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Global Poverty and Health

We've all seen the headlines. Famine. Water shortages. Conflict. Natural disasters. Millions going without health or education. Being born in an impoverished country should not mean giving birth is a risk to your life, choosing between carrying water and going to school, or deciding between a place to live or food for your family.

Yet we know, too, that we’re making significant progress : millions out of poverty; thanks to development efforts millions more children are in school, millions are receiving access to life saving medicines, more mothers are living through child birth and lives are being transformed. 

There's a real chance that these positive trends are being reversed, and the poorest are being left behind all together. The effects of the global economic crisis have been felt around the world and the poor countries, who did nothing to cause the crisis, are feeling the effects.

Financial crisis, recession, global downturn – whatever you choose to call it – the economic mess caused by risky investors in rich countries in 2008 set in motion a troubling chain of events. 

As global markets collapsed, billions of dollars disappeared over night and with it millions of people saw their livelihoods disappear, food prices rocket, and services collapse. All through no fault of their own.

Imagine for a minute that you’ve already spend 80% of your income on food – even the slightest price increase or drop in your income could mean you go without food for a few days. What would you do?

The crisis created a financial ‘hole’ for the 56 poorest countries, mostly in Africa. Zambia has slashed its health spending, while Niger and Mali have taken the axe to their schools budget. The World Bank estimates that two million children will die as a direct impact of the crisis.

Following the crisis we have seen a drop in the level of aid rich countries are giving, with many countries failing to live up to their promises on aid, and debt relief efforts are faltering. While the banks are returning to record profits and bonuses it is people in the world's poorest countries, who did nothing to cause the crash, who are paying the price.

Communities are struggling and people in poverty are fighting to drag themselves back from the effects of the crisis. But is not over yet and the impact of this downturn will hit them harder and longer.

The Robin Hood Tax could raise billions every year to ensure rich countries meet their aid commitments for health and development and relieve poor countries' debt.

 

The Reality

Safe drinking water, a school for children, doctors and midwives and affordable medicine at the clinic, food on the table – it’s a no brainer. Yet despite progress millions of people around the world still do not have access to these basic needs.

Communities around the world are fighting to get the tools, rights, and access they need to end poverty.  And we know that this is a world-wide responsibility: giving aid, cancelling crushing debt, and giving countries the tools they need to end their own poverty are showing huge progress. 

Rich nations made some progress on these issues at the G8 Summit held in 2005 where world leaders promised to cancel some of the debts of 42 countries, and give an extra $100 billion in aid by 2010 – half of it to Africa. These commitments have been derailed by the financial crisis, with aid budgets being slashed and debt relief faltering.

Aid is a crucial part of development. Aid alone cannot solve the crises of poverty and inequality, promote gender equality and realize human rights. But for some of the poorest countries in the world, domestic funds are simply not enough to tackle poverty and ensure good health. Aid from rich countries can make a huge difference to the lives of poor people living within these countries.

Aid has helped build hospitals, train teachers, pay doctors’ salaries and buy textbooks for schools and medical equipment for clinics. In doing this aid can help countries reduce the number of women dying in pregnancy and child birth, increase the number of children who have access to a quality education and vaccinate children against diseases.

Take one example: in 2002 only 50,000 Africans were receiving life-saving Aids medicine, but by 2010 aid had helped increase this figure to more than five million.

Without debt relief rich countries are forcing poor countries to repay debts far bigger than their original loans, instead of spending precious cash on essentials like schools and hospitals.  This means people are literally paying with their lives.

What Robin Can Do

A Robin Hood Tax could help provide money to help lift millions out of poverty.

Progress can be made. Since Zambia’s debt was cancelled in 2005, its government has been able to introduce free health care for people in the countryside – removing fees that once stopped millions getting care they needed. And education got a boost too – extra funds made available by debt relief also paid for 4,500 badly-needed new teachers.

Millions of children in Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya and Malawi are now going to school, thanks to a combination of debt relief and aid.

The Robin Hood Tax could raise billions to ensure that people in countries around the world can start living the lives they deserve. 

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