The 15th October was blog action day for poverty. I was away in Canberra yesterday on more mundane things like knowledge management and the act-km conference (more details in a later post). However, I still wish to highlight the awareness raising hopes of blog action day for poverty with this post.
The UN reports that “the World Bank has revised upward its estimates of the number of the world’s poor from nearly 1 billion to 1.4 billion, drawing on new data that indicates that poverty is more widespread across the developing world than previously thought”. You can also check out the Human Development Report for more facts and figures.
The facts and figures reveal the magnitude of the poverty crisis in the developing world. But of course, here in Australia, we have poverty as well. Poverty affects Indigenous communities and is largely responsible for the gap in life expectancy between white Australians and Indigenous people.
Since I work for an international development agency in Australia, The Fred Hollows Foundation, I can say with certainty that every contribution makes a significant difference to people whose lives are deeply affected by blindness and vision impairment in developing countries.
Take Simila in Kenya for example. Her mother had to stay at home and couldn’t work or do many of the households tasks for her family. Her daughter, Simila, often had to stay at home and help her mother instead of going to school. By missing out on school, Simila’s level of education is affected that can limit her working opportunities in the future. Children having to stay at home to look after family members because of blindness is a real problem in many developing countries.
Often, with a simple sight-restoring operation, people like Simila’s mother can obtain new-found independence that not only makes a difference to the individual, but to the rest of her family and often the community at large as well. Simila can return to school and look forward to an education, something she is keen to pursue if her dream of becoming a doctor is to be realised.
And vision impairment in developing countries affects a whole range of factors that can contribute to poverty and the poverty cycle. Blind people in developing countries find it extremely difficult to find work and get a regular income. Even working in the fields or with livestock is difficult. No income makes it difficult for families to buy the food they need, pay for school education and materials, and get proper health care. Poverty can exacerbate blindness because health care and preventable treatments can’t be accessed. Poverty can lead to blindness through disease, poor nutrition and poor sanitation.
The recently concluded Cataract Impact Study makes the following observation about the link between vision impairment and poverty and the difference cataract surgery alone can make:
“The results, which were remarkably consistent across countries, showed a marked increase in quality of life after surgery, an increase in activities both in and outside the home, better relationships and an increase in household expenditure. This study strongly suggests that the downward spiral of poverty experienced by people who are blind can be halted or even reversed by modern high quality cataract surgery”.
Poverty is indeed a huge issue. We can make a difference ourselves. We can help by donating to international development agencies, like The Fred Hollows Foundation, lobbying governments to support the UN Millennium Development Goals, and through raising awareness and commitment from people in Australia and all around the world. Blog action day – poverty is part of that crusade.
And as part of The Foundation’s comitment to raising awareness, have a look at the Anti-Poverty Week activities as part of our schools-based community education services from our getfcused web site. We will continue this education campaign with primary schools until 14th November.