We just got back from Guatemala, working on the first phase of building a sanitation system in the community of Chuicutama in the Highlands of Guatemala. If you’d like to learn more and/or support our work, as it’s a multiyear project, you can do so by clicking here:
Before we left a few asked me: Shouldn’t we focus on helping the poor here at home?
As though we have to choose between them.
I bristle whenever anyone asks a question like that.
First, as I like to say, Christians, not just doctors, are without borders.
Second, as I’ve frequently whined, unless you’re talking about Indian Reservations (which you’re likely not) there’s no real comparison between poverty in the developing world and the poor in the United States.
Even the poorest of the poor here can walk into a gas station and get a glass of clean water.
That’s the exception in most places.
In his book Globalization, Spirituality, and Justice, Daniel Groody has summarized an array of statistical data in compiling a snapshot of the world as if it were a “global village of 100 people.”
In that village “the resources are unevenly distributed.”
The richest person in the village has as much as the poorest 57 taken together.
Fifty do not have a reliable source of food and are hungry some or all of the time, and 30 suffer malnutrition.
Forty do not have access to adequate sanitation.
31 people live in substandard housing.
31 do not have electricity; 18 are unable to read.
15 do not have access to safe drinking water.
Only 16 people have access to the internet.
Only 12 own an automobile.
Three are immigrating.
And only two have a college education.
Overall, 19 struggle to survive on one dollar per day or less.
48 struggle to live on two dollars a day or less.
In brief, as the World Bank describes it, two thirds of the planet lives in poverty.
Groody also shares some startling statistics about what he calls “our collective spending patterns as a human family in relationship to basic human needs.”
According to these figures, the world spent as much money on fragrances as all of Africa and the Middle East spent on education in 2005. The world spends almost as much money on toys and games as the poorest one-fifth of the world’s population earns in a year. The United States and Europe spent nearly ninety times as much on luxury items as the amount of money that would be needed to provide safe drinking water and basic sanitation for those in our global village who do not have these necessities now. Moreover, it is sobering to consider that the world spends nearly four times as much on alcohol as on international development aid.
Every hour more than 1,200 children die of preventable diseases, which is the equivalent of three tsunamis each month.
Yet even the smallest reductions in military expenditures could dramatically affect human development.
For one day’s military spending, we could virtually eliminate malaria in Africa.
For what we spend in two days on the military, we could provide the health care services necessary to prevent the deaths of three million infants a year.
For less than a week’s military spending, we could educate each of the 140 million children in developing countries who have never attended schools.