Vietnam's Health Care System
As Vietnam has grown and developed over the last two to three decades, so has its health care system. There is a decrease in the number of deaths due to health issues and an increased rate of vaccination through Universal Health Coverage (UHC). With much success for the UHC implementation, Vietnam’s health system has become a model to other countries. However, there is still a difference in the level of care between the rich and poor in Vietnam’s health care system.

Health Care and Hospital Systems

Business Monitor International (BMI) stated that health care spending in Vietnam in 2017 increased to 7.5 percent of gross domestic production, which is $16.1 billion. Meanwhile, experts forecasted it to grow 12.5 percent annually during a four-year period from 2017-2021, which would be approximately $20 billion according to KPMG. Public health care spending is expanding with social health insurance programs that projections determine will 58.1 percent of all health care spending.

Vietnam’s health care system is decentralized with the Ministry of Health at the central level. Meanwhile, the provinces, cities, districts and communities connect to the Ministry of Health. The four groups implement their own health policies and manage their own health care system and facilities. The Ministry of Health (central level) manages the health care system for the government as well as hospitals, medical education and research. Provinces and cities run hospitals, other health care facilities and health care-education programs with central oversight. Finally, health care facilities at the district and commune-level provide basic medical care with preventative services.

Universal Health Coverage (UHC)

Vietnam is a leader in implementing universal health coverage. This would cover medical and dental services as well as medicine and vaccines. The Global Monitoring Report on UHC by both the World Health Organization and the World Bank states that almost 88 percent of people in Vietnam have health coverage and 97 percent of the children received vaccinations. There is also a 75 percent decrease in the death of mothers through universal health coverage. Vietnam has reached health care goals (as recommended by the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals) earlier as compared to other countries due to its strategy on using all that is available, including staffing and administration.

Public View and Poverty Gap

Vietnamese’s traditional viewpoint on health care services affects health care delivery. It is a common belief that larger health care facilities in big cities would provide better health care services through more specialized staffing and more robust technology and equipment. Therefore, people tend to overlook smaller local facilities in the countryside or in rural areas. This, in turn, is impeding faster and necessary care while incurring unnecessary, unknowing or avoidable high costs. Such a barrier would ultimately contradict the proposed health care strategy above.

Vietnam’s health governance body is working to change the public viewpoint on local community health by educating the public about the programs and charging local health offices to provide excellent care in order to build trust. Wealthy patients have better access and higher quality health care. As wealthy patients tend to live in big cities, they are closer to big health care facilities that are well equipped. Meanwhile, poorer patients often have to travel hundreds of miles from rural areas to reach better care. While private insurance gives patients primary and preventative medicine that would avoid high health care expenditures due to medical emergencies, wealthy patients have more opportunity to purchase private insurance for better care. Health care inequity leaves the poor at a disadvantage with higher chances for illness and a lower quality of care.

Support and Challenges for UHC

Vietnam’s universal health care is receiving support from the Working Group for Primary Healthcare Transformation. The group works to present and emphasize primary care services in provinces around Vietnam, as well as improve and expand those services moving forward. Harvard Medical School, a member of the group, helps with primary care structuring and management. Another member, Novartis, provides rural community health education outreach as well as technology and rural medicine education for health care professionals. For instance, Novartis’ Cung Song Khoe Program has provided treatment for many conditions such as diabetes, hypertension and respiratory disease, as well as education for local rural communities and health care professionals, totaling 570,000 people served in 16 provinces. However, there are still challenges that are holding back Vietnam’s health care system including a high number of smokers and adults with alcohol usage, as well as extreme air pollution and aging populations.

Despite drawbacks from public views, health challenges and the environment, Vietnam’s universal health coverage is holding strong and progressing with ongoing program evaluations, strategic planning, improved care quality and partnerships. Therefore, Vietnam’s health care system has also been growing and is standing tall among that of other well-mentioned countries. With that said, eliminating health inequity is the focus to improve Vietnam’s health care.

– Hung Le
Photo: Flickr

Total Literacy in KeralaLiteracy has always been an important measure of development and a huge means to further progress through an educated population. People usually define literacy as the ability to read, write and comprehend information. This is important in even basic infrastructure improvements for a community, such as implementing road signs in order to lower road injuries and deaths. Literacy in India is improving rapidly. The most recent measure of literacy in India took place during the 2011 census. India’s 2011 literacy rate was 74.04 percent, an immense increase from the previous census, where the literacy rate was only 12 percent. But even more impressive, Kerala has the highest literacy rate of all the states and even has the label of a total literacy state. In fact, the total literacy in Kerala is 93.91 percent.

History of Kerala

Kerala is a fairly small state and largely rural, rather than being a center of commerce. Additionally, it does not have a high level of industrial development. However, Kerala rises above other states regarding development indicators like literacy, health outcomes and life expectancy. It is crucial to analyze and understand Kerala’s success so that the literacy rates can improve in other regions.

Kerala’s history as a region plays a role in its literacy success. Starting in the 19th century, royalty called for the state to cover education costs. While still a colony, Kerala implemented social reform in the early 20th century that allowed access to education for lower castes and women. Post-independence, socialist or left of center governments overarchingly controlled the state government and they made equity and social goals a huge priority.

Literacy Programs in Kerala

However, aside from these factors, one of the biggest contributors to Kerala’s total literacy is its literacy program, Kerala State Literacy Mission Authority. This is an institution that works under the state government and received funding from it, but operates autonomously. The values of this organization are clearly framed in its slogan, “Education for all and education forever.”

The program works on many levels, including basic literacy programs and equivalency programs. The basic literacy programs include a push to take Kerala to a full 100 percent literacy rate. These programs focus on regions and peoples who tend to have lower literacy rates, including urban slum, coastal and tribal populations. District-specific programs target localized issues, needs and a total literacy program for jail inmates. The equivalency program provides the opportunity for adults who did not go through all levels of primary and secondary school to take classes and tests which will bring them up to fourth, seventh, 10th, 11th, or 12th-grade literacy standards. The program also offers certifications and is constantly adding smaller, new programs in social literacy as different areas require attention.

The Goal

The goals of this program center around developing literacy skills through continuing education and offering opportunities for all who have an interest in learning. This ensures secondary education, providing the skills necessary for those learning to read and write to apply these new abilities in their daily lives and to conduct research on non-formal education. The organization and practices of the Keralite government in terms of improving literacy in their state are undoubtedly successful.

In the development field, it is easy for one to become bogged down in the failures. The total literacy in Kerala is a success story that should receive attention. This is the value of investing in development projects. There are concrete gains when development receives careful formulation and funding with the population in mind. There is much that one can learn from the Kerala State Literacy Mission Authority and apply to achieve total literacy around the world.

Treya Parikh
Photo: Flickr

Hunger in Bulgaria
According to the 2019 Global Hunger Index (GHI), Bulgaria was one out of only 17 countries with a GHI score of less than five. The GHI collectively puts together this score encompassing the factors of undernourishment, child wasting, child stunting and child mortality. Here are four facts about hunger in Bulgaria.

4 Facts About Hunger in Bulgaria

  1. Volunteer Intervention: Over the past years, there has been quite a lot of overseas intervention by universities and international organizations to address the previous issue of hunger. For example, in 2015, a group of students at Rice University in Texas traveled to Bulgaria to help the Bulgarian Food Bank with its biannual food drive. This food drive typically takes place between May 19 and June 3. Alongside the Global FoodBanking Network, the students spent approximately a semester in Bulgaria learning about international service, making space for collected food and engaging in other volunteer opportunities. In the end, these students learned quite a lot throughout their semester, and the food drive was a huge success. Many volunteer projects and service trips like this one have become a large staple in Bulgaria’s plan to eradicate hunger. With overseas support, there has been a push for various food drives and other initiatives to raise food and awareness for hunger in Bulgaria.
  2. Policy Changes: Bulgarian lawmakers have also implemented various policy changes aimed at fixing the number of cases regarding hunger. In 2016, lawmakers amended a tax law allowing for a waiver of the value-added tax (VAT) on food that companies donate to food banks and other charities. In the past, companies faced a 20 percent VAT on food donations which meant it was more expensive to give food to a food bank than to throw it away. With the action taken by organizations such as the Global FoodBanking Network and the Bulgarian Food Bank, Bulgaria amended the tax law, allowing many food banks to receive more donations from companies. Policy changes like the one discussed above are a win for Bulgarians suffering from food insecurity, food banks and companies.
  3. The Global FoodBanking Network: The Global FoodBanking Network (GFN) has played a role in addressing food insecurity in Bulgaria. The GFN is an international nonprofit working against world hunger by supporting food banks worldwide. Its entire approach mainly runs on four ideas: partnering with new food banks, knowledge exchange, building capacity and assuring safety. With these four goals in mind, the GFN has provided expertise, resources and connections for many food banks in Bulgaria to prosper. Individuals and groups can involve themselves as well. Find more information at foodbanking.org.
  4. Bulgarian Food Bank: In addition to the Global FoodBanking Network, the Bulgarian Food Bank (BFB) has also played a very vital role in improving hunger in Bulgaria. Being the biggest initiative actively present within Bulgaria, the BFB has been the hub for food banks and raising awareness around world hunger. It is also a member of the Global Food Banking Network and the European Food Banking Federation. To provide some history, founders including Association of Meat Processors in Bulgaria, Bella Bulgaria AD, Bio Bulgaria Ltd. (Harmonica), Kraft Foods (Mondelize), Neterra Ltd., Piccadilly JSC (Deleuze Group), Road Runner Ltd. (BG menu), Tandem-V Ltd. and FORA – Community Development Foundation created BFB in 2012. Since then, it has grown to work with various other organizations and help millions of citizens. The BFB has held numerous food drives and events on occasions such as World Food Day.

Bulgaria, as a whole, has taken quite a lot of action to ensure food security. By working with various organizations, implementing different policy changes and providing volunteer opportunities for individuals and groups, Bulgaria is decreasing hunger at a fast rate.

– Srihita Adabala
Photo: Pixabay

Evergrande in GuizhouOver the course of 40 years, China pulled 700 million people out of poverty. Rural poverty “decreased from 55.75 million to 16.6 million” between 2015 and 2018. China had planned to completely end extreme poverty by 2020. The country’s agenda is one key driver; however, the effort from the rising private sectors has also been pivotal. China’s private companies have demonstrated innovative ways to tackle poverty-related issues. This article will introduce the case of one leading private company, Evergrande in Guizhou.

Private Investment

China has already had success with private companies working to eradicate poverty. E-commerce has been fiercely discussed on different stages both internationally and domestically for its role in poverty eradication. Alibaba has successfully exercised the strategy of promoting small business from remote and impoverished regions on its online platform to stimulate the commodity economy and end their poverty. In fact, Alibaba’s online sales platforms have helped more than 100 poor counties in China reach a sales record of $14 million in 2018.

In 2019, the United Nations Environment Program honored Ant Financial Services Group for its achievement in afforestation of 122 million trees in arid regions in China to improve their overall living conditions. This tech company also works to finance small businesses. Its Alipay platform provides online money transfer services, lending and investment funds.

Evergrande in Guizhou

However, differing from these online giants, Evergrande leads the real estate business in China. In 2018, the head of the company, Jiayin Xu, said the private sector should do more in poverty alleviation. In the same year, Evergrande won the trophy for its donation of $560 million, which also make them the number one organizational donor. That year, 68 percent of the money donated went towards poverty alleviation.

Absolute numbers of donations are not the only hallmark of Evergrande’s approaches in poverty alleviation. Evergrande has an obvious provincial focus on its poverty reduction projects. Evergrande started working in Guizhou, one of China’s more underdeveloped provinces, in 2015. According to the report, Bijie, Guizhou, received 51.9 percent of the total donation, which equals $302 million. In, Bijie, the number of people living in poverty has decreased by 5.94 million, dropping the poverty rate from 56 percent to 8.89 percent in the last 30 years.

Agricultural Reclamation

Besides the massive amount of financial input, the success that Evergrande in Guizhou has had in combating poverty demonstrates another key mark: a detailed and localized strategy. Evergrande’s research corroborates Guizhou’s traditional disadvantage in agricultural reclamation. Therefore, it developed various alternative measures.

Its plans were to develop Dafang County, Bijie City, Guizhou Province. The company had completed 103 projects targeted poverty by 2017. More than 180,000 local residents benefited from these projects. Through supply, production and sale integration, Evergrande helped Dafang county create 16,473 acres planting bases of economic fruits and 317 beef breeding farms. It also built 10,223 greenhouses and 22 cultivation centers.

China’s private companies have had impressive success in combating poverty. As a new player in the field, Evergrande in Guizhou demonstrated how a private company turns poverty alleviation into an economic opportunity for both local communities and companies. Indeed, the company has had a relatively short time in the field, but its role is no less critical than governmental help.

Dingnan Zhang
Photo: Flickr

Malaysia’s Improvements in Water and Sanitation
Malaysia is one of many developing countries on the rise out of poverty and into wealth and prosperity. Like many developing countries, Malaysia had to make adjustments to its way of life. One of those changes was improving access to clean water and hygienic sanitation. Today, improvements to water and sanitation in Malaysia have made the country a model for other developing countries working to ensure stable and healthy livelihoods.

Improvements to Water and Sanitation in Malaysia

Malaysia’s efforts to provide access to clean water and pipe systems can be seen in data that has been collected. According to The World Health Organization/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Program, reports taken in 2015 show that approximately 92 percent of Malaysian people have access to properly managed water supplies and 82 percent have access to hygienic sanitation services. Compared to other developing countries, these numbers are better than expected.

To tackle issues in clean water and sanitation access, Malaysia joined Vision 2020 in 1991 under Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, setting out with a goal to reach developed country status by the year 2020. In addition to solving Malaysia’s water and sanitation issues, the agreement set out to address many other issues as well, including climate change, societal division, financial challenges and needed improvements in technological advancements.

World Water Vision

Under Vision 2020 is the World Water Vision process, which was established by the World Water Council. The World Water Council is an international water policy think-tank co-sponsored by the Food and Agriculture Organization, the World Health Organization, the World Meteorological Organization, the World Bank and several United Nations programs. The global project set out to implement extensive consultation and to incorporate innovative ideas in the creation of future technology to ensure water access for all.

On a more national level is the Malaysian Water Visioning process. Supported by the Malaysian Water Partnership and the Malaysian National Committee for Irrigation and Drainage, it carried out consultations to determine the proper distribution of water for food and rural development at the national and regional levels. It also implemented extensive water sector mapping and studies on gender disparities pertaining to water access and control.

Case Study: Orang Asli Communities

Although water and sanitation access has improved tenfold, some important groups are still in need of aid. These groups include the poor, immigrant families and people living in secluded rural areas.

To better understand the problem, a case study was done on the Orang Asli communities of indigenous people. Compared to other parts of Malaysia, their health issues are worse than average, infant mortality was double the national figure and parasitic infections were as high as up to 90 percent in certain communities. Most of these issues, if not all, were largely due to poor access to clean water and sanitation.

The Orang Asli and the Global Peace Foundation worked together to create the Communities Unite for Purewater (CUP). This came after carrying out extensive interviews, workshops and other interventions. CUP combats poor water and sanitation access through the installation of water filters and pumps.

As a result, Orang Asli people no longer have to travel miles to get clean water. The new water pumps draw water from wells and transport it into filtered water storage tanks. These are then distributed to each household through a pipe system. The Orang Asli people have stated that this significant change has made their lives much easier. There are also now less prone to diarrhea and fevers.

Moving Forward

Malaysia has come a long way to improve its water and sanitation systems, making it one of the most promising developing countries in the world today. Malaysia has used many innovative ideas and tactics to overcome its water and sanitation issues, including creating initiatives through partnerships, promoting education and doing extensive research. One thing Malaysia will have to work on while on its road to success is to pay better attention to poorer groups to ensure that they get access to clean water and sanitation as well. In order to strive for peace, there must be equal and fair treatment for everyone, regardless of social class.

– Lucia Elmi
Photo: Pixabay

Policies of Poverty in North Korea
Few places in the world have aroused as much curiosity and suspicion as North Korea. Known as the “hermit kingdom,” the multiple facets of daily life are secret from the rest of the world, but what is little known about the country paints a very poor economic picture. North Korea’s enigmatic persona on the world stage makes any attempt to uncover its true economic standing rather difficult. This could be due to the fact that the nation has not released any statistics to the global community since the 1960s. Also, while the exact numbers regarding North Korea’s economy and poverty in North Korea are a mystery, there is still quite a bit the world knows about its economic progress (or lack thereof) and how it is affecting the quality of life of its citizens.

Poverty in North Korea

Firstly, many know that along with North Korea’s cult of personality style of governance with Kim Jong-un as its poster boy, it keeps a tight grip on all of the business affairs of the country, resulting in a command economy. As a result, the free market is essentially non-existent with the state determining not only which goods people should produce, but also how and at what price to fix them at. According to the Korea Institute for National Unification (KINU), “the standard of living has deteriorated to extreme levels….” Even citizens, not fortunate enough to be part of the political or social elite, do not receive the basic necessities of health care and food security.

The KINU has even estimated that poverty in North Korea extends to about half of North Korea’s population of 24 million.

North Korea’s ironclad grip on its economic and political structures, coupled with its military-centric ideology, makes for a chaotic mix resulting in a struggling population. Even with modest attempts to modernize—including special economic zones, price liberalization and limited transactions with its South Korean neighbor—North Korea still finds itself focused on military and foreign policy. By doing so, it is absorbing much-needed market capital. Also, while North Korea fears that economic liberalization will lead to political and social liberalization, it is unprepared to take the economic risks that its neighbor and ally China has taken to marry its communist politics with a partially free-market economic approach.

Global Scrutiny and Aid

North Korea has faced increased global scrutiny due to its nuclear weapons ambitions, and this has resulted in not only immense political pressure but also crippling economic sanctions. Even with the post-Soviet push for rapid industrialization, North Korea has shown little economic resilience in the face of global disconnection. This has only exacerbated the ripple effect which inevitably leads to its suffering citizens.

Additionally, while the internal systems of the hermit kingdom were not enough to overcome, North Korea finds itself repeatedly on the receiving end of climate change and natural disasters. With alternating and equally devastating periods of both droughts and floods, paired with a government unable to respond, this only aggregates North Korea’s agricultural problems.

It is even suffering its worst drought in four decades, according to its state-run media. With a majority of North Koreans relying on crops and livestock for survival, and with the intensity of irregular weather on the horizon, the country could soon find itself in dire straits that it will be unable to shield from the global community.

Even with the multitude of economic, social and political problems North Korea has in front of it, there are still signs that the global community is willing to help eliminate poverty in North Korea. With China and South Korea right along its borders, North Korea has seen help in the form of aid. South Korea has pledged $8 million for aid. China has been even more generous. In 2012, China gave 240,074 tons of rice, more than 80 times what Europe gave North Korea that same year. These pledges signal that some are offering help to lessen the burden of poverty and struggle for the citizens of North Korea, but there is still more that others can and should do.

– Connor Dobson
Photo: Flickr

2010 Haiti Earthquake
The catastrophic earthquake that struck Haiti a decade ago has birthed a very different humanitarian crisis. On January 12, 2010, the 7.0 magnitude earthquake killed over 250,000 people with 300,000 more injured. The 2010 Haiti earthquake was the most destructive natural disaster the region had suffered, displacing over 5 million people and destroying nearly 4,000 schools. The earthquake’s epicenter was at the heart of the metropolitan area in the capital city Port-au-Prince. Ten years later, 4 million people are experiencing severe hunger with 6 million living below the poverty line.

The Root Problem

These consequences led to many social and political setbacks. Before the 2010 earthquake, 70 percent of people lived below the poverty line. Now, a nationwide study indicates that one in three Haitians needs food aid and 55,000 children will face malnutrition in 2020. Despite others allocating $16 billion in aid to the island, the nation has lapsed in food security due to a lack of international investments and funding.

Humanitarian Response

Recurring climate events such as prolonged droughts and Hurricane Matthew, which struck Haiti on October 4, 2016, have resulted in the destruction of agricultural sectors and infrastructure. The hurricane took the lives of an estimated 1,000 people. The island also suffered a cholera epidemic in 2010 that resulted in over 8,000 deaths. Since then, thousands reside in makeshift internal camps—once regarded as temporary housing—without electricity or running water.

World Vision’s relief fund aims to provide essential care to residents through agricultural support, emergency food supplies and medicinal materials. Donations and sponsorship of children alleviate many of the poverty-stricken burdens. After the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, the organization’s unified efforts brought food to over 2 million people. Other international humanitarian organizations have received critical reception over discrepancies in rebuilding efforts and the disbursement of funds.

Political Unrest

Various ambassadors and nations followed with many humanitarian responses and appeals for public donations such as the European Council providing millions of dollars in rehabilitation and reconstruction aid. Frequent political turmoil has curbed humanitarian progress in Haiti. In September 2019, thousands demanded the resignation of President Jovenel Moise over his mismanagement of the economy, which impacted poorer populations the most. For more than 50 years, the World Food Program has attempted to build resilience in the political and economic framework of Haiti through school meals and nutrition, and disaster preparedness. By preparing food before the hurricane season, the program can meet over 300,000 people’s needs. It delivers daily meals to 365,000 children in approximately 1,400 schools across the nation. Other organizations that provide sustainable development projects and emergency relief include CARE, Food for the Poor, Midwest Food Bank and Action Against Hunger, among others.

The humanitarian crisis a decade after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti requires a level of urgency. Millions in Haiti are facing unprecedented levels of severe hunger due to a lack of funding and economic and political stability. International organizations are vital to providing aid and care to these populations, and the world’s growing awareness of this issue is just as important.

– Brittany Adames
Photo: Flickr

5 Ways Music Helps Impoverished Youth
For many cultures, music is a primary form of expression. It serves as an outlet for struggles with identity, relationships, politics and even poverty. Since music encapsulates various elements of a culture, it is essential for heritage preservation and for spreading awareness about the adversity that the respective cultures face. Music is a universal language, capable of reaching out and touching the hearts of any listener. This includes children, who are extremely receptive to music and are capable of learning of its benefits and values. Here are five examples that show how music helps impoverished youth cope with their experiences and spread awareness of the world’s poor.

5 Examples of Music Helping Impoverished Youth

  1. A group of Yazidi girls formed a choir to preserve their cultural identities after suffering through sex slavery. Yazidi was recently overrun by the Islamic State military, resulting in thousands of young girls being sold into slavery. One of these girls was Rainas Elias, who was taken by ISIS at the age of 14. Two years after her kidnapping, Elias is one of the 14 young women who formed a choir that performs traditional Yazidi songs as a means of coping with their past traumatic experiences. In early February, the girls took a trip abroad to perform at the House of Parliament and Westminster Abbey. Since Yazidi music is not traditionally written or recorded, British violinist Michael Bochmann has been working with the choir. They are recording the songs, which are then archived in the Bodleian Library at Oxford University. This work helps preserve an important piece of Yazidi culture while simultaneously providing a healing experience to the girls involved.
  2. “Fresh Kid” is an 8-year-old rapper from Uganda who sings about his family’s struggles with poverty. His real name is Patrick Ssenyonjo and he began hearing songs on the radio at a very young age and could immediately memorize and repeat them. Soon, Fresh Kid was performing for his local community, rapping about struggles that he, his friends and his family face. Uganda’s lack of electricity and poor transportation standards are two primary causes behind the nation’s impoverished circumstances. Although the country has seen vast improvements in recent years, there are still many developments to be made. Fresh Kid’s music draws attention to this issue while his success provides hope to impoverished youth across the globe.
  3. Schools in Venezuela are teaching classical music to students as a means of transcending poverty. Venezuelan conductor Jose Antonio Abreu established the State Foundation for the National System of Youth and Children’s Orchestras of Venezuela in 1996. Otherwise known as The System, the program educates students on how to read and perform classical music. The System provides students with an artistic outlet in a professional atmosphere, resulting in the development of discipline and passion that is often unattainable by impoverished youth. Students living in poverty have made up 70 percent of the program’s participants since its creation. The foundation has produced world-renowned talents such as Gustavo Dudamel, conductor of the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra, and Edicson Ruiz, the youngest bass player to ever perform with the Berlin Philharmonic. Venezuela continues to suffer from a collapsed economy and corrupt politics, with an unemployment rate of 44 percent. The System grants Venezuela’s poorest children the chance to rise above these issues while spreading an appreciation for classical music.
  4. The Afghanistan National Institute of Music (ANIM) teaches traditional music to students. Half of these students come from poor backgrounds. The school instructs both Western and Afghan classical music as well as basic subjects like math and science. The school prides itself on embracing the education of Afghanistan’s less advantaged youth including girls, orphans and street-working vendors. One significant product of ANIM is Afghanistan’s first all-female orchestra. Not only does the school provide a well-rounded curriculum, but its music-oriented focus promotes the resurgence of cultural factors that were once banned by Taliban rule. ANIM demonstrates the influence music has by bringing social change and emotional healing to impoverished youth.
  5. Ghetto Classics is a youth orchestra featuring more than 500 children from Korogocho. The orchestra is a result of the Art of Music Foundation, a non-profit dedicated to improving the lives of impoverished youth in Eastern Africa by integrating classical music studies into schools. The director of the Art of Music Foundation, Elizabeth Wamuni Njoroge, founded Ghetto Classics in 2008 after a local Catholic priest requested that the foundation start teaching classical music to the youth. Njoroge states that the community was skeptical of the idea at first, partially because of distrust in NGOs and partly because classical music is quite different than the hip-hop and reggae that locals are accustomed to. However, Korogocho soon warmed up to the idea, and Ghetto Classics is now one of the most valued and successful community projects to exist in Korogocho. Since its foundation, the orchestra has extended to 14 other schools in Eastern Africa. Ghetto Classics and similar programs help students to grasp core life values and provides a fresh outlook on life.

Music has the power to preserve generations of cultural value. It can also spark interest and motivation in the minds of impoverished youth. These stories demonstrate the potential music has to raise awareness for issues such as sex slavery and poverty. Since music is directly tied to heritage and tradition, it can bring about major social change without eliminating the cultural identity of a society. These five examples of how music helps impoverished youth serve as proof that something as simple as the beat of a drum can contribute to the fight against global poverty, one tap at a time.

Harley Goebel
Photo: Flickr

 Homelessness in South Korea
It is easy to dismiss homelessness in South Korea, as the nation ranks as one of the top 20 economies in the world. High-tech society can overshadow the unfortunate reality that many of the homeless face in South Korea. In 2017, the South Korean government estimated that there were more than 11,000 homeless people in South Korea. This is not a surprise to many South Korean. When walking in Seoul for an extended amount of time, it is common to come across the homeless.

Factors that Contribute to Homelessness

  1. Housing Index: While homelessness in Seoul has dropped significantly, from 4,505 people in 2014 to 3,478 in 2018, there is still a sizable homeless population in Seoul. A variety of factors contribute to homelessness in South Korea. The rapid rise in housing prices all around the country is making owning a home more difficult for many Koreans. The housing index, a trend of average housing prices across the country, in South Korea is on a constant rise. The housing index rose from 33.60 points in 1987 to 100.20 points in 2019. This lack of affordable housing is one of the factors that contributes to homelessness in South Korea.
  2. Financial Bankruptcy: Financial bankruptcy is another leading cause of homelessness in South Korea. According to a study by the Seoul Metropolitan Government, 24 percent of the homeless lost their homes due to snowballing debts. The study stated that the average age of homeless people in South Korea is in their mid-50s.
  3. Alcoholism: For the homeless who suffer from alcoholism, receiving support can be especially difficult. Mr. Lee, a homeless in Seoul who was interviewed by South China Morning Post, testified to this issue. Since many homeless shelters have a zero-tolerance policy toward alcohol, many of the homeless elect to live on the streets. When questioned about why he left the homeless shelter, Mr. Lee said, “I used to receive support from organizations, but I stopped going to these centers because there was no freedom there.” This further reflects the prevalence of alcoholism among the homeless in South Korea.

Government Efforts to Reduce Homelessness

The South Korean government is making positive steps toward reducing homelessness in South Korea. In Seoul, the homelessness problem is still easy to spot; however, the homeless population is in a steady decline. A 2017 assessment by the Seoul government found that there had been a 30 percent decrease in the homeless population in Seoul since 2010.

South Korea’s commitment to supporting the homeless is also very public. With the election of President Moon Jae In, the Ministry of Welfare announced an expansion to assisting the homeless. The South Korean government pledged to increase the supply of housing for the homeless, creating jobs and providing job training programs for the homeless.

Currently, the city of Seoul is running an outreach program. Simin Chatdongi or “People Visiting Their Neighbors” is a program that encourages citizens to alert the authorities about their neighbors who might be on the verge of becoming homeless. Citizens who want to participate can sign up for the outreach program online or visiting a program booth at a residents’ assembly or neighborhood festival. As of Dec. 2019, the program gathered 8,563 reports.

 

Homelessness in South Korea is caused by many factors, including the housing index, financial bankruptcy and alcoholism. However, the South Korean government’s commitment to helping its less-fortunate populace leaves a silver lining to this otherwise bleak reality. Many in South Korea look forward to the positive changes that are to come for the homeless.

YongJin Yi
Photo: Flickr

Sanitation in The Bahamas
The Bahamas is still recovering from the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian, which greatly injured two of the countries’ islands in late 2019. However, the residents are facing a bigger challenge involving access to clean water and toilets, which is putting them at great risk of a major public health emergency. Here are 10 facts about sanitation in The Bahamas.

10 Facts About Sanitation in The Bahamas

  1. The Lack of Access to Clean Water: A lack of access to clean water often becomes a public health issue very quickly. A lot of the water in The Bahamas became contaminated with salt water right after the hurricane. Water Mission, a nonprofit organization based in North Carolina, designs, builds and implements safe water and sanitation solutions. After the Dorian hurricane, the organization tried to help sanitation in The Bahamas by implementing a process called fine-filtration, which removes salt from water through reverse osmosis.
  2. Diseases: Each day, around 6,000 children die from waterborne diseases around the world. The Grand Bahama Island experienced flooding after Hurricane Dorian, potentially increasing the transmission of waterborne diseases like diarrhea and cholera. UNICEF has provided aid by providing WASH services. Additionally, Heart to Heart International has been on the ground in the aftermath of Hurrican Dorian, administering tetanus vaccines to prevent infections from unclean water.
  3. Sewage: The Bahamas has always struggled to bring clean water to its community. The Water and Sewerage Corporation emerged in 1976 to help bring clean water to all islands and received $32 million from the World Bank. By 2014, the corporation had saved over one billion gallons of water through the reduction of water losses in New Providence.
  4. Hospitals and Housing: The Bahamas has 28 health centers, 33 main clinics and 35 satellite clinics plus two private hospitals located in the main inhabited islands. After the Hurricane hit the Islands, the International Medical Corps provided help to The Bahamas by bringing in doctors and nurses, as well as water, sanitation and hygiene specialists and 140 water kits comprising of family filters and hygiene kits.
  5. Economy: With 14 other islands in good shape in the aftermath of Hurrican Dorian, the government encouraged tourists to not cancel their vacation trips. The Minister of Tourism in The Bahamas said in an interview with The New York Times that the only means of aiding those in the north of The Bahamas was to continue tourism in the other 14 islands. This would allow the country to rebuild Abaco and Grand Bahama and help fix sewage and provide clean water. Around 4 million tourists visited The Bahamas in the six months before the hurricane, and only 20 percent of those travelers visited Abaco and Grand Bahama Island. This represented more than half of its gross domestic product.
  6. Health Care: Health Care has been one of the main priorities in The Bahamian governments’ agenda. In fact, it directed 12 percent of its budget to health. Around 47.2 percent of the general population had health insurance, and females were more likely to get insurance (47 percent) than males (45 percent). The primary care package in The Bahamas is medical services, medications and imaging and laboratory services. After the hurricane, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) sent professionals to assist in on-site assessments of health infrastructures and water sanitation and hygiene facilities (WASH) that had operation rooms flooded with contaminated water.
  7. Urban vs. Rural: Urban areas often bring development, better health care and living conditions. However, despite the fact that The Bahamas has a high percentage of urban areas at 83 percent in comparison to the 16.98 percent of rural areas, it still has limited water development. In fact, the country is not in the top 20 for the Caribbean.
  8. Current Poverty Rate: Sanitation in The Bahamas is always in danger because of the constant threats of new storms passing by the islands. In 2017, before hurricane Dorian, 14.8 percent of the population lived below the poverty line. That percentage grew rather than decreased leading up to 2017.
  9. Population Growth: The Bahamas had a population of 392,225 as of 2020, but has been suffering a decrease since 2007. In that year, the growth percentage was at 1.7 percent, whereas it was at 0.97 percent in 2020. With the increase in population, the National Health System Strategic Plan is aiming to educate communities to ensure optimal health and good quality of life. However, even with numbers, The Bahamas is still a country with limited basic sanitation services.
  10. Menstrual Hygiene Management: After hurricane Dorian, many women and adolescents did not have shelter or access to toilets. This presented a lack of privacy and compromised their ability to manage menstruation hygienically and with dignity. The Women’s Haven, a company distributing organic feminine hygiene products, wants to help Bahamians by switching to a better approach that will help improve their menstrual hygiene.

While Dorian impacted sanitation in The Bahamas in late 2019, the challenges for clean, accessible water continues to affect Bahamians today. With continued investment in tourism and the involvement of relief organizations, The Bahamas should hopefully recover soon.

– Merlina San Nicolás
Photo: Pixabay