Many natural factors contribute to the persistence of extreme poverty. Everything from draughts and tsunamis to hurricanes and earthquakes cause massive loss of life and suffering leaving the survivors homeless and without food or medical care. But on a continuous day-to-day basis the real cause of extreme poverty is us. Whether it is the endless stream of wars we inflict on ourselves or the general apathy that is embraced by those fortunate enough to be living in comfort, human beings who are willing to hurt each other and who refuse to take care of each other are responsible for the deaths of 30,000 people everyday.

The world conveniently ignores the fact that over the next decade 109,500,000 human beings will die from extreme poverty. Stop and think about that number for a moment. Over one hundred million people will die in the coming ten years if we don’t begin to act now. But up to this point in time we have done very little to stop the slaughter. Token efforts have been made financially, and with enough outcries and celebrity support, genocides have been brought to the world’s attention, but on a consistent basis we have miserably failed the people living in extreme poverty, and it is our reluctance to act on their behalf that allows it to persist.

We are the cause of its continued grip on one billion people. We have the means and the ability to stop it and yet we don’t. When 6,570,000 children die from hunger and related causes each year we must accept the blame. When millions of children are orphaned by HIV/AIDS because their parents received no medical treatment, we are responsible. When the lifetime risk of maternal death in sub-Saharan Africa is 1 in 16 it is because we do not value their lives. 

When we wake up each morning, we face a day filled with choices. Some of the decisions we make are small and insignificant, but others have tremendous effects that we may not even be aware of. How we spend our free time and what we do with our extra money are two areas that have a ripple effect on others. Everyone needs to occasionally relax and do the things they enjoy, and we all deserve to spend a little cash on ourselves now and then, but here in the West we have raised wasting time and money to an art form.

When you consider the good you could be doing instead of mindlessly squandering precious hours and income it becomes apparent that our selfishness comes at a price – and that price is paid by those who have nothing. They desperately need the very things that people in wealthy nations thoughtlessly waste. If we could use just a little of our spare time in the effort to raise awareness about extreme poverty, and if we could donate even a small portion of our extra money to relief organizations that can provide the life saving food and medicine to those who are dying it would make the world a much better place.

In the end – either we care or we don’t. Making excuses about why we can’t help those who are dying does not absolve us of our responsibility. If we don’t help them who will? We have the money. We have the technical expertise. We have the organizational capabilities. We have all the resources we need, right now, to begin to eliminate extreme poverty. The only thing that is missing is the will to do it.

What is it about ourselves that is keeping us from making the effort? We have to examine our motives for ignoring so much death. We pretend the world is a safe and happy place for children, when it isn’t. We trick ourselves into believing that someone else will help the poor, but they don’t. We convince ourselves that the problem of poverty is so big that it can’t be solved, and as long as we have that attitude it will be difficult to solve.

We must remember that there is nothing more important, nothing nobler, and nothing more positive that we can do in this world than to save the lives of innocent children. Every other endeavor we can undertake pales in comparison. If our lack of caring has allowed the misery to persist than our compassion can turn the tide and begin to free people from their desperation. This is a stand we must make. Millions of lives hang in the balance. Our apathy and negligence have allowed extreme poverty to kill far too many people already. Enough is enough. The next ten years must be different.





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