This New York Times headline caught my eye: “The End of Poverty, Soon.” Is this possible?
In 1980, 52 percent of households in developing countries were below the extreme-poverty line, according to the World Bank. That number declined to 43 percent in 1990, 34 percent in 1999, and 21 percent in 2010.
According to the United Nations Children’s Fund, the mortality rate of children in Africa under the age of five has declined from 177 deaths per 1,000 births in 1990, to 98 per 1,000 in 2012. Meanwhile, economic growth in Africa has increased from 2.3 percent per year in 1990-2000, to 5.7 percent during 2000-10.
What explains this dramatic transformation? Cell phones and malaria nets.
Eighty percent of the planet’s population now has cell phones, which are revolutionizing communication in the developing world. As Dr. Eric Bing explains in Pharmacy on a Bicycle, mobile technology is improving the practice of business and medicine around the world. For instance, cell phones now enable fishermen to take orders before the day begins, catch only what they know they can sell, and deliver them directly to their customers. And “tele-medicine” allows doctors in cities to guide health care workers in rural areas.
In 2010, 219 million people contracted malaria. However, malaria bed nets are being distributed by the millions. They last longer than ever before and are delivered more efficiently. Through these nets and better medicines, malaria is down 30 percent.
Jesus’ statement, “You will always have the poor with you” (Matthew 26:11), was not his Father’s desire for us but an observation about our fallen world. How does God feel about those in need? “He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow” (Deuteronomy 10:18). What does he want us to do for them? “Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless; maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed” (Psalm 82:3).
What happens if we do not help them? “He who gives to the poor will lack nothing, but he who closes his eyes to them receives many curses” (Proverbs 28:27). What will he do for those who care for them? “He who is kind to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will reward him for what he has done” (Proverbs 19:17).
It was my privilege to speak on a panel with Dr. Bing recently—I was deeply impressed by his entrepreneurial genius and passion for those in need. And I wondered what God could do with anyone who is willing to help hurting people in his name. Our King loves every resident of his realm. Do I? Do you?