Information and stories on awareness.

Global Poverty FilmsGlobal poverty is a worldwide issue that is still prevalent today. According to UNICEF, one billion children worldwide are living in poverty and 22,000 children die every day due to poverty. However, many people do not know the extent of global poverty and how big the issue really is. That is why films realistically showing global poverty are important to today’s society, as these films that can spread awareness about the issues being presented along with a compelling story. These are five top global poverty films that help shine a spotlight on social causes around the world.

Top 5 Global Poverty Films

  1. Slumdog Millionaire (2008)
    Set in India, Slumdog Millionaire tells the story of Jamal Malik, an 18-year-old boy raised in the slums of Mumbai. The film depicted many hard to watch, yet realistic, scenes of poverty in India, including children being recruited to beg on the street for food, and children living in extreme poverty being forced into labor to survive. The film was widely acclaimed and became extremely popular; in 2009, it was nominated for 10 Academy Awards and won eight of them, including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay. It also won seven BAFTA Awards, five Critics’ Choice Awards and four Golden Globes.
  2. Queen of Katwe (2016)
    Queen of Katwe is a film based on the true story of Phiona Mutesi, a Ugandan girl living in a slum in Katwe. The movie follows her journey as she learns and begins to excel at chess, with the goal of lifting her family out of poverty. Queen of Katwe was produced by Walt Disney Pictures and ESPN films, receiving praise from critics as a realistic portrayal of poverty in Africa. In a review by Angela Watercutter for WIRED, she writes, “it is a very Disney movie in that it centers around a family and has a happy ending, but it is a very un-Disney story in that it unblinkingly examines the poverty, violence and racism its protagonists face every day.” It also had a high profile cast—starring David Oyelowo, Lupita Nyong’o and Madina Nalwanga, which helped to raise even more awareness for poverty in Uganda.
  3. The First Grader (2010)
    The First Grader is based on a true story about Kimani Maruge, an 84-year-old Kenyan villager and farmer who enrolls in elementary school after the Kenyan government announced free universal primary education in 2003. The film shows a realistic depiction of rural and urban Kenya, as well as many issues that those living in extreme poverty in Kenya had to face both at that time and in the present, such as lack of access to schooling, being separated from family and having to suffer in work and prison camps at the hands of the British. The film raised a lot of awareness of how big the issue of lack of schooling and access to education is in Kenya and Africa. National Geographic described its impact as “a triumphant testimony to the transforming force of education.”
  4. Neria (1993)
    Neria, made in Zimbabwe’s golden age of “Zollywood,” is a story about a rural woman who becomes a widow, and loses her farm and livelihood. Neria became the most critically-acclaimed film of the decade and highest-grossing film of all time from Zimbabwe. Part of its popularity came from the fact Zimbabwe’s biggest cultural icon, Oliver Mtukudzi, made the soundtrack. This star power gained global attention, with major U.S. newspapers reporting about it, leading to much more awareness about global poverty and poverty in Africa.
  5. Girl Rising (2013)
    Girl Rising is a documentary-style film that follows the stories of nine girls from Haiti, Nepal, Ethiopia, India, Egypt, Peru, Cambodia, Sierra Leone and Afghanistan on their journey to education. The film highlighted issues surrounding girls’ educations around the world and promoted the organization Girl Rising, which works to ensure that girls around the world are educated and empowered. Girl Rising has partnered with Michelle Obama by producing the documentary special We Will Rise: Michelle Obama’s Mission to Educate Girls Around the World, which has become one of CNN’s highest-rated documentary specials.

These five films show how film can be an amazing medium for spreading messages and garnering worldwide attention. That is why films surrounding global poverty are so important, as they are able to raise awareness for a number of prevalent issues.

– Natalie Chen
Photo: Creative Commons

child poverty in spain
Since the end of Spain’s economic recession in 2014, the country is the largest grower in the EU, with a GDP almost twice that of the average European country. Despite a six-year recession that impacted both the entire population and other countries in the Eurozone, the economy seems to have recovered. However, despite Spain’s economic recovery, the rate and likelihood of children in poverty have increased exponentially. Curiosity arises as to how an issue like poverty could arise in a country as developed as Spain.

The Problem

The rise of child poverty in Spain despite the recovery of the economy seems counterintuitive. However, studies show that one in three children are likely to be impoverished or socially excluded, according to the EU’s latest figures. As the results of their studies show, Spanish children are not only encumbered by a lack of income, but also lack of socialization, meaning that child poverty in Spain is multidimensional; this means a lack of proper education, nutrition, future employment, and social time on top of the financial crisis that has remained in many middle and low-class families despite the national economic recovery. Impoverished families are unable to prevent their children from reaching the same fate because the turn of the recession has resulted in a job market that provides no opportunity for even the most qualified candidates.

This issue is most dominant in middle and low-class families, and the middle class is already dangerously small. The trademark economic concept of the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer is true in the Spanish socioeconomic classes and results in the stretching and thinning of the middle class. These larger socioeconomic effects are only symptoms of child poverty in Spain. The reason why the focus of the recession is on children is that they are the most at-risk demographic; when parents are impacted, it extends to their children.

The Larger Issue

Child poverty in Spain has adverse effects on the rest of society, including senior citizens, young adults, and parents. The growing number of impoverished children puts pressure on the social pension systems that account for one of the fastest aging populations in Europe. Children trapped in poverty will grow to be adults who remain reliant on social and governmental assistance. Many young adults avoided higher education due to attractive employment opportunities before the recession, leaving a large population of eager, unaccredited workers in a job market that no longer needs it. Because of the lack of opportunity in the job market, parents are reliant on unemployment benefits or the pension of their parents.

Effects of The Problem

Because child poverty in Spain is a multidimensional issue, the effects correspond to their complexity. In terms of education, Spain has experienced a drop out rate 23 percent higher than the EU average since the beginning of the recession in 2008. In general, Spain’s dropout and unemployment rates are high, specifically among those of disadvantaged socioeconomic backgrounds.

Studies show that even very brief bursts of intense poverty can impact child development for the rest of their lives. Economists and child development specialists predict that if this poverty persists, the adults of the future will have been stunted in their development due to their reliance on pensions.

What Is Being Done?

Even Sevilla, the fifth most populated city in Spain and a huge tourist destination, falls victim to increasing child poverty rates. There are many gaps in the welfare system that are unaccounted for, which are essential to the development of children. For example, because of limited monthly income but the need to continue to feed their children, families are buying enough food for everyone, but without the necessary nutrients for developing bodies. As such, children in Spain aren’t necessarily hungry, they are impoverished. So, NGOs like Save the Children fill in the gaps in children’s diets by providing nutrient-rich meals.

Save the Children works in several domains that benefit the needs of at-risk or impoverished Spanish children, including nutrition, health and education. By filling in the dietary and academic gaps in these children’s lives, their families will have some security. In 2014, Save the Children reached 14,889 children and 5,635 adults through programs that combat educational poverty, social exclusion, and workshops that prevent the issue from furthering. The hope is that as the recovery continues, economic reform will result in a balancing of socioeconomic classes and the disparity will vanish. Until then, NGOs like Save the Children will continue to try and cover up the remaining holes in the system left by the recession in the hopes that the children they serve will grow up to lead a generation where poverty is the exception, not the expectation.

Hope for The Future

Child poverty is a major issue because these children will grow up to be the leaders of their nation. The increased rate of child poverty in Spain is an alarming problem that is fueled by an economic crisis and a weak social infrastructure. Child poverty in Spain is different than in other countries. Spanish children are not poor in the traditional sense. They are fed and have access to education. The nature of poverty is more nuanced than a lack of resources. Children in Spain are fed, yet malnourished, have access to school, but often drop out. The other key issue is the lack of socialization among peers. However, with NGOs like Save the Children who provide programs to areas in need, this issue can perhaps be alleviated. With directed efforts towards these specific problems and programs that are tailored towards the specific nature of these issues, child poverty can be eradicated, securing Spain’s future prosperity.

Andrew Yang
Photo: Flickr

HarassMapSexual harassment in the form of street harassment (catcalling, wolf-whistling, etc) is something that most women around the world have experienced. In fact, globally, at least 75 percent of women 18 years and older have experienced some form of sexual harassment; that’s at least 2 billion women of the 2.7 billion women who inhabit the earth. While some have used the #MeToo movement as a way to bring light to this issue, others have used technological advancements to combat this reality that most women face. This was the case for HarassMap, created to combat sexual harassment.

The Story of HarassMap

HarassMap was created by a group of four women in Cairo, Egypt; that were fed up with the amount of sexual harassment they were not only experiencing, but also hearing about or witnessing first-hand. These women were fighting sexual harassment in their own ways; one of them was working at a women’s rights organization where she started an anti-harassment program in 2005. She noticed the amount of harassment she and her coworkers experienced while commuting to and from their place of work. In fact, Egypt has one of the highest reported rates of sexual harassment for women wherein 90-99 percent of women 18 and older experienced some sort of harassment. Street harassment was something women in Egypt were used to and tolerated. No one ever did anything to stop it and women did not stand up for themselves nor did they report their experiences.

As these women worked with different NGOs to raise awareness about sexual harassment and focus on forcing people to confront it and discuss it, some of the NGOs lost interest and started supporting legislation that would deal with the legal side of stopping harassment. This didn’t stop the people at HarassMap though. They continued to fight harassment using social standards and eventually got their app developed within a year. Their goal was to shift the blame from the victims to the harassers, encourage intervention from bystanders, give women a safe place to report their harassment or assault without fear of judgment and start a conversation about confronting this epidemic. They launched the app in December 2010, and it has been active ever since.

What is Harassmap?

HarassMap is specifically for women in Egypt. It allows them to anonymously report harassment to the police or let other women know about areas where harassment is high. To report harassment or intervention, all one needs to do is log on to the app or site, input where the harassment or intervention took place, write out the report and submit it. The app then anonymously adds the report to a map as a ping where people can read what took place.

The app focuses on deterrence of harassment by allowing men and women to tell their stories while also praising those who interfere and help when someone is being harassed. The website contains helpful information for visitors, ranging from a how-to guide on interfering and definitions, all the way to legal and psychological advice for those who have been harassed or assaulted. The app itself serves not only as a safe environment where women can report their harassments but also a place to learn about sexual harassment and how to deal with it.

Since the Launch

The app is still active, and its creators have gained worldwide accreditation and won several awards for their tireless efforts to combat sexual harassment and change the conversation surrounding it. Some of these awards stem from Cairo University, World Summit Youth and My Community Our Earth Partnership. The app has also been partnered with Cairo University and other corporations to increase the prevalence of the app and its message. Its developers have also offered classes to combat sexual harassment for businesses and universities to provide a safer environment for women in Egypt. They have also done work outside of Egypt as well, by working with NGOs and setting up similar technology across Asia, Africa and the Middle East.

Since the debut of the app, different sexual harassment and sexual assault laws have been passed as well. One of the laws, passed in June 2014, makes sexual harassment illegal in Egypt for the first time. Those who are caught harassing can face as few as six months or as many as five years in prison and pay as much as LE 50,000 ($3,000) in fines.

Even though HarassMap is growing and reaching other countries, it is still only available to Egyptians who have access to a smartphone or computer; however, it is encouraging an important conversation. One can hope that women will feel safer on the streets of Egypt and all Egyptians will be able to discuss sexual harassment and assault in a productive and boundary-breaking way.

– Sydney Toy
Photo: Flickr

celebrities who were refugeesEach year, June 20 is just another day for the average person; for many, however, it symbolizes the struggles of past and present refugees fleeing their homes for better, safer lives. World Refugee Day is a time when many reflect on how far they have come since leaving their home countries, whether they are blue-collar workers or famous names. Here are the experiences of four celebrities who were refugees before they were stars.

Four Celebrities Who Were Refugees

  1. Gloria Estefan
    World-famous singer, Gloria Estefan, was born in Havana, Cuba. She and her family fled the country in 1960, after the Cuban Revolution. After landing in Florida, Estefan’s father joined the American army and took part in the Bay of Pigs invasion. Estefan was granted citizenship in 1974 and joined the band Miami Sound Machine, which was the beginning of her legendary career. Currently, Estefan has seven Grammys.
  2. Mila Kunis
    Kunis, well-known for her role on That ‘70s Show and as the voice of Meg on Family Guy, was born and raised for the first seven years of her life in Ukraine. After facing years of anti-Semitism in the former Soviet Union, the family was granted a religious-refugee visa and fled to the United States in 1991, settling in Los Angeles, California.

    In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Kunis reflected on her experience: “It was right at the fall [of the Soviet Union]. It was very communist, and my parents wanted my brother and me to have a future, and so they just dropped everything. They came with $250.” She describes her initial experience of living in the U.S. as “like being blind and deaf at age 7” because of the extreme culture shock she faced. Kunis, like other celebrities with similar experiences, is now a staunch advocate for refugees and has criticized the Trump administration’s actions surrounding the Syrian refugee crisis.

  3. M.I.A.
    Rapper M.I.A. was born in London but moved to Sri Lanka with her family as an infant. After her father organized an independence movement for ethnic Tamils, civil war broke out and the family was forced to flee. Initially, M.I.A. and her family settled in India but eventually landed in London.

    Discussing her experiences with NME, she stated: “If you’re coming from the war zone, you definitely got an issue. You have to adapt to a new place, you have to start new schools—every kid is going to go through all the things I went through. They’re gonna be in a council flay, they have to fill out the forms, sit in the waiting rooms, get housed, wait for your voucher for your school uniform. And you had to come up with how to make luncheon vouchers look cool because you’re the only kid that’s got ‘em!”

  4. Rita Ora
    Ora was born in what was once Pristina, Yugoslavia, now known as Kosovo. Once Yugoslavia dissolved, ethnic Albanians, including 1-year-old Ora and her family, began to be persecuted by Slobodan Milosevic’s regime. The family, like those of many of the other celebrities who were refugees, fled to London, where they faced prejudice as refugees. The family was determined to have a better life, though, despite the discrimination.

    In an interview with the Evening Standard, Ora encouraged other refugees and their families to do the same, while reminding others about the toll that fleeing can take on people: “That word [refugee] carries a lot of prejudice but it also made us determined to survive. When you put anyone into an alien environment, where other people aren’t completely comfortable with them being there, they are automatically going to be defensive. It’s the rule of the jungle, right?”

At a time when open-door policies and actions regarding the refugee crisis are often controversial, these four celebrities who were refugees are challenging the stigma around being a refugee and whom it is we think of when discussing refugees.

– Shania Kennedy
Photo: Google Images

Documentaries About PovertyDocumentaries are a form of film or television which take advantage of the entertainment platform to inform audiences of important issues through a more gripping means. They range in topics from technological innovation to the controversial beauty industry. Many documentaries have also focused on another major issue of today: global poverty. Below is a list of the top five documentaries about poverty as of 2019 and where to find them.

Top 5 Documentaries About Poverty and Where to Find Them

  1. The End of Poverty?: Directed by Philippe Diaz, who is well known within the genre, the documentary debuted in 2008 and became notorious for its unique historical perspective on global poverty. It highlighted the ways poverty has amassed through the years, beginning as early as the 16th century and concluding with present day. The film describes how poverty thrives in today’s world through interviews with historians, economists and impoverished families from around the world. This documentary can be viewed on Amazon Prime.
  2. Dilli: This 2011 documentary about the slums of Delhi focuses on the hardships of individuals in the area. Though relatively short, coming in just longer than 30 minutes, the film has a firm impact on the audience. Through interviews with citizens, ranging from old to young, directors Sushmit Ghosh and Rintu Thomas depict these daily trials. The film received critical acclaim, winning 1st place in the Short Documentary category of the Los Angeles Movie Awards. This documentary about poverty can be viewed now on Youtube.
  3. Poor No More: This 2010 documentary focuses on the poverty of Canada’s working-class by following the journey of native citizens. It puts Canada under a lens in comparison with Ireland and Sweden in terms of their respective job markets. The documentary takes a moment to focus on poverty within a different context—within the context of a country which is generally presumed as wealthy and well structured. The documentary can be viewed on Youtube.
  4. Hauling: This documentary, which premiered in 2010, follows the daily life of the Claudine family, a household of 27 children, whose income is dependent on the recycling system of Sao Paulo, Brazil. Every day, they collect the leftover wood, plastic and cardboard of the city in exchange for meager payment from the local recycling plant. The film brings forth the discussion of poverty in Brazil and the ways which their citizens persevere. The film can be viewed on Amazon Prime.
  5. The True Cost: This 2015 documentary focuses on the fashion industry and the way it uses impoverished nations to obtain cheap labor and goods. The film highlights the controversy of the fashion industry and the way it abuses the environment and ignores basic human rights. This documentary about poverty can be found on Netflix.

Art and media can become a platform for the voiceless. In these five documentaries about poverty, the lives of the underprivileged are documented for the rest of the world to face. If people want to help, but they don’t quite know where to start, then they must take the first step to get informed. Any of these documentaries could be a place to start.

– Eleanora Kamerow
Photo: Flickr

poverty-fighting poetry
Poetry can offer a vision of a more just and fair world, a world which often runs contrary to conventional and established socioeconomic norms. For centuries, poets have used their pens to dispel myths and misconceptions about the poor with poverty-fighting poetry. Especially in the camp of written works, representations of poverty have caused a rift between poetry and the well-circulated novels and plays of renown authors and playwrights. The cryptic undertones of poetry force us to internalize and think about the hardships associated with poverty, while many novels and plays simply use poverty as a setting, or a stage on which authors and playwrights can effectively deploy their storylines.

Poverty-Fighting Poetry

Today, young people are harnessing the power of poetry to emphasize the burdens of poverty and to champion for a better world. Poetry competitions not only serve as a forum to advocate for change but as a means of giving back to the world’s most vulnerable communities.

Poetry at Menstrual Hygiene Day

In the United Kingdom, the Women and Girls organization launched a poetry competition for Menstrual Hygiene Day (May 28th) in which British youth were encouraged to write poems about period poverty. The goal of the organization and of the poetry competition is to expand access to sanitary protection and menstrual hygiene products for impoverished women in India. In many parts of South Asia, it is considered taboo to openly talk about menstruation and to even search for period products. This lack of understanding of the importance of female hygiene promotes the inability of women to care for themselves while on their periods, a plight commonly known as period poverty.

One of the judges of the competition, Perdita Cargill, thinks that poetry will help break down misunderstandings of menstruation and barriers to menstrual hygiene: “Let’s talk about periods and write poems about them and do whatever we can to help others get the fair access to sanitary protection they need for dignity and health.” Poverty-fighting poetry encompasses a breadth of struggles related to various forms of impoverishment, from period poverty to more common perceptions of poverty, such as economic inequality and hunger.

The Steps to Happiness Event

In Florence, Italy, the Lorenzo de’Medici school recently held The Steps to Happiness event where students wrote poems to inspire other young people to join Malala Yousafzai’s campaign to provide education for all. The winner of the competition, Katelin Pierce, captures the essence of expanding educational opportunities for young girls:

“These little girls may have little voices

but they have large hearts and many hands

and they grab all they can of letters and words and ideas

whispered to them in hushed tones.”

Hunger in the UK

Another poetry competition in the United Kingdom merged the Young Poets Network with End Hunger UK to address the crisis of food poverty in Britain. Statistics cited by the End Hunger organization claim that 1 in 4 parents with children aged 18 and under skip meals because they lack financial means; in fact, the United Kingdom falls only behind Albania as the second most food insecure country in Europe. The Young Poets Network and End Hunger UK teamed up to challenge British writers aged 11-25 to write about their personal experiences with food insecurity and to offer solutions to solve the food crisis. While poverty-fighting poetry enables young people to speak about their struggles with impoverishment, it also builds bridges of understanding and empathy.

These examples are all instances of poverty-fighting poetry that challenge traditional notions of which means can and cannot be used to address issues of global poverty. Innovative humanities-based approaches to poverty can accomplish something that more clinical and statist-based approaches cannot offer: understanding.

Grayson Cox
Photo: Flickr

wealth in inequality in china
It is a well-known fact that China is one of Asia’s -and the world’s- wealthiest nations. In the past two decades, China has made strides in eliminating poverty by reducing 60 percent of the population living in extreme poverty in 1990 to 10 percent in 2010. However, using the Gini coefficient, an inequality measurement that ranges from 0-1, where 0 means complete economic equality and 1 means the richest person has all the income, wealth inequality in China verges on 0 .5, with 0.4 being regarded as the international warning level of dangerous inequality.

Unrealistic Precedents

The rising average income of 21,586.95 yuan or about $3,142.11 is not as realistic, however. The median income for China is 18,371.34 yuan or about $2,674.06. The downsizing of poverty and growing economy has not impacted all parts of China equally. There is still a large amount of wealth inequality in China. Depending on the region and type of economy, certain areas make more than others. According to 2015 data, Shanghai and Beijing, both very urban areas, make almost 50,000 yuan each, while the poorer, rural areas like Xizang, Gansu, and Guizhou make less than 40,000 yuan combined.

When data like living standards and housing prices are compared by province, there is a stark disparity between the economic conditions of rural and urban areas. Urban areas tend to make much more money than their rural counterparts. Along with this, despite rapid urbanization, 50.3 percent of China’s population, almost half a billion, is rural.

The Role of Education and Finance

One of the underlying causes of wealth inequality in China is the lack of education. Many rural areas lack access to schools and higher education, so although there is a large amount of higher-level jobs available, many Chinese cannot lift themselves up academically in order to access these jobs successfully. Because of this, rural Chinese are more likely to have lower-paying jobs or be self-employed in agricultural jobs. Thus, they will not make as much money.

Another cause of wealth inequality in China is that food costs are more. The Engel coefficient, which works the same as the Gini coefficient but measures food costs, is lower for urban areas than rural areas, even though urban areas have higher gross incomes. Housing is also less expensive in urban areas, leading to a higher surplus of disposable income for already-wealthy urban inhabitants.

According to China’s banking regulator, at least 50 counties in Tibet, Yunnan, and Sichuan are unbanked, which means they even lack access to banks and financial services. Rural Chinese lack a lot of other basic resources like cars and clean water as well.

Hope for the Future

While it may seem like not much is being done to help the rural poor, some policies are being put in place by China to address the issue. In 2013 China started its “35 Point Plan” also known as the Income Distribution Plan. It has goals to increase the minimum wage, spend more on public education and affordable housing, and provide overall economic security. In 2006, the Chinese government also abolished the agricultural tax and prohibited local governments from collecting fees. Social welfare policies and taxation reform, along with policies to improve the equality of education combined have slowly but steadily decreased the Gini coefficient to below 0.5 from 2008, which was its all-time high.

Nadine Argott-Northam
Photo: Media-Public

 

5 Ways Uganda is Improving Mental Health Care
Following Uganda’s independence in 1964, the nation went through devastating periods of unrest that significantly impacted its population of 42.8 million people. While Uganda has seen major improvements in recent years due to reaching their millennium development goals, such as lowering poverty from 33.8 percent in 1998 to 19.5 percent in 2012, the nation is still struggling with an epidemic of mental illness. As much as 35 percent of the population suffers from mental illness, 15 percent of which require treatment.

Changing Precedents

Major improvements have been made to Uganda’s healthcare system, raising the average life expectancy from 44 to 59-years-old. However, less then 1 percent of the 9.8 percent of GDP Uganda dedicates to healthcare goes towards mental health. The majority of this funding goes towards the national mental health hospital in Butabika, which holds 500 beds and is still almost always overcrowded.

Mental Health Still Neglected

The rest of Uganda’s mental health budget is spread out over a network of 28 out-patient facilities that specialize in follow-up care. These services are starved of the funding needed for proper medication. According to a study conducted by the World Health Organization in 2006, only 57 percent of clinics had at least one psychotropic medication in each class, meaning medication someone needs is highly unlikely to be available in Uganda.

The stigma around mental illness in the nation comes in particular from traditional beliefs that associate illnesses of the mind with spirits and witchcraft. Due to religious culture in the area, mental illness is viewed as a spiritual curse.

While mental health care in Uganda is struggling, many improvements have been made in recent years to help those who are affected by it.

5 Ways Uganda is Improving Mental Health Care

  1. Ending the stigma around mental illness is the first step that must be taken to tackle the problem. According to the Community Development Officer of the rural district, “…most people think that [mental illness] is bewitching. Others associate it with disagreements with their elders.” Bringing awareness about the true cause of mental illness is allowing the healthcare system to grow and make room for mental health care. This may be the most important of the 5 ways Uganda is improving mental health care.
  2. Increased aid would drastically improve the living conditions in Uganda. For every dollar invested in mental health, the economy sees a return of $4 due to an improved ability to work. In Uganda, the mentally ill often have trouble finding employment, however, increased aid would allow them to become contributing members of society. Organizations such as Basic Needs are working to tackle both poverty and mental illness by supporting locals to create small businesses. By helping the mentally ill and their families, organizations such as this are increasing peoples means and helping them afford the care that can save them.
  3. The Mental Health Action Plan for 2013-2020 was released by the World Health Organization (WHO) in the spring of 2012. The plan cites its goal “is to promote mental well-being, prevent mental disorders, provide care, enhance recovery, promote human rights and reduce the mortality, morbidity and disability for persons with mental disorders.” In order to accomplish this, the WHO has set out to achieve four goals: strengthen government leadership, provide integrated mental health care in community-based areas, strategize prevention techniques, and strengthen information and research for mental illness.
  4. Grand Challenges Canada, an organization that supports “Bold Ideas with Big Impact,” has trained nearly 500 faith healers, otherwise known as witch doctors, to recognize symptoms of mental illness and refer them to physiatrists. This unlikely tactic takes advantage of the abundant number of traditional healers in Uganda. While there are only 32 western-trained, psychiatrists in the country, there is a ratio of one witch doctor for every 290 Ugandans. As a result, most suffers of mental illness go to faith healers for their symptoms. This new technique is building a bridge between traditional healing and western health care.
  5. New Legislation in Uganda such as the Mental Health Act of 2018 is improving health care conditions. The Act provides mental health treatment at primary health centers, along with emergency treatment and involuntary admission and treatment for those who need it.

Mental health care is a complicated system and as Uganda improves life expectancy and poverty reduction, improvements and funding for mental health will become more available. There is a long way to go for the Ugandans suffering from mental illness, but enhancements are present as indicated by these 5 ways Uganda is improving mental health care.

Maura Byrne
Photo: Pixabay

 

Visual Impairment in Refugees

Last year, there were an estimated 70 million forcibly displaced individuals in the world. NGOs and governments stepped up by providing funding for food, water, sanitation, education, and healthcare, but visual impairment in refugees is rarely ever prioritized.

Vision Impairment is a Major Life Obstacle

Eye care is something often overlooked when organizations are administering urgent medical treatment to refugees–in most cases, eye injuries are not considered life-threatening. While an eye injury may not be fatal, it can greatly reduce the quality of life. This was the case for 10-year-old, Hala Shaheen, who suffered retinal detachment before the outbreak of the Syrian War and was undergoing treatment to fix the issue. She required specialist care and regular check-ups.

However, when chaos and violence broke out in Syria, Hala and her family were forced to flee to the Rukban refugee camp between Syria and Jordan, where no eye care specialist could be found. Now Hala is blind in one eye and her vision in the other eye is continuing to deteriorate. When asked about her condition, she told reporters, “I don’t want to continue living with this level of pain and suffering.”

Refugees like Hala do not have the resources to prevent or tackle blindness, Hala could have retained her vision. Blindness prevents her from experiencing life fully. Since braille is not readily taught, getting an education is difficult. Hala’s condition forces her to be dependent on her family. When blindness presents itself in adult refugees, it stops them from being productive workers and the extra burden is placed on their family’s shoulders. Thankfully, some NGOs have identified this problem and are on their way to creating better conditions to fight visual impairment in refugees.

Bringing Clarity to the Visually Impaired

NGOs and charities are assembling coalitions all over the world to find solutions for visual impairment in refugees. The main mission is to provide diagnostic services and visual assistance to those who need it.

The International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB) is working in Cox Bazar, a Rohingya refugee camp of over 900,000 people, has created an eye care plan to fight visual impairment in refugees. They plan to provide over 150,000 eyeglasses each year and deploy 30 optometrists and 30 ophthalmologists to conduct Rapid Assessment of Avoidable Blindness (RAAB) exams. These exams are vital in the prevention of blindness and vision loss, which can be the result of neglected chronic eye disease. In Cox Bazar, there is an estimated 30,000 at risk for diabetic eye disease and 70,000 at risk for glaucoma. If left untreated, it could result in a massive amount of vision loss.

There are numerous other coalitions like the IAPB. VisionSpring works with EYElliance in Ghana and Liberia to provide glasses to children and launch country-level initiatives to identify visual problems in refugees. SightGeist is an annual conference of companies and organizations from various sectors who come together and use their resources to provide visual assistance and preventative care to those affected by visual impairment. NGOs like Light for the World work together with Warby Parker, an eyewear company, and Aravind Eye Care System, a chain of hospitals in India, to come up with solutions to problems that are too large to tackle alone.

Gender and Visual Impairment

Another aspect of visual impairment in refugees is gender. Women and girls are disproportionately impacted by visual impairment, accounting for two-thirds of those with severe vision loss. This can be due to the impact of traditional female roles, like having to collect water and wash clothes. These duties put them at risk of being bitten by blackflies which transmit parasites that destroy vision. In developing countries, women are typically not in charge of finances, so they have less control over the budget and cannot pay for healthcare. Women are also often too busy taking care of the home and may not even know where to go to access eye care.

Visual impairment in refugees, particularly females, deepens their plight; those who are visually impaired are more likely to suffer sexual violence and shamed by their families. Programs like CATCH in Uganda and Lady Health Worker in Pakistan are reaching out to these women. CATCH conducts exams to detect visual impairment early and provide preventative care to women. The Lady Health Worker program empowers female workers to provide healthcare and eye care to women and children in their own communities. Simply bringing attention to eye care and reducing the stigma of visual impairment can vastly improve lives.

Visual health underpins many of the Sustainable Development Goals put forth by the U.N. It is up to these organizations now to spread the word and see to it that visual impairment in refugees and developing countries become a greater priority for donors.

– Julian Mok
Photo: Flickr

the children of the landfills
Let’s face it, the world produces a lot of waste. In 2016 alone, the world produced approximately 2.01 trillion tons of waste. This is an astronomical number that, by 2050, is expected to increase by 70 percent, according to the World Bank. East Asia and the Pacific region are the world’s largest producers of waste, producing 23 percent or 468 million tons of waste each year. A majority of this waste ends up in landfills. In developing countries, such as those in East Asia and the Pacific region, 90 percent of waste is burned or thrown in unregulated dumps.

This waste disproportionately impacts the poor. In many middle- to low-income cities, nongovernmental companies control waste management and are backed by many of the governments of each country. These companies employ a large percentage of children under the age of 18. Moreover, East Asia and the Pacific region have more working children than anywhere else in the world. The United Nations Environmental Programme states that in cities such as Phnom Penh, Cambodia, the percentage of working children is as high as 51 percent. These children are the children of the landfills.

The Children of the Landfills

These children who work in these toxic waste fills are among the most vulnerable and impoverished in the world. They often have to miss school to work in landfills, contributing to their families’ income. This subsequently contributes to a cycle of poverty, as there is a direct correlation between the amount of education a person receives and their level of poverty. If a child is not given the tools they need to succeed in the modern world, then they are forced to succumb to the depths of poverty as that is all they have ever known.

In many of these countries, the vast majority of landfills are unregulated dumps in which toxic waste is present in alarmingly high amounts. Health symptoms, such as fatigue and headaches, are commonly reported, along with low birth weights and stunted growth in children. These hazardous materials also expose the children who work in these dumps to an increased risk of a variety of cancers including, leukemia, lung cancer and brain cancer.

A Uniquely Dangerous Environment

Sadly, for the children of the landfills, toxic waste is merely one of several hazards they are exposed to on a daily basis. Children must be cautious of where they step due to broken glass and other sharp objects. They also must be wary of water-filled sinkholes hidden by the plastic waste that floats on its surface. If a child were to fall in, they would likely never be found again.

The most dangerous hazard for the children is trash avalanches, caused by workers in bulldozers moving trash as the children collect scraps. The World’s Children Prize tells the story of a 14-year-old girl named Kean who witnessed the dangers of working near the bulldozers. She explains that a young boy was crushed to death by a pile of trash, as the bulldozer operator was oblivious to the child’s presence.

The West and China

East Asia and the Pacific region’s waste problems have recently become exacerbated by China’s decision in 2018 to stop importing most recyclable waste. For 25 years, China was the world’s largest importer of recyclable waste. This sudden shift in the recyclables market prompted the West to redirect it’s waste to countries such as Thailand and Malaysia. These countries have since become overwhelmed with waste, greatly amplifying the plight of the children of the landfills.

The Good News

Fortunately, the United Nations and nonprofits have a plethora of initiatives aimed at fighting poor waste management. In particular, the Gates Foundation works with the governments of East Asian countries to improve sanitation and waste management by implementing more efficient waste management systems.

Organizations, such as the World’s Children Prize, help empower the children of the landfills through education, so they can break free from the cycle of poverty. Similarly, the International Labor Organization fights for the rights of children in these developing countries.

More importantly, the best way ordinary people can help these children is by decreasing individual waste footprints. This can be accomplished in a wide variety of ways. To do so, easy changes can be made, such as using refillable water bottles, declining to use plastic straws and silverware. Bigger changes involve changing one’s diets and methods of transportation. Whether one makes small or big changes, the children of the landfills rely on them to fight for a better future.

Shane Thoma
Photo: Pixabay