Are most of the developing world's poverty problems reserved for sub sahara africa

I was reading something on the millenium project and they said that 8 million deaths a year occur in the developing world from poverty related causes, and that 6 million of these are in sub sahara Africa. Is this actually true, are most of the deaths from poverty reserved for this part of the world? What about latin america, or India or south east Asia?

I know China has largely conquered the problems of extreme poverty, but to my knowledge India still had major problems, as did parts of latin america and some other parts of south east Asia with disease and malnutrition.

This is a very complex question, and I won’t even pretend that I’m qualified to answer comprehensively, but in simplified and broadly accurate terms… sub Saharan Africa is a mess.

Africa has a lot of separate ethnic groups that have been forced to co-exists. It’s quite unlike most of Asia where there have always been empires and nations that have forced homogeneity on different populations over recent millennia. It’s also quite unlike the Americas where the natives peoples were all but exterminated and culturally eliminated. Africa has a lot of largely intact cultural groups that are numerous enough to remain powerful and cohesive. They have also been foisted upon one another because of arbitrary colonial borders. As a result sub-Saharan Africa has been the scene of almost endless wars, both civil and ‘international. There’s nothing to create poverty and death quote like war. When you add to the wars the results of ethnic ‘discrimination’ such as we’ve seen in Zimbabwe in the last few weeks it’s hardly surprising that there are problems with poverty.

That’s compounded because few sub-Saharan states ever managed to achieve any sort of national bureaucracy before being colonised, indeed most had no written language and that lone makes effective bureaucracy impossible. Most Asian states already had a solid (if feudal) government system in place when they were conquered. The colonists moved in an imposed there own administration to some degree, but the culture and the people were already entirely familiar with effective bureaucracy. In contrast most if not all sub-Saharan states were little more than tribal states. Even the ‘empires’ were largely just one tribe forcing tribute from surrounding tribes. There were no formalised legal systems, no effective methods of taxation and so forth. It was essentially a free for all with the strong extracting whatever they could from the weak with little thought for long term social cohesion.

When the region was colonised the colonists tended to insert their own bureaucrats at the upper levels. The ‘natives’ were relegated to minor bureaucratic positions. The people were never taught how to actually run a country or even how a country should be run. The local rulers were simply slotted into the system below the “King over the sea”, there was no attempt at working towards self-government. When independence was granted it was generally done fast with little more then the colonial power designating someone as ‘president’ and walking out. Very few people had any idea how to go about running a nation and the common people certainly had no idea of how a nation should be run or how to ‘control’ their leaders.

Not surprisingly massive corruption and inefficiency inevitably resulted and usually military despots rapidly rose to power. That wasn’t helped by the fact that independence inevitably coincided with the Cold War. Both sides were more than willing to support anyone who wanted to become a military despot provided that he stated that he supported their position. Under the circumstances the chances of getting anything but a military dictatorship was impossible. Unfortunately the military dictatorships they got were incompetent and ineffective simply because there was no bureaucracy to enable them to produce a sustainable system, control corruption and embezzlement, control the economy or maintain border security and so forth. And without those basic necessities the was effectively no state, just a bunch of people with a common ruler forced upon them.

I guess the main thing to remember is that the world currently produces far more food than we can possible consume. We dump it in the ocean and burn it and pay people not to produce it just so we don’t have massive piles of rotten food lying around. We also have the ability and the will to transport food and medical aid anywhere it’s needed* provided the transports don’t get shot at or stolen*. What that means is that almost nobody in the world is dying as a result of poverty except where wars and ethnic strife are making it impossible for foreign aid to reach them. Or more simply put, the only reason people die of poverty is because other people want them to. And Africa is the main place where that is occurring for the reasons given above.

Parts of SE Asia may have problems with malnutrition and disease but they are open to international aid organisations and as a result deaths are limited. Similarly India may have problems associated with poverty in some regions but there is nothing preventing both internal and international aid agencies from getting in there and saving lives. That’s in stark contrast from sub-Saharan Africa where governments are deliberately preventing aid reaching people, or where governments are stealing aid as fast as it can arrive, or where the local rebels will shoot aid workers in site. In the last fortnight for example the dictator in Zimbawe has destroyed the homes of over a quarter of a million of his opponents in the middle of winter and driven them out into the countryside at gunpoint. He is hardly likely to allow the Red Cross to build new houses for them. It’s impossible to deal with poverty under those circumstances, and those circumstances are really only widespread in Africa/. They may occur in isolated patches of other parts of the world but it’s rare. In general even military dictators elsewhere welcome international aid agencies looking after their people. And while they may steal aid they rarely steal all of it.

I guess it all comes down to stable government. Basically Africa just hasn’t got it and isn’t likely to get it in the short term. People are dying due to pverty in Africa because someone in power wants them to die, not because the world lacks the resoucres to prevent their deaths.

There’s also the malaria factor, which National Geographic News claims is “the single biggest killer of children under five” and kills over a million people a year. Given the situation Blake outlined above, it might seem plausible that since sub-saharan Africa is plagued by both malaria and inadequate medical facilities, the poor of those countries would have a higher death rate than elsewhere.

Malaria as a disease is important, but it’s ultimately just another disease. Remember that malaria was a standard disease throughout Africa, Mediterranean Europe and Asia, SE Asia, much of China, Japan, Central America and the southern US and Northen Australia. It’s been a resident disease as far north as Scotalnd and New England.

My point is that malaria isn’t a particularly African disease, it’s a human disease. Doubtless malaria is felt more in Africa but so are HIV, measles and rabies. The real question therfore is why Africa is plagued by mopre disease than anywhere else on the planet. Why does Africa suffer a higher death rate from almost any disease you care to mention?

While a million people a year is trivial it still has to be put in perspective. The ongoing war in the Congo region alone is killing about a quarter of a million people a year. It’s not hard to believe that all African wars, ethnic cleansing and so forth are killing far more people than malaria claims worldwide.

Malaria is only killing a million people a year worldwide. In contrast HIV is kiling 2.5 million people a year in Sub Sharan Africa alone.

The deliberately engineered famine in Zimbabwe alone currently threatens to kill about 7 million people, and almost certainly will if foreign aid can’t get through.

That kind of puts it into perspective. Malaria is a serious problem, but malaria is the cause or even a serious to Africa’s problems. Malaria is a symptom of a region in turmoil. It’s causing deaths because of the turmoil in social structures, it’s not causing it. And sad toi say if it isn’t malaria it will be something else while those conditions continue.

Well if you read Paul Farmer or some of the other critics of structural adjustment policies as they impact health systems, Africa and other poor regions are hit especially hard by disease in part due to crushing economic conditions. Many of those conditions are in turn the result of international trade and debt policy, and those conditions themselves are in large part derived from a colonial legacy.

Why isn’t malaria a problem in the US and many places in the world anymore?

To sum it up in one word: DDT

I’m trying not to sound political here but it comes down to a choice: thinning egg shells or a million lives a year. Take your pick.

The only problem with that is that sub Saharan Africa is one of the few places in the world where DDT is still widely used.

That’s not to say that DDT isn’t and wasn’t useful in controlling malaria but it’s only one of a number of solutions that are needed to actuallt control the disease. The others are adequate hygeine, anti-malarial drugs and so forth. And as with all other diseases the politucal and economic situation in Africa makes it impossible to implement the required solutions.

I’m a big fan of DDT but to say that it’s a panaceae for malaria in Africa doesn’t make any sense given that it’s more widely used in Africa than anywhere else.

Observe Rank Order: GDP per capita. African countries predominate at the bottom of the list.

Observe Rank Order: Life Expectancy at Birth Ditto.

As to why this is the case, that’s a GD, really.

Some of the exceptions are interesting:
Sri Lanka has a reasonably high life expectancy (73, #95), but a low GDP per capita: ($4000, #142 on the list).

The US has a high GDP per capita: ($40,100, #2), but a surprisingly low life expectancy, given its wealth (77.7, #46 on the list).

Laos and Cambodia are 2 nonAfrican countries with lousy stats.

Which have both experienced quite a bit of war in recent history. Laos and Cambodia were both involved in the Vietnam War, and Cambodia had the Khmer Rouge killing more than 1/5 of the population. They both have problems with land mines and unexploded ordnance to this day.

Sounds like their problems come from some of the same sources as sub-Saharan Africa’s.

Yes, but there’s also Vietnam which suffered war but attained a life expectancy 70.6, and a per capital GDP of $2700.

Then there’s Bhutan (in the Himalayas) which has a life expectancy of 54 and income of only $1400 per person. AFAIK, Bhutan is a monarchy that hasn’t suffered the sort of wars that other countries have (though militias will on occasion set up on the borders of this weak state: http://www.kantipuronline.com/kolnews.php?&nid=2580).)

Bhutan is also landlocked, which is a bad thing for economic development.

Life is complicated.

For those interested, the World Bank (and others) have done a number of cross-country statistical studies that relate various “inputs” (education, openness to trade, geography, corruption, etc.) to outputs such as health or income per person.