Here’s a list of countries that have earned their way to a top ten list:
7. Burkina Faso
5. Sierra Leone
3. Central African Republic
2. Democratic Republic of the Congo
The list in question is entitled, “The Least Livable Countries in the World.” The link to the full report follows.
If you have some familiarity with geography, perhaps you will be taken with the same thing that grabbed my attention. That is that all of these countries are located on the continent of Africa.
If you read the entire report, you will note that the data and criteria was collected from the UN Development Programme. The basis for indexing the countries worldwide was determined by three factors: life expectancy, education and income. These were then numerically quantified into what the UN calls a “Human Development Index.” In a separate report, accessible from the same link, Norway which ranked as #1 had an index of 0.944. Niger, at the bottom of the list had an index of 0.337. I presume that an index number of 1.000 would be found only in the country of Nirvana.
In the United States, some of our politicians have found a rallying cry around the cause of “Income Inequality.” The average person who lives in Niger earns $1.25 per day. Which brings us to examining a far more important issue than “Income Inequality” – specifically, “Income Sufficiency.” If an individual earns enough to provide a family with a comfortable home, food on the table, education and medical treatment, does it really matter that he does so in only a 1,500 square foot house while someone who has been more successful, been born to the purple or has simply gotten lucky, owns ten houses which average 15,000 square feet each? That is not a matter of equality but rather an instance of envy.
This snapshot of ten African nations made me think immediately of life in many of America’s inner cities. However, unlike these countries which are extremely poorly managed, in many cases have repressive governments and are further hampered with limited natural resources, most of our inner cities residents have access to ever expanding numbers of government subsidies, live in a country with a mandatory educational system and have the ability to succeed – if they choose to exercise that right. It would be foolish not to admit that the inner city child has a more daunting task ahead of her than her counterpart who grows up in an upper class suburban environment. But at least the opportunity exists, something that cannot be said for the citizens of those countries who made this list.
As Americans, do we really care about world poverty, limited life expectancies or lack of education – specifically as they affect those who live in Africa? We responded to the Ebola outbreak – but is that a matter of concern for Africans who are being infected with Ebola – or because we are simply worried that it might spread here and then become a problem affecting our own country? Sadly, those who are the most vocal on the issue seem to have taken the low road of political aggrandizement rather than true humanitarian concern. And while we may, in the short run be able to stem or eradicate this most recent outburst, we will not do anything to change the long term outlook for the citizens of the affected African nations – or the others on this list.
Ebola was first identified in 1976. It was as virulent then as it is thirty-eight years later. But working to develop a vaccine makes no economic sense. The disease was largely confined to the African continent both then and today. And quite clearly, pharmaceutical companies, looking at the return on investment for developing an inoculation which would be marketed to poor Africans who could not pay for it and additionally might resist an effort to establish a preventative program and comparing that to the potential financial boon by developing yet another weight loss drug to be sold to an affluent American market where insurance and typical family income would guarantee an explosive market made that decision simple.
To my fellow Americans who complain that the United States is responsible for everything bad that has happened since man began recording his history, I find it strange that we are leading the effort to assist those who are victims of this disease. But if they find that insufficient, perhaps they would like to take a more personal interest in resolving the problem by heading to the affected area and lending their helping hand. It is true that we are still debating the appropriate way to handle people returning from the areas of infection in Africa. But to my knowledge, there is no prohibition against traveling there. And, given the generosity that Americans generally have, there’s probably a government program to help them buy their ticket.