indian_child_mortality_rates
Despite being hailed as an economic success story, India still accounts for a quarter of the world’s child mortality. The country has made incredible progress with life expectancy doubled, literacy rates quadrupled, the emergence of a middle class, and improved health conditions. However, India has failed to bring the issue of child mortality under control: nearly 2 million of the 27 million children born each year do not make it to their 5th birthday. Nearly half of these children die from easily preventable causes like diarrhea and pneumonia. With wide differences among socioeconomic class in access to health services, the very poorest of India have been left behind to bear the greatest burden of these deaths.

According to the World Bank, the United States spends about $8,500 per capita on health care. India on the other hand, spends $59. This difference is reflected in the child mortality rates, with the US under-five at 8 deaths per 1000 births compared to 61 in India. This is not to say, however, that India has made no progress in recent years. The number of child deaths has been reduced from 3 million in 1990 to 1.7 million in 2011. But even with this annual reduction rate of almost 3 percent, India is not on track to reach Millennium Development Goal 4, which aims to reduce the 1990 rate by two-thirds. Furthermore, the numbers do not reflect the inequalities of progress between urban and rural populations, as well as the concentration of deaths among lower-income groups.

The Infant and Child Mortality India Report has concluded that six states – Kerala, West Bengal, Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, Maharashtra, and Tamil Nadu – are likely to achieve the goal by 2015. The study, released by the National Institute of Medical Sciences (NIMS), Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) and the UNICEF India Country Office, provides further insight on key social and economic determinants of the under-five mortality rate (U5MR). It puts particular emphasis of the impact of maternal education on child survival. The report also discusses the great risk a child has of dying when born to adolescent mothers or within 2 years of the mother’s previous pregnancy.

“A renewed focus on empowering women and promoting equity in access to health services will help guide actions for accelerating child survival in India, as we move towards the year 2015 and beyond,” said Louis-Georges Arsenault, UNICEF India Representative. In terms of environmental factors, the study suggests that children living in households with access to unsafe sources of drinking water were at higher risk of death. Infant and child mortality is also higher for kids that do not have access to a flush or pit toilet.

– Ali Warlich 

Sources: Global Post, World Bank, UNICEF
Photo: UNICEF

Begging Ban in Finland
Politicians from the National Coalition Party, Centre Party and Swedish People’s Party have proposed a ban against begging in Finland. Ban supporters see begging as an annoyance and want to fine perpetrators, predominately the Roma (or “gypsies”) who are most infamous for begging in Helsinki, the Finnish capital.

Proponents of the ban see it as a positive move for human rights in Finland, where many are coerced into begging by sex traffickers and street criminals. The European group The Group of Experts on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings (GRETA) advocates for the ban for this very reason.

Opposers of the ban see it as a violation of human rights, as it prevents those who are begging out of free will from obtaining help from the more advantaged. The Roma population has substantially increased over the last few years due to their migration from Eastern Europe into Scandinavia, increasing the number of poor people in need of assistance there. University of Helsinki’s Professor of Constitutional Law, Tuomas Ojanen points out the problematic implications of the fledgling law, stating: “(m)eans other than a prohibition on begging should be pursued to deal with the human rights issues related to the poverty of, and systematic discrimination against, Roma people.” Historically, the Roma have been treated poorly and shouldered the blame for many societal problems. One must not forget that the Roma were persecuted in the Holocaust in much the same way as Jews, with anywhere from 200,000-1,000,000 killed by the Nazis from 1939-45.

Is a ban on begging really necessary in Finland? The ban may curb the “annoyance” of beggars asking for money, but what will it accomplish in the long run? It certainly will not result in a greater reduction of poverty. After all, a beggar is begging for money, and will be unable to pay a fine if he or she is required to pay one. Yes, a ban may be conducive to ending forced begging and sex trafficking in Finland, but it will only worsen the situation of the Roma in the region. Further disenfranchising an already downtrodden people is a high price to pay for ending a petty irritation.

– Josh Forgét

Sources: Romanies and the Holocaust: A Reevaluation and an Overview, Ice News, The Human Rights Blog

Viral_MIT_Microfinance
The central problem of many anti-poverty efforts is a failure to actually reach the poor. Often, the programs themselves are faulty or broken. Much of the time, however, the problem is demand-side: The poor don’t trust the aid programs and don’t want to participate.

Two MIT researchers think they have found a solution, however. Esther Duflo and Abhijit Banerjee, co-founders of the Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL), decided to measure an oft-overlooked factor in community development: social influence, or what they call “diffusion centrality.” Using their new metrics, they think they have found a key to motivating demand-side participation in charitable efforts.

In their recent paper, “The Diffusion of Microfinance,” they argue that finding the right “social injection points” is key to successful beneficial programs. They studied microfinance programs in 75 villages in southwestern India for five years, conducting extensive surveys to determine how participation in microfinance flowed along social networks. They paid especially close attention to social pressure points like village leaders, teachers, and business owners. What they found surprised them.

Although some of the typically well-connected socialites were excellent vehicles for transmitting participation in the programs, they were not as good as you would think. Many ranked low on their diffusion centrality index. Even people’s friends—the quintessential source of social pressure—had little effect on participation.

What they did find is that, barring any presumptions about connectedness, individuals who ranked in the 90th percentile of diffusion centrality were the gatekeepers to large-scale participation. When they were the first ones targeted by microfinance efforts, the programs ultimately reached 11% more people—from their perspective, a huge jump in participation.

“I think this work will lead to more innovative research on how social networks can be used more effectively in promoting poverty alleviation programs in poor countries,” says Lori Beaman, a professor of economics at Northwestern University and a J-PAL affiliate. “It significantly moves forward our understanding of how social networks influence people’s decision-making.”

– John Mahon

Sources: MIT, Stanford, New Yorker
Photo: MIT

women_opt
A new plan was recently released to advance women’s rights in Morocco over the next four years. The plan, called “IKRAM,” will provide shelter for domestic violence victims, increase educational opportunities for girls, and increase the percentage of women in public office.

While the plan is commendable, some women’s rights activists believe it falls far short of what is necessary. Morocco reformed its family law in 2004, but many of these reforms are circumvented by conservative judges. Sex outside of marriage remains illegal.

The reform raised the legal age for marriage from 15 to 18, but according to 2010 data, courts have allowed minors to marry in 90% of cases. In 2012 the global community was shocked by the suicide of a young girl who was forced to marry her rapist by her parents and a conservative judge.

Advocates of women’s rights believe a pressing issue is amending the 475 law. The 475 law allows statutory rape charges to be dropped if the two individuals involved are married. This encourages rapists to marry their victims to avoid all charges. Conservative judges support this action as they believe it will save the girls’ honor. While there are rumors that the government will review the penal code, it is uncertain how they plan to approach it or if they will take women’s rights into consideration.

The government has set up a committee that will monitor IKRAM and ensure that its goals are met. This committee will monitor action across all ministries. The committee will also advocate legislation supporting women’s rights.

– Callie D. Coleman

Sources:Open Equal Free,New York Times,Al Monitor,All Africa
Photo: Monsite

food_opt
Chronic hunger is not just an issue that plagues the developing world.

Food poverty has become a huge problem in Ireland and throughout the European Union EU. The Irish Department of Social Protection recently reported that 10% of the Irish population, or nearly 450,000 people were victims of food poverty.

The Irish Food Poverty and Policy Report defines food poverty as “the inability to access a nutritionally adequate diet and the related impacts on health, culture, and social participation.” The deprivation indicators include the inability to access a source of adequate protein at least every other day, as well as the inability to afford a substantial meal on one or more days during a two-week span.

BBC One recently featured an exposé in which three famous chefs lived with a U.K. family for a week and recommend simple ways to shop for and cook nutritious meals on a tight budget. One chef reported that his host family of five lived on the equivalent of $2.50 per day.

Almost all of the families revealed consistently empty refrigerators and pantries. The few items they had consisted of ready-to-heat, pre-packaged meals, as the families reported that natural ingredients were too expensive to purchase and too complicated to prepare.

This phenomenon has led to food poverty’s ultimate paradox: that those experience food poverty in the developed world are more likely to be overweight or obese than those reporting chronic hunger in developing countries.

What accounts for this difference? In developed countries, people who cannot regularly afford food are often drawn to fast food and pre-packaged supermarket meals that boast the lowest prices. The food poverty problem worsens when the most readily available food is cheap, energy-dense, and nutrient poor.

And even though food poverty only affects a minority of Irish and EU citizens, it has implications that spread throughout society as a whole. The Irish Institute for Public Health concludes that high food prices and decreased access to healthy ingredients could cause food riots and geopolitical tension, among other consequences.

The biggest problem with food poverty may be finding a viable solution. Government and health officials have repeatedly turned a blind eye to the issue. The Irish Department of Health and Children recently established a framework for improving the health and wellbeing of the Irish population, yet failed to reference food poverty as a pressing issue.

If the EU truly wishes to uphold its reputation as a leader in developmental aid, it must first address its own developmental issues and assure the wellbeing of its own population. The EU may continue to “sleepwalk into a crisis” until it fully addresses this different kind of food poverty issues that plagues the developed world.

– Alexandra Bruschi

Sources: The Irish Times, EU SafeFood, Healthy Food For All, Combat Poverty Agency

poverty in panama
To understand poverty in Panama, is to understand geography. Citizens in urban Panama are granted numerous economic opportunities. These opportunities keep jobs being generated and help provide incomes to support communities. With all of these positives coming out of urban Panama, why then is the country so poor? The answer lies in the areas less populated.

Over a quarter of Panama’s more than three and a half million population lives in poverty. The numbers show this poverty in concentrated in rural areas. Nearly half of those living in rural areas suffer from poverty, with a quarter of those people experiencing extreme poverty. For the indigenous people of Panama, the numbers are even worse. Of the indigenous natives in the country, eighty percent live below the poverty line and over half are extremely poor.

Such an extreme difference between poverty in the rural and urban areas can be explained through the geography of Panama. Those living in remote areas aren’t granted the economic opportunities that the cities have to offer. There are less people and therefore fewer jobs. The inability for farmers to sell their products to a broad array of consumers makes agriculture a less stable sector of the economy. Many of the indigenous areas lack roads, so travel to and from these areas is limited. With such a narrow access to the outside world, these citizens are forced to live off of what the land provides. Panama is known to have poor agriculture and cultivation, making it hard for rural citizens to make a living.

Inequality in Panama is astonishing. It ranks as one of the most unequal countries in the world, along with Brazil and South Africa. Panama has a strong urban health care system, but poor health practices are common in the rural areas.

Many citizens in Panama aren’t given the opportunities they deserve simply based off of where they live. Excluding rural citizens from the country’s workforce will keep Panama’s poverty rates consistently high for a long time to come.

– William Norris

Sources: Rural Poverty Portal, World Bank
Photo: Oneonta

Charlize-Theron-South-Africa-AIDS
On July 29, Academy Award-winning actress Charlize Theron urged the youth of South Africa to educate themselves about HIV/AIDS in order to stay healthy. The speech took place after her meeting with President Jacob Zuma, where they discussed South Africa’s response to HIV/AIDS and her role as a UNAIDS messenger of peace. UNAIDS is the joint United Nations program on HIV/AIDS.

The South African-born actress told reporters at the Union Building in Pretoria, “We are all here to support you. You are the future of this country and I am asking you to seize the opportunity to lead healthy and empowered lives.”

“It’s always very special for me to be able to come home and even more when I have a chance to lend my support to the youth of this country,” said Theron, speaking to the youth wearing a red AIDS ribbon.

Known for her glamorous red carpet photos, perfume advertisements, and movie roles, Theron said South Africa has come a long way in its response to the HIV epidemic, but too many girls and young women are still falling through the cracks and should not be forgotten. The social stigma associated with the virus in some areas of South Africa still needs to be addressed. Women should be empowered enough to protect themselves whether or not they chose to be sexually active, Theron said.

Theron went on to say she regarded a safe school environment, with teachers and counselors who were equipped to help, as key effort in the response to HIV/AIDS. In 2009 Theron was named the UN Messenger of Peace, tasked with promoting efforts to end violence against women. The Africa Outreach Project is one of her projects which, according to the UN, provides funding for a mobile health and computer clinic that visits high school and rural communities affected by HIV/AIDS.

Zuma proudly welcomed Theron back home. “We had a very good discussion, which we believe is going to give us a big push,” he stated to reporters. He applauded South Africa’s success in increasing life expectancy, praising Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi. He said in his hometown of Nkandla, people could now talk about HIV/AIDS without fear.

After the briefing, photographers swarmed for one last photo of the glamorous movie star.

– Scarlet Shelton

Sources: All Africa
Photo: Firstpost

How to Solve Poverty
The following is not a definite plan for how to solve poverty. There are many causes and factors to consider that promote and sustain impoverishment, thus there are also myriad of solutions. By embracing all possibilities related to global education and technology, we can put a sizable, irreparable dent into poverty.

 

How to Solve Poverty

 

Education for women: 70% of all women in the world live in poverty, and over 32 million women are considered “missing.” Poor health conditions, famine, and social injustice contribute greatly to the problem. Women work some of the most difficult but crucial hours worldwide, yet earn pennies on the dollar for their effort. This leads to desperation and informal employment which opens the door to problems like human trafficking. When women receive education, the results are indisputable: lower fertility and infant mortality rates, less instance of sexually transmitted disease, and a greater chance of employment and contributions to local economies. The benefits of female education are much broader than male education.

Using Positive Deviance: Somewhere in every community lives a person or a family that is not poor for a reason. Finding those positive deviants in the community and letting others around them learn from their experience is becoming a very popular approach in places. Lewiston Elementary in Utah is one of 300 schools to be nationally recognized for outstanding academics, despite the fact that half of their students are poor and 10% speak English as a second language. The kids consistently exceed what is expected of them all due to how they are taught, which includes, “…small group instruction; an evidence-based reading curriculum; progress monitoring; parent involvement; and instructional coaching.” Other schools have begun to take note of Lewiston’s success.

Entertainment Education: One might not immediately see the correlation between entertainment and poverty, but when considering impoverished or uneducated children, it becomes highly apparent. Education is clearly a poverty deterrent, thus using the media to promote education in communities in ways that will entertain can have major impacts. A well known example of this is the television program Sesame Street, watched the world over by young, hungry minds. Other prosocial programs and themes have been used with great results in the developing world, ranging from simple radio programs to a project called Soul City which has been running in South Africa for years. One organization leading the way with entertainment education is Population Media Center.

– David Smith

Sources: Women and Poverty, Learning The Lessons of Sesame Street
Photo: Infosur Hoy

gandhi_quotes
Often referred to as “Father of the Nation,” Mahatma Gandhi is frequently credited for India’s establishment as an independent nation and its liberalization from British colonial rule. Despite being the son of a prominent state official, Gandhi would go on to reject the system in which he was raised. During his employment at a South African law firm, Gandhi worked to secure basic rights for mistreated Indian immigrants. From then on, he employed nonviolent means of civil disobedience through his concept of “devotion to truth.”

Reminiscent of the lead-up to the American Revolution, Gandhi strategically focused on protesting the British monopoly on India’s salt industry to slowly dismantle the clutches of imperialism. In the spring of 1930, he and over 70 followers marched by foot for nearly one month to the seaside village of Dandi. Once he reached his destination, Gandhi famously extracted salt by boiling water from the Arabian Sea, showcasing the injustice of British laws prohibiting Indians from producing their own salt. Through this simple act, Gandhi inspired millions across India to break the salt tax law by foregoing British salt and running cottage salt production industries. For transgressing the law and influencing countless others to do the same, Gandhi was arrested, which resulted in both domestic outcry and international attention. Upon his release from prison, he resumed working towards Indian secession from the British colonies, which was finally realized in 1947.

Known as a soft-spoken and kind-hearted man, Gandhi was nonetheless revered as a tenacious political activist. His emphasis on nonviolence influenced Martin Luther King, Jr. during the Civil Rights Movement and Nelson Mandela in his fight to end apartheid in South Africa. His legacy resonates in the hearts of millions to this day, serving as a constant reminder of the importance of acting upon one’s beliefs. In the same vein, Gandhi’s political and philosophical discourse continues to serve as an indispensable well of wisdom for individuals standing up against global poverty today. They justify exercising one’s political voice to secure a decent standard of living for all in the face of systematic roadblocks and personal misgivings.

  1. “The difference between what we do and what we are capable of doing would suffice to solve most of the world’s problems.”
  2. “A small body of determined spirits fired by an unquenchable faith in their mission can alter the course of history.”
  3. “A ‘No’ uttered from the deepest conviction is better than a ‘Yes’ merely uttered to please—or worse—to avoid trouble.”
  4. “To deprive a man of his natural liberty and to deny to him the ordinary amenities of life is worse than starving the body; it is starvation of the soul, the dweller in the body.”
  5. “When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love has always won. There have been tyrants and murderers and for a time they seem invincible but in the end, they always fall – think of it – always.”

– Melrose Huang

Sources: Gandhi Research Foundation, BBC, Famous Quotes and Quotations, Brainy Quote, Emory University
Photo: James Autcher

 

Read global poverty quotes and humanitarian quotes

 

 

giving_change

The self-help genre is frequently stigmatized and written off as being trite. Rarely are these books truly life changing – nor do they often make a genuine attempt to broaden their readers’ world views. Azim Jamal and Harvey McKinnon’s “The Power of Giving” is an exception to the rule. Since its publication in 2008, it has been sparking a revolution in the field of philanthropy.

Its message – give more and expect more in return – is hardly novel. However, the authors take a multifaceted approach in striking a chord with their readership by offering a preponderance of evidence – both empirical and anecdotal – suggesting that a willingness to give back to the world can facilitate a happier, healthier and more meaningful life. For instance, academic research has demonstrated a correlation between volunteering and stress reduction and a healthy immune system.

This age-old idealism is balanced by pragmatism. Keenly aware that people come from varying backgrounds dictating how charitable they can afford to be, Jamal and McKinnon look beyond the monetary aspect of giving by emphasizing the importance of offering one’s expertise and empathy unto others. Tips on how to maximize the impact of contributions is also offered within the book’s 208 pages.

No life lesson renders itself legitimate if its messengers do not practice what they preach. In this regard, Jamal and McKinnon once again step up to the plate. The former has sacrificed twenty hours per week for volunteer projects and charitable endeavors for the last three decades of his life, while the latter has dedicated his life to fundraising on behalf of Amnesty International and UNICEF, among other renowned nonprofit organizations. To boot, 100 percent of the book’s proceeds go toward Tides Canada, a nonprofit that works to better Canadian society by connecting donors with specific causes.

“The Power of Giving,” transcends heartwarming banalities by embodying not just a book, but a multimedia movement. It is in the authors’ hopes that readers will physically pay it forward by passing the book onto friends and family, thus spreading its positive teachings through tangible means. On the media front, Jamal and McKinnon have centered numerous interviews and inspirational speeches around the book in a bid to reach the masses. Furthermore, they have created an interactive website and blog through which people exchange ideas and personal stories on the gift of giving. With this constant addition of new information online, it is hard to imagine such a fluid philosophy ever losing its spark.

Applied to the issue of global poverty, Jamal and McKinnon’s words inspire compassion among the fortunate for their brethren suffering in remote countries.

– Melrose Huang

Sources: The Power of Giving, Tides Canada, Amazon
Photo: Seth Skim