Over one billion people live below the poverty line, one person in eight goes hungry every night, and 2.3 million children die needlessly each year from malnutrition. These are the facts but what does this mean on a day to day, individual, basis? Rose Caldwell, Chief Executive for Concern, explains...
For Johanna, in South Sudan, not having enough nutritious food has resulted in her sitting in a Concern-run health centre with her 19-month-old son, fearing he will die. Jamal, who is severely malnourished, needs therapeutic food from Concern just to survive. Johanna rarely has enough food for even one meal a day.
Hunger forces people, like Johanna, to make tough choices that push them further into poverty. Parents take their children out of school to work; families eat seeds that should be preserved for the next harvest. Lack of food also jeopardises the well-being of families: mothers are forced to reduce the number of meals children eat; families replace nutritious foods like vegetables and beans for staples like corn and millet.
As a mother it is impossible to imagine what it would be like to know that your children were condemned to a lifetime of poverty, hunger, disease and wasted potential, simply because they didn’t have enough to eat.
The long-term effects of hunger go beyond health. Poor nutrition leads to poor performance in school and fewer opportunities. Children’s brains will not fully develop and their bodies will be stunted. Malnutrition increases disease by weakening the immune system, making it vulnerable to the effects of diarrhoea, tuberculosis, malaria, HIV and AIDS. This has a devastating and harmful effect on families, communities and countries and prevents people from escaping poverty.
The reality of life below the line isn’t an attractive prospect so why am I choosing, and encouraging others, to live on £1 a day for five days? It is because of people like Johanna and the 1.2 billion who don’t have a choice. By taking up this challenge, which isn’t easy, we can deepen our understanding of what it is like to live in extreme poverty.
As I embark on my challenge, and I hope you will join me in taking part, I need to remember that it will only last for five days. The end will always be in sight for me but for millions of people it will last a lifetime unless we all work together for a world in which no one dies for want of safe, quality, nutritious food.
Funds raised by participants will support Concern, who is fighting the root causes of hunger in 25 of the world’s poorest countries.
Could you live on £1 a day? Find out more about the Live Below the Line campaign.