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What it's like to live on $1 a day

A Malawi family budgets 16 cents for doughnuts

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At 8 a.m., after seeing her husband off to work and her children off to school, Selina Bonefesi puts on her entrepreneur's hat. Mrs. Bonefesi has a small business making fritters - fried cakes made of wheat, salt, sugar, and yeast.

She'll spend the morning mixing, waiting for the dough to rise, and frying, cranking out as many as 300 of the tasty treats and selling them from her home to passersby. By the end of the week, between her household chores and running her business, she'll have logged more hours than a Fortune 500 CEO.

But she'll only earn about $1 a day.

Selina, her husband, and four children are among the 1.2 billion people in the world living on less than a dollar a day - what the United Nations calls "extreme poverty." Many of them are in Africa. Some live in rural villages, others in urban shantytowns; some can be found in the deserts of Chad, others in the jungles of the Congo. Yet Selina's family in Malawi is typical: they have limited education, little access to jobs or capital, and are ruled by an indebted government that lacks a coherent plan for helping its poorest citizens. It is families like Selina's that the leaders of the world's wealthiest nations will be looking to help as they meet in Scotland for the G-8 summit this week.

The Monitor visited with Selina to learn how a family of six lives on so little - and to hear from them what would be most helpful from the richest nations in the world.

Selina's message to donors is quite simple. "Monetary help is needed," she says. "We want iron sheets on our houses. We want capital for our businesses."

In a typical week, Selina will make 1,125 Malawian kwatcha, or $9.09, in fritter sales. With the $5.17 that's left over after she buys supplies for her next batch, she'll purchase food and amenities for her family and tuck away $1.25 into savings. Her annual earnings, combined with her husband's earnings as a farmer, will give the family of six, after business expenses, about $453 to live on this year.

Taking strain off her husband
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