Imagine you’re walking down the street and a reporter approaches you, sticks a microphone in your face, and asks, “Is poverty in Canada on the rise?”
How would you answer?
The prevailing belief seems to be that yes, poverty is definitely on the rise. Four million people live below Canada’s poverty line. That’s more than 11% of us.
“What about the world at large?” the reporter asks.
“Oh, it’s definitely getting worse in third world countries,” you might say. You’ve seen the footage of the hungry and homeless, the unspeakable human suffering caused by war and draught. It’s true that while extreme poverty is all but eliminated in developed countries like Canada, it remains common in many developing countries. (The World Bank defines “extreme poverty” as living on less than $1.25 per day, being unable to provide emergency health care, education, clean water, adequate shelter, or enough food for your children.)
However, despite population growth, 700 million fewer people live in extreme poverty today than 25 years ago. For the first time in the history of Latin America and the Caribbean, more people live in the middle class than in poverty. Vietnam’s percentage of people living in extreme poverty dropped from 58% in the 1990s to 10% in 2010. China, India, Malaysia, and Thailand are all pulling ahead in this war.
Six million fewer children under age five died last year than died in 1990. Polio is nearly eradicated, and 3.3 million fewer people died from malaria in the span of 12 years. Adult illiteracy has been cut in half since 1985, and in the past 25 years, 2.3 billion people received access to clean water.
For some reason, these positive statistics are slow to spread. Is that because it’s easier to believe it’s hopeless and just give up? When people believe it’s impossible to eradicate extreme poverty, concern dwindles. We become apathetic or cynical. I don’t tell you these things because I want to be Pollyanna, but to reveal another truth besides the endless devastating TV news stories about disease, war, and famine. In many ways, progress is being made and you can play a role in it. Yes, there are grim stats, too. Child poverty right here at home is up several points from the 1990s. There are certainly still far too many hungry people on this planet. But we are making headway, one child at a time. Think how you will feel when statistics look still better 20 years from now, knowing you played a part in it!
I was pleased to learn two of my favorite charities, Samaritan’s Purse and Compassion, made the top ten list of charities known for their exceptional financial management. But you have many others to choose from. To give where you know your money will really count, you can check out rankings at www.charitynavigator.org
Because we sure could use a little good news today. And because every one of us can help create a little good news today.