Words matter. When I first went to college, I referred to parts of the world as the “Third World” as if we were talking about three completely different planets. Since I left college, I’ve been using the terms “developed” and “developing” countries. I recently read “Factfulness” by Hans Rosling (if you don’t read it before I get home, you’ll find it under the Christmas tree from me) and the author introduces a better way to view parts of the world. “Developing” and “Developed” allow us to keep on with the “us” vs. “them” world view that has continued to oppress, exclude, and underestimate parts of the world.
Rosling introduces the Four Levels. Sometimes it’s hard to visualize lives around the world, and so we draw from sometimes dramatized media or charity organizations, and of course deep rooted prejudices and outdated views.
Right now, most of the world is either in Level 2 or 3. Those are billions of consumers and business people that sometimes aren’t on the radars of international companies because of those outdated views. I would say that we have families that are Level 1 in my village, but we are mostly in Level 2. I would even say that the village 10 kilometers down the road on the main highway is in Level 3. These Levels look different all around the world, and you can browse different views on dollarstreet.org.
The views in the book and Peace Corps’ goal to increase awareness and exchange between US and Gambia go hand in hand: child mortality is down, girls education is up, electricity and mobile phones are spreading rapidly, people are traveling and learning and making music and making their worlds better. Too often I think these blogs might be negative, and the truth is that we’re doing really well here. Things could definitely be better, but we’re working on it.
“Beds and doctors are easy to count and politicians love to inaugurate buildings. But almost all the increased child survival is achieved through preventative measures outside hospitals by local nurses, mid-wives, and well-educated parents. Especially mothers: the data shows that half the increase in child survival in the world happens because mothers can read and write. More children survive now because they don’t get ill in the first place. Trained midwives assist their mothers during pregnancy and delivery. Nurses immunize them. They have enough food, their parents keep them warm and clean, people around them wash their hands, and mothers can read the instructions on that jar of pills. So if you are investing your money to improve health on Levels 1 and 2, you should put it into primary schools, nurse education, and vaccinations. Big impressive looking hospitals can wait.”