Why are some countries so poor when they have resources like gold and diamonds?

Countries can have resources like diamonds and gold and yet the people living there can’t afford food to eat.

The reasons are complicated, but in the end it comes down to greed, a problem that we have. Over the years, many people have been greedy in different ways, all resulting in the poorest people losing out. Here are some of the ways people have been greedy:



From the 1500s to the 1900s several countries in Europe explored the world and claimed countries they found as their own. For example, Britain decided that Kenya would become British. This led to Britain taking resources from Kenya to make money for themselves. This happened in many countries where there were resources that were worth a lot of money with little or none of the profit benefiting the people who lived there. The European colonial countries were greedy.

Bad handling of the economy

Many of the countries that are really poor haven’t had strong leaders to make sure that money is used to benefit all of the people. Some leaders have also taken money that belongs to the people for themselves. They were greedy.

Unhelpful help

Over the years, many rich countries have come up with ideas about how to help poor countries. Much of this help has actually been unhelpful. An example of this is when a group of rich countries loaned Haiti, the poorest country in the western hemisphere, a lot of money because the leader at the time, Duvalier, supported political ideas that the rich countries liked. Duvalier used the money to fund his family’s luxurious lifestyle rather than to help the people of Haiti. But after he had gone, the poor people of Haiti were still repaying the rich countries for a loan that they hadn’t benefited from. It comes down to the greed of Duvalier and the greed of the rich countries who are still demanding repayment of a debt, even though the people are so poor.


Current exploitation

Various people claim to own land in poor countries and mine the ground for gold, diamonds and other money-making products, making a huge profit for themselves while the people who live there continue to live in poverty. Their greed helps to keep people poor.

There are many other ways in which the poor are exploited. If you buy anything that comes from a poor country, make sure you check with the shop you buy it from that the people who made it got a fair wage. Take a look at your clothing labels. Where were your clothes made?

God has a lot to say about greed, poverty and the unfairness of this type of situation. Jesus said in Luke 12:15,"Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions."

Natural disasters


Natural disasters are disasters caused by nature, such as tsunamis, typhoons, hurricanes, storms, erupting volcanoes and earthquakes.

Rich and poor countries can be affected by natural disasters, but the poorest people are usually worse off as they are unable to prepare their homes to make sure they’re safe in the event of a natural disaster, and they’re also less able to get help if natural disaster strikes.

For example, the Haiti earthquake of 2010 killed 220,000 people. A similar sized earthquake hit Los Angeles in 1994, on the west coast of America, and killed 63 people. The difference was that the people of Haiti lived in poverty and were unable to afford any kind of protection for themselves or their families.

Communication is also important if a natural disaster is about to come. If you can hear about a storm on the TV or radio, you can prepare and make sure your house is as secure as possible. If you don’t have a TV or radio, or no-one has tried to communicate with you, you won’t know and could be out and about when disaster comes, making you vulnerable to getting hurt.

How do the rich get richer and the poor get poorer?

All around the world, rich people often get richer as they have money to invest in education, good food, and to create opportunities such as going to university to study and get a good job.

Poor people don’t have the same opportunities. They are often unable to get a good education as they are needed to help their family work, or they are not taught about how important it is for their future success to get a good education.

There are many other factors that contribute to make rich people rich or poor people poor.

In the UK we have free education, healthcare and benefits that are there to prevent people from becoming very poor. Think about what life would be like if you lived in a country where you didn’t have free education or healthcare? How would your life be different?

Why are the poor countries in debt?

Many unfair debts are owed by poor countries to rich countries. In fact, poor countries are often repaying rich countries for unfair debts while they cannot afford to look after their own citizens.

Here’s how debt built up for the people of the Philippines:

President Ferdinand Marcos remained in power despite being unpopular with the Filipino people. He had American support as he sided with them during the Cold War. One of the main forms of support was loans from governments and international organisations such as the World Bank.

During his rule, Marcos is thought to have stolen up to US$10 billion from the Filipino people and squandered it on a rich lifestyle. That’s over £6,200,000,000 (a LOT of zeros). Interest rates went up making debt repayments more than originally agreed, so Marcos had to borrow more money to pay back his original debts.


Altogether throughout Marcos’s dictatorship the International Monetary Fund and World Bank lent the Philippines US$5.5 billion, with a further US$3.5 billion from foreign governments such as the United States. Over $9 billion was lent by the foreign private sector, such as banks in rich countries.

When Marcos was thrown out of power, the new president decided that all of the debts should be repaid rather than using the money to help the poor people of the Philippines.

Since 1970 the Philippines government has been lent US$110 billion, repaid US$125 billion, but is still thought to owe US$45 billion which it is repaying despite many Filipino people living in poverty.

In fact the Philippines government spends almost 30 per cent on debt payments each year, more than is spent on public health and education combined.

Many people in and out of the Philippines, and in the many other poor countries struggling with unfair debt, have been campaigning for cancellation of this debt.

ACTION: You can add your voice to the people calling for cancellation of unfair debt by joining the Jubilee Debt Campaign.

Source: old.jubileedebtcampaign.org.uk

Child soldiers

It is estimated that some 300,000 children are today involved in more than 30 conflicts worldwide. Some are abducted or forcibly recruited, others are driven to join by poverty, abuse and discrimination, or to seek revenge for violence enacted against them or their families.

Children are more likely to become child soldiers if they are separated from their families, displaced from their homes, living in combat zones or have limited access to education. Children may join armed groups as the only way to guarantee daily food and survival.

Children may ‘voluntarily’ take part in warfare, not realising the dangers and abuses they will be subjected to.

Compassion projects look to work with the most vulnerable children, often those children who might become child soldiers if they are not protected.


Tourism – is it good for a poor country?

It’s easy to travel to different countries, even very poor countries, and in many ways this is good for the country. Tourists come and spend money staying in hotels, eating in restaurants, travelling around and going to see different tourist attractions.

Very often the hotels in countries are owned by rich countries rather than the country they are in though. For example, some of the biggest hotels around the world are owned by Americans, so you could stay in a hotel in Sri Lanka but be paying an American hotel owner in the USA.


Another issue with tourism is that often poor people are hidden away from the tourists and made to live in even worse conditions as the nice parts of their country are used by land owners to make money. This happens in poor islands like the Bahamas, the Caribbean islands, Fiji and the Maldives, where hotels create lovely environments for tourists to come and enjoy the weather, and the poor communities of people are moved away so that they don’t ruin the view.

Tourists can also ruin the environment. Areas of natural beauty can end up with rubbish littered everywhere unless it is well managed within a country.

What can you do?

When you go on holiday look at websites such as this one to help do good for a country rather than bad: ethical-holidays

What is a dictator?

A dictator is a person who rules a country with complete power. They decide themselves what is best for the country. This has often led to dictators being greedy and taking money that belongs to the people of a country, or hurting or killing people who don’t do what they want. There are plenty of stories of dictators who have led poor countries and made those countries even poorer.

In the UK we live in a democracy, which means each person who is a citizen of the country gets to vote on who they want to run the country. This way, the leaders of the country have to work to please the people who vote for them if they want to stay in power.

What is malnutrition?

Malnutrition means not having enough of the right foods to eat to keep your body working properly. People often suffer from malnutrition in poor communities if they are unable to afford to buy the right types of food to eat, or if the right foods are not available to buy.

It is possible to be malnourished even if you have enough money to buy food as you need to eat a mixture of different types of food to keep your body healthy. If you ate just crisps every day, your body wouldn’t be able to do everything it needs to survive and you would become malnourished.

Malnourished people are more likely to get ill, and even die, as their bodies are weakened from not having the right foods to eat.

What is HIV and AIDS?

HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus infection.

AIDS stands for acquired immunodeficiency syndrome.

The human immunodeficiency virus attacks peoples’ immune systems, the system in our bodies that helps protect us against diseases. People who have HIV are much more likely to catch illnesses because their system is weakened, whereas people without HIV are able to fight off these illnesses.

Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, or AIDS, is the name for the stage of infection from the HIV when the person’s body is weak and likely to get ill.

People living in poverty may die from AIDS as they don’t have medicine that they can take.

More than 60,000 children in Togo are thought to be orphans because their parents have died from AIDS.

The slave trade


The famous slave trade of the 16th to 19th centuries was known as the transatlantic slave trade as it involved European countries taking African people and selling them to Europe, North and South America.

Britain banned the slave trade in 1807, as a group of people had protested against the unfair treatment of these people taken from their homelands.

Even though transatlantic slavery is illegal today, many people are still used in slavery around the world. An example of this are child soldiers.