There’s a trite yet true saying about the world’s fascination with negative news stories and headlines: “Good news doesn’t sell.”
This saying proved painfully true in 2019 — from conflicts abroad to natural disasters, mass shootings and the never-ending political crisis in our nation’s capital, the whole year seems to have gone from one depressing news headline to another. Yet that’s not the whole story.
A lot of good also happened this past year. In fact, 2019 was full of stories of positive milestones in global development and of human kindness and generosity. Here is some good news to encourage you that you may have missed this year.
Lowest number of people living in extreme poverty
This year marked the lowest number of people living in extreme poverty, defined by living on less than $1.90 a day. Over the past 12 months, an estimated 16 million people escaped extreme poverty, according to the World Poverty Clock, an initiative of the World Data Lab that provides real-time poverty estimates.
Stop and think about it: that’s 16 million stories of men, women and children in Africa, South Asia and Latin America breaking the chains of generational poverty. These are the stories of parents who can now provide for their families so their children no longer have to work all day but can pursue an education and look to a brighter future.
In 2015, the World Bank forecasted that, for the first time in history, the rate of people living in extreme poverty would drop below 10 percent. Four years later, it has dropped to 8 percent. Of course, there’s still much work left to be done, but we are steadily moving toward eradicating extreme poverty.
Child and maternal mortality rates hit record lows
Along with extreme poverty, the global child mortality rate has dropped to record lows. Since the year 2000, “child deaths have reduced by nearly half and maternal deaths by over one-third,” reported the United Nations this year. Thanks to better access to health care, clean water and nutritious food, more children and women than ever before are surviving past childbirth, and the rate of mortality continues to drop.
The vast majority of these deaths are preventable, and if we continue to work toward helping people gain access to medical care, proper hygiene and food, we could save even more millions of lives.
Believe it or not, the most searched news story of 2019 wasn’t about politics. It was about Hurricane Dorian and the path of destruction it left across the Bahamas.
Our organization, World Help, traveled shortly after the Category 5 hurricane hit the Bahamas and saw the aftermath of the storm. It looked like a nuclear bomb had landed and leveled entire neighborhoods. The U.N. estimated 76,000 people were left homeless, while risk modeling firms have assessed that the damage could be worth up to $3 billion.
Perhaps even more sobering, Dorian’s official death toll has been tallied around 70 people, but the truth is that there are still thousands missing who may never be found or identified.
Whenever I find myself in the middle of a disaster as overwhelming as this one, I’m reminded of one of Mr. Rogers’ famous quotes. He once said, “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’”
If you traveled to the Bahamas the day after Hurricane Dorian hit, you would have realized Mr. Rogers was right. People from all over the world responded, volunteering in the recovery efforts or sending supplies to help those who had been displaced. Even now, months after the storm, organizations are still working in the Bahamas providing relief and helping locals rebuild.
Our world is full of positive stories. I’m thankful media organizations are starting to notice and feature them on “good news” sections. If we pay closer attention to them, I believe we will be filled with hope and encouraged to help others. In doing so, we will create more good stories in 2020 to share.