Have You Seen America’s Hidden Third World?

When Americans imagine communities with dilapidated homes, barefoot children and starving adults, they might picture Third World countries. But over 23 million U.S. residents live in deep rural poverty.
In 1964, President Lyndon Johnson launched his War on Poverty from Appalachia, a 1,000-mile stretch that goes from southern New York to northeast Mississippi. Although some communities have seen improvement since the 1960s, the economic boom of the 1990s did little to improve living conditions.
Appalachian unemployment and earnings rates still fall below the national average. Some areas still lack water and plumbing systems. While Appalachians can often afford their own homes – coal companies built houses, then sold them cheaply when they moved into new areas – few people can afford their upkeep.
Americans Helping Americans (AHA), a nonprofit organization that runs several relief projects in Appalachia, reports seeing homes without adequate roofs, walls and floors.
People moved into Appalachia when the coal mining industry thrived, but most coal mines have since moved West. Only 2 percent of Appalachia’s workforce still mines, and they face job-related health risks. Most people work in low-paid, unskilled sectors, where salaries cannot support living costs.
For children, rural poverty proves especially heartbreaking. Many Appalachian children grow up without adequate food, shelter or healthcare –  one in five Appalachian children grow up in poverty. And few doctors work in Appalachia, few residents have insurance or the means to pay medical fees. Simple toys prove beyond many families’ means – paying for home repairs or dental visits seems impossible.
For Appalachian children, simple donations, from teddy bears and blankets to school supplies and Christmas dinners, help encourage confidence and personal pride. AHA’s Bare Feet Program takes children to stores, where they can choose and buy their own shoes, just like any other child.
AHA also helps supply food and blankets, utilities and home repairs to struggling Appalachian families. Appalachians suffer a poorer standard of living than most Americans, but relief work can help families emerge from the nation’s hidden Third World. For more information, visit  www.helpingamericans.org.

Helping Poverty-Stricken Children Go Back to School

<b>Helping Poverty-Stricken Children Go Back to School</b>“></td>
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<p>(<a href=NewsUSA) – For many children, the start of fall means new backpacks and shoes and the excitement of starting another school year. But for children living in Appalachia, a 205,000-square-mile region that stretches from southern New York to northern Mississippi, another reality is faced.

As the tough economy strains middle-class families, America’s poorest poor go unnoticed. But those citizens who faced extreme poverty when the economy was strong face especial hardship now. In Appalachia, where about 23.6 million people reside, many families live without health insurance or access to medical care, indoor plumbing or heating and adequate food.

For decades, charities have helped Appalachian children experience the simple joys that most kids take for granted. For example, Americans Helping Americans (AHA), an affiliate of Christian Relief Services, started its Bare Feet program in Kentucky. The program allows schoolchildren to go to a store and choose new shoes for school, a luxury their families cannot afford. Last year, over 1,212 children enjoyed safer, warmer walks to school thanks to AHA’s efforts.

In some areas of Appalachia, as few as 49 percent of incoming ninth-graders graduate from high school, and teenage pregnancy rates peak at 69 percent. AHA works to provide safe, positive places for teenagers to hang out after school. In Harlan, Ky., AHA donated $1,000 worth of sports equipment to make a recreation area for 400 Appalachian teens.

AHA also helps teens acquire basic school necessities through donated backpacks filled with pens, pencils, rulers, sharpeners, scissors, glue, paper, erasers and notebooks, not to mention food, winter clothing and hygiene items. But without donations, AHA will have to cut back or suspend its programs, leaving children without shoes, school supplies and after-school activities. AHA allows for non-cash donations, too.

For more information, visit www.helpingamericans.org.

Poverty Makes Cold and Flu Season a Killer

<b>Poverty Makes Cold and Flu Season a Killer</b>“></td>
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<p>(<a href=NewsUSA) – According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 36,000 Americans die from influenza, the common, seasonal flu, each year. Risks increase for pregnant women, children, seniors and people with disease or weakened immune systems, but people living in poverty face even greater problems. For the 23 million Americans living in Appalachia, a thousand-mile stretch that goes from southern New York to northeast Mississippi, cold and flu season is a dangerous time of year.

Most healthy people recover from the flu with soup and a few days’ bed rest. But poor nutrition compromises the immune system. Currently, 23 percent of the people living in Appalachia do not get enough food. To survive, the rural poor skip meals, seek help from food pantries and foodstamp programs, and choose the cheapest foods available. Inadequate nutrition and long gaps between meals strain the body, making it more likely that a common virus, like the flu, will pose real danger.

Appalachians also lack access to the healthcare that keeps wealthier Americans healthy through cold and flu season. The CDC recommends that pregnant women, people over 50 and children between 6 months and 19 years old all receive flu vaccinations. Appalachians cannot access or afford such preventative measures. When they do fall ill, they might not receive life-saving emergency care.

Organizations are working to help improve access to medical care in rural communities. One non-profit, Americans Helping Americans (AHA), created its Emergency Medical Assistance Program to provide a safety net for struggling Appalachians who cannot afford emergency medical care, regular medications, eye exams, dental care, dentures or eyeglasses. Last year, AHA served more than 1.2 million pounds of nutritious food to over 13,000 individuals. In addition, AHA also supplied over $25,000 in prescriptions, eye exams and eyeglasses for the elderly.

AHA also supplies local food banks with nutritious staples -; not the fatty foods that fill stomachs but also cause malnutrition. Only in addressing Appalachians’ overall health can organizations stop the spread of the flu virus among the nation’s most vulnerable citizens.

For more information, visit www.helpingamericans.org.