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  • Writer's pictureSerena Booy


Updated: Sep 6, 2021


* The burden of death and disability is higher among people in developing countries.

* Higher rates of obesity and diabetes are now more prevalent throughout the Pacific Countries

* 96.5% of low birth-weight infants are born in low-income countries

* Nearly half of all deaths in children <5 years old result from under-nutrition

The Four Primary Causes of Morbidity and Mortality are:

1. Poverty

2. Powerlessness

3. Lack of Education

4. Lack of Access


How does one define poverty? Is it:

1. Hunger?

2. inadequate shelter?

3. Being sick and not being able to get help?

4. Not being able to go to school?

5. Not being able to read?

6. Not having a job?

7. Uncertain about the future?

8. Having no one to turn to?

9. Unable to represent yourself?

10. Seeing a loved one die without any help?

Poverty is not only defined by a lack of financial resources, poverty is also inadequate access to or inability to access employment, health services, housing and education. Poverty is a condition that restricts and prohibits people from accessing resources that are considered as basic human rights such as access to dental and health care, access to adequate housing, electricity, food and safe drinking water.

Poverty forces people to live in often overcrowded conditions, conditions that promote disease and exasperate the spread of infectious diseases. Poverty also lead to limited food choices and poor health outcomes, impacting on the mental health of individuals, families and communities.

Poor financial resources may result from a lack of employment opportunities or a person’s inability to work due to isolation, disability or illness.

Those in less developed countries are often denied access to health care due to lack of finances.

Food security is an essential element in maintaining the health of any population. In low-income countries, food can be sourced by several avenues:

1. self-sufficiency, having your own garden and growing your food, using home grown produce such as bananas to trade for other foods such as kumu,

2. selling home grown produce at the markets in exchange for money to buy other stables such as rice or medicines or

3. buying fruits and vegetables from the market place or local stores.

4. Wontok system of family members looking after each other

Negative outcomes are always present when individuals and families are unable to access good food.

Poor food security impacts on

1. the health of pregnant women,

2. the health of new born babies,

3. low birth-weight,

4. inadequate milk supply for mother and child,

5. malnourished and under-nourished infants,

6. poor childhood development,

7. stunting,

8. poor resilience to infectious and insect-borne diseases

All, leading to a never-ending cascade of events.


Poverty and powerlessness often go hand in hand as both a cause and effect. People living in poverty have no power and are often subject to exploitation.

‘When a woman is poor, she has no say in public, she feels inferior. She has no food, so there is famine in her house; no clothing, and no progress in her family.’

(Source: World Bank, 2006)

Lack of Education

In developing countries, girls in large families are less likely to begin school and more likely to drop out early.

A woman’s understanding of anatomy and her level of health literacy are essential factor in a woman’s likelihood to access health services for herself or her children when needed.

Access to Resources

People living in remote areas have :

1. limited access to economic opportunities as those living in more urban areas,

2. poor access to services such as dentist, doctors, pharmacies, supermarkets and marketplaces

3. often poor and deteriorating transport infrastructures

4. costly and often prohibiting transport costs

5. geographical limitations such as oceans to cross

6. law and order problems

7. poor government infrastructure


High mortality rates in under 5 year, escalating rates of gynecological cancers in women living in developing countries, HIV/AIDS, malaria and malnutrition, under-nutrition and over-nutrition are some of the areas of high morbidity and high mortality rates in developing countries.

Communicable, non-communicable and tropical diseases cannot be effectively reduced without addressing the four primary causes of sickness and death in developing countries: poverty, powerlessness, lack of education and inadequate access to services.

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