Eugene Cho

fight poverty 2 – a broken world

This is part II of a short series entitled, Fight Poverty.  Here’s Part I – An Introduction and Part III – A Vision for Compassion and Redistribution.

The statistics you will read below paint a picture of a broken world.  A very broken world.  And you and I are a part of it.  Every time I examine these figures, I sometimes just see numbers and forget that these are about people – like you and me, my children, your children, etc. And more often than not, I am simply overwhelmed because I don’t quite know what to do.   While we may not be able to completely “fix” all of the world’s problems, we need to still do our part to be the solution… 

This is not just a Christian issue.  It is a humanity issue.   It involves every single one of us.  Each person has a God given right to live their lives as God intended for humanity.  Anything short of that is simply, an injustice.

There are numerous books that are must reads if you are interested in the complexities of world poverty and injustice.  One thing is clear:  they are no easy solutions.  However, most will agree that it is, nevertheless, within our human capacity to eradicate extreme poverty if governments, leaders, non-government organizations, and individuals worked together on the major issues [food, water, disease, education, etc.] that serve as barriers.

Governments must do their part in four major areas: debt cancellation, fair trade, decrease corruption, and increase aid to respective countries and regions around the world.  Equally as important in my opinion, is the role of the individual.  You and I should not be given a free pass.  We need to be burdened by the realities of a very brutal and harsh world where so many are suffering and dying.  We need to examine our lifestyles, choices, priorities, sense of compassion, amongst others.

As we seek to travel during our sabbatical this summer, Minhee and I intend to bring our children to couple of our destinations.  We want them to know that the way that we live here in the United States isn’t really “normal.”  We want them to see some of the suffering around the world.  We want our kids’ heart to be broken as our hearts need to be broken. 

Perhaps this is one of the root problems of humanity:  our hearts have become hardened.  When our hearts become hardened and desensitized, we become less human – thus allowing inhumane things to happen all around us.  Does this make sense?

I’ve been attempting to digest the information below for some time…  All these statistics are available with its sources on Global Issues.  Any thoughts?  Which ones shock you the most? 

  1. Half the world — nearly three billion people — live on less than two dollars a day.  Approximately a billion live on less than a dollar/day.
  2. The GDP (Gross Domestic Product) of the poorest 48 nations (i.e. a quarter of the world’s countries) is less than the wealth of the world’s three richest people combined.
  3. Nearly a billion people entered the 21st century unable to read a book or sign their names.
  4. Less than one per cent of what the world spent every year on weapons was needed to put every child into school by the year 2000 and yet it didn’t happen.
  5. 51 percent of the world’s 100 hundred wealthiest bodies are corporations.
  6. The wealthiest nation on Earth has the widest gap between rich and poor of any industrialized nation.
  7. The poorer the country, the more likely it is that debt repayments are being extracted directly from people who neither contracted the loans nor received any of the money.
  8. 20% of the population in the developed nations, consume 86% of the world’s goods.
  9. The top fifth of the world’s people in the richest countries enjoy 82% of the expanding export trade and 68% of foreign direct investment — the bottom fifth, barely more than 1%.
  10. In 1960, the 20% of the world’s people in the richest countries had 30 times the income of the poorest 20% — in 1997, 74 times as much.
  11. The developing world now spends $13 on debt repayment for every $1 it receives in grants.
  12. A few hundred millionaires now own as much wealth as the world’s poorest 2.5 billion people.
  13. “Approximately 790 million people in the developing world are still chronically undernourished, almost two-thirds of whom reside in Asia and the Pacific.”
  14. According to UNICEF, 30,000 children die each day due to poverty. And they “die quietly in some of the poorest villages on earth, far removed from the scrutiny and the conscience of the world. Being meek and weak in life makes these dying multitudes even more invisible in death.” That is about 210,000 children each week, or just under 11 million children under five years of age, each year.
  15. Water problems affect half of humanity:
    • Some 1.1 billion people in developing countries have inadequate access to water, and 2.6 billion lack basic sanitation.
    • Almost two in three people lacking access to clean water survive on less than $2 a day, with one in three living on less than $1 a day.
    • More than 660 million people without sanitation live on less than $2 a day, and more than 385 million on less than $1 a day.
    • Some 1.8 million child deaths each year as a result of diarrhoea
    • The loss of 443 million school days each year from water-related illness.
    • Close to half of all people in developing countries suffering at any given time from a health problem caused by water and sanitation deficits.

  16. The richest 50 million people in Europe and North America have the same income as 2.7 billion poor people. “The slice of the cake taken by 1% is the same size as that handed to the poorest 57%.”
  17. A mere 12 percent of the world’s population uses 85 percent of its water, and these 12 percent do not live in the Third World.
  18. Consider the global priorities in spending in 1998
    Global Priority $U.S. Billions
    Cosmetics in the United States 8
    Ice cream in Europe 11
    Perfumes in Europe and the United States 12
    Pet foods in Europe and the United States 17
    Business entertainment in Japan 35
    Cigarettes in Europe 50
    Alcoholic drinks in Europe 105
    Narcotics drugs in the world 400
    Military spending in the world 780

    And compare that to what was estimated as additional costs to achieve universal access to basic social services in all developing countries:

    Global Priority $U.S. Billions
    Basic education for all 6
    Water and sanitation for all 9
    Reproductive health for all women 12
    Basic health and nutrition 13

  19. Number of children in the world
    2.2 billion
    Number in poverty
    1 billion (every second child)
    Shelter, safe water and health
    For the 1.9 billion children from the developing world, there are:

    • 640 million without adequate shelter (1 in 3)
    • 400 million with no access to safe water (1 in 5)
    • 270 million with no access to health services (1 in 7)
    Children out of education worldwide
    121 million
    Survival for children
    Worldwide,

    • 10.6 million died in 2003 before they reached the age of 5 (same as children population in France, Germany, Greece and Italy)
    • 1.4 million die each year from lack of access to safe drinking water and adequate sanitation
    Health of children
    Worldwide,
    • 2.2 million children die each year because they are not immunized
    • 15 million children orphaned due to HIV/AIDS (similar to the total children population in Germany or United Kingdom)

Filed under: health

13 Responses

  1. Randall says:

    “Perhaps this is one of the root problems of humanity: our hearts have become hardened. When our hearts become hardened and desensitized, we become less human – thus allowing inhumane things to happen all around us.”

    I agree 100 percent. We sometimes hear some of the statistics you listed on the television or read it in a newspaper and the numbers just breeze by. It’s hard to get one’s head around a statistic like 1.1 billion people without easy access to water.

    I think it’s so good and important that you’re taking your kids with you to see what life is like for most of the world. I wish all kids in the US could make such field trips. I didn’t have an understanding of what poverty looked like until I took a mission trip to the Philippines and even then I know I didn’t see the worst of it.

    In a world where movies need to be more violent and more graphic year after year to “entertain” us, it’s no wonder that it’s so easy for us to write off the idea of death. In a world where avoiding issues regarding poverty and suffering is as easy as hitting a button on a TV remote or the “back” button on a browser, it’s no wonder that so few pay attention.

    And it’s so easy to feel powerless, because we have that luxury.

  2. Janet says:

    Eugene,

    You wrote, “When our hearts become hardened and desensitized, we become less human – thus allowing inhumane things to happen all around us…”

    That just pierces my heart because I know how hardened and desensitized by heart can be.

    May the Lord bless you and your wife in your endeavors!

  3. […] I’m writing a short series entitled, Fight Poverty, this week.  Here’s  Part II:  A Broken World and Part III: A Vision for Compassion and […]

  4. Denise Rose says:

    I was very touched by what you all wrote, I am working on a year long project with my ten year old on poverty and I don’t know where to start. There is such great info on the net(facts, statistics etc) but we really need to see it first hand. Then I drive down the street and see a homeless man and give him a few dollars and my son asks me why, I tell him to help one person at a time, that is all we can do. Then we go to a soup kitchen and make sandwiches, he asks me why, I tell him to help one person at a time.

    We just celebrated Chanukah and it was a “light one.” My 14 year old asked me why, I said because every day is Chanukah for you. This year we are giving to charity and clean out your rooms and donate your things. She finally got it(a little, I hope)

    I wish I could take them to a foreign country to see what goes on but since that is out of the question, I will show them locally and try to educate them but I want them to know what is going on in this world and to be better “global citizens and look beyond their own lives.

    Thank you all for trying to make this world a better place.

    From the heart, Denise

  5. Linda says:

    I’m surprised and saddened that this post didn’t get as many responses as your posts about coffee, sports, or Macs vs PCs. Nor my submissions about Kenya. I’m nearly to tears again by those numbers because to me, they represent the people I’ve met and hope to see again. I wish everyone can travel far and wide, so we can all finally understand that the human experience is the same, whether we live with hybrid cars or mosquito nets. We should all be free to lean off the “survival mode” …

    I read your posts out of order; Would love to help your $ million goals.

  6. e cho says:

    Linda: I think it basically confirms what I was attempting to say in this post that our hearts can easily be hardened to such things. Honestly, it’s very depressing.

  7. uenomurakami says:

    Eugene,

    I will say, and with a saddened heart, I’m not surprised by those statistics. I’ve studied this stuff for a little while. More specifically I studied national security policy, and in that I studied African politics relating to national security. Interesting what you can dig up. If the United States decided to build one less plane or warship, and directly invested that money on a local level things would be different. We (and I mean the U.S. Federal Government) just don’t put our money where our mouth is.

    I went to India a few years back and took a drive through the country side, and it was astonishing what people were putting themselves through just to make some money. Even in the center of New Delhi I was shocked. Some friends and I had a nice curry dinner in this high rise revolving restaurant. After which, we got in our rickshaws and went back to our hotel, which was in a Tibetan refugee area outside New Delhi. Sidetracking lepers and homeless children begging for money was a common daily event in India (if you are a tourist). That was just one eye opening observation.

    The unfortunate reality is, nations factor these things into the economics of what they believe is necessary for growth and survival in this global market system. Nations are prepared to deal with a certain “loss,” as long as economic growth stats rise. India, which boasts some of the worst ghettos in the world continuously flaunts its macroeconomic gains as a sign of success. Loss of life doesn’t seem to affect the overall economic goals of the nation. China is the same. Economic giant in one respect, but when people scrutinize its humanitarian record, and that fact the rivers are becoming so polluted that once rich farm land is now waste land, it cries for “understanding” with regards to difficult internal dynamics.

    I champion your cause and efforts towards it. Hopefully you can reach people on a grassroots level because, as you are probably experiencing with all your lawyer meetings, bureaucracy can really keep things from moving forward.

    God Speed

  8. Sheela says:

    These are some very startling statistics. The very first fact really puts things into perspective. Half the population of the world actually lives on less than two dollars a day? I spend way more than that each day, and I can’t imagine having to live that way. Great post, thanks for pointing out some of these things I wouldn’t have realized otherwise.

  9. Timothy says:

    I too am saddened by a lack of response to this posts, I believe we as Americans can look at the world and ignore the suffering because its simply a world away and not part of our reality. There are solutions and they involve every privileged person on this planet making a substantial contribution, not sacrifice, cause this is what the God would have us do, take care the least of those. We really need to move beyond reflecting and be moved to action. Tangible solutions can be found in the natural resources in many of these countries, the dilemma is replacing much of the patriarchal hierarchy with a matriarchal system, honestly folks, this is one of the better solutions, but implementation could be a problem.

  10. chad says:

    don’t entirely discount the lack of posts as apathy – i, for one, was not going to respond purely because i simply cannot process the numbers. they are overwhelming and i cannot respond to them off the cuff. that doesn’t mean i don’t care, i am just in shock

  11. Oshe says:

    I feel inundated with numbers such as these and this is just further proof of a hardened heart. That makes it break in response. My church donated to an organization called living waters around Christmas time and it has been on my heart ever since. I will make calls and send emails in the morning to get people moving. Thank you for posting this and reminding us of the world around us.

  12. […] of Fighting Poverty | Part 1 | Part 2| Part […]

  13. […] addition, I used this blog to write a three / part / series on extreme global poverty and shared our personal commitment of donating our year’s […]

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"He must become greater; I must become less." - John 3:30 We have to remind ourselves of this truth every day lest we forget:

Our greatest calling as followers of Christ is to be faithful. Not spectacular. Not glamorous. Not popular. Not relevant.

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Did you know that 32 million girls of lower secondary school age are not enrolled in school.

Did you know that every year of secondary school increases a girl’s future earning power by 20 percent.

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The answer to who you serve makes all the difference... It's the day after International Women's Day - and it's still important to celebrate the contribution of women in our lives, society, and world. As we honor women all around the world, I'm also reminded of how women and children are those who are most deeply impacted by injustice - especially poverty.

Sadly, I have witnessed this reality in too many places. ​In 2012, I traveled to a remote area in Eastern Kenya as part of a @onedayswages response to a famine that struck the Horn of Africa region. This famine impacted nearly 13 million people and according to some sources, took the lives of about 250,000 people. During my trip there, I had the chance of meeting many people but the person that still remains in my memory was a Muslim woman named Sahara.

She was so hospitable in inviting us to her small and temporary home. During our conversation, I learned that ​Sahara traveled 300 kilometers (a little under 200 miles) – some by cart and some by foot – as they sought to escape the worst drought that has impacted East Africa (Kenya, Somalia, and Ethiopia) in the past 60 years.

This is not a misprint.
200.

She traveled about 200 miles on cart and foot. ​And all along, she was ill. If you look closely ​at the photo, you might notice the large lump in her throat - likely a large cancerous tumor.​ She did not travel alone. She traveled with her husband who I was not able to meet because he was staying with one of his five other wives in this polygamist community.  She did not travel alone. She also traveled with her six children – the youngest being about 1 and the oldest being around 8. She had just given birth to her sixth child when they began her journey. Her youngest was severely malnourished when they arrived to this new settlement in a town called Benane. 
Sahara and her children all survived this journey. They survived because she persisted. 
In honor of Sahara...and so many other women who keep...keeping on.

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