Japan’s support to UkraineSince Feb. 24, 2022, Ukraine has been in armed conflict with Russia, which has caused significant deterioration in Ukraine’s economy and an increase in poverty. However, the international community has been quick to come to Ukraine’s assistance. In particular, Japan has provided several essential services to Ukraine through the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). Here is a breakdown of Japan’s support to Ukraine since the recent escalation of the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

Poverty Increase in Ukraine

The humanitarian situation in Ukraine has worsened significantly since the start of the conflict. Approximately 34% of households reported having no income or relying on assistance as of April 2022. The country’s unemployment rate has drastically increased to 34% in 2022, according to the National Bank of Ukraine. However, the actual rate is likely more severe as “so many people in Ukraine had undeclared jobs before the invasion,” NPR says. This is a stark increase from the 8.9% unemployment rate recorded in 2021, according to World Bank data.

This increase corresponds to a third of the population suffering from food insecurity. Food insecurity affects some oblasts (provinces) more severely than others, with provinces in the east and south reporting food insecurity rates of 50%. Luhansk notes the highest food insecurity rates across all oblasts. Further, the Ukrainian economy is projected to contract by close to 32% by the end of 2022.

The easternmost oblasts of Donetsk, Kharkiv and Luhansk are disproportionately affected by the conflict. A greater presence of landmine contamination, continued damage to infrastructure and a generally higher risk of Russian targeting makes these areas less accessible for aid and commerce.

JICA Support

Japan’s support of Ukraine since the beginning of the conflict has three focal points:

  1.  Assistance to attain financial stability.
  2. The “improvement of people’s lives and environment.”
  3. The “promotion of autonomous governance and internal reconciliation.”

The first measure the JICA took to help Ukraine in March 2022 came in the form of “a needs assessment survey team for humanitarian and medical assistance,” the JICA website says. The JICA dispatched this medical team to Moldova to assist with the influx of Ukrainian refugees. The team collaborated with the World Health Organization and the Moldovan Health Ministry to help strengthen already existing systems and also provide advice on resource allocation and data management as the crisis continues to unfold.

ODA Loans

Additionally, on May 16, 2022, the JICA signed an Official Development Assistance (ODA) contract, giving a 13 billion Japanese yen loan to support Ukrainian economic stability. However, this amount was not adjusted in light of the scope of the war, and so, on June 17, Japan modified the original ODA to give an additional 65 billion yen to Ukraine. This combined total is equivalent to a 78 billion yen loan. As stated on the JICA website, the loan’s goals include “fostering de-monopolization and anticorruption institutions, strengthening land and credit markets and bolstering the social safety net… by offering financial assistance to Ukraine, which is facing an economic crisis due to the impact of a military invasion.”

Lastly, in late June 2022, the JICA gave its first of “a series of online seminars” designed to help advise Ukrainian officials in waste and debris management amid the war. Oblasts that are particular targets of the Russian military have experienced a high level of infrastructural damage, contributing to transportation and waste management issues. Considering Japan’s experience with these matters, the JICA hopes to share its expertise and contribute to Ukraine’s stability and crisis recovery.

Looking Forward

For Ukraine to endure during these times while safeguarding the well-being of citizens, it is essential to sustain support efforts like those demonstrated by the JICA. It is likely that Japan’s support to Ukraine will continue to play a critical role as the war unfolds.

– Xander Heiple
Photo: Flickr

Poverty Reduction in South Sudan
South Sudan is considered the youngest nation in the world, officially gaining independence from Sudan on July 9, 2011, after a vote for independence was passed via referendum in January of that year. Data from the World Bank shows that the poverty rate in South Sudan was 82.3% as of 2016 – the highest poverty rate in the world. The World Bank also outlined some of the other issues South Sudan faces including severe flooding, food shortages a humanitarian crisis coupled with a vulnerable government built upon a shaky peace treaty. These issues make it extremely difficult for South Sudan to address the poverty crisis.

The Difficulty of Addressing Poverty Reduction in South Sudan

The most significant of the issues South Sudan faces is the state of its government. In 2013, a violent conflict broke out leading to atrocities committed against civilians. All sides in the conflict signed a peace deal in 2015 for a unity government but the deal collapsed in 2016, leading to more conflict. In 2018, that deal became revitalized when President Salva Kiir and the leader of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA/IO), Riek Machar, came to an agreement. Machar became vice president under the new government and the agreement was set to expire in February 2023. However, the parties who signed the peace agreement agreed to extend it to February 2025 in order to address peace reforms.

That front requires more work due to the injustices committed against South Sudan’s people by the military and rebel forces. For example, a U.N. peacekeeping mission in 2021 documented the killings of 440 civilians and the rapes of 64 women and girls in Tombuura by the SPLA/IO. None of the perpetrators were held accountable.

U.N. Special Representative for South Sudan Nicholas Haysom expressed the need for South Sudan’s government to address violence and uphold justice. In a speech to the U.N. Security Council, Haysom addressed the extension to the peace agreement and stated that it is a roadmap that should serve as a  waypoint, not an endpoint. The reforms that the South Sudanese government makes should serve as a means to generate long-lasting stability. They should not serve as a means to an end. It requires measures to prevent setbacks or gains from reservation. Haysom also reaffirmed the importance of international assistance, which will lead to poverty reduction and governmental stability in South Sudan.

Addressing Poverty

While the outlook for South Sudan may seem grim, there are solutions to poverty that various charities are implementing through foreign aid. The World Food Programme (WFP) is one example of an organization working to bring peace to feuding groups in South Sudan by addressing food insecurity. In an article about the Malual Mok and Thony communities, the WFP demonstrates its poverty reduction and peacekeeping efforts. Both the Malual Mok and Thony live in an agricultural area called Majak-Kot. The communities previously considered each other enemies, but a series of agricultural projects from the WFP helped to foster a sense of community between them. Instead of fighting over the land and competing to grow food, both communities peacefully coexist and grow food together for mutual benefit.

Moreover, nonprofit charities are also working towards poverty reduction in South Sudan. Many South Sudanese refugees founded charities dedicated to poverty reduction in South Sudan. One example is Helping Hands for South Sudan. Gabriel Akim Nyok, one of the “Lost Boys and Girls of Sudan,” a group of thousands of orphaned children who became refugees to escape from the civil war, founded this charity. After staying in the U.S. for five years, Nyok returned to Sudan in 2011 to visit the South Sudanese refugee camps. In doing so, he became determined to give the children the same opportunity for education that he received. Nyok and his charity have helped put South Sudanese refugee children through school each year. Helping Hands uses donations to put children through school and pay for their education and works directly with South Sudanese communities to improve schools and education.

– Matthew Wikfors
Photo: Flickr

5 charities operating in BoliviaFor 20 years, Bolivia’s poverty rates have spiraled downward due to wage increases and strongly supported social programs. For those still in poverty, there are at least 5 charities operating in Bolivia to improve the quality of life in the nation.

Bolivia’s Progress

Bolivia has made significant progress in reducing poverty. In 2009, about 40% of Bolivians lived in conditions of extreme poverty. More than 10 years later, in 2020, that percentage decreased to 4.4% (based on the 2011 Purchasing Power Parity of $1.90 a day).

Much of the credit belongs to Bolivia’s former president Evo Morales. He used income from nationalized industries and “the commodities boom,” during which the international prices of Bolivia’s key exports grew 800% between 2000 and 2014, to fund schools, hospitals and other infrastructure. Morales also raised the minimum wage multiple times and set up social programs to support vulnerable groups, such as senior citizens and pregnant women.

Current Issues

Even with all of Bolivia’s success, issues persist. According to the World Food Programme (WFP), about 16% of Bolivian children face stunting due to malnutrition. Furthermore, anemia affects almost 54% of children younger than 5. Marginalized groups, such as people with disabilities, struggle to find work or attend school. Fortunately, these 5 charities operating in Bolivia are addressing these issues.

5 Charities Operating in Bolivia

  1. Fundación Bolivia Digna. The first of 5 charities operating in Bolivia is Fundación Bolivia Digna. This nonprofit was set up in 2006 to protect the rights of vulnerable young people and other marginalized groups. It is based in the city of Cochabamba, near the center of Bolivia. With more than 250 Bolivians and almost 240 international volunteers helping over the years, Fundación Bolivia Digna provides children with a “safe environment” to receive educational support and promotes good hygiene habits and positive influences. Volunteers help children with homework, lead creative activities like singing, dancing and instrument lessons, teach English courses and run sports activities. Fundación Bolivia Digna has helped more than 200 children from roughly 100 families.
  2. Help Bolivia Foundation. In 2018, Matt and Lydia Hill established the Help Bolivia Foundation to give disadvantaged women and children access to educational and nutritional resources. Operating in the Tahuantinsuyo Community Center in El Alto and in Villa Ingenio, Help Bolivia Foundation provides children with health, education and lunch programs. In 2020 and 2021, the foundation used grants to purchase tablets for online classes. In 2022, the foundation used a grant to run a year-long Sewing & Entrepreneurship Training Program for 30 Indigenous women. Other classes include cooking classes and painting classes.
  3. Aktion Sodis. Another one of the 5 charities operating in Bolivia is a German nonprofit called Aktion Sodis. It operates within the mountainous Micani region south of Cochabamba to help the locals improve their food security and access clean water and education. One of Aktion Sodis’ current projects looks to improve food security by creating “resilient food systems and sustainable agriculture” adapted to the Micani region’s extreme weather conditions, the Betterplace.org website says. The project began in 2017 when Aktion Sodis (along with a Bolivian vocational school) established water-efficient irrigation systems for four village school gardens. These improved gardens now have rain-fed water storage and drip irrigation systems. The project later “expanded to all 16 village schools in the region.” Currently, Aktion Sodis is building solar tents over six of the school gardens to create a “microclimate” suitable for growing vegetables outdoors. For the upcoming phase of the project, Aktion Sodis will focus on families. The organization will help families create or extend food gardens and will give lessons on “balanced nutrition and sustainable agriculture.”
  4. Bolivians Without Disabilities. Matt Pepe founded Bolivians Without Disabilities in 2015 after living in Bolivia for years. Around 15% of Bolivians have some type of disability, according to the organization’s website, equating to more than 1.5 million people. Seventy-five percent of Bolivians with disabilities are unemployed and less than 40% of children with disabilities attend school. Bolivians Without Disabilities helps people by providing prosthetic limbs, raising awareness in the United States and funding other organizations that help Bolivians with disabilities.
  5. Smiles Forever Foundation. Smiles Forever, founded by dental hygienist Sandy Kemper, provides free dental care to children and hygiene education to Bolivian women near Cochabamba. Since 2000, Smiles Forever has helped more than 60,000 children and has placed 37 Indigenous women in its two-year dental hygiene training program so that the women can become professional dental hygienists. Educating women not only helps them make better dental hygiene decisions for themselves and their families but also increases their self-esteem and independence in a society rife with gender inequality.

Even with economic success, NGOs like these 5 charities operating in Bolivia are needed to educate and lift people out of poverty. In time, the knowledge gained from these NGOs will spread and Bolivia will be a better place for it.

– James Harrington
Photo: Flickr

Mental Health Inequality in SwedenWilliam Russell, an international health insurance company, ranks Sweden as the best country in the world in terms of mental health care. Green spaces, work-life balance and generous government spending on mental health are just some of the contributing factors. Yet, a study by Kinza Degerlund Maldi and others, published in 2019, reveals a socioeconomic divide in the distribution of mental illness. Both educational and income disparities had an impact on mental health, but low income posed a higher risk for susceptibility to mental illness, especially among women. Another study by S Fritzell and others underlines job status, economic strain and enduring harassment as risk factors. Socioeconomic status has the most significant impact on mental health inequality in Sweden, more so than “demographic factors and psychosocial factors.”

Unemployment and Mental Health

The Centre for Global  Mental Health highlights that there are links between mental health and poverty. Unemployment contributes significantly to economic vulnerability. In particular, psychological distress is common among those without stable employment, more so than for those with secure jobs, and this is consistent regardless of gender and age bracket. Women are most impacted by economic disparities, suggesting that focusing on the gender wage gap and equal employment opportunities could help Sweden progress toward easing inequality.

The Impact of Education

The Public Health Agency of Sweden says that a “positive learning environment in school” is possibly the most important way to ensure good mental health among young people. Studies demonstrate this, with positive relationship building and maintenance in school and holistic care within these institutions shown to be integral to students’ well-being.

While education can positively benefit mental health, poverty still plays a role in educational outcomes and future prospects. Swedish children living in poverty generally have lower academic achievements in comparison to their wealthier peers and are more likely to drop out of school. This leads to reduced opportunities for employment and further education, meaning that the cycle of poverty and mental health inequities can continue in a generational capacity.

It is integral for the government to provide additional support to young people who are living in poverty and ensure children are in positive school environments to prevent further mental health inequality in Sweden. This is especially crucial considering that the suicide rate in Sweden for those aged 15–29 has shown no significant decline in 23 years, averaging between 8–14 suicides per 100,000 young people.

Migrant Vulnerabilities

Some regions are more prone to wealth inequities and mental health inequality and it is not coincidental that these regions are often densely populated by migrants. One example is Malmö, a city in Southern Sweden where around a third of children live in poverty.

Here, increased rates of poverty among migrant families have led to vulnerabilities in various aspects of life, including well-being. Migrants are more likely to suffer from both mental and physical illness due to increased difficulties securing financial independence, employment and satisfactory work, educational stability and positive social conditions. Analysis of the specifics of this inequality reveals that lack of access to social activities and support makes the largest contribution to the mental health discrepancies between natives and migrants. However, unemployment and money troubles also significantly impact the well-being of migrants living in Sweden.

Targeted Support

The 2019 Poverty Report Sweden highlights the fact that asylum seekers only have the right to emergency health services, which does not include mental health care. The institutional prioritization of mental health equality in Sweden, specifically targeting vulnerable regional areas, migrants, adolescents and low-income families, must materialize in the form of holistic structural support changes. Rather than attributing poverty and inequality to lifestyle choices, the government can look to understand the cycles of inequality that those in disadvantaged communities face.

Additionally, on an individual basis, the value of specifically targeted support is demonstrated by research on community health worker-led programs offered to migrants. Sweden’s ‘Hälsostöd’ (Health Support) program used data gathered from questionnaires to measure psychological distress. Results showed that migrants participating in health promotion programs experienced positive mental health impacts.

On the Right Path

The Swedish government took positive action in 2020 by commissioning the Swedish National Agency for Medical and Social Evaluation to assess efforts to address mental health well-being and reduce suicide among young people. This report was scheduled for completion in October 2022.

Sweden’s leaders are prioritizing young people and established five focal areas to center mental health strategies around, one of these priorities being a “focus on vulnerable groups.”

Over time, the Swedish mental health system has considerably improved and this is visible in numerous areas, including the decrease in suicide rates from 1997 to 2020. This reduction is visible among the majority of age groups, except those aged 15–29. For example, suicide rates among people 85 and older have reduced from 29 per 100,000 in 2000 to 18 in 2020.

Sweden’s government and public health agencies show commitment to improving mental health. Further focus on the mental health of those from disadvantaged backgrounds will reduce mental health inequality in Sweden.

– Lydia Tyler
Photo: Unsplash

 Cold Chain Equipment in PeruPossessing the “highest COVID-19 mortality rate in the world” in mid-2021, Peru was among the hardest-hit nations in Latin America during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, UNICEF says. In light of the pandemic’s devastating social and economic ramifications, UNICEF facilitated vaccination rollout efforts by supplying cold chain equipment in Peru. UNICEF’s acquisition of 1,100 solar-powered freezers not only helped transport COVID-19 vaccines across Peru but also helped alleviate the pandemic’s health implications across Latin America.

The Pandemic’s Impact on Peru

According to UNICEF, the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated poverty levels and exposed the gravity of inequality in Peru. In 2020, Peru faced a -11.1% decrease in GDP and a “10.5% reduction in household income,” resulting in many Peruvian households, primarily those residing in rural regions, suffering economically, UNICEF reports. Furthermore, according to statistics, Peru experienced 1.5 million job losses while “1.2 million children fell into poverty” and close to 90 million Peruvian children missed out on a formal education during the height of the pandemic.

The informal economy and overcrowded housing in Peru are two factors that exacerbate the COVID-19 pandemic’s ramifications in the nation. According to the BBC, 70% of Peru’s working people are employed in the informal sector, which means that many Peruvians faced unemployment, could not earn an income or faced wage cuts due to a lack of job security. Furthermore, Peru’s overcrowded housing allows the COVID-19 virus to spread rapidly due to a lack of social distancing. In addition, Peru’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout has moved slowly.

The Importance of Cold Chain Equipment

In order to help accelerate the vaccine rollout in Peru, proper refrigeration is crucial to “protect the potency” of the COVID-19 vaccine. Thus, vaccination programs use cold chain equipment to store and transport doses across Peru, particularly in rural areas where vaccination distribution is difficult. Electric and solar-powered refrigerators store vaccines in a “2°C to 8°C temperature range,” allowing vaccines to be housed in optimal conditions when traveling through regions that lack access to electricity.

UNICEF’s Vaccination Rollout Strategies in Peru

In light of the adversities impacting Peru, in November 2021, UNICEF’s Supply Division procured 1,100 solar-powered freezers for Peru. UNICEF distributed 57 of these freezers to “Huancavelica, in the Andean region, and Loreto and Ucayali in the Amazon regions,” which are isolated, rural areas with Indigenous people, the UNICEF website says.

Shipping these units from Luxembourg, UNICEF worked with Peru’s Ministry of Health to inspect the freezers and help distribute vaccines across remote communities that have limited electricity.

Furthermore, in early 2021, UNICEF helped Peru’s Ministry of Health procure an additional 10,339 pieces of refrigeration equipment through “an international procurement process.” UNICEF oversaw delivery times, the quality of equipment and the negotiation of prices to ensure transparency in the competitive procurement process. UNICEF’s delivery of cold chain equipment in Peru, through both direct and intermediary means, ultimately ensured that the ministry could efficiently distribute COVID-19 vaccines across the nation.

Peru’s Rising Vaccination Rates

UNICEF’s delivery of cold chain equipment in Peru helped to significantly increase Peru’s vaccination rates. By October 2022, Peru had administered more than 84 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines. Although Peru is still grappling with the pandemic’s implications, the nation’s steady increase in vaccination rates is indicative of Peru’s bright and promising future.

– Emma He
Photo: Flickr

 Sex Education in Malaysia
According to the 2022 United Nations World Economic Situation and Prospects report, Malaysia is listed as an upper-middle-income developing country. However, a large proportion of the country’s population is still struggling with not only absolute poverty but also relative poverty as well as increasing inequalities. Those with low socioeconomic status (SES) have less access to healthcare, which increases their vulnerability to Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) and other diseases. Although subjective, factors like income, financial security and educational attainment can determine SES. Economic inequality can impact STI preventative information, infection rates and treatment accessibility. This is where sex education in Malaysia can play an important role in preventing STIs and other reproductive health issues.

The Importance of Sex Education

Between April and May 2022, Durex Malaysia conducted a nationwide Sexual Health and Intimate Wellness Survey online to study Malaysian youths’ knowledge of sexual health. This study surveyed more than 1,000 Malaysians between 18 and 30 years old. The survey found that Malaysian youths are engaging in more sexual relations at 35%. This is an increase from the last 2016 Durex survey which indicated 18.8%. The findings highlighted gaps and misconceptions in their understanding of STIs and women’s reproductive health. The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) defines comprehensive sex education as a “rights-based and gender transformative approach” that is taught inside and outside schools. Educators teach it over several years by taking into account age-appropriate information for young people. UNFPA notes that sex education should discuss culture, gender roles, relationships, family life, human rights as well as bodily autonomy and threats such as sexual abuse and discrimination.

Engaging young people in exploratory discussions helps them to understand and develop positive values about their sexual and reproductive health and rights. Organizations like UNFPA work with governments to apply sex education through community training and outreach. It also advocates for policies and investments for internationally standardized programs. In 2018, the agency published “International technical guidance on sexuality education: an evidence-informed approach.” It acts as a tool for curriculum developers to create comprehensive sexual education curricula as UNFPA described. Schools do not have a comprehensive sexual education curriculum in Malaysia.

Sex Education in Malaysia

There was a 2011 study that analyzed schools’ coverage of sex education in Malaysia. Respondents of the study stated that the effectiveness of instruction depended on the teachers themselves. Ninety-five percent of the respondents expressed vague teaching processes regarding sex education. This is due to incomplete coverage of topics or ineffective teaching methods. Sexual education in Malaysia is most commonly delivered through biology and Islamic study classes. These classes cover physical adolescent development, reproductive development and sex in an Islamic context. Most of the criticisms regarding sex education as taught in Malaysia’s schools stemmed from the lack of a comprehensive syllabus. STIs and HIV/AIDS continue to affect many people in Malaysia.

STIs and Efforts to End HIV/AIDS

A Malaysian medical lifestyle application named Cleadoc reported that the top three common STIs in Malaysia are syphilis, gonorrhea and HIV. There were approximately 82,000 adults and children living with HIV in Malaysia as per the statistics provided by the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS). In 2017, UNAIDS set up “90-90-90”, an ambitious treatment target to help end the HIV/AIDS epidemic by 2020. UNAIDS document mentioned achievable targets stating that 90% of people living with HIV would be aware of their HIV status by 2020. Another 90% of patients with a diagnosed HIV infection would have received sustained antiretroviral therapy by 2020. It also stated that 90% of those who were receiving antiretroviral therapy would have their viral load suppressed by 2020.

As reported in the 2021 Global AIDS Monitoring Report that the Ministry of Health Malaysia’s HIV/STI/Hepatitis C Section produced, there were more than 153,000 reported cases of HIV/AIDS in 2020. The cumulative number of deaths related to HIV/AIDS was 45,450. Malaysia’s progress toward the 90-90-90 treatment target was 87-58-85 respectively. However, organizations in Malaysia have been actively advocating to improve access to sex education.

Advocating For Access to Sex Education

UNFPA works with the Federation of Reproductive Health Associations of Malaysia (FRHAM), one of the country’s three main sexual and reproductive health (SRH) program implementation partners. This partnership focuses on hard-to-reach populations with the help of health screenings, tests, contraceptive access services and general sexual/reproductive advisement. The service-based nonprofit, FRHAM is the leading non-governmental organization (NGO) in Malaysia that also advocates for SRH. It promotes access to information and services on sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR). FRHAM also conducts workshops, training and exhibitions to engage with specific target groups to help develop knowledge and skills as “peer educators.” Organizations have been teaming up to improve false perceptions of SRH in Malaysia.

Steps to Improve Sex Education in Malaysia

After Durex conducted its first survey, it teamed up with the Women’s Aid Organization (WAO), FRHAM and AISEC Malaysia to help correct the false perceptions regarding SRH among young Malaysians. Alongside Durex, the government launched an awareness and education campaign in 2013 called Choose2Protect. It was the first program of its kind for youths to educate one another. They receive training on issues concerning reproductive health, including the dangers of STIs. They also receive soft skills training that allows them to share knowledge in culturally and religiously sensitive contexts. The program emphasizes the importance of remaining non-discriminatory and non-judgemental.

The results of the 2022 Sexual Health and Intimate Wellness Survey were revealed with a #COMETOGETHER campaign which promoted open conversations on sex amongst the Malaysian public. The goal was to inform the public with accurate information and help them make informed decisions. This occurred through question-and-answer social media posts, workshops at higher-educational institutions and an “A-Z Pleasure Guide” that influencers and health experts developed. Some are taking steps to address the lack of comprehensive sex education in Malaysia. Organizations like UNFPA, FRHAM, WOA, Durex and the government are working together to close the gaps.

– Aishah French
Photo: Flickr

Cholera Outbreaks in Lebanon
As of November 4, 2022, Lebanon has reported 18 deaths and more than 400 others infected with the notoriously contagious digestive disease, cholera. The World Health Organization (WHO) has classified the disease as a global threat to “public health.” Because the disease is so virulent, it has the ability to affect hundreds of people at once if spread through sewer and water systems within a community.

Current State of Lebanon

Since July 2021, the economic crisis in Lebanon seems to be one of the worst in the world since the 1800s. Banks are beginning to freeze withdrawals. As hospitals and pharmacies began to run out of medication and services to provide patients, the health of not only the people but also the economy began to take a dark turn. As of 2020, approximately 1.7 million refugees could be residing in Lebanon in extremely close-contact, low-budget camps. Furthermore, as of late 2019, “approximately three-quarters of Lebanon’s population” lived below the poverty line.

What is Cholera?

Cholera is a disease that spreads through the ingestion of food or water contaminated with the bacterium. The disease causes infected persons to experience a harsh acute diarrheal infection, eventually leading to severe dehydration. It can kill in hours if left untreated. The World Health Organization has reported that cholera transmission is “closely linked to inadequate access to clean water and sanitation facilities.” Commonly referred to as a “disease of poverty,” cholera outbreaks typically affect the world’s poorest people due to a lack of public sewage systems. As a result, human waste can mix with water that people use for drinking and cooking.

Cholera Outbreaks in Lebanon

After almost 30 years without a single case, cholera has re-appeared in Lebanon following a recent outbreak in Syria. Syria has recently reported more than 20,000 suspected cases and 75 deaths. There has been a high influx of Syrian refugees traveling to Lebanon. Consequently, the transition of the disease most likely occurred because of high population densities within the refugee camps. Reporter Daniel Stewart writes that the increase in cholera outbreaks is “mainly due to increased flooding, drought, conflict, migration and other factors affecting access to clean water.”

A Disease Linked to Poverty

In his research published in the National Library of Medicine, Arturo Talavera wrote that cholera outbreaks are key indicators of social development within a region. Cholera outbreaks remain a serious challenge in countries where people do not have assured access to safe drinking water and adequate sanitation. Talavera explained that cholera outbreaks affect low-income countries more than middle or high-income countries. Economic development is an important factor in determining how deadly an outbreak may be.

Solutions to the Cholera Outbreaks in Lebanon

Thankfully, France is delivering vaccines to Beirut. However, the World Health Organization warns that if not curved soon, the disease may begin to spread more rapidly. French Ambassador Anne Grillo explains that the recent cholera outbreaks in Lebanon are “a new and worrying illustration of the critical decline in public provision of access to water and sanitary services.”

The key to stopping cholera outbreaks is to provide communities with water security. Furthermore, vaccines can drastically curve the contraction of the disease. As more than 13,000 doses have already arrived in Lebanon with more to come, hopefully, Lebanon will be able to halt the spread of the disease with the help of foreign aid.

– Opal Vitharana 
Photo: Flickr

Money Laundering
At the
G8 summit in 2013 that took place in Lough Erne, Northern Ireland, the leaders of the eight nations committed to a number of measures aimed at preventing the use of businesses and legal arrangements that promote money laundering, tax avoidance and tax evasion, including the G8 Action Plan.

Financial Crime and Poverty

Between April and July 2021, when the rest of the globe was in upheaval, billionaires’ wealth surged by 27.5%, even during a pandemic. Reliable estimates indicate that between $20 billion to $40 billion is stolen annually from developing nations, undermining economic growth and depriving those who need public services the most.

According to a U.N. panel study asking for a global crackdown, systematic tax violations, corruption and money laundering are keeping billions of people around the world impoverished. It claimed that up to 10% of the world’s wealth may be stashed away in offshore jurisdictions at a time when governments are facing mounting budgetary difficulties due to the COVID-19 pandemic and rising inequality. According to a panel of international presidents, governors of central banks and representatives of business and civil society, criminals launder up to 2.7% of the global GDP annually.

The Impact of Transfer Mispricing and Money Laundering on Poverty

According to the OECD, annual tax haven losses in developing nations could be three times greater than annual foreign aid inflows. As an illustration, through transfer mispricing, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) sold state-owned mines for an incredibly cheap price to anonymous “shell” corporations in the Virgin Islands, only to be sold on to major listed businesses at their market price. Such transactions cost the DRC $1.35 billion USD, which is double the nation’s budget for health and education in a place where 71.3% of the population currently lives in poverty.

Developing nations thus lack the public resources that would give people access to food, healthcare and education to help them escape poverty. Money laundering, on the other hand, has detrimental effects on the economies of developing countries through escalating crime and corruption, lowering foreign investment, weakening financial institutions, compromising the economy and private sector, thwarting efforts at privatization and losing tax revenue. All of the effects are the bricks shaping the foundations of poverty.

G8 Actions Against Financial Crimes

The G8 Action Plan calls for greater disclosure of a company’s ownership and financial details, particularly when it comes to shell corporations that help launder money from questionable sources. The nations vowed to pursue laws that can undergo robust enforcement and have support from “effective, appropriate and deterrent sanctions.”

Now that nations have made the promises that the declaration outlined, each nation will publish a national action plan outlining the specific steps to take. The G8 Action Plan supports the following key concepts that are essential to the openness of ownership and management of businesses and legal structures, subject to our varied constitutional situations and the recognition that a one-size-fits-all approach may not be the most effective.

G8 Financial Crime Principles

  1.  Companies should have adequate, accurate and up-to-date basic information, including knowledge of who controls, owns and benefits from them.
  2.  Onshore law enforcement, tax administrations and other relevant authorities, including, if necessary, financial intelligence units, shall have access to information on the beneficial ownership of firms. Countries should take steps to make it easier for financial institutions and other regulated firms to get information about a company’s beneficial ownership.
  3. Trustees of explicit trusts should be aware of the trust’s beneficial owners, including its settlor and beneficiaries. Law enforcement, tax agencies and other pertinent entities, such as financial intelligence units as necessary, should have access to this information.
  4. In order to reduce the risks to which their anti-money laundering and combating the funding of terrorism system is subject, authorities should recognize them and put in place effective and proportional measures. It is important to tell the appropriate authorities, enterprises that are subject to regulation and other jurisdictions about the findings of the risk assessments.
  5.  It is important to prevent the abuse of financial tools and specific shareholding arrangements that may impede transparency, such as bearer shares and nominee shareholders and directors.
  6. Nations should place effective anti-money laundering and counter-terrorist financing requirements on financial institutions and designated non-financial businesses and professions, including trust and company service providers, in order to identify and confirm the beneficial ownership of their clients.
  7.  Companies, financial institutions and other regulated organizations shall be subject to effective, appropriate and deterrent fines if they fail to uphold their respective commitments, particularly those relating to client due diligence.
  8.  To counteract the misuse of businesses and legal arrangements for illegal conduct, national authorities should collaborate successfully inside their own countries and across international boundaries. Upon requests from international counterparts, countries should make sure that their relevant authorities can quickly, helpfully and effectively give information on basic companies and beneficial ownership.

Looking Ahead

G8’s agenda has enhanced the opportunity to advance the plan that will address illicit finance at the Lough Erne Summit despite the fact that the effects would take time to materialize. The G8’s ability to cooperate in order to launch ground-breaking international projects will determine the degree of success, though. Enhancing financial transparency, good governance, information exchange and accountability must be the main goals of these projects because doing so will significantly reduce the likelihood of criminals being able to access the global financial system.

– Karisma Maran
Photo: Flickr

Snakebite Envenoming in IndiaIndia is the top country when it comes to snake envenoming, with around 60,000 people being bitten each year. Many Indian agricultural workers are specifically affected more than the rest of the population. Common practices such as working barefoot while harvesting and planting in the fields lead to higher risks of being bitten. Other causes of envenoming come from living conditions in developing parts of the country.  Unsafe living conditions, outside restrooms and suboptimal sleeping arrangements can also invite the unwelcomed visitors.

Lack of Treatment

Snakebite envenoming in India can cause long-term complications in victims such as deformities, visual impairment, renal complications, psychological distress, amputations and even death. Around 46,900 people die due to venomous snakebites in India annually. These numbers are colossal, especially when compared with countries like the United States and Australia, which report 10 to 12 deaths each year due to venomous snakebites.

Most deaths from poisonous snake bites are preventable and can be mitigated through community awareness. Unfortunately, very few cases of snakebite envenoming in India from 2000 to 2019, were treated by government hospitals. Traditional faith healers are the ones who often examine snakebite patients. Snakebites are likely to be the most neglected tropical disease according to Study Protocols for Knowing the Incidence of Snakebites.

Snakebites are generally not given proper care and treatment because it is considered to be “a poor man’s disease,” mainly inflicting impoverished farmers and their families in rural villages, Kempaiah Kemparaju, a biochemist at the University of Mysore in India who studies snake venom told Nature.com.

Research Studies

The Registrar General of India (RGI) oversees the world’s largest study of mortality in India due to snakebite. The study explains real data on snakebite cases, mortality, the number of deaths and the socioeconomic impact of snakebites. This study will help better understand and regulate the control of anti-venoms and the protocol of their distribution in a country. The study claims. “The epidemiology and economic data on snakebite [are] also essential for advocacy, recognition and fund allocation by the Government for the mitigation of snakebite in India.”

Final Thoughts

It is rather inexpensive and economical to spread awareness of best practices for those at higher risk of snake envenomation.  Christian Medical College (CMC) has a poison control center located in Vellore, South India. The center offers resources to the surrounding village communities for preventing snakebite envenoming in India and performing first aid. A team of nurse educators, medical trainees and doctors visit the homes of villages of patients and assess the factors that increase the risks of encountering a snake bite. This is an opportunity to provide the village with important information on how to avoid snakebites.

The CMC also hosts an annual Snake Bite Survivor meeting where survivors can learn from their peers and their personal experiences. Since 2019, the meeting has taken place virtually, therefore, allowing people from all over India to be able to participate.

– Kiara Finch
Photo: Flickr

Byrraju Foundation
India used to be one of the world’s poorest nations in the past century. However, the country has experienced exponential growth since the turn of the 21st century and is now one of the fastest-growing economies. In the last 20 years, their Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has skyrocketed from approximately $469 billion in 2000 to 3.17 trillion in 2021. Accordingly, the GDP per capita quintupled from $444 in 2000 to $2,277 in 2021. However, this does not necessarily reflect decreased inequalities among citizens. According to the State of inequality in India Report issued in 2022, the top 0.1% and 1% respectively earn 5% to 7%, and 6.82% of national income; while the bottom 50% hold 22% of total national income. Not surprisingly, this disparity affects India’s rural areas the most.

Conditions in Rural Areas

Although there have been significant improvements in living conditions in urban areas in India, there still remain pressing challenges across rural areas in the country. Poverty rates are high, while literacy rates are low. Basic infrastructure for health and education is lacking in addition to transportation methods, which ultimately leaves these regions disconnected from the outside world. Still, people are dying due to diseases due to poor water quality. Regarding the gender gap, one can see the inequality between men and women in the clear disparity in their respective literacy rates: 82.14% of men are literate while that number is almost 17 percentage points lower for women at 65.46%. Moreover, unemployment remains a challenge for rural areas. Increasingly, more young Indians are emigrating from these regions to find employment in urban areas, causing an outflow of talent in these regions.

The Byrraju Foundation

The Byrraju Foundation originated in 2001, in memory of the late Shri Byrraju Satyanarayana Raju, a philanthropist and agriculturist who believed that enhancing the quality of the lives of citizens in rural areas could aid in the development of villages. The Foundation rapidly expanded its operation to cover 200 villages, running 40 diverse programs, touching all aspects of rural life and impacting more than 2 million people. Its mission is “to create and operate a collaborative platform dedicated to rural transformation by systematically leveraging global knowledge, technology and infrastructure,” while doing all it can to involve people and apply knowledge, in order to ultimately make things happen.

Social Impact

The Byrraju Foundation’s social impact programs cover a wide array of sectors. They range from helping in agriculture and farming to providing health and education services. The environmental department provides safe drinking water to villages and helps with sanitation and waste management. Over the course of three years, it is aiming to provide 8.9 million people with 100% access to safe drinking water. Moreover, the organization is placing a focus on disability and women’s empowerment. The latter occurs by promoting young women entrepreneurs by granting them financial assistance and market connections while advising them on how to set up profitable and sustainable enterprises.

What makes Byrraju Foundation stand out is also its investments in technology. Examples include banana fibre extraction units, coconut tree climbing robots or even core rope-making machines. The Foundation is also attempting to bridge the digitalization gap by preparing villages for the reality of the global technological revolution. It is accomplishing this through its DEEP program, otherwise known as its Digital Empowerment and Education Program.

– Alexandra Piat
Photo: Flickr