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How blessed are the poor?

Mother and child on the streets of Jeswang, Gambia. Photo courtesy of iStockphoto

FIFTY per cent of the world's population are living on less than $2.50 a day. That's 3.5 billion people.

A child dies from hunger every six seconds.

That's six million children every year.

As Christine Hunt, Campaign Leader for Maternal and Child Health at World Vision Australia says, "It's equivalent to ten buses fully loaded with children crashing every hour every day – and killing all aboard.

"In a country like Australia, nobody would stand by and allow it to happen!

"Australia is the lucky country," she continues.

"We have access to food, clean water, universal healthcare and education.

"In the great lottery of life, we won the jackpot.

"But millions of children around the world miss out on even the most basic of services, simply because of where they were born."

Karalee Health Matters doctor Conrad Mourze points out that it is difficult for people in Western countries to understand what poverty really is.

"We don't suffer the simple hardships that they do in Fiji or Africa, without basics like running water.

Mr Mourze commends volunteering as a way for people to get perspective.

"I think as a Christian you can't turn a blind eye.

"Volunteering is important, especially for people who have been born and raised in Western countries."

In addition to volunteering, how else can we act?

John Beckett, National Coordinator for Micah Challenge Australia, says that Voices for Justice enables Christians to work together through supporting the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

Australia joined 189 countries in signing the MDGs in 2000, which aim to reach specific goals for reducing poverty and improving health in the developing world by 2015.

"Each year 300 ordinary prophets come to Canberra for Micah Challenge's Voices for Justice Conference.

"In their meetings this year with more than 130 members of parliament and senators they focused on the need for Australia to increase aid spending on health."

Mr Beckett says that the injustice between poverty stricken countries and the Western world is astonishing.

"One of the areas where the difference is most striking is with regard to maternal health.

"Ninety-nine per cent of all maternal deaths occur in developing nations.

"Yet global spending for the 1 per cent of deaths in developed nations far outweighs that on saving women dying in developing nations."

Rob Floyd, Associate Director of Relief and Development at UnitingWorld, also cites terrible maternal health statistics.

"In Papua New Guinea, a woman has a one in 10 chance of dying in childbirth."

And according to Christine Hunt, "Becoming a mother is actually one of the most dangerous things a woman in the developing world can do – because many are simply too poor for childbirth.

"They cannot afford hospital fees and are forced to give birth at home, without skilled help, putting their life and the life of their baby at risk.

"In more extreme cases, women have borrowed money or sold assets to purchase healthcare.

"Compare that with the entitlements Australian parents can enjoy – a family allowance, paid parental leave or a baby bonus – which, for some couples, simply means extra cash for a new plasma TV or babymoon."

Mr Floyd reminds us that extreme differences in child and maternal health are right on our doorstep.

"In Timor Leste, the most common reasons for visiting a doctor or health facility are malaria, malnutrition (especially in infants and young children), diarrhoea and pregnancy.

"These health issues may seem strange to us because we are rarely exposed to them.

"Even stranger to us is the fact that all these conditions are easily treatable and preventable."

For Australians, continues Christine Hunt, it certainly can be hard to believe that every year over 7 million children under five die from diseases that have been largely eliminated in the developed world.

"A fifth birthday party is something we take for granted," she points out.

"We worry about what cake to buy, what party games to play, what lollies to fill our party bags with.

"But millions of children around the world born into poverty will simply not live to celebrate it."

Read. Global health. oecd.org/health/healthpoliciesanddata/49105858.pdf

Watch. Poverty Anthem. youtube.com/watch?v=3AGD5fEJIFk

First World Problems Anthem. youtube.com/watch?v=fxyhfiCO_XQ&feature=player_embedded

Web. World Vision Child Health Now. Visit childhealthnow.com.au

United Nations World Food Programme. Visit wfp.org

Voices for Justice – Micah Challenge. Visit http://www.micahchallenge.org.au/

Volunteer. Visit UnitingWorld at http://www.unitingworld.org.au/participate/experience

Donate. To sponsor a nurse or help with a medical volunteering or a student nurse's tuition fees in the Helena Goldie Project in the Solomon Islands, visit uchealth.com.au/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=19&Itemid=20 and unitingworld.org.au/helena-goldie-college-of-nursing email helenagoldieproject@uchealth.com.au or phone 07 3232 7572.

Photo : Mother and child on the streets of Jeswang, Gambia. Photo courtesy of iStockphoto