Can we really end extreme poverty?

An orphan girl in Cambodia. Photo: ©2013 Anthony Luk/World Vision

An orphan girl in Cambodia.
Photo: ©2013 Anthony Luk/World Vision

“In his inaugural address in 1949 Harry Truman said that ‘more than half the people in the world are living in conditions approaching misery. For the first time in history, humanity possesses the knowledge and skill to relieve the suffering of those people.’ It has taken much longer than Truman hoped, but the world has lately been making extraordinary progress in lifting people out of extreme poverty. Between 1990 and 2010, their number fell by half as a share of the total population in developing countries, from 43% to 21%—a reduction of almost 1 billion people.”

The above quote was taken from the Economist, where we are reminded on the amazing strides that have been taken to eliminate extreme poverty. This year, UN’s most powerful officials from around the world are making plans on how best to continue to reduce extreme poverty by 2030. The poverty reduction that has occurred so far is nothing short of amazing. The concept of living below $1.25 a day is inconceivable to anyone – even those who live it – since it is a life of sadness, disease and little hope. Poor countries stuck selling their natural resources and thus continuing their spiral in a poverty trap (while attacked by natural disasters) has previously been the trend and is still the battle to be fought by not just countries, but the billions of lives dominated by no opportunities or social structure to help them dig out.But we know how to help. Jeffery Sachs, an expert in poverty analysis, names education and self-sustaining increased productivity to be the basis of helping countries find their own feet into the economy. He also claims that health globally is geared towards the rich, a balance that we can all help change. Changing the concept of equality is another one of Sachs’ claims that universally changes the entire condition of relationships and being a human in majority of the world. None of these are novel ideas. They cost very little to us. But, can it be done?

The answer is Yes.

The sad truth is that poverty has always been a choice made intentionally by governments and evil people and sometimes unintentionally by good Christians who let it happen. Our poverty of spirit and faith and conviction as Christians representing the hands and feet of Christ has been part of the problem at times. Unfortunately the reality is that even if we are able to eliminate extreme poverty (living on less than $1.25), there are still trillions living just above that line and millions living in oppression. We owe so much more to all of these people who weren’t born into a country with a security net, with a wealth of opportunities, and the chance to know about a God who sees them and longs for them to live abundantly.

Two of the most convicting quotes I’ve ever read are:

“It’s the greatest poverty to decide that a child must die so that you may live as you wish.”
Mother Teresa 

“Thou shalt not be a victim, though shalt not be a perpetrator, but above all, thou shalt not be a bystander.”
Yehuda Bauer (Holocaust Museum)

I am beyond grateful and humbled by the call and opportunities to help anyone through my blessings, especially through the work of World Vision. We know more about our opportunity to relieve not just extreme poverty, but all poverty, than ever before. That knowledge is a heavy weight, but a weight we are blessed to carry. We are blessed to be convicted. We are honored if we are not allowed to continue to live as if we did not know. May we pray and act for a change in poverty… not just for those in other countries, but any poverty of willingness and generosity of our own souls.

by Anna Goodworth, WOV Hartford, CT

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