The inequality we seek to put an end to, is the inequality that inhibits the progression of mankind. It is dangerous to the point that the World Economic Forum’s Global Risk Report rated inequality as the number 1 global threat in 2013, and labeled as dangerous and divisive by the IMF.
How can global inequality have an impact on global health? Lets look at income inequality on its own. The top 100 billionaires of the world had accumulated $240 billion in wealth in 2012, enough to end world poverty four times over. Had this income been equally distributed across the globe, access to basic necessities would be guaranteed, and mortality across the globe to a host of health problems related to poverty such as malnutrition and malaria would be drastically reduced. This is a world we dream of. And it is one that we must constantly strive to push for and advocate.
Somalia can be considered the peak of inequality, corruption and poverty. The country is in a state of constant civil war plagued by a lack of functioning government, terrorists, pirates and armed forces. The ongoing civil war has severely damaged the country’s education infrastructure such as the schools.
Many schools have been abandoned due to prevailing high levels of insecurity. It was estimated that less than 25% of children had access to primary school education between 2000 and 2008, while secondary school attendance for the same period was 6%. The conflict has thus created a ‘missing generation’ in Somalia, where hundred of thousands of young people are deprived of access to basic education, an inequality in education, with illiterate individuals having a life expectancy up to 10 years lower than that of the national average.
This inequality also fuels corruption and enrolment to piracy to generate an income and survive. Meanwhile, corruption and military power allow the build up of riches to those who are best at surviving in such a harsh environment.
Despite this, the country continues without a properly functioning government, which is the most likely cause for poor health services, and access to clean food and water, both of which are detrimental to health outcomes. Poor safe-water infrastructure has made acute watery diarrhea (AWD) and cholera a frequent and widespread center of disease outbreaks in Somalia. Only recent efforts by WHO to reduce the inequality in safe water infrastructure was able to reduce the specific mortality rate associated with AWD by 80% in 2009 to 324 deaths from 1076 in 2007.
Inequality in health care access in Somalia means that only 9% of births are being attended by a skilled birth attendants, leaving one out of every 12 women to die due to pregnancy related causes. It is even estimated that one out of every ten Somali children die before seeing their first birthday. It is believed that the leading causes of child mortality are illnesses such as pneumonia (24%), diarrhea (19%) and measles (12%), all of which are diseases predominant in countries chained down by heavy poverty and inequality.
And what drives these inequalities in Somalia? Big US oil-companies who disempower Somali governments to send the country into war which allows them to hold power over areas rich in oil freely, making millions on the lives of those Somali who are now cut so short by their country wrought with corruption, conflict and inequality.
It is important therefore that we consistently urge global organisations such as the WHO to make these companies accountable, and redistribute the income made from these areas, back to the reestablishment of their central governments, and reorganization of socioeconomic infrastructure such as schools and the sanitary access to clean water and food.
Currently, donors efforts provide aid in food, medicine, establishment of schools, basic infrastructure and clean drinking water, however what we are not doing is addressing the causes of these failures in the first place. Somalia has always been underhandedly dealt with by monolith oil companies, causing the repeated toppling of their governments, and creating constant conflict within the country. It needs infrastructure which allows safe and appropriate access to rural areas to secure local food production such as roads and communications, and requires less discretionary assistance, and more guaranteed social protection, such as cash transfers to the poor households in times of crisis (cash transfers should be preferred over food since often supply is not the problem, and food aid often cripples local suppliers) which allows for more rapid responses such as in the 2011 Somalia drought.
It is important therefore that we consistently urge global organisations such as the WHO to make Oil companies acting on Somalia accountable, and to redistribute the income made from these areas, back to the reestablishment of their central governments, and reorganization of socioeconomic infrastructure such as schools, roads, communications and the sanitary access to clean water and food.
“If you don’t share your stability and economic success with the poor, the poor will share their instability and their poverty with you”
Leave a comment if you agree or disagree with what has been said, as feedback and debate on the matter are encouraged and appreciated!
From the ‘Mind the Gap’ team.