£1 doesn’t cover a morning coffee in the café next to my office, but across the world around one billion people live on just £1 a day for all their living costs. The Global Poverty Project has been working hard for the last four years to challenge this unacceptable state of affairs through the Live Below the Line campaign. It has raised over $13.8 million across 70 countries and for 90 different charities who are all aiming to end extreme poverty. Despite a huge international effort, the scandal of extreme poverty still persists in 2015 so yet again I will do a little to help this month.
Live Below the Line is a challenge to live for five days spending just £1 a day on all food and drink. No gifts, no freebies, no cheating. For me to stay within budget, it will mean no coffee, no milk, probably no meat, and no soft or alcoholic drinks. However, I will be lucky enough to have unlimited access to clean and safe water and reliable electricity and will only have to endure this for five days. Living in such severe poverty causes not only hunger, but also terrible health problems, but this is life for nearly 1000 million people around the world.
This year, my Live Below the Line challenge will direct funds towards changing lives in Malawi. The total raised by the McConnell International Foundation team will be split between UNICEF and the McConnell International Foundation projects there.
This year marks the ten-year anniversary of my delegation visit to Malawi as First Minister of Scotland, in support of the Scotland Malawi Partnership. This incredible partnership has grown from strength to strength over the past ten years and acts as an umbrella organisation for all groups and individuals involved in mutually beneficial projects to aid sustainable development in Malawi and help its people break out of the poverty cycle.
One of the projects that will benefit from the donations to my Live Below the Line 2015 challenge is AYISE – Active Youth Initiative for Social Enhancement is based in Blantyre, Malawi, which helps young people break out of the poverty cycle, providing livelihood security and employment opportunities as well as promoting human rights and democratic principles.
In the ten years since my first visit to Malawi, the chances for many have improved. But there is still much work to be done. Poverty goes hand in hand with disease, child labour and other abuses. And the situation in Malawi was worsened by the January floods that resulted in almost a quarter of a million people being displaced and thousands of acres of crops being destroyed, significantly affecting the availability of food this year. It is a crucial time in their development and we must strive to do as much as we can to help those affected rebuild their lives.
I recently saw for myself the amazing work that UNICEF Malawi are doing to keep the camps for those who have been displaced clean and healthy, and to support families to move into new homes. But they need more resources to help more people.
From 12th to 16th June, I will once again be undertaking the challenge to eat and drink spending just £1 or less for five days. If you would like to know more (or even to donate) please check out this link to my campaign page:
The scale of this scandal is a disgrace in a world with the technology, know-how and resources we have today. Statistics trip off the tongue, and it can seem hopeless to target the defeat of extreme poverty globally. But, year after year more people are lifted out of poverty. If we each do a little, we can win this war.