This is a guest post from Erin Deviney, Live Below the Line Canadian Campaign Manager. The Global Poverty Project is an international education and advocacy organization working to spark the movement to end extreme poverty.
Many people often ask me the question, “Why are we still giving so much money to poverty alleviation in other countries when nothing has changed?” The truth is that there has been a tremendous amount of progress but it is such a significant task that it takes time. Extreme poverty, defined by the World Bank as living on less than $1.25USD/day to meet all of your needs, is a complex issue and unfortunately, the successes are often overlooked because of the sheer scale of the situation. The fact is that 1.4 billion people currently live in extreme poverty, most of whom are in Sub Saharan Africa, Asia or the South Pacific.
Let’s take the example of Bangladesh, once famously dubbed as the world’s ‘basket case’ by Henry Kissinger. A November 2012 article in the Economist played on this famous quote with an article entitled “Out of the Basket” highlighting some of Bangladesh’s many achievements. It is the world’s most densely populated country and gets hit repeatedly by devastating weather. Despite this, development is taking place in part because of the aid money that the Canadian government and its citizens are giving.
What are some of the gains that we have seen in Bangladesh and more broadly speaking on a global scale?
1. The percentage of Bangladeshis living below the national poverty line fell from 59% in 1991 to 31.5% in 2010.
2. Bangladesh has been declared Polio free. Globally, we have reduced the incidence of Polio by 99.9%.
3. The number of children out of school has dropped by 33 million worldwide since 1999.
4. Between 1990 and 2010, more than 2 billion people gained access to improved water sources and 1.8 billion people gained access to improved sanitation facilities.
Simply put, there is tremendous progress being made across the globe. This is perhaps best reflected in a single statistic – that the percentage of people living in extreme poverty has been halved in the past 30 years, from 52% in 1980 to 25% in 2008. This is a huge success, and we must continue to build on it. So what can we as Canadians do about this?
Live Below the Line is an experiential campaign that has grown to include thousands of people around the world who have taken the conversation about extreme poverty into their kitchens and dining rooms. In 2012, more than 15,000 people in the U.K., the U.S., Australia and New Zealand took on the challenge and raised $3.5 million dollars for agencies working to end extreme poverty.
Living on $1.75 per day is not about pretending to be poor. We couldn’t begin to replicate the challenges around issues like education, sanitation, housing or health care. Rather, the challenge provides us with a glimpse into the difficult choices that 1.4 billion people must make to survive each day.
Through Live Below the Line, we aim to change the way tens of thousands of people think about extreme poverty, and to raise money that will go to initiatives that directly combat its root causes. Our goal is not to make people feel guilty about what they have, but rather to make them want to take action for what others don’t. I know that in challenging Canadians to Live Below the Line, we can gain a deeper understanding of the realities faced by 1.4 billion people.
I invite you to join me and ten of thousands of other individuals from across the globe to Live Below the Line from April 29 to May 3. Learn more or register today at www.livebelowtheline.com/ca. In 2013, Live Below the Line Canada will raise funds for four partner organizations: Cuso International, Spread the Net, Raising the Village and RESULTS Canada.
Photo of Polio vaccination by Corbis Guy courtesy of the Global Poverty Project