Poverty as defined by the United Nations is a denial of choices and opportunities, a violation of human dignity. It means lack of basic capacity to participate effectively in society. It means not having enough to feed and cloth a family, not having a school or clinic to go to, not having the land on which to grow one’s food or a job to earn one’s living, not having access to credit. It means insecurity, powerlessness and exclusion of individuals, households and communities. It means susceptibility to violence, and it often implies living on marginal or fragile environments, without access to clean water or sanitation (UN Statement, 1998).
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The major areas of the world that are prone to the evil of poverty are the countries of Africa and Asia. There are many countries in Africa where the people are not able to meet their one ends meal. We can also see from the figure below that especially in the central part of Africa or Sub-Saharan countries most of the people struggle very hard to earn even $3-$9 per day and to make their living. Central African Republic (CAR) which is a part of Sub-Saharan African countries is one those countries where people face this problem.
Central African Republic
CAR, a former French colony of Ubangi-Shari became the Central African Republic upon independence in 1960.
The Central African Republic ranks 171 as a poor country. The Central African Republic is classified as one of the world’s least developed countries, with an estimated annual per capita income of $310 (2000). While real incomes in Africa have risen ten-fold whereas they have been stagnated in CAR. Central African Republic has also seen no improvement on almost every indicator from health, education and governance to the ease of doing business.
Causes of Poverty in CAR
There are many factors that ignite the fire of poverty in CAR in which poor agriculture conditions and lack of adequate medical facilities are the main causes. Agriculture is the backbone of its unstable economy. Also the hospitals and medical institutes of CAR are unable in providing the good and necessary medical facilities. The other main problems with development are the poor transportation infrastructure, and the weak internal and international marketing system (US department, 1989).
Lack of education and awareness is also one factor that hinders the development of the country by coming in the path of an individual’s social life. Female are still kept apart with the bookish knowledge. Only 32% of the total female population was able to make it up to secondary school where as the adult literacy rate for men is 54% (UN, 2009).
Central African Republic has one of the least developed economies in the world. The GDP per capita here in 2008 is only $700 (CIA, 2008 est.). A major factor behind its bad economy is its landlocked position and misdirected macroeconomic policies of government. Income distribution is unequal throughout the nation. Although it receives grants from France and other international communities but its only enough to meet the humanitarian needs (Barro, Robert J., 1995).
GDP growth slowed to an estimated 2.2% in 2008 from 3.7% in 2007. The economy suffered a number of shocks that depressed activity and led to the disappointing result electricity outages, a plunge in timber and diamond exports, higher international food and fuel prices, and continuing social tensionsInvalid source specified..
The Central African Republic’s economy is dominated by the cultivation and sale of food crops such as yams, cassava, peanuts, maize, sorghum, millet, sesame, and plantains. The most important export of the CAR is diamond that accounts 40-55% of export revenues, but an estimated 30-50% of the diamonds produced each year leave the country clandestinely. The shares of the three agricultural value-added sectors in Sub-Saharan African countries consist of 28% for export crops, 45% for cereals, and 27% for other agriculture (Janvry and Sadoulet, 2001, pp. 1). Poor economic development hinders the export trade, and the location of this country far from the coast. Most of the rural and urban women are indulge in the work of transformation of some food crops into alcoholic drinks like sorghum beer or hard liquor and derive considerable income from the sale of these drinks. In CAR, subsistence farming prevails. Only 4% of the arable land is cultivated each year and more than one in three children under the age of five are chronically malnourished.
The importance of food crops over exported cash crops is illustrated by the fact that the total production of cassava, the staple food of most Central Africans, ranges between 200,000 and 300,000 tons a year, while the production of cotton, the principal exported cash crop, ranges from c. 25,000 to 45,000 tons a year. Food crops does not constitute in the principal cash crops of the country because Central Africans derive far more income from the periodic sale of surplus food crops than from exported cash crops such as cotton or coffee. The Sub-Saharan African economies are remarkable for the large share of agriculture in GDP (47%), and hence the large potential aggregate growth effects derived from technological change in agriculture. For the rural poor, income derived from agriculture is 67% of total income, with the remaining 32% derived from wage earnings. For them, an agricultural commodity makes a large share (72%) of total consumption.
Children and Women Sector
The conditions of children and women are very pathetic in this country. They are often deprived of their rights. Children are unable to get proper and required education. They find it very hard to get even primary education. Women also work very hard in their homes to add some income for their family. Also one of the biggest evils that are in common practice here is children and women trafficking.
The CAR is an origin for trafficking in children and women. Children are trafficked to Cameroon. Children from Chad, Nigeria, and Sudan are reportedly trafficked to the Central African Republic. There is also internal trafficking in the Central African Republic. According to the recent study of the United Nations Children’s Fund trafficking in African women and children that are done for forced prostitution or labor is caused due to war, poverty, and flawed or nonexistent birth registration systems. “Poverty aggravates already desperate conditions caused by conflict, discrimination, and repression, and unregistered children are easy to move between countries because they never formally acquire a nationality.”(Fowler, 2004) The study also found that the population which is most vulnerable to trafficking in Africa consist of 3.3 million refugees and 12.7 million internally displaced persons (UNICEF)(Fowler, 2004).
Education system in Central African Republic is also a major factor that encourages poverty. Also only 50% of the children in CAR are enrolled in primary school. The other 50% lacks in opportunity to receive even the most basic education because of violence, poverty, or also because there are no teachers, facilities or materials with which to operate a school.
With its Poverty Reduction Strategy, the Central African government has announced several goals that are intended to focus efforts in the education sector that includes achieving universal primary education, improving the quality of education in general, developing literacy programs, developing short professional training courses and professionalizing higher education. Also this sector is so important that it is also considered as one of the eight goals in Millennium Development Goals. The obstacles are many, but the past has shown that humanitarian organizations working in tandem with the government can achieve positive results (United Nations, 2008).
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Life expectancy of its meager population 4.3 million ranges from 43.46 to 43.62 years. The major threat to the people there is HIV. People are at very high degree of risk to many other fatal diseases like malaria, hepatitis-A, malaria and rabies. As estimated in 2004 there were fewer than 3 physicians and 9 nurses per 100,000 people (Whiteside, A., 2002)
According to United Nations approximately 11% of the population aged between 15 and 49 is HIV positive. About 13.5% of its population is at risk of AIDS. During 2003 approximately 23000 adults and children died of HIV/AIDS epidemic. Also by the end of 2003 about 110,000 children lost one or both of their parents to AIDS. The main reason that led to the deterioration of basic health services in the country is political instability and civil conflicts, thus weakening the national response to this epidemic (WHO, 2005).
As the people Central African Republic earns a very low-income it is very hard for them to meet the very high cost of drugs that is needed for their treatment. There are concerns about the adequate availability of antiretroviral drugs and financial capacity to sustain the cost of providing antiretroviral therapy free of user charges in the public sector. Additional support is required for decentralization process to ensure that services are accessible at the district level.
During 2004-2005 WHO estimated that CAR requires between US$ 31.1 million and US$ 32.3 million to scale up antiretroviral therapy to reach the WHO “3 by 5” treatment target of 19 500 people (WHO, 2005).
A successful proposal which focuses on scaling up voluntary counseling and testing services, preventing mother-to-child transmission and improving access to antiretroviral therapy was submitted to the Global Fund by the Central African Republic to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria with a total funding request of US$ 25 million.
It can be seen that Central African Republic is facing many problems these days related from agriculture to health care system. As we can see that the major problem in front of the country’s growth is the HIV AIDS. Also government needs to come up with more effective development programs. Government and the localities should think to improve the backbone of its economy. Despite having some of the most fertile land in Africa, the agricultural sector in the Central African Republic (CAR) has languished severely. A combination of insecurity, a lack in security, trade routes, of infrastructure, tools and skills has conspired against a country otherwise blessed with natural resources.
V. T. LeVine, Political Leadership in Africa (1967).
P. Kalck, Central African Republic: Economy (tr. 1971).
Barro, Robert J., Inflation and Economic Growth (October 1995). NBER Working Paper No. W5326. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=225390
Jonathan Fowler, “UNICEF: Human Trafficking in Africa Fueled by War, Economic Hardship, and Lack of Birth Registration,” Associated Press, 23 April 2004.
UN Statement, June 1998 -signed by the heads of all UN agencies.
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