The meaning of destitute is described in several dictionaries as: extreme want, without food or possessions, a complete lack, the poorest of the poor. But perhaps a more accurate definition is the meaning of the Latin word, destitutionem: forsaking, abandoning, or deserting.
In a 2014 report, Destitution, by the Oxford Poverty & Human Development Initiative:
“Have you watched two of your children – or even more – die? Are you forced to practise open defecation because you have no sanitation? Has no member of your family completed more than a single year at school? And if these occur together, could anyone argue that you are not experiencing an extreme form of poverty?”
That’s not just an extreme form of poverty; it’s being abandoned, forsaken. These people must truly feel that the whole world has abandoned them.
The Reality of Being Destitute
The report examined data on 49 countries and found the following:
- 46% of the destitute don’t have anyone in their home with more than one year of schooling
- 36% of the destitute have a primary-school-aged child out of school
- 41% of the destitute live in a household in which at least one woman/man has lost two or more children
- 67% of the destitute have someone at home with severe malnutrition
- 71% of the destitute don’t have electricity to turn on their lights
- 90% of the destitute practise open defecation to relieve themselves
- 40% of the destitute don’t have clean water, or must walk 45 minutes to get it
- 83% of the destitute have only a dirt floor
- 98% of the destitute cook with wood, dung, or straw
Although Ethiopia has significantly reduced its destitution in this century, 58.1% of Ethiopians are still destitute, one of the highest rates in the world.
This chart, taken from the Oxford report, illustrates the elements that are measured to determine the level of destitution in a country.
Source: Destitution, by the Oxford Poverty & Human Development Initiative
58.1%, or 35 million Ethiopians, are poorer than poor.