Some News About Poverty and Hunger

I thought I’d write a “Peace on earth, good will towards men” post about places on earth where there is more peace this year. You know – downward trends. Fewer bodies in the streets than a year ago or a decade ago. More harmony. Catholics and Protestants singing carols together in a Belfast pub. People walking home after dark without getting picked off by snipers. Fewer people blown up by a mine as they walked across a meadow. You get the idea.

But I couldn’t find any places like that.

Apparently, no one has come up yet with quantifiable stats for determining if a country has become more peaceful. I welcome you to search the net and prove me wrong. However, in my peregrinations I did find some semi-optimistic information over at the United Nations Statistics web site, which I am about to share with you.

I found the UN’s 2006 progress report on how their Millennium Development Goals are coming along. These are goals set in 2000 for how things should look in 2015. We are talking less poverty, less malaria, more education, more clean water – a world that is up to the Minimum Daily Requirement we North Americans and Europeans take for granted. I think that’s a pretty good starting point toward more peace and less misery. So let’s see how we’re doing.

Goal One: Eradicate Extreme Poverty and Hunger

Target 1: Halve, between 1990 and 2015, the proportion of people whose income is less than $1 a day.

Are there wonderful Christlike economies out there where people don’t use money but grow and share their crops and medicines and textbooks? Or is this a goal worth striving for?

The good news: Eastern Asia (China, Korea) has already beat the target. We’re so adapted to thinking of those countries as prosperous we forget they weren’t that way as recently as 1990. Southeastern Asia, which includes countries as poor as Cambodia and Myanmar, (pop quiz: name a country that borders Myanmar) has already beat the target. The islands of the South Pacific have already beat the target. Bad news: Sub-Saharan Africa has made almost no progress at all. In fact, the number of people living in extreme poverty there has increased by 140 million.

Target 2: Halve, between 1990 and 2015, the proportion of people who suffer from hunger.

Not doing so good, folks. The percentages of people in the “developing world” who go hungry every day are going down – but it’s a minuscule decline. In 1990, 33% of Sub-Saharan Africans went hungry every day. In 2003, down to 31%. Big deal. And because of population increase, the actual number of people who never get enough beans to fill their stomach – is up.

But, hey – the poor will always be with us, right? And there’s plenty of food in my refrigerator.

The entire report is well worth pondering. Check it out at Millennium Development Goals Report: 2006

Cartoon by Kaur Chand Badhok, India

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2 thoughts on “Some News About Poverty and Hunger

  1. How about education? I don’t know about “everywhere in the world,” but Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, India and Nepal have more schools (pre-schools, primary, secondary),with more services such as libraries and computer labs than in the year 2000, thanks to a great organization called Room to Read (www.roomtoread.org) The same organization is enabling girls (who usually get the short end of such luxuries as schooling) to get education all the way through secondary school by providing scholarships, paying school fees, buying uniforms, providing bicycles so they can get to school, and encouraging them and their families to value the educational process. Other organizations, individuals and American school groups also have committed to improving educational opportunities in very poor villages around the world. I think those children who are benefiting from education would say “Yup, Pondering Pig, things are getting better. We have hope for the future.”

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  2. To continue on my above comment, education pays big dividends in developing countries, especially for girls. Education gives them a chance to get out of the cycle of grinding poverty and exploitation, to raise healthier children because they have learned about sanitation and nutrition, and to be able to work somewhere that pays a decent wage…maybe they’ll even have a chance to make decisions about the future of their countries. Decisions that lead to peace and well-being. It doesn’t have to be “just a dream.”

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