Why What You're Doing Really Does Matter
Ten ways the world is actually getting better (in the last 20 years)
The world is a hyper-overwhelming place. Every day, on our news sites, on television, on our social media, we are bombarded with bad news. Our attention is constantly being drawn to something terrible happening. Every charity in the world (us included) seems to be emailing you with another horrible fact about the world that you need to do something about. It almost seems like things are getting worse, not better.
But what if I told you, instead of overwhelming you with one more thing that is going horribly wrong in the world, that things are actually getting better?
Because I can tell you that. Because they are.
Obviously, there are still so many things wrong in the world. And there are certain things that are definitely getting worse. That is made obvious to us every day. But there is also a lot in the world that is actually improving. The effort that people like you have been making to end the suffering that happens worldwide has actually been making a difference. And sometimes it’s easy to overlook that.
In his TED talk “The Good News on Poverty,” Bono talks about how one of the things standing in the way of making lasting global change is the belief that we can’t. And that “we can’t get this done, until we accept that we really can.” And so this article will be an exploration of the ways in which we really can get this done. And the ways in which we really have.
So let’s start. How are things getting better?
Ten ways the world is actually getting better (in the last 20 years)
1. Life expectancy has increased around the world.
In 1990-1995, life expectancy around the world was 64.8 years. In 2010-2015, it’s grown to 70 years. That’s an increase of 5.2 years! And it’s in the least developed countries where the greatest strides have been made.
2. Child mortality rates have dropped by more than half.
Since 1990, child mortality rates have been cut in half. In 1990, the death count was 12.7 million children per year. In 2015, the death count is 5.9 million. 2015 is the first year that this figure has dropped below the 6 million mark. The number is still far too high, but the drop is substantial. Real progress is being made.
3. Maternal deaths have been almost cut in half.
Since 1990, maternal deaths have fallen 44%. The number dropped from approximately 385 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births to 216 deaths. These numbers have been affected by women having greater access to healthcare, women having fewer children, and fewer adolescent girls having children.
4. More children are in school than ever before.
Primary school enrolment rates have gone from around 75% in 1990 to about 90% in 2010. The largest gains have been made by girls. This is life changing for girls – girls who have access to education are better able to avoid teenage pregnancy and tend to have better access to health care and livelihood opportunities.
5. Fewer people are contracting HIV/AIDS.
Between 2001 and 2012, new HIV infections fell 33%. There’s been a 29% decrease in AIDS related deaths (in both adult and children) since 2005, and a 52% decrease in new HIV infections in children since 2001. Those are incredible strides to have made in our fight against HIV/AIDS.
6. The number of adolescents giving birth has been cut in half in many countries.
Adolescent pregnancy and childbirth are related to all sorts of negative statistics. It’s dangerous for both the child who is pregnant, and the unborn child that is inside of her. In Latin America, the risk of maternal death is four times higher for mothers under the age of 16 than it is for women in their twenties. For the babies, death during the first month of life is 50-100% more likely if the mother is an adolescent. The younger the mother, the higher the risk is. Adolescent pregnancy is not good for anyone involved, and the fact that it’s happening less often is something to be celebrated.
7. Extreme poverty has been halved.
Actually, it’s gone down more than that. From 1990 to 2011, extreme poverty worldwide dropped 58%. Poverty itself is still very prevalent around the globe, but so much has been accomplished to alleviate the worst of the world’s poverty. To have cut the most extreme poverty rates in half in a span of 21 years bodes well for future endeavors fighting poverty.
8. Polio has been almost eradicated from the globe.
This has taken a little longer than 20 years, but there have been incredible strides in polio eradication since the Global Polio Eradication Initiative was formed in 1988. When the initiative was formed, polio paralyzed more than 350,000 people a year. But since the initiative was started, the numbers of people who suffer from polio has dropped more than 99%. That’s incredible.
9. Since 1990 more than two billion people have gained access to improved drinking water sources.
The actual number of those who have gained access to better drinking water is 2.6 billion. Safe drinking water can make all the difference in someone’s life. Polluted water poses a threat to health –around 1.8 million people die every year of diarrheal diseases like cholera because of the dirty water that they are drinking. The more people who are given access to clean drinking water, the fewer people die of these waterborne diseases. And great progress has been made to give more people access to better drinking water.
10. The worldwide homicide rate has been going down.
In most of the world, the rate of murders has been shrinking. Among the 88 countries that have reliable data available, 67 of them have seen a decrease in homicides in the past 15 years. This decline of violent crime is an important one to recognize, especially when dialogue around it can be so fear-fueled.
Aren’t those incredible? Who would have thought that in the space of 20 years, we’d be able to cut the numbers of those living in extreme poverty in half? Or that we could nearly eradicate polio, and reduce malaria deaths so significantly. There’s something to be said about what can be accomplished when we all work together.
Are there still problems? Yes. We still live in a fallen world filled with sin. But it is so important to recognize that accomplishments are being made. It’s easy to get discouraged, and it’s easy to believe that the problems in the world are so huge that no progress can be made. But that just isn’t true. Real progress is being made, and you’ve been a part of that.
Remember what Bono said. “We can’t get this done, until we accept that we really can.” We need to believe that change is possible. We need to believe that the evil in this world is not so powerful that it can always win the day. Real, tangible steps have been taken against evil, and the progress that has been made has transformed the lives of the people that it’s impacted.
What you’re doing matters. The volunteer work you do, the donations you make, your deep desire to make an impact on the world, all of these things matter. It’s a part of what has made these incredible changes possible. And it’s what’s going to keep changes like these happening. At Kinship United, we know how discouraging it is to look at all the evil in the world, and feel like nothing you can do makes a difference. Sometimes we feel like that too!
But together, we are making a difference. Things can change, and humanity is working to change them. People like you are what is getting this done. And you have gotten a lot done so far.