table banking in Kenya
Table banking is a group-based funding strategy in which members form groups where they can save and borrow money immediately during meeting times. The objective of the strategy is to help the poor, particularly women, fight poverty and stay financially sound. About 97 percent of table banking members in Kenya are women.

Members of a table banking group save money each time they meet from which they can take either short or long term loans. The repayment of these loans is what helps to grow the group’s revolving fund. Different groups have varying methods of how they can raise additional funds. Some tactics include investing in land, applying for grants from county governments or fining members for lateness and absenteeism.

How Table Banking is Different From Conventional Banking

Table banking in Kenya became popular among women because it made it easy for them to access loans without land. Additionally, it means that they no longer have to go through microfinance institutions to get loans. While table banking groups have similar principles as a guide, each group creates and agrees on their own rules such as which members can receive loans and what the terms of repayment are. This means that interest rates can be as low as 1 percent, compared to an interest rate of 12.39 percent in banks.

Another key difference between conventional banking and table banking is that when a member of a table banking group gets into difficulty in terms of repaying their loan, their group members assist them to overcome those difficulties. As the group members are dependent on and accountable to one another, the loan repayment rates tend to be high.

Benefits of Table Banking

Table banking has given women, who were once totally dependent on their husbands for everything, the ability to support their families as well. Women have been able to help out when it comes to paying school fees and rent as well as purchasing groceries and other household goods. The Joyful Women Organization (JOYWO) reports that as women increasingly become part of the source of income for their families, people no longer view them as liabilities. This has strengthened family bonds.

In addition to financing household activities, table banking in Kenya has enabled women to create small businesses or to expand their already existing ones. JOYWO, which is one of the most visible table banking movements in Kenya, has documented success stories of women who have put up rental houses and started small shops where they sell various items.

Table banking in Kenya has also given women the ability to buy and own land. Reports show that while women can constitutionally buy and own land, less than 7 percent of women have title deeds.

Women in Africa contribute between 60 percent to 80 percent of food, but they only have an estimated 5 percent access to agricultural extension services. The Global Report on Food Crises 2018 estimates that at least 25 percent of Kenya’s population is food insecure as a result of dry weather. As more women take ownership of land, they will be able to use their harvest as food to feed their families or as a means of income which will enable them to buy what they do not have at home, making their families food secure.

Conventional Banks are Taking Notice

The Central Bank of Kenya shows that women currently account for at least 82 percent of total savings in Kenya. Leading banks in the country are taking notice of the effects of table banking in Kenya and most of them now have group accounts to entice the various groups. Additionally, the banks are now reaching out to the various groups and offering them loans on friendly terms.

Table banking in Kenya has been a game-changer for women as individuals as well as for their families and it is going a long way in helping lift people out of poverty.

– Sophia Wanyonyi
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Yemen
Yemen has become increasingly war-torn since 2014, and as a result, poverty in Yemen has significantly increased. In 2014, poverty in Yemen was at 45 percent. The percentage should reach 75 by the end of 2019.

This war-torn region has not yet recovered from political instability. Because of this, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) estimates that it has lost 21 years of development.

The UNDP published a report, Assessing the Impact of War in Yemen on Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, on September 26, 2019, which is the result of five years of research on how war has impacted Yemen’s social and economic structure and how the international community can successfully invest in Yemen.

Poverty in Yemen

The UNDP report found that the instability in Yemen has had disastrous effects on the Yemenese people. It reports that 11.7 million individuals have become impoverished as a result of the war. In addition, 4.9 million are malnourished. Of this number, 600,000 are children under the age of 5. The report also found that the war reduced economic growth in Yemen by $88.8 billion. This resulted in Yemen’s status as the world’s second least equal country in the world in terms of income. Without any change in the status quo, Yemen will become the world’s most impoverished country by 2022.

Yemen is largely reliant on food and imports for economic stability. Because of this, the economy has been unable to recover quickly without international intervention. The public sector employed 30 percent of the Yemenese population. However, a crash in the availability of assets left those individuals unemployed and unable to contribute to a jumpstart in the economy that would feed, clothe and put money in the hands of the impoverished.

The report concludes that the international response to the extreme poverty, economic crises and inequality in Yemen must be holistic and address both the root of the problem and the result of the issue.

Potential Investment in Yemen

The report examined four criteria: poverty, work and economic growth, hunger and inequality. Increasing international aid and investment can help with all four criteria. The article outlines a method of aid for addressing each area. A combination of efforts would resolve each criterion and address the issue of poverty overall. Increasing household consumption to pre-war levels which reflect “the spirit (though not the magnitude) of current cash-transfer programmes operating in Yemen,” can also combat hunger according to the report. This, combined with the distribution of food that would provide sufficient caloric intake and support Yemenese food exports, would alone prevent 73,600 death by 2030. A focus on improving access to clean water via changes to food prices through sanctions and providing sanitation implementation would save 255,000 lives by 2030.

Direct foreign investment into the Yemenese economy would significantly improve the everyday living conditions of Yemenese citizens. Without increased aid, Yemen will continue to stay on track to become the world’s most impoverished country by 2022. Direct aid programs and an increased amount of liquid capital poured into the economy would decrease poverty in Yemen, jumpstart the economy and improve the overall standard of living.

– Denise Sprimont
Photo: Flickr

Poverty Awareness MoviesPoverty awareness movies help to shine a spotlight on the experiences of individuals in vulnerable places across the globe. They help to humanize the daily struggles that far too many people must live through. Keep reading to learn more about these four top poverty awareness movies.

4 Top Poverty Awareness Movies Everyone Should Watch

  1. The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind (2019) – “The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind” is a true story film based on a memoir by Malawian engineer William Kamkwamba. Kamkwamba’s life story speaks true to the reality of poverty in Malawi. During a 2002 drought, Kamwaba’s family farm was left barren and many were left without electricity and water. Without the proper materials available, Kamwba used scrap metal, tractor parts and bicycle halves in order to forge an operable windmill. Eventually, the windmill powered four light sources and a second machine was made to power a water pump used to battle the drought and famine. Overall, this story shows the strength of human inventiveness and its power to overcome crippling adversity.
  2. Queen of Katwe (2016) – Disney’s Queen of Katwe is a film based on the true story of Phiona Mutesi, a young Ugandan girl who goes on to become an international chess champion despite facing numerous challenges. Mutesi and her family live in the slum of Katwe in Kampala, Uganda. Life is a constant struggle for the family; Mutesi has almost no possessions, can’t read and sells maize on the street for change to support her family. Mutesi and her oldest brother Brian cross paths with a local sports ministry head named Robert Katende; from then on, Mutesi’s life is changed forever. Mutesi finds success and joy in a game that reflects her own life; a pawn makes it all the way across the board, against all odds, and becomes a Queen. In a variety of ways, “Queen of Katwe” brings light to the truth of poverty in Uganda; children are left without an education and often have to work to provide for their families.
  3. Shoplifters (2018) – “Shoplifters” tells the story of how an untraditional Japenese family sticks together through the struggles of poverty. Osamu and his wife Naboyu live in a small, cramped apartment with their son Shota, grandma Hatsue and aunt Aki. The family must take on unskilled jobs in order to make ends meet. Aki is a sex worker and grandma Hatsue collects a pension. In order to survive, Osamu and Shota shoplift most of their food and necessities. On one of their runs, Osamu and Shota come across a young girl named Yuri. The family takes her in and she begins to become accustomed to her new family’s way of life; this means no education and cramped sleeping conditions. This movie is successful at showing the life of a family in poverty without sugarcoating the situation or patronizing the people.
  4. Ma’ Rosa (2016) This movie tells the story of poverty and corruption through the eyes of Ma’ Rosa, who runs a small convenience store in Manila to support her four children. The profits from the shop aren’t enough to raise her family so Ma’ Rosa sells drugs on the side. The police eventually raid Ma’ Rosa’s house and find all of the drugs that she and her husband were planning to sell. The police try to persuade them into handing over their suppliers, along with a large private investment by making a promise of no jail time. “Ma’ Rosa” gives a deep look at how corrupt organizations take advantage of people living in poverty, which is a problem that runs throughout the capital city.

– Juliette Lopez
Photo: Flickr

Child Labor in China
Child labor in China has influenced programs like The International Labour Organization. This organization put forward conventions 182 and 138 (1973; 1999) to eliminate child labor around the globe. Nobel Prize winners like Malala Yousafzay and Kailash Satyarthi sought to focus efforts on ameliorating the risks associated with child labor; however, incidences still exist throughout the world. Presented here are 10 facts about child labor in China. It is particularly important to understand the threats that make some children more likely to be child laborers than others.

10 Facts About Child Labor in China

  1. About 8 percent of Chinese children between 10 and 15-years old work as child laborers. Children from rural areas are more likely to be child laborers. Farms need laborers and children are inexpensive to employ.
  2. A child laborer in China is any employee under 16 years. Under Chinese law, no one under the age of 16 can work and those who do employ children are breaking the law. Luckily, this trend is decreasing with the help of other legislature favoring strict policies in which the Chinese constitution intends to protect children from maltreatment.
  3. Millions of children across China are laborers. This is more common outside the cities where the population is less dense. Families migrate from the cities to rural areas for farmland, but hundreds of millions of families move from rural areas to the city and leave their children behind. Children left behind are more susceptible to become child laborers because they do not have families to protect them.
  4. Traffickers often buy child laborers who receive commissions and finders’ fees. Child labor can be a form of human trafficking where employers buy and sell children as employees. Parents sell their children to traffickers while traffickers either kidnap or lure others to drop out of school with the promise of a lucrative life. The United Nations Action for Cooperation against Trafficking in Persons works to prevent trafficking by raising awareness of the tricks and trade techniques that traffickers use to recruit children. These methods are more appealing to children living in poverty because it involves the promise of money and resources that they could otherwise not afford.
  5. Children who drop out of school are more likely to be child laborers. When children spend less time in school, they are more likely to act out or engage in risky behaviors. Child labor in China means the children enter the workforce at a young age. Clothing and shoe manufacturers are more likely to employ child laborers and other manufacturers that benefit from using smaller hands.
  6. Child labor can occur in the home. Parents sell their children to acrobat schools, which live-stream their performances on the internet. These schools put children on display by forcing them to participate in acrobatics. The schools can gain money by selling performances online. Families who live in poverty are more likely to use this as a means of gaining money. They often do not have the skills to work well-paying jobs and thus look for ways their children can provide support.
  7. Child labor in China has made many strides. The International Labour Organization (ILO) advocated for World Day Against Child Labour, marked by June 12th, and this day brings together millions from different companies, government groups, advocacy organizations and the United Nations in order to share news about child workers. This day recognizes efforts that schools have made to improve education services, which results in fewer dropouts.
  8. Over 250 million children ages 5 to 14 years across the world are laborers and 61 percent of them live in Asia. Developing and developed nations alike attract child labor forces and child labor is, unfortunately, occurring all over the world. One can participate in Child Labour Day to raise awareness of their area about the tragedies affecting child laborers.
  9. Children whose parents have migrated are more likely to be child laborers. Migration in China typically occurs from the cities to rural areas. These migrant families can find work easier on farms or as field hands and their children can easily find similar jobs to support their families. These children are more likely to drop out of school in order to work with their families.
  10. Child labor in china is on the decline. China has passed legislation to improve working conditions and has restricted the working age. Legislation to reduce child labor includes the Chinese Labour Law, the Law on the Protection of Minors, Regulations on the Prohibition of Child Labour and the Notice on the Prohibition of Child Labour.

Child labor is not a unique phenomenon in China. Child labor occurs across the globe in both developing and developed nations. While child labor is against the law in most places, it still happens in remote areas and where the population is sparse. In China, the government is working hard to reduce the incidences of child labor. With advocacy and awareness, both China and the world should be able to make strides to end child labor.

–  Kaylee Seddio
Photo: Flickr

Hunger in Russia
Although coverage on Russia often dominates the American news cycle, people give little attention to the prevalence of poverty in the country. Many Russians live in unacceptably impoverished conditions and face food insecurity. Hunger in Russia is on a downward trend and both NGOs and the government are undergoing concerted efforts to address both poverty and food insecurity in the country.

10 Facts About Hunger in Russia

  1. Poverty Rate: Although the rate of extreme poverty in Russia—those living under the international poverty line of $1.90 a day—is at zero percent, 13.2 percent or 19 million Russians live in poverty under the national definition of $12.80 a day. This is a contested figure, however, as some claim that the poverty rate is as high as 14.3 percent.

  2. Poverty and Hunger: Poverty is the primary factor behind hunger in Russia. Other than those living in dire poverty, most of the population consumes over 2,100 calories daily—well above the 1,900 calories a day guideline that the Food and Agricultural Organizations of the United Nations (FAO) set. Those with higher incomes in Russia ingest over 3,000 calories a day, similar to those living in developed nations.

  3. Food Insecurity: People with disabilities, older people with little sources of income and families with children are some of the populations who face the most food insecurity in Russia. Another population that often faces food insecurity is people with HIV and those who inject drugs (PWIJ) and these make up an estimated 2.3 percent of the population. The irregular schedule and often low socioeconomic status of PWIJ means they often face hunger and malnutrition.

  4. Rising Food Costs: In 2016, the average Russian consumer spent 50.1 percent of their income on food—the highest percentage in almost a decade. This was due to the Russian government introducing embargos on many food exports from Western countries as retaliation for sanctions in 2014. Consequently, food costs spiked for consumers. Since 2014, the price of frozen fish has increased by 68 percent and the prices of butter and white cabbage have respectively risen by 79 percent and 62 percent.

  5. Global Hunger Index Rate: Despite these increases, in 2019, the Global Hunger Index gave Russia a score of 5.8, which qualifies as a low level of hunger. This number is representative of statistics which reveal that less than 2.5 percent of the overall population suffers from undernourishment. This is a dramatic decrease from 2000 when the nation had a GHI score of 10.3 or a moderate level of hunger: 5.1 percent of the population lacked nourishment. This level of undernourishment was the result of a struggling economy still reeling from the demise of the Soviet Union. In fact, from 1999-2000, more global food aid went to Russia than Africa. Since then, however, the macroeconomic conditions in Russia have largely improved resulting in higher incomes that allow consumers to afford food. This trend is also evident in the statistics for wasting and stunting in children under 5: in 2000, those percentages were 4.6 and 16.1 percent respectively, whereas in 2019 they are 3.9 and 10.7 percent.

  6. Growing Food: While the skyrocketing high food costs do pose a risk to Russia’s future GHI index score, both urban and rural Russian families are turning to their own backyards to produce their food. In 2016, approximately 25 percent of Russians relied on fruits and vegetables harvested in their own backyards. This is a continuation of a tradition dating back to the mid-20th century where Russians would combat food shortages under a communist regime by quietly supplying their own food.

  7. Obesity: While the rates of hunger in Russia decreased over the past two decades, the percentage of obese people increased. In 2015, almost 60 percent of the adult population was overweight and 26.5 percent obese. These numbers strongly correlate with socioeconomic status and education levels. Studies suggest that this is the result of a diet low in fruits and vegetables and high in dairy, meat, sugar and alcohol. Experts suggest that just decreasing food prices for healthier foods—such as fruits and vegetables—will not be enough to combat obesity. Instead, there must also be a robust public health program.

  8. Declaration to Halve Poverty: However, there is also good news. As previously mentioned, poverty is the primary cause of hunger in Russia and, on May 7, 2018, a Decree of the President declared an initiative to halve poverty by 2024. Russia plans on achieving this goal through a stimulus plan worth $400 billion that builds new infrastructure and invests in research. While some are pessimistic about Russia’s ability to meet this target, economists at the Brookings Institute believe that even with an annual GDP growth rate of 1.5 percent—a conservative target—through increasing the efficiency of existing social assistance programs and dedicating slightly more funds towards poverty reduction, this ambitious goal is possible.

  9. Investing in Agriculture: Furthermore, over the past decade, the Russian government has also heavily invested in promoting nationwide agricultural self-sufficiency. The Russian government is committing itself to eventually self-supplying 80 to 90 percent of most foods. In order to achieve this target, the country is now subsidizing large farms. The agricultural sector grew by 5 percent in 2016 and 2.4 percent in 2017. People will eventually see the long term impact of these policies on hunger in Russia and whether this investment can lower the costs of food for everyday people and lower the rates of hunger in Russia.

  10. SOS Children’s Village: There are also a variety of organizations working towards preventing hunger in Russia. One such organization is the SOS Children’s Village which specifically helps children whose families can no longer support them. The organization, which started working in Russia in the late 1980s,  also engages in advocacy work with the government to ensure the utmost protection of these children and their nutritional needs.

In conclusion, while hunger in Russia remains a serious problem, there is a reason for cautious optimism. As displayed by the remarkable decrease in rates of undernourishment in the population over the past 20 years, the government, the global community and NGOs are working to end hunger in Russia.

– Chace Pulley
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts about Life Expectancy in Myanmar
Formerly known as Burma, Myanmar is a country in Southeast Asia nestled between India, Bangladesh, China, Laos and Thailand. While it is currently transitioning from a military government to a democracy, the following are 10 facts about life expectancy in Myanmar.

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Myanmar

  1. Myanmar’s Life Expectancy: For the first of the 10 facts about life expectancy in Myanmar, the average life expectancy in Myanmar is 66.96 years. For males, the average is 65 years and for females, it is 69 years. Steadily rising since 1950, the average life expectancy was once 33.63 years. By 1990, life expectancy slowed as it only reached 56.65 years and did not exceed 60 years until 2001. Based on data collected by the United Nations, Myanmar is not projected to have an average life expectancy exceeding 70 years until almost 2040.
  2. Other Countries’ Life Expectancies: Myanmar’s life expectancy is lower than most of its neighbors. Compared to surrounding countries, such as China, Thailand, India and Bangladesh the average life expectancy ranges between 69 and 77 years. However, Myanmar has a relatively similar life expectancy to the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, which is at 67.27 years. This could be due to Myanmar’s changing government and tumultuous internal conflict. Unlike its neighbors, Myanmar has engaged in a civil war since it broke from British rule in 1948. In fact, it is the world’s longest ongoing civil war.
  3. Myanmar’s Internal Conflict: These disparities in life expectancies between Myanmar and other Asian countries could be due to its internal conflict. In Myanmar, there is a constant struggle for power in the government with the military primarily seizing control and ending rebellions since the country gained independence in 1948. Among this political struggle is an ethnic one; the Buddhist population (which makes up 90 percent of Myanmar’s total population) targets minority religious groups, specifically the Rohingya, a Muslim minority group. While there have always been tensions between ethnic groups in Myanmar, violence did not escalate until 2016. Thousands of Rohingya are fleeing Myanmar to Bangladesh because of persecution, extreme violence and borderline ethnic cleansing by Myanmar’s security forces. People do not know much about the death toll in Myanmar but BBC reports that the violence resulted in the killings of at least 6,700 Rohingya a month after violence broke out in August 2017. People burned at least 288 Rohingya villages since then and nearly 690,000 Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh. Myanmar’s rapid population decline and lowered life expectancy may be due to either genocide or the fleeing of many of its civilians.
  4. Rising Life Expectancy: Despite the ongoing civil war in Myanmar, life expectancy is rising. One of the greatest links to health and life expectancy is the standard of living. According to a study by the World Bank, “the proportion of the population living under the national poverty line halved from 48.2 percent in 2005 to 24.8 percent in 2017.” More people are now able to afford health care and medical treatments, allowing for the rise in life expectancies. Additionally, as poverty declines, the Myanmar government is devoting more resources to improving health care. Myanmar has specifically targeted malaria. In a study by the World Health Organization, in Myanmar, “malaria morbidity and mortality has declined by 77 percent and 95 percent respectively by 2016 compared to 2012. The country is moving forward as per the National Strategic Plan aiming for malaria elimination by 2030.” By abiding by the National Strategic Plan, Myanmar was able to successfully reduce malaria in the country and boost life expectancy.
  5.  Reducing Poverty: Myanmar and various international powers are making efforts to reduce poverty in the country. In April 2017, the World Bank approved a $200 million credit for a First Macroeconomic Stability and Fiscal Resilience Development Policy Operation. The purpose of this is to help Myanmar achieve economic stability and reduce poverty. It would also allow greater access to public services, such as electricity and health care resources. In addition, China agreed to assist in reducing poverty in rural areas of Myanmar in February 2018. Rural Myanmar has higher poverty rates than in urban centers (38.8 percent compared to 14.5 percent in towns and cities). The project from China includes infrastructure development and vocational training, which will implement better roads and agricultural techniques. With these efforts, poverty is in decline and quality of life rises, allowing for people to live better and longer lives.
  6. Access to Electricity: People across Myanmar are gaining access to electricity. According to the World Bank, 69.815 percent of the population had access to electricity in 2017, as opposed to 55.6 percent in 2016. In 2015, both the government of Myanmar and the World Bank developed a National Electrification Plan that will achieve universal electricity by 2030. To do this, the World Bank has given Myanmar a $400 million credit to launch this plan throughout the country. Myanmar has already exceeded the goals set in 2015. One goal was to have 1.7 million households connected to electricity by 2020. Currently, 4.5 million households have electricity. Because of this and the decline of poverty, more households can obtain home appliances as well as other consumer goods like cell phones and computers. While these are not direct causes of rising life expectancy, they do indicate that people in Myanmar are gaining a better quality of life, which can attribute to living longer lives.
  7.  Health Care: Myanmar consistently ranks among the worst health care in the world. Myanmar citizens pay for most health care resources out of pocket. Only 600,000 of 53.7 million people in Myanmar have health insurance, the Social Security Scheme. There are shortages across the country in human resources for health. There are only 61 doctors per every 100,000 people in Myanmar. There are not many medical schools available and therefore a lack of other health professionals like pharmacists, technicians and bioengineers. Many of the current doctors in Myanmar feel overworked and burnt out of the profession. The lack of many resources can contribute to lower life expectancies.
  8. Leading Causes of Death: Without access to health care, diseases become the leading cause of death in Myanmar. Non-communicable diseases cause 68 percent of deaths in Myanmar. COPD, stroke, ischemic heart disease, diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease are some of the leading causes of death in Myanmar. However, preventable diseases are in decline. Tuberculosis, HIV and lower respiratory infections have decreased as leading causes of death. Even though access to health care is limited, the quality has improved overall, allowing for people to fight off these infections and live longer.
  9. Improving Health Care: The Myanmar government is slowly improving health care. Unfortunately, government spending on health care is one of the lowest in the world at 5 percent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP). However, studies by the World Bank shows that this percentage has increased over time. In 2011, the Myanmar government only spent 1.687 percent of its GDP on health care, the year Myanmar began its transition to democracy. Since 2013, Myanmar began to implement more policies devoted to national health care. The government went from spending 2.11 percent on health care in 2013 to 5.03 percent in 2014, making health care more affordable and available for mothers and children. Myanmar also reduced the number of medical students to ensure a better quality of education. The severe lack of government investment in health care makes health resources difficult to access by the population, which one can attribute to the lower life expectancies, but it is clear that Myanmar is taking steps in the right direction.
  10. International Support for Health Care: There is a lot of international support for health care in Myanmar. Cooperative for Assistance and Relief Everywhere (CARE) has worked with Myanmar since 1995 and has helped improve community health services. It also provides women valuable information on sexual and reproductive health. The Japanese International Cooperation Agency has also worked on special projects in Myanmar since 2000, most notably creating a standard for sign language and providing teachers. Additionally, the World Health Organization has also worked with the Myanmar government to set goals for their health care. The WHO assisted in drawing up Myanmar’s Health Vision 2030. Further, the World Bank provided a $200 million loan to Myanmar for an Essential Package of Health Services. Much of the international support is at local levels; it is up to the Myanmar government to provide support across the entire country.

As evidenced by the 10 facts about life expectancy in Myanmar, several circumstances could be contributing to the lower life expectancy of the country. However, despite the long and winding path ahead, it is clear that life expectancy is rising as living conditions continue to slowly improve. 

– Emily Young
Photo: Pixabay

Charities Providing Aid During Disastrous Hurricanes
After the hurricane season in 2004, Science Magazine published a paper about the increasing intensity of hurricanes over the years. The number of category four and five hurricanes have increased by 80 percent in the past 30 years. The paper titled, Changes in Tropical Cyclone Number, Duration, and Intensity in a Warming Environment, links the rise in storms to increasing sea surface temperatures. The authors, led by the National Center of Atmospheric Research, concluded that “global data indicate a 30-year trend toward more frequent and intense hurricanes.” In recent years, the world has seen the serious aftermath of these chaotic hurricanes. Luckily, there have been numerous charities providing aid during disastrous hurricanes.

Hurricane Irma, ICNA Relief and Project C.U.R.E

In 2017, two hurricanes made their way into the headlines: Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria. Hurricane Irma, classified as a category five hurricane, devastated a string of small Caribbean islands. Irma’s eye touched Barbuda, destroying 95 percent of the buildings on the island. The hurricane hit southwest Florida on September 10. When it left the following Tuesday, Irma had flooded major cities including Jacksonville, Florida and Charleston, South Carolina. It left millions without power. Thankfully, several charities came to provide support.

One of the charities during the disastrous hurricane was ICNA Relief. Its disaster relief team was one of the first responders after Hurricane Irma made landfall. Its mission was to assist the people by cleaning out the homes that fierce winds damaged. A couple of days later, it assisted the flooded homes. Another charity was Project C.U.R.E and for every dollar peopled donated, it provided $20 worth of life-saving medical supplies and equipment. A week and a half later, Hurricane Maria struck the Caribbean before it could complete reparations and restoration for Hurrican Irma.

Hurricane Maria, the Hispanic Federation and the International Relief Team

After making landfall on the Caribbean island of Dominica, Hurricane Maria landed on the U.S. territory, Puerto Rico. With strong, damaging winds, Maria pummeled through infrastructure and left Puerto Rico without electricity for months. To this day, Puerto Rico has not fully recovered after the disastrous hurricane. It has been the second-costliest hurricane in the history of the United States, just after Hurricane Katrina. Since it made landfall, relief efforts have continued to deliver much needed short and long term support to the people of Puerto Rico.

One of the biggest charities to provide assistance for Hurricane Maria was the Hispanic Federation, which managed to transport emergency first responders and 7.4 million pounds of food and essentials during the devastating months after the hurricane. Another charity worth mentioning is the International Relief Team. It provided more than 2,000 large, heavy-duty tarps to provide shelter and protect families from the blazing sun and frequent rainfalls, which is further proof of charities providing aid during disastrous hurricanes. A year later, charities became necessary as Hurricane Michael blew away infrastructure.

Hurricane Michael

In October 2018, Hurricane Michael, classified as a category five, made landfall in the Florida Panhandle. It was the first significantly damaging hurricane in the area. One of the hardest-hit locations was from Mexico Beach to Indian Pass where people observed nine to 14 feet of peak storm surge inundation. On Cape San Blas, the storm surge cut through a peninsula, creating two inlets. The hurricane heavily damaged or completely destroyed numerous homes close to the coast as the water slammed against the structures. Amid the chaos, different charities came up to share the burden.

Charities Aiding in the Aftermath

The Samaritan’s Purse deployed more than 300 volunteers to the area where it cleared downed trees and debris whilst tarping roofs. Because of the damage in infrastructure, a lot of health clinics and shelters suffered. Americares delivered 61 shipments of medicine, medical supplies, hygiene supplies and other relief items to local health facilities in relief efforts.

Charities providing aid during disastrous hurricanes have made a significant impact. They have provided people with support physically and emotionally after these traumatic events. With Hurricane Dorian recently threatening the East Coast and the Bahamas, one has to be thankful for those volunteers that have managed to help those people in need as these strong hurricanes become more frequent.

– Andrea Viera
Photo: Flickr

lack access to clean waterAbout 2.1 billion people around the world do not have access to clean running water and sanitation facilities. Another 2.3 billion people do not have the luxury of accessing toilets. Clean water is important because it is directly linked to “better health, reductions in parasitic infections, increased child growth and lower morbidity and mortality.” Here are 10 countries that lack access to clean water.

10 Countries That Lack Access to Clean Water

  1. Afghanistan: With only 22 percent of its population having access to clean water, Afghanistan has one of the lowest rates of clean water access in the world. About 87 percent of the nation’s water is contaminated.
  2. Cambodia: Since the majority of the population is dependent on catching and storing rainwater, it leaves an estimated 84 percent of the population with no access to water. This leaves 5 percent of the population dependent on water deliveries.
  3. Congo: 75 percent of the country’s 51 million people do not have access to clean water. About 21 percent of people in rural areas can not reach pure water, which is double the level it was five years prior.
  4. Pakistan: Pakistan is known for having the biggest gap between the rich and poor when it comes to basic hygiene. This leaves 22 million people, or 64 percent of the nation, with no access to clean water.
  5. Uganda: About 40 percent of the population has to travel more than 30 minutes to reach drinkable water. A little over 61.1 percent of the 42.3 million population has access to safe drinking water.
  6. Ethiopia: The high mortality rate in Ethiopia is linked to the quality of water in the country. Due to poor water management and water-intensive farming, 60.9 percent of people have no access to water.
  7. Somalia: Water delivery systems have been destroyed due to post-war problems. This has left 60 percent of the population with no basic access to water and 11.7 percent of people consuming untreated surface water.
  8. Nigeria: Even though Nigeria is one of the fastest-improving countries in regards to water sanitation, 15 percent of its residents have no access to this vital resource.
  9. Chad: Chad has a square mileage of 800,000, which is three times the size of California. But only 15,000 square miles of the country has water. This leaves 33 percent of the nation’s population with the struggle of accessing clean running water.
  10. Syria: The Syrian conflict is hindering humanitarian aid agencies from delivering water and supplies. As of right now, only 10 percent of people lack access to water.

NGOs Helping On The Ground

While these populations of people are suffering due to their lack of access to safe, clean, drinkable water, there are many foundations and NGOs helping to fight this issue.

Water.org is an NGO focused on helping people find a way to be able to attain safe clean drinking water. The organization offers small and affordable loans called WaterCredit to help families obtain sanitized water. Water.org has helped more than 223,000 Ethiopians with improved water, sanitation and hygiene services. WaterCredit has also reached 40,000 people, providing them with clean water for five years.

UNICEF along with the Ministries of Rural Rehabilitation and Development, Public Health and Education, as well as local and global partners have come together to resolve the water crisis in Afghanistan. The plan is to end open defecation by 2025 by using their Community-Led Total Sanitation approach. This approach is a combination of “shock, shame, disgust and pride” to motivate people to build their own toilets. In 2017, the partnership has helped 300,000 Afghans reach clean and safe water. This initiative has also helped girls stay in school by installing washrooms so that they can manage their periods and feminine hygiene needs in school instead of staying home.

– Isabella Gonzalez
Photo: Flickr

The EcoHealth AllianceToday’s world is burdened by diseases that scientists and medical professionals are actively attempting to cure. Poorer countries are subject to these infections as unsafe living conditions, a lack of strong healthcare systems and shortage of resources are all factors of such environments. However, a new field of study, ecohealth, has allowed new organizations to improve their understanding of diseases. Ecohealth is a study of the ways in which the Earth affects human health in various environments. Organizations such as the EcoHealth Alliance have taken this field further to tackle pandemic issues in our world today.

The EcoHealth Alliance

The EcoHealth Alliance is a global, environmental health nonprofit organization that is dedicated to protecting wildlife and public health from the emergence of disease. The Alliance formed when the Wildlife Trust and the Consortium for Conservation Medicine merged. After its inception in 1971, the Wildlife Trust worked to protect the planet’s wildlife. It later added conservation medicine when the connection to health and the environment became more evident.

The Consortium for Conservation Medicine was established in 1997. It had a similar focus on the healthy relationships between living organisms. Together, the organizations rebranded and created the EcoHealth Alliance. This rebranding allowed the organization to focus on local conservation as well as conservation medicine and the relationship between human health and the environment. EcoHealth Alliance has become a leader in preventative work of pandemics in “hotspot regions” of impoverished countries and in global conservation efforts.

The EcoHealth Alliance’s One Health Approach

The EcoHealth Alliance has a unique “One Health” approach that combats issues through different disciplines of thought. One Health consists of engaging with experts in many different disciplines to use their combined knowledge to solve problems that are larger than any single one of their respective areas of expertise. One example of how the Alliance is using One Health is through its work with the Rift Valley fever.

The Rift Valley fever is placed sixth on the World Health Organization’s list of priority diseases. This disease has a very low profile in comparison to others, such as Ebola, because it has only ever been observed in Africa and the Middle East. However, this disease is just as detrimental to those it infects, and there is a high likelihood of it traveling to the Americas.

The Rift Valley fever is spread through mosquitos. Mosquito bites infect livestock in the area. The infection has been recorded to kill “100 percent of infected young animals and 30 percent of adults.” This disease may also impact humans, whether it has traveled through mosquito bites or ingestion of affected livestock. It can result in mild flu-like symptoms as well as symptoms similar to Ebola.

How does One Health help?

The Rift Valley fever would be impossible to understand without the multidisciplinary approach that One Health entails because of the numerous factors surrounding the disease. Veterinarians understand how livestock is affected while parasitologists study the virus’s qualities and individual components. Economists research the impacts of outbreaks on society. Geologists study the conditions that allow the disease to thrive while anthropologists study the human behaviors surrounding the outbreak.

There is still much unknown about this disease as it disappears altogether between outbreaks. This lack of understanding makes it difficult to figure out the potential ways to protect people and animals. In response, the EcoHealth Alliance has formed a coalition of national and local partners in South Africa to improve prevention, detection and reporting policies surrounding this fever in people, livestock and wildlife.

The EcoHealth Alliance is the leading organization using the One Health approach. Hopefully, many organizations will follow to remain competitive. This organization’s procedures have brought together scientists from different backgrounds. It helps them to collaborate and tackle the importance of pandemic prevention in the interconnected landscape of the world today.

Adya Khosla
Photo: Flickr

Lynching in India
Lynching means to illegally kill a person suspected of an offense without a trial, often by a public mob. In the past few years, incidents of mob lynching rose in India. Religious polarization and fake social media news are the two main drivers of increased lynching in India. This article explores nine facts about lynching in India and provides measures to prevent it.

9 Facts About Lynching in India

  1. Data on Lynching in India: The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) collects and publishes data on the crime incidents happening in India within a year. The NCRB does not collect or publish any data on lynching incidents although there is a distinct category in the report for the same. The NCRB reports these incidents as murder. Media sources claim that incidents of lynching are on a sharp rise under the current right-wing government of India. Journalists reported 20 incidents between May and June 2018 alone.
  2. Causes of Lynching in India: Most of the lynching in India occurred in response to the Indian government’s cow protection and beef ban. The cow is a sacred animal for Hindus who venerate it. The Muslim population carries the beef trade in India and is generally the victim of this mob fury. Although beef comes from buffalo and not cows in India, the mobs attack and beat the drivers carrying dead animals (to death in many cases) or others involved in the trade. The recent mob lynching in India is an example of religious intolerance. The spread of fake news through social media about child abduction is another important cause of mob violence against any suspicious people.
  3. Lynching and Economy: An important fact about lynching in India is its effect on the economy of the country. The greatest number of attacks have been on drivers carrying dead animals, traders of beef and owners of slaughterhouses; as a result, they will tend to abandon these jobs due to fear of suffering lynching. This is sure to affect the trade and economy, especially since India is one of the largest exporters of beef in the world. The lynching will also lead to job loss and increase the rate of unemployment in India where unemployment is already at its highest.
  4. Lynching and Health: Lynching incidents are an issue of public health. In the short-term, lynching leads to death and injury for the victims whereas in the long-term it can lead to psychological and physiological effects on present and future generations. Studies show that higher rates of lynching in an area lead to increased rates of mortality for those communities.
  5. Enactment and Enforcement of Strict Anti-lynching Laws: In India, there are currently no laws dictating punishment for lynching. Therefore, the first and foremost step is for the government to introduce and pass an anti-lynching law and strictly enforce it. Given the distinct nature of the crime, it is important to make separate laws for this and not merge these incidents with other kinds of murder. The United States passed its first anti-lynching law in 2018 and India should follow the lead.
  6. Collection and Maintenance of Data Independent of the Government: To put control over such incidents, NCRB should make lynching a distinct category and record the number of incidents. This will give visibility to the lynching episodes and create an urgency to act. When there is no separate category for lynching, people see these incidents as unimportant and rare.
  7. Improve Economic Conditions and Employment Rates: Research says that there is a link between hate crimes such as mob lynching and economy. Socioeconomic status and education determine participation in such criminal acts. People living in poverty and with low educational status are more prone to both participating in lynching and becoming a victim of such incidents. Therefore, creating more jobs for the unemployed young of the country, skill development and improving their financial circumstances will divert their attention away from such heinous acts and protect them from being a victim or a perpetrator of it.
  8. Campaigns and Awareness: The success of Ida B. Wells (who started the anti-lynching crusade in the United States in the 1890s) and The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) movement against lynching of African-Americans in 1909 are examples to learn from and the people of India can start similar awareness campaigns against current increase in lynching incidents. Such campaigns can end religious polarization and create cultural sensitization towards mob violence.
  9. Control the Spread of Fake News Through Social Media: Apart from the cow protection groups, the second most important cause of lynching in India is the spread of fake news over social media regarding child abduction. People in rural areas and with low education easily believe the news they read on social media platforms and act in anger and frustration. Therefore, the Indian government needs to restrain the spread of such fake news by collaborating with social media companies and run awareness campaigns about the pros and cons of social media.
The Supreme Court of India has given orders to the Government of India to enact laws specifically to control lynching in India. The court has framed a three-level strategy that involves prevention, remedy and accountability on the behalf of the officials to control lynching in India. Three states, Mizoram, Rajasthan and West Bengal have introduced anti-lynching bills so far. With the people and government paying attention to mob violence, there is hope that the government of India will soon pass appropriate laws to curb lynching in India and her people will feel safer again.

– Navjot Buttar
Photo: Wikipedia