Human Rights and poverty [Archives:2006/1009/Community]

December 21 2006

By: Jason Barbo
Sana'a International School
[email protected]

Poverty is the single greatest destroyer of human rights the world has ever seen. It has existed from the time men first came together into communities until this very day. It is all-prevalent, existing in every country and reigning supreme in many. It devalues human life. Poverty forces people to live and work in horrendous situations, denying them the most basic necessities and the most modest comforts. The violation of human rights is a direct cause of poverty.

I know a family who exemplifies this problem. The mother of this family has been a widow for seven years, but before her husband died they managed to produce nine children. Now the family is on the verge of starvation. Their staple is leftover bread that the neighbors are kind enough to give them. However, it is not uncommon that the whole family is forced to go entirely without food. They are garbed in rags, only enough for basic human modesty. Their home is a cave. It is a space hollowed out under an old house, about two meters by three meters in its entirety. That tiny space must house ten people. They have no running water and must buy their water and haul it to the house. It is a desperate situation.

The people most commonly responsible for taking care of a widow are her adult sons. This widow has two sons of working age. Tragically however, both are disabled. Her eldest son is completely insane, and wanders the streets all day, frightening children. The next oldest son has a nerve disorder, causing him to shake erratically. This prevents him from holding a job and providing support for his family. Worse, both of these conditions would probably be treatable if the family could afford medical and psychological help. But because they can't, the widow is forced to support her entire family, including her grown sons, by herself. Which she can only barely manage. The lives of this entire family are miserable and hard.

The most fundamental human rights of this family have been violated. Well over half of the rights mentioned in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights have been violated, but I will focus on the right most blatantly abused, Article 25. Because these people live in poverty, their rights have been ignored.

Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.

Article 25, Universal Declaration of Human Rights

In this direct quote from Article 25, we can see that this family's rights have been violated, leaving them in a desperate situation.

The family's standard of living is not adequate for their health and welfare. They do not have enough food, clothing or housing. They do not have security, though they suffer from widowhood, sickness, disability, and unemployment. They do not have any of these things because they are poor.

'Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance.' In another direct quote from Article 25 we can again see how far poverty has driven this family from what should be. This family has received no care or assistance of any kind, despite the many children in the family and their widowed mother. Their poverty does not allow them to have even the most basic rights, those that are essential for survival.

This family's rights have been violated, and poverty is the obvious cause. But who is responsible for poverty? The answer is that we are. Every person on this planet must take their stand firmly against poverty. Society as a whole must stop pretending that poverty either does not exist or is not a problem. It most certainly exists and it is our problem. We need to realize the issue and work as a society to help the poor. Governments must take more active roles against poverty, destroying its causes at their sources and protecting those who live in poverty. Governments must work to solve the problem of poverty. Poverty is a blatant violator of human rights and we must work to stop it.