What do Flint and Ethiopia Have in Common?

The thing about poverty is that many of us assume it happens to “other” people. Poverty is not something we take into account when we are going to work, eating our meals or making life decisions. We largely live with the idea that once we are stable, our lives will stay that way. Sure, it could ebb and flow a bit, but for the most part, we assume that we will not slip under the poverty line.

But this assumption comes from a lack of adequate education on the cycles of poverty. How do people fall into poverty, and can’t get out? Aren’t some people just born into it and others aren’t? Sometimes, yes. But others, it’s a slow process of a city, a village, town or family who—for a variety of reasons—cannot access the necessities of life: food, water and shelter. When these basic needs are not and cannot be met, things begin to unravel.

Take Flint, Michigan, for example. The people of Flint are ordinary Americans, but they are facing a huge problem: Their water is completely contaminated, and they no longer can turn on their faucets and use it. The water has been polluted with metals and toxins, making it unable to be used for drinking, washing or cleaning. Because water is vital to life, residents of Flint have resorted to buying bottled water and using it for drinking, washing dishes, taking showers and anything else you’ve ever turned on your faucet for.

Water is a key issue for survival around the world.

Let’s do that math on the financial burden that places on a family: One water bottle costs around $1.50. The average 8-minute shower uses 17 gallons of water, the average dishwasher uses 6 gallons, and a person should be drinking at least half their body weight in ounces of water per day. Suddenly, water that was once a small item under the category of a “utility” has become your biggest line in the budget.

But it doesn’t end there. Not only are Flint residents forced to spend money on clean water at an alarming rate, but they are seeing medical issues in their children related to metal poisoning and now must undergo copays, medicinal treatments and more all to be able to survive.

This adds up, doesn’t it?

The problem, however, is not necessarily just these extra line items that suddenly are a reality. Many people face issues like this and make the necessary adjustments. The problem is that those who own homes, have businesses or are in a rental contract are all trapped. They are tied to their assets and cannot sell or lease as no one wants to live in a city with water that causes metal poisoning.

These people are facing a choice: They either stay put while watching business slow, their families get sicker and their financial security slips away, or they walk away from all of it, because becoming homeless and starting over is better than being trapped, sick and below the poverty line.

Can you fathom making a choice like this?

This hits close to home because it’s here in the United States. Flint is one example of how people all over the world get stuck in a cycle of poverty that they cannot escape from. Our mission at Food for the Hungry (FH) has always been to enter a community and to STOP the cycle of poverty in it’s tracks by supplying ways to get clean water and teaching people how to farm, save money, cultivate land, teach proper hygiene and education and more. We understand that people get stuck in poverty, and provide basic elements and teach them skills that enable them to use these elements. It’s a small step in the long process of getting unstuck and starting a new life.

Sekota drought

Sekota drought

Clean water is only one of the ways that we provide solutions to help end this horrific cycle. Currently, one of our biggest water efforts is in Ethiopia, as Ethiopians are facing the worst drought they have in 50 years—putting millions of people in danger of starvation. Would you consider contributing to our efforts in Ethiopia and elsewhere around the world? None of us are immune to poverty, so let’s reach out and help others who are feeling it’s devastating effects.