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History of Poverty

Written by: Riley Wang

Date: June 2021



In our modern era, most of our generation is aware of the increasing poverty issue. As a reminder, it means that one does not possess the resources to satisfy their basic life needs. That could be represented by hunger and malnutrition, limited access to education and other basic services, social discrimination and exclusion, as well as the lack of participation in decision-making. This article will be diving deep into the history of poverty and the United Nations’ relation to this issue.



How poverty became a global problem

On a global scale, poverty became a well-known issue after the Second World War. Although poverty was invariably an issue before WW2, it was finally being acknowledged as this matter was rising exponentially around the world. However, in nations like the US and Canada after the world wars, there was a period of adjustment. Here is an example of a timeline for Canada following World War One:

  • 1920’s: This was a good time, Canada was growing its own identity

  • 1930’s: The Great Depression

  • ⅕ of the population was unemployed

  • Many companies went bankrupt

  • Many banks went bankrupt and were not able to provide to citizens

When the Great Depression hit, many communities of companies and banks went bankrupt. When this happened, there were limited employment opportunities and several people became unemployed. No income leads to issues like not having enough money for food, shelter, and basic survival needs. This prompted heavy poverty amongst several communities.


Poverty was an enormous issue in the Great Depression because it occurred amongst communities that did not have a sustainable income.


Now relate this to situations around the world. Many underdeveloped communities and extremely low-income households live in poverty as well. There usually is not enough money within the area to innovate and develop as quickly as others when a community is not sustainable economically. This creates the issues of lacking education, food, clean water, and shelter.


The United Nations’ involvement in poverty

As we now know, poverty came to be a global issue, especially after the wars. These conflicts destroy civilian communities and lives. Due to this, the UN was founded in 1945 following the second world war. The team was composed of 51 countries that were committed to maintaining international peace and security, developing friendly relations among nations, and promoting social progress, better living standards, and human rights. Since their creation, they have done the following accomplishments to help reduce poverty:

  • Of the 23.3% of people recorded as being undernourished between 1990–1992, only 12.9% now remain

  • In 1990 only 59% of births were tended to by skilled health personnel. In 2014 that figure had risen to almost 75% meaning maternal mortality was less likely

  • In Northern Africa, now 93% of people are using an improved water source

  • 20% increase in those receiving primary education between 2000 and 2015

The facts above only represent a portion of the United Nations’ historic accomplishments in helping poverty. With the help of several countries, the UN team had accomplished a phenomenal goal of decreasing this issue of the lack of education, survival needs, and sanitization.


The United Nations has already executed so much phenomenal work within this issue. As we continue to support the UN, there will be many more and larger accomplishments to help conquer poverty for the betterment of our world, society, and ourselves.


“Extreme poverty anywhere is a threat to human security everywhere”.

— Kofi Annan, Seventh Secretary-General of the United Nations




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