Poor are still poor

By Renee Tomcanin
March 21, 2002

“Half of the world’s people struggle to live on less than $2 a day.” This shocking fact is from an article in Monday’s New York Times. Estimating that there are 6 billion people in the world, which means that 1.2 billion people are living like that. Imagine having only $2 to spend on yourself for everything you need to do in one day. The article reported that a fifth of the world lives on less than $1. That’s half of the sum you were thinking about before. To me this is just mind-boggling.

I started thinking about everything I do in a day. I wake up, turn on the lights–I’m spending money already. I brush my teeth–money gone from the toothpaste, wear on the toothbrush, not to mention the water I’ve used. Then there is the usual morning prep from washing my face to changing clothes to maybe grabbing something to drink. All in all, I’ve probably spent close to a dollar in everything I’ve just done, and I haven’t been up for more than half an hour. Even now, as I am typing this article, I’m using power and resources that cost more than probably anyone in a third world country can afford.

So, back to the New York Times article I mentioned. It was previewing a meeting to be held by many world leaders in which they will assess how they will distribute aid to poor and struggling countries. The plans that more developed countries have been following since about World War II have been anything but successful in recent years. Aid has slowly been dropping off. While some things, like illiteracy, have been improving, the poor are still poor. For example, many Africans have the same incomes as they did forty years ago. There has been much advancement in that time. Our own minimum wage has been raised 50 cents in the last few years, and that’s not even figuring in inflation.

It is hard to tell what the correct solution to this problem will be. Many will say more money is needed to help out these countries. However, it has been shown that some nations, like Poland and Vietnam, are success stories, yet others are at a standstill; they are not effective in using the aid they receive. More prosperous countries should give more monetary aid to these nations because money is an issue. In the world that we live in money will always be needed; that is something that we cannot change, at least immediately. However, other types of aids will be necessary. Ways to plan and reorganize how the money will be distributed would help out drastically. Donations of time and caring will benefit these people in need.

Paul O’Neill, secretary of the Treasury, has dreams of revamping the World Bank. While this could be a good idea, O’Neill comes from a business background, having been CEO of Alcoa, Inc. This could help nations who need more of a business sense. However, many of the problems are from lack of food, education and health care. A humanitarian leader would be essential to make this plan come around full circle. The United Nations seems to be picking up this slack, which is a good thing. They are devoting money to fighting diseases such as AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. By caring for a nation’s most valuable resource, their people, countries will prosper because they will have a fighting chance.

Two dollars a day. Two portraits of George Washington. No one should have to live on that or less.

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Renee Tomcanin

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