About 25,000 people die every day of hunger or hunger-related causes, according to the United Nations. Not because there isn’t enough food, but because they live in such an extreme state of poverty they cannot afford to buy the things they need to support themselves. 25,000 is a lot, that’s about 1 every three seconds, we’ve all seen the ad. 25,000 is also more people than live in the entire town where I grew up.
That’s how many people die every day. I can’t even begin to understand numbers like that. And it’s not just in foreign countries, there are many people living in poverty in our own country, in our cities and towns, in our own neighbourhoods.
But governments and organizations around the world are trying to understand and trying to work to fix a growing problem. The UN (United Nations) passed a resolution in 1992 (wow, I was like 8 in 1992!) that essentially told the world that poverty was a violation of human rights. Now that is a stand I can get behind, because at its most basic level, human rights are those things which we must have to live, food, shelter, clean drinking water. If a family cannot afford these things, then yes, it is a violation of their human rights and we need to do something about it.
So, in addition to this resolution a day was established as “International Day for the Eradication of Poverty.” And every year on October 17, people around the world take time to mark this occasion. One initiative is called “Stand Up and Take Action Against Poverty.” “Stand Up” is a global movement of people who “refuse to stay seated or silent in the face of poverty and broken promises to end it!” People around the world organize events where they “stand up” and get noticed and have their voices heard. The “Take Action” side of things was new this year and it meant doing any of the following: sending letters to government, organising teach-ins, distributing books or other educational materials, donating blood, planting trees or any number of other ways to contribute towards ending poverty and inequality. Essentially you just had to do something to show that you stand up and take action to end poverty. You can check out their site here to read more about how 116 993 629 people stood up this year!
I also read this article about this year’s theme for the International Day. It was “Human rights and dignity of people living in poverty.” It does a great job of explaining the human rights perspective on poverty and what it means to be poor in this world. It also provides the example of what is happening in Pakistan, where there exist only two classes of citizens, the very rich and very poor. Poverty has become so extreme that families have resorted to “selling their own children” in order to survive!! It goes on to talk about a measure being taken by the Pakistani government to try and improve the situation, such as restoring economic growth and improving access to basic necessities like primary education and health care.
It is certainly good that governments are taking action against poverty. It is good that people are standing up and taking action. But what can we, as youth, as individuals, what can we do? This website gives a big list of different things youth can do to help eliminate poverty like educating others and fund raising. It also provides some great stories of what other young people around the world have done. My favorite is:
“A Chicago community health clinic that provides services for poor, pregnant women and infants was about to be shut down for lack of funds. Fifty children organized a protest in front of the clinic drawing the attention of the media and lawmakers. The clinic remained open.”
But there are lots of examples and lots we can do, just fund raising or having a food drive can help the poor in areas where you live, food banks are always in need of donations of time, money and food, so there are lots of ways to help!
What will you do to help eradicate poverty??