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12 November 2007

$1/Day, Child-headed Households, 28 Million, A Continent Dying....Don't Look Away: Part I

I had in mind that I would write about several books that I have read recently on Africa sometime this month. Today, I read (un)relaxeddad's post which led me to Charlotte's posts on AIDS in Africa (here and here). If you haven't read Charlotte's posts, you need to. I don't have a firsthand story about the crisis in Africa like what is posted on Charlotte's blog -- I can't even pretend that I could capture such emotional impact. I don't know how one can read Charlotte's post, or any of the heart-wrenching stories coming out of Africa and not be moved to action. Once you are aware of the conditions in Africa -- and the ways some think we can find workable solutions -- it is an offense to the dignity of others to ignore.

Currently more than 1 billion people -- more than 1/5th of the planet -- live in extreme poverty. This means living on less than $1/day or having to travel (usually by foot) more than 2 kilometers to get clean drinking water. In an effort to eradicate such poverty, the UN adopted (187 countries!) the Millennium Development Goals (MDG's) in 1998. From the UN's website:

The eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) – which range from halving extreme poverty to halting the spread of HIV/AIDS and providing universal primary education, all by the target date of 2015 – form a blueprint agreed to by all the world’s countries and all the world’s leading development institutions. They have galvanized unprecedented efforts to meet the needs of the world’s poorest.

What are the 8 MDG's?

1. Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger
2. Achieve universal primary education
3. Promote gender equality and empower women
4. Reduce child mortality
5. Improve maternal health
6. Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases (including TB which is epidemic in Africa)
7. Ensure environmental sustainability
8. Develop a global partnership for development.

For additional information on each of these goals, see this website

To help meet these goals the economic powerhouses of the world committed to contributing 0.07% of GNP in foreign aid. The US - and several other large countries -- have failed to meet this contribution. We have reached the 1/2 way mark to the target date of 2015, and progress towards the goals is slow moving. Consider:
* 10.1 million children under age 5 died from mostly preventable effects of poverty.
* 2.9 million people died from AIDS in 2006.
* 15 million children had lost one or both parents to AIDS in 2005.
* 1/2 of the population of the developing world has improper sanitation.

I could continue to bedazzle you with facts, but cold numbers do not have as great an emotional impact as personal stories. Read Charlotte's post; read books like 28 Stories of AIDS in Africa; or Jeffry Sach's The End of Poverty. Think what it means that there were 15 million children orphaned from AIDS. Some estimates cite that there will be 25 million AIDS orphans in Africa by 2010. 25 million children without a mother or father to hug them each day, to feed them, to love them, to show them how to grow into loving, caring adults. Many of these children are being raised by their elderly grandparents. Many live in what the UN has termed 'Child-Headed Households'. How can we life in a world were there is a term for that? How can one not be moved by such a horrific situation?

Below are a few sites where you can learn more. Tomorrow, I'll post a listing of several books that you might be interested in reading that discuss this pressing issue of our time and what we might do about it.

Millennium Development Goal Indicators
UN Millennium Development Goals
Make Poverty History
Millennium Promise
The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria
DATA (Debt, AIDS, Trade, Africa)


The curse of poverty has no justification in our age. It is socially as cruel and blind as the practice of cannibalism at the dawn of civilization, when men ate each other because they had not yet learned to take food from the soil or to consume the abundant animal life around them. The time has come for us to civilize ourselves by the total, direct and immediate abolition of poverty."

- Martin Luther King, Jr.

2 comments:

Charlotte said...

Thanks Cam for this post. It's great to see the bigger picture. The statistics are chilling, as are the individual stories of loss and tragedy.

(un)relaxeddad said...

Great set of links - I'll definitely have to follow them all up. The statistics are just so huge - books like "28 Stories..." are so important in terms of bringing them into a human focus.