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Children and Poverty

Currently one child dies every 3 seconds due to poverty, which means that about 30,000 children die every day. Children are the first victims of poverty, this being the main cause of violations of their rights.

Definition of child poverty

Poverty is understood as “a state of existence in which a person does not have the basic necessities to live covered". A poor person “lacks what he needs”, and a poor minor is “a boy or girl who lacks what is necessary to survive”.

From an economic perspective, poverty can be defined in two ways:

Absolute poverty: Income is insufficient to support the physical needs of an individual.

Relative poverty: An individual's income is lower than that of other members of the community.

It is important to highlight that the economic definition of poverty is invariably linked to monetary wealth.

However, it cannot be defined simply in material terms, the "ability of a person to use the resources they have" must also be taken into account. (1)

Beyond the economic dimension, poverty affects other fundamental rights. The dignity and self-esteem of a person are also affected and poverty prevents the exercise of individual freedoms; it is a threat to the security of one's existence (lack of income and access to housing, health care and justice) and undermines general personal development (intellectual, cultural, family and social). (2)

Regarding children, the definition of poverty should not be limited to a consideration of insufficient financial resources. In fact, children living in poverty are also deprived of their fundamental rights and future prospects.

Poverty prevents a child from surviving and hinders all aspects of their development, be it physical, mental, emotional, cultural, social, family or spiritual.

The impact of poverty is so great that it could be considered, without a doubt, as the main cause of violations of the Rights of the Child.

Causes of child poverty

Poor children are often already born in an environment of poverty.

Poverty breeds poverty and creates a vicious circle.

(3). A child lives in poverty because his family and/or his country suffer from it.

Historically, all nations have had to face at some point the problem of misery and poverty. Today, extreme poverty affects more than one billion human beings around the world.

Poverty is on the decline, but efforts to combat it are still insufficient. However, it is not an unrealistic dream. There are solutions, what is lacking is real political will from one part of the world.

Consequence of child poverty

The consequences of child poverty are devastating. Currently, poverty kills a child every three seconds.

Poverty deprives children of the fundamental right to life. In addition, it deprives them of the opportunity to have an education and prevents them from having access to health care, clean water, food, shelter, safety and security, liberty, etc.

In this way, poverty is a real threat to children and systematically violates the Children's Rights defined in the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

How to end child poverty

It would go a long way in the fight to overcome poverty if the commitments made by States to implement fundamental rights were respected, as established in the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

"No society can truly overcome poverty without doing everything possible, in a resounding and long-term way, to ensure that all its members have the right and the possibility to receive basic health care, nutritious food and a decent education." (4)

To respect the rights of children, it is essential that extreme poverty is eradicated worldwide.

Children living in poverty may suffer from a delay in the development of gray matter and in the parietal and frontal region of the brain. This data was published (Download PDF) on December 11 in the well-known journal PLOS ONE

The research was developed by scientists at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, who performed a careful sampling that excluded data from children whose brains have been possibly affected by other factors such as: a mother who smokes or drinks during pregnancy, complications in childbirth, brain injuries, psychiatric family history, etc. This allowed them to perform an analysis of the cleansed data from 338 brain images from 77 children shortly after birth to 4-5 years of age.

This gap in brain maturation was almost nil when the data of the children were evaluated at birth

Taking the sample and carrying out the statistical analyzes, it was found that children from families living in conditions of poverty (200% below the poverty levels declared in the United States) have less gray matter (critical brain tissue in the processing of information and implementation of actions) compared to children who grew up in families with higher income. Poor children were also found to have a delay in the development of the parietal region (network center of the brain, connected to different parts to use new and stored information) and frontal region (one of the last areas of the brain to develop and important for attention and behavior control). However, this gap in brain maturation was almost nil when data from infants at birth were evaluated.

According to the researchers, this deficiency in brain development could explain why attention and learning problems are more common in disadvantaged children.

“One of the most important things here is that the brains of the infants looked very similar at birth. Over time you begin to see the gap in brain growth in children living in poverty and the richest children. Which really involves the postnatal environment, ” - Study Co-Author Seth Pollak

This maturation gap could be reduced if changes are made in public policies.

Poor nutrition, poor quality of sleep, lack of educational books and toys, parental stress, an unsafe environment, and lack of enriching activities and conversations are just some of the possible poverty-related environmental factors that affect the optimal development of children.

But it is not all bad news, if the lack of gray matter at 4 years of age is due to the lack of an enriched environment, then it means that it could be reversed. According to the researchers, this maturational gap could be reduced if changes are made in public policies that provide children with a safe and stimulating environment. Where parents can talk and comfort their children and have time to play and explore without fear and without stress.

This is another piece of research that reminds us of the profound effect that the environment can have on our biological development. It remains to be expected if this data were to mobilize support and rescue interventions for poor families.

* ScienceDaily Imagen: Ed-meister (Flickr)

* Editor's note: Added “Could” in article title.

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