Human rights

This huge incidence of mortality and morbidity is not randomly distributed. For a variety of social reasons, females are significantly over represented among those suffering severe ill health. Being especially vulnerable and helpless, children under the age of five are also over represented, accounting for about two-thirds of the death toll. But the most significant causal determinant is poverty: Nearly all the avoidable mortality and morbidity occurs in the poor countries, particularly among their poorer inhabitants. There are different ways of attacking this problem. One approach, exem plified in much of my previous work, focuses on the eradication of severe poverty. In the world as it is, consumption by the poorest 44 percent of humankind, those living below the World Bank’s ‘‘US$2/day’’ benchmark , accounts for approximately 1.3 percent of the global social product. If all 2,736 million currently below it were instead living right at the US$2/day threshold, their consumption would still amount to only 2.2 percent of the global social product.3 But they would then be much better able to gain access to things that help the rest of us ward off ill health, such as adequate nutrition, safe drinking water, adequate clothing and shelter, basic sanitation, mosquito nets in malaria-infested regions, and so on.

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