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

How Mushrooms are Farmed

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

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

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

Successes in East Asia

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

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

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

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

A Growing Market in Africa

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

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

How Mushrooms Made One Girl Famous

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

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

Mushrooming Success

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

– Jonathan Helton
Photo: Pixabay

gender inequality in IndonesiaAs the fourth most populous country in the world, Indonesia continues to battle poverty and conditions of inequality for women. However, Indonesia has made strides in improving access to education for girls. The nation also has one of the highest literacy rates in Asia. Various U.N. programs are promoting women’s access to learning while advancing the benefits of women in Indonesia’s marketplace. Here are many ways in which gender equality in Indonesia is improving.

Women in Politics

Indonesia implemented a democratic system in 1998. Since then they have implemented laws that decrease the inequality gap between men and women. For example, one law requires that political parties be composed of at least 30% of women. 2018 even saw Indonesia’s female finance minister voted Best Minister in the World by the World Government Summit. Women in Indonesia have also been influential in promoting certain bills that grant women more rights. The 2019 sexual violence bill, for example, identifies nine different forms of sexual harassment all of which would be made illegal. Discussion of this topic is taboo in some social settings in Indonesia, which makes support for this bill by women crucial.

Grassroots Movements

Women activists and Indonesian civil society organizations (CSOs) have played a role in breaking away social norms regarding inequality. With international support, these CSOs have impacted 900 villages over 27 provinces. This has positively affected more than 32,000 women from more than 1,000 groups in 2018. At the village level, these organizations promote women’s involvement in decision-making and focus on reducing violence against women.

Economic Empowerment

In 2019, U.N. Women launched an online learning platform that aims to empower women business owners called WeLearn. The platform offers free curricula to women entrepreneurs. WeLearn also provides access to lessons from industry experts and fellow women entrepreneurs.

A 2018 study of Women Empowerment Principles in the top 50 companies in Indonesia found that there was a minimum of one woman on every board of at least 84% of the companies that participated in the survey. These companies have also implemented initiatives to empower women in the workplace.

Access to Education

Access to education in Indonesia is also improving for girls. Indonesia has one of the highest literacy rates for women among Asian countries, with 99.7% of women ages 15–24 literate in 2018. By 2019, almost every child in Indonesia attended school at the elementary level. In fact, there were slightly more female students enrolled than male students. Furthermore, females were shown to do better than males.

Looking Forward

Intergovernmental organizations are also promoting gender equality in Indonesia. For example, the UNDP Indonesia Gender Equality Strategy and Action Plan 2017-2020 is committed to addressing four aspects of gender equality in Indonesia:

  • Empower women to achieve a better standard of living and sustainable employment
  • Work with local groups to grant women better healthcare access
  • Support the involvement of women in the sustainable use of natural resources
  • Improve access to responsible and fair public institutions, especially for women who are in more vulnerable situations

Overall, conditions of gender equality in Indonesia are improving through the involvement of women in politics and grassroots organizations. This is especially possible with the support of international organizations like the United Nations. Continued efforts to empower women entrepreneurs and communicate the benefits of women in the marketplace are essential to realizing greater economic benefits and achieving greater gender equality in Indonesia.

– Anita Durairaj

Photo: Wikimedia

demonetization in India
In 2016, India’s new government, run by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, launched an initiative that replaced all 500 and 1,000 rupee bills with the new 2,000 rupee bills. The initiative sought to eliminate illegal money, or “black money,” and prevent people from conducting illegal business deals. Unfortunately, the initiative also affected the poor the most. The replacement of bills brought on a massive disruption to the overall economy, especially due to the cash shortages experienced by many throughout the nation. Here are five ways demonetization in India has affected poor communities.

5 Ways Demonetization in India is Affecting the Poor

  1. Market vendors had to shut down their shops. Typically, market vendors farm on a daily basis and sell their production. The drop in customer traffic, however, forced the market vendors to shut down their shops. Since these laborers work without an official employment contract, they make up a part of an informal economy. As a result, without a regular flow of customers, it becomes hard for these people to survive. The majority of this informal economy depends upon cash transactions.
  2. The ban of the 500 and 1,000 rupee bills has tremendously affected migrant labor workers. Migrant labor workers are those who travel to find work every year. Similar to the informal economy, these laborers typically rely on cash transactions. Due to the fact that such cash transactions occur privately, without the interference of the banks, the demonetization policy makes it even more difficult for these migrant laborers who already travel far from home, leaving their families behind, in hope for a decent job.
  3. Demonetization has also negatively impacted small business owners who serve food on streets. Due to the fact that the citizens had only 50 days to exchange their notes, customer flow completed stopped for many businesses. Additionally, many of these small business owners could not afford to stand in the long lines outside of the banks. For a wealthy family, losing an income of a few days does not make a big difference. However, for the poor, losing the income of even two days has an impact. As a result, people began skipping meals to keep their businesses running.
  4. The low-income, working class people suffer from the new policy. Typically, working class people have basic jobs with fairly low wages. Due to the fact that there is a shortage of cash flow, many low-income workers are experiencing delayed salary payments. As a result, it becomes difficult to run households. This especially becomes a problem when there are children who are going to school with high fees, or if there is a wedding in the house. Additionally, young adults getting ready for college also faced difficulties, since their parents were unable to afford to pay high college tuition.
  5. Demonetization in India has also negatively affected daily-wage workers. Since the implementation of demonetization, daily-wage workers, such as maids and housekeepers, have found it increasingly difficult to manage their lives. Cash shortages makes it difficult for them to get paid on time, which leads to skipping meals or working twice as much but for low wages. It also becomes hard for these workers to buy basic necessities or even pay education fees for children. As a result of financial strain, some children might have to do small jobs in order to bring in more money.
While demonetization in India initially had a negative impact on the poor, this was caused mainly by the transition. The Modi government has described the policy as a “fight for the poor against the corrupt rich,” and the problems poor communities faced are alleviating now that the economy is rebounding. Despite the chaos demonetization created, Modi has high approval ratings in India. In the future, it is essential that the government put in place better protections for the poor when making such a significant change, to ensure Indians are not suffering.

– Krishna Panchal 
Photo: Flickr

apps that are changing lives
Technology continues to march onward, bringing with it exciting new opportunities to make a difference in the lives of others. Indeed, in Southeast Asia, innovative minds are utilizing the power of smartphones to enrich lives in ways previously unthinkable. From health to finance, from the dense forests of Cambodia to the food markets of Vietnam, here are five apps changing lives in Southeast Asia.

5 Apps Changing Lives in Southeast Asia

  1. It’s Our Forest Too: Illegal logging is a dire issue in Cambodia’s Prey Lang Forest, where in some cases up to 80% of villagers’ income derives from the extraction of resin from the forest’s many trees. To help combat this problem, Web Essentials has developed an Android app called It’s Our Forest Too. Its goal: to give activists the tools they need to discreetly monitor and report illegal activity within the Prey Lang. Here is how it works. Villagers use the app to take photos and record audio they deem suspicious. Then, after categorizing the recordings with the aid of a user-friendly pictorial decision-tree, users upload the data and its associated GPS coordinates to an encrypted Dropbox database. Since the entire process is quick and anonymous, activist organizations like the Prey Lang Community Network can then make use of the information they receive from the app without putting at risk any of the villagers who recorded the data. Thus, saving both lives and livelihoods.
  2. Halodoc: Recent years have seen a severe doctor shortage in Southeast Asia. This has led to excruciating wait times for patients and difficult travels for those living outside of the region’s urban areas. Enter Halodoc, the Indonesian app that allows patients to consult their doctors from the convenience of their own homes. The way it works is surprisingly simple. Patients select a doctor from a list, then immediately receive an option to schedule a video call. In many cases, the meeting lasts no more than 10 minutes. Patients can also use the app to purchase medicine, which is then delivered directly to the location of their choosing. This combination of convenience and user-friendly design has made the app a favorite of Southeast Asia’s medical community. As a result, Halodoc is now home to more than 2 million users and a database of 20,000 doctors.
  3. Foody: With a stated goal of being the Yelp! of Vietnam, Foody has more than surpassed expectations. Indeed, aside from serving as a community where users can review, discuss and order from Vietnam’s restaurants, Foody also plays an important role in the country’s struggles with food safety. The World Bank currently estimates that food safety issues cost Vietnam $740 million in productivity losses. The topic also frequently tops the list of the Vietnamese public’s biggest concerns, surpassing even corruption and cost of living. As a result, many have turned to Foody as a vital source of knowing where it is safe to eat. Foody’s user reviewers are careful to detail the food practices of the restaurant they cover, and by reporting incidents of food poisoning, their readers gain the ability to make smart decisions about where they eat.
  4. Spean Luy: Only 27% of the Southeast Asian population currently possesses a bank account, with the number as low as 5% in nations like Cambodia. With so many lacking access to financial services, start-ups like DIGICRO’s Spean Luy are looking to fill the gap by offering smart, technological solutions for Southeast Asia’s disadvantaged. Specifically, Spean Luy tackles two major problems that depress financial service: a lack of bank availability in the region’s remote, rural regions, and a lack of official documentation or collateral to provide for loans. How does it accomplish this? For one, although physical bank branches are hard to come by, more than 60% of Cambodians have internet access, which makes a mobile banking option attractive. Secondly, thanks to the clever application of machine learning techniques, Spean Luy is able to offer microloans to those who would otherwise be turned away by more stringent documentation requirements. So far, the results have been promising. Since its launch in early 2019, Spean Luy has disbursed more than $400,000 to users, with a repayment rate of 97%.
  5. Mind Palace: The growth of Virtual Reality (VR) technology has become a major talking point in recent years. More than just a tool for gaming, however, people are using VR apps like Eugene Soh’s Mind Palace to bring promising new benefits to those not typically thought of as VR consumers. For dementia patients, Mind Palace offers an immersive virtual environment in which they can revisit the familiar sights and sounds of their youths. This helps relieve the social isolation that burdens many with dementia, while also expanding their physical boundaries. Thus far, Mind Palace has seen extensive testing among Singaporean hospitals and nursing homes with very promising results. While not yet available on smartphones, Soh sees a mobile future for the app in the years to come.

These five apps offer a glimpse into the many ways that tech experts are using technology for social good in Southeast Asia. As the world’s brightest minds continue to innovate, the region will likely benefit from even more apps that are changing lives.

– James Roark
Photo: PxHere

poverty in Bangladesh
About one in four Bangladeshis live in poverty, making poverty in Bangladesh an ongoing fight for the nation. However, there has been significant economic growth and improved education and infrastructure. With international development assistance, poverty in Bangladesh is on a downward trajectory, especially in rural areas. These seven facts about poverty in Bangladesh show the country’s improvements.

 7 Facts About Poverty in Bangladesh

  1. International Assistance. The International Development Association (IDA) has been a large part of Bangladesh’s success in education, health and infrastructure. Funded by member countries, IDA coordinates donor assistance. Additionally, IDA also works to provide development assistance to countries around the world. Bangladesh is one of the largest recipients of IDA funding, with its program totaling $11.3 billion. Multilateral organizations, like the Asian World Bank and the United Nations, have worked with the IDA to lower poverty in Bangladesh.
  2. Economic Growth. Through sustained economic growth in recent years, Bangladesh has made strides in alleviating poverty. Steady growth in its GDP allowed Bangladesh to reach lower-middle-income status in 2015. Bangladesh remains one of the fastest-growing economies among developing nations, and its GDP in 2018 was $274.02 billion, a 9.73% increase from 2017. With these steady increases, the GDP should grow another 8% in 2020.
  3. Education. Bangladesh has seen an increase in education enrollment and more girls are going to school. Enrollment rate at the primary school level increased from 80% in 2000 to above 90% in 2015, and from 45% to 62% at the secondary school level. Bangladesh has also achieved gender equality in education enrollment; it sent almost 6.5 million girls to secondary school in 2015. This makes the nation a frontrunner among developing countries to achieve gender parity in education.
  4. Health. Bangladesh has made important progress in its health indicators over the past few decades. This includes improvements in maternal and child health. There was a 40% reduction in maternal mortality, from 320 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2000 to 194 deaths in 2010. USAID has worked with local groups to provide high-quality reproductive services and bring integrated health care to Bangladeshis as well.
  5. Agricultural Growth. The agriculture sector is essential to Bangladesh, and its growth has been among the highest in the world for the past 25 years. Through IDA, more than 1 million households have modernized food practices and 500,000 households have increased grain reserve. Natural disasters are a primary threat to Bangladesh’s success in agricultural production. IDA is also financing almost $1.5 billion in aid to Bangladesh’s resistance against natural disasters. This leads to further increases in agricultural production and promoting food security.
  6. Sustainable Development Goals. According to the United Nations Development Programme, Bangladesh is making strides in attaining the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty and improve quality of life. For example, Bangladesh is well on its way towards reaching the access of 100% of households to electricity by 2025, which is SDG 7. Bangladesh has also seen improvements in sanitation and access to clean water, which the SDGs also include. In 2019, 87% of the population had access to clean water and access to sanitation increased by 26%.
  7. Rural Infrastructure: Efforts to alleviate poverty in Bangladesh have occurred in rural areas, and IDA has provided support to build roads and increase access to water in these areas. According to the World Bank, 1.1 million people in rural areas now have access to clean water, and support measures have led to the paving of 800 kilometers of new roads in these areas. This infrastructure allows for easier transportation to school and the creation of jobs for men and women, improving the quality of life in several rural areas.

These seven facts about poverty in Bangladesh show that efforts to alleviate poverty in the country have been remarkably successful in the past few decades. Still, much work remains essential in order to alleviate poverty in urban areas and bring about continued growth in Bangladesh’s economy, infrastructure and access to food security. However, with continued international assistance and Bangladesh’s commitment to reducing poverty, there is hope that Bangladesh will continue to be a global model for poverty reduction.

– Anita Durairaj
Photo: Wikimedia

Diabetes in Developing Countries
Type 2 diabetes results from the body’s ineffective use of insulin, a hormone that the pancreas makes and allows the body to either convert glucose into energy or store it. Insulin prevents one’s blood sugar from getting too high since it effectively removes glucose from the bloodstream. Diabetes is a major cause of blindness, kidney failure, heart attacks and stroke among other conditions. While there are many risk factors for diabetes, physical inactivity and excess body weight are two of the most significant contributors to type 2 diabetes across the globe. However, there is an increasing prevalence of type 2 diabetes in developing countries where investments in health care are often inadequate.

Diabetes in Developing Countries

Globally, the number of people with diabetes increased from 108 million in 1980 to 433 million people in 2019. Estimates determine that the global prevalence of diabetes is 9.3 percent, and about one in two people with diabetes are undiagnosed. The International Diabetes Federation projects that global prevalence will increase by 25 percent in 2030 and by 51 percent in 2045 if prevention methods and treatment programs remain unchanged.

Type 2 diabetes relates to obesity and overeating. Therefore, people in the past have associated it primarily with high-income countries, but this viewpoint is changing. The prevalence of diabetes in developing countries has been rising rapidly. In 2019, 79 percent of adults with diabetes were living in middle-low income countries.

Risk Factors of Diabetes in Developing Countries

A majority of type 2 diabetes cases are in advanced nations. However, the disease is becoming a serious problem in developing countries. Diabetes prevalence in low-middle-high SDI countries is 1.48, 3.74, and 3.42 percent, respectively. SDI refers to the Sustainable Development Index as an updated version of the human development index and measures the ecological efficiency of human development. Middle SDI countries also have the highest annual rate of increase in prevalence. The prevalence of diabetes in developing countries is growing with westernization and with the urbanization of rural areas. In Pakistan, for example, a recent study found that urban areas have a prevalence rate of 28.3 percent which was just higher than the rate of 25.3 percent in rural areas.

Obesity, a main contributor to the diabetes epidemic, is increasing rapidly in developing countries. This shift also connects with the nutrition transition. The nutrition transition results from changes in agricultural systems. Specifically, there is a decrease in fruit and vegetable consumption. There is also a rise in processed foods such as refined carbohydrates, added sweeteners, edible oils and animal products.

In many Asian populations, the risk of diabetes starts at a lower BMI than for Europeans. Additionally, increased intake of meat, oils, highly saturated ghee (a type of butter used in Asian cooking) and added sugar have also marked diet shifts in Asia. Before urbanization, physical activity counteracted the effects of high fat and sugar diets. Unfortunately, physical activity has also decreased as a result of the shift from agricultural labor to working in manufacturing services.

Preventive Methods

The current trends show that type 2 diabetes in developing countries will likely significantly increase, but these outcomes are preventable through lifestyle and dietary changes. Since treatments such as drugs and insulin are costly and developing countries have limited resources, people must prioritize prevention. It is crucial to raise awareness about the effects of lifestyle shifts on obesity and type 2 diabetes globally. Low-cost innovations include training non-medical health professionals and using mobile devices to spread awareness about type 2 diabetes prevention. In addition to technology, countries should develop solutions using networks of community health workers.

Accredited social health activist (ASHA) workers are an example of this type of intervention in Asia, where 70 percent of the population lives in rural areas with very limited access to health care facilities and skilled health workers. ASHA workers are health educators in their own communities and have the ability to care for patients at home while also providing guidance regarding diet and physical activity. Telemedicine and the use of technology support this system and keep the ASHA workers in touch with medical professionals. This intervention also offers employment to people with some medical knowledge. ASHAs are able to make money by charging low fees for their services and provide for their families.

Making cities more walkable or cyclable through urban planning can increase physical activity while taking some of the prevention weight off of health systems, especially in countries with limited health resources. Making healthy food more affordable through redesigning subsidies needs to be a priority. This is because industrialization makes processed food cheaper and more accessible. These actions require political will and an understanding of the negative implications of the growing diabetes prevalence. Such actions could make a significant difference in decreasing the epidemic globally.

Maia Cullen
Photo: Pixabay

Laos' Growing Economy
Laos is growing rapidly thanks to high economic growth since the early 2000s. Its GDP growth rate has hovered around 7 percent since 2000, which makes Laos one of the fastest-growing countries in Asia. The infrastructure and tourism sectors have developed at a fast rate since 2017, which makes poverty reduction a possible side effect. As an economy grows, poverty tends to decline. Poverty in Laos was 46 percent in 1996 and around 23 percent in 2015. This cut in the poverty rate is partially due to Laos’ growing economy. Key sectors such as agriculture, tourism and infrastructure continue to be strong focus areas in Laos’ development.

A Commercialized Agriculture Industry

Agriculture remains important to Laos’ growing economy. About 70 percent of all workers have employment in the agriculture sector. Although the service sector is growing while agriculture is declining, the agriculture industry remains an important contributor to its GDP and the main source of employment for many Laotians. Most of the cultivated land consists of rice, and, as is common in developing countries, the main type of work is subsistence farming. There is a shift toward commercializing the agriculture industry, though, and this emphasis remains important in increasing wages and pulling more Laotians out of poverty. The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry’s Agricultural Development Strategy 2011-2020 outlines the goals in increasing productivity and transitioning the industry toward commercialization.

Rural Infrastructure Growth

Infrastructure, which includes bridges, roads, schools and hospitals, remains an important foundation to a country’s livelihood. Without the necessities, a country may have difficulty helping its people and increasing its development and trade. Laos’ infrastructure is developing at a fast rate. Infrastructure growth remained around 8 percent for 2017, 2018 and 2019. While infrastructure is growing, there are still issues in rural areas that people tend to overlook. Electrification is about 80 percent in rural areas, though the country could resolve this in the future. The challenge to electrifying rural areas relies on navigating the rough and mountainous terrain of Laos. While Laos is growing rapidly, a higher emphasis on rural infrastructure development could help pull more Laotians out of poverty.

The Rising Tourism Industry

The tourism industry in Laos has grown fast since the 1990s. In 1995, about 350,000 international tourists visited Laos, yet that number grew to more than 4 million in 2018. Tourism contributes almost $2 billion to its GDP, so Laos has big stakes in the industry for its current and future economic well-being. China and neighboring countries, such as Thailand and Vietnam, comprise most of the tourists visiting Laos.

The tourism industry is yet another reason why Laos is growing rapidly. More than 100,000 jobs are related to tourism, and many expect that number to grow to 121,000 by 2028. The tourism industry grew by 9 percent in 2019, and Laos’ goal for 2020 is to reach 5 million international visitors. Job growth and GDP growth are two major effects of the rise of tourism in Laos, but there is also the effect tourism has on infrastructure. Hotels, resorts, entertainment venues and parks receive revenue and expand thanks to tourism growth.

Future for Laos’ Growing Economy

Laos’ high economic development could simultaneously transform its economy and continue to reduce its poverty. Poverty in Lao reduced by half while it was developing its economy since the 1990s. Thanks to its key sector developments, Laos is growing rapidly and poverty is continuing to decline. Rapid economic growth since 2000 shows that it may become a developed country in the near future, even though it is one of the least developed countries in the world currently. According to the U.N.’s Economic and Social Council and due to meeting two of the three criteria for development, Laos will leave the Least Developed Countries list by 2024.

Lucas Schmidt
Photo: Flickr

Starvation in Asia
The number of deaths from starvation in Asia is significant in many different regions, including South-East Asia and South Asia. Several global organizations including the United Nations have come forward to claim that malnutrition and a lack of food distribution are major global issues.

The Facts About Starvation

In 2018, Time Magazine reported that nearly half a billion people in the Asia-Pacific region suffered from starvation. Meanwhile, according to Mercy Corps, nine million people die from starvation every year, which is more than the deaths from malaria, AIDS and tuberculosis combined. Whilst the causes of starvation-related deaths vary from region to region, there are common factors that have lead to their increase. Using India as an example, the organization Action Against Hunger lists poverty, low availability of food, disease, climate change and violent conflicts as just a few factors that contribute to malnutrition and starvation rates.

Whilst no one knows the exact number of deaths from starvation in Asia, the website Hunger Notes breaks down undernourishment based on region. According to Hunger Notes, South-East Asia, including areas such as Indonesia, Vietnam and the Philippines, and South Asia, comprising of India and Pakistan, account for the highest percentage of undernourished citizens. Over half (56.5 percent) suffers undernourishment and 27.8 percent of South-East Asia’s population does not have adequate nourishment.

The facts from Action Against Hunger mentioned earlier, provide a clear indication as to why the South Asia region has such a high malnutrition rate. As for South-East Asia, according to a World Bank report, some of the underlying causes of malnutrition for Vietnam include diseases, infections, parasites and a lack of food security. The rate of starvation in South Asia has seen a 6.6 percent increase in growth from 1992 to 2014 in the percentage of the world’s hungry people. The organization explains that both an increase in global malnutrition and an increase in malnutrition in the region have caused this. India alone accounts for 22.3 percent of the world’s malnutrition rate, according to Action Against Hunger. Meanwhile, UNICEF states that the malnutrition rate in South Asia has decreased since WorldHunger.org published its report. In 2018, the malnutrition rate stood at 27 percent, compared to the reported 37.5 percent in 2014.

Organizations Fighting Against Starvation in Asia

Mercy Corps, Action Against Hunger and Food Aid are helping to fight against deaths from starvation in Asia. The Mercy Corps aims to assist farmers by providing them with what they need to help supply their regions with food and improve sustainability. According to The Mercy Corps, there has been a 17 percent increase in the amount of food on a per-person basis in the last 30 years. The Mercy Corps also states that whilst the world produces enough food to supply the population, the distribution of that food is the real cause of starvation and deaths from starvation both in Asia and worldwide.

Action Against Hunger aims to provide emergency care for malnourished children and help governments give their people clean water and improved nutrition. In 2018, it worked with the Indonesian Ministry of Health on a joint project to help fight malnutrition. In 2018, Action Against Hunger provided over 1,800 people in Indonesia with food security programs and livelihood programs. It also assisted the Indonesian government in creating a Community-Based Management of Acute Malnutrition Project that helped provide sanitary water to the people of Indonesia.

Food Aid works as a global food pantry, providing unused food to communities in need. It has also helped supply soup kitchens, welfare programs and families with the food necessary to function.

Whilst the number of deaths from starvation in Asia continue to be a part of the larger issue of global starvation, there have been progressive strides towards improving the statistics. The United Nations, however, did warn in its 2018 report that these numbers need to fall much quicker in order for the world to see a significant change in global malnutrition. Several global organizations have been working to help fix the major problem areas, though, such as food distribution, sustainability, hydration and malnutrition among youth.

– Jacob Creswell
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Water Quality in AsiaAsia is a large continent with vastly different cultures and societies, but they seem to suffer from a lot of the same issues. Some common issues are rapid urbanization and lack of infrastructure in rural areas. The most common may be that the water quality in Asia is severely lacking. In fact, Asia’s rivers are three times more contaminated by bacteria from human waste. Here are 10 facts about water quality in Asia.

12 Facts about Water Quality in Asia

  1. The United Nations estimates more than 40 percent of the population in India could be living in megacities by 2030. The stunningly fast urbanization of India is taking a toll on the quality of its water. At least 40 million liters of wastewater enters the waters of India every day. This has made 70 percent of surface water in India unfit for consumption. A World Bank report suggests that this will severely stunt the growth of some areas, cutting its GDP growth by as much as one-third.
  2.  China is going through a water shortage. At least 28,000 Chinese rivers and waterways have dried up over the last 25 years. This issue exacerbates the growing issue of water pollution from industrialization. Government surveys found that 70 percent of China’s water table unfit for human consumption due to the overuse of pesticides and fertilizers.
  3. Only 10 percent of Bangladesh homes have consumable water piped to their households. In order to aid Bangladesh in this crisis, The World Bank approved $100 million to be appropriated towards increasing access to improved water supplies. This project will help 600,000 people get water through piped systems.
  4. Groundwater is the Primary Source of Water in South East Asia. A study conducted in 2019 found that 79 percent of people in Southeast Asia use groundwater as their primary source of water. This amounts to a total of 346 million people who rely on that water to be fresh and clean.
  5. Only 30 percent of the population of Mongolia has access to clean piped water. Most Mongolians in the Gobi desert have to use underground water sources. However, rapid urbanization and mining have changed the water supply. Underground water is no longer a reliable source of healthy water.
  6. In Vietnam, 90 percent of urban wastewater is released back into the environment untreated. The Việt Nam Union of Science and Technology Organisations reported that environmental laws in Vietnam have too many loopholes and flaws to be adequate. There are only 29 water treatment stations in big cities, which is reportedly not enough.
  7. At least 80 percent of the Indonesian population lacks access to piped water. The people must rely on river water to meet their needs. Although the river water is not of adequate quality for any kind of healthy use due to many corporations do not comply with government pollution laws.
  8. The abysmal quality of water in Afganistan is due to years of war. The infrastructure of the country has been destroyed with little funds or time to rebuild. This has left only 27 percent of the population of Afganistan with access to high-quality water.
  9. There were at least 118,000 hospitalizations in Iraq’s 2018 crisis due to water contamination. It was reported that at least 40 percent of the sewage from the river Baswa was being dumped into the Shatt al-Arab. The government started posting weekly reports on the water quality online in February 2019.
  10. Nearly all of South Korea has drinkable tap water, but not many drink it. South Korea has impeccable water quality because the government requires yearly reports from all utility providers. However, a survey done in 2013 of 12,000 individuals showed that only about 10 percent drink water straight from the tap.

There is a global effort to improve the water quality of Asia. The South Asia Water Initiative (SAWI) is improving the management of the many river basins of Asia. SAWI has addressed issues such as riverbank flooding and the economic opportunities of hydroelectric power on the Brahmaputra Basin in India. It has also supported disaster management on the Sundarbans wetlands shared by Bangladesh and India.

These 10 facts about water quality in Asia demonstrate the many water crises that are happening all across the continent. While there are reforms in place, it will be many years until each country will have equal access to clean, safe water.

Nicholas Pirhalla
Photo: Flickr

Typhoid Fever in Asia
Typhoid fever is a menace to developing nations, especially those that lack access to proper sanitation facilities. Nowhere is this more problematic than in Asia, where most typhoid fever fatalities occur. However, plenty of groups are doing their part to end the scourge of typhoid fever in Asia through the spread of clean water and proper sanitation.

What is Typhoid Fever?

Food and water contaminated with excrement that contains the bacteria Salmonella enterica causes the transmission of typhoid fever. Due to this, typhoid fever was once incredibly prevalent in urban areas throughout Europe and the United States during the 19th century as these countries frequently lacked sound sewage systems to deal with human waste. In the modern era, people only commonly see typhoid fever in the developing world, specifically in areas with poor sanitary conditions.

Common symptoms of typhoid fever are a sustained fever that can peak at around 103-104˚F, fatigue, bowel issues, wheezing and stomach pains. Typhoid fever risk factors in endemic areas include contaminated water, housing with subpar hygiene facilities and contact with a recently infected individual. Those affected can become chronic infectors, people who have on and off symptoms for extended periods and can transmit the disease to others regardless of if they are having an episode or not.

Typhoid fever has been treatable with vaccines since 1948, and mass immunization has proven successful in the past. However, typhoid that is resistant to the most common type of treatment (chloramphenicol) is now emerging. With approximately 16 million cases of typhoid fever reported each year, a treatment-resistant strain is a horrifying prospect. Thankfully, full resistance to treatment is exceedingly rare.

Why Asia and Who is Helping?

Most typhoid fever deaths happen in Asia, where 90 percent of all typhoid related deaths occur. Countries, where typhoid fever in Asia is endemic, include India, China, Vietnam, Pakistan and Indonesia. A significant factor contributing towards the spread of typhoid fever is a lack of sanitary water facilities, and thankfully, NGOs like Charity: Water have made it their mission to bring clean water to all developing nations.

Charity: Water does this by promoting and financing projects aimed at the creation and distribution of sanitary water facilities like latrines, hand-dug and drilled wells and piped water systems.  One of the countries that Charity: Water has had a significant impact on is India. The organization has been working there since 2008 and has funded 4,479 projects with a total of $10,738,062 spread across all these projects.

The Future of Typhoid Fever

Typhoid fever was once a prominent issue in the United States and Europe, but with proper water and waste management systems, they have thoroughly eradicated it. Typhoid fever in Asia is a problem that countries can handle through the creation of clean water facilities. With the help of NGOs like Charity: Water, the world can finally eliminate typhoid fever once and for all, not just from the United States and Europe, but all across the globe.

– Ryan Holman
Photo: Flickr