“Never Doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it is the only thing that ever has”

– Margaret Mead

Count to four. Stop. One gone. Count again. Stop. Another one gone. Repeat the process for a day and you will stop almost 20 000 times: the number of children throughout the world who die before their fifth birthday every day. Lives lost needlessly. Lives we can save.

I am a medical student and an aspiring Paediatrician. I know that I do not hold a unique opinion in believing that there are few things in the world more abhorrent than the death of a child. I also say nothing new or profound when I speak of the immeasurable joy that saving the life of a child brings to so many. In Australia, we do everything we can to save the life of a child, and so we should. Australian mother Anne McCahon, when speaking of her daughter Lucy, who recently underwent lifesaving cardiac surgery, said that:

“Lucy is an example of hope that a child born with severe CHD [congenital heart defect] can receive unbelievable treatment in Australia and live a normal life.”

However, as we all know, due to lack of resources and knowhow, our efforts are not mirrored all over the world. As just one example, this meant that in 2009, a child born in Chad was 42 times more likely to die before they turned five than a child born in Australia. Of the 6.6 million children under the age of five around the globe who die each year, almost all are killed by easily preventable or treatable diseases like pneumonia, malaria and diarrhoea, and most are weakened by terrible undernutrition. Unless their family members had suffered a similarly tragic fate, each of these children left behind their mother and father, among many other family members, to grieve for them. Their hurt goes just as deep, and their joy would be no less remarkable if their child’s life could have been spared.A child’s life is no less significant simply because they happen to be born far away from our borders, nor is their death any less tragic. We have the power to save the lives of these children. They don’t need $200 000 surgeries, but they do need our help. Lives can be saved by the simplest of measures; vaccinations, insecticide treated bed nets, electrolyte solutions, vitamin supplements or deworming tablets, none of which are hugely expensive, even to provide at a scale large enough to reliably save a life.

The story is the same for the millions of older children and adults who also perish each year because they are simply too poor to stay alive; many succumb to conditions that either don’t exist in wealthy Nations, or, if they do, are rarely fatal, for which prevention or cure comes at a minor cost. Consider also that in addition to these tragic deaths, still more than a billion people suffer lives of unfathomable hardship, struggling to survive on less than $2 per day. We believe that this can be considered nothing less than a profound tragedy, not to mention a great moral stain on a world as wealthy as ours.

Yet, in spite of what we are often led to believe, the actions of people in wealthy nations are already making a genuine difference in the world’s poorest places, and we are closer to eliminating global poverty, by almost every possible measure, than we have ever been before. Due in part to assistance provided by Governments and Non-Government Organisations supported by donations from individuals, great progress has been made:

  • The proportion of people in the world unable to meet their basic needs is lower than at any other time in measurable history
  • From 1990-2010, the proportion of people living on less than $2 per day has been halved
  • Far fewer people are dying of measles, AIDS, and malaria than they were a decade ago
  • Child mortality has dropped by almost half in the last 20 years.

This said, there has never been such a marked gap between the standard of living of the rich and poor within the world and as impressive as progress has been, the people of the ‘first world’ have never enjoyed wealth and opportunity to an extent even remotely close to what they experience now. The progress we have made is but a fraction of what could very easily be achieved with just a little more commitment from citizens in wealthy nations. Consider that in 2006 it was estimated that a cumulative contribution to official development assistance (foreign aid) each year from developed countries of $121 billion in 2006, increasing to $189 Billion by 2015, would be enough to halve global poverty. Although most countries have upheld their promise to increase their foreign aid budget in order to gather the needed funds, several nations have fallen short; Australia is one of these nations. As a consequence, the necessary total has not been reached. Yet in 2010, global military expenditure exceeded $1600 Billion and in 1999, Americans alone spent $116 billion on alcohol. It has also been estimated that $100 billion worth of food is wasted in the US each year, and the average woman, according to fashion designer Deborah Lindquist, owns more than $600 worth of clothing that she hasn’t worn in the last year. Clearly a lack of available resources cannot be blamed.

While fighting extreme poverty remains a substantial challenge, based upon the abundant evidence we have seen, it is one which we believe to be utterly surmountable. It is certainly one which we are excited to face, and it is our greatest hope that many more will become motivated to tackle it also. It is upon this premise that each year, we Run to Better Days. Each year since 2012, in July, our team does a fundraising run of around 1000km and stops in at schools, community organisations and universities to give presentations about extreme poverty and what we, both as individuals and as a nation, can realisatically do about it. In doing so, over the last few years, we’ve been fortunate enough to raise $60 000 for international aid and development charities, have had the privilege of giving presentations to roughly 25 000 people, and have run 3000km between us. There are two overarching messages we attempt to impart; two opportunities we encourage Australians to take advantage of. The first is quite simply to do more for the world’s poorest people, and in particular to give more, in terms of charity dollars to international aid and development organisations, and to start to take charity very seriously as a means for doing good in the world. The second is to give effectively – to attempt to identify the most evidence based and cost-effective organisations that exist and to direct money to these charities.  For more on this latter topic, please see our information about effective altruism.

We strongly encourage everyone who is passionate about what we stand for to support us. There are many ways to do this; you can donate using the tabs above, follow us on facebook, contact us to organise for us to give a presentation to a group you may be involved in, or simply spread the word about our cause – any support is most welcome, and we would love to hear from you if you have any further ideas for us.

Our generation is the first to have the opportunity to banish extreme poverty forever, all that remains to be seen is whether we will have the courage to seize it. We invite you to be part of the solution, and run with us to better days, for we believe that this is truly something worth fighting for.

Peace,

Daniel Charles,

Run to Better Days Founder

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I congratulate Daniel Charles and Brenton Mayer for their efforts to undertake the Run to Better Days program to raise awareness about global poverty. They show great dedication and leadership through these efforts. Their interactive, dynamic, and educational program presents the ethical side of poverty alleviation in a way that is personally pertinent to the audience. They challenge us to consider how our individual choices can improve social well-being by helping to eliminate the scourge of extreme poverty while enhancing our own satisfaction. Their message is extremely relevant for today’s young people, both undergraduate and post-graduate, who are considering lifestyle choices for their future.

Dr Alan Hauquitz
Senior Lecturer
School of Public Health, Tropical Medicine & Rehabilitation Sciences
James Cook University[/fusion_text]