Right to Play’s“Protect. Educate. Empower.” This is Right to Play’s mission to help more than 1.52 million children overcome adversity yearly through the power of play. Olympian Johann Olav Koss founded the organization that now operates within 15 countries across the globe, using all kinds of play in education to help children develop important social and emotional learning skills. Sports, games and arts are all crucial elements of play that support such development of skills for a child to become an agent of change for themselves and their communities.

5 Facts Highlighting Why Play is Important for a Child’s Development

  1. Dr. Sam Wang and Dr. Sandra Aamodt found that play can reduce stress by activating neurotransmitters such as norepinephrine, which improves brain plasticity, increases alertness and can boost one’s mood.
  2. When children “free-play,” they can assert their agency and control over their experience and can promote their imagination.
  3. When a child plays games or learns a new dance move, they are developing their cognition. This means they are improving in different forms of knowledge and perception, according to UNICEF.
  4. Edutopia asserts that guided play, play with the supervision of adults, is beneficial to promoting kids’ problem-solving and recall of information skills when open-ended questions are involved. For example, questions starting with “Tell me about” encourage children to reflect upon their thinking as well as challenge their communication skills.
  5.  Peter K. Smith and Jennifer M. StGeorge learned that kids who participate in “rough and tumble play” both with their parents and their peers are more likely to be able to “self-regulate” and have increased levels of “social-emotional adjustment,” and this enables the child to benefit from further learning opportunities offered to them.

Right to Play’s Work in Ghana

Ghana has made great improvements in its education system over the past decades, including higher rates of attendance in primary school, which have increased by 20% since 2002. Still, there are barriers affecting schoolchildren. There is a wealth disparity among children, with 1.6 times more of the country’s richest children completing primary school compared to the poorest in 2020. Indeed, the poorest children accounted for 20% of the school-aged population whilst simultaneously accounting for the greater part of children aged 6-15 out of school.

The fact that around a fifth of children aged 5-17 are involved in child labor, usually working in agriculture, fishing and cocoa production, which is highly strenuous work, further shapes this disparity in accessing education. Most of these children are working for their family’s survival, and this negatively sustains a vicious cycle of poverty, as those affected are unable to return to school and seize learning opportunities.

How is Right to Play Helping?

Beyond working directly with 495 schools within seven target districts in the country, Right to Play, in collaboration with The LEGO Foundation, has been supporting Ghana’s Ministry of Education through implementing play-based approaches within “in-service education and training and school-level professional development plans.”

By 2025, Right to Play aims to reach 12,758,600 children and youth and 368,336 educators across 10,000 schools selected for the Ghana Accountability for Learning Outcomes Project (GALOP).

So far, Right to Play’s program implementation in schools has had notable impacts. Not only are teachers better at engaging students through “child-centered learning,” with female teachers accounting for a 48.5% increase in engagement in lessons, but Right to Play program leaders were able to address 95% of cases of child laborers in the targeted districts, allowing for many children to access opportunities that allow them to escape the vicious cycle of poverty.

Looking Ahead

Right to Play’s mission of using play to protect, educate and empower children is making a significant impact in Ghana. By collaborating with the Ministry of Education and implementing play-based approaches, the organization is improving education outcomes and addressing the challenges faced by disadvantaged children, including child labor. The positive results, such as increased student engagement and reduced child labor cases, demonstrate the effectiveness of Right to Play’s programs in breaking the cycle of poverty and providing opportunities for children to thrive.

– Lucy Gebbie
Photo: Flickr

Child and Youth Poverty in the EUResearch suggests that child and youth poverty in the EU is of significant concern. In light of this fact, several organizations are taking action to address the issue.

Youth Poverty in the EU

Eurostat research shows that young Europeans face a higher risk of experiencing poverty than the population as a whole. Whereas in 2021, about 20% of people aged 15-29 faced a risk of falling into poverty, and this risk stood at 17% for the EU population overall. Since 2010, the at-risk poverty rate for the age group 15-29 has remained higher than that of the general population, but the difference between these rates has decreased since hitting a peak in 2016.

In particular, Denmark notes the greatest discrepancy, with 25.6% of youth at risk of poverty in 2021 compared to 12.3% of the total population. On the opposite spectrum, Latvia, Malta, Estonia and Croatia reported significantly smaller gaps and the Czech Republic had the lowest percentage of children and youth at risk of poverty in the EU.

Eurostat data reveals that in 2021, Romania (23.1%), Bulgaria (18.7%) and Greece (14.2%) had the highest percentages of severely materially and socially deprived youth aged 15-29. For the general EU population, this rate stood at about 6%.

Eurostat also clarified that 11 of the 26 European Union members with data had a rate of less than 3%. These countries include Luxembourg, Poland, Sweden, Cyprus, Czechia, Netherlands, Croatia, Slovenia, Finland, Austria and Estonia.

Youth platform YPulse says inflation, higher costs of energy, slow income growths and global supply chain problems have impacted “living standards and spending habits of young Europeans,” making food insecurity, poverty and homelessness a more significant issue. Young Europeans have to resort to meeting only some of their basic needs instead of all due to these issues.

Child Poverty in the EU

The aid organization Save the Children reported in March 2023 that more than 200,000 children in the EU faced the risk of falling into poverty. This brings the total number of European children at risk of poverty to almost 20 million, or every fourth child, largely due to higher costs of living and the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2021,  about 2 million children residing in Germany endured poverty. Romania and Spain noted the worst statistics on children at risk of poverty or social exclusion at 33.4% and 41.5% respectively. Poverty and social exclusion rates among children appeared less intense in Finland and Denmark at 13.3% and 14% respectively.

Save the Children notes that the conflict in Ukraine has caused food prices to sore, making it more difficult for families to secure their food needs. The organization reports that “children with migrant backgrounds, refugees, asylum-seekers, undocumented and unaccompanied children are among the hardest hit. ” Additionally, “children living in single-parent families, large-disadvantaged families, children with disabilities [and] children belonging to ethnic minorities were also at risk.”

Tackling Child and Youth Poverty in the EU

The European Commission and UNICEF started a three-year commitment called the European Child Guarantee Phase III program in seven countries across the continent to resolve child poverty and social exclusion. The program came to a close in April 2023.

UNICEF’s website highlights the program’s impacts. “In Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece and Italy, the pilot [program] helped reach more than 30,000 children and young adults and 16,000 caregivers dealing with vulnerable groups, such as children with disabilities, children living in precarious family situations, children residing in institutions and refugee and migrant children.”

The program participants received assistance in the form of “early childhood education and care; inclusive education and school-based activities and nutrition; health care and family support [as well as] care and protection services,” UNICEF highlights.

Through the commitment of organizations and governments, there is hope that child and youth poverty can reduce, and Europe’s future young people can experience a life that is poverty-free.

– Klaudia Laura Sebestyen
Photo: Unsplash

Mobile Phones in Africa
The number of people using mobile phones in Africa has been rapidly increasing in the past two decades, and this is mainly due to how vital phones have become to the daily lives of Africans. In addition to essential communication features such as phone calls or texts, mobile phones are also the current mainstream method for Africans to access the internet. However, there is a significant gender disparity in access to mobile phones and internet among Africans, and women are far more likely to lack access to mobile devices and mobile internet.

 The Explosive Growth of the African Mobile Phone Market

Just about two decades ago, mobile phones were an inaccessible novelty good to the overwhelming majority of Africans. In 2000, merely 2% of the population in sub-Saharan Africa had mobile phone subscriptions. However, over the past years, the mobile phone market in Africa underwent exponential growth. As of 2021, 84% of the same sub-Saharan population now have some form of mobile subscription.

In many African nations today, mobile phones have become more common than even basic resources like electricity. Mobile phones have also become the current mainstream method for Africans to access the internet with nearly 70% of African internet traffic coming from mobile devices alone.

The fast-growing usage of mobile phones in Africa is also due to the continent’s commercial profile, as mobile money and banking are immensely popular for consumer payments in Africa. In 2018, nearly two-thirds of all mobile money transactions were in African nations, and the total amount of transactions surpassed $25 billion.

The Gender Gap of Mobile Phones in Africa

However, despite the growing importance of mobile phones in the lives of Africans, there is also a huge gender disparity in access to mobile phone technology, and women are falling behind both in terms of mobile phone ownership and mobile internet access. As of 2021, there was a significant 37% gender gap in mobile internet use in sub-Saharan Africa.

This gender gap also extends to the type of mobile phone Africans own. African women are as much as 30% less likely than men to own a smartphone and are more likely to own older, basic mobile devices than men, according to the 2022 GSMA report. The smartphone gap shows how women are disadvantaged in accessing advanced technology and opportunities, as smartphones have greater utility and access to useful tools such as social media and mobile apps.

Smartphones4good Presents a Solution

Smartphones4good is a Finnish startup that collects used smartphones from developed nations through donations. The phones are refurbished and then leased to female African entrepreneurs at affordable prices. While many Africans do have access to basic cell phones, many have limited functionalities and cannot provide access to the internet. Moreover, purchasing a new smartphone is often too expensive to be a viable choice for underserved African women, according to the 2022 GSMA report. Smartphones4good focuses on closing the gender disparity of mobile phones in Africa by providing affordable internet access to African women and helping them access resources such as online sales platforms and social media networks.

 Looking Ahead

Since the early 2000s, mobile phones in Africa have rapidly become an essential item for most Africans. However, the persisting gender disparities in mobile ownership illustrate a clear picture of the additional challenges African women face in their lives. The efforts of Smartphones4good aim to close the gender gap in Africa’s mobile phone landscape and empower more women to break barriers by connecting with the rest of the world.

– Junoh Seo
Photo: Wikipedia Commons

Charitable Esport EventsWith the rise of video games came the rise of esports, where gamers compete with each other in a large variety of multiplayer games. Esports, like regular sports, has many tournaments and events with celebrities of the genre involved. It is also a popular avenue for charity fundraising and awareness. In particular, 10 charitable esport events hold with the goal of contributing toward ending global poverty and helping those in need.

10 Charitable Esport Events

  1. ATLUS hosted a 2022 charity tournament. An event referred to as the “Persona 4 Arena Ultimax Charity Sho-Down” occurred in 2022, where winning players donated sizable monetary winnings to the charity of their choice. The first prize winner won $10,000, which went to Dysautonomia International, and second place won $5,000, which went to the ALS Association. Dysautonomia International works to fundraise for research and raise awareness of autonomic nervous system disorders while empowering patients. ALS Association works to combat amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a neurodegenerative disorder, in the U.S. but notably participates in global research of the disorder.
  2. Riot Games and Twitch teamed up for the Valorant charity stream. The three-day Valorant Spike Nations of Twitch event in 2020 had 10 European teams representing their countries competing to donate portions of the $10,000 prize pool to charities of their choosing. Claiming the biggest win, the Portugal team donated $37,614 to the Portuguese Food Bank to help alleviate hunger in the country.
  3.  A “Dota 2” event called WeSave! Charity Play to combat COVID-19. Hosted by WePlay!, the event had 24 teams and started with a $120,000 prize pool that grew as players gathered funds throughout the event. The prize pool money went to CEPI and GlobalGiving to support efforts in combating the impacts of COVID-19. CEPI brings together private, public and philanthropic sectors to assist in vaccine development while GlobalGiving is a platform that supports nonprofits by connecting them to donors.
  4. The $10 million FIFA 21 event to support COVID-19 vaccination. In 2021, Gamers Without Borders hosted an event with the popular football video game FIFA 21 where $1 million worth of charitable prize money went toward supporting the immunization efforts of GAVI, the Vaccine Alliance, and UNICEF. GAVI has enabled the vaccinations of more than 981 million children, particularly in the world’s most disadvantaged nations. The second edition of the event had more elite players compete, which led to Gamers Without Borders donating $10 million to communities struggling to recover from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. This is part of Gamers Without Borders plan to donate $30 million to humanitarian aid and stands as a notable example of how esport events support charitable causes.
  5. A “Dota 2” Showmatch helped support Ukraine. Popular players, such as ODPixel, participated in this event in September 2022 to help raise funds for Ukraine’s fundraising platform, United24. Fundraising through the platform is effective because “Ukraine itself knows best what is needed and can deliver aid directly, ” the United24 website says.
  6. Popular Twitch Streamer Ninja dabbled in charity during a 2018 “Fortnite” event. Hosted in Las Vegas, the Fortnite event gave money to fans, popular players and Ninja himself based on who won each match and how many people could take Ninja out. Ninja won one of nine matches and donated $2,500 to the Alzheimer’s Association.
  7. In 2023, Guild Esports partnered with U.K. blood cancer and blood disorder charity Anthony Nolan. The groups held a FIFA tournament to raise awareness of blood disorders and encourage people between the age of 16 and 24 to get involved in the cause by joining the stem cell register. Anthony Nolan has helped 1,350 patients receive stem cells from donors. The event is a notable example of how charitable esport events can make a difference by raising awareness.
  8. Gamers Without Borders 2022 “Rocket League” event. The event involved $2 million worth of prize winnings for charity. The third-place winner, SMPR Esports, openly announced its donation to the global child rights organization UNICEF.
  9. The 2023 AO Summer Smash event. The charitable gaming event involving Fortnite featured popular players such as Lazarbeam and Loserfruit and $50,000 worth of prize money for charitable causes. First place Loserfruit won $25,000 and donated it to GIVIT, which looks to support the most vulnerable and disadvantaged people in Australia.
  10. Gamers Beat Cancer has launched a monthly “Rocket League” event. This event, starting in 2023, aims to raise awareness and funds for U.K. charity Gamers Beat Cancer. This is through the “Rocket League” event itself and the sale of a “special edition esports jersey” to raise awareness and funding. Gamers Beat Cancer donates video games and consoles to cancer patients and assists them with other important technology that can make their lives easier.

These charitable esport events highlight the significant role that the gaming community can play in reducing global poverty and improving the lives of those in need.

– Lachlan Griffiths
Photo: Flickr

Climate Shocks in Brazil
A recent report that the World Bank released has issued a stark warning, stating that climate shocks in Brazil have the potential to drive between 800,000 and 3,000,000 of its citizens into extreme poverty within the next decade. It highlighted an urgent need for Brazil to accelerate investments in renewable energy sources to mitigate the impact of changing weather patterns and foster sustainable development.

Rising Climate Shocks in Brazil and Social Consequences

The World Bank report highlights the increasingly severe climate shocks experienced in Brazil. Floods and droughts are becoming more frequent and intense, negatively impacting agricultural productivity and food security. These environmental challenges disproportionately affect the country’s poorest communities, leaving them particularly vulnerable to economic hardship, food scarcity and displacement. The Woodwell Climate Research Center modeled a study that revealed that 28% of agricultural lands are no longer in an optimal climatic range, with predictions that this percentage could reach 74% by 2060. Without action, the region is predicted to get hotter and drier.

The current trends suggest that the disruption of agricultural production by natural disasters will continue to impact food prices in Brazil. Unfortunately, the combination of extreme weather events and decreased crop yields leads to reduced food availability, driving prices higher and placing an additional burden on already strained household budgets. This drives agricultural populations to take on onerous loans to fund the next harvest, leading them further down into poverty. Weak governance and funding challenges further undermine climate action by hampering implementation and creating space for illegal activities. For example, facilitating land grabbing which is a major driver of illegal deforestation.

The Urgent Need for Renewable Energy Investments

To address the imminent threat of changing weather patterns and its devastating consequences on poverty levels in Brazil, the Brazil Country Climate and Development Report (CCDR) stresses the urgent need to prioritize and accelerate investments in renewable energy sources. Transitioning to clean energy will help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and enhance the country’s resilience to environmental shocks. Investments in renewable energy infrastructure not only have the potential to create new jobs and stimulate economic growth but also provide affordable and sustainable energy access to marginalized communities. Renewables generated almost half of Brazil’s energy supply and 82.3% of its electricity. In comparison, global averages stand between 15% and 27%.

A Wake-Up Call For Brazil

Brazil is in a strong position to benefit from climate action all the while growing its economy. The World Bank’s recent report serves as a wake-up call for the country to take immediate action in combating the issue. Fulfilling the pledge of zero illegal deforestation by 2028 could significantly combat the rampant phenomenon, with around 90% of deforestation being illegal. Enabling land stewardship, establishing indigenous territories and restoring degraded pastures could also remove an estimated 600 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (MtCO2e) annually through “negative emissions.” The same goes for strengthening climate-smart agriculture by, for example, intensifying livestock production and increasing crop productivity which could halve the sector’s emissions.

Looking Ahead

Leveraging renewable energy, especially by becoming a leading producer of green hydrogen, could accelerate the transition to renewable energy, diversify exports and attract investments. Promoting energy efficiency, transitioning to low-carbon fuels and encouraging public transit over personal vehicles represent crucial steps for reducing carbon emissions.

Additionally, investing in urban planning, nature-based solutions and resilient cities can enhance sustainability and protect against climate shocks. Implementing economy-wide interventions, such as carbon pricing mechanisms can potentially incentivize low-carbon practices. These solutions offer a comprehensive approach to tackling environmental challenges, promoting sustainable development and building a resilient future. The CCDR concludes that the additional costs of the resilient and zero net pathway proposed in Brazil would account for 0.5% of the annual GDP, without considering the domestic and global benefits from the preservation of the ecosystem.

Furthermore, these investments open the possibility of the development of a green economy, thereby attracting international investment and promoting long-term environmental sustainability.

– Hanna Bernard
Photo: Flickr

African startupsThe Milken-Motsepe Innovation Prize Program for AgriTech is a multi-year, multi-million dollar competition in Africa. Companies and nonprofits advance technological solutions accelerating the United Nations (U.N.) SDGs. In hopes of expanding in the global market, many African startups proposing innovative AgriTech solutions compete to win a grand prize of $1 million. The competition provides the chance to attract the attention of investors. In May 2023, the winners were announced.

The 1st Place ($1 Million Prize): NovFeed

Tanzania faces a yearly demand deficit of 480,000 metric tons of fish. Although local fish farmers could capitalize on this demand, the country lacks access to reasonably priced and high-quality fish feed. This forces people to formulate their own feed, which lacks nutrition and stunts fish growth. Not only does selling inferior fish negatively affect the fish farmers’ incomes, but it also affects the health and well-being of consumers who are often from lower-income Tanzanian households.

NovFeed is a Tanzanian biotech startup that upcycles organic food waste into protein feed for livestock and fish. To resolve the lack of access to quality fish feed, NovFeed uses a bioreactor to combine fermented plant extract with bacteria culture, producing a protein powder that holds greater amounts of protein than traditional feed such as fishmeal and soybean. Indeed, fish that fed on NovFeed had a 97% survival rate and showed 40% more weight gain than those that fed on traditional feed, according to Solve.

NovFeed is highly scalable and costs 30% less than fishmeal and soybean. The startup’s innovative approach provides cheap, traceable and non-animal feed using indigenous ingredients. It also addresses unsustainable practices by current fish feed manufacturers. The production of soybean drives deforestation and the production of fishmeal disrupts the marine food chain by overfishing small fish.

If NovFeed expands globally and its intellectual property spreads to other companies, it has the potential both to end unsustainable fishing practices and reduce world poverty. Accordingly, the Milken-Motsepe prize has recognized NovFeed as one of the most innovative African startups in long-term sustainability.

The 2nd Place ($350,000 Prize): Karpolax

In Kampala, Uganda, many farmers and fruit vendors lose income due to the low shelf life of their produce, especially mangoes. Fruits and vegetables often rot before they can sell them. To resolve this issue, Ugandan-based startup Karpolax uses nanotechnology to extend the shelf life of fruits and vegetables by at least 33 days without losing nutritional value. According to Karpolax, 37% of food produced is lost between production and consumption, contributing to “huge losses to the farmers and everyone on the value chain.” The lack of access to fruit causes diseases that kill one in seven people.

Karpolax produces sachets infused with polymers that, when simply dropped in a box of fruits, inhibit fruits’ release of enzyme phospholipase D, which is responsible for deterioration. Karpolax’s product has a great market advantage, as it is the first of its kind in Uganda or East Africa. In comparison, its strongest competitor extends shelf life by only 20 days. The startup has had massive success in the Kampalan fruit market and increased vendors’ income by up to 25%. Karpolax is among many African startups that not only increase producers’ revenues but also contribute to enhancing consumers’ health.

The 3rd Place ($150,000 Prize): IRRI AfricaRice

Africa heavily relies on rice cultivation. Around 40% of Africa’s total rice farm area is in rainfed lowlands. For this reason, the livelihoods of African rice farmers are vulnerable to flooding due to climate change, which kills many crops before farmers are able to make sales. Using the SUB1 gene responsible for flood tolerance, IRRI AfricaRice has developed varieties of rice crops that survive over two weeks of complete submergence, compared to market varieties that survive only one week. The team believes that investment in its innovation could produce $3 billion in returns for African countries experiencing flooding, especially in sub-Saharan Africa.

Other Notable Prizes

Among the other innovative African startups that became finalists, a South African company Kuronga won the $100,000 prize for “Most Creative Use of 4IR,” which refers to “Fourth Industrial Revolution” technologies such as AI and machine learning.

Much of small-scale African farmers’ produce goes unsold because sellers cannot find suitable buyers for their product’s grade and price. Individual buyers may value a range of things such as shelf life, freshness and volume. Using the app Kuronga, sellers can snap a photo of their produce, after which the app uses machine learning to grade its quality and pair it with the right buyer.

Cote D’Ivoire-based COOL LION won the $100,000 “People’s Choice” prize. It rents out solar-generated refrigeration and cold storage. Its services save electricity money and provide a sustainable way for fish farmers to store their products. This is a big step in solving Cote D’Ivoire’s long-standing issue of tons of fish spoiling every day due to unaffordable cold storage facilities.

Looking Ahead

The Milken-Motsepe Innovation Prize Program for AgriTech in Africa has showcased the immense potential of African startups to address pressing challenges in the agricultural sector. Winners like NovFeed, with its innovative approach to producing high-quality fish feed, show the potential to transform not only the fishing industry but also contribute to reducing global poverty. Similarly, Karpolax’s nanotechnology solution to extend the shelf life of fruits and vegetables offers promising opportunities for farmers and consumers alike. These innovative African startups are paving the way for sustainable practices and economic growth in the region.

– Eric Huang 
Photo: Flickr

Fighting Poverty With AIFrom identifying the best ways to improve agriculture, finance and education in impoverished areas, to finding those who need help the most through satellite images, fighting poverty with AI is becoming a common practice. Although the idea of using artificial intelligence to address such sensitive issues can be unsettling for some, the technology has delivered some remarkable benefits.

Identifying Poverty

According to a Big Cloud article, identifying poverty is an important first step in addressing it. AI technology can identify the direst of situations, thereby enabling poverty-relief programs to provide aid swiftly, efficiently and effectively. The technology also helps identify the primary causes of poverty in different regions. Factors such as war, a lack of resources and political instability all represent some of the causes of poverty. Each of these situations has different solutions. This means that war-induced poverty should have a different solution from poverty that’s a result of a lack of resources. And AI can facilitate the identification of root causes and appropriate alleviatory measures.


Numerous challenges hinder agricultural work, posing obstacles for farmers worldwide, especially those relying on their yields for sustenance and livelihood. Beyond mere survival, food plays a vital role in employment and personal advancement. The advent of AI not only enhances agricultural practices but also contributes to the fight against poverty.

While farmers in developed nations have access to information on innovative farming techniques and impending natural disasters, their counterparts in developing countries struggle to obtain such resources. Here, AI can offer valuable assistance. One of its key contributions is providing farmers with crucial insights on optimal fertilizers and crops tailored to their specific regions. Additionally, AI enables swift detection of contamination and crop diseases, surpassing the capabilities of traditional farming methods. Consequently, farmers can salvage a greater portion of their yields.

Finance and Education

Employment and education equality are crucial factors that directly impact individuals’ vulnerability to extreme poverty. The use of AI to address these issues holds the potential to aid organizations and governments in the fight against poverty. With the increasing reliance on the internet and AI in finance and education, leveraging these tools becomes more feasible to eliminate inequalities in these domains, as highlighted by Big Cloud. While the idea of AI teachers may evoke apprehension, it also presents exciting possibilities. An AI teacher or a teacher assisted by AI can personalize education based on a student’s needs and abilities.

AI can also create new financial opportunities for impoverished communities worldwide. In developed nations, both employers and job seekers already utilize AI algorithms, and these technologies can effectively strengthen job markets. Additionally, AI has the potential to assist impoverished families in establishing robust credit scores. By prioritizing essential data for families and lenders, AI can facilitate the identification of loans that best suit individuals’ needs, enabling those in dire need to improve their quality of life.

Satellites and AI

AI also works in tandem with other technological solutions to fight poverty. For example, Stanford University scholars used satellite images from throughout sub-Saharan Africa to predict poverty in various regions. Nighttime images of electric lights and daytime images of infrastructure like roads and agriculture were used as indicators of a region’s wealth.

When an algorithm used these images to make these poverty predictions, the level of accuracy was between 81% and 99%, as reported by Big Cloud. Burke and his team suggest that anti-poverty programs and NGOs could use this technology to better understand the most effective ways to fight poverty.

Looking Ahead

AI is proving to be a powerful tool, enabling swift identification of those in need and the root causes of poverty. The technology holds the potential to promote employment and education equality, creating new financial opportunities and personalized learning experiences. Its various applications and capabilities in fighting poverty suggest that it can be a vital tool in the exploration and implementation of initiatives that can improve living conditions for all.

– Christina Albrecht
Photo: Flickr

Economic IntegrationSri Lanka has been facing one of the harshest economic declines in the last decade. The country’s poverty rate has jumped from 11.3% in 2019 to 25% in 2022. More than 2 million people in Sri Lanka are suffering from the economic contraction. Some of the causes include food insecurity, lack of fuel, hyperinflation, supply chain interruptions and rising unemployment rates due to market shrinkage. The country’s northern neighbor, India, has contributed more than $3 billion toward alleviating this hardship. The leaders of both countries have been discussing economic integration, an undertaking that could benefit Sri Lanka greatly.

The Economic Integration

India’s economy has been performing better than many other countries in the world. The country’s GDP ranks as the fifth highest in the world, trailing behind only the U.S., China, Japan and Germany.

With India’s economy continuously growing, economic integration with Sri Lanka could be beneficial for both parties. Two factors will need special attention for this to work according to the Indian Council of World Affairs. The factors include profitability collaboration and foundational incorporation.

Indian Council of World Affairs notes that there are several subcategories that will need attention. These subcategories  include integration, labor market, education and integration with the Indian electricity grid.

Linking Power Grids

The economic integration process has been underway since the countries signed an official pact “to link their power grids and start negotiations on an upgraded trade agreement.” Apart from boosting power generation in Sri Lanka, the linkage of power grids could also increase the usage of renewable energy. The plan is to place a transmission line leading from southern India to the north-central province of Sri Lanka. And from the Indian electricity grid, Sri Lankans could have a continuous power supply and drive an ambitious economy.

Free Trade

Sri Lanka is known for trading high-quality textiles and garments. In 2019, the country hit $2.7 billion worth of imports to the United States (U.S.), becoming the 60th biggest supplier to the U.S. The top two categories were knit and woven apparel.

During the economic integration, the leaders of Sri Lanka plan to make that one of the big exports when it comes to the free trade agreement. There was already an agreement between the two countries. However, making updates to the arrangements could open Sri Lanka to a higher probability of creating trade pacts with China and Thailand. For this to work, Sri Lanka may need to find a way to advocate itself to its partners that it is a profitable investment for new trades and businesses. To the country’s advantage, the short commute to India is highly convenient, and with Sri Lanka’s capital being Colombo, promoting itself as a business destination may not be challenging. And that is because Colombo has a great reputation as a hub for tourism.

The Future

Based on suggestions, India and Sri Lanka would need to come together to create more means of transportation. The increase in foot traffic could create an economic boom for Sri Lanka. Overall, an economic integration between the two countries could boost the labor market in Sri Lanka and give agricultural workers more time to recover from the chemical fertilizer ban in 2021 (it was one of the major reasons for the economic contraction). As things stand, collaborating with India carries the potential to bring about economical upliftment for the people of Sri Lanka.

– Zyairah White
Photo: Flickr

Renewable Energy in BoliviaThe history of renewable energy in Bolivia is not very long, as many of its significant developments unfolded a few years ago. However, that has not stopped the country from achieving important milestones in its transition to renewable energy during the said short period.

Renewable Energy Initiatives

One major breakout for renewable energy in Bolivia was the construction of its first wind power plant in 2014, located in Qollpana, Cochabamba. This was followed by the release of the “Electric Plan of the Plurinational State of Bolivia 2025,” a document explaining the government’s long-term vision of an energy-independent country inclusive of renewable energy sources.

Fast forward to 2022, and the Minister of Hydrocarbons and Energy is reporting a gas use reduction of 50% due to efficient management and increasing use of hydroelectric, wind, solar and biomass energy.

Renewable Energy and Poverty Reduction

The transition to renewable energy in Bolivia carries the potential to advance poverty reduction efforts in the country. It could reduce the energy access breach in Bolivia, with 2.4% of the population lacking access to electricity. This translates to limitations in basic needs such as lighting, cooking and heating. While non-renewable energy could also reduce this energy gap, Bolivia’s Ministry of Hydrocarbons and Energy made it a point to include renewable energy sources in its “To Live with Dignity” electricity program, launched in 2008. This program aims for total accessibility of electricity services in Bolivia.

Renewable energy can also potentially reduce unemployment through the creation of more solar, hydroelectric and wind power plants that need staff to handle operations. It is estimated that 15 million jobs will be created in Latin America by 2030. Moreover, Bolivia has a total of 11 renewable energy projects, each focused on either solar, hydroelectric or wind power.

Efforts to Advance Renewable Energy

Despite the country’s efforts, natural gas still makes up 80.7% of total energy production. Nevertheless, Bolivia is not short on ways to keep pushing toward renewable energy production. For instance, Bolivia is part of RELAC, an alliance between Latin American and Caribbean countries for renewable energy development. One of its aims is for renewable energy to reach 70% of the regional electricity matrix. Aside from its previously mentioned electric plan, there is the “Alternative Energy Development Plan 2025,” a ten-year plan to consolidate renewable-based electric generation.

Bolivia continues to make efforts to upgrade the infrastructure needed for renewable energy production. The National Interconnected System (SIN), which the government has put in place, aims to improve the nation’s capacity for producing electricity by building additional power plants, transmission lines and substations. Additionally, it is anticipated that the SIN will make it easier to integrate renewable energy sources into the national electrical network.

Looking Ahead

Although Bolivia’s journey toward renewable energy is still in its early stages, the nation has made considerable strides in a short amount of time. By transitioning to renewable energy, Bolivia can reduce poverty-related issues such as unemployment and unequal access to energy. Bolivia’s commitment to renewable energy is a welcome step toward a more sustainable and just future for all.

– Luciana Mena
Photo: Flickr

Mental Health in RomaniaThe history of Romania represents the bloodiest regime change in Eastern Europe in 1989. The Communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu and his wife got executed. And the transition between governments was the most violent in the whole Eastern region. Romania’s past plays a huge role in the current situation of mental health issues in the country. Its population had been suffering from collective trauma, depression and the absence of food and free speech for decades. The country has the highest poverty rate in the E.U., with almost 5 million people living on less than $5.50 per day. Social seclusion of poor people and inequality remain relatively high. Also, stigmas and traumas continue to increase the risk of mental health issues in the country. 

More than a decade after Romanian Communism collapsed, psychiatrists made the government aware of the rising rates of suicide and the extension of mental health disorders in the population. In 2005, Romania had 1,300 psychiatrists for 22 million citizens, representing a major deficit of specialists.

The Opinions of Psychiatrists

Romania has a frightening 1% of people having mental disorders, and there are new cases coming along, as children whose families work abroad also struggle with their psychological health.

Recent studies detail the most frequent of the following mental illnesses: conduct disorders (24.19%), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (22.65%), anxiety disorders (19.23%), autism spectrum disorders (14.47%), depressive episodes (9.14%) and attachment disorders (4.3%). Teenage pregnancy (children aged 10-14 years) is more than eight times higher than the E.U. average. Unfortunately, many schools do not have mental health programs. The case is alarming among adults as well, with several affected people not seeking professional help.

Personnel Shortage

Research from years ago revealed that the Romanian mental health care system had 86% fewer social assistant employees than the official requirement. Professionals highlighted numbing facts, revealing that the competence of psychological workers is inadequate. They also mentioned that social assistants received inadequate salaries and training. There was also a shortage of psychologists, with about 60% less than required. According to researchers, 200,000 Romanians had been suffering from severe mental issues.

Ongoing Efforts and Signs of Progress

The Council of Europe has put a plan into action with a two-year project to affirm Romania’s mental health care in prisons, and this includes an increase in medical staff. It started in January 2022, alongside major financial support until the end of 2023.

The Romanian Ministry of Health has set a mental health strategy as a national program in Transylvania. This includes efforts that aim to protect separated and vulnerable children. It also highlights school education as an important role in the progression. Older people are getting available treatments and services, and social exclusion and poverty are being countered by a national plan in an effort to expunge stigmas from Romanian society.

Looking Ahead

Despite the challenges stemming from Romania’s turbulent history and the current mental health issues it faces, there are signs of progress and ongoing efforts to address the situation. Initiatives such as the Council of Europe’s project to improve mental health care in prisons and the national mental health strategy set by the Romanian Ministry of Health are steps in the right direction. These efforts aim to provide better access to services, educate the public and combat social exclusion and stigmas, offering hope for a brighter future in mental health care in Romania.

– Klaudia Laura Sebestyen
Photo: Pixabay