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Wednesday, June 10, 1998 Published at 23:01 GMT 00:01 UK


World: Americas

Poor in the USA

In Bayview running water comes from rusting handpumps

The United States is enjoying an economic boom and opinion polls suggest most Americans feel good about themselves and their country. But even with this new feeling of prosperity, some continue to live in conditions of third world poverty.


[ image: Virginia is often associated with gracious living]
Virginia is often associated with gracious living
To visitors, Virginia's Eastern Shores is a place of beauty and gracious living.

But in the town of Bayview the only water comes from ancient handpumps, the dirt track that connects it to the nearby interstate is impassable when it rains, and the outdoor toilets frequently overflow and contaminate the shallow wells.

Growing underclass

The town's inhabitants are part of a growing underclass of black people in the state said to endure an American form of apartheid.


[ image: Bayview: residents call it 'the Third World']
Bayview: residents call it 'the Third World'
The hundred or so people who live in Bayview call it 'the Third World': but it is only 200 miles from Washington DC.

Diane Austin has lived in Bayview for 11 years. She shares a toilet with six others and bathes in a bucket. The cluttered shack that she lives in has one electrical socket and is a potential death-trap.

Like their homes, people in Bayview, see their lives crumbling around them. But, says Henrietta Collins, another Bayview resident, many feel they are stuck there.

"If I leave, where else could I go?" She says. "If we do go someplace and if they see we're black, they might not want to sell. So we just have to make do with what we have."

Appeals ignored

While most Americans have been basking in unprecedented prosperity, communities like Bayview have, literally, been left to rot.

Those best able to escape are the young men, and they left long ago. Those left behind - the old, the mothers and the children - have seen their appeals for help ignored.


[ image: Sylvia Williams: worldwide disaster relief work has not prepared her for Bayview]
Sylvia Williams: worldwide disaster relief work has not prepared her for Bayview
Sylvia Williams is a disaster relief co-ordinator who has worked across the world picking up the pieces after natural disasters. Nonetheless, she says she was not prepared for the shock of Bayview.

"The country is no longer in deficit", she says, "and then these people have to wait four or five years for a grant to dig a well. But if they wait four or five years, they won't be around to drink the water: they'll be dead."

The county authorities have begun to build new homes to replace shacks close to Bayview. But the problem of black rural poverty far outstrips resources.


[ image: Bayview residents have to wash in a bucket]
Bayview residents have to wash in a bucket
Few of the children living in Bayview have ever had even a bath or a shower. They are being raised in a country seemingly oblivious to extreme poverty.

"We haven't been forgotten," says Henrietta Collins, "they know we're here. I guess they just didn't want to help us."

A mile from Bayview are the graves of some of Virginia's slaves and share-croppers. Their great-grandchildren live free, but they cannot find work, they cannot afford decent housing and still they feel like second class citizens.



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Internet Links

University of Wisconsin-Madison: Institute for Research on Poverty

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