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UN official investigating poverty in United States shocked by poor living conditions in rural Alabama
A United Nations official visiting rural Alabama said this week that he witnessed living conditions there worse than anything he has seen in a developed nation.
By Rick Docksai
Jan 12, 2018

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WASHINGTON D.C. — A United Nations official visiting the United States to investigate U.S. poverty expressed alarm this week at the low environmental and living standards of some parts of rural Alabama. He said that the poor sanitation, environmental degradation, and ill health conditions that he witnessed were more reminiscent of a developing country than a developed one.

"I think it's very uncommon in the First World. This is not a sight that one normally sees. I'd have to say that I haven't seen this," Philip Alston, the U.N.'s Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, told Connor Sheets of while he and Sheets toured a community in Butler County, Alabama.

Alston noted raw sewage flowing from homes through exposed PVC pipes into open trenches and pits. He also cited a hookworm outbreak that afflicted Alabama in early 2017--hookworm is typically a problem in nations with below-average sanitation, such as some countries in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa.

Alston's visit was part of a two-week assessment that the United Nations is carrying out on poverty and human rights in the United States. Alson and other UN investigators have toured cities and towns in Alabama and California so far and will later visit Puerto Rico, West Virginia, and Washington, DC.

Despite the United States' massive economy and comparable wealth, more than 41 million Americans live in poverty, according to the Census Bureau. And poverty-related problems such as infant mortality, food insecurity, and preventable deaths are occurring at higher rates in the United States than in most other developed countries.