Information and stories about Africa.

5 Ways Music Helps Impoverished Youth
For many cultures, music is a primary form of expression. It serves as an outlet for struggles with identity, relationships, politics and even poverty. Since music encapsulates various elements of a culture, it is essential for heritage preservation and for spreading awareness about the adversity that the respective cultures face. Music is a universal language, capable of reaching out and touching the hearts of any listener. This includes children, who are extremely receptive to music and are capable of learning of its benefits and values. Here are five examples that show how music helps impoverished youth cope with their experiences and spread awareness of the world’s poor.

5 Examples of Music Helping Impoverished Youth

  1. A group of Yazidi girls formed a choir to preserve their cultural identities after suffering through sex slavery. Yazidi was recently overrun by the Islamic State military, resulting in thousands of young girls being sold into slavery. One of these girls was Rainas Elias, who was taken by ISIS at the age of 14. Two years after her kidnapping, Elias is one of the 14 young women who formed a choir that performs traditional Yazidi songs as a means of coping with their past traumatic experiences. In early February, the girls took a trip abroad to perform at the House of Parliament and Westminster Abbey. Since Yazidi music is not traditionally written or recorded, British violinist Michael Bochmann has been working with the choir. They are recording the songs, which are then archived in the Bodleian Library at Oxford University. This work helps preserve an important piece of Yazidi culture while simultaneously providing a healing experience to the girls involved.
  2. “Fresh Kid” is an 8-year-old rapper from Uganda who sings about his family’s struggles with poverty. His real name is Patrick Ssenyonjo and he began hearing songs on the radio at a very young age and could immediately memorize and repeat them. Soon, Fresh Kid was performing for his local community, rapping about struggles that he, his friends and his family face. Uganda’s lack of electricity and poor transportation standards are two primary causes behind the nation’s impoverished circumstances. Although the country has seen vast improvements in recent years, there are still many developments to be made. Fresh Kid’s music draws attention to this issue while his success provides hope to impoverished youth across the globe.
  3. Schools in Venezuela are teaching classical music to students as a means of transcending poverty. Venezuelan conductor Jose Antonio Abreu established the State Foundation for the National System of Youth and Children’s Orchestras of Venezuela in 1996. Otherwise known as The System, the program educates students on how to read and perform classical music. The System provides students with an artistic outlet in a professional atmosphere, resulting in the development of discipline and passion that is often unattainable by impoverished youth. Students living in poverty have made up 70 percent of the program’s participants since its creation. The foundation has produced world-renowned talents such as Gustavo Dudamel, conductor of the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra, and Edicson Ruiz, the youngest bass player to ever perform with the Berlin Philharmonic. Venezuela continues to suffer from a collapsed economy and corrupt politics, with an unemployment rate of 44 percent. The System grants Venezuela’s poorest children the chance to rise above these issues while spreading an appreciation for classical music.
  4. The Afghanistan National Institute of Music (ANIM) teaches traditional music to students. Half of these students come from poor backgrounds. The school instructs both Western and Afghan classical music as well as basic subjects like math and science. The school prides itself on embracing the education of Afghanistan’s less advantaged youth including girls, orphans and street-working vendors. One significant product of ANIM is Afghanistan’s first all-female orchestra. Not only does the school provide a well-rounded curriculum, but its music-oriented focus promotes the resurgence of cultural factors that were once banned by Taliban rule. ANIM demonstrates the influence music has by bringing social change and emotional healing to impoverished youth.
  5. Ghetto Classics is a youth orchestra featuring more than 500 children from Korogocho. The orchestra is a result of the Art of Music Foundation, a non-profit dedicated to improving the lives of impoverished youth in Eastern Africa by integrating classical music studies into schools. The director of the Art of Music Foundation, Elizabeth Wamuni Njoroge, founded Ghetto Classics in 2008 after a local Catholic priest requested that the foundation start teaching classical music to the youth. Njoroge states that the community was skeptical of the idea at first, partially because of distrust in NGOs and partly because classical music is quite different than the hip-hop and reggae that locals are accustomed to. However, Korogocho soon warmed up to the idea, and Ghetto Classics is now one of the most valued and successful community projects to exist in Korogocho. Since its foundation, the orchestra has extended to 14 other schools in Eastern Africa. Ghetto Classics and similar programs help students to grasp core life values and provides a fresh outlook on life.

Music has the power to preserve generations of cultural value. It can also spark interest and motivation in the minds of impoverished youth. These stories demonstrate the potential music has to raise awareness for issues such as sex slavery and poverty. Since music is directly tied to heritage and tradition, it can bring about major social change without eliminating the cultural identity of a society. These five examples of how music helps impoverished youth serve as proof that something as simple as the beat of a drum can contribute to the fight against global poverty, one tap at a time.

Harley Goebel
Photo: Flickr

Life Expectancy in Mauritius
Known for its tropical warm waters, the Republic of Mauritius is one of the major tourist destinations of the world. Mauritius has the highest life expectancy in the African continent, with a population of nearly 1.2 million. A nation’s life expectancy has proven time and again to be one of the major factors fostering its economic development. Here are 10 facts about life expectancy in Mauritius.

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Mauritius

  1. According to the World Bank, the total life expectancy at birth in Mauritius stood at 74.5 years in 2017. Males live up to 71.3 years whereas females have a higher life expectancy, living up to almost 79 years. 
  2. As one of the top 10 free economies of the world, Mauritius has the second-highest GDP in the African continent and economists estimate the GDP per capita will reach $11,200 by the end of 2020. With a 3.8 percent growth rate, the island nation shows a great promise in improving the quality of life for its residents. Mauritius spent about 4.8 percent of the total GDP on health care in 2014.
  3. Ischemic heart disease and diabetes rank among the top two causes of death in Mauritius, although the number of deaths from diabetes has surged by 37 percent from 2007 to 2017. The Ministry of Health and Quality of Life, Mauritius Institute of Health and World Health Organisation (WHO) have suggested several dietary guidelines to regulate diabetes and other non-communicable diseases.
  4. Several islands like the island of Rodrigues suffer from extreme poverty and lack of access to basic amenities, which decreases life expectancy, even though Mauritius has one of the fastest-growing African economies. However, the economic inequality growing in the nation has been the primary target for The Marshall Plan Against Poverty which tackles several of these hindrances and plans to better the lives of communities falling under the poverty line. The plan allows the people living in absolute poverty to be on the receiving end of cash transfers and the support of social workers to help them battle the challenges faced because of their economic conditions.
  5. As a welfare state, the government of Mauritius provides free health care to its citizens, making it highly accessible. Medical care standards are very high with qualified health professionals attending 98 percent of childbirths, reducing the risk of infant mortality. Additionally, Mauritius had 1.06 physicians per 1,000 people in 2004. 
  6. Physical activity and way of life play a major role in life expectancy. With a surge in its non-communicable diseases, researchers found that only 23 percent of the adult Mauritius population engages in WHO’s recommended physical activity level, which is 150 minutes per week. According to Dr. Anwar Husnoo, the Minister of Health and Quality of Life, the number stooped to 19 percent in the case of young adults. He stated this at a December 2018 workshop in Quatre Bornes, to raise awareness of the importance of the physical activity.
  7. Many parts of the world still heavily stigmatize mental health and Mauritius is no exception. With only 1.6 psychiatrists available for 100,000 people in a country where 28.4 out of 1,000 citizens suffer from severe mental or substance abuse disorders, the nation still has a long way to increase its life expectancy. An upside to this is that the care and treatment of major health disorders receive complete coverage in the country’s health care schemes, making it easier for its citizens to approach treatments more openly.
  8. The infant mortality rate in Mauritius has been on a steady decline since 1969 from 62.8 deaths per 1,000 live births to 13.6 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2018. This was due to the increase in medical standards and supervised childbirths. Access to vaccines has also played a key role. According to UNICEF, 99 percent of the children received doses of a measles-containing vaccine, as administered in the national schedule.
  9. The life expectancy of Mauritius’ male population tends to be less than that of the female population. Research that NCBI carried out analyzed the patterns in the influence of cause-of-death structure on age and found out that the infectious diseases were a major cause of death in younger Mauritian males, while circulatory causes like heart diseases resulted in major deaths among the older male population. Type 2 diabetes is still a major cause of death in Mauritian females, as it affects 21.3 percent of the female population of the country.
  10. The percentage of the urban population of a nation often contributes to its life expectancy. A higher urban population often means easier access to basic amenities and health care which reduces the mortality rate due to preventable causes. By 2018, 40.79 percent of the Mauritius population lived in urban areas. The current percentage has certainly contributed to the steady increase of the life expectancy in Mauritius even though it is nearly 4 percent less than the highest percentage of the urban population that Mauritius ever recorded (which was 44.1 percent).

Taking all these factors into consideration, there is no doubt that Mauritius is moving steadily forward in increasing its life expectancy and making better living conditions more accessible and possible for all sections of its population.

– Reshma Beesetty
Photo: Flickr

African Agritech Startups
The World Bank predicts that agribusiness in Africa will grow to become a $1 trillion industry by 2030. This growth impacts poverty reduction efforts. For every 1 percent increase in agricultural GDP, poverty in the region decreases by 1 percent. Food security and stable growth in the region can be obtained by investments in agriculture. Specifically, a large branch of agriculture business on the rise is agricultural-tech in Sub-Saharan Africa. With African agritech startups launching in 2010, exponential growth has been seen since. 

Agritech companies, or disruptive agricultural technologies (DATs), aim to develop solutions to ongoing issues in the form of solar devices, mobile apps and even bio-fortified foods. These companies help farmers in two ways: increasing produce yield by 3-5x the baseline and/or connecting farmers directly to buyers and affordable equipment, effectively cutting out the middleman. These technological advances help farmers increase their output, efficiency and access to markets. With the help of agritech, farmers can combat a lack of regional resources and reduce poverty.

5 African Agritech Startups Tackling Poverty

  1. Kitovu is a Nigerian based mobile app that was launched in 2016. The startup’s goal is to help farmers increase their crop yield while guaranteeing sales directly to buyers. Kitovu’s primary motivation evolved from post-harvest loss and waste occurring in roughly 40 percent of crops. This waste is partly due to small farmers being required to sell their goods through intermediaries who take a large portion of the profit. To reduce loss and decrease corruption, Kitovu connects farmers directly to processing companies and relevant consumers. With this information, farmers use Kitovu’s FarmPack to provide insight into the purchase of crop-specific fertilizers, appropriate seeds and agrochemicals. Kitovu also has a user exchange feature, called FarmSwap, that allows farmers to trade produce, thus gaining additional funding through inputs financing. Lastly, Kitovu offers a third feature, called eProcure, to help farmers with various supply chain needs, including exportation and necessary operational machinery.
  2. Agrocenta is a four-tiered software platform founded in Ghana in 2015. Similar to Kitovu, Agrocenta seeks to solve a common barrier to farmers: a lack of access to buyers and financing options. Four distinct platforms are offered. AgroTrade simulates an active marketplace that connects farmers of staples directly to buyers. AgroPay creates a reliable log for various products. AgroInfo delivers industry news such as crop prices and weather updates. Finally, Truckr partners directly with Ghana Private Road Transport Union to ensure drivers deliver goods efficiently. With these services, Agrocenta services more than 46,000 individual farmers.
  3. AgriPredict is a Zambian-based agritech company created by CEO Mwila Kangwa that utilizes AI to help around 22,000 farmers manage risks of environmental disasters, including drought, pests and crop diseases. This mobile app and web-based platform predicts weather patterns and identifies crop diseases through machine learning. A farmer will take a photo of the diseased crop and upload it to the app where the output will be a real-time diagnosis, treatment options and a location of the nearest agricultural supply store. Additionally, AgriPredict has a tool that helps farmers estimate their yield of a specific plot of land.
  4. Yellow Beast Tech is aiming to solve severe water shortages, like the shortages that plagued South Africa from 2015 to 2018. During this time, city dam water levels fell below the typical level by 13.5 percent. Founded by civil engineers, Pontisho Molestane and Matebele Moshoni, the company invents, manufactures, sells and installs irrigation systems aimed to limit water waste. Additionally, the device uses AI to analyze the most optimal conditions for the soil-crop system to aid farmers in maximizing crop yield while limiting water usage.
  5. Hello Tractor, a mobile app, was founded in 2015 to provide affordable equipment to farmers in Nigeria and Kenya. The app connects tractor owners, small-scale farmers, banks and dealers to locate the best solutions. A monitoring device is first attached to the tractor and connected to the cloud. Relevant data is transmitted to stakeholders to optimize agricultural business networking and production. According to the company, 22,500 farmers have been served to date. Further, these farmers see about a 200 percent increase in crop yield.

African agritech startups show promise for the continent by addressing the needs of the ever-increasing population. Not only do these five startups provide an innovative approach to addressing systemic issues in the sector, but concrete solutions to food security and poverty as well.

– Danielle Barnes
Photo: Flickr

Facts About Women’s Health in EthiopiaWhile gender equality has been a significant issue in the sub-Saharan African country, recent steps have been taken to ensure the health and safety of Ethiopian women and girls. Below are seven facts about women’s health in Ethiopia.

7 Facts About Women’s Health in Ethiopia

  1. The maternal mortality rate has been cut in half between 1990 and 2010. One reason for this is the implementation of the Health Extension Program (HEP) in 2005, which aims to provide all families with clean and safe spaces to deliver their babies both at home and in medical facilities.
  2. In 2015, the Center for International Reproductive Health Training (CIRHT) was founded in order to increase the number of medical professionals that could provide reproductive care to rural areas of Ethiopia. Students are completing the program in three years, compared to 12 years of similar advanced programs in other African countries. The program also works to destigmatize reproductive health and merge it into mainstream health care. Partly as a result of this program, the number of Ethiopian women making four or more doctors’ visits during their pregnancies has tripled between 2000 and 2014.
  3. Ethiopia has a long history of gender-based discrimination which impacts the wellbeing of women and girls in the country. In February of 2019, the Ethiopian government held a meeting with civil society organizations (CSOs) as a part of African Health Week to prioritize gender-sensitive policymaking objectives in the health care sector.
  4. The use of contraceptives has increased by almost six times from 2000 to 2016. The introduction to modern contraceptive methods had helped prevent unwanted pregnancies and disease among married women in Ethiopia.
  5. Twice as many women in Ethiopia have HIV than men, but in 2016, 49 percent of women had knowledge of HIV prevention methods, compared to 32 percent in 2000. This has contributed to a 45 percent decrease in AIDS-related deaths in the country between 2010 and 2018, as well as a decrease of 6,000 new cases in the same timeframe.
  6. In both rural and urban communities, the percentage of female genital mutilation has decreased by at least 10 percent. Though progress still needs to be made, both settings have seen a significant decrease in the act between 2000 and 2016.
  7. In 2018, the first two urogynecology fellows in Ethiopia graduated from Mekelle University. Oregon Health and Science University partnered with Mekelle to launch the first urogynecology fellowship program in the country. Urogynecologists treat pelvic floor disorders in women, many who suffer in silence in Ethiopia, as this group of disorders is not well known.

While Ethiopia has severely struggled with gender inequality throughout its history, it is encouraging to see that the Ethiopian government is making concrete changes. Between the creations of programs and institutions, as well as improved education, women’s health in Ethiopia will continue to make great strides.

– Alyson Kaufman
Photo: Pixabay

How Desert Locusts Impact Global Poverty
With the rainy season falling upon Africa, a number of countries are rushing to take action against a catastrophic swarm of desert locusts currently in several regions. This swarm might be the most destructive of its kind in 25 years for Ethiopia and Somalia and the worst that has hit Kenya in over 70 years. People can predominantly find the insects in regions across Africa, Asia and the Middle East. They have the ability to eat their own weight in food, which poses a challenge to crop production in arid climates. Rain and planting seasons begin in March, meaning that efforts to contain infestation must happen quickly before the situation becomes too drastic and the locusts impact global poverty too severely.

Read more below for information on what desert locusts are, their impact on global poverty and the preventative measures that affected countries must take in order to address the destruction that will cut across these regions in 2020.

Desert Locusts

Desert locusts are the oldest and most dangerous migratory pests. They are short-horned insects that are part of the grasshopper species, but they differ in that they have the ability to alter their behavior in order to migrate across large distances. These migrations can easily become highly concentrated and mobile.

These locusts usually travel in swarms, containing up to 40 million insects that can consume enough food for 34 million people in a short period of time. They are able to stay in the air for a long time, meaning that they can regularly cross the Red Sea at a distance of 300 kilometers.

These swarms have already crossed into areas like Uganda, Tanzania and South Sudan. They typically form under heavy rain conditions, where they travel in search of food. Desert locusts are among the most destructive migratory pests because they not only threaten food security but economic and environmental development as well.

People can spray them with pesticides as a control measure, but it is not always preventative. Both humans and birds regularly eat them, but not enough to reduce swarms of a large size. Current environmental conditions that cause frequent droughts, cyclones in the Indian Ocean and floods have created the perfect atmosphere for locusts to breed.

Locusts’ Contribution to Global Poverty

Desert locusts primarily reside in the arid deserts of Africa and near east and southwest Asia and the Middle East. This poses a severe challenge to herders and may potentially cause communal conflict as herders move in search of pastures and other grazing lands.

Desert locusts consume as much food as 20 camels, six elephants or 350,000 people in a day. It is in this way that locusts impact global poverty because with large invasions in east Africa, where 2.5 million people are already facing severe hunger, there is a clear challenge in regards to the global poverty epidemic. The food crisis will deepen and grazing lands will no longer be able to sustain sufficient crop production, which will lead to an even more economic downturn for several African countries.

Solutions

The quickest vehicle for prevention is spraying pesticides or biopesticides in the air. Natural predators exist, but desert locusts can escape pretty quickly due to their mobility.

The United Nations (U.N.) has publicly called for international aid in alleviating the destruction that will inevitably arise from these swarms. Desert locusts will compromise food security all over Africa, which will, in turn, lead to higher poverty rates as people scramble for food. Its office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs has allocated about $10 million from its Central Emergency Relief Fund. This will help fund aerial operations that can enforce infestation control better.

The Food and Agriculture Organizations of the United Nations (FAO) is currently calling to raise about $76 million from donors and other organizations in order to limit how desert locusts impact global poverty. So far, it has raised approximately $20 million, which is largely from the U.N.’s emergency fund. The numbers should increase as the locusts travel larger distances and spread to more areas.

Desert locust swarms are growing at an exponential rate. Projections determine that they will increase by 500 times in East Africa by June 2020, which invokes even more of a humanitarian crisis as food shortage will impact millions of people.

– Brittany Adames
Photo: Flickr

Investment Zones in Africa
Although populous, rich in natural resources and blessed with an abundance of arable land, many countries in the African continent continue to contend with poverty and food insecurity. That said, the status quo in Africa is far from all doom-and-gloom. More than 400 African companies boast annual revenues of $1 billion or greater, and the continent’s average GDP increased at an annual rate of 5.4 percent from 2000-2010. Meanwhile, a 2018 report from the World Bank noted that six of the world’s 10 fastest-growing economies were in Africa, with Ghana claiming the top spot. New markets and investment zones in Africa offer entrepreneurs a host of business opportunities.

Competition for African Business

Africa’s economic revolution and ongoing population boom are an enticing prospect for international companies and foreign investors. China, Russia and India are just three of the nations competing for African business. In 2019, Chinese-African trade accrued $170 billion in profits, more than 20 times what it was in the early days of the current millennium. Foreign powers import Nigerian crude oil and cobalt from the Democratic Republic of the Congo or establish utility contracts in West Africa and this is only the beginning – Africa’s fast-growing economies promise even greater profits down the road.

Agriculture

Africa owns more arable land than any other region on earth, but most of that land is unutilized. African agricultural imports account for only 10 percent of the world market, while 60 percent of the world’s uncultivated land lies in African borders. Agribusiness has the potential to become one of the most profitable investment zones in Africa, as cash crops like sugar, tobacco and coffee have already yielded dividends for exporters even at less than optimal production.

Industry and Infrastructure

Given Africa’s generally outdated energy grids and telecommunications networks, infrastructure projects should prove a lucrative investment sector. Egypt initiated a full-scale infrastructure overhaul in 2015, while the Infrastructure Consortium for Africa (ICA) financed a number of ventures across the continent, including the North-South Power Transmission Corridor project. Some people project Africa’s domestic gas markets to grow 9 percent annually through 2025. African manufacturers are on track to double their production to roughly $1 trillion by 2030, giving the region the capability to undercut traditional (and more costly) manufacturing exporters like China.

Profit for a Purpose

Continued industrialization and population growth in Africa should lead to an influx of new markets and future generations of consumers. Importantly, the locals also stand to benefit from new revenue streams and investment zones in Africa, not just multinationals. African investors are increasingly trying their hand in the international stock exchange, contributing $13.39 billion to global Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) projects, and $10.2 billion to FDI funds in Africa itself. Africa, it seems, should become the next big player at the international economic table.

Dan Zamarelli
Photo: Flickr

Artificial Intelligence is Helping Developing Countries
Developing countries often suffer from a lack of good teachers and schools. As a result, they frequently do not have very good academic standing and their people are less educated. With this lack of learning and cultivation comes a worse economy as well. The developing world needs to find a way to academically catch up with the developed world. Not only is it lacking in educational resources, but health care is a problem as well. Medical professionals are rarely available, especially in places further from the city. Individual appointments use up human resources fast, leaving others with no help. Even things like farming are getting to be more difficult. With the changing climate, farmers cannot use traditional farming cycles and predictions to determine the best time to plant their crops. Luckily, artificial intelligence is helping developing countries tackle some of their present challenges.

 Artificial Intelligence Can Make a Difference

Artificial Intelligence (AI) can solve many of the problems that developing countries face. Not only can it do more than a human, but it can also learn and adapt as it goes. AI takes the data it receives and uses it in the way it is told but also finds ways to optimize the process. The more that people use artificial intelligence, the more it improves.

Disaster Relief

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs used a system called Artificial Intelligence for Disaster Response (AIDR) to gather all information about the 2015 earthquake in Nepal and its damage, emergency needs and disaster response. AIDR was able to pinpoint the location of actual and potential victims and determine which workers were available. Artificial intelligence can also create digital maps of the area to identify which places need the most assistance. It is able to identify humanitarian aid needs automatically and sort any given data into different categories, such as infrastructure damage, urgent needs and response efforts. Based on this categorization and captured data, available responders could quickly focus their efforts and supplies on the right places.

Tutoring

Artificial intelligence is helping developing countries because it has the power to bring education to those who formerly never dreamed of accessing it. With over 750 million adults unable to read and write, most of them in developing countries, AI could enact big change in their lives. Currently, there are two large learning platforms that utilize artificial intelligence in Africa: Daptio and Eneza Education. Daptio helps students to study remotely. It gathers data on the student, such as their strengths and weaknesses, and adjusts its curriculum accordingly. Eneza Education is a mobile learning platform that gives lessons and assessments to over 860,000 subscribers. Students receive these through web communication or SMS messages. It has quizzes, offline access to Wikipedia, a dictionary and its own feature where users can “Ask-A-Teacher” questions live.

Improving Crop Production

The AI Sowing App, made by Microsoft and the International Crop Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), pinpoints the best time to plant seeds, prepare land and use fertilizer. It also has a function that finds the moisture adequacy index, both in real-time and the future. The app works by gathering data from past climate trends, usually around a couple of decades, and applies it to the present. AI can also assist in weeding; Harvest CROO Robotics created a device that can analyze each plant individually and determine whether it needs pesticides or not, greatly saving on pesticides and their costs.

Improving Health Care and Hastening Economic Development

AI can perform accurate diagnoses, give treatment plans and predict disease outbreak. This saves on human resources and gives those that live farther from civilization the same access to medical care. It can also make basic health care cheaper for those who cannot afford to travel to an actual doctor for medical attention. As for economic development, with AI taking care of menial labor like factory work and educating the public, humans will be able to focus on doing more complicated jobs like working as entrepreneurs or engineers.

Although many developing nations suffer from poor education, lack of health care and economies, artificial intelligence is helping developing countries solve many of these problems. From disaster relief and education to improving crop production and providing medical assistance, artificial intelligence applications have the potential to greatly improve the lives of countless individuals within the developing world.

Nyssa Jordan
Photo: Flickr

Abandoned Baby Rate in South Africa
The abandoned baby rate in South Africa is often a touchy subject. Rather than speak about it, most people simply tend to donate their money to those children in need while others support the charities that provide for them. In some cases, a select few people will engage in hands-on volunteering, whether it is volunteering their time or their services to assist these abandoned babies in South Africa.

However, how often do people come across a clothing boutique that does all of the above? Fab’rik is an Atlanta-based franchised boutique that has more than 40 locations nationwide. The boutique has an in-store line, Asher, that strives to give back to abandoned babies in South Africa with the proceeds it makes from each garment sold.

Abandoned Baby Rate in South Africa

South Africa has approximately 18.5 million children and 4.5 million of those children do not live with their parents. Over the past decade, approximately 5.2 million children in the country were orphaned, showing a 30 percent increase in orphans. About 3,500 children survive abandonment each year according to a study that the Medical Research Council conducted in 2018. The study found that for every child that was alive, at least two were dead. The same research concluded that 65 percent of abandoned children were newborns and 90 percent were under the age of 1.

The abandoned baby rate in South Africa is increasing at an alarming rate. Even more alarming are the places that people are leaving these babies behind. The research found that others have previously underestimated the rate of abandonment because of where the culprits are dumping babies. They are disposing of babies in toilets, landfills, bins, gutters and other places where the probability of others finding them is unlikely. People seldom find the baby bodies that some flush down drains or animals eat.

Why Are Some Abandoning Babies in South Africa?

The rise of the abandoned baby rate in South Africa is in part due to the legalization of abortions. Though abortions are legal in South Africa, there remain many African communities that chastise women who resort to having late abortions or abortions period. In turn, African women who have unwanted pregnancies must undergo unsafe and illegal abortions. Other reasons some abandon these babies are because of poverty, high levels of HIV and social conditions.

What is the African Government Doing to Help?

The South African government has not done much to reduce the abandoned baby rate in South Africa. Abandonment is, unfortunately, not on the government’s radar and it is a problem that has plagued the country for years with no apparent decline. Due to the lack of government-based research, there is no research that the African government has conducted to date to track abandonment rates, just as there are no measures in place to counter it. The government currently does not consider baby abandonment in South Africa a violent crime, nor does it include it in the country’s crime statistics or list it as a cause of death in South African mortuaries. As a result, there is no sure way to tell the accurate number of babies who die from abandonment each year, making it difficult to depict the impact and length that the abandoned baby rate in South Africa extends.

Fab’rik CEO Has the Vision to do Good in Africa

The CEO and founder of Atlanta-based boutique, Fab’rik, seeks to help decrease the abandoned baby rate in South Africa. In 2002, Dana Spinola left her corporate America job to open up her first boutique. Not only is Mrs. Spinola the CEO and founder of clothing boutique Fab’rik, but she is also a philanthropist. In 2011, Spinola launched the Asher collection, a clothing line in her stores. The clothing line has the name of her daughter who Spinola adopted in 2004 at just 6 months old and is from Ethiopia. The boutique owner found the baby abandoned by the roadside which inspired the clothing line. The proceeds from the Asher collection go towards the adoption process of orphaned children in Africa, and for Spinola, it is an affirmation of her belief that clothing does change lives.

Asher’s Proceeds Create Opportunity for Abandoned Babies in Africa

On average, mothers abandon a total of hundreds of babies each month. They leave these babies in African hospitals, police stations and even outdoors. The prevalence of abandoned babies in Africa has spiked. However, the Asher clothing line has sought out to be of assistance to them. Asher is a collection of women’s clothing that allows its buyers to look good and do good. The Asher collection fights to face the reality of baby abandonment.

With the Asher Babies Program, the clothing line’s proceeds allow space for a safe, loving home, health care, development therapy and educational opportunities to abandoned and orphaned children in Africa. Every store that sells Asher merchandise has the opportunity to pair with an Asher Baby. That store is then able to write, video message and eventually meet its Asher baby. Each garment that the Asher collection sells goes toward a specific baby to fund their specialized needs and to assist in finding them a forever family and a forever home through adoption.

The Asher Babies program continues to provide for the babies through childhood and into their adolescence. There is a dire need for people like Dana Spinola and the Asher collection, whose primary focus is to help decrease the abandoned baby rate in South Africa and to provide forever homes to the babies that others too often discard and forget.

– Na’Keevia Brown
Photo: Flickr

Sanitation In Africa
Sub-Saharan Africa has 52 countries, all of which have large swaths of their population’s using toilets that encourage disease, or worse, relying on open defecation as the only way to dispose of waste. With 1.094 billion people on the continent, there is plenty of room for improvement. Here are 10 facts about sanitation in Africa.

10 Facts About Sanitation in Africa

  1. Socioeconomic Status: sub-Saharan Africa’s sanitation issues correlate with an individual’s socioeconomic status. Essentially, the poorest individuals are 18 times more likely to practice open defecation, which amounted to over 220 million people in 2015.
  2. Improved Sanitation in Uganda: In Uganda, 45 percent of the rural population and 27 percent of the urban population need to walk over 1 km to access an improved sanitation facility. Improved sanitation facilities include “flush or pour-flush to a piped sewer system, septic tank, pit latrine; ventilated improved pit (VIP) latrine, pit latrine with slab, [or] composting toilet.”
  3. The Millenium Development Goal (MDG) for Sanitation: Western Africa, Eastern Africa, Southern Africa and Central Africa were not on track to meet the Millennium Development Goal for sanitation in 2008. In fact, out of 52 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, only one allocated 0.5 percent of its GDP to sanitation measures. Budgets have 0.5 percent as the minimum for sanitation. Goal 7 of the Millennium Development Goals was to ensure environmental sustainability, and that included climate change aspects in conjunction with improved drinking water access and improved sanitation access. When looking at the sustainable development goals, out of the 52 counties, the vast majority are reaching stagnation. Reaching goal 6, which is for clean water and sanitation, will require internal mobilization and increased funding from external sources to meet the 2030 deadline.
  4. Return on Sanitation: When governments allocate funding for improved sanitation options, it tends to be lower than necessary because they do not consider it an economic venture that will have a monetary return. This is especially the case for developing countries because they often want as much money as possible for investments to receive large returns and get the most value from their dollars. The World Health Organization estimates that the return on sanitation spending is 550 percent or in other words, $5.50 for every $1 that a government invests in improved sanitation methods in Africa.
  5. The Loowatt Toilet: Loowatt provides a toilet made of horse dung that is perfect for use in developing countries. It is a waterless system, which is fantastic for drought-stricken countries and regions. Additionally, it turns human waste into energy biofuel at a reliable rate if people use it regularly. The best part is that it has a low cost of 12 Euros as a deposit and a 3 Euro monthly service fee. In the country of Madagascar, it went beyond proof of concept, and the company was maintaining over 100 toilets that serviced over 800 people in 2017. Since then, over 100,000 customers in both the U.K. and Madagascar have used Loowatt toilets.
  6. South Africa: South Africa determined that access to water is a right in 2002 and it set the supply to 25 l/c/d or 6 kiloliters per connection a month. However, South Africa has just recently made the transition from supply to sanitation access. For both rural and urban sanitation, over 50 percent of the annual and per capita investment requirements are unavailable due to a lack of ability to provide the full $1.218 billion the country requires.
  7. Ghana and Open Defecation: No district in Ghana has a 0 percent open defecation status, and three out of 10 rural households practiced open defecation. Over 81 percent of the Ghanaian population lack access to improved sanitation. Organizations are trying to bridge the gap between the people who cannot pay upfront to build the improved sanitation facilities by providing WaterCredit. WaterCredit is essentially a way for the poor to get water and sanitation loans. Currently, Water.org has facilitated $2.4 million through its partners in microloans for water and sanitation purposes in Ghana.
  8. Peepoo: With the creation of the Peepoo, those with communicable toilets can access safe sanitation and prevent others from getting the disease they may be infected with. Peepoo is a biodegradable bag that sanitizes human feces and allows it to become fertilizer in about a month. It attacks the problem of sanitization at the source by giving an alternative to open defecation that does not require a sizable investment to build a toilet. Peepoo sales have mainly occurred in Kenya, where the company continues to do research and build the foundation for easier use. A study that Peepoo conducted with a grant examined 37 schools with about 6,500 students to determine the effectiveness of Peepoo sanitation and deworming, both independently and combined. The results in 2016 included improved attendance and overall improved health due to the reduction in diarrheal diseases in the school children.
  9. Open Defecation in Urban Areas: The number of those practicing open defecation is increasing in urban areas due to the rapid size increase of the overall area, without proper permits for building or a focus on providing latrines and washrooms. Additionally, including cost as a factor, urban slums are sometimes cheap and an affordable option for the poorest individuals. In particular, open defecation in the Kampala Slum is at about 28 percent while estimates determine that 1 percent of Uganda’s urban population openly defecates.
  10. The Leave No One Behind Pledge: The Sustainable Development Goals emerged to replace the Millennium Development Goals, and goal 6 of providing clean water and sanitation aims to “Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.” These goals also focus on helping those furthest behind first through the Leave No One Behind pledge. The pledge itself is a way to ensure that those facing the worst of poverty end up at the forefront of progress by confronting the inequalities as a method of reducing the number of individuals living in extreme poverty. This pledge is an overarching goal for all of the sustainable development goals and encompasses the fact that those worst off should be a primary focus in order to achieve the goal at hand. Even with this pledge, it is likely that about 60 percent of the countries will not reach the target of full implementation by 2030. However, Uganda is a leading example of the potential countries that may achieve goal 6, thanks to its national development plan which includes policy in line with the sustainable development goals but with adaptations to reflect cultural and national contexts.

Sanitation in Africa, specifically Sub-Saharan Africa, is still vastly below the goals, although the continent is making progress. With the continuing improvements and government’s investments into sanitation, African nations could see increased levels of productivity and return on their investments. Northern Africa had met the Millennium Development Goals and continues to increase its standard of sanitation. As the world progresses towards 2030, it can expect to see dramatic sanitation improvements after the completion of thorough research regarding the investments and implementation of sanitation techniques.

– Cassiday Moriarity
Photo: Pixabay

human trafficking in Africa
Today estimates determine that over 40 million people live in modern-day slavery, making it more rampant than it has ever been in human history. A significant amount of this trafficking takes place in Africa. These 10 facts illustrate what human trafficking in Africa looks like and highlights some organizations that are combatting it.

10 Facts About Human Trafficking in Africa

  1. Twenty-three percent of global human trafficking takes place in Africa. According to the 2018 Global Slavery Index, over 9.2 million people living in Africa are living in modern slavery. This makes up nearly a quarter of all human trafficking around the globe. When it comes to countries within Africa that have the highest amount of victims per 1,000 people, Eritrea has the highest prevalence with 93 victims per 1,000, followed by Burundi with 40 victims and the Central African Republic with 22.3.
  2. Nearly 40 percent of those trafficked in Africa are in forced labor. In Africa, forced labor is the reality for an estimated 37 percent of trafficking victims, according to the Global Slavery Index. Labor trafficking can take on many forms including work in agriculture, mining and fishing industries. Traffickers often force victims to work extensive hours in extremely dangerous conditions and potentially abusive environments with little to no pay.
  3. Over half of human trafficking victims in Africa are in a forced marriage. In Africa, traffickers force an estimated 63 percent of victims into marriage without their consent, many of whom are children. According to the International Labour Office, forced marriage of young girls and women can be in exchange for money, paying off debt or to settle disputes among families. Forced marriage can result in sexual and physical abuse, domestic servitude and sexual exploitation. According to the Human Rights Watch, Africa and other governments included ending child marriage as one of the targets in the 2015 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Since then, UNICEF says several African countries have started to create and utilize preventative action plans and strategies to address child marriage.
  4. A lot is still unknown about human trafficking in special case countries. Libya and Somalia are both special case countries according to the 2018 Trafficking in Persons Report. In other words, it is impossible to accurately measure the extent of trafficking due to extensive conflict in the area. It is Libya’s fourth consecutive year to have this classification. Violence and unrest in the region have led to a lack of authority and law enforcement, making it difficult to track human trafficking and combat it. Somalia has been a special case country for 17 consecutive years now, facing ongoing insecurity and a humanitarian crisis. Conflict in the area has continuously hindered efforts to prevent human trafficking.
  5. No African country fully meets the TVPA’s minimum standards for the elimination of human trafficking. These minimum standards of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) that the U.S. Department of State set includes four main parameters. These include prohibiting severe forms of trafficking, punishing trafficking crimes accordingly and making serious efforts to eliminate modern-day slavery. While no African countries fully meet these minimum standards, 19 are on the Tier 2 Watch List. According to the U.S. State Department, this means they are “making significant efforts” to comply with the TVPA’s standards.
  6. Over half of those suffering exploitation for labor are in debt bondage. According to Anti-Slavery International, debt bondage is the most common form of modern slavery. Through debt bondage, traffickers force victims to work in order to pay off a debt. However, in most cases, traffickers make debts impossible to pay off by giving laborers insufficient compensation or none at all. According to the Global Slavery Index, debt bondage accounts for 54 percent of people exploited for their labor in Africa.
  7. Over 400,000 people in Africa are victims of sexual exploitation. This accounts for 8 percent of forced sexual exploitation and commercial sexual exploitation of children around the globe. According to the International Labour Office, women and girls account for over 99 percent of these victims. 21 percent of all victims are children under the age of 18. These victims are men and women who traffickers have exploited for commercial sex. In some cases, victims may have voluntarily entered the industry but are not able to leave.
  8. The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has the highest absolute number of human trafficking victims. Over one-quarter (26.3 percent) of all victims of human trafficking in Africa are in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. According to the U.S. Department of State, although the DRC government is not making significant efforts to end trafficking, it has made some progress. The government of the DRC has taken steps to prevent the use of child soldiers and has repatriated several trafficking victims. Congolese law has also criminalized all forms of sex trafficking, but only some forms of labor trafficking.
  9. South Africa launched the Prevention and Combatting of Trafficking in Persons National Policy Framework. South Africa is not only a major destination for human trafficking but according to the United Nations Office on Drug and Crime (UNODC), many also consider it a transit country for trafficking in North America and Europe. In 2019, the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development in South Africa created a framework of the Global Action against Trafficking in Persons and Smuggling of Migrants. This National Policy Framework (NPF) engages governmental organizations as well as civil stakeholders in anti-trafficking efforts and aims to strengthen the criminal justice system in regards to human trafficking in South Africa. This framework is a four-year initiative in collaboration with the European Union and the UNODC.
  10. People traffick thousands of children on Lake Volta. Lake Volta is the world’s largest man-made lake and is essential to Ghana’s expansive fishing industry. According to the International Justice Mission (IJM), thousands of children work on this lake, many of whom traffickers force to work against their will. Often, traffickers force these children to do dangerous tasks such as untangling fishing nets and deep diving. The majority of trafficking victims are 10 years old or younger. Violence and starvation are common among these young trafficking victims and many are hard for the government to track as they are working on unregistered boats.  Since 2015, IJM has been able to rescue 164 victims from Lake Volta’s fishing industry and continues to partner with Ghana’s criminal justice system to bring traffickers to justice.

Human trafficking in Africa is a serious problem. However, with the help of organizations like the UNODC and IJM, awareness of modern-day slavery in Africa is increasing. The new legislation is helping to protect vulnerable populations and many African countries are joining the fight to end modern-day slavery.

– Megan McKeough
Photo: Flickr