Everyday around the world, as many as 30,000 children die simply because they were born into a life of poverty.
This means that every hour more than 1,200 children die because they don’t have access to water or food or basic health care. That’s more than 10 million children that die every year purely by the “lottery of latitude” - the location into which they were born.
Nine-year-old Korsid is one such child. I met Korsid in India last year. Here was a child who worked 60 hours a week in the gem-cutting industry - an Indian export industry. And his reward? He earns just $US1 a week for his efforts. To see a little 9-year-old boy working in these conditions was heartbreaking. Unfortunately, there is no labour legislation covering the processing of these gemstones in India and as a result, the poor and their children are often exploited.
Unfortunately Korsid’s story is not unique; he is one of more than 12 million child labourers in India alone. And the tragedy is that Korsid’s fate represents just one of the many faces of poverty in our world today.
This tragedy is not lost on Australians. More and more Australians are asking themselves why we live in a world where more than one billion people still live on less than $US1 a day, why more than 800 million people go hungry every day and why more than 100 million primary school-age children can’t go to school.
As people become more connected with their global neighbours through globalisation and technology, more and more Australians are seeing the injustices of poverty and are taking a stand. Last year we saw a groundswell of people wanting to make a change, to help end poverty - we saw it through the huge momentum of the Make Poverty History campaign where more than 50,000 Australians joined the campaign to fight poverty and in the more than 800,000 MPH white armbands bought by Australians to symbolise this fight.
It was also evidenced in a recent Roy Morgan survey, which found that eradicating extreme poverty, and hunger in the world was the number one priority for people aged 14 to 34 years.
Australians, particularly young Australians, understand that the world has arrived at a place where we are so rich that if we made a serious effort to address poverty, we could not only tremendously improve the state of the world, but for the first time in history, we could end extreme poverty within a generation.
To most of us the issue of eradicating poverty seems an insurmountable problem. There is no doubt that global poverty and climate change are the biggest moral challenges facing our world today. Both will require a global commitment if we are to succeed.
But we don’t need any new promises from governments, or months of navel gazing, theorising and soul searching to find the best way forward.
The Millennium Development Goals, established by the United Nations Millennium Declaration, already provide us with the framework to eradicate poverty. Australia, along with all members of the UN signed up to the goals in 2000. If we reach the eight goals we will halve world poverty by 2015, but while we are almost half way through the timeframe, there is still a long way to go to reach our aim.
More than 30 years ago, world leaders agreed that if the world’s richest nations gave 1 per cent of gross national income, we could end extreme poverty.
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