Some poverty is just stupid

Matthew Frost

I don't think any of us would dispute that we must all do whatever we can to help people who are poor.

I'd say that was true for pretty much everyone I've ever met, and especially among those in the church where values of compassion and generosity are particularly strong.

It's easy to see that the world is very unfair, and that the levels of poverty in some places are ridiculously stark and utterly preventable.

It's bonkers that we live in a world where, every twenty seconds, a child under the age of five dies because of waterborne diseases like diarrhoea.

Diarrhoea, of all things. When any of my four children have an upset stomach, we just pop to the pharmacist to get what we need and they're better within a couple of days.

And they don't get sick very often, because they have enough food to eat and can drink clean water out of the kitchen tap.

But if we lived in a different part of the world, it would be a very different story.

Or there's the anomaly that there is enough food in the world for everyone but one in eight people will go to bed hungry tonight.

We've checked. There is enough rice, chicken, and grain for everyone. There are enough vegetables and beans.

But some of us throw food away while others think themselves lucky if they can give their children one small meal a day.

This is stupid poverty. Stupid because it's unnecessary and because it's preventable.

It's not easy to fix. If it were, we'd have done it by now. We've achieved lots of other things, both in poverty reduction and in the big wide world of technology, space travel, science and engineering.

But we haven't yet sorted out global hunger.

That's because it's hard.

The things we need to do to make sure everyone has enough to eat are complicated, technical and need lots of countries to join in if they're going to be effective.

Things like sorting out tax systems so that every person and company, everywhere in the world, pays proper taxes within the countries where they operate.

And then making sure that the government receiving those taxes make it easy for people to find out how that money is spent.

Not everyone lives in a country like ours, where we can pop to MP or councillor surgeries to ask questions and say our piece, or look online to see how our taxes are spent.

Tax and transparency go hand in hand in the fight against corruption.

And, of course, the overseas aid budget, which is often the subject of heated debate, is crucial in the fight against poverty.

As I said at the beginning of this piece, we all want to see poor people being less poor. It's not the 'what' that's under debate, it's the 'how'.

And not everyone sees the value of our aid budget.

But it's immensely valuable.

Every year, it saves thousands of lives, helps children go to school, makes sure women can give birth safely, and gives people the opportunity to start businesses and find their own ways out of poverty.

It's not a burden. It's a blessing.

It's a blessing to be able to give a proportion of our national income – albeit a small one; less than one per cent – to people in extremely poor communities.

And it's part of our responsibility to steward the earth's resources wisely. There is enough food in the world for everyone because God has kept his promise, made in the very first chapter of the Bible, to give us enough to eat.

If some people don't have enough, it isn't God's fault.

He has kept his promise. There is enough.

That's why thousands of Christians – and many others - have joined the Enough Food for Everyone IF campaign to make this year the start of the end of hunger. We've sent emails, postcards, and letters to our MPs to say this is what we want. Children have drawn pictures on plates and sent them to MPs. Churches have invited MPs to lunch.

We're telling the world that we want this to be a generous country. We want to keep our aid promise in the Budget on Wednesday and to make it harder for British companies that work in poor countries to avoid paying tax there.

It's my hope and prayer that the Chancellor of the Exchequer will present a budget to the UK that remembers those who are living in poverty and that the aid budget will continue to bless some of the world's poorest people.

http://www.tearfund.org/if

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