How Wealthy are You?
Money rules the world. Without it, we can’t afford basic necessities, like accommodation, food, water, clothing, health care and education. To me, basic sounds like something that we all need and is accessible to everyone, right? Well, that is unfortunately not the case in the 21st century’s “modern society”, and you would be surprised what being wealthy in today’s world actually means…
On a rainy day, I went shopping with my dad (yes, he is often my shopping buddy as well as my mom or my friends) to a mall. I spotted a beautiful, yet simple and elegant white blouse in the shop window. I entered the shop and there was Ariana Grande’s song 7 Rings playing, whose lyrics go like this: “I see it, I like it, I want it, I got it.” As I realized this absolutely divine piece of clothing belonged to a high-end clothing brand, a bit different version of the lyrics was sung in my head: “I see it, I like it, I check the price, I put it back.”
Even though I cannot afford literally everything from my wish list, does this already make me not wealthy? This question sparked my interest to dive into a research. And I found some very eye-opening and shocking information I would have never expected.
More than 3 billion people, representing nearly a half of the world’s population, live on less than $2.50 a day, as DoSomething estimated. More than 1.3 billion live in extreme poverty, trying to survive on less than $1.25 a day. If you have more than $10, which is around 8.90€, to spend on your living expenses every day, you are among 20% of the richest people in the entire world. This sounds unbelievable to me, because nowadays just a pair of basic jeans costs 20€ or even more, and it is sad that owning a piece of clothing of average quality, nothing fancy at all, costs a fortune for the vast majority of our society!
These numbers get even worse when seen in reality. I believe that every human deserves to have a place to live, grow and feel safe. Sorrowfully, based on national reports, it’s estimated that no less than 150 million people are homeless. What’s more, the number rapidly rises to about 1.6 billion as we take into a consideration even the ones who perhaps have a place to live, but lack adequate housing. Nevertheless, for me it is so heart-warming to watch a Slovenian programme named “Delovna akcija”, where empathetic TV presenter and construction workers combine their skills, time and positive energy to renovate families’ homes, drastically improve their unbearable living conditions and therefore help them get back on their feet.
Another problem relates to food. Although enough of it is produced to feed one and a half of a world’s population, as World Food Programme reported, around 821 million people lacked access to enough food to stay healthy last year, mostly because of their low income. In addition, every third human suffers from some kind of malnutrition, which is the reason why every year 6 million children die before their 5th birthday, according to Children International. I can’t even imagine what a horrible feeling it must be for parents not being able to serve their child enough nourishing meals every day. One of the best memories I’ve had with my family members are from baking biscuits and Slovenian “potica” for Christmas, or painting eggs on Easter together, and it makes me very sad that some children have never had a chance to experience that. Based on those statistics, I am very grateful to have a full fridge every day, and even more, to be always given an opportunity to choose what, from this whole variety of foods we have at home, I wish to eat. In addition, it is important to pay attention to the amount of food we throw away, because as the UN News reports, an enormous one-third of the world’s food is wasted every year. If only one-fourth of it could be recovered, it could feed 870 million people.
The same goes with water. According to a new report by UNICEF and the World Health Organization, billions of people around the world are continuing to endure poor access to water, sanitation and hygiene necessities. Every one in three people around the world do not have safely managed and free from contamination drinking water services. 4.2 billion people do not have safely managed sanitation services, and 3 billion lack basic handwashing facilities. We have seen the consequences very clearly during this year’s pandemic, when the virus spread incredibly quickly in the communities with poor sanitation and hygiene. If you have access to all those mentioned services, you belong to 44% of the wealthiest people. It is shocking that these data suggest that every second one of us doesn’t have a chance to drink water without a fear of getting ill.
And in case you do get ill, you should deserve to be a part of a free healthcare system and be treated properly. In many countries around the globe, medical attention is provided for all citizens free of charge when needed. Elsewhere, it is not. The World Bank and World Health Organization came to a conclusion that at least half of the world’s population cannot obtain essential health services, and 100 million people are still pushed into extreme poverty because of health expenses. Just so you can imagine why – in the USA, only ambulance services automatically cost at least around $1000. Imagine then staying in a hospital for a few days, where the price of an average stay is around $10000 per day if not having an insurance. Considering that, in the USA, an accident can happen in a second and then, if injuries are severe, you might be in debt for the rest of your life.
If we want to implement radical changes, we need to start educating children, who will be the next runners of the world. Even primary education is not free of charge everywhere. The UNESCO’s 2017-18 Global Education Monitoring Report found that the number of boys and girls who are denied access to education, mostly because of financial reasons (tuition fees, uniforms, books…), is around 264 million out of 1.9 billion. The majority of them come from African and Asian countries.
Once someone posted a very out-of-the-box thinking on Tweeter. The person said that one of the reasons why it is so hard to escape poverty is because the poor can’t afford to get a job. It does sound absurd and ridiculous, but it’s true. Employee needs money for car gas or public transportation to get to work, money for child care during work time and also for clothes to meet dress code requirements. And the overall price might be very high, creating a barrier to employment for low income individuals, as the author wrote.
Adequate accommodation, nourishing food, clean water, basic clothing, essential health care and education are six crucial elements for a dignified human life. That is why they should be not only named, but also implemented as rights, and not as luck. It is a huge reminder about how many things I must be grateful for daily, but I am incensed that so many people still do not have access to them. However, there have been many positive signs for global poverty reduction. Since 1999, the total number of extreme poor has declined by an average of 50 million per year, according to Wikipedia. I’m glad that one of the United Nations’ sustainable development goal is to end global poverty by 2030, and it gives me hope for this world becoming a better place, where every life is important and valued.