poverty alleviation in muslim majority communitiesZakat refers to the religious obligation for all Muslim individuals to donate a set percentage of their income each year to charitable causes. Due to the size of the global Muslim population, zakat could play a major role in poverty alleviation in Muslim-majority communities around the globe. Muslims make up about 22% of the world’s population. However, estimates suggest that roughly 35% of the 2 billion people facing poverty worldwide are in Muslim-majority countries. In their 2014 study on zakat, Isahaque Ali and Zulkarnain Hatta reported that over half of the population in Muslim countries are very poor. Further, the regions of the world with the most significant Muslim populations, including Africa and Asia, are facing increasing poverty levels.

What Is the Purpose of Zakat?

Zakat is one of the five pillars of Islam. As such, it is mandatory for all Muslims who have the means to meet their basic annual needs. Zakat is generally set at a minimum amount of 2.5% of income and total wealth. Muslims believe that giving zakat purifies the giver. Megan Abbas, assistant professor of Middle Eastern Studies and Islamic Civilization at Colgate University, spoke to The Borgen Project about zakat.

“The Arabic term ‘zakat’ can be loosely translated as purification, a fact that helps us understand the spiritual components of this practice,” Abbas said. “Specifically, giving zakat is often seen as a way to purify the soul of selfishness and to remind Muslims that their worldly wealth is not really theirs at all but rather exists thanks to the mercy and kindness of God.”

Many Muslims see poverty as both a social and religious problem. As a result, giving zakat aims to alleviate poverty and achieve socio-economic justice. Further, the Quran explains that zakat should reach certain groups of people in need. This includes those who have no or few means of livelihood, zakat workers, new Muslims, those who are indebted, stranded travelers and enslaved people.

“Zakat is also tied to Islamic conceptions of egalitarianism and socio-economic justice because it mandates economic redistribution from the wealthy to the marginalized and poor every year,” Abbas said. “This redistributive function complements other aspects of Islamic economics, including the prohibition on interest-bearing loans and exhortations to engage only in fair and transparent business contracts.”

The Potential Impact of Zakat

Zakat is an underutilized resource for poverty alleviation in Muslim-majority communities and non-Muslim communities around the world. The Guardian reported that zakat is one of the largest redistributions of wealth. Estimates suggest that between $200 billion and $1 trillion goes to zakat annually. In comparison, experts predict that ending global poverty would cost only $175 billion per year for 20 years. As states within the Organization of Islamic Cooperation increase their amount of humanitarian aid to 14%, zakat will rise. As such, the potential of zakat for poverty alleviation in Muslim-majority communities increases as well.

Noor and Pickup of The Guardian believe zakat address the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This would help meet the $2.5 to $3 trillion annual funding gap to achieve the SDGs. Importantly, this aligns with zakat’s socio-economic goals. The World Bank also acknowledges the potential of Islamic financing to achieve the SDGs. Specifically, zakat can help by closing financing gaps and building affordable housing with the help of technology to organize zakat funds.

How Zakat Can Help Fight Global Poverty

The Guardian reported that only one-quarter of global zakat goes to formal donations. In fact, Muslims give the majority of zakat individually and casually. This leaves an opportunity for a more organized donation system. Such a system could have a greater, sustained impact on poverty alleviation in Muslim-majority communities.

There are a variety of ways to collect formal zakat. One way is through the government, in a system that may resemble a tax or state collection directly from bank accounts. Organized zakat could also go through independent collection agencies specific to a chosen cause. Finally, mosques could collect funds to spend themselves or redistribute to other organizations.

Chloe Stirk of Development Initiatives outlines important steps to increase the impact of zakat. Stirk promotes greater collaboration between humanitarian organizations, Islamic scholars and academics. This would improve collection and distribution as well as increase revenue. In addition, Stirk’s process encourages more tracking and documentation of zakat. This could create a zakat fund, allowing for streamlined distribution locally and internationally. However, the logistical and ideological challenges of streamlining zakat extend beyond the global Muslim community.

In the Journal of Global Entrepreneurship Research, three researchers propose that zakat could best be used in a “small business entrepreneurial framework.” Instead of a zakat fund, they suggest global interest in entrepreneurship to address poverty. Few entrepreneurs in the Muslim world make this an ideal space for development.

Demonstrated Success of Zakat

Case studies on zakat funds show immense success and powerful potential in poverty alleviation in Muslim-majority communities. Indonesia, home to the world’s largest Muslim population, demonstrates this. There, zakat has an estimated value of 1.59% and 3.82% of the country’s GDP. This equates to $13.8 billion to $33.2 billion each year.

Indonesia has already begun to incorporate zakat into poverty alleviation systems with two centralized zakat organizations. As a result, zakat is an essential method of redistributing wealth to support those in poverty in Indonesia. Further, the amount of zakat collected by institutions continues to rise. Indonesia’s success with zakat suggests that this is a promising method of poverty alleviation in Muslim-majority communities worldwide.

– Emily Rahhal
Photo: Flickr

cultural survivalThere are about 476 million Indigenous people in the world, just over 6% of the global population. Also known as First Peoples and Tribal Peoples, they are present on every continent except Antarctica. Indigenous people belong to about 5,000 distinct groups. Though the term “Indigenous” is not an exact science, it generally refers to groups of people who originally inhabited an area prior to colonial influence. Despite colonialism, they have achieved varying degrees of cultural survival by preserving the use of their languages, ancestral traditions and ways of knowing. Organizations like Cultural Survival also support this preservation.

Cultural Survival was founded in 1972. Its work now follows the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People (UNDRIP), adopted in 2007. Based in Massachusetts, this organization aims to streamline social justice efforts by connecting Indigenous people’s needs to resources. Indigenous people often have a hard time accessing resources due to isolation, linguistic barriers or lack of political representation. Here are five ways that Cultural Survival empowers Indigenous people.

5 Key Ways Cultural Survival Empowers Indigenous People

  1. Advocacy: When it comes to advocacy, Cultural Survival responds to real needs expressed by a particular community. According to the UNDRIP, “States shall provide effective mechanisms for prevention of, and redress for … Any action which has the aim or effect of dispossessing them of their lands, territories or resources.” An example of such dispossession might include state-sanctioned projects involving mining or deforestation, which threaten a community’s land. In these instances, the Indigenous community on its own may not have direct access to policymakers. Cultural Survival, on the other hand, has had the privilege of consultative status with the United Nations Economic Social and Cultural Council (ECOSOC) for the past 15 years. It also has offices in North, Central and South America, as well as South Africa and Nepal. This wide reach provides quicker access to resources that can more effectively enforce the UNDRIP.
  2. Grants for community development: Cultural Survival also makes grants accessible for development-focused programs. These programs may relate to environmental justice, female empowerment, language preservation, Indigenous representation in policymaking and more. The Keepers of the Earth Fund makes these grants available in amounts between $500 and $5,000. In March 2020, the Keepers of the Earth Fund went exclusively toward the COVID-19 response in Indigenous communities. So far, it has been able to provide direct aid amounting to more than $81,000. This has reached Indigenous communities in 16 countries.
  3. Fair trade partnerships: Cultural Survival connects Indigenous artisans and creators directly to consumers through their annual “bazaars.” These bazaars showcase Indigenous music, jewelry, household items, art and other products. Usually, New England hosts the events. However, in 2020, Cultural Survival opted for a “virtual bazaar” to keep people safe from COVID-19. This allowed it to connect Indigenous makers to a wide audience of consumers.
  4. Media: Additionally, Cultural Survival publishes a magazine called Cultural Survival Quarterly (CSQ). This publication brings matters of concern of Indigenous communities to the attention of the public. The organization also nurtures expertise in radio journalism and broadcasting by connecting young Indigenous people with conferences. By training them, the organization prepares Indigenous youth with the skills they need for a career in media and advocacy. In particular, the Indigenous Community Media Youth Fellowship Project offers fellowships up to $2,500 for young people to learn about broadcast journalism. The Community Media Grants Project also makes funding available to bolster already-existing community radio projects. These projects benefit communities all over Latin America, East Africa, South Africa and South Asia
  5. Community Radio: Cultural Survival’s funding for COVID-19 includes community radio. This has recently made a difference in Indigenous communities of Mexico, Costa Rica, Honduras, El Salvador, Ecuador and others. These programs are vital not only for language preservation but also to ensure that correct information about the pandemic reaches Indigenous communities. This is important, as these communities may not be proficient in the country’s official language or may have limited broadband connection. To complicate matters, Indigenous community radio has been outlawed in several places. In Guatemala, for example, the government claims there are not enough frequencies to accommodate Indigenous radio stations. Cultural Survival continues to fight to support community radio programs and policy changes in Guatemala. Importantly, it also offers legal representation to individuals when necessary. Indigenous leaders have officially requested that a law, Bill 4087, legalize an Indigenous-language radio station for each municipality. Cultural Survival continues to support this effort.

The Future of Cultural Survival

Cultural Survival requires continuous support to maintain its mission to defend the UNDRIP. Although every Indigenous group possesses the right to be both autonomous and involved in state affairs that affect them, political leaders do not always observe these rights. Cultural Survival is one-of-a-kind in its commitment to defending Indigenous ways of life. With support, it can continue to use its global reach to fast-track solutions to the unique needs of Indigenous people around the world.

Andrea Kruger
Photo: Flickr

u.n. eradicates povertyThe United Nations (U.N.) is an international organization designed for countries to work together on human rights issues, maintain peace and resolve conflicts. Currently, the U.N. consists of representatives from 193 countries. In the general assembly, nations have a platform for diplomatic relations. One of major missions of the U.N. is the eradication of global poverty. The U.N. eradicates poverty comprehensively and works to address current poverty levels and their resulting crises. Additionally, it works to prevent the causes of poverty from spreading on a global level.

What Is Poverty?

The U.N. defines poverty as “more than the lack of income and productive resources to ensure sustainable livelihoods.” The organization asserts that poverty affects people in many ways, including “hunger and malnutrition, limited access to education and other basic services, social discrimination and exclusion, as well as the lack of participation in decision-making.” Poorer countries that suffer from a lack of basic resources face all of these problems.

Around the world, more than 730 million people live below the poverty line. Many of these people live in Southern Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. These poor countries also often suffer from internal violence that impacts their ability to address the needs and vulnerabilities of their citizens. As such, poverty and conflict have a reciprocal relationship, both contributing to the other.

The U.N. eradicates poverty through multiple commissions that address specific populations and the issues they face. For example, UNICEF, the U.N. children’s commission, works specifically to address children living in poverty globally. It does so by promoting education access and healthcare, as well mitigating the damaging effects of armed conflict. Through “fundraising, advocacy, and education,” this division of the U.N. eradicates poverty and helps children around the world.

Poverty and Human Rights

The U.N. outlines inalienable international human rights as the following: “the right to life and liberty, freedom from slavery and torture, freedom of opinion and expression, the right to work and education, and many more.” One of the many detrimental effects of global poverty is high death rates. Poverty may cause death through water and food insecurity, as well as a lack of healthcare and medical access. This is why poverty is truly a human rights issue.

For someone to have a guarantee to life and liberty, they cannot be living in abject poverty. Education and the “right to work” are also rights affected by living in poverty. Education is sparse in many of the world’s poorest countries, which often suffer from high unemployment rates. This contributes to household income and citizens’ inability to provide for themselves and their families. Thus, poverty is a complex and multifaceted issue that affects all aspects of people’s lives, from their health and well-being to their futures.

The International Poverty Line

According to the U.N., as of 2015, there were “more than 736 million people liv[ing] below the international poverty line.” The international poverty line (IPL) quantifies people’s standard of living. This helps researchers, aid workers and governments assess people’s situation. It also allows these actors to assess their success in mitigating harm and promoting development. Foreign Policy explains that “The IPL is explicitly designed to reflect a staggeringly low standard of living, well below any reasonable conception of a life with dignity.”

The U.N. eradicates poverty by examining not only measures like the IPL but also the effects of extreme poverty. The number of people below the poverty line is important, but the U.N. focuses on what this means for people living in such poverty. For example, the U.N. notes that “[a]round 10 percent of the world population is living in extreme poverty and struggling to fulfill the most basic needs like health, education.”

The Future of the U.N. and Poverty

The U.N. is likely to remain one of the leading forces in the eradication of poverty and the promotion of human rights. Its unique history, size and diverse commissions make it a powerful organization. In particular, the commissions that work with vulnerable populations will be essential to securing the safety and prosperity of those living in poverty. Importantly, the U.N. eradicates poverty with the support of its 193 member states, as it depends on their sponsorship and help in conflict resolution. Just as poverty has no borders, neither should the solutions we use to solve it.

Kiahna Stephens
Photo: Flickr

Child Marriage in NepalNepal, a landlocked country in South Western Asia, is one of the few places in the world where rates of child marriage are not slowing. In certain areas, they are increasing. Although child marriage in Nepal has been illegal for over fifty years, 40% of Nepalese women between the ages of 20 and 24 were illegally married before their eighteenth birthday. Young boys are equally at risk. The number of child grooms is disproportionately high when compared to the rest of the world.

Contributions to Child Marriage in Nepal

Several factors contribute to child marriage in developing countries. Nepal has a patriarchal society that values girls significantly less than boys. Limited access to education and a negative outlook towards a sexual expression motivates adolescents to marry early. The most massive motivator, however, is poverty. Countries with a higher percentage of the population living on under $1.90 per day, including Nepal, frequently experience higher rates of child marriage. Poverty correlates to the high rates of child marriage in Nepal, including dowries and financial benefits, economic hardship of schooling and “love marriages” to escape poverty.

The Struggle with Poverty

Although rates have decreased over the past few years, Nepal continues to struggle with poverty. While poverty in Nepal has reduced from 15% to 8% in the last decade, the country remains one of the most impoverished in Asia and ranks 147th on the Human Development Index. Nepal is mostly made up of a landscape dominated by mountains. Being rural makes development difficult. The country also struggles with rapid population growth, political instability and a growing wealth gap between the very rich and the very poor. They all contribute to a high poverty rate.

Considering the Financial Reasons

Nepalese families often arrange marriages for their children for financial reasons. Girls who live under the poverty line are more likely to enter a child marriage in Nepal than girls who do not. This dilemma is due to the concept of a dowry. A bride’s family will provide the groom’s family with money or gifts to establish the marriage. Dowries increase the societal value of boys who receive them. They decrease the value of girls whose families must pay. Impoverished families rely on dowries as a source of income, incentivizing them to marry their sons, especially at young ages. In some areas in Southern Nepal, the dowry increases with the age of the bride. This motivates families to arrange marriages for their daughters quickly and early.

Additionally, many married girls stop attending school to care for their husband and start a family. Tuition and materials are costly, and keeping girls in school creates a financial strain on families. This strain is relieved when a match leads to an established marriage.

Escaping Poverty

Child marriage also functions as a means to escape poverty. ‘Love marriages,’ or those not sanctioned by parents, are also common in impoverished Nepal. Young girls and boys often establish ‘love marriages’ as a way to leave their families. This can be done for many reasons, yet a common one is poverty. Matches form quickly to escape impoverished homes and enter a more secure situation.

The Nepalese government has implemented some strategies to decrease the high rates of child marriage in Nepal. The country recently increased their minimum legal marrying age to 20. Families who kept their daughters in school instead of arranging a wedding for them received cash incentives and bicycles in January 2019. Nepal has promised to eradicate child marriage by the year 2030. Although it is a daunting task, it is incredibly crucial for the health and wellbeing of Nepalese girls.

Daryn Lenahan
Photo: Flickr

Bootleg Alcohol in AsiaFrom champagne to sake to lambanóg, it is apparent that alcohol consumption has firm cultural and aesthetic roots in countries all over the globe. Despite its enduring popularity, countries sometimes reflect the dark side of alcohol consumption. Counterfeit, bootleg alcohol in Asia continues to thrive and endanger the lives of many, especially lower-income individuals.

An Unaddressed Epidemic

The problem of fake alcohol has roamed around Asia for countless years. Unregulated distilleries and bathtubs produce counterfeit alcohol before it is distributed under the radar. It is estimated that up to 30% of alcohol in China is fake, with illegal alcohol having infiltrated even well-established bars and pubs under the guise of well-established liquor brands.

Much of the incentive in producing bootleg alcohol in Asia often comes from high import taxes on liquor, or even so far as government prohibition in certain countries. With higher restrictions on liquor sales, many people choose to turn to the black market as their only option.

Various countries have suffered from the effects of counterfeit alcohol. In Indonesia, 300 people have died from consuming counterfeit alcohol between 2014 and 2018 alone. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that half of all liquor consumed in India is contraband. This causes numerous cases of methanol poisoning, drunk driving incidents and exacerbating domestic abuse incidents. In 2019, 154 individuals in India had died from methanol poisoning alone.

Consequences, Risks and Poverty

Bootleg alcohol, typically made of dangerous chemicals, disproportionately affects communities facing poverty. Living in poverty is a leading risk factor for alcohol consumption.

Multiple factors make alcohol consumption particularly more threatening to poor communities. The addictive nature of alcohol combined with the weaker support networks and resources (counseling services, healthcare systems, etc.) in low-income communities make these populations vulnerable to prolonged alcohol abuse. Alcohol expenditure could limit the total amount for individuals to spend on food, healthcare and education. Most importantly, the health risks and hospitalization fees associated with alcohol could further exacerbate many families’ financial situations.

The risks associated with poverty and alcohol consumption combined with the cheaper price tag of bootleg alcohol in Asia further amplifies the problems faced by low-income communities. The WHO states that the limited medical resources for poor communities lead to high mortality rates for methanol poisoning.

What Now?

Counterfeit alcohol in Asia continues to run rampant for a straightforward reason: it is taboo. This taboo also makes it highly neglected. Although the WHO encourages public health campaigns addressing illicit alcohol production, few have tackled this issue head-on.

Organizations such as the Methanol Institute (MI) are one of the few that chose to lead the movement in addressing undocumented alcohol production. MI has partnered with countless organizations such as Mitsubishi, BP and Methanex. It provides market support and public awareness for methanol poisoning from counterfeit alcohol.

As of 2013, MI partnered with Lifesaving Initiatives About Methanol (LIAM) to create a pilot campaign in Indonesia to provide community education for citizens to recognize bootleg liquor and combat methanol poisoning. In December 2014, MI-LIAM-trained hospital staff were able to save the first two lives from methanol poisoning. As of 2015, MI-LIAM received funding to continue its effort in Indonesia. Moreover, they garnered approval to expand training in Vietnam.

While bootleg alcohol in Asia continues to be a persisting problem, awareness efforts have slowly highlighted the seriousness of this epidemic. As a handful of brave organizations spearhead efforts to mitigate this issue, many of us hope for others to follow along this path to recovery.

– Vanna Figueroa
Photo: Flickr

healthcare in kashmirFor months, people in Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir have struggled during a debilitating security lockdown. With phone lines cut and internet access heavily limited, the lockdown in Kashmir is the longest in recorded history. While the lockdown has heavily impacted all aspects of society, healthcare in Kashmir has taken a particularly significant hit.

The Conflict in Kashmir

Located at the intersection of some of the highest mountain ranges in the world, Kashmir is a region unlike any other. Often termed as “paradise on Earth,” the region’s picturesque landscapes and critical geopolitical location have made it a coveted jewel for powers vying in the region. For the past 80 years, India, Pakistan and China have clashed over the region, with each side claiming different swaths of the territory. With a majority-Muslim population, Kashmir has witnessed a popular resistance movement since 1989, which aims to achieve independence or unification with Pakistan.

However, in 2019, India announced a new approach toward Kashmir, implementing a set of draconian laws and procedures in the Indian-administered portion of the region. Under these laws, the territory lost its constitutional “special status.” The Indian government also reorganized its administrative divisions.

Critically, the territory is now in a crippling lockdown, including a stringent curfew, restrictions on movement and a blackout of all communications. The Indian government has arrested thousands of civilians and local politicians and shut out foreign media from the region. Indian-administered Kashmir, with a population of more than 12 million people, has struggled to deal with the effects of this clampdown.

Healthcare in Kashmir Under Lockdown

The lockdown has particularly affected healthcare in Kashmir. Less than three weeks after the start of the lockdown, pharmacies in the region began to report dire shortages of essential drugs. With stocks running low on anti-diabetics, anti-depressants and cardio-vascular medications, Kashmiris must travel miles in search of these essential medicines. Drugstores in the capital city of Srinagar have only filled half of all requested prescriptions.

Much of the problem arises from the communications blackout. With phone lines cut, stores cannot effectively communicate with dealers and medication suppliers. This makes their stocks vulnerable and the Kashmiris reliant on these medications even more so.

However, the problem with healthcare in Kashmir under lockdown exceeds medicine shortages. In 2019, the Lancet, a leading medical journal, declared that the lockdown puts patients at serious medical risk. With public transport halted and vehicles restricted, people in need of medical attention too often cannot obtain the care they need.

The lockdown has not spared mental health services in the region either. Doctors Without Borders (MSF) had maintained counseling centers in Kashmir since 2001, but closed their facilities with the start of the lockdown. Given the decades of traumatic conflict that have afflicted Kashmir, residents in the region rely on these mental health services.

As the world reels from COVID-19, Kashmir has also felt its effects. In the early months of 2020, the region saw the easing of several restrictions, including access to 2G internet. However, following Kashmir’s first case of COVID-19 in March 2020, restrictions returned with full force. In the following months, newspapers operating in the region have reported a shortage of hospital beds and dwindling supplies of oxygen and ventilators. Given the already fragile state of healthcare in Kashmir, COVID-19 has only aggravated conditions in the region.

Improvements in Healthcare in Kashmir

Although healthcare conditions in Kashmir remain heavily impacted by the ongoing lockdown, local and international actors have made several improvements. One development is medical treatment and consultations through phone calls and mobile applications. The novel approach hopes to provide a degree of healthcare access to Kashmiris while adhering to the lockdown guidelines. An estimated 630,000 families are eligible for the program.

In August 2020, a year after the start of the lockdown, the Indian government laid forth 10 fields of focus for Kashmir. This included the growth of the health sector as a top priority. In the same report, officials also declared progress in implementing the Swachh Bharat Mission in Kashmir, part of a national campaign to end open defecation and improve sanitation practices. The government also claimed to have distributed 1.2 million health cards to school-aged children in the region, providing access to much-needed health services. The cards come with up-to-date vaccination records as well as required biannual checkups.

While the military lockdown continues to exact a harsh toll on the people of Kashmir and its fragile healthcare system, the steps above have helped improve access and treatment in the region. If all goes well, India’s lockdown of Kashmir may soon end. With it would come an increase in the health and welfare of the Kashmiri people.

– Shayaan Subzwari
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

H2O in Nepal
Margot Krasojevic Architecture will be responsible for a device that has the capability of extracting water in Nepal from clouds and store it for later use. Importantly, due to humidity and a landscape that is copious with mountain ranges and hilltops — this region of Asia would benefit greatly from water irrigation. The clouds that naturally form in the region will allow for a maximum of 5,000 liters of water production per day. This water, in turn, will be held in a water reservoir.

Water Irrigation and Reservoirs

The majority of the potential 5,000 liters of excess water in Nepal will likely serve to water tea and other crops. About 70% of all freshwater that is taken from the source is used for growing crops. Notably, a negative aspect of relying on water irrigation to feed crops is that, compared with water for in-home use, only 50% of the water returns to a natural water source. The remaining 50% — farmers/workers lose through leaking pipes or evaporation from watered plants. This stands in stark contrast when looking at in-home (and business) water use — where 90% can return to natural water supplies through sinks and toilets.

The potential (daily) 5,000 liters of cloud water that would be used for irrigation will be held in a man-made lake, known as a reservoir. Reservoirs are used when there is not enough rain flow for water to naturally hydrate vegetation. The water stored in this advanced, cloud-water, irrigation system should have a protective covering and cleaning mechanisms inside of it, to protect water from evaporation and accumulated sediment buildup.

The Commissioning of Margot Krasojevic Architecture

Having a well-functioning, cloud-water irrigator with minimal evaporation and sediment buildup will benefit the 6.1% of Nepali citizens who live on less than $1.90 per day. The process to draft worthy architects for the project included informing architects of what was expected and then choosing between various concept designs. The concept design turns into more complex scale drawings and ends with a finished structure.

The finished structure used to obtain water in Nepal will include landscape-inspired contours and solar power. In that same vein, this architecture firm has a plethora of environmentally-friendly structures. The founding architect of Margot Krasojevic Architecture, Dr. Margot Krasojevic, believes that other builders should design based on social changes and environmental events of the past as well. Dr. Margot Krasojevic would also like to see the footprint of modern technology in building designs.

Dr. Krasojevic believes that architects should have guidelines for building projects. Project guidelines should incorporate proportions of materials that are renewable and not damaging to the environment. Also, Dr. Krasojevic believes that it would be wise for builders to aid in the preservation of the planet’s limited resources. She sees the potential in extra steps taken to mitigate environmental depredation and resource misuse.

Architects and Project Commissioners: A Joint Effort

As Nepal commissioned this architecture firm to build a sustainable structure, there may be changes/additions needed for the structure. Architects can work hand-in-hand with the commissioners of projects and take feedback and alter projects as necessary. As the leaders look to procure useful water in Nepal, the need for continued supplies of water and interplay between structure and environment may add more dimensional depth to the project. Nepal will positively benefit from this structure and its potential to increase water-security within the country.

DeAndré Robinson
Photo: Pikist

Poverty in Mongolia
The country of Mongolia resides in the center of the Asian continent. Mongolia is home to diverse landscapes ranging from mountains to pasturelands to deserts. With a population of 3.2 million people, the nation hosts a number of significant poverty issues. Here are five facts about poverty in Mongolia.

5 Facts About Poverty in Mongolia

  1. Economic Danger: Expectations have determined that COVID-19 will set Mongolia’s economy back significantly. Economic growth rose from 5.4% to 7.2% in 2018 but dropped to 5.1% in 2019. The copper and gold mining industry, which is worth an estimated $3 trillion, could suffer as the country attempts to contain the virus.
  2. Income: As of 2019, the average annual income for the Mongolian household equated to approximately $1,681.24, a rate that has been increasing in recent years. According to the World Bank, the Mongolian poverty line is at 1,998,960 MNT or $795.8 per year. As of 2018, nearly one-third of the country lives in poverty. Furthermore, 15% of Mongolian citizens hover above this line and are in danger of falling beneath from slight industrial fluctuations.
  3. Living Conditions: This particular region of eastern Asia has a notoriously brutal climate, with winter night temperatures plummeting to – 40 degrees Celsius. According to a segment from TRT World, some homeless in the nation’s capital must live underground to survive. Dorjgotov Altanstengel, a homeless resident in Ulaanbaatar, resorts to sleeping between burning hot pipes in the sewage for warmth. There is a growing homelessness concern in the urban sectors of Ulaanbaatar, as thousands are at risk of eviction and displacement while redevelopment plans are underway. For the impoverished with a home in the nation’s capital, conditions are still far from adequate. Around 9% of Mongolia’s capital citizens live in poverty. Living conditions include living in tents without running water, heating or plumbing.
  4. Children in Poverty: Poverty in Mongolia is most prevalent among the young. Approximately one-third of the population consists of children. Two out of five poor people are youths under the age of 15. Children who work to support their families closely match the hours of adults, averaging about 13 hours a week. According to the International Labour Organization (ILO), about 56,000 children from ages 5 to 17 are involved in child labor, and over half of them working in hazardous conditions.
  5. Rural vs Urban: The rural and urban sides of Mongolia are progressing at astonishingly different rates. Over two-thirds of the population now live in urban areas, yet poverty has been declining significantly in rural areas. In rural areas, poverty declined from 9% to 30.8% in just two years. During this same time frame, poverty remained unchanged in urban areas at 27%. In addition, with surging populations in urban areas, six out of 10 impoverished people now live in heavily populated areas.

Looking Forward

Financial experts are hopeful about Mongolia’s future. Some expect that the copper and gold mining industry will make large strides in economic growth and development if the global pandemic can contain itself and not have prolonged effects.

Multiple NGO projects are currently at work to abolish poverty in Mongolia. Asral, for example, is a nonprofit organization dedicated to keeping Mongolian families and children out of poverty. Its projects range from providing direct aid to poor communities to educating women on how to secure jobs. Other organizations focus on educating the public, such as the Asia Foundation. In addition to Mongolia, the Asia Foundation has reached 20 other countries on the Asian continent, promoting women’s education and involvement in politics as well as supporting local efforts to maintain peace in conflicted regions.

These five facts about poverty in Mongolia show that important changes are still necessary to help reduce poverty in the country. The poor heavily depend on charities and aid donations, so bringing awareness to such conditions is a step in the right direction.

Amanda J. Godfrey
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in KrygyzstanA small, landlocked state in Central Asia, Kyrgyzstan was formerly part of the Soviet Republic with a volatile past and an uncertain future. While the country has had consistent economic growth since gaining independence in 1991, 22.4% of its population still live below the poverty line. Additionally, Kyrgyzstan struggles with internal ethnic conflict, unstable relations with neighboring countries, demographic trends in emigration and geographic weaknesses. This article will explore the many factors contributing to poverty in Kyrgyzstan, as well as the steps the country—and the world—are taking to solve it.

Geographic Disadvantage

Geography is an undeniable factor in determining the wealth and strength of a country. Unfortunately for Kyrgyzstan, geography has played a significant role in ensuring that the state is politically disconnected and economically restrained. Mountains, valleys and basins dominate Kyrgyzstan’s geography. Together, the Tian Shan and Pamir mountain ranges account for roughly 65% of the country’s land. Urban areas are located in the valleys separating the mountains, with agricultural production mainly in the Fergana Valley to the northeast.

Kyrgyzstan’s political borders are the result of Stalinist intervention that purposefully divided ethnic groups in order to create conflict. This political division, combined with mountains separating populations, created an unstable and disconnected region. Kyrgyzstan contains few navigable rivers and is geographically landlocked, forcing it to depend on other countries to transport goods to global markets. Furthermore, Kyrgyzstan’s geographical location is too close to Russia and China to warrant a significant Western investment. Kyrgyzstan can only overcome its geographic weaknesses with favorable trade deals and investment in transportation networks that connect the country to the outside world.

Economic Weakness

With a GDP of $8.5 billion and GDP per capita at $1,323, Kyrgyzstan’s economy lacks the natural resources and industrial diversity to thrive in the global economy. While GDP growth is consistently 4-5% annually, the country’s poverty rate has remained relatively stagnant since 2009. This stagnation is the result of the lack of job creation and wage growth in the country. Corruption and difficult business conditions have kept away investors, while the stronger Russian market exacerbates the trend of emigration.

The economy is dominated by mineral extraction, agriculture and animal domestication—sectors that are unlikely to grow in the coming years. Economic activity is so isolated in Kyrgyzstan that the Kumtor gold mine alone creates approximately 8% of the country’s GDP. However, there is hope for the economy in the tourism and hydroelectric power industries. With proper investment, Kyrgyzstan’s dams and mountain views could be the needed catalyst for economic diversification.

Political Instability and Corruption

Kyrgyzstan’s experience as a former member of the Soviet Republic has created a culture of political instability since the country achieved independence in 1991. Border wars over the Fergana Valley resulted in an atmosphere of suspicion in the region and led to the elections of nationalist strongmen in Kyrgyzstan. This social upheaval continued until 2010 when the nation adopted a parliamentary constitution with significant checks and balances. Even today, Kyrgyzstan is the only Central Asian state where the president is limited to a single term.

Despite progress in balancing branches of government, the new system was unable to calm the ethnic and regional tensions that had been simmering for decades. Additionally, corruption continues to harm Kyrgyzstan’s courts and business reputation due to the lack of accountability institutions. Businesses routinely pay off judicial officials and civil service personnel in order to earn tax abatement and political favors. The government has responded with reforms intended to improve Kyrgyzstan’s business environment but still lacks the ability to vet judicial appointments. With officials more interested in securing their own fortunes than the country’s well-being, it is clear that the political system perpetuates the cyclical poverty in Kyrgyzstan that plagues the country.

Demographic Trends

Understanding the demographics of a country can be essential in gauging future economic performance and societal progress. Kyrgyzstan has a population of approximately 6.5 million people, of which a majority are Kyrgyz, Uzbeks, Uighurs, Tajiks or Russian. While roughly three children are born to every Kyrgyz woman, the population growth rate remains around 1% due to significant emigration. The stronger Russian and Kazak markets, combined with a significant Russian minority ensures that this trend will continue into the next decade, curbing economic growth in the country. The urban and rural divide is also striking.

Only 35.6% of Kyrgyz peoples live in urban areas in comparison to the worldwide average of 55%. This statistic speaks to the weaknesses of a decentralized state lacking infrastructure investment. Additionally, the presence of minority groups from other Central Asian nations is the primary reason for the continuing tension in the region. Kyrgyzstan’s efforts at private industry reform have combatted the emigration trend to some extent. However, addressing Kyrgyzstan’s lack of centralization can only occur through infrastructure investment; a policy that requires significant capital in a mountainous nation.

Solutions

Despite the many dimensions of poverty in Kyrgyzstan, government reforms and international institutions alike have made significant progress in addressing this problem. The country has employed a multi-pronged approach to alleviating poverty in Kyrgyzstan and addressing shortcomings in the economy and government. Some of the policy proposals include reforming legal and regulatory institutions, developing the private sector, improving infrastructure and revamping social services. As many of these proposals are capital-intensive, Kyrgyzstan has turned to international financial institutions for funding. The World Bank and Asian Development Bank support important infrastructure projects in the country, including hydroelectric dams that power much of the region. The Asian Development Bank has been especially beneficial to Kyrgyzstan, with assistance reaching $2.13 billion on 192 projects.

While Kyrgyzstan has made progress in recent years, addressing poverty in Kyrgyzstan depends on whole scale reexaminations of the role of the private sector and courts in civil society. With support from the international community, targeted investment and governmental integrity, it is completely possible for Kyrgyzstan to overcome its many challenges.

Matthew Compan
Photo: Flickr

Elderly Poverty in South Korea

While South Korea is home to great technological developments and world-famous rising trends, it also has one of the highest numbers of impoverished elderly in a single developed country. Around half of the senior citizens are living in poverty with little to no support from relatives or the government. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, or OECD, consists of over 30 countries that work with one another to encourage economic development. Unfortunately, despite all the economic progress it has made, South Korea has the highest elderly poverty rate of all OECD countries.

How Elderly Poverty in South Korea Came to Be

In the 1970s, a financial crisis hit South Korea that caused around 2 million people to be unemployed, many of these workers being senior citizens today. When the country began building its economy back up, many companies decided to replace the older generation of workers with younger ones. While the younger workers did not cost as much, the newly jobless population was left with no other choice but to retire earlier than expected.

In the present day, the now elderly population who was affected by the financial crisis have to support themselves by working non-conventional jobs. These jobs include picking trash off the street, cleaning or in the most extreme cases, elderly prostitution. Since this way of living is detrimental to the mental wellbeing of the older population, senior suicide rates have risen over time. Just three years ago, for senior citizens around 70 years old, nearly 50 people out of 100,000 committed suicide. For senior citizens around 80 years old, that number went up to 70 people per 100,000.

South Korea’s Welfare Programs

  • Comprehensive Welfare Program: In 2012, South Korea began the Comprehensive Welfare Program to benefit the impoverished elderly population. Senior citizens who are physically compromised were given assistance in everyday routines, such as housework or laundry. Meals are provided at senior citizen dining halls and even delivered for those who cannot make it to a meal service location. Social service and activity programs were implemented as well, which helps boost the mood of the elderly who would not have otherwise gotten a form of entertainment anywhere else.
  • Community Care Program: In 2019, South Korea announced the Community Care Program to aid senior citizens as well as other vulnerable groups. This program is spread all throughout South Korea, with application booths in plenty of local areas. Similar to the Comprehensive Welfare Program, the Community Care Program also provides in-home care services for physically compromised seniors, as well as food deliveries. This program also provides public housing and elderly daycare for those in need of special assistance and care. Additionally, 12 million won (nearly $12,000) will be provided as subsidies for senior citizens who continue to reside in the Community Care Program.

Creating Jobs for Seniors

In late 2019, South Korea’s employment rate continued to grow over 300,000 new jobs every month. Employment in late 2019 was around 27.5 million jobs, which is over 330,000 more jobs from the previous year. This hiring growth was because of the Ministry of Health and Welfare’s plans to increase senior jobs using the over 1.5 trillion won (nearly $1.5 billion) from their budget. Those who were out of a job previously were able to get a chance at improving their lives and livelihoods through becoming employed again.

– Karina Wong
Photo: Needpix