Information and news on advocacy.

HIV in South Africa

With the end of apartheid, South Africa became the epi-center of the AIDS epidemic due to an influx of migrants. Despite the rapid rise of HIV infections and AIDS deaths in Africa in the 1980s, the response to HIV in South Africa was slow. This was a result of the narrative created about the disease in the Global North that connected the spread of the virus to the behaviors of injection drug users and gay men. Another factor was that the spread of the disease in Africa looked incredibly different as more than half of people living with HIV in sub-Saharan Africa are women.

When HIV and AIDS started having a widespread impact on South African society and communities, President Mbeki followed the arguments of Peter Duesberg, who stated that HIV could not be the cause of AIDS and was opposed to Western medical approaches to solving the epidemic. In 2003, the health minister, Tshabalala-Msimang advocated for nutritional solutions to alleviating HIV in South Africa and was notoriously known as “Dr. Beetroot”. Through Mbeki’s reasoning, continuous efforts from other countries to offer help for AIDS were declined and civil society groups raised grave concerns over the need for urgent action. One of the biggest groups to raise concerns and have the greatest impact in the region was the Treatment Action Campaign.

About the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC)

The Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) was founded in 1998 as a tripartite alliance between the AIDS Law Project and COSATU, a key organization that fought apartheid in the 1980s. TAC was formed as a response to HIV in South Africa due to the lack of urgency that the government and the medical industry had in responding to the virus.

The transformative and charismatic Zackie Achmat, a previous gay rights activist who was diagnosed in 1990, initially led the organization.

TAC was a human rights-based organization focused on fighting racial discrimination and economic exploitation. This group was not only technical, but also political in their arguments as they utilized justifications for actions through moral, scientific, and economic reasoning. The TAC also developed partnerships with activist groups such as the Gay Men’s Health Crisis (GMHC) and ACT UP, which have aided training “treatment literacy” and initiated a wider peer education network.

In addition, TAC formed partnerships between elites, academics, professionals, and press, but ultimately served to strengthen the effort for the poor to become advocates for themselves. Through the framework TAC developed and their understanding of the disease, TAC used their model for social mobilization, advocacy, legal action, and education. 

TAC’s First Action

TAC’s first action was to argue for the right to access medical resources – namely antiretrovirals (ARVs). TAC found inherent fault with the World Trade Organization’s 1995 TRIPS agreement, which legally protected intellectual property and patents.

 In 1998, TAC demanded that the South African government introduce the program “Prevent Mother-to-Child HIV Transmission” (PMTCT). The social movement around advocacy for PMTCT was predominantly made up of poor black women living with HIV in South Africa. The issue was framed as a moral issue: that the pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), the patent holder of AZT, was profiteering off the sale of the drug. TAC demanded a price reduction and in framing it as a moral issue with reference to the South African constitution, the organization succeeded in its demand for legal action.

Key Tool to Success

A key tool for TAC’s success was its use of legal resources and advocacy. Not only did TAC make legal demands of the South African government, but they collaborated with progressive lawyers, scientists, and researchers to develop plans and alternative policy proposals. The organization went beyond simply advocating for the poor. They also based policy on the entitlement of rights to the individual. TAC has taken successful mitigation measures on five occasions; in 2001-02, for a national program for PMTCT; in 2004, for implementation of ARV roll-out; and in 2006-07, for access to ARVs for prisoners in Westville and KwaZulu Natal province, for ongoing litigation to challenge the profiteering of pharmaceutical companies and for denouncing alternative treatment to defend the Medicines Act. These cases were supported by not only the efforts of lawyers but the actions of TAC which involved marches, media campaigns, legal education, and social mobilization.

These actions were not possible only as a result of the advocacy and partnerships formed by the TAC, but also the structures in which the group functioned. Article 27 of the South African constitution, which took effect in 1997, includes the right to access medical services, reproductive health care, and emergency medical treatment. Through these efforts, TAC has helped advocate for an improved response to HIV in South Africa, a process that must continue to further combat the spread of the virus.

Danielle Barnes
Photo: Flickr

Healthcare in Rwanda
Rwanda, the small landlocked state with a population of 12.5 million people, has made tremendous strides in the years following the infamous 1994 Rwandan genocide. The fertile and hilly state borders the much larger and wealthier Democratic Republic of the Congo, Tanzania, Uganda and Burundi. Rwanda is currently undergoing a few initiatives that the National Strategies for Transformation plan outlines. For example, Rwanda is presently working towards achieving Middle-Income Country status by 2035 and High-Income Country status by 2050. Among many improvements, many widely consider universal healthcare in Rwanda to be among the highest quality in Africa and the state’s greatest achievement.

Structure of Healthcare in Rwanda

Healthcare in Rwanda includes designed subsidies and a tiered system for users based on socioeconomic status. From 2003 to 2013, healthcare coverage in Rwanda has jumped tenfold, from less than 7% to nearly 74%. The Rwandan system of governance enables this level of widespread coverage. At the district level, funding and healthcare are decentralized to afford specific programs’ autonomy, depending on the needs of individual communities. Policy formulation comes from the central government while districts plan and coordinate public services delivery. In 2005, Rwanda launched a performance-based incentive program, which rewards community healthcare cooperatives based on factors such as women delivering at facilities and children receiving full rounds of immunizations.

Rwanda’s innovative healthcare system does not come without challenges. Nearly 85% of the population seeks health services from centers. Due to such wide use, it often takes long periods of time for health centers to receive reimbursement from the federal government for services rendered.

Improvements in Healthcare Access and Vaccinations

The rate at which Rwandans visit the doctor has also drastically increased. In 1999, Rwandans reportedly visited the doctor every four years. Today, most Rwandans visit the doctor twice a year. In addition, vaccination rates have drastically increased for Rwandans. Over 97% of infants receive vaccinations against diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, hepatitis B, Haemophilus influenza Type B, polio, measles, rubella, pneumococcus and rotavirus.

Part of the improved healthcare in Rwanda is the state’s fight against cancer. The most common cause of cancer in Africa is human papillomavirus-related cervical cancer. As part of Rwanda’s goal of eliminating cervical cancer by 2020, over 97% of all girls ages 11 to 15 receive vaccinations for HPV. Rwanda is currently developing a National Cancer Control Plan and data registry to help track and combat the spread of cancer. Finally, to improve testing for cancerous markers, the government built the Nucleic Acid Lab as part of the biomedical center in Kigali.

Growing Pains

Despite vast improvements, the country still has a lot to do in regard to healthcare in Rwanda. Over the past two decades, Rwandan healthcare has steadily closed the gap in developed states, such as France and the United States. Life expectancy for Rwandans at birth is 66 and 70 years for males and females respectively.

In France and the United States, life expectancy at birth is nearly 15 years more for both males and females. As a percent of GDP (7.5), Rwanda spends nearly 10% less per year on healthcare than the United States and 4% less than France. Malnutrition is rampant in children; 44.2% of all Rwandan children are classified as malnourished. From 2008 to 2010, anemia levels saw large increases. While family planning is more prevalent, access to contraception is not widely, or at all available, in most parts of the country. Despite the decline of child mortality rates, newborn deaths account for 39% of all child deaths.

Moving Forward

Along with the Rwandan state government, organizations such as Partners in Health (PIH) have helped make vast improvements to healthcare in Rwanda. Locally known as Inshuti Mu Buzima, PIH brings healthcare to over 860,000 Rwandans via three hospitals. The crown jewel of PIH is its Butaro District Hospital, which serves a region in Rwanda that previously did not have a hospital. Today, the hospital is well-known for its medical education and training for all of East Africa.

As widespread access to healthcare continues to spread and immunization efforts increase, healthcare in Rwanda has the potential to lead the way for additional state-wide improvements. Through such efforts, Rwanda’s target goal of Middle-Income Country status by 2035 is creeping further into reach.

Max Lang
Photo: Flickr

Vaccinations in Yemen
Situated in the Middle East, the Republic of Yemen is the second-largest sovereign state in the Arabian peninsula. Being in the clutches of a civil war since 2015, Yemen stands in the second-lowest position for life expectancy in the Middle East with an average life expectancy of 65.31 years. Research has shown that the civil war also had a significant impact on the immunization or vaccination efforts to protect the children of the nation from curable diseases like cholera and measles. Here are five facts about vaccination in Yemen.

5 Facts About Vaccination in Yemen

  1. Cholera Outbreak: Experts consider Yemen’s cholera outbreak, which started in 2016, to be the largest epidemic to ever occur in recorded epidemic history. As of 2018, Yemen reported 1.2 million cases of cholera, and 58 percent of the resulting deaths were of children. The ongoing civil war and the fact that only half the country’s population has access to clean water and sanitation has made it increasingly challenging to tackle the spread of the disease effectively. Organizations like WHO and UNICEF have made severe efforts in distributing Oral Cholera Vaccines (OCV), funding to supply clean water to the citizens and establishing health centers to combat the outbreak. Several randomized trials showed the efficacy of the distributed OCVs to be nearly 76 percent.
  2. Vaccination Rate: Even though vaccines have a proven rate of efficacy, the immense pressure that health care in Yemen experienced suddenly due to large outbreaks decreased the effectiveness with which it could mobilize its immunization efforts. According to the official country estimates of 2018, 80 percent of Yemen’s population received DTP3 vaccination coverage. However, Yemen did not distribute Oral Cholera Vaccines widely until 16 months after the cholera outbreak. This led to a rapid spread of cholera in the nation.
  3. Vaccine Storage Facilities: Many often overlook a country’s vaccine storage capacity. Yemen’s lack of proper facilities and shortage of electricity made it difficult to safely store the vaccines. UNICEF and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia worked together to provide solar refrigerators to several health care centers to facilitate safer and more reliable vaccinations in Yemen. Health care workers say that solar refrigerators enable them to store the vaccines for one month. This reduces material waste and optimizes vaccine distribution.
  4. Impact of War: The ongoing civil war has put Yemen in a vulnerable position when it comes to the re-emergence of preventable disease outbreaks. Research has shown that countries with conflicts are more susceptible to disease outbreaks. However, these are easily preventable with vaccines. In Yemen, airstrikes destroyed many hospital centers, which made health care more inaccessible to its citizens. The civil war disrupted the stable vaccination rate in Yemen, which was at 70 to 80 percent, falling to 54 percent in 2015 at the time that the war broke out.
  5. Humanitarian Efforts of International Organizations:  In war-torn countries with feeble financial stability, humanitarian efforts play a significant role in disease control. The World Health Organization (WHO) contributed 414 health facilities and 406 mobile health teams to combat the cholera outbreak and facilitate vaccination in Yemen. Meanwhile, UNICEF made substantial efforts to provide safe drinking water to 1 million residents of Yemen. It also contributed medical equipment to remote parts of the country with the help of local leaders.

Yemen has clearly faced challenges in vaccinating its citizens in recent years due to civil war and conflict. Hopefully, with continued aid from UNICEF, the WHO and other countries like Saudi Arabia, vaccination in Yemen will improve.

– Reshma Beesetty
Photo: Flickr

Instagram Accounts Raising Poverty AwarenessSocial media is a powerful tool used to spread awareness about many different topics. Many different organizations design accounts on Instagram to advocate for global poverty through powerful images and words. Here are five Instagram accounts raising poverty awareness.

5 Instagram Accounts Raising Poverty Awareness

  1. Doctors Without Borders (@doctorswithoutborders) – This organization works to provide medical care for patients all over the world, and it currently operates in more than 70 countries worldwide. Doctors Without Borders also conducts medical research on topics such as economic and social conditions in El Salvador and HIV in South Africa. The organization’s Instagram account has 581,000 followers. The account’s posts range from information about their health care projects to powerful photographs that illustrate different crises.

    A powerful animation video posted on March 18, 2020 describes the struggles that Rohingya refugee families face as they are forced to move to camps in Bangladesh, including being prone to COVID-19 and other disease outbreaks. The animation was created “to put a human face on the humanitarian crisis that devastated this community.”

  2. Pencils of Promise (@pencilsofpromise) – Pencils of Promise is a group that raises funds to build schools and combat education problems for people around the world. To date, Pencils of Promise has built 524 schools and has 108,643 students. The organization uses its Instagram platform with 210,000 followers mainly to share photos of children around the world who are receiving education and their stories. The Pencils of Promise Instagram showcases the great impact of the organization’s work.

  3. Oxfam (@oxfamamerica) – Oxfam is an organization that works to reduce poverty by providing grants to build infrastructure for the poor, encouraging the rich to allot money towards helping the poor, and helping communities recoup after disasters. The Oxfam Instagram account has more than 78,000 followers. The account creators share easy-to-read graphics, numbers and statistics related to global poverty reduction. The Oxfam Instagram also shares inspirational quotes to instill hope regarding the fight against global poverty. One of the quotes posted on the page is “Hope and fear cannot occupy the same space. Invite one to stay.”

  4. Global Citizen (@glblctzn) – Global Citizen is an organization that relies on citizens all over the world to organize events and advocate to reduce global poverty. The account, which has 530,000 followers, includes many posts from musical artists who hold mini-concerts to spread global poverty awareness. During the COVID-19 outbreak, the Global Citizen account is sharing videos with the hashtag #Togetherathome to promote social distancing and global health safety.

  5. Charity: Water (@charitywater) – Charity: Water is an organization that works to provide clean and safe water to communities of people in developing countries. The Charity: Water Instagram account has 457,000 followers. The organization’s posts show the success of its efforts and the importance of providing clean water to people worldwide. A post from April 3, 2020, celebrates the completion of “544 water projects across India, Ethiopia and Mozambique.”

With 1 billion active monthly users, Instagram can be a powerful way to spread awareness about global poverty. These five Instagram accounts raising poverty awareness are making the world a better place one post at a time.

– Shveta Shah
Photo: Flickr

Children with Developmental Disabilities
Across all countries, 20.4 percent of children have at least one developmental disability. In developed countries like the U.S., many schools have resources for children with developmental disabilities, but in countries where a solid implementation of an education system is struggling to find a foothold, people with learning disabilities often face an additional, invisible hurdle.

Medical professionals conducted a study that screened populations for developmental disabilities throughout the world. A developmental disability is a type of disability that occurs before adulthood. Some of these are learning disabilities, but all of them impact a child during the prime educational years. The study first sorted countries based on HDI (Human Development Index) a score the U.N. gives to countries according to life expectancy, education and gross domestic product (GDP). In general, this means that countries with higher HDI are more developed, and those with lower HDI are less developed.

Out of a pool of 16 countries, this study included 101,250 children averaging 5 years of age. The countries with the highest number of children with developmental disabilities include Thailand, Bangladesh and Iraq.

Thailand has an HDI of 0.755, Bangladesh has one of 0.608 and Iraq has one of 0.685. For scale, Norway has the highest HDI at 0.953. Thailand ranks 83rd in the world for high human development (though still developing), whereas Bangladesh and Iraq lay in the “medium developed” range.

Thailand 

The study concluded that Thailand had 12,911 children with a developmental disability. In Thailand, communities, professional groups and other social institutions provide education and learning centers, which serve as Thailand’s primary agents of education. Thailand has separate schools available for children with developmental disabilities. Thailand gives other resources, like communicative devices, to children with disabilities to aid in education. Thailand has different classifications of disabilities, like intellectual disabilities, learning disabilities and behavioral disorders, and different sorts of schooling options available to accommodate these different groups. The parents and the children can choose which system they would like to use, and it is available as a lifelong educational resource for them.

The Education for Development Foundation (EDF), founded in 1987, started a scholarship in 2003 with the intention of making education more accessible to children with developmental disabilities. This scholarship aims to support the physical, social and emotional development of Thai youth. To qualify, candidates must already demonstrate a certain level of communicative and learning ability.

Bangladesh 

The study also found that in Bangladesh, there were 36,987 children with developmental disabilities. It also determined that the rate of enrollment for a primary school in Bangladesh was 97 percent, but only 11 percent of disabled children received any sort of education.

Approaching education with respect to disabilities, methodical diagnosing and treating physical ailments is not possible. A child’s environment has a larger role in deciding how a disability might appear. As such, many early childhood education specialists recommend an approach that relies more on the stage of development the child is in to see what children with disabilities are capable of learning. Similar to how Thailand’s education system handles children with disabilities, Bangladesh has different types of schools to choose from. Unfortunately, that sort of data is not readily available or consistent.

Many international efforts to improve educational and social infrastructure have aimed to support the needs of children with developmental disabilities in impoverished countries. As a result of the UNESCO Declaration on Education for All (1990), the Dakar Framework (2000) and the Salamanca Declaration on Inclusive Education (1994), Bangladesh is working to offer children with developmental disabilities an inclusive education alongside able-bodied children.

While this sentiment does bring the needs of children with developmental disabilities to light, it is not sufficient in clearing various obstacles that arise. One study surveyed educators on the barriers of educating children with disabilities. The results were that 11 out of 15 respondents answered ‘yes’ to a lack of the proper instruments and learning materials.

Iraq

The study showed that Iraq had 11,163 children with developmental disabilities. Malnutrition, an issue in many developing countries, can inhibit cognitive development, leading to learning disabilities and difficulties.

Further, one in three children suffers from an iodine deficiency in the Iraq and Afghanistan areas. This deficiency can result in a slew of health issues including goiter, learning difficulties and severe mental impairment in the worst cases. Statistics have shown that this environmental factor contributes to the rate of mentally disabled individuals. This adds pressure on Iraq to determine adequate educational accommodations for children with developmental disabilities.

Although, since the Iraqi society is advancing technologically, there are diverse ways to deliver education to children. This means that a wider range of people can receive education, including children with developmental disabilities. The United Nations Children’s Fund launched a series of e-projects in an attempt to standardize accessible, inclusive learning. These projects were available to all students – disabled or otherwise. About 4,000 schools had access to these e-projects, not only making education accessible to all but also providing equity to education.

Solutions

Disabled Peoples’ International (DPI), established in 1981, works on behalf of all disabled individuals to give them a proper place in education, the workforce and society alongside able-bodied counterparts. DPI is active in 139 countries and seven regions, including Africa, Asia and the Middle East. DPI also develops educational materials, promotes the rights of disabled people and collects data on disability issues.

In working with MPhasiS F1 Foundation, the organization is creating a Global Youth with Disabilities Network. This network will advocate for the representation of children with developmental disabilities throughout all levels of decision-making. The organization plans to ensure these youths have access to public transportation, health care, education and employment opportunities.

Catherine Lin
Photo: Flickr

Recognized as one of the top-selling artists in history, Sir Elton John has continued to have an enormous impact on the music industry and pop culture. However, his influence goes beyond music. Over the years, John has used his platform to raise awareness for several charitable organizations. Here is a glimpse of Elton John’s impact through his efforts with five organizations.

Elton John’s Involvement

  1. Elton John AIDS Foundation – Elton John founded the Elton John AIDS Foundation (EJAF) in the U.S. in 1992 and a separate entity in the U.K. in 1993. This organization aims to fund programs that alleviate the financial, emotional and physical pain caused by HIV/AIDS. EJAF fights to raise awareness, educate, treat and prevent HIV/AIDS. In 2018, it enabled 235,000 adolescents to receive HIV testing and connected more than 68,000 patients to treatment programs. Since 2010, the organization has reached and over 11.5 million people and has raised $125 million to support similar programs around the globe.
  2. Riders for Health – In 2008, Elton John donated 120 motorcycles to healthcare workers in Lesotho. The bikes enable doctors and nurses to reach patients in remote areas of Lesotho, where many suffer from HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis. Lesotho has the second highest number of individuals infected by HIV, and the second highest number of cases in tuberculosis.  Additionally, almost 73 percent of patients infected with tuberculosis are simultaneously infected with HIV. John made the donation in partnership with the Lesotho Ministry of Health and Riders for Health. Founded in 1996, Riders for Health is an international nonprofit dedicated to increasing accessibility and efficiency of healthcare in Africa. The organization manages motorcycles, ambulances and other vehicles that provide healthcare to seven countries in Africa.
  3. Breast Cancer Research Foundation – Through his performances and donations, Elton John has supported the Breast Cancer Research Foundation (BCRF) for over 15 years. BCRF provides essential funding to cancer research worldwide and is the highest-rated breast cancer organization in the U.S. At the NYC Hot Pink Party in 2016, BCRF honored John with a research grant in his name due to his dedication to the organization. He capped off the night with a performance. This event alone raised over $6.8 million for breast cancer research.
  4. Starkey Hearing Foundation – In 2012, Elton John and spouse David Furnish joined the Starkey Hearing Foundation on a trip to Manila to help fit more than 400 children and adults with hearing aids. The Starkey Hearing Foundation is committed to raising awareness, education and protection of hearing care. The organization provides more than 100,000 hearing aids annually and has reached over 100 countries. Additionally, John has previously preformed at the So the World May Hear Awards Gala to raise funds and awareness for hearing accessibility.
  5. The Elton John Sports Fund – Elton John’s impact is also present through the Elton John Sports Fund. Rocket Sports started the Elton John Sports Fund in 2014 in partnership with SportsAid. This partnership supports young athletes by providing money to travel, to get necessary equipment and to decrease the overall financial strains of a given sport. The recipients of the Elton John Sports Fund are promising athletes who come from a variety of socioeconomic backgrounds and sports interests.

Throughout his career, Elton John has championed numerous causes, earning him awards such as the Peter J. Gomes Humanitarian of the Year Award in 2017 and the BAMBI Award in 2004. John has performed at countless benefit concerts, raising awareness for organizations that range from rainforest conservation to supporting first responders during the COVID-19 pandemic. Elton John has made a lasting impact on the world, using his star-studded platform for good.

Megan McKeough

Photo: Flickr

Tackling Poverty AlleviationDespite over 700 million people living in extreme poverty, poverty alleviation strategies recently reduced those rates. Poverty is multidimensional, meaning there are more aspects that one should consider than low income and resource shortages. Poverty includes hunger, malnutrition, violence, lack of human rights and little to no health care. According to Our World in Data, the fast rate in economic growth and political support for improved living standards have improved the state of poverty alleviation in various countries. Socio-economic advancement stems from improved access to opportunities where the four common areas of focus are food, education, employment and security. Here are three parts of the world tackling poverty alleviation.

China

China has made considerable progress in tackling poverty alleviation by bringing citizens out of traditional rural lifestyles. In 2018, around 41 percent of China’s rural population was living in impoverished countrysides. In 2013, China set policies to promote socio-economic development. By registering individuals into a database, China implemented rapid strategies and programs to benefit the entire nation. Meanwhile, Beijing launched an anti-poverty campaign to bring these citizens into more urban locations.

Committing to development with infrastructure and improving tourism, the government helped villagers tremendously. The government strengthened financial support by providing proper funding for health, education, industrial development and agricultural modernization and better access to the internet. Specifically, the 2007 health reform addressed poverty alleviation by providing health care centers for men and women and improving the quality of these centers.

Additionally, the Guizhou Province gave millions of dollars to poor students in 2015 to provide meals to children during the day. Feeding the children increases confidence and improves performance in the classroom. China also built schools in rural and mountain areas to accommodate male and female students. Educating the young means future generations should be able to rise out of poverty as well.

Poverty alleviation also occurs from supporting livestock and crop production in regard to trade partners. Improving farming practices also decreases pollution throughout the country. The Ministry of Agriculture has fully invested in increasing sustainability within agricultural and technological development.

Africa

Government resources in Africa have been vital to the 13 percent poverty alleviation from 1990 to 2015. To combat corruption, Uganda created an anti-corruption action plan through the Ministry of Ethics and Integrity. Tanzania even followed these steps with a National Anti-Corruption Strategy and Action Plan. Other programs directed toward social welfare have also contributed to economic growth. By providing conditional cash-transfers, African citizens have more financial security. Promoting governmental transparency through the 2003 Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) has protected citizens from violence at a political level.

Further, education for youngsters, with a target for girls and women, have slowed economic poverty; gender inequalities have traditionally set back girls and women in society. The Africa Educational Trust (AET) program focuses on self-empowerment and providing education for all, and is breaking the glass ceiling for African women. Improving inclusivity within communities by removing these women and girls from traditional societal roles inevitably protects from violence. Not only do women get the opportunity to progress in society, but fertility and child mortality rates decline through improved prenatal nutrition.

Finally, agricultural investments through governmental incentives have enhanced food production. South Africa’s Expanded Public Works Program (EPWP) launched in 2004 with the aim of expanding job and industrialization practices. Access to clean water through sanitation reforms has drastically improved health status throughout the continent. In Nigeria, the Third National Urban Water Sector Reform Project tackles the water-scarcity issue by investing in water treatment, disease prevention and enhanced water distribution strategies.

El Salvador

El Salvador stands out as one of the more impoverished countries in Latin America. However, in 2013, the poverty rate dropped from 40 percent to 28.9 percent. The government transformed the national debt by addressing historical conflicts that damaged the economy. Tensions between the government and gang warfare affected 16 percent of the country’s annual GDP. Addressing gang violence through the Youth Employability and Opportunities initiative gives children a future involving better education without the pressure of joining a gang to survive.

The Civil War from 1980-1992 also put an enormous strain on the country’s safety. The Safe El Salvador plan addresses poverty alleviation by strengthening community bonds.

Additionally, health care and job investments have aided the country’s endeavors of poverty alleviation. The Strengthening Public Health Care System project invested in health services that have declined mortality rates and have improved disease prevention. Further, the El Salvador government partnered with the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) in 2014 to focus on the youth by providing infrastructure and skills to stabilize the economy.

The Social Protection Universal System in 2014 assisted in the protection of the country’s citizens regarding human rights. Another danger to the country is natural disasters, which take a massive toll on the environment and safety of the large population. The government created the El Salvador Disaster Risk Management program to prepare for emergencies such as earthquakes and tropical storms, but it also addressed the recovery process after they hit.

Despite slower progress in some regions of the world, these three parts of the world are continuing to make tackling poverty alleviation a main focus. Investing in the wellbeing of people is a common practice in maintaining human dignity and saving countless lives every day. By establishing attainable goals and understanding the nature of poverty, countries can make significant changes for the future of the globe.

Sydney Stokes
Photo: Pixabay

Four NGOs Fighting Poverty in JamaicaAs of 2017, the poverty rate in Jamaica was 19 percent, which was higher than more than half of the United States. Additionally, 8.9 percent of the population suffered from hunger as of 2016. Despite these seemingly discouraging statistics, Jamaica has seen several improvements in both the economy and standards of living. For example, Jamaica’s GDP in 2018 was $15.72 billion, which is a 6.34 percent increase from the previous year. The improvement is a direct result of efforts from the World Bank, the Jamaican government and active nonprofits working to combat the issue of poverty in Jamaica. The World Bank Group has invested $500 million in economic development. The Jamaican government instituted a progressive conditional cash transfer program called the Programme of Advancement and Higher Education (PATH) to help increase school attendance and health visits. Aside from the developments that these two major actors led, here are four NGOs fighting poverty in Jamaica.

4 NGOs Fighting Poverty in Jamaica

  1. U.N. Volunteers Online: U.N. Volunteers Online is a network that provides opportunities for individuals to spend a couple of hours serving worthy causes from the comfort of home. The website includes organizations dedicated to fighting 17 causes ranging from health care and education to sanitation and peace missions. One of the many issues the organization aims to tackle is poverty in Jamaica. The Nathan Ebank Foundation of Jamaica is working with U.N. Volunteers Online to gain traction as it launches a new digital initiative. The Nathan Ebank Foundation is a charitable organization that has dedicated itself to providing better health care access and opportunities for children with disabilities and special needs in Jamaica. The Foundation serves constituents in Jamaica through educating professionals and parents on how best to serve children with disabilities, advocating for reforms that resolve issues of systematic oppression against those with disabilities and providing assistance to families and children with disabilities. The Foundation received the World Cerebral Palsy Medical-Therapeutic Award in 2018 as recognition of the rehabilitation support services that it offers to children with cerebral palsy.
  2. American Friends of Jamaica: American Friends of Jamaica is an organization that partners with Jamaican charities and nonprofits to fund and promote community development in Jamaica. The organization has raised $14 million to support a diverse network of organizations tackling issues in economic development, education and health care. The organization has recently partnered with the Private Sector Organization of Jamaica and the Council of Social Services to start collecting donations for COVID-19 response materials. These materials include protective gear for health workers such as masks and gloves, as well as essentials such as toilet paper and food for the elderly.
  3. Helping Hands Jamaica Foundation: Davis Cup Tennis Athlete Karl Hale founded Helping Hands Jamaica Foundation, a nonprofit that embodies the motto “Participate, Elevate, Educate.” The goal of the organization is to uplift future generations by improving educational infrastructure and resources. Helping Hands Jamaica Foundation has built over 21 schools all over the island, one of which was a project that Olympic athlete and icon Serena Williams led in 2016. Because the organization builds and supports schools all over the island, serving with them is an excellent opportunity to both help alleviate poverty in Jamaica and tour the island. The next build will begin in July 2020 but until then, the organization is utilizing a free hotline for parents and children struggling due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  4. Food for the Poor: Food for the Poor is an organization that provides housing, aid and relief to those suffering from extreme poverty in Jamaica. The organization has shipped 583 tractors full of aid and sponsored 500 children experiencing poverty in Jamaica. Food for the Poor has built over 35,000 homes. The organization is currently advocating to support the homeless in light of the current global pandemic. It has also partnered with Amazon to become one of the many nonprofits that individuals can donate to by shopping online at smile.amazon.com.

These four NGOs are all fighting poverty in Jamaica in addition to the World Bank and the Jamaican government. Through these combined efforts, poverty in Jamaica has substantially declined and the economic climate has improved.

Tiara Wilson
Photo: Pixabay

Illiteracy in Nepal
Nepal is a country of Asia that lies along the southern side of the Himalayas. It is a landlocked nation with a territory of just 500 miles east to west. Nepal has long experienced isolation under a series of rulers who favored isolationist policies and remained closed off to the rest of the world up until the year 1905. Today, Nepal is a country between two superpowers, India and China. As a result of this extreme isolation, it has become one of the least developed nations in the world. This underdevelopment has also led to a heavily illiterate population. Here are seven interesting facts about illiteracy in Nepal.

7 Facts About Illiteracy in Nepal

  1. Illiteracy in Nepal: As recently as 2015, Nepal had an illiterate population of 6,784,566 people. Luckily this statistic has been on a steady decline of about 2 percent every year since 1991.
  2. Literacy in Nepal: Nepal’s literate population in 2015 was at 55 percent. Although this means that just under half the population is illiterate, it is still an extremely large increase from the 1950s, during which only 5 percent of the population was literate.
  3. Women: Only 49 percent of women in Nepal are literate. The average literacy rate for women in Nepal is 20 percent lower than men. This may be a result of fewer women completing a full education than men, a statistic that is slowly becoming more equal and challenging illiteracy in Nepal.
  4. World Vision: Thankfully, literacy rates in Nepal are rising. An organization called World Vision has been working to eliminate illiteracy in Nepal. World Vision has been training teachers in Nepal to use more engaging methods to get their students more interested in reading.
  5. Reading Camps: World Vision has also created reading camps outside of school, in addition to encouraging parents to nurture a reading friendly environment in their homes so students are more willing to read. In just two years, the children involved in the program were one and a half times better at reading than children who did not attend the program.
  6. Room to Read: Another organization, Room to Read, has created a Girls’ Education Program that has helped nearly 5,000 girls in Nepal since 2001 to read and write. Children in Nepali schools with Room to Read libraries have checked out, on average, more than 16 books per student. Room to Read has been a catalyst in helping many children to appreciate reading.
  7. Five-Year Initiative: In 2016, Room to Read launched a five year initiative with the government of Nepal, USAID and the research group RTI International to improve the country’s primary grade literacy programs greatly. This initiative has the goal of changing the lives of 1 million students in grades one to three in order to combat illiteracy in Nepal.

Illiteracy in Nepal is an issue that has significantly decreased due to the actions of these, and many other programs and initiatives, all with the goal of improving literacy rates in Nepal. If it were not for groups like Room to Read and World Vision, the people, and especially the children, would still be stuck in the darkness of illiteracy.

– William Mendez
Photo: Flickr

Women’s and Children’s health
In 2000, all 191 members of the United Nations officially ratified the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) which are eight, interdependent goals to improve the modern world. One of these goals included “promot[ing] gender equality and empower women; to reduce child mortality; [and] to improve maternal health,” emphasizing the need for increased focus on women’s and children’s health across the globe. In 2015, the Millennium Development Goals ended and the U.N. published a comprehensive report detailing the success of the MDGs. The report concluded that, during the length of the program, women’s employment increased dramatically, childhood mortality decreased by half and maternal mortality declined by nearly 45 percent.

Such success is, in part, due to another initiative, the 2010 Global Strategy for Women’s and Children’s Health, that aimed to intensify efforts to improve women’s and children’s health. Upon conclusion, the U.N. began developing a new program, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which includes 17 interconnected goals. Expanding on the success of the MDGs, the U.N. aims to tackle each goal by 2030. Similar to supportive programming to the MDGs, the U.N. has created another push for women’s and children’s health by establishing the 2016 Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescent’s Health.

The Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescent’s Health

The 2016 Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescent’s Health tackles a variety of critical global issues including maternal and childhood death, women’s workforce participation, women’s and children’s health care coverage, childhood development and childhood education. Being more robust, the 2016 Global Strategy is distinguished from the previous program as it “is much broader, more ambitious and more focused on equity than [the 2010] predecessor,” according to a U.N. report. The 2016 Global Strategy specifically addresses adolescents with the objective of encouraging youth to recognize personal potential and three human rights of health, education and participation within society.

Initiatives Supporting the SDGs

Many anticipate that achieving these global objectives will be a complex challenge. Therefore, the U.N. has established two groups to address women’s, children’s and adolescent’s health advancement: The High-level Steering Group for Every Woman Every Child and The Working Group on the Health and Human Rights of Women, Children and Adolescents.

The U.N. Secretary-General created the High-level Steering Group for Every Woman and Every Child in 2015. Seven areas of focus within the 2016 Global Strategy define the overall aim of this group. These include early child development, adolescent health, quality, equity, dignity in health services, sexual and reproductive health and rights, empowerment, financing, humanitarian and fragile settings.

The World Health Organization and the U.N. Human Rights Council created the Working Group on the Health and Human Rights of Women, Children and Adolescents in 2016, and it delivered recommendations to improve methods to achieving the 2016 Global Strategy. The group provides insight to “better operationalize” the human rights goals of the Steering Group in the report. 

In conjunction, these groups have accelerated and promoted the effectiveness of the 2016 Global Strategy. These groups effectively outline the idea that it is crucial to work as a team to tackle some of the world’s most complex problems concerning global poverty and health. U.N. Secretary-General, Ban Ki-Moon, believes these programs and groups will guide individuals and societies to claim human rights, create substantial change and hold leaders accountable.

Benefiting the Global Community

While the objective of the 2016 Global Strategy is to provide women, children and adolescents with essential resources and opportunities, the benefits of this integrated approach reach far beyond these groups. Developing strategic interventions produces a high return on resource investment. The reduction of poverty and increased public health leads to stimulated economic growth, thus increasing productivity and job creation.

Further, projections determine that the 2016 Global Strategy’s investments in the health and nutrition of women, children and adolescents will procure a 10-fold return by 2030, yielding roughly $100 billion in demographic dividends.

These high returns provide a powerful impetus for program support by local communities and government officials. Projected financial return can shed light on the global benefits of localized poverty reduction efforts. While the aim of poverty reduction should be in the interest of those most affected, understanding that such programs can provide a country with increased long-term growth is a major factor in the success of such initiatives, specifically in women’s and children’s health. 

The 2016 Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescent’s Health is indispensable during a time when women and children are providing the world with new innovations and perspectives. Each day, women across the world promote cooperation, peace and conversations within communities. Children will come to define the wellbeing of our world in the future. The success of U.N. programs today is a new reality for the world tomorrow.

Aly Hill
Photo: Flickr