Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Half of 245 million widows live in poverty

An organization that is devoted to helping widows is surprised to learn that there are 245 million widows worldwide. The Loomba Foundation had assumed there were 100 million, but conducted a new study to determine a real figure.

Cherie Blair, wife of the former British Prime Minister, unveiled the report at the United Nations yesterday. Blair says that out of those 245 million widows, over half are living in poverty.

The Loomba Foundation is dedicated to raise the awareness of the injustices that widows face. Most women are widowed because of war or disease. The Foundation is named after Shrimati Pushpa Wati Loomba who became a widow at the age of 37 after her husband died of tuberculosis. Loomba then had to raise and educate seven children by herself.

From this Associated Press story that we found at Idaho's Local News 8, writer Edith Lederer recorded Blair's statement.

The most dire consequences are faced by 2 million Afghan widows and at least 740,000 Iraqi widows who lost their husbands as a result of the ongoing conflicts; by widows and their children evicted from their family homes in sub-Saharan Africa; by elderly widows caring for grandchildren orphaned by the HIV/AIDS crisis, and by child widows aged 7 to 17 in developing countries, the report said.

"Across the world, widows suffer dreadful discrimination and abuse," Blair said. "In too many cases they're pushed to the very margins of society, trapped in poverty and left vulnerable to abuse and exploitation."

She said many are cheated out of their husbands' assets and property and expelled from their family home -- and since they have no money they can't support their children, "so misery is heaped on grief."

Blair was in New York to launch the report entitled "Invisible Forgotten Sufferers: The Plight of Widows around the World," commissioned by the Loomba Foundation which works in a dozen countries to help widows and educate their children.

"The plight of widows -- in the shadows of the world -- is a human rights catastrophe," said Blair, the foundation's president. "It's really a hidden humanitarian crisis."

According to the report, the countries with the highest number of widows in 2010 were China with 43 million, India with 42.4 million, the United States with 13.6 million, Indonesia with 9.4 million, Japan with 7.4 million, Russia with 7.1 million, Brazil with 5.6 million, Germany with 5.1 million, and Bangladesh and Vietnam with about 4.7 million each.

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