What is Extreme Poverty?

To many of us, the term “extreme poverty” can feel somewhat vague. It’s hard to imagine what extreme poverty looks like when most of us, in our daily lives, are so far removed from it. People living in extreme poverty survive on $1.90 or less a day. To put that in perspective, poverty in the United States is considered living on $34 a day or less for a one-person household. That statistic might sound confusing at first—many people living above the poverty line may feel that they survive on less than $34 a day. But that number is not just about how much you spend on food and necessities in a day. When you factor in the monthly costs of rent, utilities, health insurance, car insurance, gas, internet, phone plans, and even services like Netflix, most people will find that they actually live on far more than $34 a day. When that cost is compared with someone living on $1.90 per day, it can be hard for us to imagine what that really looks like.

For many of us, the term “extreme poverty” typically conjures up an image of someone lacking food or housing. While this image is not wrong, extreme poverty is so much more than that view imagines. Extreme poverty affects every aspect of a person’s life.

Living in extreme poverty means much more than lacking material resources. It means trading one vital need for another just to get by. It means denying your child food for a day so you can afford to take them to the hospital. It means missing out on opportunities for work or school because you have to spend an entire day collecting water. It means your daughter missing a week of school every month because you cannot afford menstrual products. Extreme poverty can rule a person’s life, and when they cannot find a way out, it creates a cycle that their children, and their grandchildren get caught up in. It leaves people feeling hopeless and stuck. 

Eliminating extreme poverty isn’t just about helping people survive; it’s about helping them thrive. It gives parents the opportunity to raise their children to be successful enough to one day give back to their communities and the world. Eliminating extreme poverty is not just about giving a family enough food to eat or a place to sleep. It is about building up communities that are self-sustaining. 

Research and CHOICE’s own experiences in the field show: when you give people living in poverty the tools to grow and succeed, they will take them and go farther than anyone might expect. When you give people in underserved communities empowerment, they invest in their families and communities, and become a vital part of building up those around them. When you give children in poverty the chance at an education, they’ll use what they learn to not only break the cycle of poverty within their families, but often to give back to their communities too. 

Fighting extreme poverty is about so much more than a fair income. It’s about fighting for clean water, fighting for gender equity, fighting for education, and fighting for a more just, peaceful world. Many issues of injustice in the world are intertwined, and primarily affect the most vulnerable among us—in many cases, the most poor. When you fight extreme poverty, you fight against every injustice that goes along with it. When CHOICE helps a community lift themselves up, they help lift up the world.

If you would like to make a difference in ending extreme poverty, we encourage you to join The Village, where you can make an impact for as little as $0.30 a day.

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  • Choice Humanitarian