Information and stories on awareness.

Mental Health in ZimbabweMental health is something that is often easy to overlook, especially if you come from a low-income background. The intersection of mental health and poverty is one that interests many social scientists, yet it is a relatively new comparison. Several studies show that living in an impoverished setting makes one more likely to experience a mental illness, such as depression or anxiety. With many impoverished countries lacking the resources needed to provide substantial help for those affected by mental illness, programs like The Friendship Bench Project, who are working to improve mental health in Zimbabwe, are making a big impact.

Important Facts About Mental Health in Zimbabwe

  1. One in four Zimbabweans suffers from a common mental disorder (CMD), i.e. depression or anxiety.
  2. In a population of 13 million, there are only 11 psychiatrists and 20 clinical psychologists. That’s fewer than one psychiatrist per one million people.
  3. Only two of nine mental health institutions in the country have psychiatrists.

In a country with only eleven psychiatrists where one in four citizens have a CMD, it’s easy to wonder if there is anything being done to help improve mental health in Zimbabwe. That’s where The Friendship Bench Project comes in.

The Friendship Bench Project

During a Ted Talk, Dr. Dixon Chibanda, founder of The Friendship Bench Project and one of the eleven psychiatrists in Zimbabwe, explained why he started this project. Simply put, there just weren’t enough psychiatric resources in Zimbabwe to provide the aid for those who needed it. He decided to do something about it. He says that “One of the most reliable resources we have in Africa are grandmothers… there are hundreds of them… and they don’t leave their communities.” Using this knowledge, he came to the conclusion that these grandmothers can be trained to provide the necessary support for individuals who need it.

The Friendship Bench Project is an intervention of sorts that is based on problem-solving therapy where a patient and a trained community grandmother come together to identify issues impacting the patient and brainstorm ways of solving them. It is unlike conventional therapy in which the patient is diagnosed with an issue or symptom and is then treated based on their diagnosis.

Community grandmothers are trained to listen, to show empathy and are empowered with the skills needed to provide behavior activation and schedule activities. Technically, they are trained as lay health workers, but patients who go to see them recognize them only as the community grandmothers that they have always been. There are seen as someone to talk to, as someone who will listen. Together, over several sessions sitting on a park bench outside of a community health clinic, the grandmother and patient talk and work through the issues that are most affecting the patient.

The Impact of the Friendship Bench Project

A randomized clinical trial was conducted in order to see if these friendship bench sessions were working to improve the mental health in Zimbabwe. The trial split 573 patients into two groups: one group would receive psychological intervention from the community grandmothers while the other group (the control group) would receive the usual mental care from mental health professionals.

The trial found that patients who worked with the grandmothers displayed symptom scores (as measured on two symptom scales) that were lower than those who worked with doctors. This means that they had fewer symptoms of common mental disorders when they worked with lay health workers than when they worked with mental health professionals.

As of right now, there are 400 grandmothers working on 70 benches located throughout Zimbabwe, helping 35,000 people through The Friendship Bench Project. These women are changing mental health in Zimbabwe for the better. While The Friendship Bench Project is currently centered in Zimbabwe, it’s an innovative solution to combating mental health that could soon be used worldwide. In fact, Dr. Chibanda’s next goal is to do just that.

CJ Sternfels
Photo: Flickr
President Trump’s Threat to Cut Foreign Aid
President Trump’s administration has proposed cutting the foreign aid budget, hindering the country’s ability to fund outreach organizations and decreasing the country’s global influence. Such threats limit low-middle income countries’ ability to grow out of poverty and increase potential security threats. While President Trump claims that the U.S. spends a great deal of money on foreign aid (currently $54.4 billion), this figure makes up only 0.26 percent of the country’s total GDP.

President Trump’s Threat to Cut Foreign Aid

The U.S. spends $598 billion on the military budget, according to The National Priorities Project. Congress has consistently rejected the President’s proposals to cut funding for Central America in an effort to promote peace and assistance, as well as decrease illegal immigration. However, negotiations are becoming difficult as the current administration increases threats to slash aid. President Trump is implementing a “New Africa Strategy” with foreign aid, where he plans to only spend aid in foreign countries that will further U.S. priorities and be of benefit to the country. The administration stated that they will no longer provide aid to countries working against U.S. interests.

Foreign Aid, Domestic Improvement

These measures neglect the fact that many countries that the U.S. sends foreign aid to become consumers of U.S. goods once they are self-sufficient. In fact, 43 of the top 50 nations consuming U.S. agriculture products are former aid recipients and reaping a large return effect.
Foreign aid strengthens the U.S. economy by creating more markets and trading partners. For example, the Marshall Plan involved the U.S. sending aid to rebuild Western Europe — a plan that proved cost-effective due to its market creation that resulted in strengthening the U.S. economy. Studies suggest that rather than neglecting nations that don’t directly help the U.S., more aid should actually be sent to countries that resort to violence.

More Aid, More Allies

The countries who pose the greatest security threat to the U.S. are the ones receiving the least aid, according to Foreign Policy; however, by investing in health and development instead of the military, the U.S. could actually increase security. Countries receiving health and development aid tend to move towards peace and favor the U.S. By giving aid to countries and allowing them to rise up towards a more stable living environment, they become more peaceful and, in turn, better allies for the United States.
These facts gained from studies on foreign aid suggest that in order to promote U.S. influence and international economic growth and decrease security threats and illegal immigration, foreign aid should be increased.
– Anna Power
Photo: USAID

HIV in the PhilippinesHIV/AIDS in the Philippines continues to be a growing epidemic with an average of 68,000 individuals currently living with HIV, and fewer than half of them are being treated with antivirals. The Philippines now has the fastest growing HIV epidemic in Southeast Asia and in the world, reporting to have about 1,021 new cases of HIV/AIDS infected people in January 2018, with 17 percent of those newly infected individuals already showing signs of advanced infection. Luckily, the Philippines government is taking action to reduce HIV in the Philippines.

How the Philippines Are Addressing HIV/AIDS

In August 2018, a government organization called The League of Cities of the Philippines (LCP) signed a partnership with UNAIDS in order to fast track the reduction of the number of new HIV/AIDS infections within the country.

UNAIDS states that for the past seven years, annual, new HIV infections have more than doubled, reaching to about 12,000 in 2017. Because 80 percent of HIV cases are reported within 70 cities in Manila, LCP and local governments in the Philippines are taking direct action regarding this epidemic, pledging to eradicate this disease.

According to Laarni L. Cayetano, the National Chair of LCP, the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the Philippines is definitely an issue, stating it “‘needs urgent action among local governments, especially since key populations at risk of infections reside mostly in cities.'”

The Philippines are already beginning to address this issue by starting more innovative services to prevent HIV. Quezon City, for example, has continued to increase HIV funding since 2012 in order to build three clinics that now provide rapid, judgment-free HIV testing and counseling for those who are infected.

The Department of Health

The Department of Health (DOH) has launched a tri-beauty pageant, specifically a “Lhive Free Campaign,” in Quezon City in order to find ambassadors in the prevention of HIV/AIDS among youth. With DOH’s desire to reduce HIV in the Philippines, this campaign serves as a message to the people as well as provides free, early detection methods and free medications needed for those infected.

Beauty Queen and Actress Kylie Verzosa, who was crowned Miss International in 2016 and is currently a DOH ambassador, also supports this campaign and pageant. Although Verzosa is known for her advocacy on mental health, she also shares a passion to spread awareness of HIV/AIDS and promote its prevention. She sees HIV as a physical, emotional, and mental health concern, considering that depression and anxiety can be developed in an HIV patient struggling to live with this condition.

The DOH and World Health Organization (WHO) in the Philippines previously held free, anonymous HIV screenings in the workplace for more than 400 people, DOH staff members and walk-ins alike. They provided eight different stations located throughout the DOH grounds. This service not only helped to promote HIV/AIDS testing as a strategy to fight against this epidemic but it is also important, according to Health Secretary Francisco T. Duque, for DOH staff members to know their own HIV status as they are encouraging others to seek treatment.

Other Groups Working to Prevent HIV/AIDS

Other departments and organizations are working to help decrease the HIV/AID epidemic in the Philippines. Dr. Edsel Maurice T. Salvana, the director of the Institute of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology at The National Institutes of Health (NIH) at the University of the Philippines, reports that the NIH is researching and working on the molecular epidemiology of HIV viruses that appear to be drug-resistant. The NIH is also offering a variety of services for those infected in this country, such as HIV drug-resistance testing and genotyping, helping to end the further increase of the disease.

The Human Rights Watch also provided recommendations regarding the government’s approach to reduce HIV in the Philippines. The group suggests implementing further HIV prevention education within schools, providing access to condoms, destigmatizing the infection and reinitializing harm reduction programs that focus on injecting drug use.

The LCP partnership with UNAIDS serves as an opportunity and a push to help end the growing HIV/AIDS epidemic in the country. As governments vow to reduce HIV in the Philippines, improvements in the health of the people the country will increase substantially. Advocating for and addressing this issue will not only encourage citizens to seek available treatments but it can also prevent the further spread of HIV/AIDS in the Philippines in the future.

Charlene Frett
Photo: Flickr


Genocide Prevention
One of the worst occurrences in humankind is genocide — the killing of an entire group of people. The website titled Genocide Watch has a goal of predicting, preventing, stopping and punishing genocide and other forms of mass murder if/when they occur. In fact, this website even went so far as to develop a code for people at risk of genocide:

Genocide Watch, Warning and Emergency

  1. A Genocide Watch: Early warning signs indicate the danger of a genocidal process underway.
  2. A Genocide Warning: A genocidal process is underway and is often indicated by genocidal massacres with the imminent danger of root and branch destruction.
  3. A Genocide Emergency: A genocidal process has taken on root and branch dimensions.

Currently, Burundi is coded Genocide Watch; Turkey is coded as a Genocide Warning. However, nine countries are signified with a Genocide Emergency: Yemen, Iraq, Myanmar, Nigeria, Central African Republic, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan and Syria. This extensive list of countries in conflict demonstrates why genocide prevention efforts are crucial to stopping a genocide in its tracks.

Organizations Combatting Genocide

Numerous efforts are being made across the globe to make genocides an action of the past, and the following is a few of the groups making a profound change on the prevention and combat of genocides today.

  1. The Simon-Skjodt Center for the Prevention of Genocide. This center is connected to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington D.C., United States. The goal of this center is to mobilize global action for genocide prevention and to motivate the international community to respond in the face of genocide. The Simon-Skjodt Center combines action with awareness, as they work to influence policymakers and bring awareness to projects and risk factors that lead to genocide.
  2. Early Warning Project utilizes data to identify countries at risk of new mass atrocities. Their goal is to advance prevention through their early warning system for mass atrocities. By providing governments, advocacy groups and at-risk societies with earlier and more reliable warning, this organization then has more opportunity to take action before deaths occur. This website provides a world map that shows a country’s risk through a color scheme. It also explains their statistical risk assessment. The Early Warning Project utilizes an analytical approach to work for the prevention of genocide.
  3. United to End Genocide focuses on acts individuals can take to prevent future genocides. This organization encourages passionate individuals to lobby Congress to make human rights and genocide prevention core values in U.S. foreign policy. Also, United to End Genocide encourages individuals to mobilize others to demand action. Again, this organization provides a list of countries at risk for human rights violations. Lastly, they want to “stop the enablers;” by this, United to End Genocide puts public pressure on companies that welcome or reward perpetrators of mass atrocities. So, be a conscious consumer when it relates to preventing genocide.

Preventative Efforts

When considering genocide prevention, it is important to address the stages of genocide and the importance of early intervention. Knowing signs of classification, symbolization, discrimination, dehumanization, organization, polarization and preparation and educational efforts are crucial to preventing genocide prior to persecution, extermination and denial.

For an example of such preemptive behavior, Myanmar is under a Genocide Emergency. Three major stages of this status that occurred were discrimination, dehumanization and polarization of the Rohingya Muslims. By identifying these stages and how they occur in society, the international community can better prevent genocide.

Awareness and Activism

Such organizations focus their work on preventing genocide through bringing awareness to the public, educating and mobilizing policymakers, and taking action when needed. Projects that work toward preventing genocide not only reduce or stop massive conflict in its tracks, but also work to alleviate poverty worldwide.

These key tools of education, awareness and action are also important when alleviating communities of extreme poverty. These global issues are interwoven and by addressing poverty and addressing genocide simultaneously, the global community can live in a better world.

– Jenna Walmer
Photo: Flickr

help GuatemalaCurrently, in Guatemala, 200 people are missing, 110 people are deceased and more than 1.7 million people have been impacted by the eruption of the Fuego volcano that began on June 3. It was the nation’s most severe volcanic eruption in 45 years and the size of this disaster has compelled many around the world to act.

Images of the volcano’s victims and its devastating impact are easily accessible on social media, as are advocacy and volunteer opportunities. Keep reading for a few examples of how to help Guatemala’s Fuego victims and bring awareness to the crisis.

Advocacy on Social Media

Social media has made advocacy from home possible and is one of the easiest ways to get involved in a cause. Several hashtags have popped up on social media platforms since the eruption began as a way to raise awareness along with fundraising and donation opportunities. With a simple search on Instagram or Twitter for any of the hashtags mentioned below, users can see pictures and updates on life in Guatemala after the volcano.

Examples of popular hashtags include:

  • #PrayForGuatemala
  • #GuatemalaEstoyContigo
  • #TodosPorGuate
  • #VolcanDeFuego
  • #FuerzaGuatemala

Finding Volunteers on Facebook

Another social media site that has offered ways to help Guatemala is Facebook. Beyond matching donations, the Crisis Response page on Facebook for the volcanic eruption has become a way for locals to find and give help. Facebook users can post to the page and list what they are offering or need, their location and how to get in contact with them.

Scrolling through the page shows people offering food, shelter or supplies, requesting help and asking for volunteers in specific locations. What is even more impressive is the number of posts that have already been completed or closed. This is yet another example of a relatively easy and effective way to help victims of Fuego’s eruption.

Red Cross Volunteers Working Hard

The Red Cross, led by the CruzRojaGT or Guatemalan arm of the organization, has been working tirelessly to provide rescue operations and support to Guatemalans. This organization has no intention of leaving soon and is putting long-term plans into place in order to keep helping survivors of this crisis.

The organization administered an emergency appeal to maintain programs in Guatemala to support 6,000 vulnerable people for at least a year. More than two weeks after the initial eruption, there are still 1,600 volunteers helping families evacuated during the eruption.

The American Red Cross is offering help as well, with programs set up to help people find loved ones they may have lost contact with in Guatemala. Beyond donating to the cause, sharing this information and keeping up to date on the current conditions are great ways to get involved with the Red Cross efforts.

Donations Flow In to Help Guatemala

In horrible times of crisis, sometimes the only positives are outpourings of support from the global community. There are many organizations and nonprofits accepting donations to provide help to burn victims, shelters, supplies and future rebuilding. GoFundMe set up a page with verified campaigns aiming to raise money to help Guatemala. Many of these funds were started by Guatemalans or people with ties to the country and some have already raised over $100,000.

This is partially made possible by the thousands of social media users who have used hashtags and posts to bring awareness to these causes and the ongoing impacts of the eruption. After the dust settles in Guatemala, it is important to keep sharing and being advocates for the millions of people impacted by Fuego’s eruption and to bring awareness to this crisis.

– Alexandra Eppenauer
Photo: Flickr

help refugeesJune 20 marked the 18th anniversary of world refugee day. There are currently 68.5 million forcibly displaced people worldwide. Of those millions, 25.4 million people are classified as refugees.

World Refugee Day holds a long history of support for those in need. This day is celebrated in order to give all an opportunity to help refugees and to create a public awareness for millions of lives that are in need of saving.

Since the beginning of World Refugee Day in 2000, the refugee crisis has increased greatly. Growing from 12 million in 2000 to more than 20 million in 2018, refugees can be found seeking shelter in many countries.

The United Nations

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has taken steps to fight the refugee crisis. The UNHCR provides assistance and support to refugees all over the world. Present in 128 countries and 478 locations around the world, the UNHCR is helping those wherever they can.

For example, in Ukraine, the UNHCR is working with the Ukrainian government to help strengthen the asylum system and gives medical, material and social assistance to those refugees and internally displaced people. In Ukraine, there are currently 1,800,000 people who are internally displaced and 3,253 refugees from other countries.

Along with working with the government and giving assistance to those in need, the UNHCR in Ukraine provided 843 homes with winter cash assistance in 2018.

Another recent effort presented by the UNHCR was their assistance in Montenegro. On April 3 the UNHCR paired with the Red Cross and opened the first Community Centre for persons seeking international protection.


The UNHCR doesn’t only just provide physical materials and goods; they also are committed to bringing education to refugees all over the world.

By the end of 2016, the UNHCR had encouraged 64 out of 81 countries to put policies in place to support the inclusion of refugee children in the respective countries education system. After this push, more than 984,000 refugee children were enrolled in primary education.

Of that 984,000 refugee children, 250,000 were not attending school at the time.

How to Help

While the UNHCR is continually working to better the lives of refugees all over the world, there is still plenty of work that can be done on the individual level for refugees. Here are five ways that anyone can get involved no matter where they may be.

  1. Volunteer a skill: Having a specific skill or talent can be used for good to help refugees. Whether knowing how to budget extremely well or how to create a website, there are refugees in local communities who would appreciate learning a new talent or skill to help them with their future endeavors.
  2. Spread awareness: Hold fundraisers, raffles, yard sales or meetings to spread the word about the refugee crisis. There are some that may know there is a problem, but don’t know much more than that. By putting on events and spreading the word, education about this crisis will increase awareness.
  3. Call the House Representatives and the Senate: Calling local state representatives is a quick and easy way to let one’s voice be heard. Placing a call to a member of the House or Senate will let them know that this is an issue that you care about and want to address.
  4. Support business and organizations run by refugees: Moving to a new country and facing the economic challenges of that country can be one of the hardest things for refugees. Supporting their family can be difficult for refugees in a new country. Make an effort to buy from refugees to help them get started in a new place.
  5. Donate: Donating can be one of the easiest ways to help refugees in need. Donations can be for organizations that go out into the field and provide physical goods or they can be for organizations, like The Borgen Project, that push elected officials to support and pass laws to help those in need.

While the refugee crisis continues to grow, it is important to know that anyone can take part in getting laws passed to protect refugees or can offer kindness to those who are adjusting to drastic life changes.

– Victoria Fowler
Photo: Flickr

World Day Against Child Labor
June 12 is World Day Against Child Labor, organized by the International Labor Organization (ILO) to raise awareness about the depth and dangers of child labor throughout the world. This event takes places in multiple cities all over the globe in an effort to mobilize large numbers of people against the atrocities of child labor.

World Day Against Child Labor

However, despite the fact that World Day Against Child Labor was created in reaction to a devastating and damaging practice, this day has become a positive one. World Day Against Child Labor, conducted by the ILO, takes specific actions to reduce child labor and work with systems that perpetuate it, such as employers and large corporations; this international day calls to mind the changes and benefits made so far.

The World Day Against Child Labor was created in order to bring light to the fact that more than 168 million children are child laborers. This statistic becomes even more drastic — over 84 million child laborers are employed in hazardous and unhealthy working conditions.

Every year on June 12, the ILO works to enlighten those in positions of power to the extent and depth of this issue, with the hopes of inciting change. One of the organization’s goals is to end all forms of child labor by 2025. The ILO takes ambitious and successful steps through its employees in order to bring about progress.

The International Labor Organization

Most of ILO’s actions against child labor take place directly in geographic regions with the most trouble with child labor. The ILO has found that “72.1 million children [are employed] in Africa, 62.1 million in Asia and the Pacific, 10.7 million in the Americas, 1.2 million in the Arab States and 5.5 million in Europe and Central Asia.”

The ILO’s projects entail 90 percent of staff members to work directly in the most affected nations. Many of these staff members work with victims of child labor in support groups to help in abuse recovery. Their employees also work with parents and relatives of child laborers to better understand the causes, conditions and effects of child labor, as told directly by those that see it firsthand.

Additionally, ILO employees on the headquarters staff engage in projects to gather data, research and evaluations so as to become fully informed on major issues. This attention to detail helps the ILO gain accurate, proven data to display at events such as the World Day Against Child Labor. These efforts support legislation and policy development, advocacy and awareness raising, institutional development and social services.

ILO Convention No. 182

One of ILO’s major projects is “ILO Convention No. 182,” and countries that ratify this Convention are required to immediately take action to prohibit child labor. The nations are given a time frame restriction to prevent the engagement of children in labor, provide direct assistance to remove children, rehabilitate and socially integrate former laborers, ensure access to free education and vocational training, reach out to children at special risk, and take consideration for female laborers in special conditions.

Another important project ILO implemented is an effort to work with companies and corporations concerned about child labor in their workforce. This project is titled Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and Child Labor. Many companies are concerned about the morality of employing children, as well as the company’s public image.

The ILO’s project with CSR and Child Labor involves supporting businesses’ efforts to increase compliance with the ILO’s standards, particularly their most important standard — Convention No. 138 on Minimum Age.

Accomplishments For Children Everywhere

All of these efforts have culminated in various accomplishments for the ILO since its inception in 1919. In 1969, the ILO was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize due to its success in reducing the rate of child labor within 50 years. The ILO’s data collection efforts allowed it to publish “The Code of Practice on HIV and the World of Work” in 2001, which was distributed in 30 languages.

One of the organization’s greatest achievements, however, was the implementation of the International Labor Code in June 2008 geared towards setting standards. This document lists the various Conventions of the ILO that sets guidelines and instructions for corporations as well as entire nations. These standards are used daily by those that join the ILO in its efforts to end child labor.

The World Day Against Child Labor is a culmination of the ILO’s goals, projects and accomplishments. Each year, The World Day Against Child Labor is successful in educating more international citizens, business owners, politicians and victims on how the atrocities of child labor can finally be stopped.

– Theresa Marino
Photo: Flickr

How to Stop Poverty
Even in the 21st century, nearly half of the world’s population, or three billion people, lives on $2.50 a day, and 80 percent of the world’s population lives on less than $10 a day. Focusing on how to stop poverty is very important, both in the ways that an individual can have an impact and on the wider changes that need to be made to bring an end to poverty.

How to Stop Poverty

  1. Create Awareness
    Social media has become an integral part of daily life, and now is the time to use it as a voice of social good. Sharing links on Facebook, Twitter and other platforms will allow people to learn more about global poverty and will increase the general consciousness of the issue.
  2. Take Action on Your Own
    There are a few simple ways we can help as individuals, such as funding a poor child’s education or by sponsoring a poor family and influencing others to do so. Raising money and donating it to a nonprofit can help as well.
  3. Donate
    Donations can help in so many ways. They do not always have to take the form of money. This can include donating books to a poor child or buying groceries for a poor family for a week to help fight hunger. Donating old clothes, furniture and toiletries can also help improve the well-being of the poor.
  4. Eliminate Gender Inequality
    With two-thirds of the world’s illiterate being female, the ratio of boys and girls should be made equal in primary, secondary and tertiary education. Girls that attend school are less likely to get married before age 18, thus decreasing child marriage rates by 64 percent worldwide. Similarly, literate women are less likely to spread diseases like HIV/AIDS due to a better knowledge of disease transmission, which helps to accelerate poverty reduction in the long run.
  5. Create Jobs Worldwide
    According to the International Labour Organization, 197 million people are without work worldwide. More employment options in a country mean more ways of how to stop poverty. To increase employment, non-literate people can be taught a few skills to make them employable.
  6. Increase Access to Proper Sanitation and Clean Water
    Access to clean water and sanitation directly affects health and education. Currently, 800 million people live without access to safe water and 2.5 billion live without adequate sanitation. Dirty bathrooms keep girls from attending schools, thus stopping them from receiving an education. Lack of clean water spreads diseases like diarrhea and cholera, which take the lives of more than one million children each year.
  7. Educate Everyone
    Education helps increase individual earnings for every member of a family. UNESCO points out that basic reading skills can lift 171 million people out of extreme poverty, ultimately reducing the world’s total poverty by 12 percent. UNESCO also mentions there are currently about one billion illiterate adults in the world.

Above are a few solutions about how to stop poverty, but first, it is important to understand the roots of the problems that cause poverty. Since different countries have different reasons for poverty, there will never be a single solution for all. However, these seven actions can do a lot to alleviate poverty anywhere.

– Shweta Roy

Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Afghanistan facts
In recent memory, people often think of Afghanistan as the nation of the Taliban, who provided sanctuary to terrorists like Osama bin Laden. However, they do not tend to think about how a country falls into the grip of such extremism. Often, when poverty is widespread, terrorism and instability take hold. Poverty in Afghanistan has been a serious problem for nearly three decades, starting with the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979.

This instability can make poverty alleviation an uphill battle. According to the World Bank’s 2017 Poverty Status Update Report regarding socioeconomic progress in Afghanistan, the 15 years of growth that the country has seen are now jeopardized by a recent rise in insecurity. The World Bank Country Director for Afghanistan, Shubham Chaudhuri, explains that with poverty rising from 36 to 39 percent of the Afghan population, there need to be reinforcements to guarantee that economic growth reaches Afghan families. For further information about the living conditions of the Afghan people, here are 10 facts about poverty in Afghanistan.

Top 10 Facts About Poverty in Afghanistan

  1. According to Aryana Aid, poverty in Afghanistan stems from two factors: “food insecurity and the lack of a social security net.” As a result, 50 percent of Afghan children are stunted and 20 percent of Afghan women of child-bearing age are underweight.
  2. Food is distributed unequally throughout the country, going mainly to areas where there is heavy fighting. This puts more strain on people in other areas and contributes to the ongoing food insecurity,
  3. Furthermore, half of the people living in both rural and urban regions have no access to clean water.
  4. The government’s strategy to address food insecurity has been to focus on adequate calorie intake, but this has left people susceptible to food price shocks, meaning they lower the quality of their diet in order to afford food.
  5. The war in Afghanistan is one of the main contributing factors to poverty; 55 to 75 percent of the Afghan population is living in poverty in the worst-hit regions, whereas as other regions have lower poverty rates.
  6. According to Center for Strategic and Regional Studies, the poverty rate in Afghanistan has remained stagnant since the outbreak of war in 2001, even with increases in foreign aid.
  7. Only 28 percent of the entire Afghan population 15 years and older is literate.
  8. Because of the lack of water and other necessities, Afghanistan has the highest infant mortality rate in the world.
  9. Approximately 70,792 Afghan families are taking refuge in unclean makeshift camps; 25 percent of those families have been living there for more than ten years.
  10. Unemployment is a significant challenge in relocating these and other internally displaced people, as they are reluctant to return to rural areas where there are no jobs available.

To help bring some relief to these issues, Aryana Aid has been providing food packages to the people of Afghanistan since 2009. In early 2018, USAID’s Office of Food For Peace provided $25 million to the World Food Programme; an estimated 547,000 malnourished Afghan people were provided with emergency aid from local and regional marketplaces.

The World Bank projected economic growth for Afghanistan in 2017, by 2.6 percent compared to 2.2 percent in 2016. The progression is predicted to continue in 2018 with a 3.2 percent growth, which will help cure the many problems listed on the top 10 facts about poverty in Afghanistan.

– Christopher Shipman

Photo: Flickr

model organizations
College and high school are formative years in the lives of many people. The subjects students choose to study and organizations they chose to participate in can change their outlook on the world for years to come. Many in college will choose to join clubs attached to their majors, such as psychology majors in psych clubs or biology majors in bio clubs. However, the world of international politics often crosses the borders of all subjects.

International laws and treaties base objectives on studies carried out by various experts. So, oftentimes, students with an interest in their own corner of the world find themselves drawn into the world of international relations. With little time to cover two majors, or their high school not offering classes on the subject, students are introduced to the benefits of model organizations.

What Are Model Organizations?

For those unfamiliar with this term, model organizations are clubs dedicated to the study of international organizations. The two most popular are Model United Nations (MUN) and the Model Arab League (MAL). Both the MUN and MAL are usually clubs on college campuses and high schools that have branches around the world.

The goal of these organizations is to educate participants about the workings of large-scale international organizations. This endeavor is accomplished largely through online resources, but the best tool is the participation in simulations at conferences around the United States and the world. Students participate in weekend-long formal conferences, where they have the opportunity to take on the role of a representative of an assigned nation.

The participant must study his or her assigned country and represent its views accurately during the conference, an activity that serves as one the the greatest benefits of the model organizations.

New Perspectives

Students are often times unfamiliar with world governments; stances compared to those of their home country. For example, a student in the United States who is studying chemistry in college can be assigned as a representative of Tunisia for a Model Arab League conference — a nation most likely unfamiliar to both the student and the U.S.

In another scenario, a student may be interested in science, and so he or she may elect to participate in the Council of Arab Environmental Affairs Ministry.

One topic on the simulated ministry’s agenda is the “Evaluat[ion] and mitigat[ion of] the negative environmental impacts of water-related infrastructure and resource use, e.g., the construction of dams and canals, the overuse of aquifers, as well as the desalination industry.”

After studying Tunisia’s stance on the use of water, the student may find that that he or she supports a resolution mitigating the overuse of aquifers, but does not have strong feelings about dams. The student will then discuss this topic with other nation representatives, and may quickly learn the representatives of Iraq, Syria and Kuwait, for instance, have strong feelings about the construction and use of dams.

Even without participating in the simulation, students can benefit from the model organization because they most likely would have never learned about the depths of complexity behind water rights between two nations, and so now have an expanded knowledge and perspective on the world.

As a student of the sciences, he or she could now more effectively understand how to find a solution that benefits both the environment and the nations which share the water.

Model U.N.

Based in the United States, the National Model United Nations (MUN) organization is the largest host of conferences around the world. This year the National Models Organization will be hosting five major conferences, two of which will take place in the United States — one in Washington D.C. and another in New  York City.

The other three will be hosted in China, Germany and Ecuador. Students will be able to participate in the simulation of the United Nations General Assembly, Security Council, World Health Organization, UNESCO, FAO and others. Topics are planned to range from preventing terrorism and extremism in the Horn of Africa via the Security Council simulation, to improving response and coordination in addressing mental health in the WHO simulation.

Students benefit from the model organizations by learning to cooperate with people from other countries as they try to pass joint resolutions to fix major local and international issues.

Model Arab League

Although the Arab League is often considered ineffective and mostly a formality, the model organization is actually much more. As a college participant myself, my MAL club was invited to both the Turkish Embassy and the Palestinianian Mission in the United States, where we were given a formal but friendly lecture on the stances of Turkey and Palestine on a variety of important topics.

The National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations is the largest host of conferences in the United States; its discussions are located in major cities across the country. In this case, a major benefit of the model organizations is educating participants about the various cultures and political ideologies of the Arab World, which oftentimes are clumped into one. Now, more than ever, it is important to treat the Arab World as separate nations rather than just the “Middle East.”

Global Citizens

At the end of the conferences, students come away more educated and mindful of international dynamics and complexities. One person may now know why it is not so easy to stop pollution in the developing world. Another might understand the complexities of switching solely to renewable energy.

The world benefits from the model organizations due to where these bright students will go after becoming a globally-minded citizen. Even if these students do not go directly into international politics, they will help shape their world in a better direction.

– Nick DeMarco

Photo: Flickr