If you’re one of the more than 7,000 Australians currently Living Below the Line, you're probably starting to feel the effects of living on $2 worth of food and drink a day. I know I’m feeling tired, hungry, and if we’re being honest - a little bit grumpy as well.
But imagine if you had to add sick to this list as well.
When you survive on the equivalent of $2 a day; you can't afford for things to go wrong.
And yet something as simple as a mosquito bite can change your life.
For the 1.4 billion people living below the extreme poverty line (that's with the equivalent of $2AUD a day to cover all their daily needs, not just food); illness is a very real and constant threat.
Below the line, illness can be disastrous.
For starters, medical care is not always readily available. To access treatment you may need to find (and pay for) transport to a hospital. Often this means getting to the next major city - which can be several hundred kilometres away. The time you spend getting to the hospital then means you’re kept away from your work - and that don’t have the opportunity to earn your income for that day. Once you find medical care; that doesn’t mean its free... or even cheap. And you may be faced with a choice between eating, and buying medication. Even worse, if the person that illness strikes is the family breadwinner, the illness may leave them unable to work.
Unfortunately, limited access to basic health care and vaccinations means that people in extreme poverty are vulnerable to a myriad of illnesses - including many that young Australians have been lucky enough to be able to forget.
Let's take polio as an example.
Most young Australians will think of polio as only a vaccination. But for the poorest of the poor this is a disease that still causes paralysis and death in young children. Due to global collaboration over the past three decades, polio is now only endemic in three countries worldwide. But it continues to affect marginalised children: those in minority groups, mobile populations, remote villages or, conversely, in dense urban slums.
Once an extremely poor child gets polio, their entire future changes. Their ability to work and to access education is limited; even their chances of getting married decreases dramatically. Instead of being able to help their family work their way out of extreme poverty, their disability can lead them to be seen as a financial burden in families that are often already overburdened: deepening their cycle of poverty.
This is why the Global Poverty Project campaigns on preventable disease - we believe that no child should suffer or die from a disease we can easily and cheaply prevent. Eradicating polio, for example, would mean that more children would grow up to lead full and productive lives. And that's one effective way to reduce extreme poverty.