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U.N. claims U.S. social system violates human rights
World Peace Herald
Published November 15, 2005


Problems with U.S. social benefit systems impede people struggling to overcome poverty, the United Nations said.

High health care costs and lack of low-cost housing exacerbate poverty and this can be seen as a human rights abuse, concluded a 17-day fact-finding mission by the U.N. Commission on Human Rights Tuesday.

"Resource constraints have limited the reach of the assistance programs, and social discrimination has aggravated the problems in many situations resulting in poverty clearly seen as a violation of human rights," said Arjun Sengupta, the independent expert on the question of human rights and extreme poverty of UNHCR.

The purpose of the mission was to learn from the U.S. experience in addressing its income poverty, human development poverty and social exclusion.

Sengupta's tour included New York urban areas, immigrant farm workers in Florida and hurricane-devastated New Orleans.

The mission's purpose was to show extreme poverty is a societal problem that occurs irrespective of the level of income of a country. Poverty is not only a problem of poor developing countries but a phenomenon that is found in most countries in the world, including the United States.

With higher per capita income levels than any other country, the United States also has one of the highest incidences of poverty among the rich industrialized nations. Some 37 million Americans, 12.7 percent of the U.S. population, lived in poverty in 2004. Some 45 million people were without health insurance coverage and 38 million households experienced food insecurity. There is a significant disparity in poverty between African-Americans, Hispanics and non-Hispanic whites, said UNHCR.

"If the United States Government designed and implemented the policies according to the human rights standards much of the problem of poverty could be resolved," said Sengupta in a statement.