How to Help People in Benin
In Benin, 36.2 percent of the population lives on less than $1.25 per day. Although the country is a stable democracy, corruption and a lack of economic development prevent Benin from raising more of its population above the poverty line.

USAID supports Benin’s development in food security, human rights, gender equality and health. The best way to help people in Benin is to show support for USAID so that Congress will continue to allocate funds to this agency.

So, how to help people in Benin? Call local congressmen and urge them to protect the International Affairs budget. Proposed budget cuts will decrease funding for USAID and the State Department by 31 percent.

Benin has a Global Food Security Index score of 40.2 out of 100. USAID supports agriculture and food security by working to increase private investment in Benin’s agriculture and by encouraging sustainable agricultural productivity.

Benin scores well on measures of effective governance compared to the rest of sub-Saharan Africa, with a political corruption rating that is about half of the average for the surrounding region (a higher score indicates more corruption). Democracy and respect for human rights are encouraged by USAID’s two anti-corruption initiatives.

A civil society support program works with communities in Benin by educating people about high-level corruption and supporting legislation that reduces the likelihood of future corruption. The National Anti-Corruption Agency, directly supported by USAID, ensures that corruption cases are seen by the Ministry of Justice and are dealt with using appropriate judicial processes.

For measures of gender equality, Benin ranks lower than the average of the surrounding region, with only 7.2 percent of seats in national parliament occupied by women. USAID bolsters the ability of service organizations to provide support to victims of gender-based violence and educates local women leaders to spread awareness about gender-based violence laws.

Benin ranks well compared to its neighbors in health measures, but still has an average life expectancy of 59 years, which is significantly shorter than that of developed nations. USAID focuses on improving access to reproductive health services, fighting malaria and HIV/AIDS and training health workers to allow people in remote communities to access basic health care.

Part of USAID’s efforts within health in Benin is dedicated to obstetric fistula repair and prevention. Every year, 1,300 women in Benin do not survive childbirth, and 26,000 suffer from postpartum complications including obstetric fistula.

This condition is characterized by a hole in the birth canal due to prolonged labor without sufficient medical attention. The condition causes leaking of feces and urine, which often results in these women being shamed and ostracized from their communities.

USAID provides funding to the Integrated Family Health Project, which partners with local NGOs to combat fistula. The program focuses on treating existing fistulas, prevention, community education and helping recovered women resume their life.

One woman in Benin developed fistula at 34 years old after a prolonged childbirth. All of her friends and family abandoned her due to the smell of leaking urine and waste.

She learned of an opportunity for fistula repair through the radio, and she was transported to a hospital and given the surgery she needed for free thanks to USAID. She thanks the program for giving her back her life.

To help people in Benin in several influential ways, give local congressmen a quick phone call to support the International Affairs budget.

Kristen Nixon

Photo: Flickr

Common Diseases in BeninBenin is a small, West African country nestled between Togo and Nigeria. In terms of land mass, it’s about the size of Pennsylvania, with a population of 10.7 million. Benin has made great strides in recent years, but its population is still plagued by preventable diseases. For the international community to help, it’s important to pinpoint the most common diseases in Benin. Here’s a list of the top four:

Lower Respiratory Infections

This category of diseases includes acute bronchitis, bronchiolitis, influenza, and pneumonia. A leading cause for these infections is air pollution. In big cities like Cotonou, pollution is a huge concern. With a population of more than one million, Contou has some of the highest emissions outputs in the region. This air pollution is a major health risk, especially for children. It accounts for 15 percent of premature deaths in Benin. But the risk can be alleviated. Research has shown that risk decreases when children are properly nourished and breastfed from birth.

Malaria

Malaria is both one of the most common diseases in Benin and one of the most well-known. It accounts for 21 percent of premature deaths. Recently, strains of drug-resistant malaria have become common, including the strain P. Falciparum. Developments like this make malaria even harder eradicate. Nonetheless, government officials in Benin are working hard to make malaria a thing of the past. Benin is part of the President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI), which is led by USAID and the CDC. PMI aims to eliminate malaria as a common disease within the next six years. And if accomplished, thousands of lives in Benin could be saved.

Diarrheal Diseases

This class of diseases takes away the lives of five percent of Benin citizens a year. One of the main causes of these diarrheal diseases is poor sanitation. This includes things like drinking contaminated water or not having access to running water. The diseases can also be caused by poorly kept toilets with no running water. However, research shows these diseases can be prevented by simply washing one’s hands before eating. Prevention can also take the form of better infrastructure for distributing and treating water. Currently, diarrheal diseases are one of the most common diseases in Benin. But they don’t have to remain that way.

Preterm Birth Complications

In Benin, preterm birth complications are the leading cause of neonatal death. A total of 217 years of life are lost every year because of complications during a pregnancy in Benin. Unfortunately, only 61 percent of the female population seek antenatal care. However, this can be changed. UNICEF currently has detailed strategies on their website outlining essential practice for prenatal and newborn care. By welding data with on-the-ground experience, doctors in Benin can reduce preterm birth complications.

The common diseases in Benin can seem scary and alien from far away. But when examined, it’s clear that many of these diseases are preventable. Organizations like UNICEF and WHO have already started to make a difference. And you can make a difference too. Call your representatives, and ask for our government do more to help those in need.

Adesuwa Agbonile

Photo: Flickr

Why Is Benin PoorBenin is a small, mostly rural country on Africa’s west coast. It has nearly 11 million people and around half live on less than a dollar a day. The relatively new nation is among the world’s poorest countries. Why is Benin poor? The following are a few main reasons.

One reason is poor agricultural practices. Cotton makes up about 70 percent of Benin’s export earnings, so the country’s economy is at risk of low levels of crop production.

The country’s emphasis on cotton has led to land degradation, making it even more difficult for small-scale Beninese farmers to earn a living. Monoculture and pesticide use damages the land’s fertility and reduces cotton and other crop production.

Eighty percent of Benin’s population earns a living through agriculture, and this puts millions of people in a vulnerable position. Farmers may face low rainfall in dry seasons and disastrous floods in wet seasons. Poor farmers may not be able to afford fertilizer, farm machinery or good seeds. All those things would improve crop yields and hence profits when used correctly.

Another obstacle for farmers is a lack of education on what is necessary for optimal crop growth. They may adhere to monoculture farming or plant seeds too close together when it is best to practice crop diversification and give plants enough room to grow.

Another answer to the question of why is Benin poor is low education rates. The literacy rate for people aged 15 and up is 38 percent.

Six years of free primary education is required in Benin, but around one in every four children does not complete it. Some children have to help financially support their families if their parents do not earn enough or a parent died from a disease such as HIV/AIDS, hepatitis A or malaria.

More than one million Beninese children are employed. They work in family farms, construction sites, small businesses, markets and more. According to the World Factbook, many families even send their children to work in wealthy households as servants. Children leaving school to work greatly reduces their chances of getting an education and, consequently, breaking the cycle of poverty.

Uncertain trade is another cause of poverty. Benin’s economy could benefit from increasing trade. Benin’s annual exports reach $1.8 billion, but it imports $2.6 billion, creating a trade deficit.

According to the World Bank, “Benin’s economy relies heavily on informal re-export and transit trade with Nigeria, which makes up roughly 20 percent of GDP.” Despite this, Benin’s trade with its neighbor Nigeria is not as high as it could be. Nigeria imposes import bans and high tariffs on goods ranging from used cars to cigarettes.

Benin is susceptible to market shocks because of its reliance on Nigeria’s much larger economy. Low oil prices and low growth in Nigeria indirectly affect Benin, according to the World Bank.

International cooperation is tackling the root causes of poverty in Benin. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations has taught thousands of farmers how to increase productivity by diversifying crops and implementing better agronomic practices.

Other programs in Benin aim to increase primary school enrollment to get as many children as possible on the path to education. The Global Partnership for education has grown the primary school completion rate from 40 to 54 percent in target districts and has trained more than 10,000 teachers.

Although Benin remains one of the world’s poorest countries, its economic outlook is improving. The government’s 2016 to 2021 action program is expected to boost the economy 6.2 percent in 2018. The plan aims to reduce poverty by focusing on the Benin’s agricultural potential, trade position and industrial sector. Maybe soon no one will have to ask: Why is Benin poor?

Kristen Reesor

Photo: Flickr


Centered between the countries of Nigeria and Togo, Benin resides on the coast of the Atlantic Ocean with a population of roughly 10 million. Education in Benin has been free for 10 years.

Benin has maintained a strong, democratic-style government since 1990 when it changed its name to the Republic of Benin. BBC News called the country “one of Africa’s most stable democracies.” Although Benin has a stable government, the country still faces plenty of issues.

Among these issues was the near-collapse of the economy in 1988, a 50 percent currency devaluation that caused inflation in 1994 and devastating floods that destroyed 55,000 homes, killed tens of thousands of livestock and displaced 680,000 people in 2010.

However, education in Benin has proved to be one of the bright spots of the nation’s domestic affairs.

Here are five facts about education in Benin:

  1. Education in Benin was declared free during an educational forum that took place in 2007. With free education, students are able to access Benin’s educational system that operates under 6-4-3-3-4 format. Students are taught in French, the primary language of the country, to start their educational journey by attending six years of primary school, followed by four years of junior high school, then three years senior high school, three years of a bachelor’s degree and finish with four years of a master’s degree. However, for students to pass junior high school, they must take the O-Level exam or Brevet d’Etudes du Premier Cycle: BEPC, and for students to pass senior high school, they must pass the A-level exam or Baccalauréat: BAC, which is the equivalent of a U.S. high school diploma.
  2. Education in Benin follows a numbered grading system. Similar to the letter-grading system, the number grading system ranges from 10 to 20 to determine a student’s level of classroom production. Averaging a 10 is good enough for a passing grade, 12 is a fairly good grade, 14-15 is a good grade, 16-17 is a very good grade and to score a 20 is excellent.
  3. Statistics of education in Benin demonstrate uneven gender enrollment, with the gross primary enrollment rate for boys at 88.4 percent opposed to 55.7 percent for girls, according to a survey conducted in 1996. Male students also maintain a better literacy rate between the ages of 15 and 24, with a 54.9 percent literacy rate, compared to female students who have a literacy rate of just 30.8 percent. The gap between male and female literacy rates worsens out of school, with the overall adult literacy at 40 percent, while only 25 percent of women are literate. Benin also ranks 35th out of 117 countries for having the most girls out of school, with 142,178 females not enrolled in primary or secondary school.
  4. State funding is the primary funding for education in Benin, and yet Benin saw a decline of the national budget towards educational spending between 1993 and 1999 when the percent of the national budget used for education dropped from 21.5 percent to 15.6 percent. However, during that same time span, primary education rose within the education budget from comprising 53 percent in 1993 to 60 percent in 1998.
  5. Education in Benin has also evolved into a variety of educational reforms. One of the earliest reforms took place in 1975 and was named a “new school” system, in hopes to democratize education, add more practical subjects to the curriculum and adapt to local conditions. Although the reform was beneficial for the first couple of years, the new school system reform was impacted by national and social crisis near the end of the 1980s that recorded a dropout rate of 31 percent in 1988 and 1989. Seven years later in 1996, the Government of Benin reconstructed the declaration on population policy. The impact of the revival of the national constitution was intended to support priorities in education, including progressively free-of-charge access to education, guaranteed equal opportunity for all and the fight against dropping out, especially for girls.

With all this said, education in Benin still faces an array of issues such as providing equal opportunity for education to women. Benin has made dramatic attempts to assure educational equality for all and needs to continue to put programs in place to ensure the future success of their educational system.

Patrick Greeley

Photo: Flickr

Hunger in Benin
Benin is a French-speaking nation in Western Africa that formed in 1960. The country has one of the most stable democracies in the entire continent of Africa. However, it is also one of the poorest and most severely undernourished nations both in Africa and in the world. To better understand the nation and how hunger impacts it, here are 10 facts about hunger in Benin.

10 Facts About Hunger in Benin

  1. In Benin, 11 percent of citizens do not have reliable access to nutritious food, while 34 percent have limited or poor food consumption.
  2. Out of the children in Benin aged six months to 59 months, 32 percent suffer from chronic malnutrition. Consequently, UNICEF states that “Undernutrition puts children at greater risk of dying from common infections, increases the frequency and severity of such infections and contributes to delayed recovery.” It can also lead to stunted growth and reduced performance in school.
  3. Benin ranks 21st out of 45 nations on the Hunger and Nutrition Commitment Index. This is an index that measures developing countries with alarming undernutrition rates on their commitment to addressing hunger through policy, spending and law.
  4. Nearly 10 million people in Benin survive on subsistence farming and are dependent on a stable climate to sustain their crops.
  5. The NGO Hunger Free World has begun leadership training called YEH in Benin. Thus, Benin citizens can learn about the importance of agriculture and how to engage with their communities.
  6. In 2011, Benin joined the Scaling Up Nutrition Movement. This is a movement designed to engage countries in the process of eradicating malnutrition and track their progress. Since then, substantial gains have been made towards reducing hunger in Benin. As of the end of 2016, Benin was halfway to meeting all of the SUN’s strategic goals.
  7. Benin’s former President, Thomas Boni Yayi, implemented The Strategic Plan for Food and Nutrition Development (PSDAN). The document aims to “[make] Benin a country where every individual has a satisfactory nutritional status.”
  8. Benin is part of the McGovern-Dole Food for Education Program. This program works to both reduce hunger and improve education by providing meals in Benin schools.
  9. In order to improve the agricultural outlook of Benin’s citizens and reduce the overall hunger in Benin, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations developed an Integrated Production and Pest Management Programme (IPPM Program). The IPPM is therefore working on “developing local farming capacity, improving food security and livelihoods and raising awareness.”
  10. The World Health Organization created an interactive tool to help visualize the strides Benin must take to continue improving nutrition.

The problems of malnutrition and hunger in Benin affect millions of its citizens every day. However, Benin is proving to be a resilient nation, as the country’s policymakers are committed to progress. They are also willing to work with international allies to step into a world of better nutrition for all.

– Adesuwa Agbonile

Photo: Flickr

The Strive for a Better Education in Benin
Over the past decade, issues with the system of education in Benin have been met and addressed with an increased sense of urgency by government officials.

The U.N. has set into place extensive measures directed at addressing the common problem of educational inequality within the country. As a result, the “Ten-Year Plan for the Development of Education” was created to ensure the implementation of these measures.

In the ten-year development plan, financial resources for education in Benin have been directed towards greater recruitment of teachers, technical and vocational training, tuition support and improvements in secondary education. Between 2006-2013, there was a 16.5 percent increase in public spending for education in Benin. Government officials are looking to continue increasing the spending budget for both primary and secondary education.

According to the Global Partnership for Education, Benin faces geographic and social inequalities due to a “high absenteeism of teachers and a lack of capacity to manage the education system overall.” Since 2013, government officials have implemented measures increasing the availability of education, funding research, advancing literacy of national languages and improving sector management.

The overall system of education in Benin will continue to advance due to the “2017-2025 Education Sector Plan Development Grant,” passed and approved in March of 2016 by the Global Partnership for Education. Totaling $428,794, the grant money will be used to create the strategy and analytical framework for the plan’s development.

Furthermore, because studies have shown that increased access to education can be a direct correlation of decreased child exploitation in developing countries, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has also been dedicated to helping towards the advancement of education in Benin. Some of the preventative measures implemented by UNICEF include, “establishing partnerships with community and religious leaders; providing furniture and school supplies; and upgrading schools through the provision of latrines and safe drinking water.”

UNICEF has also created a monopoly and trivia style board game called “Anaylse en Boite” that is specifically designed to teach children about their educational rights and how to better protect themselves from criminal exploitation when the opportunity for such exploitation arises.

Lael Pierce

Photo: Flickr

Diseases in Benin
Benin is a relatively stable democratic West African nation that lies between Togo and Nigeria. There are a number of diseases in Benin putting the health of its residents at serious risk. Malaria and meningococcal meningitis are among the top diseases in Benin. Both are potentially life-threatening for individuals who become infected.

The Fight Against Malaria

Malaria is a severe and life-threatening blood disease transmitted through the bite of the Anopheles mosquito. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), malaria is considered to be one of the high-risk diseases in Benin, affecting all areas of the country. As a result, it recommends that all potential travelers into the country get vaccinated prior to entering.

There are different mechanisms in place aimed at fighting against diseases in Benin. In 2005, the President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI) was created to help reduce the spread of malaria in particular. Researchers working in conjunction with PMI have found that malaria is currently the leading cause of health problems in Benin, and that it “accounts for 40 percent of outpatient consultations and 25 percent of all hospital admissions.” Consequently, families are forced to spend large amounts of money paying for treatments.

In response to this issue, PMI has been making progress in helping residents of Benin fight against malaria by providing residents with valuable resources such as trained healthcare workers, insecticide treatments, house-sprays and Rapid Diagnostic Tests. As of 2016, PMI has raised $155.2 million toward the effort.

The Fight Against Meningococcal Meningitis

In addition to malaria, meningococcal meningitis is another of the high-risk bacterial diseases in Benin. It is also common in other parts of sub-Saharan Africa.

Meningococcal meningitis causes inflammation of the brain and spinal cord. It is typically transferred via person-to-person contact. Some common symptoms associated with the disease are vomiting, headaches, neck stiffness and fever.

Furthermore, it has also been classified as one of the high-risk diseases in Benin, particularly during December through June. The CDC has recommended that persons traveling to the country during these months get vaccinated to help protect themselves from contracting the virus.

In response to this epidemic, the World Health Organization (WHO) has developed a strategy to help reduce the spread of meningococcal meningitis in Benin and surrounding countries. The WHO strategy consists of vaccinating everyone under 29 in the African meningitis belt with the MenA conjugate vaccine, and using “prompt and appropriate case management with reactive mass vaccination of populations not already protected through vaccination.”

Lael Pierce

Photo: Flickr

malnutrition_in_Benin
Malnutrition in Benin, like in many countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, is currently widespread. However, some experts have suggested the malnutrition rate can decrease if nutrition programs focus on education and community empowerment.

Malnutrition and Stunting

Malnutrition is defined by the World Food Programme as “a state in which the physical function of an individual is impaired to the point where he or she can no longer maintain adequate bodily performance process such as growth, pregnancy, lactation, physical work and resisting and recovering from disease.” Globally, it contributes to more than 50 percent of children’s deaths.

Researchers measure chronic malnutrition in terms of “stunting,” or low height for age. Other aspects of malnutrition include the presence or absence of edema, which is dependent upon the relationship between total calorie intake and protein intake. In addition, micronutrient deficiencies, particularly in iodine and vitamin A, characterize malnutrition, leading to growth problems in children.

Malnutrition in Benin

In Benin, roughly 4 in 10 children are chronically malnourished, according to the World Bank. In the north of the country, one UNICEF representative set the rate of severe malnutrition, which often requires immediate hospitalization, at 34.6 percent.

Thus, the problem is severe and threatens the lives of children each and every day. However, the task of reducing malnutrition in Benin faces many obstacles.

For one, 50 different languages are spoken throughout the country, limiting the scope that nutrition programs can realistically aim for in most cases. Also, many entrenched cultural beliefs induce malnutrition inadvertently, so medical personnel have expressed a need to replace myth with other forms of knowledge.

“The main cause of malnutrition is ignorance,” one nurse in North Benin said.

One myth holds that children who eat eggs become thieves. Moreover, it is culturally acceptable for a man to eat first and to leave whatever remains of his share for his wife and children.

The weapon against ignorance is education, which some experts argue must be community-driven in order to work around the country’s linguistic and cultural diversity.

Educational Programs in Benin

One such educational program is the Community Nutrition Education Project launched in 2012. Through this program, 12,607 grandmothers in various communities were taught how to promote the health of pregnant women and children. As important figures in their communities, these grandmothers are in prime positions to educate village members.

The lessons are not complicated. Village members are being taught how to use readily available foods to improve the nutrition of meals. For example, instead of feeding a child only millet, a mother could enrich the dish with soya, moringa or other local foods.

Organizations are working on a broader scale as well, but education remains a key aspect of their work. In 2013, the World Bank approved a payment of $28 million to secure nutrition services for hundreds of thousands of children and training for about 75,000 pregnant mothers and adolescents.

Focus on Cultural Factors

Certainly, structural factors are currently acting to keep malnutrition a problem in Benin. General food insecurity is high, with nearly 12% of food produced going to waste, and, as previously mentioned, the country’s diversity complicates the process of reform.

However, addressing the cultural factors leading to malnourishment can effectively reduce malnutrition in Benin, structural hindrances notwithstanding.

Ryan Yanke

Sources: UNICEF, World Bank 1, World Bank 2, Panapress, Sci Dev Net, University of Michigan
Photo: VECO