In John 10:10, Jesus says, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full”. But millions of people worldwide are denied the opportunity to know fullness of life because of poverty and social injustice.

The issues of poverty, inequality, poor health and lack of sanitation covered by SDGs 1-6 are inextricably linked. Poverty within a community means there is little money to send children to school; a low level of education leads to limited employment opportunities, lack of understanding on human rights and social equality, and little knowledge of basic hygiene and sanitation. Low incomes mean that families have deficient diets and weak immune systems, leaving them vulnerable to disease and ill health, which is further exacerbated by poor hygiene.

Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) such as leprosy are directly linked to poverty. They don’t just affect a person’s physical health; the associated stigma and discrimination can lead to depression, homelessness, divorce, family breakdown, even the loss of a job or business. To achieve equality, good health and well-being for all, development programmes must go beyond medical care to include health awareness, early detection, education, rehabilitation, water and sanitation, community reintegration, counselling and psychosocial support, research and advocacy. 

Overcoming poverty and inequality may seem like an impossible goal, but with God’s grace and a holistic approach it is more achievable than we may think. Each of us has a role to play, and there are many ways that we can be practically involved. We can all become advocates for change, lobbying our MPs to keep the 0.7 % foreign aid budget in place and signing or creating petitions which challenge discriminatory legislation. For development to be sustainable, there must be local involvement and engagement, so look to support NGOs which have a strong in-country presence, employ indigenous people and work with local groups, including disability people’s organisations. And we must also remember that poverty can be found here in the UK too; we can all do more to be involved in our local communities and schools, support food banks and volunteer our time where it is most needed.

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