Keeping Girls In School
Right now, 130 million girls ages 6 through 17 are not in school. Fifteen million girls will never receive any kind of education. The international community has recognized the importance of rectifying this problem, including the elimination of gender inequality in education as a target of the Sustainable Development Goals. Despite the significant hurdles which remain, the number of girls in school has increased dramatically in recent decades indicating progress.

Between 1970 and 2017, the global average number of years a girl spends in school increased from 6.7 to 12.5. South Asia experienced the most amount of progress, tripling the average length from 3.8 to 12.

South Asia

Several countries in South Asia have implemented programs that target keeping girls in school. Efforts in India largely drove the increase in rates, where average years of schooling jumped from 4.1 to 13, exceeding the 12-year target. Many nonprofits have worked to improve the educational attainment of Indian girls. For instance, ConnectEd brings education to girls at home when their parents do not allow them to attend school. Additionally, the nonprofit organization CARE has worked with the Indian government to provide educational programs for girls who have dropped out of school and to strengthen early childhood education. CARE also advocates for the bolstering of legislation and policies which ensure safe and secure access to education.

Bangladesh has also made significant strides in keeping girls in school. Secondary school enrollment for girls went up from 39 percent in 1998 to 67 percent in 2017. In 2008, the government of Bangladesh initiated the Secondary Education Quality and Access Enhancement Project (SEQAEP) with the help of the World Bank. This program provides stipends and tuition payments to impoverished children, especially girls. Teachers have received additional training and incentives to ensure that at least 70 percent of their class passes. Additionally, Bangladesh has taken steps to improve sanitation and water facilities at schools. Before the implementation of SEQAEP, 50 percent of children completed primary school and only one-fifth of these went on to complete 10th grade. Now, 46 percent of students graduate from secondary school, including 39 percent of children from impoverished backgrounds. Girls have experienced a rise in enrollment rates in particular due to a number of specially targeted stipend programs. Between 2007 and 2017, the gender parity ratio for grades six to 10 improved from .82 to .90.

Sub-Saharan Africa

Sub-Saharan Africa also made significant gains in the number of years girls spend in school, more than doubling the average from 3.3 years to 8.8. However, this region remains the worst in terms of keeping girls in school. In many countries in the region, girls never even get a chance to attend primary school. In the Central African Republic, Chad, Mali and Niger, two-thirds of primary school-aged girls do not enroll in school. In Liberia, this number is 64 percent, while in South Sudan it reaches a staggering 72 percent.

Nigeria has driven the current progress. Since 2007, the Nigerian government partnered with the World Bank to distribute grants and resources to school systems in particularly struggling areas. Programs that provide free meals and uniforms have incentivized families to allow their girls to obtain an education. Additionally, resources such as textbooks and expanded class space have made class time more effective for students and assisted in graduation rates. In one state, primary school completion rates for girls rose from 17 percent to 41 percent.

These statistics show that change is possible. Advancements in these countries show that even small investments in girls’ education can drastically improve their prospects.

Clarissa Cooney
Photo: MaxPixel

Natural Disasters Shaping Global Poverty
When people discuss the causes of global poverty, natural disasters do not often come up, but there is a correlation between natural disasters and global poverty. This may be due to the fact that natural disasters tend to be completely out of human control, while human choice and behavior can either cause or greatly reduce other factors that contribute to poverty. However, natural disasters shape global poverty through post-disaster destruction and economic and societal instability. Geographical location and weather patterns, as well as vulnerability to natural disasters, are immensely pertinent to a society’s poverty rate.

The Danger of Natural Disasters

According to the World Bank, natural disasters force over 26 million people across the globe into poverty annually and cost the global economy around $520 billion every year. These disasters also reinforce the cyclical nature of poverty; they ruin progress that countries have made to reduce poverty and leave impoverished people completely vulnerable due to their inability to cope and recover after the calamity. The five countries with the highest Climate Risk Index ratings from 1998 to 2017 all have national poverty rates above 20 percent. Honduras and Haiti rank two and four on this index, respectively and are great examples of how natural disasters shape global poverty.

Hurricane Mitch

According to a Penn State University report, Honduras lost $3.8 billion after Hurricane Mitch in 1998. The agricultural economic sector dropped by 7 percent as both domestic and cash crops disappeared. According to Honduras Compassion Partners, the agriculture sector has dropped by almost 33 percent over the last 20 years. Adequate sanitation and clean water were rarities and are still not too ideal levels. The health and education system took a $33 million hit. Penn State University also reported that societal instability increased after the storm. The country saw a surge in gender inequality and sexual and domestic violence after the hurricane. Extreme weather is so influential to poverty rates because its devastation is multifaceted. Like in Honduras, natural disasters simultaneously strip individual necessities like food, shelter, security and sanitation and weaken socioeconomic resilience, that is, the ability for society as a whole to recover after a catastrophe.

Haiti

Another example is Haiti. The 2010 earthquake that ravaged the island nation cost the economy around $7.8 billion. The natural disaster affected all facets of life. A Global Foundation for Disaster Reduction and Recovery report revealed just how vast the consequences of a disaster like this can be:

  • Social sectors like water, food, sanitation, health and education suffered $553.3 million in economic loss.
  • Infrastructure sectors like housing, food, energy and transportation suffered close to $1.3 billion in economic loss.
  • Production sectors like agriculture, industry, retail and finance suffered $933.3 million in economic loss.

These figures do not even include the cost of damages, which more than double the total expense. Almost a decade later, partially due to more natural disasters, Haiti is still recovering from the earthquake. These calamities bombard all of the indicators of poverty and all of the variables that have the potential to lift an individual and a society out of poverty (i.e. food security, capital, sanitation, education, health care) in one fell swoop. The post-disaster consequences underpin the cyclical complexion of poverty. This is how natural disasters shape global poverty.

Direct Relief

Direct Relief is a non-governmental organization that provides relief from natural disasters in over 80 countries in Asia, Africa, South America, Central America, North America and Europe. To date, Direct Relief has provided $747,210,716 in international aid, given 160,038,758 doses of medicine and provided 3,531,448 pounds of medical supplies to victims of natural disasters. The organization distributes products such as emergency medical packs, cholera treatment kits, oral rehydration salts and hurricane prep packs. It also employs a hurricane prep map to supply aid to the affected countries. Direct Relief has been the largest provider of aid to Haiti since the 2010 earthquake.

Natural disasters and global poverty have a close relationship. The ability for one extreme weather event to negatively influence all of the factors that decide poverty makes it much more difficult for countries prone to these storms to end the cycle of poverty. More research and development on disaster preparedness and recovery are necessary to allow countries the opportunity to break the feedback loop. These disasters are stymying poverty reduction efforts in countries like Honduras, Haiti and even now in Zimbabwe which is suffering from severe drought. Response and preparation to natural disasters and climate tendencies need to be a higher priority in the strategy of mitigating global poverty.

Zach Brown
Photo: Flickr

 

History of the Asian Development BankThe Asian Development Bank (ADB) is a regional bank aimed at fostering social and economic development in Asia. The history of the Asian Development Bank is that of an evolving institution, constantly shifting focus towards new problems and expanding its role in regional affairs.

Founding and Early History

The bank was founded in the early 1960s to foster cooperation among Asian countries and spur economic growth in the region. In 1963, the United Nations Commission for Asia and the Far East held its first Ministerial Conference on Asian Economic Cooperation, where a resolution passed for the creation of this regional bank. The ADB was officially created two years later in Manila, the capital of the Philippines with 31 member states and Takeshi Watanabe residing as president.

OPEC Oil Crisis and Expanding Role

Asia, along with the rest of the world, suffered a severe economic downturn due to the OPEC oil crisis in 1973. The Asian Development Bank responded by increasing funding towards the development of domestic energy sources and infrastructure, to cope with the current shock and mitigate against future instability in the energy markets.  The resources of the Asian Development Bank began to expand during this time period to include increased co-financing and management of other organizational funds. The Asian Development Bank issued its first bond in 1973 worth $16.7 million in Japan.

The ADB also made strides to address the needs of developing nations. In 1974, it established the Asian Development Fund, a program designed to provide poorer nations in the region with safe, low-interest loans to aid in their economic and social development. The positive impacts of the Asian Development Fund on developing economies in Asia came to quick fruition, as some recipient countries’ reliance on the bank’s assistance ended within a decade.

Push for Social Development and Cooperation with NGOs

In the 1980s, the Asian Development Bank shifted its focus away from economic development to initiate support of social development in Asia. It began financing programs related to the environment, healthcare, urban development and women’s issues. In its 1987 policy paper, the Asian Development Bank established a framework for cooperation between the bank and various non-government organizations (NGOs) with the aim of increasing efficacy of social development efforts in the region. During the decade of the 1980s, the Asian Development Bank also expanded its support for infrastructure projects with particular emphasis on energy production, as memories of the OPEC oil crisis were still fresh in the minds of regional policymakers.

Poverty Reduction and the Asian Financial Crisis

With the end of the Cold War, the Asian Development Bank added several new central Asian countries as member states. Fears that the benefits of economic development were bypassing those most in need prompted the ADB to focus its efforts on poverty reduction in the mid-1990s. In 1995, the Asian Development Bank instituted a policy to ensure that 100 percent of its developmental assistance from the was directed to decreasing poverty.

The late 1990s were a dark period for Asia, which was hit hard by the Asian Financial Crisis of 1997. The ADB’s response was a shift towards aiding the poor and creating a social safety net for those hit hardest by the crisis. By 1999, poverty reduction became the top priority of the ADB.

Response to Humanitarian Crises

In the 2000s, the Asian Development Bank expanded its response to the humanitarian crisis in Asia. Following the Millennium Summit of the United Nations, the World Bank established the Millennium Development goals, which include the elimination of hunger and extreme poverty, promotion of universal primary education, reduction in child mortality, gender equality, combating disease, ensuring environmental sustainability, improving maternal health and establishing a global cooperative effort towards development. The ADB committed to helping its member states achieve each of these goals.

In 2003, Asia was struck with a severe acute respiratory syndrome epidemic, illustrating the need for regional cooperation to combat infectious diseases. The Asian Development Bank provided financial support for efforts to combat HIV and the Avian Flu in the region. In December 2004, the Indian Ocean tsunami caused widespread devastation across India, Indonesia, the Maldives and Sri Lanka. The ADB responded to the disaster by providing over $775 million to recovery efforts. In 2005, the ADB mobilized almost $400 million to help the victims of an earthquake in Pakistan.

The history of the Asian Development Bank is one of constant evolution. It was established with open-ended goals and forced to adapt to new challenges as they arose. In the 1970s, the OPEC Oil Crisis forced the bank to invest in energy infrastructure. The financial crisis in 1997 prompted a focus on poverty reduction. Most recently, the natural disasters in the early 2000s catapulted the ADB into disaster recovery. In its eventful 55-year history, the one constant of the Asian Development Bank is its willingness to assume a central role to address regional challenges.

– Karl Haider
Photo: Wikimedia

closing the gender gap in Southeast AsiaGender equality is an important factor in determining the future of civil and social development in a country. However, gender norms and traditional roles in Southeast Asia, sustained by historical-cultural contexts such as religion and village class systems, create a preference for boys and a belief that motherhood is a woman’s primary role. This perception diminishes the skills of women, affecting the way they view their own capabilities and futures.

On average, women in the Southeast Asian region are 70 percent less likely than men to have a career. While it is difficult to assess the full economic standing of women in Southeast Asia, it is evident that countries with higher poverty rates experience greater barriers to gender equality.

Listed below are some of the ways countries at the forefront of gender equality are closing the gender gap in Southeast Asia.

Job Opportunities

According to the Asian Development Bank, most women in Southeast Asia earn between 30 and 40 percent less than men. In addition, the average percentage of workforce female participation in Asia is only 55 percent.

In contrast, Vietnam’s informal and formal workforce holds 80 percent of the country’s women. Influenced by the rise of working women during the Vietnam War, Vietnam’s current rate of participation is due to increasing numbers of self-employed women, especially as the manufacturing industry becomes more prominent than farming. For example, according to the Mekong Development Research Institute, new road development in the Mekong Delta has allowed more women to travel to work in nearby textile factories while their husbands stay in town to farm. As a result, women in the delta have gained equal standing and in some cases even higher pay, thus balancing power dynamics in the family unit.

In environments like this, women are even attaining more positions as executive officers. The Boston Consulting Group reported that 25 percent of CEOs in Vietnam are women. Vietnam boasts a 17.6 percent rate of female board members in a survey of 50 companies, compared to more developed countries like South Korea and Japan, which have some of the lowest rates of female board members.

With 13 million members throughout the country, the Vietnam Women’s Union is an organization that is closing the gender gap in Southeast Asia and implementing gender equality policies in the private sector. VWU has helped to increase the rate of female employment in Vietnam by collaborating with SNV to support activities under the Enhancing Opportunities for Women Enterprises (EOWE) project that assists women in both Vietnam and Kenya. By supporting small and medium enterprises led by women, one of the initiative’s key focus is to ensure 20,000 women in Vietnam gain greater business and workforce techniques by 2020.

Political Participation

The rates of female representation in Asia’s parliaments and political bodies differ from region to region. However, the Philippines boasts some of the highest numbers of female lawmakers. The WEF Global Gender Gap Report in 2018 listed the Philippines 13th place, out of 149 countries, based on its empowerment of women in politics. Female participation rates in Philippines politics is still relatively slow growing with an overall ratio of one woman to every two men holding top positions in government. Yet, in the Philippines Lower House, women occupied almost 30 percent of the seats in 2016 and overall, more than 40 percent of positions in civil service were filled by women. The growing push toward closing the gender gap in Southeast Asia through female representation in Philippine politics is attributed to some of the organizations that are mobilizing more Filipino women.

The Philippines’ future goal is to have more women engage in conversations about gender equality. The Philippine Commission on Women assists that goal by focusing on strengthening areas of women’s empowerment. One of its specific focus areas is the Women’s Priority Legislative Agenda, which creates thorough policies that stand before the government for consideration and also removes existing discriminatory laws that hinder the abilities of all Filipino women.

Education

The narrative around girls’ education has been improving in some countries of Southeast Asia. For instance, in Malaysia, women in Malaysia surpassed men in primary, secondary and tertiary education enrollment rates in 2017. Female enrollment rates in secondary school topped 78 percent compared to male enrollment which stoood at 72 percent.

Since the 1970s, National Union of the Teaching Profession Malaysia has sustained the futures of teachers. With a total membership of 172,995, it has reached many Malaysians nationwide. Its different branches host member activities and local committees. A few of the union’s accomplishments have been establishing counselor positions in schools, extending maternity leave time from 60 days to 90 days and increasing the basic salary of teachers by 13 percent. These successes challenge the systemic problems around education and push the government to make necessary changes to support the nation’s educators.

Final Thoughts

Over the past two decades, several countries have already made progress in closing the gender gap in Southeast Asia through employment, politics and education. While female participation rates have increased in the region, improvement is still needed to ensure that equality policies are being created in all areas of Southeast Asian life and that opportunities are not withheld from women.

After all, continuing to uphold gender discrimination could result in worldwide economic loss. The OECD estimates a 7.5 percent loss of GDP. In addition, ADP found, via a simulation model, that closing the gender gap in Southeast Asia and across the world could contribute to a 30 percent increase per capita income of an average Asian economy in one generation and reduce poverty rates. Therefore, increasing women’s standing in the Southeast Asian region will also increase the region’s economic prosperity.

– Melina Benjamin
Photo: Flickr

Significance of Street Food CultureThailand has refreshing somtam, Mumbai, India has bhel puri and South Africa has a snack of bunny chow. What do these diverse dishes all have in common? They are some of the most notable street foods in their respective countries and vital to the daily lives of citizens, demonstrating the significance of street food culture.

Resourceful but innovative, street foods have a long history in many countries around the world. The foods are reflective of local and traditional cultures. Around 2.5 billion people eat street food around the world. It is one of the few things yet to be significantly touched by capitalist influence.

Perceived Risks

Not everyone thinks so positively about street food and its vendors. Some government officials around the world are concerned about food safety, sanitation problems, traffic congestion and taking up physical space. The greatest fear is of diseases caused by food lowering tourism rates.

Though these risks should not be disregarded, there is much more to street food culture that should be recognized by the greater public. In 2006, the International Labour Office did a thorough report of street food vendors in Bangkok, Thailand by interviewing numerous case studies from mobile to fixed vendors. Specifically, with fixed vendors, the report says: “More than 80 percent of vendors reported that their earnings were adequate,” and “88 percent reported to be satisfied with their occupation.”

The significance of street food culture in preserving global communities is evident in the following areas of cultural empowerment, employment opportunities and accessibility.

Cultural Empowerment

A large part of the significance of street food culture is its ability to create a familial network within specific global communities and enhance levels of inclusivity. The liveliness of street food makes streets vibrant and daily routines colorful. It catches the attention of those from every social class which breaks down barriers.

Additionally, the street food industry protects traditional recipes that run through ancestry lines. Food stalls are often owned and handled by a family. This makes the business an opportunity for multiple generations in the present and the future. Current generations are able to learn about where they have come from and where their country is going, culturally and socially.

Employment and Business Opportunities

Since street food stalls are micro-businesses, it is possible for newcomers to create their own stalls with only a small amount of money. They also have the potential to earn back gains in the long run. Cooking or selling food is commonly the first job for many migrants and women, providing real-life opportunities. Vendors also aid the businesses of small farms and markets by buying ingredients from them. The street food industry has offered new positions for employment. Therefore, it has prevented vulnerable social groups from slipping further into poverty.

A city authority report in Tanzania found that the street vending industry employed more than one million people in 2014. Also, in Hanoi, Vietnam, street vending makes up a six percent share of total employment and an 11 percent share of informal total employment, making the vending sector a significant employer.

Street food is considered part of the informal sector of the economy. However, the industry has developed its own self-sufficient economy without outside assistance. The underestimated sales of street food are contributing to the economy of developing countries. This is another aspect of the significance of street food culture.

Food Accessibility

The significance of street food culture also includes improved access to food across countries, including their poor communities. In the 1990s, the United Nations recognized street food as an overlooked method of distributing food to communities. Street food provides sustenance and nutrition to major groups of the population and helps to keep food security stable.

Since the cooks have low operation and maintenance costs, street foods are low in cost. People with very little to no income depend on street foods every day to support themselves and their families.

Nonprofits like InnoAid are supporting the street vending sector. The organization co-created an educational toolkit for street vendors in India that promotes alignment with the National Act of Urban Street Vendors. It includes training materials on hygiene, collaboration and workspace improvements. Adhering to these aspects of the project will add to its sustainability and benefits for vendors. The project has already helped more than 600 vendors through these entrepreneurial activities and is in the process of implementing a large-scale development project.

With support and increased research on the significance of street food culture, assumptions and overall suspicion of the industry can be reduced. Improving the reputation of street foods could help to preserve culturally significant recipes, provide employment opportunities and supply low-cost food options.

-Melina Benjamin

Photo: Flickr

Global Snakebite StrategyThe World Health Organization (WHO) members gather annually at the World Health Assembly in Geneva, Switzerland. This year’s diverse topics included snakebites.

The WHO is not always known for speedy results, due to the massive, worldly scale that this organization deals with. But snakebites was a topic that was quick to strike back. Just one year after the World Health Assembly urged resolution to this issue, WHO has launched a new strategy for snakebites and the venoms that cause potentially deadly harm to its victims.

Symptoms of Snakebites

According to the WHO, snakes bite an estimated 5.4 million people around the world each year. Of those estimated, approximately 138,000 people die each year. This new strategy looks to cut 50 percent of snakebite deaths and disability by the year 2030.

Snakebites are a common occurrence in regions such as sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, and Latin America. This is a commonly neglected public health issue, especially in impoverished areas of all countries listed above. The only known validated treatment for a snakebite is passive immunotherapy with the specific and effective animal-derived antivenom. These antivenoms are not always accessible, nor readily available in developing areas of these countries.

When a venomous snake bites, the victim has less than half an hour to receive the antivenom, without serious consequences. Serious adverse effects include swelling, pain, and bruising around the bite area, numbness, elevated heart rate, constricted airway, blurred vision, nausea, diarrhea, convulsions, fainting, tissue necrosis, and death. All of these listed symptoms can be from the bite of a venomous snake.

The Global Snakebite Initiative

The global snakebite strategy, or the Global Snakebite Initiative lead by the World Health Organization sets a multicomponent strategy in place in order to improve the availability of safe and effective antivenoms at a global level. The initiative is based on four key steps needed in order to improve these conditions caused by venomous snakes, according to the WHO.

  1. Preparing validated collections of specific venom pools from the most medically dangerous snakes in high-risk regions of the world.
  2. Strengthening the capacity of national antivenom manufacturing and quality control laboratories, and establishing new facilities in developing countries through technology transfer.
  3. Getting established laboratories to generate antivenoms for various regions of the world.
  4. Getting government and relevant health organizations to give snakebite envenoming recognition within national and international public health policy frameworks.

According to the WHO, there should also be actions to improve health information systems, accessibility of antivenoms, proper training of medical and nursing staff, and community-based education. This multicomponent strategy would involve stakeholders on many different levels and would improve antivenom availability globally.

This global snakebite strategy targets countries and communities that are heavily affected by snakebites. The program will work with the affected communities to ensure that through their health systems, safe and effective treatments will be offered to all community members. Complete cooperation, collaboration, and partnership between all levels of government and health organizations will accomplish this.

A Solid Foundation

A 28-member panel of global experts in relations with WHO regional offices, science and research communities, health foundations, advocacy groups and stakeholders developed this strategy. Viewing this issue at a global level improves community education and first response. This strategy also commits to engaging communities in order to achieve these goals.

WHO will work with specific countries to strengthen health systems geared towards improving health and well-being and reducing inequity for community members. The main objective for this global snakebite strategy is to ensure accessible, affordable, and effective treatments using the antivenoms.  A streamlined method of supplying and distributing of antivenoms will be prioritized. Along with all of these steps, WHO will encourage research on new treatments, diagnostics, and health device technology that can improve the treatment outcomes and make for quicker recovery times.

WHO’s global snakebite strategy has implemented multiple factors in order to achieve the goals set forth. Commitment from around the world including health, government, and scientific organizations alike, will need to work together through various aspects for the Global Snakebite Initiative to be effective immediately. Following the steps laid out by the WHO, paralyzation and deaths caused by snake envenoming can be reduced in high-risk countries, and ensure its community members safe, efficient, and effective treatments.

– Quinn McClurg
Photo: Flickr

Top 10 Facts About Overpopulation in Asia
Asia is home to more than 50 percent of the people living around the globe. It is the world’s largest and most diverse continent and occupies more than four-fifths of the Eurasian landmass. The majority of Asia’s 49 countries have populations of between 10 and 100 million. Here are the top 10 facts about overpopulation in Asia.

Top 10 Facts About Overpopulation in Asia

  1. Asia is the largest continent in the world and 60 percent of the world’s current population inhabits it. It has the highest rate of growth with its population increasing four times in the 20th century.
  2. Asia constitutes roughly one-third of the world’s land area and is home to about three-fifths of its population. The continent includes the two most populous countries, China (1.43 billion) and India (1.35 billion), which together account for nearly two-fifths of all people around the world. Some of the other overpopulated countries in Asia include Indonesia (2.64 billion), Pakistan (1.97 billion), Japan ( 1.27 billion), Vietnam (96.4 million) and Turkey (81.9 million).
  3. Asia’s population is expected to grow by 750 million to reach 5.2 billion by 2050. In addition to this, India may surpass China as the world’s most populous country, increasing to 1.7 billion people from the current 1.35 billion. India might record the largest population increase of any single country over the next 33 years.
  4. More than half of all people around the globe (3.97 billion) live in just seven countries, according to a U.N. estimate and four of these countries are in Asia. Other than India and China, Asian countries like Pakistan and Indonesia have large populations too.
  5. South Asia has the highest prevalence of overcrowding in the developing world. A third of its urban population resides in houses that lack sufficient living areas. South East Asia follows with over a quarter of the urban population living in overcrowded housing. Asia’s developing cities are focussed on building freeways and skyscrapers which do not leave enough residential space and contributes to overcrowding in the continent.
  6. The Asia Pacific region is urbanizing rapidly which brings enormous challenges to landscapes and lifestyles. Urbanization causes inequalities between the rich and poor and prompts the poor to live in slums and hinders economic growth. According to the World Bank, inadequate infrastructure, as well as a failure to deal with environmental issues like pollution and water shortages causes people to struggle with congestion pressures and leads to a failure of a country’s economy.
  7. Urbanization in cities like Mumbai, Kolkata, Bangkok and Jakarta also demonstrate a lack of infrastructure. People migrate to cities in search of better jobs because rural areas do not offer them. However, these individuals have to move to informal settlements like slums due to a lack of adequate living spaces. These places usually lack proper water supply, electricity, sanitation and transportation and make living conditions difficult.
  8. There is a significant relationship between overpopulation and medicine. Due to the advancement in medicine, mortality rates have gone down which has led to a population explosion. In addition, there is a lack of food supply which causes deficiency diseases and starvation in overcrowded areas.
  9. The dramatic growth in the population of Asia is the result of an increase in the number of people surviving the reproductive age. Population growth accompanies changes in fertility rates due to better education about birth control. According to the World Bank, the aging population and low fertility rates are to blame for the increase in population as 36 percent of the world’s population over 65 currently live in East Asia. The World Bank projects that the 211 million people living in East Asia will rise over time.
  10. Many countries in Asia have relied on their young population, however, with changing demographics, they may lose around 15 percent of their working-age population by 2040. Higher incomes and better education have not only led to longer life expectancy and lower fertility rates but have also caused families to move and changed social values.

Overall, overpopulation in Asia is rapidly on the rise and is a cause for concern. It has a serious impact on the socio-economic fabric of this region and can lead to issues like instability of economy and poverty.

– Isha Akshita Mahajan
Photo: Flickr

Epilepsy Treatment in Developing CountriesAround 50 million people experience recurrent and unprovoked seizures globally. People living with this condition have many triggers for these seizures such as psychological stress, missed medication and dehydration. Half of those living with the disease also have additional physical or psychiatric conditions.

While the physical toll of epilepsy is difficult to manage, the emotional toll is equivalently burdensome. In many countries, a large stigma surrounds patients as people perceive those with the disease as insane, untreatable and contagious. As a result, epilepsy affects people’s education, marriage and employment opportunities. The exclusion of epilepsy patients from society can even lead to increased mental health issues and delay access to proper healthcare treatments.

Epilepsy is a treatable condition if people have access to anti-seizure medication. However, roughly 80 percent of all cases are found in low or middle-income countries. Three-quarters of epilepsy patients living in low-income countries do not have access to life-saving treatment. This fact has sparked a movement in global organizations to raise more awareness about the issue of epilepsy treatment in developing countries.

Three Organizations Raising Awareness about Epilepsy Globally:

World Health Organization (WHO)

Up to 70 percent of people living with epilepsy could become seizure-free with access to treatment that costs 5 dollars per person. In order to address this treatment gap, epilepsy awareness must be prioritized in many countries. The WHO suggests that by labeling epilepsy as a public health priority the stigma surrounding the disease can be reduced. The organization believes that preventing acquired forms of epilepsy and investing in better health and social care systems can truly make a difference in alleviating millions.

Since 2012, the WHO has led a program centered around reducing the epilepsy treatment gap. The projects were implemented in Ghana, Mozambique, Myanmar and Vietnam, and utilized a community-based model to bring early detection and treatment closer to patients. Over time, the program yielded some major results in each of the countries it assisted.

Within four years, coverage for epilepsy increased from 15 to 38 percent in Ghana. The treatment gap for 460,000 people living with epilepsy in Vietnam decreased by 38 percent in certain regions. In Myanmar, over 2,000 health care providers were trained to diagnose and treat epilepsy, and around 5,000 community stigma awareness sessions were held. Continued efforts like the ones found in these countries can help spread treatment to regions of the world that need it most.

 

International League Against Epilepsy (ILAE)

The ILAE is another organization raising awareness around epilepsy treatment. The organization consists of health care professionals and scientists who help fund global research for treatment and potential cures to epilepsy. The major goals of the League are to spread knowledge about epilepsy, promote research, and improve services for patients globally.

With six different regions, the ILAE finds various ways to reach its goals of promoting epilepsy awareness, research and access to care globally. For example, the African region will conduct the 4th African Epilepsy Congress in Uganda to share new developments in epilepsy research in August 2019. These types of Congresses are held once a year in certain regions to continue spreading new information effectively.

The ILAE regularly publishes journals to show research findings and breakthroughs in epilepsy treatments and cures. The organization also provides information to patients themselves on topics such as psychological treatments, diet therapies and information for caretakers. With so many resources available, the ILAE has done a major service by spreading information about epilepsy treatment in developing countries.

 

International Bureau for Epilepsy (IBE)

The IBE focuses primarily on improving the social conditions and quality of life for people living with epilepsy. By addressing issues such as education, employment and driver’s license restrictions, this organization helps create environments free of detrimental stigmas. The IBE’s social improvement programs, designed for people with epilepsy and their families, are some of the main ways this organization impacts epilepsy awareness.

International Epilepsy Day is an example of an initiative created by this organization to promote awareness in over 120 countries. On that day, many global events are held to increase public understanding of epilepsy and new research developments that are available. In addition, the Promising Strategies program also funds initiatives improving the quality of life for people living with epilepsy. The program supports 81 projects in 37 countries and provides $300,000 in support of the projects. For example, Mongolia: Quality of Life was a program designed to improve public knowledge and reduce stigma in Mongolia after the number of epilepsy cases increased by 10 percent in 2004. Soon after the program started in 2008, the quality of life in Mongolia for people with epilepsy increased and better services were given to those in need.

These three organizations often collaborate to create new programs to spread information about epilepsy treatment in developing countries. By raising awareness of the condition and providing better healthcare services, the efforts of these organizations have created a more inclusive and helpful environment for those living with epilepsy in countries around the world.

– Sydney Blakeney
Photo: Flickr

 agricultural sector

Kyrgyzstan is a mostly mountainous country situated between Kazakhstan and China. Its population is mostly Kyrgyz, with an Uzbek minority. Most of the population lives in the flatland regions, with only sparse settlements in the mountains themselves. The country also ranks as one of the poorest countries in the world, with numerous contributing factors to its low GDP, including the agriculture sector in Kyrgyzstan. Since leaving the Soviet Union, Kyrgyzstan has lacked a reliable source of resources and funds beyond their own borders; and despite trade, they struggle economically with exports.

Compounding poverty, the agricultural sector of Kyrgyzstan also remains underdeveloped despite the nation’s progress. Despite accounting for 40 percent of the country’s labor force, agricultural workers experience widespread poverty and food shortages, especially those living in rural areas. The lack of progress and modernization in this area is coupled with a combination of economic weakness and lack of oversight from a shifting government to create a stagnant environment. However, the aid programs discussed below are boosting the agricultural sector.

Agriculture in Kyrgyzstan is mostly a local affair. Families grow food for themselves in what is called “sustenance farming.” Large-scale commercial farming is still small compared to similar operations in other countries. Despite this, several foreign aid programs have been implemented to improve the agricultural sector.

Aid Programs – IFAD

IFAD is an organization dedicated to helping rural communities in developing nations. Through low-interest loans and investments in helping poor households and communities, they help spur growth in these sectors and countries. In Kyrgyzstan, they focus specifically on improving livestock productivity and improving livestock farmers’ access to better markets.

The funded programs provide training in techniques for rural farmers while guiding them to better markets. These programs teach better business practices, which leads to greater earning potentials for families. Finally, natural disaster insurance is also provided for these same households and communities, protecting families against extreme weather.

USAID’s Farmer-to-Farmer program

One of two major agricultural endeavors in Kyrgyzstan, the Farmer-to-Farmer project was a program implemented over five years, finishing in 2018. Similar to IFAD, the program focused on families and communities who relied on small farms and agribusinesses for income. This included providing agricultural training to improve yield as well as business training to improve market reliability and profit. Without proper training, small farming businesses often yield small quantities of product not enough to constitute “food security.”
By the time the program was complete, 21 agricultural education assignments were completed. These included the education of local businesses – leading to newly established guidelines and quality standards for food – as well as students and graduate students of agriculture. The program reached a total of 4,320 recipients, with 3672 successfully trained.

Agro Horizon

The other major agricultural endeavor of USAID in Kyrgyzstan, Agro Horizon, is still ongoing. Partnering with several corporations, Agro Horizon has provided over $30 million dollars in aid. The focus has been on the commercialization and industrialization of Kyrgyzstan’s agriculture in an effort to make it more profitable.
The program’s investments have taken several forms, both in modernizing production and processing methods, as well as grants and training opportunities for over 100,000 households. Thanks to a partnership with a local agricultural producer, the first commercial-scale production of safflower seed was launched. Similarly, the first Kyrgyz modern slaughterhouse following international standards was established. The program has already helped establish 1,200 jobs providing more stable income than previous.

There are still many opportunities to improve agriculture in Kyrgyzstan. Areas of untapped potential and continued aid stand to make agriculture in the country not just sustainable, but profitable. So long as aid for the agricultural sector in Kyrgyzstan continues, Kyrgyztan’s agriculture sector might be able to pull itself up from its current state.

– Mason Sansonia
Photo: Flickr

Energy for GrowthEnergy for Growth Hub is a nonprofit that began last year that seeks to bring power to developing economies. The organization believes that one way to eradicate world poverty is through providing affordable access to electricity in order to increase economic development, focusing on the regions of sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. Energy for Growth Hub believes helping developing economies become strong will increase jobs, wealth and overall wellbeing, all of which are scarce when the economy is weak and lacking basic necessities, such as electricity.

Energy for Growth Hub’s Purpose

According to their site, Energy for Growth means “affordable reliable energy” to power all manner of businesses. The lack of energy in developing countries holds back the inhabitants from prosperity. It’s difficult for an economy to prosper when a hospital or school can’t be powered in order to use its equipment because it doesn’t have access to electricity.

It’s hard for those in first world countries to imagine a country where less than fifty percent of a population has access to electricity. In Chad, for example, fewer than 10 percent of residents in the sub-Saharan country had access to electricity in 2016. Chad is one area in sub-Saharan Africa that would be positively affected by widespread electricity.

Todd Moss, Executive Director of Energy for Growth and previous the chief operating officer at the Center for Global Development, believes the future of countries like Chad is tied to widespread electricity and not just electricity for use in households but also for businesses, farms, hospitals and schools.

Energy and Jobs

Job creation is just one positive result of powering a country that lacks affordable and widespread electricity. The nonprofit states that energy is the foundation with which modern economies thrive. Without electricity, there wouldn’t be power in homes, hospitals or schools. There wouldn’t be computers or medical equipment or even phone lines in order to call for emergencies. Vehicles would be sparse, as many gas-powered vehicles depend on a functioning battery to operate.

Batteries also power public transportation and improve agricultural practices, such as utilizing a basic farm tractor or timed irrigation equipment. The nonprofit believes all industries and energy sectors require or can benefit from electricity. In each of those industries, there are possibilities of employment. Power is the foundation of development.

Grid Modernization

Without a functional electrical grid, it would be difficult for a developing country to thrive. Energy for Growth Hub is interested in both off-grid and on-grid living. The nonprofit’s main focus is not on household energy, as most nonprofits. It focuses on reliability, cost, large-scale energy operations and working with the available resources of each country, such as untapped coal. Though the nonprofit believes sustainability is a wiser choice long-term, Energy for Growth Hub understands some countries could utilize cheaper solutions rather than the cleaner and more expensive counterparts, such as wind and solar power.

Focusing on households leads to small solutions, whereas a large-scale approach has a spillover effect since the grid will also move towards households. A strong economy, at its most basic level, has some form of an electrical grid. An affordable grid that is used not only for urban but also rural residents leads to further development and reduced poverty. This is another important goal for the organization.

In 1990, only 16 percent of residents in sub-Saharan Africa had access to electricity. In 2016, the number had increased to 42 percent. The Rockefeller Foundation, Chevron, General Electric, Pritzker Innovation Fund and others have funded Energy for Growth Hub and believe in its vision of helping “developing countries achieve the high-energy future they need to become prosperous and economically competitive.”

Lucas Schmidt

Photo: Flickr