Humanitarian Aid
Humanitarian aid is vital and often life-saving assistance provided to those most in need. Both humanitarian aid, which is emergency assistance, and development aid, which focuses on the long-term, are key to lifting people out of poverty. The primary motivations behind humanitarianism include the alleviation of suffering, preservation of dignity and the saving of lives. Also, there are four principles that guide humanitarian aid. These include neutrality, humanity, independence and impartiality.

As things stand, traditional forms of humanitarianism have not taken into account the specific needs of aid recipients. As a result, those impacted often do not receive the support that they need. This not only results in a waste of time and resources but can also lead to mistrust of aid organizations among aid recipients. “The support they provide doesn’t help much at all. People don’t want any more rice and lentils. There is no more land to live on. We need better support,” said a community leader in Bangladesh.

With around 274 million people around the world needing humanitarian assistance and protection in 2022, which represents the highest figure in decades, the need for humanitarian reform has never been greater.

How Ground Truth Solutions Envisions Reformed Humanitarian Aid

In 2012, Ground Truth Solutions originated, with a view to reforming the humanitarian system and encouraging humanitarian organizations to implement a needs-based response. Ground Truth envisions “a humanitarian system that fully recognizes the agency of the people it exists to serve, and is responsive to their views, preferences and needs.”

Ground Truth Solutions has developed a methodology that uses feedback from impacted communities to hold accountable humanitarian aid providers. Its aim is to reform the humanitarian system toward a needs-based response, tailored to the specific needs of affected people. Therefore, community feedback is key in terms of designing the humanitarian aid program and ensuring that delivery is efficient and effective.

Ground Truth Solutions identified several problems with the way in which the humanitarian system functions. Aid recipients are unable to participate in decisions that impact humanitarian response, meaning that they are unable to tailor aid to fit their needs. Also, they are often unaware of the source of aid. As a result, the most vulnerable feel that the humanitarian system leaves them out or forgets them due to favoritism, or that they do not receive proper aid due to poor management and opaque decision-making.

One respondent said, “The distribution is unfair. Well-off people are getting support while poor people like us never get anything.” At the same time, humanitarian organizations are touting policies that place “people at the center,” while there are complaints about the lack of transparency.

Effective Needs-based Humanitarian Aid Response

The origin of Ground Truth Solutions was to help those experiencing humanitarian disasters. Designing an effective humanitarian response based on the views and needs of those affected, the organization uses a mixed methodology of polls, interviews and questionnaires to hear directly from the people. Using pre-existing metrics such as the Core Humanitarian Standard, which espouses agreed-upon standards such as participation, effectiveness, agency, trust, respect and information, Ground Truth Solutions ensures that the humanitarian system is representative of the needs of those it aims to serve.

The organization also ensures a coordinated response across all levels and works in partnership with humanitarian actors across a variety of themes such as cash-based assistance, climate change adaptation and health.

Ground Truth Solutions has programs across Africa, Asia and Europe, which it tailors to the specific country context. However, broadly, the programs follow the below structure:

  • Analysis of the context and strategic goals of the current humanitarian response.
  • Annual perception surveys, which ask people how they experience and view the humanitarian response.
  • Development of related indicators that are included in response monitoring and evaluation.
  • The quantitative follow-up to analyze findings.
  • Continued dialogue with affected people and humanitarian groups to ensure action is taken based on feedback.
  • Documentation of the process for global advocacy.

Looking Ahead

Ground Truth Solutions has set the ball rolling for the reform of the humanitarian system. However, as Nick van Praag, founder of the organization, has recognized, this is not an overnight process. “Accountability players, like Ground Truth Solutions, have a role but responsibility must be collective and should include all those with the power, resources and operational rationale to make the difference.”

– Ottoline Spearman
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Rural Eastern Asia Around 75% of the rural Eastern Asian population struggles to afford food, with an estimated 320 million living on less than $2.15 a day. The employed population in the region largely works in the agriculture sector where three out of four people in rural communities are poor. Families cannot afford to relocate to well-paid urban jobs. As a result, they continue to live in a poverty cycle. Countries such as Vietnam and Cambodia have up to 90% of their rural population living in poverty. Factors such as hunger issues, natural disasters and health care impact poverty in rural Eastern Asia greatly.

Poverty in Rural Eastern Asia

  • Mongolia: Rural areas of Mongolia have a poverty rate of 30.8% according to the World Bank, with two out of every five children living in poverty. Education heavily impacts poverty in Mongolia, as only 10% of Mongolians are able to complete university-level education. A lack of education and skills affects the jobs people can send in applications for, and this impacts Mongolians as it’s harder for many of them to enter urban employment for better-paid jobs.
  • Philippines: Half of the 100 million people in the Philippines live in rural areas with the main source of income consisting of agricultural employment such as fishing and farming. Illiteracy, unemployment and poverty are more common in Indigenous people and people living in upland areas. With an overall poverty rate of 25%, a decrease in agricultural productivity and unprofitable farming businesses stand as leading causes due to limited access to technology and knowledge.
  • Thailand: Despite major efforts to reduce poverty in Thailand, its rural sector, including agricultural households, remains poor with a poverty rate of 79%. Impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic affected the rural economy much greater than the urban, with the World Bank reporting that 70% of rural households reported decreased income levels since March 2020. The average monthly income is 68% of urban households. With the highest income inequality rate in Eastern Asia and the Pacific as well as the impacts of droughts, Thailand’s agricultural sector has been impacted heavily by economic and environmental factors. These recent droughts have caused dried-up land/soil impacting the production and quality of farming in these areas.

Improving the Socioeconomic Impacts in Mongolia

Asian Development Bank (ADB) donated $73 million toward easing Mongolia’s socioeconomic impacts from COVID-19. It also provided a $30 million loan to improve livestock production in central Mongolia. These donations have been effective in strengthening food security and traceability for communities.

Agricultural Development Projects in the Philippines

Since 1978 the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) has donated $243.7 million to fund 15 agricultural development projects in the Philippines, directly benefiting 1,742,000 households and enabling poverty-ridden rural communities to improve their income and food security as well as education and health care. IFAD also supported technology operations to improve soil and water management through the use of micro-catchment techniques that will support local fishermen.

The Baan Mankong Program in Thailand

The Baan Mankong program was one of many that transformed Thailand’s poverty rates. The program focused on improving housing, communication between citizens and the government and improving drainage systems. With $191 million, it supported 320 cities/districts, many of whom reside in the city.

Looking Ahead 

Despite negative outlooks on rural poverty in Eastern Asia, its rapid economic progress has been notable, lifting millions out of poverty. Between 2008 to 2018, GDP per capita grew at a rate of 6.7% each year, beating the global rate of 1.5%.

Organizations like ADB have contributed massively throughout COVID-19 and afterward to continue to improve rural communities through better health care, sustainable equipment, improved technology and food security. East Asia has contributed to the global reduction of extreme poverty with countries such as China, Thailand and Malaysia securing poverty rates below 1%. However, with many people still not economically stable in Eastern Asian countries, there appears to be room for more progress.

– Joshua Rogers

Photo: Flickr

Period Poverty in Asia
The World Bank estimates that at least 500 million women and girls across the world live in period poverty. They lack access to menstrual products and safe, hygienic spaces to use them due to financial restraints. This is certainly prevalent across Asia in high and low-income countries where cultural taboos and attitudes towards women and girls prevent many from accessing the help they need to manage their periods. However, more and more governments and organizations in Asia are beginning to acknowledge the issue of period poverty. They are taking the initiative to help erase the stigma surrounding periods and improve access to menstrual products. Below are four areas of Asia that are tackling period poverty in Asia.

Southeast Asia

In Southeast Asia, Plan International has collaborated with a sustainable period brand Modibodi to empower almost 5,000 women and girls to safely manage their periods with dignity. Over the course of three months, the NGO has provided 1,000 pairs of reusable menstrual underwear to 333 women and girls in Indonesia alone. While in Laos, 4,500 female students have received reusable period underwear packs. Plan International reports that this initiative has come about after access to menstrual products has become increasingly limited for low-income people across the globe due to widespread inflation as well as the lasting effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Both have greatly exacerbated living costs.

Despite the increase in period poverty over the past few years, women and girls in Southeast Asia have always faced challenges when it comes to accessing menstrual products and education surrounding menstrual health. Indeed, a 2015 report for UNICEF Indonesia found that only two-thirds of school-aged girls from urban areas in Indonesia changed absorbent menstrual products every four to eight hours or when the material was dirty. This is usually due to the fact that they could not afford to change their menstrual products when necessary. This issue has only been amplified in rural areas, where the amount decreased to less than half of the girls surveyed.


Women in China are also working to end period poverty. Despite living in high-income countries, many women and girls across China face financial difficulties and stigmas when it comes to managing periods. The COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated this, which has led to a rise in poorer women such as students, cancer patients or women from rural areas having to buy low-cost period supplies that do not meet safety standards.

Period Pride, a Chinese NGO focused on menstrual health, has started a series of initiatives to combat period poverty and shame. This has included inviting university students to propose prototypes for products and services which address period poverty for experts and investors to review. In 2020, they also partnered with a range of women’s organizations to create a series of policy recommendations for the China State Council Women and Children Working Committee, which included ensuring that women have access to clean water and can dispose of menstrual waste in a safe and dignified manner.


In Japan, efforts have also occurred to reduce the cost of period products, making them more accessible to all. This is particularly important because despite being an affluent country, Plan International found that one in three women in Japan had hesitated or were unable to buy menstrual products due to financial reasons when surveying 2,000 Japanese women aged 15-24.

Like many of the campaigns tackling period poverty in Asia, grassroots groups, such as the student organization using the hashtag #EveryonesPeriod, which began a petition in 2019 to lessen taxes on menstrual products, led much of the drive to end period poverty in Japan. However, members of the legislature have also begun to acknowledge the problem, with Sayaka Sasaki and Renhō Saitō, two members of the House of Councillors Budget Committee, pushing Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga to agree to include sanitary products in Japan’s COVID-19 emergency relief plan in 2021. As a result, local governments have started to distribute free menstrual products across their constituencies in Japan.

South Korea

Similar to Japan and China, despite residing in a high-income country, many women in South Korea also struggle when it comes to managing their periods. This issue particularly came to light after a 2016 report found that one low-income South Korean girl could not afford menstrual products and had to use a shoe insole instead.

Stories like these pushed the Seoul Metropolitan Government to launch a pilot program to dispense free menstrual products across 10 public facilities across the city in 2018. These facilities include major attractions such as the Seoul Museum of Art as well as women’s spaces such as the Seoul Women’s Plaza. This program received support from 92% of the 1,475 Seoul residents surveyed about the pilot, indicating an overwhelmingly positive attitude from the public in regard to improving access to menstrual products. Using data collected from the pilot program, the Seoul Metropolitan Government has now expanded the drive to alleviate period poverty across the city, with around 300 institutions in Seoul now providing free menstrual products.

A Better Future Ahead

Whilst a lack of access to menstrual products continues to be a major issue facing women across the globe, these programs and campaigns that are tackling period poverty in Asia provide many a reason to be optimistic about eradicating period poverty. Grassroots, NGO and government-led initiatives to improve access to menstrual products have been instrumental in uplifting the lives of low-income women across Asia. It will continue to do so with further efforts to expand awareness of and end period poverty in Asia.

– Priya Thakkar
Photo: Flickr

World Bank's Mission
The resignation of World Bank president David Malpass on February 16, 2023, has placed a spotlight on the World Bank. Throughout the years, the World Bank’s endeavors have brought both victory and controversy. However, overall, the World Bank’s mission to end poverty has seen significant success across all regions of the world.

The Founding of the World Bank

About 12 months before the conclusion of World War II, the United Nations Monetary and Financial Conference resulted in the creation of two institutions aimed at igniting economic growth and reducing poverty: the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The World Bank’s endeavors originally focused on “rebuilding the economies of countries devastated by war and increasing the economic development of developing countries,” but now, the institution works on all types of development.

According to the World Bank’s website, the World Bank’s mission is to “end extreme poverty” and “promote shared prosperity.” Made up of five institutions, the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development; the International Development Association; the International Finance Corporation; the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency and the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes, the World Bank partners with governments and private sectors to provide funding and assistance for poverty reduction initiatives. Since its founding in 1947, the World Bank has aided 189 member nations with $45.9 billion worth of financial assistance support for at least 12,000 development projects.

World Bank Projects in Africa

The World Bank’s website breaks down its own results into regions, starting with Africa. Its strategy for the continent aims to address extreme weather events, reduce hunger, create employment opportunities, increase resilience, safeguard the most vulnerable people and improve human capital.

In Somalia, the World Bank partnered with the Federal Government of Somalia to implement “social safety net provisions.” Within the first two years of support, more than 1 million Somalians received funding for “basic consumption needs.”

The World Bank has supported the Niger government for close to a decade to help establish an adequate social safety net. The Adaptive Safety Net Project 2 “Wadata Talaka” (PFSA 2), which launched on June 20, 2019, has provided direct support to more than 3 million Nigerien people.

Initiatives in East and Pacific Asia

Since the outbreak of COVID-19, the World Bank has implemented emergency projects in many East and Pacific Asian countries, a few being the Philippines, Cambodia and Papua New Guinea. The emergency funding allows these countries to “purchase medical and laboratory supplies, train medical staff and strengthen national public health systems,” the World Bank website says.

In Vietnam, the World Bank’s endeavors have improved access to quality health care services for 13.7 million Vietnamese people in mostly remote areas in Northern Vietnam. Through the Northeast and Red River Delta Regions Health System Support Project, the World Bank “improved the treatment capacity of 74 public hospitals at the district and provincial levels by investing in upgrading the medical infrastructure and training health workers.”

These hospitals can now provide specialized health care services in the areas of “cardiology, obstetrics/gynecology, pediatrics, oncology and trauma (surgery).” This means patients no longer need to travel very far to seek this care.

To reduce Indonesia’s national stunting rate, the World Bank established the Investing in Nutrition and Early Years Program in 2018 to support Indonesia’s national strategy. The project managed to decrease the national rate of stunting by 6.4% in three years.

World Bank Programs in Latin America and the Caribbean

In April 2020, at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the World Bank committed $29.1 billion to Latin America and the Caribbean to combat the crisis till June 2022. Within this region, the World Bank has been focusing on “promoting inclusive growth,” “investing in human capital” and “supporting countries’ development goals” while “fostering a green and sustainable recovery.” The World Bank has provided funding to countries such as Costa Rica, Colombia, Argentina, Ecuador and Peru, with support ranging from reformation, stability efforts, education expansion, sustainability and economic recovery.

Supporting South Asia

South Asia has received $31 billion in funding from the World Bank since March 2020. More than 857 million disadvantaged South Asians received support through $2.73 billion of funding provided by 10 initiatives supporting social safety nets. These finances provided social assistance to the most impoverished households to help them meet their basic needs. This funding has also supported health projects that have equipped health care centers, bolstered education programs and increased vaccine availability.

World Bank Projects in MENA

The World Bank’s mission in the Middle East and North Africa is to “eliminate poverty and promote shared prosperity through strengthening human capital, supporting jobs and economic transformation, advancing gender equity, addressing fragility and enabling green growth,” its website says. World Bank projects in the MENA equate to about $23.2 billion. Since April 2020, the bank has devoted $5.4 billion as of October 2021 to address the pandemic’s impacts and “protect the most vulnerable, support sustainable business growth and job creation and strengthen institutions to rebuild.”

The World Bank’s endeavors have supported the distribution of vaccines in Tunisia, Iraq, Jordan and Yemen. In 2021, the World Bank detailed its strategies for the Middle East, including efforts toward transparency and trust, improving human capital and strengthening gender equality.

The World Bank is one of the leading institutions in the fight against poverty. Its mission and impact highlight the importance of the global organization in the progress and development of developing countries.

– Audrey Gaines
Photo: Flickr

Guinea Worm Disease
The once common guinea worm disease, which used to be present in Africa and some parts of the Middle East and Asia, has almost been eradicated. Guinea worm disease is a parasite-caused disease that is prevalent in areas that lack access to clean drinking water. The worm’s larvae exist in many various types of water such as wells and lakes and fleas carry them making it easy for people to ingest them into their bodies. Guinea worm disease is a disease that directly affects people suffering from extreme poverty, as only exists in the 10% of the world’s population that lacks access to clean and safe water along with adequate health care.

How it Affects the Body

Someone who has contracted guinea worm disease often experiences symptoms such as fevers, vomiting, diarrhea, rash and more. People can remove the worm from the skin in a painful procedure, however, removing the worm can lead to many complications along with the possibility of bacterial infection. If a person does not fully extract the worm from the body, the dead worm’s remains in the skin can cause even more discomfort and issues in the surrounding area.

Though death is not terribly common with this disease, guinea worm disease can result in disabilities and impairment to the affected individual. The pain can become so extreme that mobility becomes difficult. These complications result in losing many days of work, schooling and many other important aspects of life and can even leave people impaired for months at a time. This leads to many financial losses for those suffering from the disease due to the inability to work.

Cases Over the Years

In 1985, there were around 892,055 cases of guinea worm disease worldwide. These cases mostly occurred in areas such as Western Africa, Ethiopia, Uganda and Kenya along with countries in Asia such as Pakistan and India. In 2022, however, there were only 13 cases worldwide, making it an all-time record low of reported cases. There is no vaccine or medicine that can prevent this disease, so the progress that the world has seen in eradicating this disease is in part to many volunteers heading to these remote places in the world. The Carter Center, which former president Jimmy Carter co-founded, became the leader of the fight to eradicate this disease in 1986. Since then, the volunteers that went to help these communities provided water filters, larvacides (an insecticide to kill mosquitos) and proper water safety education.


With only 13 cases worldwide as of last year, guinea worm disease will become the second disease after smallpox to undergo eradication without a vaccine or medicine. Former President Carter was pleased to hear about the low number of cases, saying “Rosalynn and I are pleased with this continued advance toward eradicating Guinea worm disease. Our partners, especially those in the affected villages, work with us daily to rid the world of this scourge. We are heartened that eradication can be achieved soon.” Through the extensive work of these volunteers, this horrible and debilitating disease has become virtually eradicated in these poverty-stricken countries. Providing these villages with the proper education and equipment in order to properly fight this disease has led to the amazing progress that occurred over the past few decades.

– Olivia MacGregor
Photo: Flickr

Diarrheal Disease in South Asia
Diarrheal diseases such as cholera, rotavirus and E. coli cause intense episodes of diarrhea which depletes the body of water and electrolytes (sodium, chloride, potassium, etc.) and eventually can lead to death if not treated. Unsanitary water, poor waste management, coming into contact with fecal matter and a lack of access to health care often are causes of these diseases. While diarrheal diseases impact people all across the globe, one of the areas in which people suffer from them the most is South Asia.

4 Facts About Diarrheal Disease in South Asia

  1. A substantial number of worldwide diarrheal disease-related deaths happen in South Asia. According to 2016 reports, diarrheal diseases are the eighth highest cause of death globally among people of all ages. Even more, they are the fifth highest cause of death in children under 5. Diarrheal diseases also disproportionately affect South Asian countries such as India, Nepal, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Bhutan. About 90% of deaths related to diarrheal disease worldwide occur in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.
  2. Children in South Asia are much more likely to die from a diarrheal disease than anything else. A 2020 study that BMC Public Health conducted in India found that diarrheal diseases caused 50% of deaths in children aged 1 to 5, putting children at a higher risk when it comes to diarrheal diseases.
  3. Diarrheal diseases disproportionately affect areas in South Asia with poor access to health care, sanitation and clean water. Once again, a 2020 study that BMC Public Health conducted found that in India, factors such as improper stool disposal in the home, having a dirt floor, having a thatched roof and environmental issues all contributed to a person’s likelihood of contracting a diarrheal disease. Evidence showed that 46.5% of children in the study had no access to a toilet facility, and the children with toilets were 18% less likely to contract a diarrheal disease. Of the people in this study, 43% of the children lived in houses with dirt floors, and some also had thatched roofs. These people were 8% more likely to contract a diarrheal disease. These statistics show just how threatening diarrheal diseases are to people living in South Asia without basic human needs.
  4. Despite this grim data, the negative effect of diarrheal disease is lessening in South Asia. In response to this high amount of diarrheal disease-related deaths in South Asia, many groups, government and not, are making efforts to end this crisis. Between 1990 and 2010, diarrheal disease-related deaths decreased by 55%. One organization in particular, The Gates Foundation, focuses on the development and delivery of safe and affordable vaccines for many diarrheal diseases. This organization began working in South Asia in 2003, with the implementation of an HIV vaccine in India. Between 2003 and 2014, The Gates Foundation implemented more than 170 million vaccines in the region.

WHO and UNICEF Providing Help

In addition, the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF released a comprehensive plan in 2013 that will help lower diarrheal deaths worldwide, especially in high-risk places such as South Asia. This plan outlines many goals such as reducing mortality from diarrhea in children less than 5 years of age to fewer than one per 1,000 live births and 90% access to appropriate pneumonia and diarrhea case management by 2025. With these goals, the plan also lists steps that will be taken and that are being taken to achieve them such as administering vaccines, initiation of breastfeeding amongst new mothers and providing uncontaminated drinking water to areas that do not have access.

In conclusion, diarrheal diseases are very deadly to citizens of South Asia, especially children under 5, and people without access to proper waste disposal, health care and clean water. While these illnesses are very prevalent, they are also very preventable, and given the aid of organizations such as the Gates Foundation and the World Health Organization, South Asia is already lowering the number of deaths diarrheal diseases cause.

– Evelyn Breitbach
Photo: Unsplash

Tonle Sap’s Villagers in Cambodia
Cambodia, a Southeast Asian country with a rich historical past that attracts many tourists, had almost 18% of its population living below the national poverty line in 2019, according to the Asian Development Bank (ADB). Among the various tourist attractions in Cambodia, the floating villages on Lake Tonle Sap are probably the most unique – villagers from there are mainly ethnic Vietnamese who are both poor and stateless. While Tonle Sap is the largest freshwater lake in Southeast Asia and one of the world’s biggest inland fisheries, the villagers’ incomes are insecure. However, without Cambodian citizenship, it is difficult for those villagers to go elsewhere to look for other jobs. In many ways, most villagers would not choose to live on the water if they had another choice. Knowing the circumstances of the villagers, some volunteers have reached out. This article will look at three organizations that have taken steps to help Lake Tonle Sap’s villagers in Cambodia.

Conservation International (CI)

With offices set up throughout Asia-Pacific, CI works with local and national governments, the private sector and indigenous communities to achieve one of its main aims – to improve food security for needy communities. Therefore, in Cambodia’s case, the organization set its eyes on Lake Tonle Sap’s villagers, and more specifically, on female villagers.

In the villages, fishing is the main occupation for both men and women. However, women are also responsible for smoking fish or turning the fish into Cambodia’s popular condiment, prahok. Yet, they do not receive sufficient income for such labor-intensive jobs.

To improve the livelihood of women and their efficiency in processing fish, CI offers training sessions on marketing skills and packaging techniques. Moreover, the organization also provides fuel-efficient stoves for the villagers, lessening their time smoking fish. With CI’s help, women’s incomes have increased notably, changing the conventional perceptions of women’s contributions to their communities within the villages.


Osmose has the objective of improving the livelihood of Lake Tonle Sap’s residents through the conservation of the area. For instance, the organization has developed ecotourism in one of the floating villages, Prek Toal. Riding on boats, tourists can visit a bird sanctuary in flooded forests guided by bird guides and fish and crocodile rising farms. There are also on-site accommodations for tourists who want to stay overnight. Since Prek Toal’s villagers are in charge of the different services and activities, this generates direct income for the locals. Therefore, with the help of Osmose, the villagers can have a more secure livelihood.

In addition, profits generated from ecotourism can help the locals in another way – to enhance the development of Prek Toal. For example, Osmose can build more essential facilities in the village, such as water filters and schools.

Global Nature Fund (GNF)

Like Osmose, GNF understands the importance of ecotourism for Lake Tonle Sap’s villagers. Unlike Osmose, GNF focuses on the water supply and hygiene of the area. According to GNF’s website, villagers do not have safe water to drink. Consequently, they need to drink polluted lake water or purchase drinking water from the mainland.

To ensure local inhabitants have a clean water supply, the organization builds a floating water kiosk with an ultrafiltration system. Meanwhile, GNF also forms a local water committee to manage the water infrastructure.

With the new water infrastructure, not only can local villagers have better health, but they also can have an alternative job and income other than fishing. According to GNF, seven people are now working at the water kiosk.

Overall, the floating villages on Lake Tonle Sap are unique places in Cambodia. For many villagers, living on the water is not easy, and many are financially insecure. Fortunately, organizations such as CI, Osmose and GNF have taken the lead in helping the local inhabitants. Gradually, the lives of Tonle Sap’s villagers in Cambodia have improved.

– Mimosa Ngai

Photo: Flickr

Energy Poverty in Myanmar
Located in Southeast Asia, Myanmar stands as one of the least developed countries and has the “lowest electrification rate” on the continent. According to the Myanmar Information Management Unit (MIMU) in 2022, “80[%]of rural people have no access to grid electricity.” Considering the importance of electricity for sustainable growth, access to electricity is vital for poverty reduction. Inadequate electrification in Myanmar is a prolonged problem, recently aggravated by the COVID-19 pandemic and the February 2021 coup. Myanmar needs more sustainable approaches to reduce energy poverty in Myanmar and promote economic growth.

Overview of Energy Poverty in Myanmar

Due to the lack of access to grid electricity in the rural areas of Myanmar, most of the rural population depend on “candles, kerosene, batteries and power generators” to go about their daily activities, according to the International Trade Administration.

According to the Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship, approximately 26% of the population in Myanmar lived in poverty in 2020. Furthermore, poverty rates in rural areas are double that of Myanmar’s urban areas. The lack of affordable and reliable access to electricity has hindered the economic growth of these areas especially.

According to the Miller Center, “Universal access to energy [can] provide an enormous boost to economic development, job creation and infrastructure improvements, particularly in rural communities.” Myanmar has set a target to expand access to electricity to 100% by 2030. However, the February 2021 coup “has thrown Myanmar into an economic crisis and put its electrification plans in peril,” The Globe and Mail reported.

Impact of the Military Regime in Myanmar

In February 2021, General Min Aung Hlaing and his junta overthrew the democratically elected government. The military takeover has led to halted cash flows, a devaluation of the currency and increasing costs for fuel and food. In addition, citizens face blackouts and “prolonged power cuts.” Not only does this impact households but it also detrimentally impacts businesses and students’ education.

When the coup occurred, many energy sector investors retracted from projects entirely or placed projects on pause. As a result, the military-run Ministry of Electricity and Energy “struggled to operate its infrastructure, honor contractual obligations, cover costs or follow through on projects,” The Globe and Mail reported.

The International Trade Administration confirmed this, stating that “Energy projects approved before the military takeover have been suspended due to the political and economic turmoil in the country.” As such, Myanmar is in dire need of foreign funding and investment in the power sector.

Actions to Address Energy Poverty in Myanmar

According to the Ministry of Electric Power (MOEP), the annual demand for power in Myanmar is rising annually from 15% to 17%. With the goal of providing “nationwide electricity access by the year 2030,” the government of Myanmar is planning to introduce a sustainable energy mix of “hydropower, natural gas, coal and renewable energy” to supply electricity to about 10 million homes in Myanmar under the National Electrification Plan (NEP).

Because of numerous electricity blackouts due to power decline since early 2022, the energy ministry in Myanmar started to focus on “damage control” and “attracting new foreign investment.”

In fact, Myanmar has an abundance of renewable energy resources to meet its energy needs. For instance, from 2016 to 2020, under the NEP plan, the Department of Rural Development (DRD) implemented “off-grid electrification” by using mini-grids and solar systems in rural communities. More than 430,000 households in 8,568 rural villages received these benefits, which provided electrical access to more than 2.1 million people. This success has encouraged Myanmar to expand off-grid renewable systems.

Nevertheless, political and economic turmoil under the military regime in Myanmar is causing power outages that directly impact the population, especially in rural areas. Also, “unsettled political and economic policies, unclear rules and guidelines and a shortage of skilled labor” as well as “corruption, lack of transparency in the tender and procurement process and banking issues” pose barriers for potential investors, the International Trade Administration said.

More investment in off-grid renewable energy sources can increase the accessibility of electricity in Myanmar. Because the national grid infrastructure in Myanmar is not well established, rural communities will benefit from the development of renewable mini-grids. The development of further off-grid renewable electrification systems will decrease energy poverty in Myanmar.

– Youngwook Chun
Photo: Flickr

Renewable Energy in South Korea
In 2020, the South Korean
 Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy (MOTIE) introduced the 9th Basic Plan for Long-Term Electricity Demand and Supply 2020-2034. In this plan, MOTIE sets a goal for renewable energy in South Korea to account for around 40% of the energy mix by 2034. Impressively, 100% of all South Koreans have access to electricity, however, most of the nation’s energy comes from non-renewable sources, which are not only expensive but are also unsustainable. 

Statistics on Energy in South Korea

In 2021, South Korea’s price of electricity increased “for the first time in around eight years” due to global fuel spikes. In June 2021, South Korea’s cost for energy for its citizens stood at $0.103 ( KRW123.02) per kWh (kilowatt-hour). On September 23, 2021, MOTIE announced that the Korea Electric Power Corporation (Kepco) intends to raise the rate per kWh to KRW3 by October 2021, meaning citizens can expect to pay another $0.88 (KRW1,050) monthly per household.

In comparison, in the United States, energy rates for households in November 2021 stood at $0.1412 per kWh. While South Korea’s energy rates per hour are cheaper, taking into account the vast number of people in Korea and the proportion of the population earning low wages, these rates are still costly. Energy rates could become more affordable with the use of renewable energy.

In 2020, crude oil was responsible for most of South Korea’s energy requirements, covering 35% of the country’s energy demands while coal covered 25% of energy requirements. Renewable energy in South Korea made up 1% of energy in 2020, with gas and nuclear covering the remaining energy needs at 17% and 16% respectively.

South Korea’s Poverty Rates

Between 2018 and 2019, South Korea’s poverty rate stood as the “fourth-highest” across 39 Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) member states. This 16.7% poverty rate equates to one in every six Koreans living in relative poverty,  according to the Korean Herald. Korea’s unemployment rates are low, however, many employed citizens do not earn adequate incomes. This, combined with an aging society, contributes to the impoverished circumstances of many households and individuals.

How Renewable Energy Can Reduce Poverty

In 2015, South Korea’s capital city of Seoul implemented the Energy Welfare Public-Private Partnership Program to address issues of energy poverty among impoverished city dwellers. The project constructed a virtual power plant “through which 17 municipal buildings and 16 universities save electricity consumption during peak hours and donate profits from saved power back to the program to finance energy welfare.” The virtual power plant has led to “annual profits of more than $180,000,” which goes to the Seoul Energy Welfare Civic Fund. With this funding, more than 2,000 low-income households received retrofitting of “LED light bulbs, energy-efficient windows and solar panels” to reduce energy costs and harmful greenhouse emissions. The Seoul Energy Welfare Civic Fund also prioritized training the unemployed as community energy consultants, which led to 180 new employment opportunities.

Why Renewable Energy is Important

Renewable energy could increase access to energy for those living in poverty and reduce production costs and the selling price of electricity.

According to the World Economic Forum, in 2020, renewable energy stood as the most affordable energy source and the costs of renewable energy technology continue to reduce each year. According to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), “emerging economies will save up to $156 billion over the lifespan of the renewable projects added in 2020 alone,” which would help to significantly reduce global poverty.

With South Korea as the “ninth-largest energy consumer in 2019,” the use of renewable energy can reduce the price of energy for citizens living in poverty.

Future of Renewable Energy in South Korea

Renewable energy can make electricity more affordable for all citizens, allowing them to focus finances on other basic necessities, investments and welfare programs. With the future increase of renewable energy, a decrease in air pollution and carbon emissions is also a significant positive benefit.

– Kyle Swingle
Photo: Flickr

Water Quality In China
Water quality in China poses challenges as water is generally unsafe for residents to drink. However, a clean and safer future lies ahead with the promise of reduced pollution, increased filtration and clean drinking water.

Current State of China’s Water

As of July 2021, 70% of China’s rivers and lakes were not safe for human utilization. However, since the COVID-19 pandemic restricted movement and led to lockdowns during 2020, water quality in China has seen significant improvements. For example, PH levels increased from mid-March to early May 2020.

Economic Impact of Water Systems

Unsafe water systems negatively impact the fishing and marine business inside of China. Pollution can decrease PH levels and make water toxic for fish and other sea life, which is essential for a strong marine business. Fifty-three coastal cities in China provided data from the years 1994 to 2018, describing the damage that pollution caused in agriculture and industrial businesses in China.

“As the main source of high-quality proteins in China, the yield of seawater cultured products reached 20.65 million tons in 2019, accounting for about 31.8% of the total aquatic products. Meanwhile, the proportion of seawater fishing products has decreased to about 18.7%,” according to the study.

Water is essential to the survival of an entire country. Low PH, pollution and other dangerous contaminants can damage ecosystems. This causes a ripple effect that impacts the livelihood of citizens, wildlife and the overall economic structure of a country. Fishermen need a safe work environment to catch and sell fish. The marine economy plays an important role in the nation’s growth and clean drinking water is necessary for the health of a nation.

The World Health Organization (WHO) states that “safe and readily available water is important for public health, whether it is used for drinking, domestic use, food production or recreational purposes. Improved water supply and sanitation and better management of water resources, can boost countries’ economic growth and can contribute greatly to poverty reduction.”

Plans to Improve China’s Water Quality

In December 2021, the World Bank approved a $400 million loan for decontamination and removal of pollutants in China’s Yangtze River Basin. This, along with $6 billion of China’s own resources will go toward water treatment for the 19 provinces in China and almost 600 million people who receive water from this basin.

The Yangtze River Protection and Ecological Restoration Program aims to improve water quality in China. This will support agriculture, livestock and waste management for townships. Approved in 2022, the latest update shows the beginning of a groundbreaking project.

Public participation in the management of water is beneficial. The University of California wrote an article showing a decrease of 19% in pollutant levels in quarterly reports that became possible with the help of Chinese citizens. Citizens collected data twice a month.

The Future of China’s Water

Water quality in China may not be at its best right now, but the positive feedback shows early signs of improvement inside the country. Baiyangdian, North China’s largest freshwater lake, received an upgrade to Class III in 2021, meaning that its surface water is of good quality. This is the lake’s best condition since the initial monitoring in 1988, with the classes ranging from a scale of between one and five.

Water has a significant place in the economy of China. Clean water is essential to promoting a steady marine market, economy and livelihood for all citizens in China.

– Kyle Swingle
Photo: Px Here