Nina Munk’s new book The Idealist: Jeffrey Sachs and the Quest to End Poverty examines famed Economist Jeffrey Sachs’ lifelong quest to end poverty in sub-Saharan Africa through the five-year Millennium Village Project experiment.

Mr. Sachs strongly believes that sub-Saharan Africa’s geographical and ecological misfortunes and its history of colonialism are the main reason for its struggle with poverty. He further poses that with enough motivation, desire and financial means, the rich nations of the West can, and should, help.

To prove his point—and to set an example for the rest of the world—he began the Millennium Village Project in 2005 with $5 million from a donor. The project provided a group of five villages in Africa with large sums of targeted aid. Each of the five villages served as a test site for “development theory.”

Ms. Munk, a journalist and author, followed Mr. Sachs through these African villages for nearly six years to observe their living conditions and to document the impact the Millennium Village experiment was having on them. She spoke to Ahmed Mohamed, the project’s manager of the village in Dertu, Kenya who used Mr. Sachs’ funds to establish a school, hire a teacher and persuade the local government to build a road connecting the village to the next town 40 miles away. Stores opened, and villagers improved their mud homes with tin roofs.

However, Ms. Munk noticed that Mr. Sachs’ “noble and important cause” did not account for the gap between “development theory” and “the reality on the ground.” She saw the citizens of sub-Saharan Africa struggling to overcome hunger, draught and disease.

Ms. Munk’s experiences led her to conclude that Mr. Sachs cannot help end poverty with large infusions of aid in a region where corruption, draught, isolation, conflict and scare resources tip the scales away from the quest to end poverty.

In one instance during the Millennium Village Project, Dertu experienced an outbreak of malaria. Mr. Sachs mobilized his resources and sent the villagers 3,000 bed nets to prevent malaria. Mr. Mohamed distributed the bed nets, but many of the villagers used the nets on their goats rather than their children. “The livestock has more value than humans” in this region, Mr. Mohamed reported.

A number of African countries have experienced improvement that Mr. Sachs insisted could not happen without foreign aid. Ms. Munk acknowledges that life definitely improved in another village involved in the project, Ruhiira, Uganda and is herself is passionate about understanding the environment in Africa and in helping to improve it. Perhaps the main disagreement between these two philanthropists is about how to do it right.

Yuliya Shokh

Sources: The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Nina Munk, The Current
Photo: Jeff Sachs

An investigative report by Al Jazeera America recently revealed that Syrians living and working in Lebanon are facing increasing criticism from locals and the government.

As the conflict intensifies in Syria, more refugees are flocking to border countries to escape the violence. Syrians now make up one-fifth of the Lebanese population, and since there are no official refugee camps, many are seeking refuge in already overcrowded and impoverished slums. As demand for rooms to rent is increasing, prices are rising too.

Animosity is beginning to grow between those who were already struggling in a weak labor market, and the newcomers. Native Lebanese are dealing with increasing competition from incoming Syrians, who, in their desperate situation, will often work for less pay. It is a classic scenario that happens when there is migration driven by conflict or poverty in the home country, and pre-existing unemployment in the receiving country.

According to the Lebanese government, the situation is volatile, and, could become dangerous as more Syrian refugees flood strained job markets. The need for jobs and housing is not the only problem; it seems that some Syrians have brought the civil war with them. There have been kidnappings and bombings reported in Lebanon, which were attributed to the Syrian conflict. And, the Lebanese are starting to choose sides.

As the war wages across the border, it is becoming harder to stay neutral.

Jennifer Bills

Sources: The New Statesman’s Politics Blog
Photo: Voice of America

dumb and dumber motorcycle
In its 2013 report published on Monday Sept 9th, the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network (UNSDSN) ranked the “ happiest countries ” to live in. Accordingly, general happiness “has been on the rise”, stated the International Business Times. The survey took into account various factors such as health and life expectancy, “perceptions of corruption,” GDP per capita, “freedom to make life choices,” “social support” and “generosity.”

The report makes it clear that the level of happiness is highest in Northern Europe, with Denmark ranking first and Norway as a close second, followed by Sweden in fifth position after Switzerland and the Netherlands, Finland in seventh position after Canada (sixth) and finally Iceland, in 9th place.

Meanwhile, the U.S., in 17th position, was outranked by Israel (11th) and Mexico (16th), while the United Kingdom ranked 22nd, France 25th, Germany 26th, Japan 43rd and China 93rd.

This report reflects the general idea that happiness should become part of the general agenda of nations, and that the GDP-centered approach is outdated, an idea first introduced “in 1972 by the former King Jigme Singye Wangchuck of the Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan”, states the International Business Times.

“There is now a rising worldwide demand that policy be more clearly aligned with what really matters to people as they themselves characterize their well-being,” said the Special Adviser to the U.N. Secretary General and Director of the Earth Institution at Columbia University, Jeffrey Sachs, to the International Business Times.

Indeed, well-being and happiness are as important as GDP for the development of a country, and they often go hand in hand. “More and more world leaders are talking about the importance of well-being as a guide for their nations and the world,” observed Sachs. One way to make people happier is to allocate a higher proportion of a government’s health budget to the treatment of mental illness -the single biggest “determinant of misery” in the countries assessed, according to the study authors.

Relatively new and at the origin of “happiness economics,” there is still little evidence regarding the effectiveness of using happiness for international peace and development.

– Lauren Yeh

Sources: The Huffington Post, UNSDSN, Dayton Daily News, International Business Times, CNN
Photo: Collider

The South American country of Guyana is lagging in comparison to its neighboring countries like Brazil, Venezuela and Colombia, who recognize same-sex relationships and even grant civil unions and marriages. As the fight for LGBT rights ensues nationally and internationally, Guyana is holding tight to archaic and parochial customs that aren’t only nurturing prejudice against LGBT people, but putting their lives at stake.

This past June, a 22-year old lesbian by the name of Sandy Jackman was doused with battery acid by two unknown assailants on bicycles as she sat, texting, on a street corner in Georgetown. No arrests were made due to the fact that Jackman couldn’t identify the men and the police refused to deem it a hate crime claiming that the ‘circumstances that led to the acid throwing event were not immediately known.’

A statement released by The Guyana Rainbow Foundation or, GuyBow, Guyana’s premiere advocate for LGBT rights expressed: “Ms. Jackman made a brave choice to live openly and proudly as a lesbian- a right which every Guyanese LGBT [individual] deserves; to freely express themselves. As a victim of a heinous crime, which will require long term medical care and leave permanent mental and physical scars, she deserves nothing less that our utmost sympathy and support.”

Living openly as a lesbian shouldn’t be a ‘brave choice’, as gay rights are human rights. But, distribution of political power, antiquated laws and ignorance are largely to blame for Guyana’s reluctance to recognize the LGBT people that live in the country as valid citizens deserving of the same respect and rights granted to other gender conforming, heterosexual individuals.

According to Amnesty International, Guyana is one of the few countries to still uphold a law against non-conformity by means of dress. The Summary Jurisdiction (Offences) Act, written in 1893, criminalizes men that wear female attire and women that wear male attire, publicly. The law goes on to state that persons should be fined or jailed if their style of dress insinuates an ‘improper purpose.’

With the exception of organizations like GuyBow and the Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD) Guyana, who fight endlessly for LGBT rights in Guyana, there are no official laws in place to protect LGBT people in Guyana’s constitution, nor are there existing legislations.

Although the Guyanese government claims that discriminatory laws aren’t practiced ‘regularly’, members of the judiciary and police still implement them selectively. This unequal distribution of power is at the epicenter of what keeps prejudice rampant in Guyana. Juxtaposed with cultural stigma, many Guyanese LGBTs are caught in a fateful ‘catch 22’.

A recent magistrate at a sentencing against cross-dressers in 2010 stated that they should ‘go to church and give their lives to Christ.’ Research by the University of the West Indies and Equal Rights Trust have also revealed that countless crimes against LGBT people fall on deaf ears of law enforcement who make little to no effort to follow up reported incidents.
And, the homophobia doesn’t end there.

Guyanese LGBTs are forced to conceal their identities at the workplace, within their communities and at schools; being denied employment, housing and even goods, as some businesses refuse to serve them. Some are even discriminated against in their quest for an education, as teachers and school officials bully gay, lesbian and transgendered youth. What’s worse is that lesbians in Guyana have also fallen victim to the malicious crime known as ‘corrective rape.’ And, transgendered people are amongst the individuals most discriminated against, with many of them forced to turn to sex work as a means of employment.

Sexual orientation and gender identity shouldn’t dictate whether or not you live a safe life, uninterrupted by bias or prejudice. As Guyana’s cultural attitudes prevail, influencing stagnancy within the country’s recognition of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered citizens, a dangerous perpetuation of a social landscape that enables stigma, harassment and discrimination persists. As Guyanese LGBT activist and spokesperson, Sherlina Nageer eloquently states ‘the government of Guyana [should] repeal specific discriminatory laws and adopt policies and practices that are inclusive of L[G]BT human rights.’

Afieya Kipp

Sources: Huffington Post, IGLHRC, iNews Guyana, Amnesty International, Guyana Times
Photo: Caribbean360

Indonesia-Jakarta-Flood-Monsoon Rains
Despite Indonesia’s recent economic successes, children are continuing to struggle with poverty, education and healthcare. A two-day conference in Jakarta, Indonesia addressed these issues, as well and child labor, and discussed ways to alleviate young adolescents from harmful conditions.   Those who attended the conference advocated for child-specific poverty programs to finally bring a brighter future for thousands of children living in Indonesia.

As a country where 30 percent of its population (220 million people) is under the age of 15, Indonesia is home to child labor. The International Labour Organization estimates that 3.2 million young people, between the ages of 10 and 15, are working in harsh, unsafe conditions. Children this age often do not have access to education and must work to assist their impoverished families.

By only considering child poverty in terms of economics, Linda Gumelar, Women’s Empowerment and Child Protection Minister, is worried that many other aspects of childcare will be overlooked. “The issue of development of children can’t be separated from successes in women’s empowerment and the achievement of gender equality in families,” she said. Healthcare, education, sanitation are all factors to be addressed.

Gumelar continued to discuss how Indonesia must break down child poverty into rural and urban areas, wealth distribution and other geographical distributions before the government can truly understand how to begin to solve the problem. A five year development plan is already being implemented; however, there are concerns over administrative monitoring and funding for certain regions.

Although those at the conference would like to see local communities taking on these child poverty programs, there have been problems in the past with unaccountability and lack of progress in less monitored areas.

With a more centralized approach, the children’s programs can be consistent and ubiquitous around Indonesia. With the government’s goal of reducing Indonesia’s overall poverty rate from over 10 percent to 8 percent, the reduction of child poverty and child labor is an admirable addition to the five year plan.

Mary Penn

Sources: Jakarta Globe, International Labour Organization


Facts about Child Labor


Fifteen-year-old Kalami is one of the thousands of children that have been forcibly recruited by militias in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Snatched from his family by a rebel group to fight in a war that has torn the country since 1998, Kalami has been forced to commit all kinds of atrocities since he began fighting at the age of nine.

“We had to bury people alive… One day I was forced to kill a family, to cut up their bodies and eat them,” he confessed to Amnesty International delegates. After several scarring incidents, he attempted to escape from the group, but he was later recaptured and beaten. Near death, he was sent to a nearby hospital where UN staff found him and demobilized him.

“My life is lost. I have nothing to live for. At night I can no longer sleep. I keep thinking of those horrible things I have seen and done as a soldier,” he continued.

Kalami, like other child soldiers with his past, fear for their future. He is one of 33,000 children that have been demobilized in the past eight years in DRC. Of these, 550 children have left armed groups in the past five months, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

Although some 444 children are in temporary centers in Kalemie, Lubumbashi, and Manono, and 113 others have been reunited with their parents, many of them return to their homes traumatized and uneducated, only to be shunned by their communities and even their own families. Often, they are seen as enemies in their old neighborhoods where they were forced to commit crimes before being recruited by militias.

The boys are regarded as potentially violent while the girls, having been used as sex slaves, are seen as “damaged goods”. Too old to go to school, some may be lucky enough to get vocational training and find a job, but for most, work is scarce. Just to keep from being hungry, some children even choose to rejoin the militias.

UNICEF estimates that approximately 4,500 more children are still working for armed militias, 1,500 of them in the province of Katanga alone. Although the DRC has signed Action Plans to end the recruitment of children, as well as sexual violence against them, these have been regarded as no more than public relations exercises by Amnesty International.

The DRC conflict is considered one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises. The country’s mineral-rich eastern coast continues to be the epicenter of a political and ethnic conflict that has involved its neighbors, Uganda and Rwanda. Since the war began in 1998, 5.4 million people have died as a result of the conflict, while 2.6 million remain displaced by the fighting.

– Nayomi Chibana
Feature Writer

Sources: UN News Centre, Amnesty International, Thomson Reuters Foundation, The Washington Times
Photo: Smart Magna

Reduce Global Poverty Lose Weight Diet
Trying to lose weight? Well, you aren’t alone. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) the obesity rate in the Unites States doubled amongst adults between 1980 and 2000. This means that 30% of the adult population is considered obese. Due to the obesity epidemic in our nation, programs like Weight Watchers have sprung up in efforts to help those who suffer from obesity.

Celebrities like Tina Fey, Jenny McCarthy, Jennifer Hudson, Jessica Simpson, and Charles Barkley all attribute significant weight loss to their involvement in the Weight Watcher program. The Weight Watchers program has reached far beyond the borders of our innovative country. There are now millions of men and women around the world who use the Weight Watchers program.

 Losing weight and being healthy are enough of an incentive for many to join the program. However, Weight Watchers has recently included one more incentive. Through their Lose for Good campaign, members can lose weight while also helping people around the world who are in need.

Beginning September 15 and ending October 12, Weight Watchers will donate the cost of a pound of food, up to $500.00, for every pound members lose. It is estimated that during the six-week campaign members will lose up to four million pounds. Weight Watchers will donate up to $1 million to their partners, Action Against Hunger and Share Our Strength®, who both fight global poverty.

The Lose for Good campaign also benefits local food banks. Members are encouraged to donate one pound of canned food for every pound they lose throughout the campaign.

Since its inception in 2008, the Lose for Good campaign has contributed $5 million to combating global hunger and chronic malnutrition. Furthermore, the Weight Watchers members have donated 5.7 million pounds of food to local food banks.

According to the United Nations, nearly 21,000 people die worldwide every day of hunger and hunger related causes. The Lose for Good campaign, through the Weight Watchers members, are making a significant difference to feed the world’s hungry.

What can you do?

1. I need to lose weight, and I am a Weight Watchers member:

– Great! Join the Lose for Good campaign and get started.


2. I need to lose weight, but I am not a member of Weight Watchers:

You have some options…..

– Consider becoming a Weight Watchers member and join the Lose for Good campaign.

– Approach your current nutrition program or gym about initiating something similar to the Lose for Good campaign for its members and participate in it.

– Start your own six-week weight loss program and include a component that benefits the world’s hungry. Invite friends and family to join!

– Set a six-week weight loss goal and donate money to an organization fighting global poverty at the end of the six weeks. Consider donating to the Borgen Project.


3. I don’t need to lose weight.

– The Lose for Good campaign has taken something most every American is working on, and turned it into a way to help the world’s poor. Their approach is weight loss. Congratulations for achieving and maintaining your weight loss goal! What other activities are you involved in that can be turned into a way to fight global poverty? Pick a current hobby, make some goals, invite people to join you, and before you know it, your efforts will help feed the world’s hungry.

– Caressa Kruth

Sources: Action Against Hunger, Ventura County Star, CDC, Weight Watchers,
Photo: MNN

North Korea Prison Camp 22 Kim Jong Un
Human rights groups fear that up to 20,000 inmates at a North Korean gulag have ‘disappeared.’ These groups worry that they may have been killed or starved to death. These suspicions arose as a result of a report conducted by the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea (HRNK), which detailed the conditions of the gulags after Kim Jong-un assumed power from his father in 2011.

The report, North Korea’s Hidden Gulag: Interpreting Reports of Changes in the Prison Camps, reveals that two of the prisons have been shut down since Jong-un came to power. Since 2010, prisoners have regularly been subjected to starvation as the country’s currency was devalued (prison authorities have been ‘unable’ to purchase enough food for the prisons) and the country experienced a poor harvest season.

The report highlights Camp 22 located in the North Hamyong Province, which is more than 770 square miles. The camp mined coal to supply power to the Chongjin thermal power plant. The camp also had extensive farms for potatoes, beans, corn and other vegetables, but was shut down because of the poor harvest season. In late 2012, the camp shrank dramatically in size before its eventual closure.

Trains were seen departing from the area at night, heading south towards Camp 16 or 25. While 7,000-8,000 are believed to have been transferred to other camps, there are still tens of thousands unaccounted for. Because of the severe food shortages in the country, little if any food was given to the prisoners. During this time, the size of the prison decreased from 30,000 to 3,000.

However, more than 130,000 individuals remain imprisoned at the hands of the government. According to the report, “Through this vast system of unlawful imprisonment, the North Korean regime isolates, banishes, punishes and executes those suspected of being disloyal to the regime. They are deemed ‘wrong-thinkers,’ ‘wrongdoers,’ or those who have acquired ‘wrong knowledge’ and have engaged in ‘wrong associations.’” At these detention centers, detainees are subject to forced labor, starvation, and other cruel and unusual punishment.

Some claim that prisoners are even fed poison for experimentation. Women report having to kill their own children and stone one another to survive. Activists claim that around 40 percent of all prisoners die during imprisonment due to malnutrition, sexual violence, torture, abuse, or are worked to death. Last month, the United Nations committee of inquiry held hearings in Seoul and Tokyo to examine claims of human rights abuses by the North Korean government.

The HRNK worries that, because of the report, the government will attempt to erase any evidence of the atrocities or eliminate existing prisoners who might serve as witnesses to the crimes. David Hawk, author of the report and a former United Nations human rights official, said “If even remotely accurate, this is an atrocity requiring much closer investigation.”

– Kelsey Ziomek

Sources: NBC News, National Post, The Telegraph, Huffington Post
Photo: Huffington Post

Who Gives a Crap
Simon Griffiths, Jehan Ratnatunga and Danny Alexander, the brains and brawn behind Who Gives A Crap, have married potty humor and charity through their clever new social venture. Who Gives A Crap is an AU-based nonprofit organization working to provide access to safe sanitation in developing countries. They attempt to achieve this noble mission through the sale of their biodegradable, eco-friendly toilet paper made with 100 percent recycled fibers.

Who Gives A Crap donates 50 percent of the profit made from its toilet paper to WaterAid, an organization that builds toilets and improves access to safe water, hygiene and sanitation in developing nations. 11 percent of the world’s population currently lives without access to clean water. 2.5 billion people live without adequate sanitation facilities. The combination of these factors result in diseases that severely hinder the quality of life for many of the world’s poorest people.

WaterAid is working to combat these aggregate effects of poverty, lack of clean water, poor sanitation and little hygiene education by connecting rural villages and urban slum communities with water sources, building latrines and teaching people about hygiene. WaterAid operates through strong partnerships with local organizations in developing countries to carry out their mission.

Who Gives A Crap draws attention to WaterAid’s life-changing work through its cheeky operating methods. By selling a visually appealing and unique product used everyday by people in their target market, Who Gives A Crap has forged the way for social entrepreneurs focused on sanitation worldwide.

Co-founder Simon Griffiths has spoken of Who Gives A Crap’s operating techniques, saying, “We’ve been really motivated by changing the way philanthropy works—by combining it with consumption. We talk about consumer-driven philanthropy, the idea being that people consume, like they already are, but not spend more. We’re all about motivating people not by guilt.”

Who would have ever thought that brand loyalty for toilet paper could be for such a good cause?

Tara Young

Source:  Who Gives A CrapTake Part

Zeal Medical is an India based ISO that works towards improving the health of infants. They do so by providing medical equipment and innovations needed for adequate health services for infants.

One of their most successful developments are their incubators. An incubator is used when an environment needs to be created for an infant, because they could not survive in the natural world. These incubators adjust everything from temperature control to humidity.

An infant incubator should be used for neonates, infected babies, babies with low birth weight, babies with breathing issues, or transportation. Although this technology is life saving, it comes at a great cost.

An infant incubator can cost up to $30,000. In addition to that cost, money must be spent to train health providers how to utilize the equipment. At the same time, many people in underdeveloped countries give birth in their homes, where there is no medical equipment let alone infant incubators. If that was not problematic enough, most of the issues these incubators were created to combat are extremely prevalent in underdeveloped nations that cannot afford the technology. In other words, this life saving equipment is not being used where it is most needed.

The impact of this technology in the underdeveloped world would be tremendous.   The World Health Organization (WHO) asserts that reducing the infant mortality rate, perhaps by use of incubators for at risk infants, also reduces birthrates which, in turn,  increases economic success.

Here is a situation where health care directly impacts the economics of a country. However, these countries struggle to help themselves. For example, if no technology  is available to a country this would lead to higher birth rates which would hinder economic development which, in turn, does not allow that country to purchase health technology.

If the world really wants to make an impact on poverty, then health care must be a priority. Infant mortality and birthrates have always been directly correlated with poverty and economic growth. Sometimes throwing money at a problem and donating food is not all it takes. A system needs to be implemented that creates fundamental changes, starting with health care.

Zachary Patterson

Sources: TEEE, Zeal Medical, WHO
Photo: All Business