High Poverty School Raises $7,000 for Cancer ResearchWilliam Penn Elementary School, an Indianapolis public school, managed to raise a total of $7,309.49 for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Pennies for Patients campaign to fund cancer research by collecting pennies, dimes, nickels and quarters. The school was able to accomplish this despite having a 92 percent poverty rate.

William Penn Elementary provides students with free lunch and free breakfast. Last year, the high-poverty school raised more money for the Pennies for Patients campaign than any other school that provided free lunch and free breakfast for their students. The school also came in tenth place out of all the schools in Indiana that participated in the fundraiser.

Third-grade teacher Kimberly Flake had organized the fundraising effort at the school. On Friday, an assembly took place to reward the children. One teacher would give an Elvis impersonation. Another teacher would shave his head. Flake said, “We have a caring staff and caring parents. Raising $7,000 at a high-poverty school proves they are caring for people.

Third-grade student Gabriel Salinas at William Penn Elementary states that the money “will be used for medicine for the kids that feel bad with cancer.” The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s goal is to accumulate $650,000 in donations from all the 621 schools in Indiana.

– Rafael Panlilio

Source: FAO

National Reconciliation in South SudanOver the past several decades, civil war has left an indelible mark on the country of South Sudan. In a provocative bid to move forward, South Sudan Vice President Riek Machar met with various civil society organizations to discuss a campaign for national reconciliation. Machar made headlines in 2011 with his public apology for his involvement in the Bor Massacre in 1991.

Set to launch in April, Vice President Machar’s campaign titled “A Journey of Healing for National Reconciliation” is modeled after the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa. The campaign will initiate a dialog that can help the country’s factions move past previous atrocities and towards a future of mutual peace and understanding.

Machar is not without his critics though as several civil society organizations questioned both his motives and the timing for the push for national reconciliation in South Sudan. Foremost among those criticisms is Machar’s future ambition of seeking the candidacy for President. These criticisms notwithstanding, South Sudan has allocated funding for the training and deployment of individuals assigned the difficult task of mobilizing and engaging specific communities that will be required for a successful national reconciliation.

As challenging a goal that national reconciliation in South Sudan will be, it is far outweighed by the potential benefits of moving past the long-held grudges of the civil war. Regarding the civil war, Machar remarked that “The war created barriers among our people… The war has created trauma to all of us.”

Brian Turner

Source: Voice of America

$70 Million Proposal for Food Security in UgandaIn an ambitious bid to invest in the roads, rice production, and village infrastructure necessary for future food security in Uganda, Parliament has requested over 70 million dollars from several African, Middle Eastern, and U.S. development banks. This money would go on to fund the Millennium Villages Project and the Masaka-Bukakata road project which will allow for better transportation of goods and supplies further bolstering commerce and economic opportunities.

Broken up into four separate requests which include $44 million from the IDB (Islamic Development Bank), $12 million from the Arab Bank for Economic Development in Africa (ABEDA), and $15 million from the OPEC Fund for International Development, the loans were laid out by the Minister for Finance to Parliament on February 12. Prior to moving forward with the loan requests, Members of Parliament expressed their desire for an official report on the performance of the current loans. Furthermore, the performance report must be presented to Parliament by Christmas as a prerequisite for any additional financing towards food security in Uganda.

If passed, these loans have the potential to increase both rice production and transportation and contribute greatly to overall development and food security in Uganda. Financial investments such as these are always good news, and serve as another step forward in the progressive march towards global food security.

– Brian Turner

Source: New Vision
Photo: AllAfrica

CRS Rice Bowl Fights HungerIt’s that time of year again for Catholics all over the world. With Lent starting this past Wednesday, Catholics are prompted to spend the religious season reflecting upon their own lives and giving up a little something to prepare for Easter Sunday. Many people give up the classics: chocolate, television, swearing, etc. Yet, there is a bit more to the season. A big part of the Lenten season isn’t just giving up, it is giving. Catholic Relief Services (CRS) has launched this year’s Rice Bowl project, formerly known as Operation Rice Bowl.

The project involves distributing small, cardboard bowl containers to parishes and the parishioners take them home or to the office and continuously give a bit at a time by simply putting their gifts into the box and returning the bowl later. Wary about where this money is headed? Don’t worry, CRS is one of the most transparent organizations around.

The funds are handled responsibly and they are used in a very interesting way. About 25 percent of a person’s gift is used to help the hungry in their own community while the other 75 percent go to CRS humanitarian efforts around the world. With about 23.5 percent of the U.S. population donating to CRS, that could add up to be quite a large collection.

One certainly doesn’t have to be Catholic to appreciate the intentions and effects of all the CRS is doing to help the hungry.

– Kevin Sullivan

Source: CRS Rice Bowl, CIA World Factbook
Photo: Catholic News Agency

Raise the Minimum Wage, Inflation is Real!In his State of the Union address, President Obama has called for a national increase in the minimum wage standard of the country. The President has proposed to raise the minimum wage to $9 from its current $7.25. The newly proposed amount would also have safeguards to account for inflation, which the current standard does not.

This demand comes at a time when the National Center for Law and Economic Justice supports that one in seven Americans lives in poverty, with one in sixteen Americans living in deep poverty. Poverty, of course, exacerbates tension and has been linked to decreased social mobility, increased rates of violence, and increased likelihood of being a young parent.

Addressing poverty, both at home and abroad, is a key, central way to better the standard of living for millions as the better able families are to support themselves, the more efficient the employee, the better the consumer, and the more stable the economy.

CNNMoney, however, has debunked the myth that raising the minimum wage in America is the only element necessary to raise a family out of poverty. For a family of four making at least $9/hr, and while taking advantage of several key tax breaks, Tami Luhby of CNNMoney writes that the new rate would be barely enough to lift the family above the poverty line, and hardly enough to raise their standard of living by much in light of the U.S.’s dependence on a tax code that has been decried as “broken” by many.

While raising the minimum wage would be a step in the right direction towards addressing poverty in the United States, advocates for economic justice argue that helping people find higher-paying jobs is another, more effective, means of fighting poverty.

– Nina Narang

Sources: NCLEJ, CNNMoney
Photo: Occupy

SolucionES Will Prevent Crime, Save LivesIn the largest private-public collaboration in USAID history, USAID will be working with a group of five foundations from El Salvador in a new project, titled SolucionES, to help cut crime rates in that country. The partners include the Salvadoran Foundation for Economic and Social Development, the Salvadoran Foundation for Health and Human Development, the National Foundation for Development, Glasswing Internationa and the Business Foundation for Educational Development.

SolucionES will involve mainly preventative measures against violence, including programs for youth who have been or feel as if they are being pressured into causing violence as well as psychological counseling in schools in violent areas. Municipal Councils, local non-profits and private residents will also have a say in the direction of their communities as they work to provide “training programs on conflict prevention for youth and families, youth leadership programs, job training and entrepreneurship and after school clubs,” says the U.S. Embassy to El Salvador. The program has just launched this month in two cities: Ciudad Arce (La Libertad) and San Martín (San Salvador).

SolucionES will cost a total of $42 million dollars, with USAID providing $20 million and the five collaborating organizations contributing a total of $22 million over a five-year period.

– Nina Narang

Sources: US Embassy to El Salvador, UPI.com
Photo: US Embassy to El Salvador

Afghan_wedding
In war-torn Afghanistan, the country’s youth believe that there is something much stronger than a life of poverty and the Taliban regime’s oppressive rule: love.

Although banned by the regime, Valentine’s Day is becoming a popular, albeit secret, celebration among Afghanistan’s romantic young couples. In a country where most marriages are arranged, Suliman and Farzana Sharifi’s marriage is unique, as the 23-year-olds met and married for love and consider Valentine’s Day a special celebration of their relationship, and hopefully even a way to reduce hate and violence in their country. Farzana said, “when love comes even the Taliban can’t stop anybody.”

An American charity operating in the region had the same outlook and has been using weddings as a tool to fight against rampant poverty and against Taliban recruitment throughout Afghanistan. The act of marriage can be prohibitively expensive in the country, where the average annual income is a mere $500, and a dowry to the bride’s family for marriage can reach up to $10,000, making a wedding financially impossible.

Comfort Aid International recognized this conundrum and organized the weddings of 38 couples last year alone, which local representative Sayeed Saleh Qasimi says is a vitally important way to keep young men away from Taliban recruitment: “We did this to prevent our youth from joining the Taliban side. They often join the Taliban because they are single and poor.”

Comfort Aid International has collaborated with local NGOs to negotiate dowry prices down to make it much easier for young couples to marry, and so far has coordinated weddings for more than 1,000 couples in Afghanistan. One beneficiary of the charity, Sayeed Hussaini, is young and unemployed but maintains that he would not have been able to marry without the charity’s help. He also points out that young men do not have many choices financially, saying “a lot of people are doing bad things for money like joining the Taliban.”

The Taliban have been known to target regions where severe poverty is rampant, using poor and uneducated youth who have minimal opportunities for survival other than to join the extremist cause that promises food and shelter.

Hussaini goes on to state that he is still very poor, but will not join the Taliban and risk his life, because of his new wife.

Christina Mattos Kindlon

Source: NBC News

global health 2_opt
Contrary to popular opinion, globalization has several little known and widely unpublicized effects on overall health and longevity. Previously, this phenomenon was primarily centered around the interconnectedness of people, ideas and economic capital; however, recent findings show that it might not be operating within the preconceived limitations and that there may actually be some health benefits of globalization.

Researchers at the University of Netherlands and Luephana University collaborated to analyze the mortality rates of globalized versus non-globalized countries. Utilizing the Maastricht Globalization Index (MGI) as a barometer to measure the various associations between globalization and health in a nation, scientists were able to determine-via statistical analysis-certain positive outcomes. Their results were unexpected, and what emerged from the study were three surprising health benefits of globalization.

  1. Infant Mortality Rates – In comparing the MGI to infant mortality rates, research values overwhelmingly showed that those countries with greater globalization levels also had reduced infant mortality rates. Scientists theorized that the converse relationship between the two might have to do with the higher educational, GDP and neo-natal care levels of a globalized versus non-globalized nations.
  2. Under Five Mortality Rates – Following the completion of the study, researchers were also able to determine that under-five mortality rates were decreased in those nations exhibiting higher levels of globalization. In regards to under-five mortality rates, the decreased numbers of female smokers was a significant contributor to the health benefits of globalization.
  3. Adult Mortality Rates – Even more surprising, the MGI showed a significant correlation between higher rates of globalization and lower rates of adult mortality in a nation. These health benefits of globalization were the most unexpected, and researchers found that improved access to sanitation was the greatest statistical contributor.

It appears that based upon these findings, there is a certain amount of scientific evidence highlighting the health benefits of globalization. Thus, advocating for the increased economic stability and food security factors of global poverty reduction is exactly what is needed to combat infant, under five, and adult mortality rates.

Brian Turner

Source: Globalization and Health

Photo: Imperial International Public Health

LifeExpectancy

The 10 countries with the shortest life expectancy can be found in one continent, Africa, with the exception of Afghanistan. Short life expectancy in sub-Saharan Africa can be caused by famine, poor governments, low levels of education (research has suggested that education correlates with healthcare awareness), availability of clean water and the existence of widespread AIDS. In Afghanistan, the main reason for short life expectancy has been due to infant mortality and women not surviving through childbirth. According to The Guardian, better access to healthcare in the last decade has helped cut infant mortality rates in Afghanistan.

What can we do? Well, donating and persuading our government to give more foreign aid helps solve the poverty issue. Once these countries move up, they can begin to fund higher levels of education, afford advanced agricultural tools which can help sustain growth, and improve healthcare.

(Listed top-to-bottom from the country with the shortest life expectancy)

  1. Chad: 48.69
  2. Guinea-Bissau: 49.11
  3. South Africa: 49.41
  4. Swaziland: 49.42
  5. Afghanistan: 49.72
  6. Central African Republic: 50.48
  7. Somalia: 50.80
  8. Zimbabwe: 51.82
  9. Lesotho: 51.86
  10. Mozambique: 52.02

Leen Abdallah

Source: CIA World Factbook, The Guardian, Econs Guide
Photo: Google: Short Life Expectancy

End Poverty in Africa

As President Obama begins his second term, Reverend Derrick Boykin and his organization African-American Voices for Africa are asking that he make four policies his priority to end poverty in Africa. During the last decade, six of the world’s fastest-growing economies were in Africa. This is due in no small part to assistance from the United States. Sustaining this commitment, Boykin writes, “will help create the future we want for all of our sisters and brothers — a future marked by growth, shared responsibility, and mutual respect.”

  1. Maintain effective development assistance and trade policies for African agriculture. It is estimated that 80 percent of Africans make their living from farming. Initiatives that help to make resources available to develop agricultural infrastructure and diversify African economies are essential for the many people that rely on farming for their livelihood. Trade policies that encourage things such as revising subsidy levels, reducing tariff limitations and strengthening smallholder farmers are essential to achieving this goal.
  2. Continue efforts to promote maternal and child nutrition. The group that has been affected most by rising food prices and the global financial crisis are children under the age of two. The first 1,000 days of a child’s life from pregnancy to its second birthday are critical and any harm done is often irreversible. The best way to ensure that the first two years are healthy is to promote important habits of hygiene and nutrition such as breast-feeding, healthy staple foods, hand-washing with soap and therapeutic foods for those that are malnourished.
  3. Reduce the African debt burden. The United States, as a world leader, should use its leverage to convince multilateral agencies such as the International Development Agency to provide interest-free loans and grants to impoverished African countries. Once African countries are free from their past debts, the growth that they are already experiencing can really take effect and push its many economies to not just survive, but to flourish and end poverty in Africa.
  4. Encourage standards of social responsibility. In the past, outside sources doing private sector business in Africa have been less than fair. Through regulatory policies such as the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition, established at the May 2012 G-8 Summit, organizations must now be transparent about the business that they are doing in Africa. This will lessen the amount of corruption in Africa by outside sources. It is important that we continue to hold companies accountable for the business that they practice to ensure that they work in Africa’s best interest.

Sean Morales

Source: Huffington Post
Photo: The Guardian