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Getting a taste of what it’s like to live on £1 a day

Anyone who lives on an average income of £1 a day (or US$1.25) is said to be living in extreme poverty. Unbelievably, an estimated 1.4 billion people around the world – more than 20 times the population of the UK – have to get by on this tiny amount.

But what is it really like to live on £1 a day? Like thousands of other people in the UK, Australia and USA, I thought I would find out by taking part in Live Below the Line, an awareness and fundraising campaign that aims to increase the public’s knowledge about extreme poverty and the ways that we can help to fight it.

For five days I had a budget of £1 a day to cover all of my food and drink. Of course, this is not really living below the poverty line as I was still able to take the train to work, have a hot shower and buy other things if I needed to. For the 1.4 billion people who really live on this amount, £1 has to cover housing, bills, transport, healthcare, education… everything.

So how have I managed? With some forward planning and shrewd bargain hunting it is possible to get three meals a day out of £1. Fresh fruit, vegetables and proteins were out of the question and instead I filled up on carbohydrates such as cheap cereal and pasta. It is no wonder that families living below the poverty line are so prone to malnutrition because a nutritious and balanced diet is just simply too expensive.

Although I have not really gone to bed hungry I have definitely been affected by the change in my diet. Apart from the pounding headache from going days without a cup of tea, I have been tired, slightly lightheaded and found it very difficult to concentrate. Even writing this blog is taking longer than it should. I can only imagine how difficult it is for children who eat just one meal a day to focus in school or how parents are able to earn a living and care for their children when they have so little energy.

In hindsight, Save the Children week was definitely not the best time to do this challenge. With lots of cakes and leftover easter eggs in the office resisting temptation has not been easy! I am however glad that I took part in Live Below the Line. Making a few small sacrifices for one week has highlighted the injustice that too many families experience – having to choose between regular, nutritious meals and other basic needs. I’m very proud to be working for an organisation that is helping to ensure that fewer families are faced with this choice.

If you’re interested in taking part, there’s still time to sign up at www.livebelowtheline.org.uk.

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