What is poverty?

Dictionary.com defines it as “the state or condition of having little or no money, goods, or means of support; condition of being poor.”

How many of us truly know poverty?  How many of us don’t know where our next meal is coming from?

In a lot of ways I’m seeing true poverty for the first time here in Africa.  And how do I describe it?

Last week I was in Cape Town and there you see people living in townships.  Thousands and thousands of people living in tin houses, because they can’t afford more.  Now part of the problem was apartheid and the aftermath of those policies, but seeing those townships was hard.

Here in Lesotho there is definitely poverty.  I see it when children come in malnourished or when children are left on the side of the road.  I see it driving down the street.

I was told a story about a lady who had a couple children.  Her children were hungry and they kept asking her when dinner would be ready.  She said soon, she had a pot of water boiling with something inside.  Soon the children fell asleep.  In the pot of water was stones, because she couldn’t afford food for her children.  She made her children think they were getting dinner until they fell asleep, so they wouldn’t be worried.

The choices people here have to make are choices I can’t even imagine making.  Recently the cost of a taxi ride went up R1, so about 10 cents American.  This doesn’t seem like much to you or I, but when you think about the fact that people take taxis everywhere, that’s at least R2 a day and more like R4 or R6 depending on how many taxis you need to get from your home to work and back.  When your budget is already stretched to the max, what gives?  Where do you find that extra R60-180 a month to pay for the taxi?  Do you decide not to go get your ARVs since you don’t have the funds for the taxi to get there?  Do you decide not to feed one of your children or yourself because you need the funds for a taxi to work?

How do you make that choice?  Think about this.  An HIV positive mother can give birth to an HIV negative child, but the child could contract the disease through breast feeding, but what if the mother can’t afford to by formula?  Do you go without something else to buy the formula, do you risk your child contracting HIV, or do you abandon your child because you can’t provide the child with a good life?

I can’t imagine what the mothers who abandon their children go through.  I can’t imagine making choices like these and I thank God I don’t have to.

Please join me in praying for those who have to make these types of choices, who don’t know where their next meal is coming from.  Please pray for ministries who help these people and pray for more people to get involved.

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