Homelessness In Belgium
As a member of the European Union, Belgium has the privilege of having an advanced economy as well as relatively low unemployment and poverty rates. However, being a developed nation does not make a country immune to the hardships of homelessness. Here are four facts about homelessness in Belgium.

4 Facts About Homelessness in Belgium

  1. The biggest homeless population is in Brussels. Geographically, Belgium is made up of primarily rural areas, but the vast majority of the country’s population lives in an urban setting. The country’s capital, Brussels, is the largest city in Belgium and is the host to the majority of the homeless population. The most evident instances of homelessness are people living directly on the street, but many of those affected live in shelters or temporary housing, such as a hotel, and tend to be more invisible to the public.
  2. Homelessness is on the rise. The Homeless World Cup Organization provided a concerning update regarding homelessness in Belgium: “From one count in November 2016, there were 3,386 people experiencing homelessness in Brussels. This number is a 96% increase since 2008.” Just two years later in 2018, a homeless relief organization in Belgium called La Strada counted a total of 4,187 people living without secure or traditional housing.
  3. Many of those on the streets are migrants. Another contributing factor to the density of homeless in Brussels is migration. Europe as a whole has seen an increase in the migration of undocumented people. Due to their citizenship status, they often do not qualify for government assistance or other benefits, leaving them to fend for themselves. Many migrants living in a place called Maximilian Park have been pushed out by a police initiative and have relocated to the larger cities.
  4. There are not enough resources to address current conditions. Due to the harsh European winters, many homeless individuals living completely without protection from the elements need to seek shelter in the colder months to survive. However, many cities’ homeless initiatives and charity organizations are overwhelmed by the sudden increase in need and struggle to produce enough resources and space to accommodate all of the homeless.


The facts about homelessness in Belgium are daunting, but there are solutions to the issue. Of note, organizations such as the Citizens’ Refugee Support and The Platform, who work in homeless outreach and placement are helping to provide beds to the most vulnerable homeless group: migrants. While they have not yet been able to provide shelter for everyone in need, they continue to push the Belgian government for additional funding, as well as help their residents find long term solutions.

Samantha Decker
Photo: Flickr

Music Programs in Developing CountriesPlaying For Change is an organization that works to connect people through music by bringing together musicians from around the world to promote peace and unity. In 2007 its founders Mark Johnson and Whitney Kroenke created the Playing for Change Foundation to increase music programs in developing countries and unite communities through music. Playing For Change empowers children around the world by giving them the opportunity to learn the universal language of music.

The Foundation offers classes for children at 15 schools located in 11 countries: Bangladesh, Brazil, Ghana, Mali, Nepal, Rwanda, South Africa, Morocco, Mexico, Argentina and Thailand. More than 2,000 children attend these classes each week. Through the Foundation’s outlet for creativity, they learn how to express themselves and build confidence and resilience.

Supporting Local Communities

When constructing a new school, the Foundation emphasizes using local materials and employing local labor. This empowers the community’s economy. It focuses on opening schools in developing areas, so this support can make a big difference for the local economy. Playing For Change unifies communities by providing aid to these developing areas including food, water, medicine, clothing, and computers. This community development has improved the lives of thousands of people while providing vital economic stimulus and spreading the Foundation’s message of unity.


The Foundation’s educational programs are led by community members, with teachers and administrative staff being hired locally. This ensures that each program has strong ties to its community and can more effectively teach and impact the students. These local ties are an important way that Playing For Change establishes music programs in developing countries. Working together towards the common goal of building a school and teaching children is something that a community can take pride in.

Stand By Me

In order to guarantee that music and dance classes are available to all children, the Playing For Change Foundation created the Stand By Me Scholarship Program in 2013. These scholarships are funded by donations and provide children with the opportunity to attend classes free of charge for a year. The classes enhance the self-esteem and collaborative abilities of their students, while also giving them strong connections to their local community. Also, enrolled students can connect with other youth and staff in schools around the world. The scholarship is essential because it ensures that children who come from underprivileged backgrounds have access to the classes’ benefits and the community that music creates.

Community Unification and Strengthening

Thousands of children around the world have gained valuable skills while learning to express themselves through the Foundation’s programs. Notably, many of these children are vulnerable to poverty and violence. Thus, these classes teach them how to address these issues while giving them creative skills they would otherwise not have the opportunity to develop. At its core, Playing For Change uses music programs in developing countries to uplift people with the power of music.


Gabriel Guerin
Photo: Flickr

mushroom farming combats povertyIn the United States, mushrooms pop up on pizzas, in salads and as a side to any number of popular dishes. Most people do not give much thought to where the fungus on their fork came from. However, mushrooms are not an afterthought to many around the globe. Indeed, mushroom farming combats poverty globally, providing both a source of nutrition and income.

How Mushrooms are Farmed

Unlike most crops, mushrooms are not grown in a field. Instead, these edible fungi thrive in dark, warm places. Thus, many people farming mushrooms on a small scale do so in their homes or in an outbuilding.

Mushrooms thrive off decaying vegetation and other agricultural waste, and they can be raised in stacked beds, making them fairly low maintenance, especially compared to fruits or vegetables. They can also grow three times as quickly as some other crops, so they provide a steadier source of food or income.

Successfully cultivating mushrooms can yield a return of up to four times the initial investment. Additionally, mushrooms are a source of “potassium, calcium, magnesium and iron” as well as fiber and protein. This makes them an adaptable and potent tool in fighting malnutrition.

Successes in East Asia

Mushrooms provide an alternative income source for many women in Bangladesh. One such woman is Kajal. At a young age, both her legs were paralyzed. After she married, Kajal discovered Access Bangladesh, an initiative designed to teach disabled people practical skills they could use to earn money.

One such skill was mushroom cultivation, which provides Kajal and her family around 3,000 taka ($35) monthly. For a country with a GDP per capita of around $1,200, this additional income can be a deciding factor in a family’s subsistence. With funding from Canada, the Bangladesh Skills for Employment and Productivity Project and Access Bangladesh have helped nearly 600 people learn mushroom cultivation, around 300 of whom are women.

In Nepal, mushrooms possess the power to play a critical role in alleviating poverty. However, many communities lack the key resources needed to successfully cultivate mushrooms. These resources include sufficient upfront investment, current technologies and high-quality mushroom spawn.

To address these barriers, PHASE Worldwide, an NGO operating in Nepal, provides high-quality mushroom spawn and teaches cultivation methods to impoverished communities. In addition to their work with mushrooms, PHASE has trained more than 1,000 farmers in vegetable cultivation.

A Growing Market in Africa

As in East Asia, mushrooms are helping farmers in Africa combat poverty and create sustainable agriculture. In Rwanda, Laurent Demuynck, a former New York brewery operator, started Kigali Farms in 2010. His goal was to create a commercial mushroom enterprise in Rwanda. African mushroom farmers commonly ran into trouble with low yield and high costs, something Demuynck wanted to solve. Kigali Farms started growing oyster mushrooms, and in 2016, USAID’s Feed the Future Initiative partnered with Kigali to establish button mushroom production as well. Today, Kigali Farms is exporting mushrooms to Kenya and Uganda, as well as selling them locally.

One input needed for mushroom cultivation is straw, which Demuynck purchased from local wheat farmers, mainly women. This proved a boon for the wheat farmers since the straw left over after the harvest had previously held little value. USAID assisted in the effort and established three collection centers for farmers to store their straw before selling it to Kigali.

How Mushrooms Made One Girl Famous

In Tibet, matsutake mushrooms—one of the most valuable mushrooms in the world—grow at elevations of 13,000 feet or more. Faced with increasing bills, Geru Drolma went searching for matsutakes and live-streamed the search. That video received a large number of views in a short period of time and requests for matsutakes and cordyceps, another type of fungus, poured in.

This led Drolma and other villagers in her remote Tibetan community to set up a cooperative. They made more than $500,000 harvesting fungi in their first year. Drolma’s initial mushroom video also led her to concentrate on filming and posting snippets of Tibetan life. She has garnered 1.9 million followers since then.

Mushrooming Success

People like Laurent Demuynck and Geru Drolma all started with an idea that grew into something that impacted those around them. Additionally, initiatives in Bangladesh and Nepal also helped kickstart similar ideas. Thanks to ideas with backing, East Asian and African mushroom farming combats poverty at an extremely successful rate.

– Jonathan Helton
Photo: Pixabay

Healthcare in ArgentinaThe system used today for providing healthcare in Argentina was developed during a period of economic glory for the country. This economic reform was achieved throughout the 1940-50s period of urbanization, industrialization and labor movements. Since then, healthcare in Argentina has been largely decentralized and privatized to provincial-level support. Healthcare services and resources are divided across three sectors. The public sector offers all services free of charge and is used primarily by those without social security. The Obras Sociales sector, which is funded by compulsory social security, is used primarily by workers. The private sector, which users pay for entirely out of pocket, is the most exclusive. On average across sectors, a ratio of 3.6 physicians treats 1,000 people.

5 Important Facts Related to Healthcare in Argentina

  1. The gross domestic product (GDP) expenditure for healthcare in Argentina is high. According to World Bank statistics from 2017 for Argentina’s current health expenditure, health services contribute to 9.12% of the annual GDP of the country. This percentage is significantly higher than that of 2016, which was 7.54% of GDP. Argentina’s health expenditure is also 1.1% higher than the average for its Latin American regional context. Argentina can still make improvements by creating universal health services across the country, but since the introduction of a Universal Health Plan in 2016, Argentina’s health expenditure has risen. Because of the shift from state to provincial-level control of healthcare in Argentina, there are inconsistencies between the provincial-level distribution of funds toward the healthcare system. The physician to population ratio between the autonomous city of Buenos Aires and the Misiones province can trace the inconsistency of healthcare access across provinces. In Buenos Aires, 10.2 physicians serve a population of 1,000, while in Misiones there are just 1.2 physicians to every 1,000 people.
  2. Argentina has successfully lowered rates of poverty-linked communicable diseases, like Chagas. Chagas, which is a vector-borne disease, has seen lower rates of transmission within eight out of the 19 endemic provinces of Argentina that it has previously been found. The interruption of vector and congenital transmission of the Chagas disease achieved these lowered rates. The development of strategies to combat other communicable diseases within Argentina, like HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis (TB), are still in dire need of support. One organization, called Mundo Sano, is working on strategies to interrupt the transmission of congenital HIV/AIDS between mother and child as of 2020. Statistics from United Nations AIDS (UNAIDS) research shows that as of 2016, 91% of women living with HIV/AIDS were already seeking out either antiretroviral or prophylaxes treatment to prevent vertical transmission. As a result, an estimated less than 100 children contracted the disease. With support from Mundo Sano, vertical transmission rates of HIV/AIDS could decrease even further.
  3. Argentina has developed action plans to combat the prevalence of multiple non-communicable diseases. As of 2014, metabolic diseases accounted for 4% of all deaths and cancers accounted for 20% of deaths. Most notably, 28% of all deaths in the country were attributed to diseases of the circulatory system. Once implemented, policies will be used to regulate food advertising, fiscal policies and front-of-package labeling. With funding to support the implementation of these policies, the incidence of certain non-communicable diseases could decrease significantly in Argentina.
  4. Natural disaster relief is available to all 23 provinces of Argentina. Instances of climatic stress to the diverse terrain of the country emerge most commonly as volcanic eruptions, floods, earthquakes, landslides, mudslides, tornados, storms, heatwaves and wildfires. The Argentine government established the National Directorate of Health Emergencies agency to prevent and mitigate the effects of a disaster. Environmental threats to public health across Argentina are combatted locally by provincial disaster response teams that operate under the national level agency.
  5. The aging population has free healthcare in Argentina. The National Institute of Social Services for Retirees and Pensioners (PAMI) in Argentina was created in 1971 to provide comprehensive healthcare and support to the country’s aging population. Since its beginnings, PAMI has implemented multiple programs for the betterment of health for Argentina’s elderly. Among the services available through PAMI are free healthcare for those 65 or more years old, along with preventative care resources like immunization and support networks. According to 2018 data from the World Bank, the average life expectancy across the Argentine population from birth is 76.52 years old, which has been steadily increasing since the creation of PAMI.

Since the 1940-50s economic reform in Argentina, the healthcare system has grown fragmented across the public, social security and private sectors. Healthcare sectors depend on the autonomous power of provincial-level governments and are therefore divided from one another.

In 2016, the government of Argentina responded to the fragmented nature of the system and introduced a Universal Health Plan. This plan is meant to increase the efficiency of coverage by compiling national health records into a single system, making patient identification more accessible across sectors. With cross-sector recognition and agreement for universalizing healthcare in Argentina, along with financial support for the cause, the country could achieve a healthier population overall.

Lilia Wilson
Photo: Flickr

Burden of COVIDThe most recent pandemic has wreaked havoc on countries all over the world and has stagnated, or even reversed progress in many developing communities. While officials have been trying to reduce the number of cases worldwide, there have also been many tech developments that help alleviate the burden of COVID-19. Various apps and websites allow us to spread information, contact-trace and even enforce quarantine.

6 Ways Technology Helps Alleviate the Burden of COVID-19

  1. Afghanistan- Without proper guidance, misinformation can spread like wildfire and can be deadly. For this reason, the Ministry of Public Health joined forces with the Ministry of Telecommunications and Information Technology to create software that provides health information to Afghani citizens. Corona.asan.gov.af translates virus updates and information into three different languages, making it easily accessible for all people.
  2. Bulgaria- Local IT developers created a free app that connects citizens to health authorities to help ease the burden of COVID-19. Users verify their identity and can input various symptoms they are experiencing. A doctor will then review their symptoms and decide whether or not to send the patient to the closest medical facility for treatment. In addition to this, the app also can predict the future growth and spread of the virus. The developers are also willing to sell the software to other countries for a symbolic one euro.
  3. Germany- A Berlin-based tech startup created an initiative that would work on Android devices in developing countries throughout South America and North Africa. The project, called #AppsFightCovid would display health information on popup ads that already exist on different apps. The ads take info from the WHO website and advocate for frequent hand washing and wearing a mask in public. Because of these efforts, underdeveloped communities now have access to important COVID-19 information.
  4. Mexico- The Mexico City government created a screening service that determines how likely a user is to contract the coronavirus. The website also features a map that displays the closest hospitals and how much space is available in each of them. People can also filter the map based on whether they need a general care bed or a ventilator bed. In addition, users can input their symptoms and determine whether or not they require hospitalization. This helps alleviate the burden of COVID by reducing the number of unnecessary hospital patients during a global pandemic.
  5. United Nations- It is extremely difficult to get access to personal protective equipment and accurate information, especially for developing countries. Because of this, the U.N. partnered with the WHO and launched the Tech Access Partnership or TAP. This initiative helps reduce the burden of COVID by connecting expert manufacturers with developing manufacturers in poorer countries all over the world to share resources, knowledge and technical expertise. TAP will also aid countries in creating affordable and safe technology.
  6. Argentina- In hopes of reducing the number of coronavirus cases, a company is looking into enforcing quarantining and social distancing through a tracking app, though it is not yet operational. This would be a way to prevent the spread of COVID since the app would send an alert each time a person leaves their home. In addition, the Argentinian Ministry of Health created an application that allows people to evaluate their symptoms and see whether or not they require hospitalization.


Though the novel coronavirus has thrown us all for a whirlwind, many countries are doing their part to alleviate the burden of COVID by using technology. Whether it is through self-assessing symptoms, tracking hospitals or enforcing quarantine, government officials everywhere are trying to flatten the curve through the use of technology.

– Karin Filipova
Photo: Unsplash

recovery after human traffickingWhen the organic protein bar company Square Organics found a new CEO in co-founder Sarah Gordon, female empowerment quickly became one of the brand’s driving missions. In 2013, Square Organics embraced a new partnership with the renowned charity group Not For Sale as a means to assist life recovery after human trafficking.

Origins of Not For Sale

Not For Sale began in 2000 when co-founder David Batstone discovered a human trafficking ring in a neighborhood restaurant. While researching for a book entitled Not For Sale, Batstone met a woman in Thailand named Kru Nam who was helping usher children out of slave labor into safety. At the time, the children were living in a field. This compelled Batstone to raise funds to build a house for Kru Nam and the children she saved. When the number of rescued children rose to 150, Batstone expanded housing plans into aspirations for an entire village.

Not For Sale has since developed its focus to aid life recovery after human trafficking. Currently, Not For Sale serves as a fully-fledged campaign to provide housing, access to clean water, and professional skills for survivors of trafficking in twelve different countries.


In Thailand, Kru Nam continues to work as a minister at Not For Sale’s two main facilities. Not For Sale’s shelter center offers balanced, nutritious meals; the education house guides victims to healthy, productive lives through therapeutic and educational services. In 2019, Not For Sale Thailand’s rescue center served a total of 500 people, including 235 children.

In general, Children without a defined nationality are denied a government education and, therefore, are vulnerable to exploitation. For these reasons, Not For Sale centralizes the protection of stateless children located in cities around Myanmar and Northern Thailand. Thailand’s Not for Sale program is especially inclusive. For example, the programs’ centers are the first in the country to aid young male survivors.

Above all, Not For Sale Thailand prioritizes children’s education, providing primary, secondary, and even university level schooling. Not For Sale’s learning centers, which include several boarding schools, equip hundreds of child victims of human trafficking with a proper educational environment. The Thai government has praised Not For Sale Thailand as a model program.


In 2012, Not For Sale started the Netherlands Project, with a strong emphasis on the capital city of Amsterdam. The Netherlands Project trains survivors of human trafficking in culinary skills. Survivors begin the program by cooking and selling soup to women working in the brothels of Amsterdam’s red-light district.

As trainees advance through the program, they transition to paid internships and job placements. One placement opportunity is Not For Sale Amsterdam’s very own restaurant Dignita, which hires graduates directly. Since its opening, Dignita has served over 180,000 meals. By coupling the therapeutic power of cooking with the opportunity of a career in the culinary industry, rehabilitated survivors are equipped with skills that aid life recovery after human trafficking.

In 2020, Not For Sale Netherlands will open its third restaurant in the country. The new restaurant is in partnership with Not For Sale Netherlands’ Buddy Program, which teaches participants to read and write Dutch or English.


Not For Sale put roots down in Peru with several special projects. Peru sees a massive, detrimental amount of forced servitude. For instance, several thousand individuals in the Amazon region are subject to forced labor across the mining, logging, and agricultural industries. Not For Sale first teamed up with Peruvian abolitionists to create a shelter system for Peruvian survivors. Since it began operation in Peru, Not For Sale has shifted its focus towards creating legitimate work opportunities. This plan will, most importantly, serve to eliminate one of the root causes of Peru’s glaring slave labor issue.

In an attempt to improve the exploitative conditions of Peruvian work culture, Not For Sale partnered with Palo Hawken for the REBBL herbal extract launch. This project hired survivors and at-risk individuals to produce a tonic made of roots, berries, bark, and leaves. A portion of the proceeds made from each bottle sold is used to fund Not For Sale Peru projects. These projects include a new school, a scholarship program, community green spaces, and clean water systems for the Santa Teresita Native Community. REBBL has generated over $1 million for Not For Sale Peru to date.

Square Organics and Not For Sale

Square Organics donates to the Not For Sale campaigns quarterly based on net sales. These steady donations help reintegrate victims of human trafficking into society by stabilizing their life recovery process. The Square Organics company also encourages its consumers to donate directly. Certainly, the increased attention and donations help improve the lives of human trafficking victims and fight to dismantle an industry that still enslaves 45 million individuals around the world today.

– Grace Kim
Photo: Flickr

Facts About Hunger in Cambodia
Hunger is an issue that plagues much of Southeast Asia — 9.8% of the population experiences undernourishment, which equates to 27.8 million people. Cambodia, a developing country between Thailand and Vietnam, remains one of the poorest nations in Southeast Asia. Although Cambodia has made considerable strides in diminishing poverty rates and growing the economy over the years, food insecurity is still an ongoing and serious issue. Here are five facts about hunger in Cambodia and what some, like the World Food Programme (WFP) and Action Against Hunger in Cambodia, are doing to eradicate it.

5 Facts About Hunger in Cambodia

  1. Political Instability: Political instability has been a major contributing factor to chronic hunger in Cambodia. The country has suffered many years of war, particularly the Khmer Rouge from 1975-1979, which depleted natural resources.
  2. Undernourishment: Around 15% of the country’s 16 million people suffer from undernourishment, according to the World Food Programme. This percentage amounts to more than 2 million people throughout the country. 
  3. Agriculture and Natural Disasters: Around 79% of the Cambodian population lives in rural areas, and 65% rely on agriculture, fisheries and forestry to survive. Natural disasters, like floods and droughts, often threaten the country and therefore are extremely damaging to the food system.
  4. Rice and Seasonal Shortages: Of the country’s 1.6 million households, two-thirds face seasonal shortages each year. Many Cambodians are rice farmers. In fact, rice alone accounts for as much as 30% of household spending
  5. Chronic Malnutrition and Stunting: About 40% of Cambodian children suffer from chronic malnutrition, which stunts the growth and cognitive development of 32% of Cambodian children under 5-years-old. This high statistic is mainly due to nutrient deficiency. According to World Vision, this stunting contributes to “increased child mortality as children are more vulnerable to infection and disease.” Additionally, 10% suffers from wasting, low weight to height ratio.

The World Food Programme

Since 1979, the year the Khmer Rouge ended, the World Food Programme has helped vulnerable Cambodians “meet their emergency needs and have access to nutritious, safe and diverse foods.” WFP also works toward enhancing long-term food and nutrition security for Cambodian families.

In order to meet its goal of terminating hunger in Cambodia by 2030, the WFP is working with the Royal Government of Cambodia to create programs that promote access to nutritious diets within the country and to strengthen systems to be nationally-owned. One example of this is the WFP-supported home-grown school feeding program. The WFP is working to transition the program to a “nationally-owned home-grown school meals model” that “sources ingredients from local farmers, incorporates food quality and safety, encourages community ownership, and supports local economies.” 

Action Against Hunger

Similar to the World Food Programme, Action Against Hunger is also working to end hunger in Cambodia. The organization has been serving the nation since 2013. In 2018, Action Against Hunger reached 11,291 children with lifesaving nutrition and health programs, provided 2,378 people with Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) interventions and supplied 27,568 people with food security and livelihoods programs. 

These five facts about hunger Cambodia show that though hunger is still an issue that plagues the nation, organizations like the World Food Programme and Action Against Hunger are helping to reduce it. Hopefully, with continued effort, hunger will continue to subside in the country.

Emma Benson
Photo: Flickr

Healthcare in UruguayWhen people think of the small South American nation of Uruguay, its healthcare system is probably not the first thing that comes to mind. Despite its obscurity, Uruguay has played a pioneering role in the development of South American medical standards and other countries have followed the example set by its exemplary healthcare system. What is this system, and why do many think it works so well?

Private and Public Care

Healthcare in Uruguay consists of two main systems: private hospitals run by private enterprises, and public hospitals run by government organizations.

In choosing their healthcare provider, many Uruguayans opt for one of the private Mutualista plans, which function like a membership to a private hospital. With Mutualista plans, a person might pay around $100 monthly to have access to the services of a private hospital.

 The Mutualista system of healthcare in Uruguay differs from many healthcare systems in other countries because it does not operate as health insurance, but rather as a membership plan to a hospital that has neither deductibles nor a lifetime cap.

Uruguay also has a public healthcare system, which is most often referred to as the Administración de Los Servicios de Salud del Estado, or the ASSE. The ASSE healthcare plans work similarly to Mutualista plans, but with one crucial difference: for poor and low-income patients, medical care costs nothing.

Uruguay’s public health system provides broad access to older individuals and those with pre-existing conditions. As long as an individual has an Uruguayan ID card, they can access the public healthcare system in Uruguay.

Who Chooses Which Plan?

Wealthier individuals tend to choose the Mutualista plans of private hospitals over the coverage of public hospitals because public hospitals have “generally lower” service standards. However, this in no way signifies that Uruguay’s public hospitals provide poor care. In fact, many public hospitals operate through universities that employ expert clinicians, allowing those hospitals to provide specialized treatments.

Together, the combination of public and private healthcare systems provides a large variety of care options for Uruguayan citizens and allows them to choose the system that best suits their medical needs and economic status.

Care for Uruguay’s Poor

As it provides free care to low-income patients, Uruguay’s public health system ensures that all citizens receive care. By providing universal care, Uruguay dramatically improves the health of the nation by making sure that no individual goes without necessary medical treatment simply because they cannot afford it.

For most low-income individuals, healthcare in Uruguay comes at little to no cost. Because of this, Uruguay’s public ASSE healthcare functions as a “safety net” for low-income individuals who cannot afford the luxury of private health services. This expansion of care to all may explain why life expectancy is steadily increasing, currently standing at 73.2 years and 80.2 years for men and women respectively, an uptick from 70.4 years and 78.4 years respectively between 1996 and 2000.

Of note, the country has made considerable strides in attacking poverty, as measured by income, which fell from 39.9% in 2004 to 9.7% in 2014. Likewise, extreme poverty declined from 4.7% to 0.3% during the same decade.

High Quality

Many consider Uruguay’s healthcare system to be among the best because it employs 5.08 physicians per 1,000 people, which makes it one of the most well-staffed systems in the entire world. Uruguayan hospitals also offer a good variety of medical drugs and make it easy for patients to get the medications they need. Besides this, the Uruguayan healthcare system even offers mobile medical services to provide care to those who may have difficulty leaving the house.

Healthcare in Uruguay not only offers a variety of hospital plans but also fosters improvements in national health. By offering virtually free care to its low-income residents, the healthcare system in Uruguay removes all economic barriers to healthy living. Many individuals commend the system of healthcare in Uruguay because they believe it ensures that all citizens have access to the care they need.

Global Impacts

While many countries around the globe continue to struggle with creating a healthcare system that works for their citizens, Uruguay seems to have found a balanced healthcare system that keeps its citizens both happy and healthy.

In South America, Uruguay’s system has influenced its surrounding nations and provided a model for constructing a healthcare system. One can see this in how countries like Argentina. Similar to the Uruguayan system, the Argentinian healthcare system includes private, social security and public care sectors. The public sector offers mostly free care to many citizens. Akin to the private hospitals in the Uruguayan system, Argentinian private hospitals also tend to provide care to wealthier citizens; both public systems also tend to serve less wealthy individuals.

The multi-tiered care system and the element of free public care suggests a pattern between the Argentine and Uruguayan healthcare systems. Since Argentina adopted many facets of Uruguay’s system, it suggests that the effectiveness of Uruguay’s healthcare system has caused changes in the way other countries thought about and organized their healthcare.

In summary, healthcare in Uruguay presents a success story for the following reasons:

  • Uruguayan hospitals provide high-quality care to their patients and always work to the benefit of the patients

  • Public hospitals and private Mutualista plans provide a variety of healthcare options depending on patient needs

  • Uruguay’s public hospitals often provide free care to low-income patients, and in doing so improve the public health of the nation

Overall, Uruguay’s healthcare system acts as a beacon of progress in South America. Its healthcare system functions to improve public health and ensure care even for its low-income citizens, and for that reason fulfills many humanitarian goals. Because of this, the Uruguayan healthcare system continues to influence its neighboring countries by leading them towards developing high-quality healthcare systems that accommodate the economic needs of citizens.

– Nolan McMahon
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Sanitation in RussiaDespite Russia’s vast landscape and numerous bodies of water, access to clean, drinkable water is one of the nation’s most dire concerns. Although the government has recently taken steps to improve accessibility and water quality, years of inadequate infrastructure and weak pollution regulations have caused monumental damage. Here are 10 facts about sanitation in Russia.

10 Facts About Sanitation in Russia

  1. As of 2018, more than 11 million Russians do not have access to clean drinking water, according to the Russian regulatory bodies. Reports also show that roughly a third of Russia’s population of 144 million drink water with high iron content. While ingesting iron isn’t harmful to one’s health, iron in water attracts multiple breeds of bacteria, making it dangerous to drink. Not to mention, high iron content will turn water yellow and produce a foul smell.
  2. Although Moscow is the largest city in Russia, more than 56% of its water sources do not pass official water safety standards. A study in 2013 found high levels of sulfur, oil, aluminum and other hard metals in Moscow’s main river, the Moskva.
  3. Much of the pollutants in Russia’s water sources were dumped during Joseph Stalin’s rule, between 1941 and 1953. Stalin wanted the USSR to “catch up” with the western countries, and, as a result, factories forewent the usual environmental regulations in order to produce goods as quickly as possible.
  4. As recent as 2016, locals near Mayak, one of Russia’s nuclear complexes responsible for some of the largest radioactive accidents, speculated that the plant was still dumping waste into the Techa River. Mayak’s last confirmed case of illegal dumping was in 2004, and doctors have recorded consistently high rates of birth defects and cancer in the residents of the area.
  5. With around two million lakes and a quarter of the world’s freshwater reserves, Russia is not lacking any water. However, faulty pipes, pollution and inefficient filters have left much of the population without clean potable water. Scientists estimate that up to 60% of Russia’s water reserves do not pass sanitary standards, due to pollution and chemical dumping.
  6. Roughly 30% of the water pipelines that run through Russian towns and cities are in need of repair. The corrosion of these pipes not only stops them from working but can deposit even more harmful heavy metals into the already contaminated water supply.
  7. In 2010, the Russian Academy of Sciences created a government-backed plan called the Clean Water of Russia Program. This is Russia’s first and only government-issued program designed to overcome the water crisis. More than 2,000 separate proposals were collected and refined into the program, which was implemented in regions across the country. The program outlines goals to invest in improving water supply and waste disposal, protection for water sources against pollution and installing steel water pipes to last over 100 years.
  8. Although the Clean Water of Russia Program is a step in the right direction, many scientists have called out the lack of science-based data in the initiative. Reconstructing entirely new water systems may be economically favorable in some areas of the country while repairing pre-existing water systems would be more efficient in other areas. Some scholars worry that an inadequate number of scientists were involved in outlining the Clean Water of Russia Program, and the country will lose an unnecessary amount of money.
  9. Similar to the nationwide Clean Water of Russia Program, a smaller, government-backed plan entitled The Clean Water of Moscow was created in 2010 with plans to provide clean water to all of Moscow’s citizens. This plan was structured with the help of scientists. Since its inception, four water treatment plants utilize ozone-sorption technology to purify Moscow’s drinking water.
  10. Five years after the creation of the Clean Water of Russia Program, a study carried out by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations reported that 97% of Russian citizens’ water sources had improved in quality, and 72% of the population had improved and available sanitation facilities. However, improved quality does not equate to meeting water safety standards, and millions of people still do not have access to pure drinking water.

After examining these 10 facts about sanitation in Russia, there are still many obstacles in its path to clean water for all, including massive detrimental polluting during the 20th century and from nuclear power plants. In 2019, Russian President Vladimir Putin informed citizens in a broadcasted Q&A that access to water was still a prominent issue for the country, despite the launching of the Clean Water of Russia Program. However, through continued work, the Clean Water of Russia Program can make a positive difference in further improving clean water access.

– Anya Chung
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Healthcare in Singapore
The healthcare system in Singapore is globally renowned for its compelling design, which satisfies both conservatives and liberals. The universal healthcare system provides economically efficient and high-quality medical care in both private and public facilities.

Objectives of Healthcare

According to the Affordable Healthcare passage from Singapore’s Ministry of Health, the five fundamental objectives of the healthcare system include:

  • To nurture a healthy nation by promoting good health;

  • To promote personal responsibility for one’s health and avoid over-reliance on state welfare and medical insurance;

  • To provide good and affordable basic medical services to all Singaporeans;

  • To rely on competition and market forces to improve service and raise efficiency; and

  • To intervene directly in the health care sector; when necessary, where the market fails to keep health care costs down.

To summarize, the government acknowledges the strengths and limitations of the public and private sectors in health. Overall, healthcare in Singapore has a multipayer financing structure, where a “single treatment episode might be covered by multiple schemes and payers, often overlapping.”

Specifics of Singapore’s Success

The system is known as the 3Ms, which consists of:

  • MediShield Life – a universal basic health care insurance that is mandatory for citizens and permanent residents and provides lifelong security against large hospital bills and specific costly outpatient treatments.

  • MediSave – a mandatory savings plan consumes between 7 and 9.5% of worker’s wages, helping cover out-of-pocket payments. These tax-exempt, interest-bearing accounts can be used to pay for family members’ health care expenses or routine care.

  • MediFund – the government’s safety net for Singaporeans who cannot cover their out-of-pocket costs, even with MediSave.

Healthcare in Singapore is ranked among the best healthcare systems in the world, according to the World Health Organization (ranked 6th in 2010) and Bloomberg’s list, “These Are the Economies With the Most (and Least) Efficient Health Care.”

However, several factors beyond its structure contribute to Singapore’s successful healthcare system. Singapore is a small island city-state with a population of 5.6 million. Singapore’s physicians per 1,000 people ratio is 2.294, compared to the U.S’s, 1.565. Additionally, rates of smoking, alcoholism and drug abuse are relatively low, as well as the obesity rate. The healthier population predisposes “the country to … lower health spending.”

Limitations of Healthcare in Singapore

Although healthcare in Singapore receives acclaim for its ability to fund its systems through private markets, there are several limitations to consider, especially concerning Singapore’s underserved population. The lack of hospital beds in the emergency section of public hospitals causes patients with basic insurance plans to have limited financial protection. Since the spending on healthcare in Singapore is one of the lowest in the world (SGD 9.8 million out of SGD 400 billion), subsidies for patients are substantially limited.

Additionally, Singapore prides itself on its multipayer financial system; however, patients pay more than 60% of healthcare costs out-of-pocket. Thus, as Rachel Ngu, a writer for Mims Today (healthcare news across Asia), explains, “patients will need to pay an initial amount based on a subsidized class, as well as co-pay the rest of the bill. Aside from that, they will have to pay 10% of the rest of the bill for Integrated Plans.” Therefore, patients with basic coverage are not able to afford urgent medical attention because of the financial strain of medical bills, notably those without add-on integrated plans for more expensive hospital procedures.

Healthcare in Singapore is effective because of the efforts of the government and the people. Singapore has created a functioning healthcare system that regulates the supply and prices of healthcare services. Also, the system seeks to provide its citizen with security in the face of large medical bills. Though healthcare in Singapore is replicable on some levels, the system tailors to the specific needs of the economy and the demands of the people.

Mia Mendez
Photo: Flickr