What Is Extreme Poverty?

What if you had the chance to save the life of a child?  Most of us would do so without a moment’s hesitation. If we saw a small girl drowning in a pond in front of us, we would do everything possible to save this child’s life. Most of us, too, would readily agree that any inconvenience this action would pose to us would matter far less than the value we place on the life of the drowning child.

What many of us don’t realize, however, is that we each have the opportunity to save the life of a human being every day. In fact, each day we have 13,800 opportunities to do so. 

UNICEF  estimates that about 13,800 children under the age of 5 die each day from preventable causes associated with extreme poverty. This is over 500 children an hour or 9 per minute. These causes of death include insufficient nutrition, lack of access to clean water, inadequate health care services, malaria, dysentery, and neonatal infection. These are diseases and health problems that are essentially non-existent in the developed world thanks to countless advances. And yet despite these improvements, several billion people continue to live and die in poverty, struggling daily with its dire effects.

Extreme poverty has many causes: harsh climate, lack of fertile land, war and political strife, government corruption, unfair trade policies, disease, and famine. Many of these causes are in turn exacerbated by poverty, contributing to a cycle of suffering that prevents the world’s neediest people from accessing the basic health services, resources, and information that they need to survive.

There are roughly 8 billion people living in the world today, and of those 8 billion people:

648 million

people live on less than $2.15 a day

3.6 billion

people lack access to sanitation facilities

2 billion

people lack access to clean drinking water

800 million

people go to bed hungry

800 million

adults can’t read or write

What Can I Do About It?

Each day presents us with countless ways to save a life. Just as we would help the small girl in the pond, each of us can make decisions of significant moral importance without sacrificing anything of remotely comparable value. Learn more about how you can make a difference, and how to fight common objections to giving.