I wrote this circa 1998.
Ending Child Poverty
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates 181.6 million underweight pre-school aged children among the world’s developing nations. WHO estimates there are 210.5 million stunted pre-school aged children and 46.1 million wasted pre-school aged children living in the world’s developing nations.
The World Health Organization summarizes its concerns, “Our findings confirm the great magnitude of undernutrition which, more than any other disability, continues to hamper the physical growth and mental development of more than a third of the world's children. Indeed, it is a major threat to their very survival.” [emphasis added]
The National Center for Children in Poverty at the Joseph L. Mailman School of Public Health of Columbia University reports that,
* The number of American young children living in poverty increased from 3.5 million in 1979 to 5.2 million in 1997. The young child poverty rate grew by 20 percent during that same period.
* 22 percent of young children in America live in poverty, i.e., in families with incomes below the federal poverty line ($12,802 for a family of three in 1997).
* Researchers have gathered new evidence on the importance of the first years of life for children's emotional and intellectual development. (Shore, 1997) Unfortunately, millions of American children are poor during these crucial years. Almost one in four (24 percent) of America's children under age three lived in poverty in 1995. These 2.8 million poor children face a greater risk of impaired brain development due to their exposure to a number of risk factors associated with poverty.
* Children deprived of proper nutrition during the brain's most formative years score much lower on tests of vocabulary, reading comprehension, arithmetic, and general knowledge. The more severe the poverty a child faces, the lower his or her nutritional level is likely to be.
* Exposure to neurotoxins such as lead causes brain damage and stunts the growth of the brain. 55 percent of African American children living in poverty have toxic levels of lead in their blood.
* Experiences of trauma or abuse during the first years of life result in extreme anxiety, depression, and/or the inability to form healthy attachments to others. Another troubling effect of early trauma is that it leads to a significantly higher propensity for violence later in life. The stressors that face poor families cause much more trauma for their children.
WHAT CAN BE DONE?
Reduce the Poverty Rate, says the National Center for Children in Poverty.
World Vision is the largest child sponsorship organization in the world according to their current television campaign to raise money for children in poverty. Spokespersons Kathy Lee Gifford and Alex Trebek tell viewers that $22 a month in donations will give one child living in poverty the food they need to have a chance for healthy development.
The Christian Children’s Fund asks for only $0.80 per day, or $24 a month to lift a child from hunger.
Feed the Children, an organization dedicated to feeding the most impoverished children in America, says they can move 1000 pounds of food for a donation of only $10 a month.
Look at these figures from another perspective. David Amaral, a researcher at the California Regional Primate Research Center in Davis, California and Ned Kalin, a researcher at the Wisconsin Regional Primate Research Center in Madison, Wisconsin received a combined total of $579,487 tax dollars in 1998. They were paid to inject chemicals into the brains of young monkeys. These chemicals were injected into the region of the brain associated with basic emotions such as fear.
This means that approximately 724,359 children were left in poverty last year so that Amaral and Kalin could study methods of disrupting normal emotional development in monkeys.
In 1997 the National Institutes of Health spent $114,502,974 to keep researchers at the seven Regional Primate Research Centers working at projects like Kalin's and Amaral's. Researchers worked to clone monkeys, addict them to cocaine, poison them with alcohol, infect them with monkey viruses, and study why so many monkeys in laboratories mutilate themselves. This $114 million was only a portion of the total spent by the federal government to experiment on primates. Most major universities have projects using primates underway. It would not be unreasonable to estimate that the total figure used in this line of research is today approaching $200 million dollars.
But, using the 1997 figures and using only the total consumed by the seven NIH centers that year, about 143 million children who could have been saved were left in poverty. So, these scientists could achieve no larger impact than demanding that the primate centers be closed immediately and the money allocated to them be immediately targeted to end the ravishes of child poverty. By simply closing the primate centers stunting and wasting could be nearly eliminated among the world's children.
And, by closing only one primate center, child poverty in the U.S. could be ended.
What the researchers will do remains to be seen.