At this moment in time, ending extreme poverty is remarkably achievable

We live at an incredible moment in human history. In every area of human development, humanity is armed to the teeth with an arsenal of simple and cost-effective solutions to extreme poverty. For example:

Food
Simple agricultural technologies such as hybrid seed, micro-dosed fertilizer, and good planting practice have tripled crop yields in every major region of the world, moving mass numbers of people out of poverty – except for Sub-Saharan Africa.

Health
The top diseases that kill children all have incredibly simple remedies. A $4 mosquito net prevents malaria. Serious pneumonia is relatively simple to diagnose, refer, and treat with an inexpensive drug. Severely-dehydrating diarrhea is easily treated using salt water and zinc.

Education
Improvements in technology have “de-skilled” the delivery of high-quality education. Individually-paced computer lessons, for example, improve learning outcomes, while reducing the level of skill and cost required to deliver high-quality education.

Energy
New solar lamps increase the level of light in the household by ten-fold, save money when compared to kerosene, and burn cleaner. Improved cook stoves use less than half of the wood to cook a meal, with ten times less smoke fumes.

 

In this century, the only reason people remain poor is that they are unable to access proven tools and knowledge. Therefore: wherever governments, companies, and non-profits deliver life-improving goods and services, extreme poverty is eradicated.

There is much to be optimistic about. For the first time in history, we have a vast amount of “human development infrastructure” – from governments, companies, and non-profit organizations. Vast delivery networks exist that physically reach nearly everyone.

Humanity is logistically capable of finishing the job, if we can find the willpower and leadership. Delivery of poverty-eradication goods and services is remarkably possible. Take the example of Sub-Saharan Africa, which owing to its large geographic size, is probably the most challenging delivery territory from a logistics perspective. Yet even in Sub-Saharan Africa, most of the lowest-income population lives in a remarkably small land area, equivalent to one-third the size of the continental United States. Our collective governments, companies, and non-profit organizations could be expanded to cover this area. Delivery is possible.

 
 
 

“Achievable Delivery Zone” (example of Sub-Saharan Africa): The majority of the lowest income population live in the shaded regions.

Scale comparison: United States. This area is equal to one-third the land area of America

 
 

JUST ADD WATER

If we are willing, every one of us has a role to play.

We firstly need more people to pursue careers in human development. For residents of developing nations, we need to see large increases in front-line health care workers, teachers, farmer-trainers, and sales agents for life-improving goods – the everyday heroes who dedicate their every action to improving the lives of others. Both nationally and internationally, we need more people to pursue their technical specialty within human development organizations – whether they be accountants, marketers, database administrators, or HR professionals. We need many more professionals to grow careers of meaning.

This also requires money. Private capital has a major role to play, especially when it is specifically directed at life-improving businesses. Realistically though, many of the world’s poorest are not attractive to business as profitable customers – some degree of philanthropy is required. thelifeyoucansave.org has a list of powerful anti-poverty organizations that ordinary people can support.

Perhaps most of all, we also need funding leadership at a global level, from both public leaders and private individuals.

Public leaders
In many cases, bilateral and multilateral aid has become increasingly complicated to administer – and they face diminishing budgets. Conversely, as the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB, and Malaria has shown, performance-driven funding of proven solutions works. Developing nations coordinate the delivery proven solutions, these are reviewed by a technical review panel, funding is based on proven performance, and the results are carefully measured. We need more government leaders to simplify development aid, and focus more urgently on delivering a narrow menu of proven goods and services.

Private individuals
I have such genuine respect and admiration for the world’s wealthiest people. You completely inspire me. You are the super-individuals on our planet who have the ambition, intellect, and resources to lead global-scale change. What would happen if a few more of you entered this fight, utilizing simple strategies, but in a truly bold and ambitious way? How many millions of lives could you materially improve? Where would you lead humanity?