Human Trafficking in BeninWedged between Togo and Nigeria, Benin is a West African nation home to over 10 million people, most known as the origin place of voodoo. The national poverty rate of Benin was 38.5% in 2021, and the proportion of people living under $1.90 a day was 19.2% in 2019. Like any other country, human trafficking impacts vulnerable population groups in Benin.

The Trafficking Victims Protection Act

According to the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA), human trafficking is the act of forced sexual exploitation or the subjection of labor through involuntary servitude. The TVPA outlines the minimum standards a country must meet to eliminate trafficking. This is to ensure that countries label human trafficking as a punishable crime and make serious efforts toward change.

The TVPA ranks countries by tiers regarding the government’s efforts towards ending human trafficking, with Tier 1 indicating countries that meet the minimum standards of effort and Tier 3 being countries that do not meet the standards and are not making moves to do so. Benin falls under Tier 2, as the country does not fully meet the standards but is attempting to do so. The government is taking steps to convict more traffickers, expand awareness and victim identification, identify traffickers and increase training for law enforcement. Unfortunately, Benin authorities have failed to sentence convicted traffickers.

Human Trafficking in Benin

Benin’s trafficking portfolio explains that most trafficking in the country is internal and involves low-income children and other vulnerable populations. Common tactics of this type of recruitment include the false promises of education and a job. Most traffickers are known community members, like civil servants and farmers. Debt bondage is another way traffickers trap victims. In 2022, the Benin government reported a total of 701 trafficked victims. Overall, 111 children and 40 adults were sexually trafficked and 550 children were reported to be labor trafficking victims.

Beninese children are not just exploited within the country but throughout Western Africa. Within the Republic of Congo, Benin is the largest source of trafficking victims, with nationwide child and forced marriages and domestic servitude. Women from Benin are frequently trafficked for labor and commercial sex internationally.

Strives Toward Change

The Department of State in the U.S. recommends that the country should continue developing training of law enforcement and judicial officials to improve their investigations and prosecutions of traffickers in accordance with its laws. Expanding capacity to provide nonmedical services to victims and finalizing an agreement with Togo and Nigeria that shares information and cooperate on transnational investigations would help too.

The U.N. also suggests the global incorporation of training on human trafficking for medical and behavioral health professionals to aid victims and increase prevention. This includes teaching patients about informed consent, providing trauma-informed care and having resources for victims that support food security and housing.

There are multiple multilateral organizations and agencies that are fighting human trafficking specifically in West Africa. ECPAT works towards ending the sexual exploitation of children and partnered with a network of NGOs called C.L.O.S.E. to reach as many victims as possible. Benin’s International Criminal Police Organization National Central Bureau Cotonou also works to protect national security by investigating trafficking routes, along with being a major player in the organization’s fugitive investigation operations. In 2021, Benin’s National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons rescued more than victims, arresting 75 traffickers and convicting three.

Although much more attention is needed to address human trafficking in Benin, the government’s efforts coupled with victim support from NGOs will help to move the needle on this dire issue.

– Audrey Gaines
Photo: Flickr

Human Trafficking in BeninBenin is a country in sub-Saharan Africa bordered by Togo to the west, Burkina Faso and Niger to the north, Nigeria to the east and the Atlantic Ocean to the south. It has a population of 12.12 million. While in the last 25 years, many intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations have made significant progress in fighting human trafficking, it remains a pressing issue in Benin and around the world. Here are the most important facts to know about human trafficking in Benin.

The Facts

The U.S. State Department ranks the Beninese government as tier 2 in its assessment of its anti-human trafficking efforts. It assigns these rankings based on the country’s level of compliance with the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) minimum standards (tier 1 being in compliance, tier 2 out of compliance but making significant efforts to comply, and tier 3 being out of compliance and not demonstrating significant efforts to comply).

Because of insufficient identification and data collection, exact statistics on human trafficking in Benin are unknown. According to the U.S. State Department’s most recent estimate, however, the number of trafficking victims sourced or transported through Benin is 40,000 annually. Additionally, its central location makes it a common transit location in illicit trade routes throughout the region. The U.S. government estimates that criminals traffic 600,000 to 800,000 people annually across borders in West Africa.

Though some human trafficking victims in Benin are not Beninese citizens, the vast majority are. One UNICEF study estimated that 93% of Benin’s trafficking victims are internally sourced. Most trafficking victims in Benin are children. It is common for traffickers to leverage high levels of poverty and illiteracy as a way of coercing parents into sending their children away under the pretense of employment or education opportunities. However, traffickers also often involuntarily detain their victims under threat of violence. Traffickers in West Africa most often use victims for unpaid labor, but it is also common to use victims for sexual exploitation and warfare. UNICEF estimates that 46% of the Beninese youth population work and 86% of trafficking victims are underage girls, indicating a high level of sexual and labor exploitation in Benin.

Solutions and Progress

While human trafficking in Benin is still prevalent, the U.S. State Department reported that the Beninese government is increasing anti-trafficking efforts in the four most recent Trafficking in Persons reports. According to the 2021 report, it increased attempts to identify and protect child trafficking victims and made efforts to prevent trafficking in persons. Additionally, it created a child protection hotline, which provided more than 500 tips regarding child trafficking. Local Beninese people have also been indispensable in combating human trafficking by creating more than 700 “Village Committees” whose “function is to provide ‘social surveillance’ or social control of the activities and movement of the village’s children.”

However, it is crucial to remember the connection between rates of human trafficking and rates of poverty, illiteracy and the absence of adequate parental supervision. Reducing poverty and the amount of crime, and increasing the number of skilled laborers, may improve low-income parents’ abilities to send their children away for school and improve their livelihoods, which could subsequently help eliminate human trafficking. Some NGOs recognize this and are combating human trafficking in Benin by providing education, health care and employment opportunities to Beninese youth.

About Bornefonden

For example, Bornefonden, an NGO that runs Denmark, assists “60,000 children and youth in creating their own future in Togo, Mali, Cape Verde, Burkina Faso and Benin.” Its services include contributing to essential needs in Beninese communities such as constructing schools, facilitating contact between Beninese citizens and health care organizations and constructing wells in villages with water scarcity. Bornefonden’s goal is to provide long-term solutions and operates by “working in a community for a period of 15-20 years, after which all facilities will be handed over to the local authorities and citizens of the local community.” Terres des homes, another NGO operating in Benin, provided just under 1,000 children with vital health care operations in Benin in 2021, including psychological consultation.

Efforts like these, though not explicitly dealing with the issue, are instrumental in decreasing the rate of human trafficking in Benin.

– Xander Heiple
Photo: Flickr

Economic Growth in 2020
“Everyone is growing.” At the end of 2019, this was the World Bank’s outlook of the economic trajectory for the year 2020. The global economy was steadily growing and strengthening, and only a select few countries were facing GDP and economic contractions. Here is a look at the countries that experienced economic growth in 2020.

COVID-19’s Impact on the Economy

At the end of 2020, the World Bank sang a much different tune than what it did at the end of 2019. After the onset of a global pandemic, the majority of the world’s economies have taken a turn for the worst, the year turning out to be one of the worst in terms of economic growth and development. A far cry from the projected global GDP growth of 2.5%, as in June 2020, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) predicted that the world would close out the year with a GDP growth rate of -4.9%.

For some countries such as Spain, the U.K. and Tunisia, economic growth in 2020 had already fallen by around 20% by the year’s second quarter compared to the same period of 2019, a record quarterly fall for many countries. In other countries such as Taiwan, Finland, Lithuania and South Korea, the economic impact was much less than 5% contractions in GDP.

However, while the problem of economic recession was common for most nations, there were a select few that were not only able to ward off a negative growth pattern but steadily grew in the face of a global crisis. According to reports from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), in October 2020, only 16 countries would sustain economic growth in 2020 of more than 1%, and 11 would grow at a rate between zero and 1%. That leaves a whopping 167 nations facing economic contraction.

5 Countries that Experienced the Highest Economic Growth in 2020

  1. Guyana: Guyana currently has the fastest growing economy globally, with an economic growth rate of approximately 26.21% in 2020. The mainland country serves as home to one of the most promising newly discovered oil basins globally and a vast supply of other natural resources. The recent oil discoveries and new production began in late 2019. Guyana’s economy is expanding fast and expects the GDP to more than double by 2025. Therefore, while it is likely that the Guyanese economy did face setbacks due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the explosion of its oil industry has been able to keep the country’s economy heading in the right direction.
    2. South Sudan: After facing stunted economic growth in the 2010s due to civil unrest, the relatively newly independent South Sudan faced harsh humanitarian and food insecurity crises. However, in 2018, the country signed a new peace agreement, followed by the reopening of many of its oil wells, boosting its main revenue source. Between 2018 and 2019, the country gradually maneuvered itself back into a steady growth pattern that maintained a 4.11% growth in GDP in 2020.
    3. Bangladesh: Over the years 2016 to 2020, the Bangladesh economy has recorded a 7.6% growth in GDP. Such rapid expansion has allowed the country to graduate from the U.N.’s list of Least Developed Countries (LDC). Because of its now stable macroeconomic environment, buoyant domestic demand and export-oriented industry-led growth, Bangladesh has been able to maintain an approximate 5.2% growth rate during 2020, with predictions that it will see an increasing growth rate of 6.8% in 2021 and the coming years.
    4. Egypt: Similar to Guyana, the Egyptian economy has recently benefitted greatly from lucrative natural gas discoveries. Though the pandemic and global economic crisis hit the country’s economic growth in 2020 due to a sudden fall in tourism, remittances and exports, its previous main sources of income, the revenue from its oil discoveries, was enough to stabilize growth in the economy. Already, the Egyptian economy is on the path to recovery with a projected 2.76% growth in 2021, before returning to its previous growth levels averaging at 5.28% in the coming years.
    5. Benin: Due to intentional and effective key economic and structural reforms in recent years, Benin reached a growth rate of 6.41% between the years 2017 and 2019. Therefore, while economic activity did slow for the country heavily dependent on re-export and transit trade, it was able to sustain economic growth in 2020 at a rate of approximately 2%. As the world adapts to and moves towards the end of the pandemic and global economic crisis, expectations have determined that Benin’s economy will return to faster growth rates of around 5% to 7% in the upcoming years.

Looking Forward

It was low- and middle-income emerging economies that were better able to sustain a growth trajectory throughout the 2020 global economic crisis. In fact, China, which the COVID-19 pandemic hit first, has been the only trillion-dollar economy that sustained positive economic growth in 2020. Economic growth is crucial for reducing and eradicating poverty and can lead to social improvements in affected countries. Therefore, the hope is that the countries that are not on the above list will return to pre-pandemic growth rates, and the five fastest-growing nations of 2020 keep developing at this level.

– Rebecca Harris
Photo: Flickr

Homelessness in BeninThe Republic of Benin is a West African country bordering Togo, Nigeria, Burkina Faso and Niger. With nearly 11.5 million inhabitants, the former French colony has experienced a vast political change in its continuous effort to fortify its economy and provide for its people. However, despite its efforts, homelessness in Benin remains a problem. To understand this issue better, here are five facts about homelessness in Benin.

 5 Facts About Homelessness in Benin

  1. An increasing rate of poverty means that more people may be faced with homelessness in Benin. While the specific number of homeless people is not determined, poverty rates clearly show a large portion of the population living in dire circumstances. Recently, the government has attempted economic reform, and there has been growth. However, more people are living in poverty than in previous years. In 2018, the poverty rate was 46.4% while it was 40.1% in 2015.
  2. Rapid population growth may increase homelessness in Benin. There is also little economic stability to prepare for it. Although there has been economic growth, there are severe geographic inequities within the country. Fifty-one percent of employment depends on agricultural exports, which shows a lack of economic diversification. As a result, millions of people have no sustenance or financial means whenever trade opportunities or agricultural pursuits are unsuccessful. There is rapid population growth, averaging about 3.5% every year, and the economy is not strong enough to provide for the increasing number of births.

  3. Existing housing is deteriorating. Also, a lack of financial resources makes it difficult for the majority to purchase or build new homes. Many of the existing houses need to be renovated since they were built over 30 years ago. Furthermore, low-lying houses can become flooded during the rainy season, causing more damage to already declining houses. With a fast-growing population and an extremely low minimum wage at $67, an average person cannot afford a high cost of building materials. Even if someone can afford to purchase land, the cost of building a tiny house may be insurmountable. Extended family members often live together because of a lack of capital. Consequently, living conditions are grossly inadequate, and overcrowding is common as many relatives live together. Issues with housing affordability may be an attribute of homelessness in Benin.

  4. Urban development has caused homelessness in Benin. The government has attempted to focus on urban development, hoping to stir economic activity and investment. However, this has come at an expense to Beninese citizens. In the past year, over 120 homes were bulldozed in the district of Xwlacodji. Many of the residents had lived there for generations, yet had never received an official deed granting them property ownership. They were never notified of the plans to bulldoze their homes and belongings. Now, most are homeless and sleep outside or in public buildings. Despite the government’s motivations, many were left homeless.

  5. The government is trying to reconcile its urban development with aid to its poorest citizens. The government has renewed efforts to stimulate growth and reduce inequality in the country. Although this mission has harmed the Beninese with its demolition of local homes, there are upsides to its developmental and aid plans. These benefits include providing universal healthcare, offering cash grants to those working in the national interest, aiding those with disabilities and refinancing grants to areas of geographic disadvantage. Furthermore, Benin’s president, Patrice Talon, has committed to building 20,000 housing units that the government will provide to its citizens at a subsidized cost. With the poorest 20% of the population living in severe poverty, these reforms will enable the homeless to find economic opportunities and necessary social services.

The Republic of Benin has struggled with its rate of poverty in recent years. Its economy depends mostly on its agricultural exports, which is problematic for growth and development. President Talon has proven to be aggressive in his attempts to bring financial opportunities to the Beninese. These factors, among others, have perpetuated homelessness in Benin. However, there are reasons to be hopeful for the future. Talon seeks to bring new government aid and social services to the poorest 20% of the population. With new cash advances and subsidized housing, hopefully, homelessness in Benin will soon be a thing of the past.

Eliza Cochran
Photo: Flickr

 

Benin's Health Care
The Republic of Benin is located in the western region of the African continent. The sub-Saharan country possesses a tropical climate and a population of approximately 12 million people. Benin’s economy highly relies on agriculture. Its production of cotton provides 40% of Benin’s GDP and 80% of its exports. Unfortunately, Benin is an impoverished nation with about one-third of the population living beneath the international poverty line. The citizens of Benin also experience many different issues regarding the handling of healthcare in Benin.

Lack of Resources

As of now, the government spends only 3.3% of the GDP on services relating to healthcare in Benin. The average life expectancy is around 60 years old. However, the infant mortality rate stands at 63 deaths per 1,000 births, while the maternal mortality rate stands at 500 deaths per 100,000 births.

Despite Benin’s relatively large size (about 110,000 square kilometers), there are only four hospitals within the national borders. A survey conducted in 1999 reported that for every 1,000 patients who arrived at hospitals to receive treatment, only 0.1 doctors and 0.2 beds were available. As a result, one of the primary methods to improve Benin’s health care is to hire and train more doctors.

Diseases

The Joint United Nations Program for HIV/AIDS states that anywhere from 38,000 and 120,000 individuals in Benin may be infected with the HIV/AIDS virus. These figures are comparatively lower than in other African countries, but the virus is still spreading among young adults. Waterborne diseases such as tuberculosis, cholera and meningitis have high risks and rates of infection. Typhoid Fever poses a highly dangerous threat in Benin, as only 23% of the population has access to adequate sanitation services. Further efforts need to emerge to improve the quality of drinking water. Until then, the citizens of Benin have to rely on boiling their water to remove bacteria.

Natural Disasters

In 2010, Benin experienced the worst series of flooding that it had seen in decades. The floods affected over 800,000 people and wiped away entire villages. Due to the lack of water clean-up and filtration, people were consuming water that overflowing latrines had contaminated. As a result, reports to hospitals determined that there were nearly 800 new cases of cholera. The disaster prompted the U.N. refugee agency to activate an emergency plan to help those the floods displaced.

Malnutrition

Despite Benin’s current progress in healthcare, child malnutrition still remains a critical marker of poverty and improper healthcare. Assumptions have also determined that over 25% of infants and children younger than 5-years-old suffer or die from malnutrition. However, the government of Benin has recently developed an innovative plan for improving child nutrition.

The new Early Years Nutrition and Child Development Project (EYNCDP) is the first step in a series of three operations that aim toward improving the delivery and quality of selected health and nutrition interventions throughout the country. This first project focuses on integrating early stimulation and learning, primary school feeding programs and policy improvement.

Nonprofit Aid

There is further hope toward improving the lives of the people in Benin. Since 1995, the nonprofit organization CARE has been working on projects to help families in Benin receive improved income and education. For example, CARE has organized programs to combat gender-based violence, provide access to better nutrition and improve Benin’s healthcare.

It also provides aid to communities plagued with frequent flooding. Additionally, CARE grants further assistance by helping local farmers in rural communities improve their income via loan associations. By aiding farmers with their loans and savings, CARE ensures that their families are able to make proper investments, and in turn, can buy better livestock, seeds and farming equipment.

Projects like CARE can go a long way to provide aid to people living in difficult conditions like those in Benin. Through its efforts to aid communities experiencing flooding, healthcare in Benin should improve.

Aditya Daita
Photo: Pixabay

poverty in Benin
Benin, a nation in West Africa, has a population of 12 million people. Estimates have determined that 30% of the workforce in Benin works in the cotton industry. Even though the country is one of West Africa’s top producers of cotton, poverty in Benin remains quite high. In 2018, 46.4% of citizens fell below the poverty line.

Reliance on Any One Crop is Risky — Particularly Cotton

Reliance on cotton has a variety of harmful effects that prevent major economic growth and the reduction of poverty in Benin. Unlike farmers in many other cotton-growing areas of the world, many cotton farmers in West Africa work on small-scale farms rather than large plantations. Because of the relatively small size of farms, most farmers lack the technology and efficiency of larger farms, which reduces productivity and profitability. For example, most farms rely on rainfall to water their crops and must pick cotton by hand, which is a tedious and time-consuming task.

Growing cotton presents a variety of dangers to the environment and the health of farmers. Cotton is a challenging crop to grow, and common practices in Benin rely heavily on harmful pesticides as well as large amounts of fertilizer. Around the world, cotton only accounts for 2.4% of cultivated land but uses 6% of total pesticides. Some have linked pesticides in Benin to pesticide poisoning as well as eye, stomach and skin irritation. As pest incidence has risen and soil fertility has decreased, reliance on these agrochemical inputs has increased. This can account for up to 60% of production costs for small farms.

Relying on cotton presents other challenges besides health risks, soil degradation and reliance on outside inputs. When so many people rely on selling cotton, many communities become highly sensitive to changes in global prices for cotton. Deregulations in the global market have made it harder for farmers in Benin to compete. Due to the recession caused by COVID-19, the price of cotton has recently reached a 10-year low.

Crop Diversification Efforts to Reduce Dependence

A variety of programs have emerged to mitigate the risks of growing cotton as well as initiatives to encourage farmers to grow other crops. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) runs a variety of programs in Benin, including its Integrated Production and Pest Management (IPPM) program and its Farmer Field School (FFS). IPPM aims to educate farmers on the risks of some pesticides while encouraging crop diversification and improved farming practices to decrease pest incidence naturally. FFS educates small groups of farmers on optimal planting and fertilizer use that reduces costs and increases crop yields.

Some private organizations and individuals have stepped in to address poverty in Benin as well. Father Godfrey Nzamujo, a former professor at the University of California, Irvine, left the U.S. and came to Benin in an attempt to use his Ph.D. in microbiology to address food security through zero-waste, sustainable farms. He started a farm in 1985 that focuses on creating zero waste and thoughtful crop rotation to maintain natural soil fertility and prevent reliance on fertilizer. Since then, he has opened multiple centers across 15 countries to share his organic farming techniques with others. With support from the U.N., Nzamujo has been able to educate 30,000 farmers.

Pesticide Action Network, an organization from the U.K., also works in Benin to promote organic cotton farming and reduce the use of harmful pesticides. It helps farmers find natural alternatives to pesticides and gain access to farming equipment that increases efficiency. This equipment is often useful for a variety of other tasks as well, as milling equipment can grind neem seeds to make natural pesticides and grind maize for food.

Each of these programs utilizes a variety of methods, but they ultimately have the same desired outcome. By promoting sustainable farming practices and diversifying crops away from cotton, farmers in Benin can have greater crop yields, more fertile soil for future seasons and resiliency to external shocks. Decreasing these farmers’ need for expensive fertilizers and harmful pesticides increases their profits, decreases food insecurity and reduces poverty in Benin.

Progress in Diversification Remains Slow

Despite all of the benefits of crop diversification, Benin has been slow to move away from its heavy dependence on cotton. In 2018, raw cotton accounted for 34.5% of Benin’s export revenue. A major reason for this is a private and public investment as well as government subsidies that keep cotton competitive, particularly in the last four years of the presidency of Patrice Talon. This is no surprise, as Talon made his fortune selling agricultural inputs and later entering the cotton ginning industry.

As nearly half of the current population of Benin lives in extreme poverty, the time to make major changes is now. With an increase in crop diversity and a transition toward more sustainable agriculture, food insecurity and poverty in Benin could greatly reduce.

– William Dormer
Photo: Pexels

Solar Energy in Benin
In Benin, a country in West Africa, only 11% of the rural population has access to electricity. This deficit contributes to poor nutrition and health, particularly in rural communities. Additionally, about 40% of the country’s 12 million citizens live below the poverty line. The Solar Electric Light Fund (SELF) is a nonprofit organization that uses solar-powered water pumps and solar drip irrigation to improve agriculture, increase access to clean drinking water and economically empower women in Benin, all with a focus on sustainability. Recent innovations utilizing solar energy in Benin are improving conditions for female farmers across the country.

Solar-Pump Water Stations: Benefiting Women and Girls

In the Kalalé District of northeast Benin, there are only 113 sanitary water sources for a population of 180,000 people. Many potable wells require women and girls to travel long distances outside their villages. This lack of available energy, known as energy poverty, increases the risk for women and girls of becoming targets of sexual violence. To avoid danger, many women and girls take routes to alternate water sources, such as nearby streams or open wells of contaminated water. Relying on these local water sources poses another significant health risk: water-borne diseases are responsible for about 15% of all deaths in Benin.

SELF has built 20 wells in the Kalalé District since 2011 and is currently working to install solar-pump water stations in the region. Funded by a grant from the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), this initiative will install a new solar-pump water station in 24 villages, bringing clean, sanitary water to about 82,000 people. These solar-pump water stations use sunlight—a clean, renewable energy source—to increase access to clean water without emitting greenhouse gases. They also do not require batteries and can last at least 10 years without replacement.

With these solar-pump water stations, women and girls in 24 villages will no longer have to choose between a long, dangerous walk and contaminated water. By providing solar-powered technology to pump clean drinking water, SELF is reducing the prevalence of water-borne diseases in northeast Benin’s rural communities, as well as the risk of sexual violence for women and girls.

Solar Drip Irrigation: Empowering Women Farmers

In northeast Benin, the dry season is long and severe. According to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, it is “nearly impossible to grow food” for six months of the year. This especially harms women farmers, who are more likely to be living under the poverty line, as well as women and girls who must travel longer distances to collect water for irrigation.

The Solar Electric Light Fund created the Solar Market Garden (SMG) project to reduce malnutrition and food insecurity in Benin year-round. For this initiative, SELF used solar-powered well pumps to operate drip irrigation systems on 11 female-operated farms designated as Solar Market Gardens, impacting 400 women farmers in 10 villages throughout the Kalalé district. Each garden produces more than 4,000 pounds of food every month. As a result of this project, 66,000 more people have reliable access to fresh produce, increasing food security, nutrition and health. For rural villages in northeast Benin, access to solar energy can reduce hunger without negatively affecting the environment.

In addition to improving agriculture, SELF’s Solar Market Gardens also empower women and girls in Benin. Female farmers involved in the project can adequately feed their families, earn a larger and more reliable income and gain reputations as entrepreneurs. Women’s economic empowerment is crucial for poverty reduction because, according to U.N. Women, it “increases economic diversification and income equality” and grants women more “voice, agency and meaningful participation in economic decision-making at all levels.” At the same time, women and girls in each village can focus more on their education and other economic activities instead of water collection. According to the World Bank, educated women and girls are more likely to live healthier lives, earn an income and have fewer children. They are also less likely to marry as minors.

Encouraging Poverty Reduction

Widespread access to energy, especially electricity, is an essential component of poverty reduction because it allows more people to reliably access clean water and adequate food. The Solar Electric Light Fund reduces poverty and food insecurity in northeast Benin. Others can easily replicate their initiatives, directly benefitting women and girls and creating more sustainable communities. Overall, the rising popularity of solar energy in Benin gives hope to women and girls across the nation.

– Rachel Powell
Photo: Flickr

Hunger in BeninHunger in Benin affects thousands of people across the country. According to the World Food Programme, most of the Republic of Benin’s population of 11.2 million people live primarily in rural areas. Almost 10% of them struggle with food insecurity. However, Benin also exemplifies some of the successes that international organizations and state governments have had in collaborating with Benin’s leadership to create positive change. Two key players in Benin’s fight against hunger are the nonprofit The Hunger Project and USAID, the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Hunger in Benin specifically affects vulnerable groups like young children. The World Food Programme warns that chronic malnutrition is a major threat to Benin affecting the development of up to 32% percent of its children ages five and younger. Suffering from chronic malnutrition at this age can negatively affect children’s health later in life.

The Hunger Project in Benin

The Hunger Project has been working in Benin since 1997 and uses the ‘epicentre strategy’ to fight hunger. It works to organize around 138 villages (311,078 people) into 18 different epicenters for greater collective action. Using this strategy allows for villages in Benin to share resources and address hunger and food insecurity together. As a group, the villages learn and cultivate self-reliance.

The villages are able to capitalize on aid the Hunger Project provides initially and then, through developing community infrastructure, communities become self-reliant. This has proven successful in three epicenters already. Each epicenter focuses on four core phases for success: “Mobilization (I), Construction (II), Programme Implementation (III) and Transition to Self-reliance (IV).”

USAID’s Role in Helping Alleviate Hunger

The United States coordinates its international aid efforts through organizations like USAID. Specifically in Benin, USAID contributes to the “new alliance for food security and nutrition,” which organizes the G7 states with the Republic of Benin’s government to invest in the agricultural sector. The World Food Programme reported that agriculture makes up to 70% of the country’s employment. Furthermore, agriculture is responsible for 25% of Benin’s GDP. Increased investment will undoubtedly aid in hunger alleviation.

Additionally, USAID helps Benin fight off major food insecurity causes like pests in crops. One pest that USAID is addressing is the Fall Armyworm (FAW). FAW is particularly dangerous to African crops because it feeds on maize, a key food source for more than 300 million African families. Across the 12 main maize-producing countries in Africa, the Fall Armyworm can cause an annual loss of “between $3.6 and $6.2 billion.” That kind of loss can devastate farmers.

To combat FAW, USAID held a “Fall Armyworm Workshop” in Benin in 2018, bringing agricultural experts, plant protection experts and technical staff. The workshop was intended to educate farmers and other essential workers on how to locate, identify and exterminate the pests.

Looking Ahead

Hunger in Benin continues to be an obstacle for the country. Benin only scored a 51/100 on the 2019 Global Food Security Index. But with multilateral support from state governments and international organizations, Benin represents a model for successful collaborative efforts to address hunger and poverty collectively, as it has risen above the regional average score of 47.9/100 for food security.

Kiahna Stephens
Photo: Flickr

Fake Medicine in Benin
Benin, a West African country about the size of Pennsylvania, has a tumultuous history. The site of the former Dahomey Kingdom, a kingdom that experienced rapid growth due to its involvement in the slave trade, Benin has since faced colonization, war, strife, civil unrest and a flood of pseudo-pharmaceuticals. With such struggles, a country can react in perpetuation or recovery and Benin has chosen the latter. This is most noticeable in the recent progress against fake medicine in Benin.

Fake Medicine in Benin

The origin of the issue of fake medicine in Benin likely relates to the country’s impoverished state. Benin had the 27th lowest per capita GDP as of 2017, at approximately $2,300. In terms of medical intervention, Benin has been desperate for some time now. The CIA lists the risk for Beninese citizens contracting infectious diseases as very high. The diseases responsible for the highest percentage of illnesses are bacterial and protozoal diarrhea, hepatitis A, typhoid fever, dengue fever, malaria and meningococcal meningitis. Benin also faces struggles relating to HIV/AIDS, which resulted in 2,200 deaths in 2018.

As of 2016, the nation spent only about 4 percent of its GDP on the health sector. This lack of financing for government-sponsored health care left an opening for black market interference and fake prescription drugs quickly flooded stores and pharmacies. These drugs often have no active ingredient and do little to fight the diseases that marketing suggests they cure. Instead, they lead to a litany of new health issues, often causing ulcers and organ failure. People have linked over 100,000 deaths to fake medicine in Benin.

The Fight Against Fake Medicine

Corruption has been inherent in most of Benin’s history. The issue of fake medicine in Benin is simply another facet of the same problem. Thankfully, the country is taking steps to address the endemic nature of this devastating problem.

For all intents and purposes, the fight against fake medicine in Benin began in 2009 with the Cotonou Declaration. This declaration focused on addressing the rampant fake medicine black market at the international level, as opposed to limiting the fight to within Benin’s borders. The declaration called for a raised awareness of drug trafficking and a limiting of the freedoms that often occur for those involved. Unfortunately, not much changed following the Cotonou Declaration. Benin raised awareness, but only for a moment, and it did not take any legitimate steps to combat the issue.

True progress began with the launching of Operation Pangea 9, a government organization founded under Benin’s current president, Patrice Talon. The organization works as a task force, set on fighting the manufacturing and selling of fake medicine through raids and legislation. In 2017 alone, the organization seized over 80 tonnes of fake medicine in Benin. This serves as a sign of drastic progress. For comparison, in 2015, the organization seized only about four tonnes of contraband.

The seizures took place throughout a multitude of marketplaces in Benin, resulting in the arrest of over 100 fake medicine traders. These raids and seizures served as stage one of Operation Pangea 9’s plan to eliminate the distribution of fake medicine in Benin. It was extremely successful, yet only addressed a fraction of the issue.

After the success of the seizures, in order to prevent a lapse back into the country’s past, President Patrice Talon’s government went after the suppliers. Many knew that corruption thoroughly aided the success of the selling of fake medicine in Benin. In December 2017, the police staged a raid at the home of Mohammed Atao Hinnouho, a member of Benin’s parliament. The police seized hundreds of boxes of pseudo-pharmaceuticals and arrested Mohammed Atao Hinnouho. This raid led to the outing of a vast number of those involved in the illegal trade and sent a definitive message that no matter the sources or persons responsible, they would face justice.

Conclusion

As of 2019, the country almost entirely eradicated the issue of fake medicine in Benin. The shelves of grocery stores that once held fake medicine now stand empty, and open-air pharmaceutical markets are a thing of the past. People should take the way in which the Beninese government dealt so swiftly with this issue as an example, a sign of what is possible when a country properly focuses attention and resources. Although Benin requires more in terms of setting up a proper health care system, these advancements serve as a sign to the end of an endemic issue and should not be overlooked.

– Austin Brown
Photo: Flickr

Products Tackling Global Poverty
People who live in poverty-stricken communities typically do not have access to simple products that can be the difference between life and death. Below are five products tackling global poverty.

5 Products Tackling Global Poverty

  1. The Shoe That Grows: The Shoe That Grows produces a shoe for kids living in poverty. It expands up to five sizes and lasts for years. Kenton Lee founded the shoe after he traveled to Nairobi, Kenya. He lived and worked with kids at a small orphanage and noticed that many of the children either had broken, worn shoes or none at all. He came up with the idea of a shoe that expands to prevent soil-transmitted diseases and parasites that can cause children to miss out on their education and even death. As of now, the company has distributed over 200,000 pairs of shoes to 100 different countries. The organization sent 30,000 of those to Ethiopia alone.
  2. NIFTY Cup: The NIFTY Cup is a device that some use to feed premature babies in Malawi and Tanzania who are unable to breastfeed. Unlike the metal cups and spoons that people in poverty-stricken countries often use, the NIFTY Cup contains durable, soft silicone that one can shape to allow all nutrients to reach babies’ mouths without causing them to cough or choke. The cup serves as a life-saving resource for mothers who do not have the necessary medical assistance necessary to keep premature babies healthy. Donors have made it possible to send over 6,000 NIFTY Cups to hospitals in Malawi and Tanzania.
  3. The Lucky Iron Fish: The Lucky Iron Fish is a tool used to fight iron deficiency in developing countries. Families place the iron fish in boiling water before cooking to add proper nutrients to meals. One of these iron fish is equivalent to five years of iron pill bottles. The Lucky Iron Fish company works on a one-to-one donation scale. This means that when people in developed countries buy one of the fish, the company donates another to a family in a developing country. As of 2018, the company impacted 54,000 lives because of the buy-one-give-one system. The impact fund has distributed the fish to Nicaragua, Tanzania, Cambodia, Haiti, Benin and more.
  4. Embrace Warmer: Embrace Warmer is a life-saving tool that developing countries use. In these places, newborn babies often suffer hypothermia due to being premature and low weight. The tool is essentially a sleeping bag that helps regulate the body temperature of newborn babies during their first few days of life. Embrace Warmer began as a class project at Stanford, when students had to design a cost-effective product to help battle neonatal hypothermia. Eventually, the product expanded to rural India and has now helped 200,000 infants in developing countries.
  5. Flo: Flo is a reusable menstrual hygiene kit that Mariko Higaki Iwai designed to provide a solution for women and girls in developing countries to take care of their bodies. The kit allows girls to wash, dry and carry reusable sanitary pads. This kit makes it easier for girls to stay in school, prevent reproductive diseases and illnesses and take care of their menstrual cycle in privacy. Flo is still a prototype but people working in the field in developing countries have been trying to make Flo available for their communities. The team is currently seeking manufacturers to make this possible.

These life-saving products are working at tackling global poverty, while also giving those who live in poverty-stricken communities a better chance at having a healthy lifestyle.

Juliette Lopez
Photo: Flickr