The lottery of birth
The lottery of birth

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The lottery of birth

1.2.2 Being born rich, being born poor

While today fewer children are born into poverty, this progress has not been evenly spread around the world or even within the ‘developed’ world, where poverty, even in the West’s richest countries, has a dire impact on the lives of mothers and babies.

The following video shows a family in the USA and one in Cambodia each struggling with poverty in very different parts of the world. (It is from a longer programme from the ‘Why poverty’ series that looked at poverty in families living in Cambodia, Sierra Leone, the USA and the UK.)

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STARR
Like what? It's the kind of thing that'd happen I guess to anybody. I didn't expect it, wouldn't have expected it a year ago, never would've dreamed this was going to happen. We were living in a nice house. We had everything we needed. We weren't hurting, our cupboards were full. And so here we are, just lost everything. The economy has just completely collapsed. I couldn't pay my rent so I bought a motor home for my family, took the last little bit of money we had. I thought that was the right thing to do. Apparently it's illegal to live in the RV so -
HUSBAND
Dyan, stop. You're hurting your brother. All right, don't have a break down, let's chill now.
STARR
It's nobody's fault. I don't even think it's my fault, this is life.
HUSBAND
Are you OK, Travis?
STARR
I've never lived at the top end of the class scale or anything like that. I come from poor white trash. So I'm - hell, even with our situation today I'm probably living better than half of my family. I'm not trying to get pity from anybody. I am trying to do a little bit of a hand up. Not a handout. I just want a little bit of support while I pull myself together.
MARTHA RYAN
(Director HPP): HPP, or the Homeless Prenatal Programme is a family resource centre. It initially was a programme that focused only on women who were homeless and pregnant, taking advantage of that period of pregnancy to help the woman change her life, or do things that would be healthier.
SHELTER WORKER
You like that one? You pick whatever you want.
PREGNANT WOMAN
I prefer this one.
SHELTER WORKER
OK, whatever you like.
PREGNANT WOMAN
Thank you.
SHELTER WORKER
Congratulations.
PREGNANT WOMAN
Thank you.
MARTHA RYAN
I've been doing this for 22 years now. I found the third world right here in America. I couldn't believe that women were homeless and pregnant and bringing children into the world without a home for them to go to. In the first year, we worked with 72 women who were homeless and pregnant living in the shelter. And 22 years later, this last year, we delivered 517 babies to women who were-- not everybody is homeless-- but everybody is at risk for homelessness. The common denominator is poverty.
BOY
[speaks foreign language]
MOTHER, NEANG
[speaks foreign language]
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Documentary film-maker Brian Hill travelled from the UK to America, Cambodia and Sierra Leone to reveal the shocking lottery of child birth across the globe. The USA has one of the worst infant mortality rates in the developed world. In San Francisco, we meet expectant mother Starr, her partner and two children. A year ago, they became homeless, making her children among the 1.6 million homeless children now living in the US. In Cambodia, where babies are more likely to grow up malnourished than attend high school, we meet Neang, 36, and her 12-year-old son Pisey, who helps support his mother and little sister by scavenging the street for tins and plastic.

In the next section, you will look at income inequality from a global perspective.

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