Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Blog Action Day---Poverty Around the World

Today is Blog Action Day 2008, and this year's goal is to raise awareness about global poverty by having thousands upon thousands of bloggers use their blogs as virtual soap boxes. With the global economy in turmoil and governments planning massive bailouts of banks the world over, we must not lose sight of those for whom the news of a stock market plunge or a failed bank means nothing. Yes, we must do something to keep the economy afloat, but a bailout of the world's poor is more than paramount, and it doesn't even seem to be part of the conversation.

Almost half the world's population---more than 3 billion people---live on less than $2.50 per day. The Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of 41 of the most indebted countries in the world is less than the combined wealth of the seven richest countries.

Meanwhile, a billion people around the world cannot read or write, and an estimated one billion children live in poverty. Speaking of children, 640 million children live without adequate shelter, 400 million lack access to clean water, 270 million have no access to healthcare, and 29,000 children die every day due to the ravages of poverty. (Please click here for source material.)

29,000 children. Every day. Dying, perhaps in their parents' arms. Perhaps alone. Perhaps in the arms of a sibling or a stranger in a refugee camp. 29,000 children dying every day while we go about our business, fret about our 401(k)'s, and fill our gas tanks on the way to the movies.

29,000 dead children every day. Or, 1 child every 3 seconds, or 20 every minute. That's like a tsunami similar to the one that occured in 2004 happening every day.

What's wrong with this picture?

Many countries have apparently been irreversibly impoverished by the actions of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and The World Bank as loan programs and economic restructuring policies destroy indigenous food production, flood markets with cheap subsidized grain from the United States, and otherwise cripple developing nations, cutting off their economic legs at the knees.

I'm no economist, but it's plain to see that the global economic and banking organizations that lend money to struggling nations do so by imposing conditions that create a level of servitude and financial share-cropping that is inhumane at best, and criminally nefarious at worst. The gap between rich and poor in the United States is ever widening, and the gap between rich nations and poor nations is so vast as to be unfathomable.

And what kills children around the world in the face of crumbling economies, market bailouts, subsidized American grain, decaying infrastructure, and crippled healthcare systems?

Hunger kills children. Diarrhea and dysentery kill children. AIDS kills children. Measles, mumps, rubella, malaria and tuberculosis kill children. War kills children, as does living in refugee camps without adequate shelter, food, clothing and medical care.

If even a fraction of the world's annual military spending was redirected towards ending poverty, we would be well on our way. In 2006, approximately $1200 billion was spent globally for military purposes. Many experts agree that the eradication of poverty and the forgiveness of the developing world's debt on a massive scale would do more to decrease global terrorism and promote peace than any possible amount of increased spending on military might.

So, as a race of beings living on this troubled planet, we weigh our options. Even as 29,000 children die each and every day, we make choices which do nothing to alleviate the suffering that poverty brings to so many. Even as the American economic system implodes upon itself and drags the rest of the world with it, we choose to rescue those who do not deserve to be rescued, and we turn a blind eye to those who've been waiting in vain for a fabled rescue that may never arrive.

In the hour or so that it's taken me to write this blog post, 1200 children have died somewhere on this planet. 1200 children have given up their lives and joined the scores of others who have also died wholly unnecessary and preventable deaths. Tuberculosis, hunger, measles, diarrhea, dehydration---the reasons are many, as are the causes.

Humanity holds the answer to such problems in the palms of its collective hands. But will we ever act? Will we ever wake up and realize that the fate of all is inextricably bound, that our actions have repercussions far beyond our borders?

Today's 29,000 children all lived lives as valuable as any others. We are too late to prevent today's unnecessary deaths, but perhaps we can still prevent tomorrow's.

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