A chance to change the world

The United Nations released an important anti-poverty report this week. It’s based on the findings and opinions of 265 experts but all you really need to know is that it says (A) extreme poverty around the world can be drastically reduced in ten years and (B) it would only cost 0.5 percent of income from the wealthy nations.

That is just five dollars per $1,000, or 50 cents per $100. It’s a cheap price to lift millions out of nightmarish living conditions. Keep in mind, today 30,000 children will die of hunger and diseases that could have been easily prevented or treated. They will die only because they are poor. This adds up to more than 10 million unnecessary child deaths per year. Reducing that inexcusable statistic is reason enough for the wealthy nations to gamble on the report’s conclusions and invest the money.

It is important to understand that the window of opportunity that exists now may not always be there. What if the US economy nosedives? What if al Qaida scores a nuclear hit on a major European city? A thousand different ‘what ifs’ could take global poverty off the radar screen in a second. This is a rare chance, perhaps unprecedented in history, and we should seize it.

It is difficult to imagine who would not gladly give 50 cents for every $100 of their income to save the lives of children. I’m sure there are some pathetic exceptions, but most people, I believe, would happily hand it over. The economic power and the blueprint is there, only the will is necessary now.

Run this simulation through your mind: You are poor, very poor. You lost your five-year-old son to malaria last year and now you fear for your daughter’s health because your $2-a-day salary can’t buy enough food. You also worry that she will never escape the hell of poverty because you cannot afford school for her. Now, you meet a group of Americans (per capita income $37,800), Austrians (per capita income $30,000) and Caymanians (per capita income $35,000). What do you say to convince them to donate 0.5 percent of their incomes in order to save your daughter? Do you beg? Debate? Threaten? Show them your daughter’s face?

If only we knew what it would take to convince them to help her.

We, the wealthy countries of the world, have the power, right now, to significantly improve the living conditions of millions of people, and we can do it cheaply by our standards. By 2015, just ten years from now, we can live in a world where hunger, disease, illiteracy, and child neglect have been significantly reduced. We can make a better world. Why not do it?

World news editor Guy P. Harrison is at [email protected]