The world's problems are so staggering that they sometimes feel completely unchangeable. Every day seems to leave more suffering, disease and tragedy in its wake. There's no question that our problems are vast, but what would it really cost to solve some of greatest human tragedies we face?
Here are some stats that put the world's problems in perspective:
1. For $26 billion more a year, we could provide a basic education to every child in the world by 2015.
That's according to a UNESCO study published in Sept. 2013. The report estimated that 200 million children around the globe have not completed primary school, and 250 million children who are in school cannot read or count well. An estimated $54 billion in total is necessary to provide a basic education in all low-income and lower-middle-income countries. At the time of the report, a sum of $28 billion was being provided, of which $3 billion came from foreign aid.
That might seem like a lot, but let's consider that...
The U.S. drops an annual $25 billion on golf.
And that's just consumer spending. Americans allocate $4 billion to equipment, $1 billion to apparel sales and $20 billion to green fees, according to estimates from the National Golf Foundation in 2012. If you consider professional golf, trade shows and golf travel, that number's actually a staggering $65 billion annually.
2. For $990, a farmer can get training in dairy production and four milk-producing animals.
A Heifer International "Cheeses of the World" basket provides a goat, a sheep, a water buffalo and a heifer so that a family living in poverty can produce and sell dairy products.
That certainly isn't chump-change, but in the U.S...
Families spend an average of $1,139 on prom.
Of course, this only applies to those with teenagers. This figure comes from an annual Visa survey on spending for that special high school dance.
3. For $190 billion a year, we could cut the number of people without access to clean water and basic sanitation facilities in half.
In 2012, the World Health Organization predicted that its Millennium Development Goal of providing access to clean water and basic sanitation for half of those who currently lack it would require a $190 billion annual investment for five years. That includes creating new resources and maintaining existing infrastructure. At the time of the report, 783 million people had subpar drinking water, and 2.5 billion people lacked access to proper sanitation facilities.
That's a massive sum of money, but meanwhile ...
The U.S. loses $190 billion in annual federal and state revenue due to offshore tax dodges.
That's according to a study by the U.S. PIRG Education Fund, which investigated the hidden costs of tax loopholes and offshore havens.
4. For $115, Doctors Without Borders can give infection-fighting antibiotics to 40 children.
That's $100 you could spend on other essentials, but let's also consider that...
The average U.S. household wastes $100 every year paying for electronic devices that are turned off, yet still plugged in.
That's according to the EPA's Energy Star program, which details the hidden cost of so-called "energy vampires" -- devices that consume power when they are turned off, but still plugged into an outlet.
5. For $44 billion a year, we could end world hunger completely.
At the 2009 World Summit on Food Security, Jacques Diouf, director-general of the U.N.'s Food and Agriculture Organization said that estimate would need to be divided among infrastructure, technology and modern inputs. At the time of Diouf's statement, there were one billion hungry people around the world. Since then, the number of people suffering from chronic hunger has declined to an estimated 842 million for 2011-2013.
That's a ton of money, but look at this way...
The U.S. spent $46.5 billion on shopping online during the 2013 holiday season alone.
That's the amount of e-commerce spending Americans did between Nov. 1 and Dec. 31 in 2013, according to comScore, Inc., a global leader in digital business analytics.
6. For $600, an HIV patient in a developing country can get three years of treatment.
That's according to an Aug. 2013 NBC News report about the Clinton Health Access Initiative, which offers treatment to HIV patients in poor countries.
Meanwhile, in the U.S...
We spend $600 dollars each year on wasted food, per family.
According to a 2012 report from the EPA cited by NPR.
7. For an additional $13.1 billion, every mother and newborn in the developing world could get maternal and prenatal care.
A May 2013 report from the Guttmacher Institute, a nonprofit that works to advance reproductive health, found that a total spending budget of $24 billion would be required to provide care for all mothers and newborns. Of that figure, $8.5 billion would go to direct care costs and $15.5 billion for program and system costs. Guttmacher currently spends $11 billion on these initiatives.
Coming up with this increase in funding wouldn't be easy, but just consider that in the U.S. alone...
We spent $13 billion on iPhone and iPad apps and in-app purchases in 2013.
According to an Apple announcement made earlier this month.
8. With $6 billion, we could prevent four million malaria deaths.
That's according to statistics from Avaaz, as reported on by The Huffington Post. The Bill Gates Foundation is funding vaccination research in the hopes of eradicating the disease, though it remains to be seen if this monetary estimate will change with subsequent scientific developments.
That's $6 billion more than most of us have, but let's look at it this way...
The U.S. spent $6 billion on the 2012 election.
The Center for Responsive Politics estimated that the 2012 election was the most expensive campaign of all time.
The world is rife with poverty and senseless inequality, but the potential for improving conditions is not out of reach. We're not suggesting that everyone is likely to forgo holiday shopping next year and instead put that money toward ending world hunger, but it's amazing to think that we might have the ability to do so with a simple shift in priorities.
While we're on the topic, far too many of our citizens suffer from staggering poverty here in the United States as well:
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