Yesterday, Bill Gates published his fifth Annual Letter. In it he “makes the case for using a tool of business to improve the health and welfare of more of the world’s people.”
The day before Bill was at London’s Royal Institute speaking to a room of around 300, including some of our accomplished Global Poverty Ambassadors, as part of the prestigious BBC Richard Dimbleby Lecture. He – “The Impatient Optimist” – charismatically and articulately addressed a world free of polio.
"The best of who we are – our capacity for innovation, our resilience, our sympathy for each other – has gotten us to this threshold. Only disease, poverty and indifference still stand in the way. The fight to eradicate polio is a proving ground, a test. Its outcome will reveal what human beings are capable of, and suggest how ambitious we are about our future."
The six chapters within Bill’s Annual Letter include: Measuring Progress, The World’s Report Card, Global Goals / Local Change, Mapping the End of Polio, Feedback for Teacher Growth and The Way Forward.
So, where do we begin? At the Global Poverty Project we want to see an end to extreme poverty in a generation. But with that comes commitment, funds and resolve – Bill also agrees these are key variables.
In Bill’s letter he demands that we must begin with accurate measurement and clear goals in order to improve the lives of poor people around the world. And only through quantified measurement can we, as a global community, achieve the task ahead. He highlights progress with education in the United States to the prenatal health care in Ethiopia.
“I have been struck again and again by how important measurement is to improving the human condition,” he writes. “…In previous annual letters, I’ve focused a lot on the power of innovation to reduce hunger, poverty, and disease. But any innovation — whether it’s a new vaccine or an improved seed — can’t have an impact unless it reaches the people who will benefit from it."
He uses examples from Colorado, Ethiopia and Nigeria to show how gathering and organizing data with increasing speed and money is making a difference. The Microsoft co-founder also discusses how polio is close to being eradicated from the world and how new advances in measuring teacher effectiveness are providing opportunities to improve education.
“…the progress we’ve made towards each [MDG] is staggering.”
Gates also wrote about the United Nations-created Millennium Development Goals as an example of how the world can make changes with the right goals in place.
“While we won’t reach all of the goals, the progress we’ve made toward each is staggering. The MDG target of reducing extreme poverty by half has been reached ahead of the deadline, as has the goal of halving the proportion of people who lack access to safe drinking water.” We at the Global Poverty Project are humbled and proud to be part of this movement and education campaign. Become an Ambassador or Global Citizen and show us your commitment today.
Gates is also encouraging others to speak up and contribute ideas for how to improve the world for the next generation. You can help him out by submitting your idea on the Hopes for 2030 Facebook page.
Global Citizen and DAWNS are committed to telling stories about issues related to global poverty. We will lean on the Global Citizen and DAWNS communities to support reporters, bloggers,photographers film makers or anyone with a compelling humanitarian story to tell.
Our grants are open to anyone, anywhere in the word. Our ideal grantees have excellent story ideas or projects underway, but need a small modicum of financial support to help them in some tangible way. (Here is a list of previous grantees.) If you need a new camera lens; some help to pay for a translator; some financial assistance to pay for travel related to your project, then you should apply. Your project should already be off the ground, or close to it. You need to demonstrate to us how $1000 can be put to productive use.
Applications close on January 25, with finalists announced on February 5. We will sort through all the applications and narrow them down to what we think are the best proposals. This is where you come in. We will open up the applications on Global Citizen for you to read over and VOTE on which stories you want to be told.
You can visit the DAWNS website for details about the grant, and apply HERE. Forward far and wide to reporters, photographers, bloggers or anyone who has a compelling humanitarian story to tell.
What is DAWNS?
If you are a global news obsessive, we highly recommend you sign up for the DAWNS service. The Development and Aid World News Service is a media platform for people interested in global news. Their flagship product is the DAWNS Digest, a hand-curated subscription-based daily news clipping service and mobile app that delivers an easy to read snapshot of the day’s global humanitarian news. They aim to firmly establish DAWNS as a platform to support journalism for the humanitarian community. With revenue generated through subscriptions to DAWNS Digest, they have started a micro-grant program to support reporting and storytelling on global humanitarian issues. Learn more at http://dawnsdigest.com
A new campaign created by one of the world’s leading creative agencies, DDB NY, has set the internet ablaze with its controversial attempt to raise awareness for the devastating problems currently facing many developing nations across the globe.
The advert, created for the charitable organisation Water is Life, features Haitian children and adults reading the everyday problems facing the so-called ‘first-world’ citizens posted on twitter with the now popular FirstWorldProblems hashtag.
The 1-minute video which amassed close to 1 million views in a week, features a young girl who complains “I hate it when I leave my clothes in the washer so long they start to smell” as the background shows several young Haitians washing their clothes in a river, and another scene which shows a young boy complain about a lunch order saying that “I hate it when I tell them no pickles and they still give me pickles”.
The campaign’s ultimate message is embodied in the final caption “#FirstWorldProblems are not problems.”
Of course the advert is guilt-inducing, showing the irrelevance of some so-called “western problems” when spoken by individuals living in abject poverty, and simplifies the reality facing many people both at home and abroad, in that those in the west also face serious problems such as access to healthcare and stagnating employment opportunities. But fundamentally in presenting the banality of some #FirstWorldProblems in stark contrast to real suffering, the advert is an effective and poignant way to contextualise ‘our problems’ in light of the circumstances facing many of the world’s 1.3 billion people who live in extreme poverty.
Importantly though, behind the simplistic dichotomy of ‘the industrialised world vs. the developing world’ and the diluted dialogue with those who live in extreme poverty, lies the message that more attention is required and greater resources need to be committed to the very real and pressing “#ThirdWorldProblems” that exist today.
For example on the issue of safe water and sanitation, the key priority on which this advert is based, UNICEF states that it is the world’s single largest cause of illness. The impact on children is particularly severe with approximately 4,500 children dying each day from unsafe water and a lack of sanitation facilities. The spread of disease from a lack of these basic amenities is truly crippling, such that a child born in sub-Saharan Africa is 520 times more likely to die from diarrhoeal disease than an infant in Europe or the US.
Regarding Haiti (the region showcased in the advert) the outbreak of water-borne diseases such as Cholera has decimated the population, with over
350,000 cases reported since October 2010. In Jacmel, one of the hardest-hit regions in Haiti, 22% of those who contract cholera die. The scale of the entirely preventable issue of contaminated water is such that it is now the leading cause of infant mortality in the children of Haiti, where in 2010 at 68 per 1000 live births (in comparison to 5 in the UK) this nation has the unenviable position of the highest infant mortality rate in the Western Hemisphere.
These are the real problems we as a global society need to address.
Developed or Developing, First World or Third World, today as global citizens we face issues of extreme importance that transcend borders, from the ongoing financial insecurity and levels of unemployment in the Eurozone, to the seemingly perennial problems of poverty, famine, sanitation and malnutrition amongst others, what DDB has tried to do is to re-focus our efforts on these pressing social concerns.
Therefore in a very real sense, by reflecting on the FirstWorldProblems hashtag we can at the very least start a broader debate on the real problems that need our attention and consider a collective response to issues which truly require collective action.
Last month, GPP introduced you to three UK constituents who refuse to let polio own their lives. Although the viral disease has been eradicated by 99% across the globe, it never leaves an infected nervous system. This means that although new cases of polio have not been seen in the UK since the 1980’s, it is easy to forget the citizens who live with its after-effects. Anne Wafula-Strike is determined to change that.
Born in Mihuu, Kenya, Anne was paralysed upon contracting polio at the age of two. After moving to the UK in 2000, she became the first Kenyan wheelchair racer to represent her country at the Athens Paralympics in 2004—a mere two years after taking up the sport. She gained British citizenship in 2006 and is now a member of Team GB’s Women Wheelchair racing team. A tireless advocate for polio survivors, Anne is also an author (she has won the BBC’s ‘My Story’ competition and published her autobiography, In My Dreams I Dance, via HarperCollins in 2010) as well as the face of British Polio Fellowship’s 2012 Winter Warmth Appeal. She earned another personal/professional high this year when she carried the Paralympic Torch to represent AbleChild Africa. Last month, Anne represented Team GB and the BPF when she took place in a photo op hosted by GPP’s “The End of Polio” campaign with Secretary of State for International Development Justine Greening, fellow Team GB athlete and polio survivor Ade Adepitan, and several UK polio survivors in Westminster Abbey. In honour of World Polio Day, which took place this week on 24 October, I spoke with Anne to find out how she entered wheelchair racing, the impact her Team GB status is having on polio survivors globally, and what she thinks should be done at home to acknowledge the disease.
What attracted you to the sport of wheelchair racing?
What attracted me to wheelchair racing was SPEED! We are the Formula One of disabled sport, but we female racers are far more glamorous.
You were born in Kenya and received your British citizenship in 2006. How has your status as a Team GB member enabled you to support athletes from poorer countries?
As a Paralympian I've had the great good fortune to travel the world. I recently went to Haiti to help support and promote disability sport and it was fantastic to see them send their first ever team to London 2012 Paralympics! I was also able to help a young woman from the DR Congo by giving her first ever racing wheelchair and training her to use it. I would love to do more work supporting potential athletes in developing countries so I can help others enjoy sport the way I have myself.
How have challenges such as disability classification and equipment quality impacted your Paralympic career?
As a polio survivor living in the UK I really know how difficult it is to keep warm in the winter, which is why I have given my full support to the British Polio Fellowship's 'Winter Warmth Appeal'. The outrageous price rises imposed by energy suppliers have made life even more difficult for millions, but especially for those of us who suffer from polio and PPS. I get no extra money from the government to help with huge bills, so I really appreciate the help I get from the BPF and would urge everyone to give what they can to support a very worthy cause.
Have you had the opportunity to return to Kenya and advocate for polio survivors throughout your native country?
I haven't had the opportunity to return to my native Kenya to help my fellow polio survivors overcome the difficulties they have to face on a daily basis with the knowledge I myself have gained through being a member of the BPF. I would love to be given an opportunity to do so.
What do you believe is the main improvement to disability access that must be made throughout the city of London?
London has a great record of providing access for disabled people, especially on buses and taxis. However, they need to improve access to the Underground system and make wheelchair users especially confident that it is safe. It would be great if the rail service were improved in ways that would make disabled people more independent instead of having to wait ages for ramps to be brought!
As a member of the British Polio Fellowship and survivor of polio, what do you think should be done to educate the public about citizens that live with polio and Post Polio Syndrome?
I believe that the public needs to know a lot more about polio and PPS. Just because polio has been eradicated in the UK that doesn't mean there aren't an awful lot of people living with it who need help, especially in these harsh times of economic depression. Here are some facts the public should know:
*Post Polio Syndrome is an incurable neurological condition that occurs in around 80% of people who have had polio.
*Individuals with PPS develop increasing weakness, fatigue, muscle pain, reduced stamina, breathing problems and COLD intolerance.
*Only 18% of GPs know how to treat PPS once diagnosed, and it takes an average of 6 years to be diagnosed.
Having met Justine Greening as part of GPP’s “The End of Polio” campaign, what are your hopes for her tenure as Secretary of State for International Development?
I would like to see a prime time 'History of Polio' that could deal with issues and show how people overcome the effects of the disease. Also, an information pack could be developed to issue to schools to raise awareness in young people, and also promote polio eradication in developing countries.
Lauren Maffeo is an MSc candidate at The London School of Economics and Political Science and Assistant Community Manager at Enternships. She recently worked as a media consultant for Global Poverty Project's "The End of Polio" campaign. Her essay on a 2011 volunteer trip to Swaziland, Africa, was published on The Wall Street Journal: Classroom Edition website last year and will appear in a forthcoming book on transformative tourism. Her spare time is no less active-she finished her first triathlon this year. She is an ambassador for the Global Poverty Project.
When I was 18, I left home for the first time. I remember it well, it was both exciting and daunting - but I wasn’t afraid; because I knew I would always have a home, a support network, and family to return to and rely on should I need them. For too many in our world, leaving home is not a choice but imperative to ensure freedom, well-being, or even survival. The latest, 2011, Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) figures show 42.5 million people worldwide are in this position. This overall figure has exceeded 42 million for the fifth consecutive year and it reflects a series of complex and varied issues.
Poverty is not only one of the main causes but also a consequence of this displacement.
Of these 42.5 million forcibly displaced people, 26.4 million were internally displaced people (IDPs), 15.2 million became refugees and 895,000 were asylum- seekers. A refugee is someone fleeing their country who has crossed an international border. Often, displaced peoples who first arrive in a new country are classed as asylum-seekers until their individual case is decided upon and refugee status granted. Meanwhile, IDPs have not crossed an international border and remain displaced within their country of origin. IDPs may reason that it is better stay within familiar surroundings depending on the risk, but sometimes it is not possible to cross an international border- perhaps because of physical barriers such as mountains or rivers, or because other countries are unable or unwilling to accept refugees.
It is easy to see how displacement can lead to poverty and vulnerability. Most refugees leave with very little and what resources they do have tend not to last them very long. Without the protection of their state, many are left unsafe. These individuals are also more susceptible to abuse, exploitation and trafficking as they have few connections and resources to rely on. This is particularly the case for the 46% of refugees, who are children below the age of 18.
Having left everything they know, a majority (four fifths) of refugees find themselves in developing countries. Many head to neighbouring border countries, which are often the easiest to get to. Globally, Pakistan hosted more refugees than anywhere else. Some find themselves in cramped refugee camps, on perilous journeys across borders or even detention centres, where their options and rights are few. Food, education, medical care, housing and work opportunities are often severely limited and difficult to access. This is often the case even when refugees are safe in a host country. They may suffer additional language barriers and psychological trauma from what they have experienced at home.
Poverty may be a consequence of displacement but it is also one of the causes. Extreme poverty can lead to conflict over resources or power struggles due to a lack of opportunity, which can result in unstable environments. Those with few resources to begin with are also less likely to be able to cope with sudden climate change such as drought or severe flooding. This in turn can cause refugee movements.
A mixture of large scale violence, persecution, instability, extreme environmental conditions, extreme poverty and other human rights violations can also create refugees. For instance, in Yemen a mixture of violence, drought and poverty has created displacement. In Darfur, the impacts of attacks by militia have been exacerbated by poor rainfall and drought. And in Somalia, conflict led 300,000 Somalis to flee their homes in 2011 alone.
However action is being taken, both to prevent people becoming refugees and supporting those who find themselves with no other option but to escape. An array of organisations, including UNHCR, the Red Cross and MSF seek to tackle this injustice. Dealing with this issue is no doubt complex but tackling poverty has to be part of the picture. Fighting for some of the most vulnerable people on the planet, from circumstances not of their making, is important, just and a post WW2 promise we have to keep.