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Why We're Losing the War on Poverty
Image: Photo by Scott Suchman

One night in December 2003, an 8-year-old girl named Yuri was abducted, raped, and brutally murdered in the remote Quechuan village of La Union, Peru. The next morning, her 11-year-old brother found her nearly naked body dumped on the main thoroughfare of their village.

Yuri's story opens The Locust Effect: Why the End of Poverty Requires the End of Violence (Oxford University Press), the new book from Gary Haugen, founder of International Justice Mission (IJM). Yuri's murderers escaped prosecution, while another man was wrongly convicted and sentenced to 30 years in prison. The book's first chapter, titled "What the World Can't See," pinpoints a basic source of entrenched poverty overlooked by well-intentioned outsiders: corrupt government officials who allow criminals to victimize the poor with impunity. For instance, national statistics find 90 percent of murders in Mexico go unsolved.

The lack of reliable law enforcement, Haugen argues, exposes the poor to the worst predatory violence, undermining the good accomplished by the billions of dollars aid agencies spend annually to fight poverty.

Haugen wants Westerners—and the aid agencies they support—to be as determined in fighting criminal violence against the poor as they are in relieving hunger and treating HIV/AIDS. He spoke recently to Timothy C. Morgan, CT senior editor of global journalism.

What is "the locust effect," and how does it affect poor people?

Picture a poor farmer trying to scrape his way out of poverty. Just when the crops have started to show promise, the locusts descend and devour all of that hard work. That's the locust effect—the way violence impacts the poor in the developing world. ...

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Why We're Losing the War on Poverty
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January/February 2014

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