Fifteen years after the world made the goal to eradicate extreme hunger and poverty by 2015–one of the U.N.’s eight Millennium Development Goals–one in six people still survives on a dollar a day. Or less.
A book called Living on a Dollar a Day: The Lives and Faces of the World’s Poor, timed to come out just before the U.N. figures out what to do next, shares photos of this daily life on four continents.
“This book was published in hopes of bringing awareness to brutal statistics,” says Renee C. Byer, a Pulitzer Prize-winner and senior photojournalist for the Sacramento Bee, who spent months traveling the world to make the book, in collaboration with a poverty nonprofit called The Forgotten International.
In India, the first country she visited, Byer met a two-year-old girl who was being starved by her mother so that they could beg on the streets, raising money to feed the rest of the family.
“Her name was Sangeeta, and she weighed nine pounds at age two,” Byer says. “The depravity was so severe that this mother couldn’t think of anything to do to feed her other children. So she was sacrificing one for the others.”
It’s a hard photo to look at. “My concern, of course, is that people might turn away since it’s such a harrowing image,” she says. “But my hope is that they don’t, and that they can imagine their own children in this child’s shoes.”
She tried to avoid stereotypical images of poverty, and included happier moments–children playing and laughing–along with the rest of the reality of their lives.
Byer met people living in sewers in Romania, a six-year-old cow herder in Ghana who will likely never have the chance to go to school, and an 80-year old Bolivian woman who explained that her crops are failing because of climate change.
“I realized that without help, this cycle of poverty will continue,” Byer says. “Imagine yourself living in a place where there’s still polio, still malaria, there’s lack of health care, lack of education. Some of these things we may have in the United States, but in the United States we have a safety net to help. In these places there is no safety net.”
After each chapter, the book includes suggestions for how people can help–beyond the obvious of giving donations to nonprofits. “It’s not just about money,” she says. “It’s about volunteering, writing your congressman. … You can start tweeting to bring awareness to the issue. Without awareness, the problem isn’t going to get solved.”
“I guess I’d ask that we all try harder to have more of a shared humanity,” she adds. “In the forward to the book, the Dalai Lama wrote, ‘Unfairness in the human condition can only be remedied when people everywhere care.'”