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The term Third World applies to developing nations in Asia (except China), Africa, and Latin America that cannot maintain self-sustaining economies. Third World nations produce only a few primary materials and are dependent upon the industrialized nations for finished goods (especially highly technical and heavy industrial equipment) which they purchase with the money they make from raw materials they sell to the industrialized powers. This unbalanced economic arrangement leaves these nations with a very high debt load, which is often more than the amount of money the nation makes each year.

Citizens of Third World nations, four billion people (77 percent of the world's population), usually suffer from high rates of illiteracy, disease, political instability, and population growth. According to Oxfam,

  • 1.4 billion live in absolute poverty;
  • 180 million children, one in three, suffer from serious malnutrition;
  • 1.3 billion people don 't have safe drinking water;
  • 2 million children die each year from immunizable diseases;
  • 300 million school-age children are not in school; and
  • female literacy is still only two thirds that of men.

In 1955, Third World nations organized to form the Nonaligned Movement at the Bandung Conference. The Third World forms the majority of the membership of the United Nations, but its cultural and economic diversity (the oil rich nations of the Middle East and the desperate poor of Haiti and Afghanistan) prevents it from voting as a block.


"Why a Third World: Oxfam Community Aid Abroad." Oxfam Community Aid Abroad. Internet on-line. Available From

Reitsam, H.A. and J. M. Kleinpenning. The Third World in Perspective. Assen, Netherlands: Van Gorcum, 1985.

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