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Progress Against Extreme Poverty, Disease Should Be Celebrated

In a post in his “On the Ground” blog, New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof highlights his Sunday column in which he reflects on “something that has been happening over time so that we haven’t given it the attention it deserves — even though it may be the most important thing going on in history right now” — the decline of extreme poverty. Noting “we will still face immense problems — the U.S. is a good example of how even a rich country can have a severe problem with an impoverished underclass — and some kinds of poverty will be with us for decades or centuries to come,” he writes, “But the kind [of poverty] I’ve reported on in so many places, where illiterate parents have eight children who die young and are always on the edge of famine or disability, that kind of extreme poverty may be on its way out, along with river blindness, malaria, trachoma and other ailments” (9/28).

“New approaches are saving millions of children’s lives each year,” Kristof writes in the column, adding, “Illiteracy is retreating and technology is spreading. More people worldwide now have cellphones than toilets.” He continues, “Ancient diseases are on the way out,” noting, “Guinea worm and polio are likely to be eradicated in the coming years”; “[m]alaria has been brought under control in many countries, and a vaccine may reduce its toll even further”; and “AIDS is also receding.” He concludes, “So let’s acknowledge that there’s plenty of work remaining — and that cycles of poverty in America must be a top priority at home — yet also celebrate a triumph for humanity. The world of extreme poverty and disease that characterized life for most people throughout history may now finally be on its way out” (9/28).