(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.
If we want to make sure it doesn’t go much beyond 9 billion, that it doesn’t reach 10 or 11 billion, what we need to do is not say, “How do we stop them from having children?”, but say, “How do we stop poverty?” “How do we support people to make the decisions they want to make around their family sizes?” And as we do that, you’ll often hear people ask this question, “Well, there’s not going to be enough food if there are 9 billion people.” And, often implied in that, is that if they keep having all these poor people with so many children, maybe it’ll be easier if we let just a few of them die.
Now, I don’t think that’s ethically acceptable, I don’t think that’s kind, in fact, I don’t also think it’s true. Because we know from all the data, that’s being collected by groups like the Food and Agricultural Organization, there’s more than enough food to feed the world. The problem is not a supply one. It’s a distribution problem. And a useful way of thinking about this is instead of thinking about, “Where is all the food?”, is to ask, “What do we do with the food?” Because this year, the World Food Program, the UN agency charged with feeding the roughly 925 million people who go to bed hungry tonight, has a budget of about 3 billion pounds a year. That’s about a third of the food that British households will throw out, you know, the food at the back of the fridge, gets a bit smelly. The leftovers we never get quite around to eating. That 420 pounds per household, all the households across the country, about 10 billion pounds worth a year.
Because actually, when we start asking questions around things like food and hunger, the challenge isn’t whether or not there’s enough food, it’s where we choose to send it. And a useful way of thinking about that is by looking at the balance 30% of people in sub-Saharan Africa are classified by the World Health Organization as malnourished — they’re not getting enough or not getting enough of the right food. The obesity rate in the UK is 26%. What we need to be thinking about is not, “How do we stop more people from existing,” but “How do we make sure that everyone can get access to decent, affordable food in their local area?” And given that we, in the UK, throw out 40% of the food between the farm and our houses, there’s a huge amount we can be doing about that.