How do people get trapped in poverty?

Every day our team here in Uganda are working with people from the local community that live in poverty. Lack of education, unemployment or low paying jobs, inequality and failing systems, along with many other factors, all contribute to poverty.  Generational poverty is common because people can see no way out, so we are doing all we can to help people break the cycle.


These are some of the common factors that can trap a family in poverty:


  1. Missing out on a quality education

Poverty and lack of education go hand in hand.  In Uganda education is not free.  In addition to school fees supplies such as school books, uniforms, and the cost of transport can be too expensive for a family who is struggling to survive.


For children who do attend school many graduate from primary school without learning how to read and write. This can be due to overcrowded classrooms, a lack of school resources, too few teachers, and frequent absences due to sickness.


Dropping out of school to work can trap children into a cycle of low-paying jobs while leaving school without the basic foundations can do the same.


  1. Working hard but earning little

In Uganda steady wage employment is the exception not the norm.  Demand for jobs with a reliable income far exceeds their availability.  A lack of employment opportunities means many parents living in poverty turn to self-employment.  But because there are few opportunities for them to earn enough to escape poverty they are working hard but earning little.  These families are known as “the working poor”, where at least one member is working but the household still lives on less than $2 per day.


  1. Less access to food and safe water

Poverty can create a vicious cycle of food insecurity and poor health.  When faced with a limited budget food is often the first thing to be affected.  Families may be forced to skip meals or choose food with lower nutritional value.  A lack of food, or choosing food with poor nutrition, can lead to malnutrition which has far-reaching consequences for children.  Malnourished children have less energy and are less likely to go to school.  They’re more vulnerable to sickness and more likely to struggle academically.


Without access to a water source children and women can spend long hours walking to collect it which cuts into time they could be learning at school or earning an income.  Unsafe water puts families at risk of water-related disease which also impacts school and work attendance and means they are more likely to incur medical expenses.


  1. Increased vulnerability to sickness and disease

Poverty often forces people to live in homes and communities without decent shelter, clean water or adequate sanitation.  Some communities can be very crowded which leads to the spread of disease and makes children and families more vulnerable to falling sick.


  1. Limited access to medical care

The majority of health issues facing families living in poverty are preventable or treatable yet they are often unable to access and pay for basic healthcare and medicines.  Uganda does not fund a public health system and families in rural areas face an even bigger barrier in accessing healthcare.


  1. More dependents

Parents living in poverty may have more dependents to care for including children, elderly family members and extended relatives.  There are complex and surprising reasons why families in poverty may have large families: it’s not as simple as not having access to contraception.  These include high child mortality rates, limited access to education, religious beliefs and a need for extra labour.


But there is good news! 


Despite the things that can keep families trapped in poverty we know the cycle can be broken.  Right now more than 1300 children in our Child Sponsorship Program are being supported and empowered to live a life free from poverty.


Operation Uganda’s Child Sponsorship Program helps to break the cycle of poverty through the provision of quality education, access to skills based training, mentoring, health care and supplementary food as required.


You can join with us in the fight against poverty and sponsor a child for just $45 per month. CLICK HERE TO SPONSOR A CHILD and together we can bring more children and their families out of poverty.


Author: Karen Evans

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