In his farewell address as President, Barack Obama said, “I’m asking you to believe. Not in my ability to make change, but in yours.”
We all think we are the only ones doing any good in this world. Yet somehow, we keep trying, and the world keeps getting better.
1. Since 1960, child deaths have plummeted from 20 million a year to 6 million a year.
2. Since 1960, the fertility rate has fallen by half…from more than 5 children per woman to fewer than 2.5 children. The world population growth rate has also halved in the last 50 years and is just above 1 percent.
3. 137,000 people escaped extreme poverty every day between 1990 and 2015. (In 1990, 1.86 billion people were living on less than 1.90 international-$ per day—more than every third person in the world. Twenty-five years later, the number of people living in extreme poverty has more than halved to 706 million, every tenth person.)
We all think nobody else is helping, but we are all still helping.
More lovely data from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation:
1. 122 million children’s lives have been saved since 1990. These children would have died if mortality rates had stayed where they were in 1990.
2. Coverage for the basic package of childhood vaccines is now the highest it’s ever been, at 86 percent. And the gap between the richest and the poorest countries is the lowest it’s ever been. Vaccines are the biggest reason for the drop in childhood deaths.
3. Newborn mortality rates are lower, influencing childhood mortality rates.
4. Nutrition is better, influencing childhood mortality rates.
5. For the first time in history, more than 300 million women in developing countries are using modern methods of contraception. It took decades to reach 200 million women. It has taken only another 13 years to reach 300 million – saving women’s lives.
6. Poverty is sexist. But now 75 million women in India are in self-help groups aimed at improving women’s power, preventing HIV, responding to violent attacks, accessing contraception and financial services.
7. Extreme poverty has been cut in half over the last 25 years. That’s a big accomplishment that ought to make everyone more optimistic. But almost no one knows about it. In a recent survey, just 1 percent knew we had cut extreme poverty in half, and 99 percent underestimated the progress. That survey wasn’t just testing knowledge; it was testing optimism—and the world didn’t score so well.
8. The most magical number is zero. Zero malaria. Zero TB. Zero HIV. Zero malnutrition. Zero preventable deaths. Zero difference between the health of a poor kid and every other kid. That’s the goal, and we’re getting there. In 1988, when the global campaign was launched to end polio, there were 350,000 new cases each year. In 2016, there were 37.
We all think we are the only ones doing any good in this world. Keep lighting your candle in the dark.