vaccinations of certain diseases, and that kit goes to someone in need. You can also buy a regular gift. Regular gifts, such as necklaces, are created by kids around the world. If you purchase any regular gift item, that item’s money goes towards helping children in need.

Africans are facing many challenges in their countries, but they live with hope, which is one of the most beautiful things in the world.