Information and stories on awareness.

gender discrimination in niger
Niger is a country located in West Africa that spans more than 1.3 million square kilometers and is home to approximately 22.3 million people. It is ranked the lowest out of 188 countries on the Human Development Index (HDI). A prominent issue is its weakened education system, where children in Niger spend a mere two years on average. Additionally, there exists a gender gap that exacerbates discrimination against girls’ education. To combat this burgeoning issue, a variety of organizations have been working towards eliminating gender discrimination in Niger to provide better quality education for girls.

UNESCO

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has been focusing on reform of Niger’s education system for five years. Starting in May 2015, the project targeted several schools in the town of Torodi. While this small town has been left out of many national development programs, UNESCO is working to successfully implement accessible schooling services to all girls in the region. The program also facilitates tutoring sessions and encourages female teachers to be employed in local schools.

UNESCO recognized that due to the rapid population growth, empowering the youth through education would go a long way towards improving the country’s socioeconomic standards. Moreover, with organizations like UNESCO teaming up with the government of Niger, the country is seeing positive developments in girls’ education. They reported a jump from 27 % to 65 % in girls’ primary school enrollment between 2000 and 2014.

UNICEF

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has also played an active role in reducing gender discrimination in Niger’s education system since 2012. Through significant investments and thorough management, enrollment into primary schools has increased remarkably, especially with girls. Approximately 66% of the 71% of children enrolled in primary schools are girls. While these numbers are promising, factors like child marriages and safety concerns remain to be a significant barrier to girls’ education. UNICEF has laid out several objectives and solutions to overcome these issues.

According to a UNICEF representative in Niger, “only one in two girls goes to primary school, one in ten to secondary school and one in fifty to high school.” UNICEF partners with Niger’s government at the ministerial level to ensure that that access to girls’ education is a policy priority. In doing so, UNICEF monitors how Niger is meeting its education goals. Additionally, UNICEF works at the community level to monitor that both boys and girls receive quality education. For girls, UNICEF realizes the cultural and societal issues at play, like the expectation of housework and child marriages, and works with those effected to overcome these obstacles.

USAID

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has signed a ten year deal  (2014-2024) with Niger’s national education sector to help decrease the gender discrimination present in its education system. USAID also promotes parental education to the community as a whole. Well-educated parents are more likely to enroll their children in school as well as encourage the completion of their curriculums.

International organizations are continually working to help Niger’s government through funding and managing the country’s education sector. Reform of the country’s education system has been progressing over two decades and has made notable improvements in terms of enrollment rates. As the country progresses into the next decade, organizations like UNESCO, UNICEF, and USAID plan to further support children in Niger by working to provide them with equal and quality education. Such improvements in education and gender discrimination can have a ripple effect, bringing positive change to Niger’s social, political, and economic systems.

– Omer Syed
Photo: Flickr

civil society response to HIV in South AfricaAccording to the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), South Africa has the largest population of people infected with HIV globally. One of the first countries afflicted with the epidemic in the 1980s, South Africa holds one eighth of the world’s AIDS population. One in nine South Africans and one in four adults are infected. The civil society response to HIV in South Africa has been crucial in addressing the virus and encouraging the government to take action as well.

Government Inaction

South Africa’s HIV statistics are staggering, even in comparison to other countries with large numbers of infected people, like Brazil and India. The problem of HIV in South Africa results from the government’s inadequate response to the epidemic until 2008. Manto Tshabalala-Msimang, the nation’s health minister from 1999 to 2008, refused to promote efficacious treatments such as antiretroviral therapy (ART). He called the antiviral treatments, widely endorsed by the global scientific community, “poison.” Tshabalala-Msimang instead promoted unscientific and largely ineffective treatments such as vitamins, beetroot and garlic. None of these have been shown to protect the health of people who are fighting the effects of the virus.

The year 2002 marked a turning point for the civil society response to HIV in South Africa. AIDS activists and others pushed back against a government policy that attempted to stifle access to effective treatments. In a historic judgment that initiated the fall of Tshabalala-Msimang, the South African courts ruled in favor of the activists. The ruling forced the government to take a more proactive role in fighting the epidemic. Later in 2006, the South African government established a national policy addressing HIV/AIDS following court processes instigated by AIDS activists. This policy broadened the distribution of life-saving drugs such as ART, addressed the shortage of healthcare workers and improved the treatment of HIV in pregnant women.

HIV/AIDS Activism

The South African government’s policies of misinformation and its ill-advised public health approaches to the epidemic worked to downplay the virus as a pressing threat. Because of Tshabalala-Msimang’s respectability and position of power, his rhetoric only fueled AIDS deniers. Still, South African scientists, medical professionals and activists banded together to challenge the government’s deadly inaction with the civil society response to HIV in South Africa.

From the onset of the epidemic, NGOs, CBOs, faith-based groups and activist groups took action to promote the treatment and prevention of HIV/AIDS. This civil society response to HIV in South Africa effectively addressed the acute inadequacy of the government’s response. These groups understood the importance of comprehensive responses to HIV even before international agencies drew connections between the various moving parts associated with the virus. For example, they emphasized the importance of condoms, bringing a wide range of issues into the public eye. Additionally, the groups stressed information, education and communication (IEC) initiatives to stop the spread of HIV/AIDS.

AIDS Foundation South Africa

A large part of the civil society response to HIV in South Africa, AIDS Foundation South Africa (AFSA) was the first registered AIDS NGO in South Africa, and it is currently one of the largest. The organization recognizes the complexity of the virus and the need to address it in a comprehensive way. AFSA focuses on a combination of treatment, prevention, child protection, food security, education and access to basic services. Additionally, AFSA recognizes that different communities have different needs when it comes to AIDS treatment and prevention. As such, the organization serves as a liaison for smaller organizations that might require research, funding, strategies and general aid.

In 2012, for example, AFSA conducted a program in KwaZulu-Natal to engage in work that supported various community programs. These programs included AIDS education and testing, childhood development, community care programs and food security endeavors. The organization is currently on track to meet its 2020 goal of 90% of all people living with HIV to know their status. It also aims to have 90% of all people diagnosed with HIV receiving ART and 90% of people receiving ART having viral suppression, a sign of the treatment’s efficacy.

New Administration

The importance the civil society response to HIV in South Africa is especially clear with the resignation of President Mbeki as well as Tshabalala-Msimang. Elected in 2009 by a large majority, President Jacob Zuma ran on a campaign that acknowledged the urgency of stopping the spread of HIV/AIDS in South Africa. Once elected, Zuma appointed Dr. Aaron Motsoaledi as minister of health. Motsoaledi turned the government’s focus to HIV response.

During Zuma’s term, which ended in 2018, South Africa launched a massive national HIV counseling and testing campaign (HCT), and Zuma himself publicized his HIV test. This campaign also included large-scale medical male circumcision (MMC), which mitigates the spread of the virus in many cases. By the end of 2010, more than half of adults and a third of children eligible for ART were receiving the treatment. Furthermore, the average price of HIV drugs decreased by more than 40% between 2010 and 2014.

Moving Forward

South African society has made monumental strides in addressing HIV/AIDS. However, stigma against several groups particularly afflicted by the disease stands in the way of a truly holistic response. For example, transgender women in South Africa are two times as likely to have HIV than men who have sex with men, but they are routinely excluded from studies and comprehensive care. Additionally, HIV among sex workers is as high as 71.8% in Johannesburg. Because sex work is criminalized in South Africa, AIDS treatment and potentially life-saving health information are less accessible. To more fully address HIV/AIDS, South Africa will have to turn to these issues next.

Kate Ciolkowski-Winters
Photo: Flickr

Celebrities Who Grew Up Poor
Celebrities lead lavish, luxurious lives, and are often subjects of envy for many common people. However, some of them came from less than affluent backgrounds and never imagined that they would achieve the status and wealth they possess today. Here are three celebrities who grew up poor and how their past affects their philanthropy today.

Jennifer Lopez

Considered the most influential Latin performer in America, actress and singer, Jennifer Lopez has released a plethora of hit songs and acted in many movies. She is currently engaged to famous baseball player Alex Rodriguez and lives on a property worth $28 million. This is a far cry from her childhood, where she grew up sharing a bedroom with her two sisters in the Bronx. Her parents worked tirelessly to provide just enough for Jennifer and her sisters. She inherited a strong work ethic from them. Despite her fame, Lopez has not abandoned her roots. Her popular song “Jenny from the Block” is about how she has not forgotten her roots.

Perhaps due to her own difficult upbringing, Lopez pays specific attention to supporting children’s charities. She works as an activist for the ALAS, a program promoting early childhood development in Latin America, and has performed many concerts to raise donations and awareness for the cause. Lopez also participates in the Noche de Los Niños Gala hosted by the Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, raising funds for their patients.

Ralph Lauren

Fashion icon Ralph Lauren had dreamed of being rich since his high school days. However, he was anything but at the time. Lauren grew up in the Bronx, the youngest son in a Jewish immigrant family. He often fantasized about living a better life and loved watching movies to help him escape the feeling of poverty.

From a young age, his entrepreneurial instinct was prominent. Since he was a child, Lauren had an extravagant taste in clothing and sold handmade ties to children at school to pay for them. This consequently became the root of his extremely successful fashion career. Now, with a net worth of billions, Lauren is giving back. His Polo Ralph Lauren Foundation has donated millions to causes like education and cancer care. Lauren, who has not forgotten his life as a Jewish immigrant child, is a supporter of groups like the American Jewish Committee.

Jay-Z

Jay-Z is an award-winning songwriter and rapper who seems to have it all—success, a famous partner and several successful business ventures. However, the artist came a long way from the conditions he grew up in. Jay-Z was the fourth child in his family. Born into an impoverished neighborhood where drugs and violence were rampant, Jay-Z turned to rap as a way to cope with the issues surrounding him.

Now, he is passionate about helping others escape those same problems. Jay-Z has spoken out repeatedly against racial injustice, drug use and other problems he grew up dealing with. Additionally, his charity, the Shawn Carter Foundation, has donated millions to programs and scholarships for children growing up in difficulty. Jay-Z’s past is deeply intertwined in his career and philanthropic efforts. Therefore, he is one of the most notable celebrities who grew up poor.

Despite their fame and success, these celebrities have not forgotten the poverty they grew up in. These three hard-working philanthropists are now helping to fight the same problems they dealt with growing up. With the determination and influence of celebrities, the movement against poverty should greatly advance.

– Alison Ding
Photo: Flickr

U2’s Charity Work
Throughout its career, the band U2 has played for tens of thousands of people and gained millions of fans worldwide. The band’s influence, however, has gone beyond its music, as it has impacted millions of people with its charity work. Various members have done both individual charity work as well as work through the band. The band members’ collaborative efforts include poverty relief, disaster relief and health and human rights work. This article will highlight a few important instances of U2’s charity work.

Bono’s Work With ONE & RED

ONE is a campaign that Bono, U2’s lead singer and other activists co-founded. The campaign’s aim is to fight extreme poverty and preventable diseases. In order to achieve this goal, Bono has personally met with heads of state and lobbied governments to pass legislation. Grassroots efforts and ONE’s lobbying for legislation have saved millions of lives over the last 10 years through newly funded government policies. Bono also co-founded RED, an organization that raises awareness and funds to help fight the AIDS crisis. RED has raised $600 million to date, which primarily goes toward AIDS treatment and prevention in Africa.

Disaster Relief Concerts

Throughout U2’s existence, it has played numerous concerts and events to raise money for various disaster relief benefits. In 1984, Bono and U2 bassist Adam Clayton performed at Band Aid, and in 1985, U2 performed at Live Aid. Both events raised money for famine relief in Ethiopia. The next year, in 1986, the band participated in A Conspiracy of Hope tour on behalf of Amnesty International, an organization that focuses on protecting human rights around the world. That same year, it also performed for Self Aid, which helped the homeless in Ireland. On the 20th anniversary of Live Aid, U2 played the Live 8 concert in London. This concert supported the Make Poverty History campaign.

Other Assorted Charity Work

Beyond Bono’s work with ONE and RED and the band’s charity concerts, U2 has participated in other charitable work. For instance, Bono teamed up with Muhammad Ali in 2000 for Jubilee 2000, which called for the cancelation of third world debt. Bono also founded the organization DATA, which aims to improve the political, financial and social state of those living in Africa. Bono has visited Africa on numerous occasions in an attempt to raise funds and awareness for AIDS relief. Additionally, the band donated all of the proceeds from the release of its song “Sweetest Thing” to Chernobyl Children International, which works to give those the 1986 Cherynobl accident affected medical and economic help. Most recently, U2 donated €10 million for personal protective equipment for healthcare workers on the frontline fighting COVID-19.

U2 has impacted millions of people around the world, not just with its music, but with its charity as well. U2’s charity work has helped millions of people around the world. In particular, Bono’s work with ONE and RED has helped fight against poverty and the AIDS epidemic. The band has also worked together, using its music directly by playing a variety of concerts to raise money for important causes. Even as the world grapples with the devastating effects of COVID-19, U2 has continued providing people in need with generous humanitarian aid.

Zachary Laird
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Ebola Outbreak Funding Gap
Amid efforts to suppress the coronavirus effects, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is now facing its 11th outbreak of Ebola since the discovery of the disease in 1976. The current outbreak officially began on June 1, 2020 — causing 24 deaths and garnering the attention of government officials and international agencies, such as the World Health Organization. The start of this outbreak coincides with the end of the 10th outbreak, which finished just 25 days earlier. Further complicating the latest outbreak is the fact that it comes when much of the international world is focusing on protecting themselves against the spread of the new coronavirus. As a result, there is an Ebola outbreak funding gap for what is required to sufficiently protect citizens of the DRC from the further spread of Ebola.

The Gap

The WHO reports that the $1.75 million raised so far will not last long enough to end the current outbreak. The organization estimates that the money will only last a few more weeks and that the unique location of the outbreak (in a more forested part of the country) is too costly to regularly send health officials.

This lack of funding could be a step backward for the country’s progress in limiting the disease. An outbreak in 2018 killed only 33 people, but from 2014 to 2016, 11,000 people died as a result of the disease. The main difference between the two time periods was the level of preparation and emergency funds to rely on, both of which are now decreasing due to the estimated gap.

The funding gap could have a direct impact on the current outbreak and may become a significant factor in the potential for new outbreaks. E.g., the recurrence of outbreaks is due to the virus’s presence in animals across the country. Therefore, there will most likely be another outbreak for which the WHO needs to be prepared.

Help from the United States?

The United States has donated more than $600 million to prevent the spread and minimize the devastation of previous outbreaks of the disease, in the DRC. This money has gone to building and managing health facilities, tracking the spread of the disease and evolving several safety measures for the country’s citizens. Those funds also went toward developing the two effective vaccines for Ebola and for transferring the dosages to citizens in need. Only a fraction of this money could make up for the lack of funding that the western part of the DRC needs today. Still, with most efforts and donations going toward coronavirus relief — very little attention has been placed on the current outbreak. This lack of attention contributes to the existing Ebola outbreak funding gap.

Looming Threats and Remaining Vigilant

A great challenge with this disease is that it could spread rapidly in the absence of a vaccine. Health officials typically vaccinate using a ring method — meaning they treat people that are near the center of the disease. Without the funds needed to disseminate the vaccine, the country’s infection rates could go up dramatically.

Officials are aware of this potential future, as the WHO Director-General, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus states, “This is a reminder that COVID-19 is not the only health threat people face. Although much of the world’s attention is on the pandemic, the WHO is continuing to monitor and respond to many other health emergencies.” Some are urging other countries and organizations to take on this mindset. Aid from the United States could prove a significant help in preventing loss of life in the DRC by closing the Ebola outbreak funding gap.

Aiden Farr
Photo: Pixabay

Japanese Children in PovertyThe children of Japan face a unique and difficult kind of poverty. Around 3.5 million children age six through 17 live below the poverty line in one of Asia’s wealthiest countries. Struggles arising from the 2008 financial crisis and rising inequality have put many parents in precarious situations where they struggle to feed their families. Only around 200,000 of the 3.5 million Japanese children in poverty receive necessary government assistance to help them get by. These issues have created a pressing issue in Japan that demands a greater government response and more opportunities for mothers.

Children’s Cafeterias

Japanese kids can get free or reduced-cost warm meals at children’s cafeterias. The cafeterias have become increasingly popular as childhood poverty continues to drastically increase in the country. While there were originally around 21 operating cafeterias in 2013, over 300 opened in the following four years.

Unfortunately, due to the COVID-19 outbreak, many of these cafeterias have been temporarily closed, leaving many children hungry. As both COVID-19 and child poverty have continued to worsen, even the Japanese Imperial Couple has been briefed on the issue, serving as a testament to its significance in modern Japanese culture. The Imperial Couple was told around 40% of programs that support providing meals to these children have been adjourned due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Traditional Family Structure Hinders Single Mothers

Many of these children’s parents are single mothers. In general, Japan is unsupportive of single mothers and offers very little additional support to this demographic. Japan’s traditional family structure usually designates a father, or man of the house, as the breadwinner. Meanwhile, mothers stay at home to care for the children. As divorce rates have risen in recent years, many mothers are forced to return to a workforce that has changed a great deal since they had been in it. Others, never having been part of the Japanese workplace, have struggled further.

Traditional Japanese societal norms typically encourage single-income houses. For instance, the Japanese tax system favors single-income houses. Many Japanese businesses will provide bonuses to men whose wives stay at home. On top of that, a significant wage gap exists, with Japanese women earning roughly 30% less than men. There is also the practice of lifetime employment, by which many Japanese men are pulled straight out of college or university and brought into a company where they are expected to work until retirement. These factors hinder the opportunities available to single mothers and limit the progress that can be made in addressing child poverty.

A Slow Response from National and Local Government

Japan’s government has made slow strides towards helping its children in poverty. In 2019, the government amended a 2013 law focused on child poverty. The amendment was made to encourage local governments, not just the national government, to develop safety nets for children living in low-income situations. Local governments have a deeper an understanding of their citizens’ needs, so they can develop more targeted solutions in tackling poverty.

The deck is stacked against Japanese children in poverty. Many have struggling mothers who are busy trying to earn a living wage in a society where women are expected to stay home. Government support for Japanese children in poverty has been lackluster. Charity cafeterias are some of the only places these kids can get stable meals. The COVID-19 crisis seems to only be aggravating the desperate situation. In such a wealthy country, children in poverty face deeply entrenched struggles and their government is barely helping them.

– Tara Suter
Photo: Pixabay


The 419 email scams, also known as Nigerian email scams, are a familiar frustration to anyone with an email address. The scams lure a victim by offering to share an investment opportunity or fortune they need the recipient’s help to obtain. They either ask for the recipient’s bank information or a small advance payment for travel or other expenses. Americans lost approximately $703,000 to these scams in 2018. While people carry these scams out from across the world, more than one-fifth of them originate in Nigeria. Here are five facts about Nigerian email scams and why they are so common today.

5 Facts About Nigerian Email Scams

  1. The Nigerian email scam has been around for centuries. In the late 16th century, Nigerian scammers would send letters to disenfranchised French people claiming to be the faithful servants of marquises murdered during the revolution. The letters explained that their masters left behind a large fortune and that they needed the recipient’s financial help to find it. Scammers then offered to split the fortune with recipients. According to a French detective of the time, the process was successful about one in every five attempts. People have adopted, adapted and passed this scam down for centuries.
  2. This scam escalated in the 1980s. When oil prices collapsed in the 1980s, Nigeria faced economic upheaval and increased government corruption. Literate, English-speaking Nigerians were now facing poverty and rising unemployment rates. This environment forced many to find unconventional ways of supporting themselves and their families. Through the 1980s, millions of paper 419 scams were sent across the world using counterfeit postage.
  3. Corruption enables the Nigerian email scam. Those who participate in the scam have little to no fear of being punished by Nigerian law enforcement. The Nigerian Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Interpol and other law enforcement offices are easily avoided through bribery. According to the Corruption Perceptions Index, Nigeria has always been one of the most corrupt nations in the world. As Nigeria becomes more corrupt, resources become scarce and poverty increases. In 2017, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime considered corruption to be the third most important problem facing Nigeria, following the high cost of living and increased unemployment rates.
  4. Corruption equals poverty. Though the Nigerian government has made implemented large-scale poverty relief efforts, corruption, lack of continuity and absence of legal framework or policy often lead to the failure of these efforts. Auwal Musa Rafsanjani, the executive director of Transparency International’s Nigerian chapter, explains that many national relief efforts fail because they are conduits for siphoning public funds.
  5. Greed begets disillusionment. The government’s mismanagement of Nigeria’s oil riches led to 86.9 million Nigerians living in extreme poverty by November 2018. According to Apolitical, the level of corruption in Nigeria has led to public disillusionment and has undermined the legitimacy and effectiveness of the government and its law enforcement offices. This environment is the perfect breeding ground for the Nigerian email scam.

It is important to understand that Nigerian email scams are just one consequence of many larger issues. Today, the email scam is the butt of many jokes, causing others to forget or ignore Nigeria’s struggles with poverty and corruption altogether. Despite this, many some are making efforts to reduce poverty and invest in a brighter future for Nigeria, meaning one day these scams may no longer exist.

Caroline Warrick-Schkolnik
Photo: Pexels


Parents always want the best for their children, but in an increasingly overwhelming world, it can be hard to stay positive. As a society, we need to actively work harder to inspire future generations to protect our planet and its people. Thankfully, there are many amazing role models out there that can motivate children to get involved in making the world a better place.

Top 5 Role Models for Children

  1. Malala YousafzaiMalala is one of the most famous role models of our time. She was born in the small village of Mingora, Pakistan, where it was uncommon for girls to go to school. At just 11 years old, she was forced out of school when the Taliban, the Sunni Islamist military organization, took control of her village. After speaking out about gender equality and the right to learn, she was shot in the head at 15 years old. At this point, most people would have given up, but not Malala. She kept fighting and made her own organization called the Malala Fund—a charity dedicated to fighting for equal rights and providing girls worldwide the opportunity to attend school. That year, she became the youngest person to receive a Nobel Peace Prize and later went on to graduate from Oxford University.
  2. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-Cortez, or AOC, has made headlines across the United States. One of the most progressive candidates, and backed by Senator Bernie Sanders, AOC recently got reelected and kept her spot as a representative for New York’s 14th congressional district at just 30 years old. AOC has been vocal about the wealth inequality gap, racial discrimination and climate change. In a time of uncertainty, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s election has been seen as a progression toward an equal world.
  3. Pink — Alecia Beth Moore, known professionally as Pink, has not only achieved momentous achievements as a singer but has often used her fame to advocate for equality and children’s rights. As a UNICEF ambassador, Pink raises awareness about global poverty, malnutrition and access to education and medicine. Moreover, Pink has supported charities related to HIV/AIDS, animal rights and women’s rights, among others. The famous singer even gets her children involved in the work, making sure to instill a sense of charity in them. At one of her rehearsals, Pink’s daughter set up a backstage candy sale to raise money for the impoverished communities in Haiti. This is a great way to get the kids involved and inspire them to do more on their own.
  4. Selena Gomez — Seen as a triple threat in the entertainment industry, Selena Gomez is another fantastic role model for children. In addition to her successful career, Gomez has consistently shown support for various charities and philanthropic endeavors worldwide. She was also appointed a UNICEF ambassador in 2009 and has dedicated a lot of time to improve societal and economic equality in the world by participating in various UNICEF campaigns and continuing charitable work on her own. Recently, Gomez has used her social media platforms to spread awareness about the social and racial injustices in the United States. Selena Gomez has also shown support for the Elton John AIDS Foundation, the Malala Fund and Free the Children, among others.
  5. Matt DamonMatt Damon is an incredible actor who is no stranger to charity work. He has pledged to provide clean water for impoverished communities worldwide by creating his nonprofit organization. In 2009, Matt Damon and Gary White co-founded Water.org that helps more than 17 countries receive clean water and sanitation supplies. Additionally, Water.org, through its WaterCredit program and microfinancing, supports households living in poverty with loans to obtain essential water systems, making clean water safe, cost-effective and accessible for more than 30 million people.

There are many fantastic role models worldwide that demonstrate how crucial nonprofit organizations are in improving people’s standards of living worldwide. Yet, perhaps the most important role models are the parents at home. Teach children about the real impact of charity work and get them involved in both local and global humanitarian organizations. As children grow older, they will start to venture off on their own charity projects, ensuring a brighter and equal future.

Karin Filipova
Photo: Flickr

food waste in macedoniaNorth Macedonia, a small developing country situated North of Greece, has experienced impressive progress in addressing hunger within the country. For instance, The poverty rate in North Macedonia was 27% in 2010. By 2017, that number reduced to 22%. Further, in 2019 Macedonia’s Global Hunger Index (GHI) score was 5.6, a relatively low level of hunger. Unfortunately, high levels of food waste in Macedonia have limited progress towards completely eradicating poverty and hunger in the region.

Are the Programs Working?

People continue to have severely limited access to nutritious food in the country despite the recent progress made in reducing poverty. The GHI found that 5-10% of the childhood population under the age of five experienced stunting in the form of impaired growth and development, a common indicator of undernourishment. In addition, one in five Macedonians continues to struggle with food insecurity on a daily basis. The Macedonian government pointed to food waste as being a relevant contributor to the level of hunger in North Macedonia.

According to the World Bank, globally, people waste one-third of food. For developing countries, waste is largely due to poor infrastructure and storage. In North Macedonia, 40% of solid waste comes from food, accounting for a staggering 100,000 tons of waste. Agricultural surpluses create the majority of waste. This leads to decreased access to nutritious foods, lower incomes for actors in the value chain, and increased food prices for consumers. These all negatively impact those living in poverty, and further, may potentially lead to an increase in hunger in North Macedonia.

Is There a Solution to Food Waste?

Food waste and support for eradicating global hunger is on the rise. An apparent solution to the problem would be to redistribute food waste to those at risk of hunger. The Fund for Innovation and Technological Development has teamed up with the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy to address these redistribution efforts. The organization has provided support to the Let’s do it North Macedonia association to address sustainable solutions for food waste in Macedonia. People in need are receiving the redistribution of food surplus through the Everyone Fed program. This is happening in Skopje, Kumanovo and Prilep. The program has supported 10,000 people in need, including the provision of over 550,000 meals.

The Let’s do it North Macedonia association has successfully advocated for the passage of the Food Surplus Donation Law. The association is currently advocating for the creation of the first National Food Loss and Waste Prevention Strategy. These measures will help further mitigate food waste in Macedonia and contribute to the alleviation of hunger. In addition to redistributing food waste, the waste can be reduced through investments in infrastructure, as recommended by the NGO Ajde Makedonija. At the international level, the FAO is supporting smallholders and family farmers in Macedonia to overcome insufficient agricultural infrastructure which may further alleviate hunger. By eliminating food waste in Macedonia through innovative measures, such as the redistribution of surplus food, the Macedonian economy could save an upwards of $1 million a year. People could, in turn, repurpose these savings to further address poverty and hunger in Macedonia.

– Leah Bordlee
Photo: Flickr

Hugh Evans
One of the most challenging aspects of charity work is getting the word out. Even in the era of social media, it is difficult to reach people and convince them to support a cause, especially during a global pandemic. Yet, music has the power to bring people together during divisive times. Global Citizen CEO Hugh Evans found a way to fuse music and charity together. By hosting concerts around the world, he has raised billions of dollars in the fight against global poverty.

Now 37, Hugh Evans was born in Melbourne, Australia. His goal in life is to eradicate global poverty completely, and he is confident that he can do it. Evans believes that people created poverty and that people can destroy it. In an interview for the Sydney Morning Herald, Evans noted that there are more than 2,000 billionaires in the world. If they each gave as much as Bill and Melinda Gates give, poverty would cease to exist completely. Jeff Bezos, owner of Amazon, “could do it on his own.” But most billionaires are not pitching in enough, or at all. So, Evans calls for systematic change by engaging governments, corporations and ordinary non-billionaires.

Early Inspirations

In 1997, 14-year-old Hugh Evans went on a World Vision trip to the Philippines and saw extreme poverty first-hand. An extremely poor family hosted him. They slept on a concrete roof and had little to offer him besides a straw mat. Lying on that mat, watching cockroaches crawl around him, Evans realized that something needed to change. It was then that he decided to commit his life to ending poverty.

After returning from the Philippines, Evans earned a scholarship to study at an international school in India. There, he learned even more about global culture, language and poverty. He spent weekends doing charitable work in nearby slums or at a branch of Mother Theresa’s charity. Evans even took a gap year after high school to work with HIV/AIDS orphans in South Africa. By the time he was 20, he had a much more personal understanding of global poverty than most middle-class Australians will ever have.

Charitable Concerts

In 2006 and 2007, as a university student, Evans organized the Make Poverty History concerts in Australia, featuring Bono, the Edge and Eddie Vedder. Those concerts introduced him to the idea that celebrities could harness real power in the mission to end poverty. Since then, he graduated from Monash University with a science/law degree, got his master’s in international relations and founded Global Citizen. Through this organization, he has coordinated many more concerts around the world, including Together at Home, the live-streamed concerts during the COVID-19 quarantine. Rather than buying tickets, concert-goers must earn them by taking actions as members of Global Citizen. They can do so by signing petitions, contacting world leaders and taking quizzes to educate oneself about global poverty. These may seem like small feats, but advocacy and education are some of the most powerful weapons against global poverty.

Always a hard worker, Evans often endures long days and sleepless nights to organize charitable events, often under short notice. When COVID-19 began reaching countries that already struggle to meet healthcare needs, Evans and his team immediately started planning the Together at Home concert, which they were able to organize in just three weeks.

Inspiring Future Progress

In a world with constantly changing interests and opportunities, nonprofit organizations must work hard to continue attracting attention and fundraising effectively. Hugh Evans’s first-hand experience with poverty has successfully raised billions of dollars towards the fight against global poverty, and he is only 37-years-old. His establishment of Global Citizen is one of the most prominent triumphs in helping impoverished people all around the world. Not only does the organization provide the necessities for survival, but it also gives impoverished communities the tools to bring themselves and others out of poverty. It may have started on a straw mat in the Philippines, but Evans’s optimism and diligence have reached across borders and will continue to support the dignity, compassion and humanity necessary to end global poverty.

Levi Reyes
Photo: Flickr