In October 2000, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan said that almost half the world’s population lived on less than $2 a day. In the same sentence he added that “even this statistic fails to capture the humiliation, powerlessness and brutal hardship that is the daily lot of the world’s poor.”
Six years later, the plight of the world’s poor is much the same. Thirty-four percent of children in the developing world live without adequate shelter, 31 percent without adequate sanitation and 21 percent without access to clean water, according to UNICEF’s 2005 “State of the World’s Children Report.”
In the world, 1.2 billion people live without access to safe water and 2.6 billion people without sanitation, according to a 2006 United Nations Human Development Report. Half the hospital beds in sub-Saharan Africa are occupied by AIDS patients, according to the Los Angeles Times.
There are many other reports that chart and graph the millions affected by inadequate healthcare, lack of education, disease and oppression. When asked, most would agree that poverty is a problem. But how often do we actually think about it? And how much do we actually care?
As university students who live in the wealthiest nation in the world, we ought to care enough to take action, either through financial donations, with our time, or both. We are empowered to relieve the daily hardships that face billions and to restore human dignity to those who have none.
The UNICEF report stated that at the end of 2003, 15 million children had been orphaned by HIV/AIDS. That figure is expected to rise to 18 million by 2010. In 2003, 121 million school-age children were out of school, and one billion adults could not read, according to the report.
Millions of children are also victims of human trafficking, forced into exploitative work in sweatshops as domestic servants, child soldiers or into the commercial-sex industry, which the report stated has become a global, multimillion-dollar business.
Despite these statistics, progress to eliminate poverty is being made. More children are attending school and have access to healthcare, and there is hope that child poverty can be eliminated. UNICEF estimated the cost of educating a child in developing countries at $40 annually. The organization also projected that in 2004, every child could have been immunized for $187 million, which is .02 percent of global military spending.
Though perhaps not as severe, poverty exists in the United States. Nearly 13 percent of Americans lived in poverty in 2005, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The same report showed that nearly 18 percent of children under 18 lived below the poverty threshold.
Many organizations care about this problem and are easy to find with some effort. We must choose to participate in the fight to end global poverty or choose to be indifferent to it. Ignorance should not be a choice.
Josh Krane is a journalism senior and Mustang Daily staff writer.