Staring stark poverty in the face

There is a Kinyarwanda saying which goes ‘Utaranigwa agaramye agira ngo ijuru riri hafi.’

There is a Kinyarwanda saying which goes ‘Utaranigwa agaramye agira ngo ijuru riri hafi.’

Loosely translated, it means that if you’re not facing hard times, you tend to assume that others have it easy, too.

Millions of people endure living in abject poverty wondering why some of their neighbours aren’t so unfortunate.

While some people perceive poverty primarily in economic terms, it must be realized that poverty comes with serious social, political and spiritual disadvantages.

In our nation’s battle against poverty, some well-off families and individuals have learned to help their poorer neighbours. Others, meanwhile, feed on the system, earning their riches on the backs of the poor.

As a direct consequence of the 1994 Genocide, many households are headed by women, others by orphans.

Many of our citizens have become landless peasants living in conditions of extreme poverty.

Former State minister of local government and social affairs Dr. Odette Nyiramirimo presented her poverty reduction strategy in 2000 in South Africa.

“Rwanda’s history left her with two challenges, economic structural bottlenecks inherited and the 1994 Genocide that left a legacy of specific problems that need to be addressed like absolute poverty,” Nyiramirimo said.

She added that Rwanda’s high incidence of poverty, as well as its particular depth, have made the phenomenon particularly hard to overcome. Rwanda’s low agricultural productivity also contributes to the problem.

In a 1985 survey by the National Institute of Research and Statistics, 40% of households fell below the poverty line. In the 1990s, the number of households living below the poverty line rose from a pre-genocide level of 53% in 1993 to a whopping 70% in 1997.

Media reports have indicated that most of people living in Rwanda live below poverty line.

It is always hard to raise a child in a poor family because they’re bound to meet children that are more fortunate and get jealous as a result.

Oliver Mukeshimana, 26, is an orphan living in a settlement house in Kinyinya, which is in Gasabo district.

The settlements were built for those living in absolute poverty.

After the Genocide, Mukeshimana became the head of a reconstituted family. She adopted three children after losing most of her family members.

“I lost seven brothers and my parents, the ones I have are from another related families, as you know we have extended family in Africa,” said Mukeshimana who fought back tears as she spoke in an interview.

“It is so had raising people in the same age group, when I started (adopting them), I hard no single idea of how it is going to be, I only wanted to help these young children so as they have someone close to them, it was and still hard situation for me till I decided to surrendered everything to God and so them too,” Mukeshimana added.

Mukeshimana says that her adopted children are now teenagers who want the same standard of life as the other kids at their school.

Providing that life has become a challenge for her.

“They want to be like others, they desire expensive shoes, clothes, pocket money even when they see it is hard for me to get their basic scholastic materials like books and pens for them,” said the sort, dark woman, frowning in sadness.

Although Mukeshimana is a determined-sounding woman, poverty denied her the right to go to school. She had to make sacrifices so her sisters could survive.

She is not the only orphan heading a family. T

hierry Hakorimana is a 17 year-old who also heads a family of three young siblings and has also failed to get an education.

Over ten child-headed families reside in Kinyanya settlement houses and there are many more throughout the nation.

Jack Sezikeye is also a child-parent but he was lucky: he was able to access education now at his third year in public administration at Universite Libre de Kigali (ULK).

He got the necessary money from a government fund for genocide survivors.

Even though he was elected by his neighbours to represent them as Umukuru w’umudugudu (local leader or the head of a settlement, a prestigious title), Sezikeye said he struggles to be the head of the family with no job.

“You look around, no where to run to, and yourself you are schooling and not working, and just don’t know what will happen tomorrow but government and NGOs have really tried to make us go through,” Sezikeye said.

He continued that about 456 people in 110 families in Kinyinya settlement have received a generous hand from government and non-government institutions since they settled two years ago.

Their settlement is comprised of very old widows, orphans and physically disabled people.

They recently received a donation from Canadian volunteers affiliated with a Rwandan non-government organisation called NU-Vision Ministries.

A six-member team donated a she-goat to each of the 48 families living in the settlement.

The Canadian team was co-led by the NU-Vision Ministries boss Martine Rusanga and coordinator Gerald Gasangwa.

Helping the poor as best they can is becoming a priority among Rwandans and their friends.

NU-Vision Ministries has also constructed a high school in Kabuga with the capacity to accommodate over 700 students when completed.

With the support of the Canadian and American volunteers, the NU-Vision High School will register needy students. NU-Vision has managed to pay tuition fees to over 200 students.

Rwanda is not the only country facing poverty. It’s a worldwide problem.

Researchers have said that a half of the world, nearly three billion people live on less than two dollars a day.

They have found that the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the poorest 48 nations -- that is to say a quarter of the world’s countries -- is less than the wealth of the world’s three richest people combined.

And in the world’s poorest countries, debt repayments are being extracted directly from people who neither contracted the loans nor received any of the money.

According to UNICEF, 30,000 children under five years of age die each day due to poverty.

They die quietly in some of the poorest villages on earth, far removed from the scrutiny and the conscience of the world. Being meek and weak in life makes these dying multitudes even more invisible in death.

That number translates to 210,000 children each week or just under 11 million children, each year.

Reports from UN population agency(UNFPA)estimates that some 1.1 billion people in developing countries have inadequate access to water; 2.6 billion lack basic sanitation.

That’s almost two in every three people that lack access to clean water.

These people survive on less than $2 a day, with one in three living on less than $1 a day. That translates to a group of more than 385 million.

Access to plumbing averages about 85% for the wealthiest 20% of the world’s population, compared with 25% for the poorest 20%.

There are at least 1.8 billion people who have access to a water source within one kilometer, but not in their house or yard.

In the United Kingdom, the average person uses more than 50 litres of water a day flushing toilets (where average daily water usage is about 150 liters a day. The highest average water use in the world is in the US, at 600 liters day.)

 Around the world, 27,000 to 30,000 children die every day. That is equivalent to one child dying every three seconds, 20 children dying every minute, or 10–11 million children dying every year.

Over 50 million children died between 2000 and 2005. The silent killers are poverty, easily preventable diseases and illnesses, and other related causes.

Staff Writer

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