ONE Against Extreme Poverty

By Maarja Roon

ONE, an advocacy and campaign organization fighting extreme poverty and preventable disease, now has a Beloit College chapter. The aim of the students is not to raise money, but to direct attention to the problems facing Africa.

It is a well-known fact that millions of people in Africa are struggling with extreme poverty. In fact, Africa’s problems are so widely accepted that people do not pay attention to them any more. Non-governmental aid organization, Save the Children U.S., reports raising only $5 million for the on-going Horn of Africa famine. Yet the same organization raised $23 million for the earthquake victims in Japan, a developed country with high GDP who had considerably fewer lives are at stake.

The problems of Africa do not shock people, as there seem to be depressing stories of hunger, wars and diseases coming out of the continent every month. Japan doing badly was new.

People also do not realize how helpful aid has been. Diep Phan, Assistant Professor of Economics, points out that, from a long-term perspective, global poverty has actually gone down. “Even poor people in the poorest countries are now better off in terms of material well-being than our ancestors just a few hundred years ago. I just want to clear the myth that global poverty has worsened.”

While 9.5 million children under five died in 2000, the number was down to 7.6 million in 2010. Statistics show that campaigns aiming to eradicate polio have decreased the number of countries struggling with the disease from 51 in 1991 to seven in the year 2002.

ONE holds challenges to show students how they can become active advocates for the issue. Over 2,000 campuses participate, trying to live on a dollar a day, meeting presidential candidates to talk about foreign aid, and calling their Senators.

ONE’s current challenge is to convince Congress not to make cuts to the State and Foreign Operations appropriations bill. Less than one percent of the U.S. budget goes to foreign aid, but it helps to save lives, prevent the spread of diseases, and thus promotes democracy and peace. The more people value U.S. foreign aid the more incentive Congress has to not cut it.

Awareness about the solutions fosters change. Allie Maxwell’12, the president of Beloit’s ONE chapter says: “I think that as a general rule the more people are aware about a certain issue the better the response is. College students have fresh, innovative and current ideas about how to spread information and they want to be involved.”

The number of issues and organizations can overwhelm anybody. “Its important college students are aware of the existence of extreme poverty. But it’s even more important they understand the causes of poverty, which are very complex. In my experience, well-intentioned but ignorant involvement can cause more harm than good,” says Diep Phan.

There are ways Beloit College student can fight extreme poverty. Being more actively aware of the issues and solutions is already helping to raise the problem higher on the national agenda, thus motivating leaders to act.



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