UN official on 15-day US tour to explore the country’s ‘great poverty and inequality'

A United Nations official who is an expert on poverty will visit the U.S. – one of the world’s richest nations – to study how the country deals with impoverished communities from coast to coast.

While the U.S. is awash in personal wealth that totals $153 trillion, according to Fortune Magazine, it also has pockets of extreme poverty.

Philip Alston, who works with the United Nations to monitor human rights and poverty that exists across the world, has been crisscrossing the country for a 15-day tour of some of the country’s poorest neighborhoods.

The U.N. official will visit Alabama this week to explore the state’s poverty, inequality and “barriers to political participation.”

Alston started his U.S. tour last Friday and will also visit California, West Virginia, Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico, AL.com reported.

Alston said he will go to California to investigate the state’s homeless problem and will visit West Virginia to look into the dwindling industrial jobs available there.


"Some might ask why a U.N. Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights would visit a country as rich as the United States. But despite great wealth in the U.S., there also exists great poverty and inequality," Alston wrote in a statement.

On Thursday Alston will be visiting Lowndes County, Ala. to look into any problem the area has with health care, sanitation and gaining access to safe drinking water.

In September, a study found a small amount of people living in Lowndes County had tested positive for hookworm – a parasite that enters into the body through the skin, The Guardian reported. The parasite sucks the blood out of the host after it attaches itself to the small intestine. The parasitic disease is common in poverty-stricken areas.


The county has 11,000 residents with an average income of $18,000 a year, The Guardian reported.

Alston will also visit Montgomery to meet with civil rights advocacy groups and civil service members in the area.

"I would like to focus on how poverty affects the civil and political rights of people living within the U.S., given the United States' consistent emphasis on the importance it attaches to these rights in its foreign policy, and given that it has ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights," Alston said.

The U.N. official will also look into voting rights in the state and “government efforts to eradicate poverty in the county, and how they related to U.S. obligations under international human rights law.”

He planned to meet with “government officials, people living in poverty, academic experts and civil society organizations,” AL.com reported.

On Friday, Alston was slated to hold a press conference in Washington, D.C. to speak about what he found during his trip and give ideas and recommendations on how to address the problems he saw. His full report will be presented in 2018 before the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva.