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Poverty In Africa

Poverty is a scary word for a lot of people. It resembles a disease which gets into every organ and kills it from inside. There is an easy cure to this illness-money, but in most cases itís an unreachable dream. There are poor people in every country in the world; however the extent of their poverty varies greatly from country to country. Taking for instance Switzerland with its profits and per capita earning, even assuming that there is a needy class of people, it is obvious that they have enough food, decent living conditions and access to medical care when required. Other parts of the world cannot claim such high standards of social security.

One of the most chaotic political systems in the modern world is found on the African continent. Historically it so occurred that there were numerous tribes, which later became countries occupied by white men who imposed their rules and culture upon their own. Those revolutionary movements caused anarchy in its governments and from that point on only money could do business. People who had money had everything, and got even more when got to the top. All of that nowadays results in a huge difference in material sense between classes. Those who are on the top will hardly ever agree to go down and those in slump will never get as much sun as the rich ones.

It is clear that poor adults are not living in paradise on earth. What about their children though? How do they survive in those conditions? It is a very complicated issue for a researcher as it has numerous issues in it and cultural features, which may not be discovered in one day. This surviving business however is a thorny route to walk on. War and disease and AIDS in particular have nearly doubled the number of orphans on the continent, from 3.5 million in 1990 to nearly 6 million in 2001.Today this number is probably over 8 million, as African population is constantly growing despite the fatal illnesses and horrible conditions of life.

Certainly there are children in Africa who live with their parents, most of them are poor and a few have money. But I would like to concentrate on those who are outcasts, who ran away from homes or who simply lost their parents. Their world is very tough where everyone takes care only of oneself. Itís not even a rule, but a mentality there says a 12 year old Bidemi Ademibo who lives at Kuramo Beach in Nigeria. She lives with other girls most of whom are orphans and one managed to escape slavery, which a lot of people believe does not exist anymore. Those girls used to live in a little shack made up with cardboards until one night a gang of young men had poured gasoline over it and set it on fire. That is how they were fighting for the space on the beach and could care less if all of them have burnt to death. They were lucky though to survive to lead their gloomy existence. Unfortunately children like Bidemi are an unavoidable sight in Africa, from Senegal to Somalia, from Egypt to South Africa. The beach on which children like Bidemi live is not a place for living really even for very tough adults. This village full of tenants is not a community but rather a collection of people who encountered trouble elsewhere and came looking for fresh opportunity in Lagos. It has been an illegal settlement for generations, but authorities could not crack it down, partially out of fear that to do so would generate unrests.

There is no running water here, vendors have to haul it in from the mainland and sell it at high prices. It can only mean that the children do not get enough water, which causes multiple disease and early deaths in Africa. There is no proper sanitation; a bay that separates the strip of beach from Victoria Island is the people's toilet. And there is no electrical service, although some people have illegally tapped into the city grid, running wires into their homes. Clearly such complete unsanitary does add to the already ďeasyĒ life of growing teenagers, and especially girls as in case with Bidemi.

Some children and even adults on the beach survive by selling fish, which they catch in the nearby contaminated canal or the ocean. Others operate small businesses out of their pathetic shacks built with cardboards. As in most societies it is harder for women than for men to survive here and they have to sell their bodies earn pennies to buy food. Surprisingly, good life is unbelievably close, so close these people can see hotels and hear the music; they just could not enjoy this life. Across the bay some of the most expensive hotels in Africa are located, where a standard room can cost $320 a night, which is more than hat people in Kuramo make working whole year.

Bidemi is only 12 but she has a rough life with new challenges every day. Being a runaway makes her an easy target for anyone who is a bit stronger that her. Especially it makes her a desirable object for men wanting sex; she says they often approach girls of different ages demanding sex and if kids are alone, men could easily get what they want. Those girls have no social security, they do not have even parents and their government could care less about such "trivial" problems as homeless unprotected and most of the time hungry children. A normal human understanding of this problem should cause people to reevaluate oneís own life and fortunes most of us are blessed with. Thinking about things through which these poor souls have to struggle makes me shiver, realizing that I have never felt real hunger or need in my life. Immediately I want to take better care of things I own and stop throwing out clothes, stop storing food in the refrigerator and then getting rid of the spoiled one. It is just such a waste of money which could be spent on something more useful. Not too many people are occupied with charity organization, even those who have time and means for it. Itís a pity that people who can save at least one life do not consider it important enough to be bothered. Those who are not in need should just be happy because of having food and roof over their heads. Compared with children such as Bidemi, most of us living in civilized world do have any serious problem as constant search for a piece of bread.

Bidemi and the rest of her gang walk to the break of the ocean in the end of an exhausting day, which was filled with helpless attempts to find a job. They splash in the cool waves of the dangerous ocean, for them though, itís the friendliest and safest place because there no people around at the time. They are happy for a moment. Turning back to reality will be unpleasant but necessary for them fragile girls, as they are fighting for life.

Submitted by:

Jeff Stats

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