And we don’t seem to see fit to ask some tough questions about that. So if we’re serious about trying to see what we can do about poverty in a place like Africa, let’s stop thinking that Africa, the continent, is poor. And start thinking what is it beyond just aid that we can do that is going to help us actually address some of these issues. That leads me to a second myth, something that I hear all the time, which is this idea that poverty is getting worse. And I think it’s fair to say that actually, it’s just not true.
The World Bank put together the world’s global figures on how extreme poverty is going, and in fact, they did their figures last week. And since 1981, roughly 30 years ago, the world has halved the proportion of the population living in extreme poverty. From 52 % of the world’s population, down to just 25% in 2005. And this week, it was updated to say that actually it’s down to 22 % about 13 billion people.
This is a huge success story, something that we often don’t hear about, and something, I think, we should be incredibly proud of. Because if we ask ourselves a question, “Well, how did this happen?”, we did it by doing things like using the aid that countries like ours gave, but also the hard work of people all around the world, to do things like completely eradicate a disease like smallpox. We’ve contained a disease like polio, which my mother had, by 99%. We’ve cut diphtheria rates. We’ve cut measles deaths in Africa by 93% in just the last ten years.
We’ve cut tetanus rates by 85%. These are actually phenomenal achievements, and I wanted to take a moment, just to take a step back, and realize, just how important it is, that these changes are taking place.
(Video) (Gulshan has polio) (her life would have been different with a few drops) (Help) (end polio) (theendofpolio.com) A disease like polio is a disease that means a lot to me. In the 1950s my mother was one of tens of thousands of people in Australia that suffered part of the polio pandemic.
Means she’s got one leg shorter than the other, she can’t run properly, she can’t walk properly. And thanks to the global efforts of tens of thousands of people getting together, actually, what we have seen, is a huge transformation. In the last 23 years, polio rates are down 998%. Last year, there were just 650 cases of polio.
And this is thanks to thousands of people, in countries like ours, and countries like India and all over the world getting together, and actually showing that progress is possible. In a case like polio, we’ve gone from 125 countries with the disease, in 1988, down to just 4 last year. And some of you might have seen in the media, but in fact just a few weeks ago, that number dropped to 3. Because India became one of the few countries that’s actually completely gotten rid of polio largely under its own state. They’ve gone an entire year without a single case of polio, and that’s because they’ve gotten together with people from countries like ours, to say that we actually can do something about it.
So next time you hear someone say, “You know, it’s just not possible to create change” I’d like you to say, “Actually, it is.” The world’s been making some absolutely huge changes and transformations in addressing big issues. And it’s being done because we’ve got together with other people to do it. And as you do that, they’re likely to come back to you with a question like, “But, we’re never going to fix poverty if people keep having so many children.” And I’d like to say, well, we’ve got the logic here around slightly the wrong way. Because actually, I think, they have too many children, or they have many children, because people are poor. It used to be that people would have a really large family. In a place like Bangladesh, 40 years ago, women had 7 children and expected a quarter of them to die. Thanks to making investments in healthcare, thanks to making sure that little girls got to stay in school, thanks to giving families access to information about fertility and family planning, Bangladesh now has roughly 2 children per woman.
And, only about 1 in 20 of them don’t make their 5th birthday. Absolutely huge changes are possible, but we need to make sure we understand how and why. Because it used to be, back in the past, even in countries like our own, the people would have 4 kids, but 2 of them would die. They died from preventable diseases like diarrhea, from disease like measles. Over the last 50 years, the world has made phenomenal progress.
People still have 4 kids, but we’ve reduced, dramatically, the number of them that don’t make it to their 5th birthday. That means that populations grow, and they grow rapidly. But as you just saw from Bangladesh, what happens over time, is that, actually, as we contain the number of kids who die, families choose to become smaller. In 2050, our planet will have 9 billion people on it. There’s not really much we can do about it.