The UN MDG were adopted in 2000 and have a target date of 2015. The World Bank estimates that 1.4 billion people were living in extreme poverty in 2005. What does this mean? The definition of extreme poverty is defined as living below $1.25 a day or less, in 2005 dollars. 2005 estimates show that 26% of the world population lives at or below this level. While this is down from 52% in 1981, certain areas of the world have shown little progress. In Sub Saharan Africa this rate has remained a constant 50%.
What has worked to decrease the poverty rates? Micro-finance has been a big boost. Organizations like Kiva (see the banner in the sidebar) have allowed many people to increase their income through self-employment. Kiva acts as a clearing house for various micro-lending organizations. You find a person who needs help with a small loan to start or expand a business venture and you loan them all or a portion of what they need. Multiple people can donate to a single person. That money is in turn given to a local lender who handles the actual loan transaction and voila! I can help a woman in Africa expand her business from my computer in Texas.
Despite these and other successes, the rising cost of food threatens a billion people with starvation and another 2 billion with malnutrition.
The vast numbers of people affected by extreme poverty makes the goal of helping them seem insurmountable. That's why organizations like Kiva are so important. They put a face on the problem and help you to focus your assistance on one person. And this is not just money given away. These are loans that must be repaid. When your money is repaid, you have the option of getting a check, loaning it to someone else, or donating to assist with the administrative needs of the organization.
You can help decrease malnutrition and hunger by supporting the World Food Programme and increase your vocabulary by clicking on the Free Rice banner. This organization has donated over 40 billion grains of rice since its inception last year. That's enough to feed 2 million people for a day. They've added more games now and hope to keep generating rice to feed the hungry. The WFP has several ways to help, check out their website now.
It doesn't cost much to feed a hungry child in Africa. $50 will provide enough food for an entire school year. A $25 donation to Kiva will help a parent provide an income to keep their family fed and clothed. Why not make a donation to Kiva instead of sending your mother a bouquet of flowers for Mother's Day? Or instead of buying lilies for Easter send that money to the WFP? Either way, you'll have made a real difference in someone's life.
Why should we help those living in extreme poverty? After all, we have enough problems of our own here at home. True enough. But I believe that extreme poverty is an evil that must be eradicated. People living without hope tend to do things out of desperation that they would never otherwise do. As a Christian, it's part of my calling from Christ to help the poor. Indeed, every major religion has some directive to aid the poor. Whether you follow any one of them or not, I think we can all agree, it is the right thing, the moral thing to do. A world free from extreme poverty is a safer world for everyone. It is a better world and one worth striving for.