When you are trapped in extreme poverty, death is waiting for you each morning. You can feel its presence throughout the day. As you try to sleep at night it crowds your thoughts. You toss and turn but there is no escape. When you finally fall asleep it fills your dreams. For those struggling in extreme poverty, death is ever present.

All of us know the pain and sense of loss that comes when someone dies. But few of us live with death hanging over our heads 24 hours a day. However, for those living in extreme poverty, death must be faced on a daily basis. This is an exhausting struggle that is particularly difficult when it involves children. As parents, we do everything humanly possible to keep death away from our children. We have vaccines, antibiotics and the latest medical advancements to ward off death. We have bountiful food and water to nourish their bodies. We provide them with safe and comfortable shelter. We try to protect them in every conceivable way. But what if you don’t have these resources? What if there is little food and only unclean water? What if there are no vaccines or medications? What if the nearest hospital is hundreds of miles away? How can these fragile lives be protected?

Try to imagine that all of your children are sick and hungry. You know that saving them is a race against time because death preys on the weak. But there are no resources available. You have no way of helping them…It doesn’t have to be this way. Death does not always have to win in the early years of life. It can be challenged with proper nutrition, clean drinking water, proper sanitation and medical care. Death can be stopped in its tracks by people who care.

Dying is an unpleasant fact that we all must deal with. But most of us have a realistic chance that death will come after a long and rewarding life. A life filled with love and purpose. A life filled children and grandchildren. A life filled with many accomplishments. And, of course, a life filled with all the necessary tools needed to keep death at bay from you and your family. However, this is not the case for those in extreme poverty. It is quite the opposite. From their first breath of life it is a race with death.

Unfortunately, death can often be the result of how we think. If we think that others are inferior to us we are far less likely to help them. If we think that the suffering of others is not our responsibility we will not reach out to them. If we think that our petty problems are more important than their life and death struggles we will not come to their aid. How we think can greatly influence the lives of those living in extreme poverty.

In the West, when it comes our turn to die, we expect to be made as comfortable as possible. We know that we will receive compassionate care. Every attempt will be made to make our death as bearable as possible. However, these acts of mercy are denied to those in extreme poverty. They die in the dirt covered with flies. They die burning up with fever with no cool water to drink. They die without any kind of medication to ease the excruciating pain. They die neglected and ignored. And they die by the millions. From the moment we are born in the West until the moment we take our last breath, our lives are ridiculously easy compared to those in Third World countries. In the end, we not only get to live better than the one billion people in extreme poverty, we get to die better too.

Although death is a natural part of life, it should never occur unnecessarily. When it can be prevented it should be. Death should not be allowed to occur because of where you live. Death should not be allowed to occur because of the color of your skin. Death should not be allowed to occur because you are poor. Death should not be allowed to occur because you are a child. And death should not be allowed to occur because wealthy nations turn their backs on the less fortunate.

For a little girl in a Third World country to die from a preventable disease while we head for the shopping malls and sports stadiums is not right. When a little boy starves to death while we spend billions on weight loss products it is reprehensible. When pharmaceutical companies would rather produce drugs to slow down the visible signs of aging instead of drugs that would allow people to live past the age of 45 it is unethical.

Statistics blur the misery of death. Numbers alone cannot begin to convey the human loss. To simply say that almost 11 million people died last year from extreme poverty does not drive home the point that these were entire families that were wiped out. These were parents that died and left behind millions of orphans. These were mothers and infants that died during childbirth. These were tiny children under the age of five that starved to death in a world filled with plenty. These were very real human beings who are now dead because we did not help them.





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