10-Facts-About-Sanitation-in-Yemen
Yemen is currently going through a severe civil war. The Yemeni government’s failed political transition has led to multiple uprising since 2015. As the conflict enters its fifth year in 2020, the effects are becoming clearer. At the end of 2018, over 6,800 civilians had been killed. An additional 10,768 people were wounded and the conflict also had a significant impact on Yemen’s infrastructure. Sanitation is one aspect of Yemen’s infrastructure that has been affected the most by the ongoing conflict. Here are 10 facts about sanitation in Yemen.

10 Facts About Sanitation in Yemen

  1. Water is a scarce resource in Yemen. Before the current civil war began in 2015, experts already warned that Yemen’s capital city, Sana’a, might run out of water in 10 years. In a BBC report, they noted that this water problem is exasperated by farmers drilling underground wells without any government regulations.
  2. In 2018, an estimated 19.3 million people did not have access to clean water and sanitation. Years of aerial bombing and ground fighting destroyed Yemen’s water facilities. The power plants that supplied electricity to power water pumps and purification plants were also destroyed. This has put the quality of water and access to water in jeopardy.
  3. People in Yemen depend on private water suppliers for their water, as a result of the destruction of public water infrastructure. An estimated 56 percent of residents in the city of Sana’a and 57 percent in the city of Aden depend upon these private water distributors.
  4. This reliance on private water distribution contributes to high water prices. Private water distributors set their water prices based on the prevailing market price and the distance traveled to deliver their water. Since many of the wells close to populations are drying up, the distance these distributors need to travel is increasing. In the city of Sana’a, on average, people are paying 3.8 times more for water than if they had access to the public water supply network
  5. The weaponization of water use as a siege tactic in Yemen. The Saudi-UAE coalition and the Houthi rebels use water as a way to carry out strategic military operations. In 2016, Saudi forces carried out a strategic bombing of a reservoir that served as a source of drinking water for thirty thousand people.
  6. Access to improved latrines decreased from 71 percent in 2006 to 48 percent in 2018. Unsurprisingly, places that prioritized the rampant famine and cholera outbreak had the lowest rates of access to improved latrines. Furthermore, the majority of female respondents reported that their access to the latrines was particularly challenging because the majority of the latrines are not gender-segregated.
  7. Water in Yemen is often not sanitary. This is a result of the direct impact the civil war has on the sanitation in Yemen. Cholera remains the most significant threat to water quality, with Yemen still recovering from the cholera outbreak of 2017. As of November 2019, there were 11,531 suspected cases of cholera in Yemen.
  8. Destruction of wastewater treatment plants is contributing to poor sanitation in Yemen. Without facilities to treat wastewater, raw sewage is usually diverted to poor neighborhoods and agricultural lands. This leads to further contamination of local water wells and groundwater sources.
  9. UNICEF undertakes many restoration efforts for water treatment facilities in Yemen. For example, UNICEF restored a water treatment plant named Al Barzakh. This plant is one of the 10 water treatment centers that supplied water to Aden, Lahij and Abyan governorates. This $395,000 restoration project had a major impact. Cholera cases in the region dropped from 15,020 cholera cases in August 2017 to 164 cases in January 2018.
  10. The World Bank Group’s International Development Association is working on a 50 million-dollar project to provide electricity in Yemen. The project aims to provide solar-powered electricity to rural and peri-urban communities in Yemen. In addition to supplying powers to Yemeni schools, the project will improve sanitation in Yemen by providing power to water sanitation facilities. This is especially important for girls’ education in Yemen since the burden of water collection usually falls upon girls, often deterring girls from going to school.

These 10 facts about sanitation in Yemen highlight continuing problems as well as several efforts to address them. Water was already a scarce resource in Yemen even before the current conflict started in 2015. As the Yemeni civil war enters its fifth year, the effects of the deteriorating sanitation in Yemen are more than clear. However, efforts by groups such as UNICEF and the World Bank are working to fund, build and restore many sanitation facilities in Yemen. With the recent indirect peace talk between the combatants, many hope that conditions in Yemen will improve in the future.

– YongJin Yi
Photo: Flickr

Childhood Education in Rural UzbekistanAfter gaining independence from the Soviet Union in the 1990s, Uzbekistan gradually lifted itself off the ground, despite malnutrition problems, a lack of government transparency and high unemployment rates. Since then, advancements have been made to improve opportunities for education in rural Uzbekistan.

Education in Rural Uzbekistan

Children living in rural areas are at a geographic disadvantage compared to those who live in cities. Issues affecting children living in impoverished, rural areas include a lack of access to basic education and healthcare services.

Approximately 46 percent of children living in urban areas are enrolled in school, but in rural areas, this number drops to 23 percent. The population of children aged 0-3 living in rural Kashkadarya, for example, grew by 12 percent from 2013 to 2016, yet rates of enrollment have not kept up with a growing rural population.

Making a Difference

Ameliorating the effects of child labor and the lack of access to primary education coupled with the establishment of protections over children’s rights have set the foundation upon which Uzbekistan has begun to build its nation. Programs such as the Rural Basic Education Project have been allocating funding to improve learning conditions in the rural areas of Tashkent, Surkhandarya and Kashkadarya. The goal is to increase opportunities for higher education for children living in rural Uzbekistan.

Child Labor Issues

A major, longstanding issue Uzbekistan faces is the state-controlled labor system that supports massive amounts of cotton exports. This hinders education in rural Uzbekistan from making lasting and important impacts on children.

Government-mandated labor quotas that previously included children forced out of school are becoming lenient and age-restricted. As a result, there has been a substantial decrease in the number of children working in fields. This has led to an increase in funding and the number of schools, increasing education access for rural children. In rural areas, more children are continuing their education, rather than being forced into state-mandated labor. As a result, more adults, specifically women, have greater job opportunities than they otherwise would.

Increased educational opportunities lead to greater attention to human rights laws and how they impact children living in poverty. The availability of a more open education system has also improved gender equality.

For the first time, 56,000 children are enrolled in partial-day preschool programs because of the Improving Pre-Primary and General Secondary Education Project administered by the Ministry of Public Education of Uzbekistan and regulated by the World Bank. Developing the education system, specifically in rural areas, has led to greater economic success and improved livelihoods.

The Future for Uzbekistan

Uzbekistan still faces pressing issues, including forced labor and violations of human rights. However, by investing in its children, the country has become characterized by progress and improved quality of life. The children living in poverty are the future of Uzbekistan. Through a focus on providing education for children in rural Uzbekistan, the nation is helping them grow and flourish.

Jessica Ball
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

10 Facts About Sanitation in Sudan

Sudan is the third-largest country in Africa and boasts a rich history that traces back to antiquity. Decades of unrest and civil war have crippled the economy and seriously stunted the development of domestic infrastructure, including basic sanitation. In recent years, the Sudanese government, along with the international community, has taken steps towards addressing these challenges. Here are 10 facts about sanitation in Sudan.

10 Facts About Sanitation in Sudan

  1. Open Defecation: More than 30 percent of the population practices open defecation, which is more than any other North African nation. This practice is most prevalent in rural areas where nearly 70 percent of Sudan’s population resides. Open defecation poses serious risks to clean water sources and exposes a large portion of the population to diseases like cholera, dysentery, typhoid, hepatitis and intestinal parasites.
  2. Waterborne Illnesses and Poor Sanitation: The most common result of absent clean water sources is dysentery. In Sudan, diarrhea causes around 12 percent of child deaths. Cholera outbreaks are common, the most recent being in October 2019 and infecting nearly 300 people.
  3. Menstrual Hygiene: People in Sudan treat menstruation with a lot of stigma and shame. Many women resort to unsanitary devices to conceal menstrual bleeding. Unsafe water also increases the chance of infection. Female hygiene resources and education in rural areas have been instrumental in reducing illness, infection and childhood mortality rates. UNICEF has helped develop gender-segregated bathrooms at schools to provide private space for girls to assist with menstrual management.
  4. Water Treatment Facilities: In the last 10 years, Sudan pledged $1 billion in funding for the development and maintenance of clean water sources, wells and pumping stations with the help of the international community. The use of these improved water sources has increased by 55 percent.
  5. WASH: Sudan has targeted rural areas with the WASH (water and sanitation hygiene) initiative with the help of NGOs like Near East Foundation (NEF), USAID and UNICEF. They hope to ensure clean water access to all Sudanese households by 2025 by drilling wells and developing water sanitation facilities.
  6. International Community: WHO and UNDP have been key in their funding of NGOs in Sudan, specifically UNICEF. In fact, 2.3 million Sudanese gained access to clean water between 2013 and 2015 because of their efforts.
  7. Civil Unrest: Sudan has experienced multiple civil wars and a 30-year-long military dictatorship under Omar al-Bashir. Due to these events of civil unrest, many areas of state development suffered underfunding or neglect. In April 2019, protests forced Omar al-Bashir to resign his post. This has instilled new hope and desire for social-civilian infrastructure to address public health and sanitation.
  8. Poor System Supply Chains and Limited Government Resources Diminish Clean Water Access: Sudan has worked to improve clean water access in recent decades, but while 68 percent of households have access to some form of clean water, nearly 30 percent of rural clean water treatment systems are inoperable or understaffed due to deficiencies within the government. Years of civil war and public unrest have significantly crippled supply chains and government oversight.
  9. Hygiene Education: Only 25 percent of Sudanese use soap when washing their hands, a statistic that USAID has focused on inverting. Nationwide campaigns have emerged to educate the public on hand-washing. Additionally, UNICEF issued educational resources to more than 14,000 schools and numerous mosques, ultimately reaching around 4.2 million children.
  10. Sudan National Sanitation and Hygiene Strategic Framework (SNSHSF): The SNSHSF emerged in 2016, a cohesive consulting force consisting of government and private sector individuals and committees to bring modern improvements to Sudan’s sanitation infrastructure. Funded by UNICEF and WHO, this organization has been key to developing and implementing strategies to ensure basic sanitation needs for the public.

While these 10 facts about sanitation in Sudan show the country’s challenges regarding open defecation, handwashing and water treatment, it is clearly making efforts to improve. With continued efforts from Sudan’s government, the international community and NGOs, the country should eventually be able to grant basic sanitation to all.

Tiernán Gordon
Photo: USAID

10 Facts about Life Expectancy in Brunei Darussalam
Brunei Darussalam is a small, Southeast Asian country nestled in the Indonesian Archipelago. Currently, the average life expectancy is about 76 years, which is roughly four years higher than the U.N.’s estimated global average of about 72.6 years. While certain factors like an individual’s personal habits and existing health conditions can factor into life expectancy, socioeconomic status drives this number on a larger level. With this in mind, here are 10 facts about life expectancy in Brunei Darussalam.

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Brunei Darussalam

  1. The life expectancy in Brunei Darussalam has been steadily increasing. Since the 1950s, life expectancy was a mere 50 years old, whereas it is now 75.93 years. Women on average tend to live to 77 years old, while men live to be about 74.
  2. The infant mortality rate is worsening. As of 2018, there were about 9.8 deaths in infants for every 1,000 live births before they reached 1 year old. This number has been creeping up, since it was 7.7 per 1,000 in 2005, due to the high amount of babies being born underweight and the persistence of deficient red blood cells in women and young children.
  3. According to the U.N.’s Human Development Report, Brunei Darussalam is ‘very high in human development.’ It ranked Brunei Darussalam 39th among the world’s powers – tied with Saudi Arabia. Its Human Development Index ranking went up one from 2016, when it ranked 40, still falling within the ‘very high’ ranking in human development. Life expectancy is a component that the U.N. uses to measure a nation’s development index.
  4. The population has been increasing since 1955. While the rate of this increase is lessening, the percentage of the population that has urbanized has been increasing, with the urbanization percentage rising to 79.5 percent from its 34.6 percent in 1955. Urbanization largely occurs with an increased life expectancy, more employment opportunities and physical development within a nation.
  5. Most of the population over the age of 15 has employment. More men have employment than women at 70.6 percent, with the percentage of employed women sitting at 51.5 percent. This is an increase from 1991 when only 44.5 percent of women had work. Studies show that those in the labor force tend to live longer than those who are not.
  6. Coronary heart disease is the leading cause of death. As of 2007 and holding true to 2017, coronary heart disease remains the leading cause of death in Brunei, with it also being the leading cause of premature deaths.  In a study that determined the leading cause of death and disability combined, coronary heart disease ranked second.
  7. The rate of adult literacy in Brunei is 95.3 percent. In 2009, Brunei launched a new education program, which would give the populace a free six years of primary school and four or five years of secondary school, with the option for the pursuit of higher education or vocational school available. Literacy and life expectancy link together through socioeconomic factors, with those who are literate likely living in more favorable socioeconomic circumstances, which ultimately leads to a higher life expectancy.
  8. Brunei has an immunization coverage of 97.8 percent. This exceeds The World Health Organization’s target, which is 95 percent. Immunization is a major contributor to the increased global average life expectancy, as it protects people from diseases that were often fatal prior to vaccines.
  9. Brunei boasts good air quality. According to a real-time map index, the various checkpoints throughout Brunei (Kuala Belait, Pekan Tutong, Brunei Muara and Temburong) have consistently been reporting satisfactory air quality that poses little to no threat, the healthiest setting on the scale. This is comparable to the surrounding checkpoints in Malaysia, which indicate that people who are particularly sensitive to air pollution might be at risk.
  10. Brunei has a reliable infrastructure. Brunei’s population pays no income or sales taxes. Those in Brunei also enjoy low crime rates, free public schooling up through secondary education, free health care and subsidized housing, all of which contribute to a higher life expectancy.

The overall life expectancy in Brunei Darussalam, as well as components that contribute to a higher life expectancy, are doing well within the standards of the developed world. These 10 facts about life expectancy in Brunei Darussalam provide more information on several issues in the country.

Catherine Lin
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

10 Facts About Human Trafficking in Brazil
Brazil is the largest country in South America and a key player in the international sphere. Despite its power and influence, there are still human rights issues prevalent in Brazil’s population. Human trafficking affects a significant portion of the 211 million people living in the country. Here are 10 facts about human trafficking in Brazil.

10 Facts About Human Trafficking in Brazil

  1. Due to recent urbanization in Brazil, many industries, such as textile companies, are exploiting undocumented workers, especially those from neighboring Spanish-speaking countries. Undocumented workers are not the only victims of human trafficking in Brazil, however, as women and children are in situations of forced labor or prostitution. Between the years of 2010 and 2017, Brazil had over 500 cases of forced sexual exploitation, stemming from the country’s severe income inequality. Since 2005, Brazil’s government has made efforts to reduce the income gap, but since over 70 percent of those in forced labor situations are illiterate, these efforts have yet to impact the high rates of human trafficking in Brazil.
  2. Traffickers are taking women from their homes in small villages. The NGO Rede Um Grito pela Vida, which translates to A Cry for Life Network, reports that criminal organizations are taking females from their homes in small villages along the Amazon. The traffickers tell these women that they will have a better life involving work or education. Furthermore, criminal organizations usually move them to other Brazilian cities. The traffickers commonly place these women into roles of forced sexual exploitation.
  3. The U.S. Department of State has commended the efforts of the Brazilian government in its work towards ending human trafficking in the country. Such work includes convicting more traffickers, investigating and prosecuting more trafficking cases and identifying more victims of “trabalho escravo,” or unpaid labor. Although each state’s reported data varies, Brazil remains a “tier 2” country, meaning that it is working in the right direction, but still has a long way to go to decrease human trafficking at an effective rate.
  4. In 2019, Brazilian authorities brought down a human trafficking ring that specifically targetted transgender women. At least 38 transgender women were working in brothels in the state of Sao Paulo, where traffickers were holding them due to the debts they owed for undergoing illegal transitional surgeries. The importance of this case involves the distinction between sex work and the exploitation of sex workers. Sex work is legal in Brazil. However, the exploitation of sex workers blurs the line between human trafficking and legal employment.
  5. The Ministry of Labor implemented the use of “Special Mobile Inspection Groups” with the aim of spotting forced labor in rural areas. It does this by performing unannounced inspections in farms and factories. Between the years of 1995 and 2017, there have been over 53,000 successful rescues of forced laborers in Brazil through the efforts of these inspection groups.
  6. According to the Digital Observatory of Slavery Labour in Brazil, government agencies rescued over 35,000 people from slave labor between 2003 and 2017. The Federal Police performed many of the rescue missions in the form of raids on groups that utilize human trafficking. These raids, in particular, focused individuals who had to provide labor for no cost to their captors.
  7. Although there are many kinds of human trafficking, a common type of modern slavery inside Brazil is forced labor. Forced labor is prevalent in rural areas. It focuses on industries that require field labor, such as cattle ranching, coffee production and forestry. About 7 million domestic workers in Brazil are victims of forced labor. This means they work long hours, suffer abuse and receive little to no pay.
  8. There are many NGOs working to provide legal and social assistance to victims of human trafficking in Brazil and its neighboring countries. The GLO.ACT, an initiative that the E.U. and the U.N. support, began its efforts in Nicaragua, and since then expanded to providing assistance to over 100 participants from NGOs and government agencies in Brazil. In addition, it provides missions in Brazil where participants can visit cities and help vulnerable migrants find shelter, all while creating awareness about the issue of human trafficking.
  9. The U.S. Department of State’s 2019 trafficking report outlines the role of the Brazilian Federal Police (DPF) in combatting human trafficking. The DPF has a unit in every state in Brazil that investigates most trafficking crimes. Although law enforcement at all levels lacks sufficient funding and staffing, the support of international organizations and foreign governments is supplementing this deficit.
  10. Traffickers often trick undocumented migrants into entering Brazil under the false pretense that they will live in the U.S. The traffickers then either force those migrants into human trafficking rings or dangerous journeys from Brazil up to the border between the U.S. and Mexico. The U.S. is taking legal action in response to these crimes and prosecuting human traffickers through its judicial system when their crimes cross the U.S. border.

 Although these 10 facts about human trafficking in Brazil present startling statistics, there remains a beacon of hope surrounding the topic. Brazil’s government is taking steps towards advancing the legal protection of human rights in the country, such as ratifying the United Nations Palermo Protocol. International human trafficking is an issue that requires support from various sectors, especially from governments and their agencies. Through international support and awareness, facts about human trafficking in Brazil may replace with more positive statistics. Overall, the work of NGOs, foreign aid and the Brazilian government continues to generate progress in the fight against human trafficking.

Ariana Davarpanah
Photo: Flickr

Effective Altruism 
From an idea and philosophy, Effective Altruism has evolved and transformed into a very broad and cohesive social movement over the years. Though heavily featured in the nonprofit sector, Effective Altruism focuses on scientific projects, policy-making and organizations with the ethos of finding effective ways to do ‘the most good’ and ‘do good better,’ both individually and collectively. Effective Altruism prioritizes a variety of different causes, impartiality and cost-effectiveness, along with assessing potential funding impacts and counterfactual reasoning.

Effective Altruism Singapore

The Borgen Project had an opportunity to get in touch with the Effective Altruism chapter in Singapore, an up and coming organization with a focus on ‘effective giving.’ As an organization, the chapter is able to sustain and appeal to people because of Singapore’s friendly and burgeoning nonprofit environment as well as its relatively wealthier population, and more stable incomes and economy.

With a heavy focus on research and careful analysis, the Effective Altruism Chapter in Singapore, in particular, is able to work on the best cases and understand specific communities in need. Like many of its companion chapters around the world, it also focuses on more neglected issues in global poverty reduction initiatives such as global health and development and factory-farmed animals as well as other problems and existential risks like natural disasters and climate change. Stunting, in particular, is a grave and predominant focus for Effective Altruism Singapore, with a heavy concentration on child and maternal health care malnutrition owing to the fact that nearly 25.8 percent of children in southeast Asia are stunted. Effective Altruism’s evidence-based research patterns and analysis shows that around 30 percent of children in communities across Indonesia and the Philippines experience adverse impacts of stunting.

The GiveWell Framework

Moreover, the chapter employs the more empirical and analytical GiveWell framework in its work to evaluate potentially high-impact giving opportunities in SouthEast Asia. GiveWell, one of the pioneering organizations behind the Effective Altruism movement, focuses on scouting reliable charities that can improve lives the most per dollar so that there is effective and impactful usage of philanthropic funds. The objective is chiefly to deduce how useful it is to give an amount equivalent to a dollar and evaluate how it could potentially impact a specific target community.

In accordance with Effective Altruism’s GiveWell framework, giving opportunities are largely dependent on an in-depth analysis involving thousands of hours of research which it then uses to find top-rated charities backed by evidence, thorough analysis and vetting to ensure transparency and accountability. GiveWell also tries to understand the root causes of issues such as stunting and malnutrition. Organizations such as the Malaria Foundation and Malaria Consortium remain some of GiveWell’s most important recommendations in the health care aspect of its many global poverty alleviation priorities.

The GiveWell Framework’s Role at Effective Altruism Singapore

Consequently, many of Effective Altruism Singapore’s pilot projects and initiatives employ the GiveWell framework as it is helpful while analyzing and understanding some of the high-impact giving opportunities in Southeast Asia, especially in key priority realms like the provision of WASH (Water, Hygiene and Sanitation) services as well as childhood malnutrition. In the year 2018, the chapter focused on looking for organizations and charities that delivered more evidence-based interventions that targeted preventable and cost-effective health issues and impacted some of the poorest populations and communities in Southeast Asia.

To conclude, the workings and functioning of Effective Altruism Singapore help paint a broad picture of the Effective Altruism philosophy and movement as a whole due to its rather abstract nature. It remains groundbreaking and innovative because it offers a more objective as well as a critical approach to addressing and combatting poverty in the long run especially because it aims to use more research and evidence focused methods.

As a whole, it remains an essential and significant reflection into the applications of the ideology and the potential impacts it can have on the way one perceives global poverty-related issues across various communities around the world.

– Shivani Ekkanath
Photo: Wikipedia Commons

5 Human Trafficking Awareness AppsThere are more slaves now than ever before in human history. Because of this, human trafficking can often feel too big to tackle, but thanks to technology, there are practical ways to join the fight against trafficking in persons. Here are five human trafficking awareness apps that everyone should know.

5 Human Trafficking Awareness Apps

  1. Sweat & Toil – The Sweat & Toil app was created by the U.S. Department of Labor to inform consumers of items created through child labor or forced labor, allowing them to make more informed buying decisions. The app also provides global child labor data, research on countries’ efforts to eliminate child labor and a review of laws related to child and forced labor.
  2. The STOP APP – This app, created by STOP THE TRAFFIK, gives people the ability to anonymously report suspected human trafficking activity. The platform makes it easy to fill out a report and even add pictures if a witness is able to take them. The STOP APP is available in seven languages and can be used worldwide. The reports made on the app go directly to the STOP THE TRAFFIK database which can assist law enforcement in investigation efforts. STOP THE TRAFFIK is a campaign coalition founded in 2006 that seeks to educate, mobilize and equip communities with the resources they need to end human trafficking.
  3. Good On YouGood On You is another app that can increase human trafficking awareness. This app is an effective way to hold fashion brands accountable. Good On You researches clothing companies and compiles the information into an easy-to-understand score. The scores are based on companies’ commitments to doing better by people, animals and the earth. This includes sustainability efforts, animal testing and the treatment of employees. This app enables consumers to make informed decisions on where they are purchasing clothes and increases brand transparency. If a brand does not appear on the app, Good On You encourages users to reach out to them.
  4. TraffickCam – Specifically created for travelers, this app allows users to photograph their hotel rooms and add them to TraffickCam’s database. Law enforcement can then analyze submitted photos to find human trafficking locations. Traffickers regularly post pictures of sex trafficking victims in hotel rooms for online advertisements. The more pictures added to the database, the more likely law enforcement can track down the hotel. Prosecutors can also use these photos as evidence to convict traffickers. This app was created by Exchange Initiative (EI) in 2015. EI provides resources and educational programs to help fight sex trafficking. The mission of EI is to promote global awareness of sex trafficking and spark action at the local level.
  5. ACT! – ACT! is a game designed to help increase sex-trafficking awareness among junior high and high school students. This is an interactive, story-structured game. In the game, players pick a character and learn about manipulation into sex-trafficking through a friend who is dealing with it. The app asks players to identify red flags in different scenarios and quizzes players on the potential red flags. If stumped, players can use resources such as law enforcement and reference books to help them out. ACT! is a great way to make students aware of manipulation and coercion into sex-trafficking. It can also increase students’ awareness of their peers and potential red flags to look out for.

While they are not the only ones out there, these are apps can increase human trafficking awareness in small, practical ways. They are all free, easy to use and can make all the difference.

– Megan McKeough
Photo: Pxhere

Global Energy Poverty
Around 840 million people around the world have no access to electricity. Global energy poverty is prevalent with most living in developing nations in South Asia, Latin America and rural Africa. In India, more than 300 million people lack access to electricity. In Sub-Saharan Africa, that number is twice as high.

Energy poverty or the lack of access to modern energy services, including electricity and clean cooking facilities, remains a barrier to global prosperity and individual well-being. That is why ensuring basic energy for 100 percent of the world’s population by 2030 is one of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals. Yet, at the current rate of progress, 650 million people will still live in the dark. Microgrids have the potential to improve that course and eliminate global energy poverty.

What are Microgrids?

Microgrids or mini-grids are small, localized power grids. They can operate on their own using local energy generation without needing a connection to a larger power grid. Renewable resources power most along with diesel back-up and batteries.

Microgrids can power fridges, fans, irrigation pumps and other basic machinery. With microgrid energy, families can power appliances that save time on household chores, farmers can increase crop yield with irrigation and schools can light their classrooms.

Benefits of Microgrids

With low costs and high yields, microgrids could end global poverty. The price of batteries, solar and other energy technologies has been decreasing since 2010, in turn reducing the cost of microgrids. The International Energy Agency named localized power grids as the most cost-effective option to deliver electricity to more than 70 percent of the unconnected. Continued innovation will further drive cost reduction.

Microgrids are also modular, easy to transport and simple to install. This makes them especially valuable in remote and rural areas.

Use of Microgrids

In India and Sub-Saharan Africa, microgrids are already electrifying and transforming communities. SmartPower India, with support from the Rockefeller Foundation, has used microgrids to power more than 100 villages and serve 40,000 people. Since the project launched in 2015, carpenters and tailors have more than doubled their productivity, farmers have built cold storage facilities to keep produce and entrepreneurs have opened small businesses. Local economies grew by $18.50 per capita.

In Kenya, a solar company is using microgrids to deliver power to villages deep in the African bush. SteamaCo’s microgrids supply 10,000 households and businesses across 25 villages with electricity. This has allowed for businesses to trade longer, students to study after dark and communities to grow more independent.

A lack of access to modern, reliable and affordable energy services hinders communities and cripples economies. It is time to turn the light on for the billions of people without access to electricity. Microgrids could end global energy poverty.

– Kayleigh Rubin
Photo: U.S. Marine Corps

Understanding the Venezuela Crisis
Venezuela’s socioeconomic debacle has been grabbing headlines over the past few years, especially as the crippling inflation rate—recently eclipsing 10,000 percent—hit the country’s economy and began to unravel its health sector. But these are just two of the key components to understanding the Venezuela crisis and its various impacts as the humanitarian crisis continues to debilitate the region following many years of unrest.

Many Years of Strife

Since the death of former Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez in 2013 and the appointment of the current leader, Nicolás Maduro, the country has experienced a dire financial crisis as a result of low oil prices and financial mismanagement. Various power struggles and changes within the country’s National Assembly marked the political and humanitarian crisis that ensued.

The country’s military largely continues to back Maduro despite domestic, international and widespread condemnation of his authoritarian government. The political crisis has now spread to all levels of the economy and society, with nearly 4.5 million individuals having fled Venezuela due to the escalating unrest.

Following anti-government protests in 2014 after the victory of Maduro’s party the previous year, the economy and health care sector began their plunge and had all but collapsed by 2016. Malnutrition, child mortality and unemployment rates began to rise as a result. The United Nations estimates that the undernourishment rate in the country has quadrupled since the year 2012, putting more than 300,000 lives at risk due to limited access to medical treatment and medicines. Aid and relief efforts continue to face major hindrances due to mounting strife.

As the economic and humanitarian crisis grew over recent years, there was significant backlash and condemnation from foreign nations including the U.S. followed by significant international sanctions, especially over the increasingly authoritarian measures that Maduro took to pass laws autonomously and virtually unchecked.

Venezuela’s Refugee Crisis

Another dimension to understanding the Venezuela crisis is its refugee crisis as the economic and political problems have resulted in a dire humanitarian emergency. Since the beginning of the crisis back in 2014, over 4.6 million Venezuelans have fled the country. Mass displacement and humanitarian challenges continue mostly unabated due to integration obstacles, immigration and border pressures.

In 2019, the UNHCR-led joint effort, the Regional Refugee and Migrant Rescue Response Plan, along with the International Organisation of Migration (IOM) called for the provision of $738 million in assistance to countries in the Caribbean and Latin America that were dealing with the impacts of the migrant exodus. Unfortunately, the Venezuelan refugee crisis remains one of the most underfunded in the world.

Aid and Other Positive Developments

Throughout 2019, the Venezuelan government under Maduro refused aid relief headed by Brazil, Colombia and the U.S., relying on Russia’s 300 tons of humanitarian assistance instead which included food as well as medical supplies. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has been overseeing foreign aid, especially medical and food supplies from Russia and other countries. However, at the same time, aid relief and efforts such as the distribution of crucial medicines have stalled owing to the escalating political crisis and mounting corruption.

The U.S. and President Donald Trump have not only pledged humanitarian financial assistance but have declared their support for the democratic opposition group led by Juan Guaidó. In October 2019, USAID signed a major development agreement with Guaidó’s shadow government, thereby raising aid and assistance to $116 million and allocating a further $568 million to helping Venezuelans displaced by the conflict. Though the U.S. and its allies remain committed to toppling Maduro’s regime and reinstating rule of law, they are in serious conflict with Maduro’s international allies, namely Russia, Turkey and China.

Hope for the Future

The Center for Prevention Action from the Council on Foreign Relations believes it is imperative to consider important policy options to help promote democracy as well as channel crucial humanitarian aid and assistance, perhaps even by means of forced humanitarian intervention and post-transition stabilization.

Even though the Venezuelan crisis at times may seem to be reaching an impasse, it remains possible that the humanitarian and pro-democracy efforts of foreign powers could ultimately lead to a post-Maduro scenario. The year 2020 will be an important year in determining the ultimate fate of the country and the internal power struggles. The international community will hold an indispensable role in helping to create a better understanding of the Venezuela crisis and to help create a promising future for the country.

Shivani Ekkanath
Photo: Wikipedia Commons

Sanitation in Pakistan
Pakistan had a population of 210 million people as of 2017 and is the world’s fifth-most populous country. Further, it is surprising that Pakistan’s GDP has grown 3.3 percent in a single year considering that 24 percent of its population lives below the national poverty line. Poverty has contributed to citizens’ ongoing struggle with inadequate sanitation. Here are 10 facts about sanitation in Pakistan.

10 Facts About Sanitation in Pakistan

  1. Pakistan is among the top 10 countries in the world that lack access to clean water. The nonprofit organization WaterAid conducted a study revealing that 21 million people out of the country’s total population lack access to clean water. Out of Pakistan’s total population, 79.2 percent of the rural poor have access to clean water. On the other hand, 98 percent of Pakistan’s rich have access to clean water. 
  2. Seventy-nine million people in Pakistan do not have access to a proper toilet. According to WaterAid.org, every two out of five people, or the majority of people living in poor rural areas, do not have access to a toilet. The lack of adequate facilities can create additional problems for citizens, such as bacterial infection or diarrhea. In fact, 16,800 children under the age of 5 die from diarrhea each year. WaterAid is currently working to combat the sanitation issue in Pakistan by working with government and local officials to provide proper toilet facilities throughout disadvantaged communities.
  3. Pakistan’s women and young girls often stay at home rather than partaking in normal activities, due to a lack of menstruation supplies and proper facilities. According to the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), 75 percent of women stay at home during menstruation. Due to a lack of resources and cleaning facilities, many girls have no choice but to use unsanitary methods for managing menstruation, such as homemade sanitary pads. Further, these methods are prone to cause vaginal infections as a result of reuse. 
  4. Improper sanitation and food storage are some of the major sanitation issues in Pakistan. The National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) reveals the prevalence of illness from improper food care. Contamination of food due to washing it in unsanitary water sources can cause bacteria like E. Coli, salmonella and other pathogens to enter the human body, causing severe illness.
  5. Waterborne diseases are prevalent as a result of untreated drinking water. According to the Pakistan Council of Research in Water Resources (PCRWR), 62 percent of the urban population and 84 percent of the rural population of Pakistan do not treat their drinking water to prevent waterborne diseases. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) estimates that 40 percent of all diseases in Pakistan are due to unsanitary drinking water.
  6. Stunted growth due to unsanitary conditions affects 38 percent of children in Pakistan. The United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) found that unsanitary conditions like drinking and bathing in unsanitary water stunt growth. In the state of Sindh, stunted growth affects 50 percent of children, which can also cause cognitive development stunting. The consequences of stunting are irreversible, causing lifelong implications for the child into adulthood. Working with these communities, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has begun a stunting reduction program to work with families to provide children with clean water and facilities to fight against poor sanitation in Pakistan.
  7. The misuse of pesticides in Pakistan’s agricultural fields results in an annual death rate of 10,000 people per year from agrochemical poisoning. Around 500,000 people fall ill annually as a result, although most are fortunate to recover. When people do not properly use pesticides, they can persist through rain and flooding, eventually entering water sources. People drink these water sources, in turn causing illness. Training is crucial for agricultural workers to properly prevent water contamination.
  8. The population growth rate has been climbing since the late 1900s. According to the United Nations, the total population of the country will reach 220 million people by mid-2020. A researcher with the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) stresses that millions of people still live without access to clean drinking water, which includes large metropolitan cities where drinking water is scarce. The Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) recommendation for government intervention to bring clean water to overpopulated areas should help improve sanitation in Pakistan.
  9. The lack of proper toilet facilities is a part of 41 million people’s lives in Pakistan. According to The United Nations International Emergency Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the lack of toilets leaves people with no choice but to practice open defecation, which can lead to the spread of diseases among communities. Pakistan is the third-largest country where people practice open defecation. UNICEF is working with the government to help build toilet facilities for communities that need them to ultimately improve sanitation in Pakistan. These facilities are especially important for girls to protect them against assault, which happens often during open defecation.
  10. Only two cities in Pakistan — Islamabad and Karachi — have biological waste facilities. These facilities clean only about 8 percent of wastewater due to limited functioning, even with the already limited number of facilities to filter wastewater. Industrial waste also pollutes water in Pakistan. Out of 6,000 of the country’s registered businesses, 1,228 have “highly polluted” water sources. Government officials are working towards improving water treatment centers. Pakistan established the National Water Policy (NWP) to ensure that the country applies 10 percent of national funding to the development and repair of water infrastructure.

Pakistan’s impoverished citizens experience sanitation issues the most. The solutions are fairly simple but Pakistan’s acceptance of outside support will be a substantial step. If one considers the progress that Pakistan is already making to change the lives of people facing sanitation challenges in Pakistan, it is clear that the country should be able to implement real change and help communities thrive for years to come.

– Amelia Sharma
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