Monday, May 9, 2011

Poverty

Coming back here to the safe confines and wealth of Mississauga, it really makes me realize what the poverty I witnessed in cities in Tanzania really means.

According to the CIA World Factbook, 9.4% of Canadians live under the poverty line.  In Tanzania that number jumps to 36%.  That number has to be taken with a grain of salt, because wealth in both countries are not created equally.  To use another arbitrary number, Tanzania's GDP per capita is $1,500USD (2010) and ranks 201st in the world and Canada's is $39,600 and ranked 22nd.  (For the record according to the CIA, Qatar ranks number 1 as of 2010 at $145,300.  Ever wondered one of the reasons why they got the World Cup?)

But the point of this post is to explain what I saw and my personal opinion.

Poverty in Mwanza, Arusha, Bagamoyo, Zanzibar, Dar es Salaam, Tanga, Moshi, and arguably Tanzania as one large generalization, is nothing that the vast majority of Canadians have ever seen or even imagined.

We have this image of a poor person or someone living in poverty having to shop at Goodwill or get their groceries at the foodbank.  While that example is deplorable, especially in a country like Canada, we have systems in place to help those in need.  We have a social security net.  From employment insurance to social welfare, Canada helps (for the most part, I won't get into how we treat our Aboriginal population or how things are gradually changing for the worse) its citizens in need.

On the other hand, poor in Tanzania literally means people with nothing and with no support whatsoever or very little at best.  I've seen children catch buckets of water that looked like untreated waste to drink and use for cooking and bathing.  Brown, filthy water.  People living with no electricity and no running water.

I had a term called "babies holding babies", because children (babies) no older than 5 or 6 were caring for babies not much younger than them.  And some of these kids will never be able to go to school because their parents either can't afford to send them or they can't afford for that child not to work to support their household.

I'm not trying to paint a picture that the whole of Tanzania is an image of Worldvision's "Africa" with children with flies on their faces.  And I hope my posts and photos over the past four months have shown that.  What I really want to get across is that there are people in the world that live one day at a time just trying to survive with what little they have and we complain because we always want more of what we don't need.

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