blockchain technology for rice farmers

In 2018, Oxfam, a global organization that works to end the injustice of poverty, introduced a Blockchain technology for rice farmers in Cambodia called Blockchain for Livelihood from Organic Cambodian Rice or, more simply, BlocRice. This blockchain technology will connect rice farmers in the Cambodian village of Reaksmei, in the Preah Vihear province, with other people in the supply chain to ensure that poor farmers get a fair deal.

Rice in Cambodia

Rice is Cambodia’s major crop with roughly 80 percent of Cambodian farmers cultivating rice. Many small-scale rice farmers lack the necessary information to negotiate prices and conditions with middlemen and others in the supply chain. Oxfam is hopeful that this pilot project, which will include 50 organic rice farmers, will expand to other provinces and varieties of farming.

While rice farming accounts for 25 percent of Cambodia’s economy, the average monthly income for these farmers is only $108. It is particularly tough when farmers do not have return customers or vehicles to take the product to a market. With these small-scale farmers struggling, the application of BlocRice will hopefully enhance their bargaining powers and selling prices.

Implementing Blockchain

Bitcoin is digital money that is stored in the digital wallet app on any smart device. Blockchain, a public list, records each transaction to make it traceable. No government issues blockchain, nor are banks required to manage accounts. This makes BlocRice a cheaper payment system with a transparent recording of transactions.

This project will focus on introducing the blockchain technology to rice farmers. In doing so, it will register all participants in the rice chain with a unique identification code. These include agricultural cooperatives, export and import companies, retailers and consumers. A contract between these actors will ensure proper payment and transparency. This connection between actors allows for a better chance for farmers to alleviate themselves from poverty.

The farmer will sell their rice through the cooperative called Reaksmey Lekkompos Kaksekor who then forward the rice to AmruRice, the exporter. AmruRice will then sell and ship the rice to SanoRice, the importer in the Netherlands. SanoRice will then make rice crackers out of the rice and sell it to retailers. The BlocRice application will allow farmers to ensure they get correct payments, are paid on time and that the conditions of the contracts are kept. Consumers are also able to see this data through the same app. The app provides transparency and traceability, allowing consumers to make informed decisions regarding fair production standards and conditions. As a result, the app helps contribute to fighting global poverty.

The Need for Smartphones

While the BlocRice project has helped Cambodian farmers, there is a downside. Access to smartphones presents one obstacle in bringing blockchain technology to rice farmers. Most farmers do not own smartphones, which are needed to access the BlocRice application. However, agricultural cooperatives, such as Reaksmey Lekkompos Kaksekor, do own smartphones that can be used to assist farmers to access the application.

While this pilot project was implemented from April 2018 to March 2019, the success could allow BlocRice to be expanded to other provinces and used with other crops as well. Regardless of any minor setbacks, BlocRice could be an important step in helping rice farmers in Cambodia out of poverty.

Andrea Rodriguez
Photo: Pixabay

the lingering effects of genocide
The causes of genocide are vast but include dehumanization, national crises and government power. In countries where there are deep grievances between groups, it is probable one group will ultimately be victimized by the other. Moreover, groups may blame each other for tragedies within their country. Plus, some governments constrain their power, limiting the fair representation of its people.

Rwanda and Cambodia offer two case studies of genocide that occurred in the last 50 years. Additionally, both populations combated realities of poverty and inequity even before the atrocities. Halting any development these countries may have experienced, genocide left lingering effects in Rwanda and Cambodia. Currently, both countries face hardship. However, their peoples are busy rebuilding their environments to sustain a neutral state wherein cultural, political and economic growth can flourish.

Rwanda

Rwanda lost 800,00 people during the genocide in 1994. Since the genocide, Rwanda is trying to develop services and opportunities that were lost. The drive behind this redevelopment has come from tea and coffee exports, foreign aid and the tourism industry.

Rwanda has always depended heavily on agricultural production for family consumption and state revenues. But rural poverty and land issues created a dissatisfied climate before the genocide. This is still seen through rising land inequality and decreasing possibilities for income outside of the farm sector. And both are lingering effects of genocide and threaten economic stability. Subsequently, commodity prices have dropped rapidly, especially in 1989. Then, government revenues from coffee exports declined from $144 million in 1985 to $30 million in 1993.

New Growth

However, according to the World Bank, Rwanda is developing its private sector to ensure more economic growth and reduce the lingering effects of genocide. Since 2001, Rwanda’s economic growth was bordering an average of 8 percent. In 2010, the World Bank named the country as the top reformer for business. After two successful Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Strategies from 2008 to 2018, Rwanda’s per capita gross domestic product annually grew around 5 percent.

The Rwanda Development Organization has ongoing projects that empower the Rwandan people to help improve socio-economic development in their communities. One project includes the Farm to Market Alliance. FtMA provides institutional support to 24,000 farmers among 80 cooperatives. The project has sustained many small farms and created support groups. So far, 20,000 farmers have been trained by other farmers to learn the best farming practices, like post-harvesting and handling.

Cambodia

In Cambodia, the Khmer Rouge genocide period took place from 1975 to 1979. Now, the country is still grappling with the past. The Cambodian People’s Party took power at the end of the genocide, instilling conservative values. Currently, there is still a generation of political leaders making it difficult for communities to have open discussions about the Khmer Rouge genocide. As such, it is hard to create strategies for growth and healing.

Legacies of Poverty

Poverty in Cambodia remains widespread, largely due to the lingering effects of genocide and the unfair distribution of wealth. The genocide led to the death of much of Cambodia’s educated class. Additionally, the majority of surviving Cambodians were farmers, subsequently unable to sustain the services affected by the genocide.

In rural areas, poverty is still a lingering effect of genocide because of ongoing corruption and the lack of government help. Similar to Rwanda, Cambodia faces challenges in jump-starting modern agriculture and irrigation techniques. This has made it difficult for Cambodia to keep up with developed countries.

Nevertheless, the future does appear hopeful according to statistics. General poverty rates in Cambodia have decreased from 50 percent to 35 percent between the mid-1990s to the mid-2000s. As a result, many provinces have seen improvements. Development strategies and nongovernmental organizations have done a lot to assist Cambodian communities.

Voluntary Service Overseas is one such NGO that has worked to restore developmental growth in Cambodia by improving the education system, quality of teaching and people’s livelihoods. It works alongside government entities to research inclusive education policies. In 2015, VSO supported the training of 540 senior education officials. This creates a sustainable opportunity for more cohesive management of schools and contributes to future economic development.

A Shared Experience

After the genocide in both Rwanda and Cambodia, a majority of the population was comprised of young people. A large part of the healing process has been to educate younger generations about the country’s history and why knowledge is so vital in making sure genocide never happens again.

Both countries have tried tackling the skills gap that could greatly affect the future of the country’s growth in economics, politics and education. Enrolling more children in school proves to be a successful strategy in combating poverty. However, these children must also attain employment opportunities as adults, too. Creating these foundations will reduce the lingering effects of genocide and give future leaders the resources to build better lives not only for themselves but for their country as a whole.

Melina Benjamin
Photo: Flickr

Women’s Health care in CambodiaThe Southeast Asian nation of Cambodia is currently experiencing its worst in maternal mortality rates. In Cambodia, maternal-related complications are the leading cause of death in women ages 15 to 46. The Minister of Health has created several partnerships with organizations such as USAID to help strengthen its healthcare system. Here are five facts about women’s health care in Cambodia.

Top 5 Facts About Women’s Health Care in Cambodia

  1. Health Care Professionals and Midwives
    USAID has provided a helping hand when it comes to educating healthcare professionals and midwives. Since USAID’s partnership with the Ministry of Health, USAID has helped raise the percentage of deliveries assisted by skilled professionals from 32 percent to 71 percent. The Ministry of Health was also able to implement the Health Sector Strategic Plan to improve reproductive and women’s maternal health in Cambodia.
  2. Health Care Facilities
    Between 2009 and 2015, the number of Comprehensive Emergency Obstetric and Newborn Care (CEmONC) facilities increased from 25 to 37. With more access and an increase in healthcare facilities, 80 percent of Cambodian women are giving birth in health care facilities.
  3. Postpartum Care
    The Royal Government of Cambodia renewed the Emergency Obstetric & Newborn Care (EmONC) Improvement Plan and extended the Fast Track Initiative Roadmap for Reducing Maternal and Newborn Mortality to 2020. This aims to improve women’s health care in Cambodia to improve the lives of women living with postpartum depression. It is also used to improve newborn care and deliveries.
  4. Obstetric Care
    Obstetric care has improved rapidly. According to a 2014 Cambodia Demographic and Health Survey, 90 percent of mothers receive obstetric care two days after giving birth, and three-quarters of women receive care three hours after. Intensive obstetric care has helped drop Cambodia’s maternal mortality rate significantly. In 2014, Cambodia’s maternal mortality rates decreased from 472 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2005 to 170 deaths per 100,000 live births.
  5. U.N. Women
    U.N. Women is working closely to help address the AIDS epidemic in Cambodia. The organization’s efforts to reduce the epidemic focus on protection and prevention. In 2003, 3 percent of Cambodian women reported being tested for AIDS. It has also been observed women in urban areas are more likely to get tested than those in rural areas. Ultimately, Cambodia has set a goal to eradicate AIDS from the country by 2020 through prevention and protection.

Cambodia has seen much economic growth over the years, but the money provided for health care is minimal. Consequently, it is difficult for the government to provide all services. However, there have been great strides in improving women’s healthcare in Cambodia. By fighting to better the lives of women, the Cambodian government has set a goal to establish universal health care by 2030.

Andrew Valdovinos
Photo: Flickr

Improving Mental Health in CambodiaThere are two main factors that have lead to the need for improving mental health issues in Cambodia today.

First, is the Khmer Rouge. The Khmer Rouge was a genocide in the late 1970s that ultimately killed four million Cambodians. The ruthless regime of the Khmer Rouge left many survivors with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) from witnessing such horrific crimes against humanity.

Second, is the high rates of poverty that plague Cambodia. The mass destruction of Cambodia’s infrastructure during the Khmer Rouge left the country poverty stricken, losing decades of development in a just few years. As a result, living in poverty poses itself as a large risk factor for mental illnesses, causing many Cambodians without PTSD from the genocide to still be at a high risk of struggling with mental health.

Specifically targeting educated people and those unable to work, the Khmer Rouge left the country with only a few dozen medical professionals by the genocide’s end. Moreover, it has taken decades for Cambodia to develop the organizations necessary to combat such deeply-rooted mental health struggles. Here are four organizations improving mental health in Cambodia today.

4 Organizations Improving Mental Health in Cambodia

  1. Transcultural Psychological Organization (TPO Cambodia)
    TPO Cambodia recognizes the gap between mental health services needed and the mental health services provided in Cambodia. Through recognizing this gap, TPO Cambodia has developed an extensive array of mental health services. For instance, services are aimed at community building, raising awareness and providing psychological treatment. By focusing on the cultural context of Cambodia, TPO Cambodia aims to develop culturally aware treatment options for patients. Some of the many services available at TPO Cambodia are:

    • Offering the training of already-established community leaders to be key mental health resources for the community
    • Trauma treatment
    • Counseling and therapy
    • Self-help groups for victims of sexual assault and of the Khmer Rouge
    • Protection of children
  2. Cambodian National Program for Mental Health
    Secondly, training mental health professionals are just the beginning for the Cambodian National Program for Mental Health. With its primary goal being to support the Cambodian Ministry of Health, this program continues to help increase the number of properly-trained mental health professionals in Cambodia. This is so foundational as Cambodia needs more trained mental health professionals to properly address the mental health needs of the country. In addition to training mental health professionals, the Cambodian National Program for Mental Health:

    1. Provides mental health services to 23 out of 24 Cambodian provinces
    2. Introduced computerized documentation for client’s files
    3. Supports the primary psychiatric facility in Phnom Penh
    4. Develops the Psychosocial Rehabilitation Centre
  3. Center for Child and Adolescent Mental Health (CCAMH)
    Also dedicated to supporting the mental health struggles of children and their families, CCAMH strives to help children in the community, at school and at their center. So, by providing counseling and awareness-building services at school and in the community, CCAMH’s primary resources are at their center. For example, some of the services available at the center are:

    • Play therapy
    • Behavior therapy
    • Psychosocial Education
    • Multi-Model Therapeutic Intervention
    • Individual and family counseling
  4. Social Services of Cambodia (SSC)
    Finally, the primary focus of SSC is to dismantle the negative stigmas associated with mental health professionals in Cambodia. For example, SSC aims to change the negative public opinions by spreading messages busting stigma-centric myths about mental health professionals to schools, government officials and the public. Additionally, SSC encourages future university students to get involved in social work and recognize the value of social work professionals.

Overall, with very little allocated to mental health services in Cambodia’s public health budget, government-run mental health programs are severely underfunded. Therefore, compiled with the severe stigma against psychiatric help in Cambodia, the discouraging of many health professionals to go into the mental health field leave Cambodia with a monetary and human resource deficit to properly manage nationwide mental health struggles. Fortunately, there are these four organizations improving mental health in Cambodia to help pave the way towards a solution.

– Amy Dickens
Photo: Flickr

TPO CambodiaThe Khmer Rouge was a genocide in Cambodia that resulted from a civil war, leaving 4 million dead and millions more traumatized. The destruction of Cambodia’s infrastructure during the Khmer Rouge has greatly contributed to poverty levels in the country and the struggle to rebuild the country. Since the Khmer Rouge specifically targeted doctors and educated people (leaving the country devoid of healthcare professionals), it took decades for mental health treatment to be available. Thankfully, organizations like the Transcultural Psychological Organization (TPO Cambodia) have emerged to help combat the negative mental health impacts of the Khmer Rouge and poverty. Here are 4 ways TPO Cambodia provides mental health aid.

4 Ways TPO Cambodia Provides Mental Health Aid

  1. Raising Awareness of Mental Health Among Locals: TPO Cambodia builds upon already established relationships to develop new mental health leaders in communities. It does this by training already established leaders in Cambodian communities in the basics of psychosocial education and how to refer those in need. This strategy is respectful of Cambodian social structures while, at the same time, raises awareness of mental health. TPO Cambodia conducts various mental health awareness programs in schools, pagodas and on the radio. These programs have been proven to increase understanding of psychosocial issues in families and leave people empowered to know how to take action to aid their mental health.Raising awareness of the importance of mental health also helps prevent mental health issues by increasing mental wellness practices. One story highlighted a man who was traumatized when attacked by robbers. The event left the man incredibly violent and, eventually, his family had to chain him up in fear of their own lives. Once the family learned of TPO Cambodia, they were able to provide him the treatment he needed, allowing him to heal and be free from chains.
  2. Building Communities: One positive impact TPO Cambodia sees from increased mental health awareness has been stronger communities. These two aspects build upon one another, the larger community raises more awareness and raised awareness strengthens the community. Trained individuals facilitate self-help groups, providing a community space for people to problem solve on shared struggles, share personal experiences and feel more socially connected. Some community programs currently available through TPO Cambodia are healing for victims of the Khmer Rouge, mental health for sexual assault victims, promoting gender equality and working for the protection of children.
  3. Providing Psychological Treatment Services: TPO Cambodia is staffed with experienced clinical professionals that offer a variety of mental health services for psychosocial, psychological and psychiatric conditions. Services available are decided based on an individual’s needs. Some of the services available at TPO Cambodia are trauma treatment, psychiatric assessment and treatment and counseling and therapy. It also provides help for issues such as insomnia, alcoholism and depression.
  4. Research Projects: All research projects TPO Cambodia conducts specifically focus on the cultural context of Cambodia. Through research projects, TPO Cambodia has developed a culturally aware version of “Testimonial Therapy” for traumatized victims of the Khmer Rouge. This therapy aids in helping victims find closure and to associate traumas with a more positive state of mind.  The various research projects TPO Cambodia is involved in aims to gain a better understanding of how traumatic events have impacted its people as well as understand better how this information can improve TPO Cambodia’s current therapeutic practices.

With a majority of mental health issues worldwide residing in impoverished communities, mental health issues need to be actively considered in the eradication of poverty. Living in poverty presents itself as a huge risk factor for many mental health struggles. TPO Cambodia’s method of incorporating the Cambodian cultural context into every part of their work has shown to positively impact communities while maintaining a crucial understanding and respect of cultural norms. These 4 ways TPO Cambodia provides mental health aid show how organizations can work to end the vicious cycle of poverty and mental health in their own communities.

Amy Dickens

Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Cambodia
Currently, Cambodia has the 122nd highest ranking in the world in terms of life expectancy. The men in the country are projected to live an average of 67.3 years and the women are projected to live 71.2 years. The following top 10 facts about life expectancy in Cambodia will provide a better understanding and insight into how the Cambodian people live and what mostly affects their lives.

Top 10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Cambodia

  1. According to the World Health Organization, Cambodia is one of the six countries that has made the greatest progress when it comes to raising the country’s life expectancy. Cambodia came forth on the list, behind Maldives, Ethiopia and Liberia. Since 1990, Cambodia has increased its life expectancy rate from the previous average of 54 years to 72 years in 2012.
  2. Cambodia has also managed to lower its mortality rate. In 1990, Cambodia had a mortality rate of 116 per 1,000 live births. This rate was lowered to 40 per 1,000 live births by 2012.
  3. Cambodia’s increase of funding of health organizations from GDP has aided the rise of the country’s life expectancy. In previous years, Cambodian people have had limited access to quality health care, which was primarily due to the country’s political instability. This led to an increase in major health problems, such as malnutrition, malaria, tuberculosis and diarrheal diseases.
  4. Cambodia has struggled with an unbalance in the country’s age structure, due to a genocide that occurred in the country from 1975 to 1979 during the Khmer Rouge years. Because of this, about 63 percent of Cambodia’s population was under 30 years old, with around half of the country’s population younger than 15 years old.
  5. Cambodia has never had a McDonald’s. While there have been many countries, such as Iceland and Bolivia, that have managed to drive McDonald’s out of their countries, Cambodia remains one of the few countries that McDonald’s has never had a presence in. Cambodians have plenty of other popular American fast-food chain restaurants, such as Burger King and KFC. They even have their own version of McDonald’s, known as “Lucky Burger.” However, this lack of presence from such a major fast-food chain restaurant has helped Cambodian citizens to maintain their commendable national diet.
  6. The insects featured in many Cambodian dishes may have better health benefits than was previously thought. Studies have proven that eating bugs could combat obesity, which plays a significant role in determining how long a person might live. Insects are also reported to be low in carbohydrates and fat content while being rich in protein, healthy fats, iron and calcium. This strange eating habit has indirectly influenced life expectancy in the country.
  7. Cambodian diet mostly consists of fish, vegetables and rice. This type of diet provides people with many kinds of vitamins and minerals as well as doubling down on healthy fats and lean protein. For these reasons, researchers have referred to this type of diet as being one of the healthiest diets to follow.
  8. In 2014, Cambodia’s increased growth in its rice market led to a massive decrease in its poverty rate. For the country that previously had a poverty rate of 47.8 percent in 2007, Cambodia managed to significantly lower this rate to an astounding 13.5 percent in 2014, mainly due to the rice exports.
  9. Cambodia increased its productivity in rice markets through raised prices and a better transportation system. This provides a good example of how Cambodia managed to improve its economic structure, particularly for its rural population. Cambodia has been recorded to have one of the fastest-growing rates for its economy in Asia. For the past decade, Cambodia has had an average growth rate of more than 6 percent.
  10. More than 90 percent of Cambodians were reported to live in impoverished rural areas. These people are heavily dependent on agriculture and are directly affected, as seen with the improved rice market productivity, by changes made in Cambodia’s economic system. Improved conditions in the country can have a huge effect on life expectancy in Cambodia, as this can lead to a separation from the current status of a low-income country.

In many ways, these top 10 facts about life expectancy in Cambodia show how far the nation has come in an attempt to recover from the severe consequences it has suffered because of the instability and corruption of its past political regimes. At the same token, some of these facts are an example of opportunities that the country can use to continue its growth and to achieve the goal of alleviating poverty.

– Jordan Melinda Washington

Photo: Flickr

The Connection Between Sand Mining and Poverty in Cambodia
The practice of sand mining has spelt disaster for fishing communities in Cambodia. For more than a decade, sand mining in Cambodia has contributed to the collective poverty of fishing communities as well as displacement. Although Cambodia officially banned the export of sand in 2017, the connection between sand mining and poverty in Cambodia is a lasting one.

Southeast Asian Expansion

Singapore has enlarged its landmass by almost a quarter its size since its independence in 1965, going from 224 to 277 square miles. Singapore considers reclamation a key strategy for accommodating its growing urban population. In fact, the country has artificially expanded the size of its land mass with sand, thus making the Southeast Asian nation one of the world’s largest sand importers.

After Indonesia, Malaysia and Vietnam grew tired of feeding Singapore’s insatiable appetite for sand; sand mining in Cambodia then took off in 2007 after Indonesia banned sand exports in the same year.

Cambodia, Poverty and Sand Mining

In 2007, the government of Cambodia begun granting private companies concessions to mine rivers for sand. From 2007 to 2017, the U.N. reports that Singapore imported more than 72 million tons of sand from Cambodia. In 2015, Cambodia was number 7 on the top 20 list of sand exporting countries, to the tune of more than $53 million.

A practice called ‘dredging’ sucks up sand a few feet below the marine floor, disturbing the water. Even temporary increases in turbidity interfere with spawning and suffocate coral reefs. Over-dredging in waterways can lower stream bottoms and disrupt the natural sedimentary processes, leading to the erosion of riverbanks.

Environmental Impacts

Environmental groups report that the dredging industry has threatened several species of endangered dolphins, turtles, otters and mangrove forests. Sand mining in Cambodia has also led to the destruction of Cambodia’s only natural protection against riverbank erosion, rising sea levels, tsunamis and hurricanes.

The connection between sand mining and poverty in Cambodia is seamless. The known dredging concessions were in Koh Kong and Preah Sihanoak provinces on Cambodia’s western shore. People in the fishing villages were not consulted by the companies or informed by local authorities before operations began. In the village of Koh Sralau, sand dredging has ravaged the ecosystem that thousands of families depend on for their livelihood.

Detrimental Dredging

According to Global Witness, every month in 2010 dredgers extracted more than 850,000 tons of sand from Koh Kong province alone. In 2010, residents of Koh Sralau told Global Witness that the fish catch had declined by 50 percent since the dredging ships arrived. In 2016, residents of Koh Sralau told the Thomas Reuters Foundations that the sand dredging industry had sent their once prosperous fishing community into poverty. One man said that before the Vietnamese sand dredgers occupied the area, he could expect to earn $50 a day fishing for crab; alternatlely, in 2016 he was only seeing $10 and was unable to afford to send his children to school.

Sand mining in Koh Sralau has incurred a wave of displacement. Since the sand dredging began, every family in Koh Sralau has lost a family member, which forces such people to migrate to other places and other countries to find work. People are quite literally losing the land they live on — banks along the rivers in both provinces have become so eroded that people have lost their homes, farms and shops due to landslides.

River Reclamation & Ban on Sand

After years of community organizing and protests by environmental groups, the fishing communities of Cambodia have their rivers back. In July 2017, Cambodia placed a permanent ban on sand for construction and sand mud exports. In addition to this good news for the fishing communities of Koh Kong and Preah Sihanoak, sand from Cambodia will also no longer be sold to Singapore, putting Southeast Asia in a stronger position for environmental and economic sustainability.

– Sasha Kramer

Photo: Flickr

Private Sector Key to Eliminating Malaria in Cambodia
Having already made substantial progress in the effort to eradicate malaria, Cambodia is one of the 17 countries in Southeast Asia looking to continue finding solutions to this problem and putting an end to this disease by 2025. The strategy of eliminating malaria in Cambodia hinges on a joint effort between the public sector and the private sector. With proposed solutions made by this collaboration, Cambodia is on the road to eliminating the disease by its projected period.

Malaria in Cambodia Numbers

In Cambodia, 1 million people become infected with malaria every year. Despite this high number of infections, there has been substantial progress made in working to find solutions to eradicating malaria. For example, in 2015, Youyou Tu received The Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine for her discovery of artemisinin, a type of anti-malarial medicine that is being used today.

While efforts have been made in eradicating malaria in Cambodia, there is still a lot that needs to be done in order to achieve this goal. Of the 1 million people who become affected by malaria, around 1.5 percent and 10 percent of people that are located in distant provinces die. The parasite responsible for these deaths is the Plasmodium falciparum. To prevent the occurrence and spread of this disease, early intervention with artemisinin-based combination therapy (ACT) is the key. Yet, distribution of antimalarial medicines remains a challenge. While there are immediate and positive effects of ACT therapy, many people are not able to receive this medicine.

PSI/Cambodia

One organization that working on ending malaria in Cambodia is Population Services International/Cambodia (PSI/Cambodia). The purpose of this initiative is to work on health issues caused by HIV/AIDS, malaria and reproductive health of women who are going to give birth. In 2003, a program of PSI/Cambodia started to offer malaria treatment with the help of private clinics, pharmacies and shops in many parts of rural Cambodia. Of total Cambodia’s population, the poor are particularly at risk of getting the disease. As shown by this initiative, the private sector remains crucial for ending malaria in Cambodia.

Solutions to Ending Malaria in Cambodia

To meet the need for antimalarial medicines, the Global Fund, an international partnership organization, has proposed some essential solutions by the public sector working with the private sector for eradicating malaria in Cambodia. The first is to make sure there is access to effective antimalarial medicines that the private sector provides. This proposal also means the dispose of fake antimalarial drugs that are currently in the market. In addition, this means also the disposal of antimalarial drugs that do not meet the national guidelines.

Secondly, the report of the Global Fund urges organizations in the private sector to make sure they provide effective diagnostic testing. Lastly, the Global Fund recommends that there is widespread access to affordable antimalarial medicines for eradicating malaria in Cambodia, in order to allow for those living on less than $1.25 a day to purchase afford this life-saving treatment.

One way to achieve these proposals is subsidizing antimalarial medicines in order to allow consumers to be able to buy them. Another way to increase distribution of antimalarial medicine is through social marketing. In addition to making sure there is an effective treatment at a cost that people can afford, these same two strategies can be used for diagnostic testing.

With much progress having been made to end malaria in Cambodia, there is room for more improvement in order to reach the goal of eradicating the disease by 2025. With more joint effort between the public sector and private sector through subsidizing prices of antimalarial medicine, Cambodia can move one step closer to eradicating malaria.

– Daniel McAndrew-Greiner
Photo: Flickr

Student Organizations Can Improve Global Health
Many of the health crises in the world today are not only preventable but often man-made. However, disease outbreaks, conflict-created health emergencies and inefficient healthcare systems continue into 2019. Though there are very real threats to global health, there are also organizations working tirelessly to tackle these global health challenges. The efforts of internationally-focused college clubs, like GlobeMed at the University of Denver and Global Medical Training at the University of California, Berkeley, demonstrate that student organizations can improve global health.

GlobeMed at the University of Denver

GlobeMed at the University of Denver started in 2011 and is one of 50 college chapters across the U.S. The broader organization focuses on health disparities across the world by encouraging each chapter to partner with a grassroots health organization to work on local community health projects. GlobeMed at DU partners with Buddhism for Social Development Action (BSDA) in Kampong Cham, Cambodia, an organization started by Buddhist monks with the intention of bettering their community.

Jakob Allen, a Global Health Unit Coordinator for GlobeMed at DU, told The Borgen Project that their co-founders, Victor Roy and Peter Luckow, “realized that the key to sustainable project implementation was to listen and form a relationship with the local community. Too many NGOs today do not assume the population they are working with knows what is best for their community; GlobeMed at DU works to shatter this fallacy by working with our partners to find out what the community believes to be the best solution,” said Allen. “We then work to help make their visions a reality.”

How GlobeMed at DU Helps

Currently, GlobeMed at DU has two active microloan income generation projects, Chicken Raising Project (CRP) and Financing Futures (FF). The money generated by GlobeMed at DU goes towards financing these current projects, which were decided upon by BSDA with input from the community, according to Allen.

The beneficiaries of CRP are families with at least one member living with HIV/AIDS. Allen told The Borgen Project that the goal is to provide each family with a loan to purchase chickens and supplies, “thus enabling sick beneficiaries to cover their own medical transportation costs and receive appropriate treatment.” For the Financing Futures project, the beneficiaries are families with school-aged children. The intention of this project is to provide families with a microloan to start or expand a current business. The reduced cost to run the business encourages families to send the children to school.

Daniel Rinner, a Global Health Unit Coordinator for GlobeMed at DU, told The Borgen Project it is extremely important for GlobeMed at DU that health is not thought of solely in terms of medicine and healthcare institutions. “We also have to consider the social determinants of health: why certain health problems exist in the locations and communities that they do,” said Rinner. “We’ve had chapter meetings on how we can analyze gun violence as a public health issue and how Puerto Rico’s economic and political circumstances coincided with Hurricane Maria to create a public health disaster in our own country, for example,” Rinner added.

The ability to think critically regarding the larger dynamics of globalization and poverty and then utilize this knowledge in local communities is one of the reasons student organizations can improve global health.

Global Medical Training: University of California, Berkeley

Another example of how student organizations can improve global health is Global Medical Training (GMT) at the University of California, Berkeley. GMT is a national organization offering the opportunity to go to Latin American countries and experience “hands-on” clinical work for college students interested in policy or health care careers, according to Angela H. Kwon, President of U.C. Berkeley’s GMT chapter.

Andrew Paul Rosenzweig, Vice President of U.C. Berkeley’s GMT chapter, told The Borgen Project their goal is to reach communities with little access to healthcare. “Many Latin American countries’ health care is focused in populated cities, so we provide more rural communities with these resources,” said Rosenzweig.

In addition to providing healthcare resources to rural Latin American countries, GMT at U.C. Berkeley focuses on implementing public health and sustainability projects. “We recognize the limitations of being in a host country for only a week at a time…[so] the goal of these [public health] projects is prevention rather than treatment,” said Rosenzweig. “Educating individuals on how to live healthier lives can have tremendous impacts on not only their own life but the lives of their family and community.” GMT has worked with rural Latin American communities to teach the significance of healthy eating, reproductive health, dental hygiene and hypertension.

GMT: A Piece of a Larger Movement

When asked whether the “hands-on” approach of GMT at U.C. Berkeley has been successful in creating change in Latin American countries, Kwon told The Borgen Project that this “would be an overstatement. It’s only a very tiny step and the beginning [of] a bigger movement, which is sustainability and health equity.” Though Kwon stated that week-long trips to rural areas do not create immediate or lasting effects, she claimed “it’s a start and any contribution can help. It’s like a ripple effect.”

Kwon added, “Of course, as college students, our knowledge of medicine is limited but…we’re educating future practitioners or professionals about global health and sustainability. Although cliché, we’re making a difference in the patient’s day by providing them with answers, medication and showing them that we care.”

GlobeMed at DU and GMT at U.C. Berkeley’s efforts, with their dedication to education and prevention, understanding of the larger dynamics of poverty, and care for international communities, are a perfect example on how student organizations can improve global health.

– Kara Roberts
Photo: Flickr

poverty and dictatorship
Among the 10 dictatorship countries profiled, poverty is endemic. Poverty alleviation in these 10 dictatorship countries is in some cases associated with human rights abuses, violent crackdowns on the political opposition and indigenous people. In the last two decades, however, some of these countries have moved towards embracing democracy, which has brought an influx of government institutions, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and foreign investment working to promulgate poverty alleviation.

The State of Poverty in 10 Dictatorship Countries

  1. Cambodia – In June of 2018, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen was officially qualified as a military dictator by Human Rights Watch. Through an environment of fear, Cambodia has been littered with human rights abuses, crackdowns on the opposition, coercion and repression of the media. In September of 2018, the United Nations Development Program stated that 35 percent of all Cambodians are still poor regardless of the decline in the Multidimensional Poverty Index. In 2006, the Ministry of Planning established the IDPoor Programme to guide government services and NGOs to provide target services and assistance to the poorest households. As of December 2017, The IDPoor Programme has assisted 13 million people and has covered 90 percent of Cambodians.
  2. Cameroon – Current Prime Minister, Paul Biya, seized control of Cameroon from his fellow despotic predecessor in 1982. Biya has since ruled the central African country with an iron fist. In 2014, 37.5 percent of the people were living in poverty. However, a development NGO called Heifer Cameroon has been playing a positive role in alleviating the strains of poverty for Cameroon’s most poor and vulnerable communities. Heifer Cameroon has assisted 30,000 families by spurring job creation among the rural poor through focusing on the dairy industry along with other livestock.
  3. Eritrea – Eritrea gained its independence from Ethiopia in 1993. The President of Eritrea, Isaias Afwerki, took power after its independence and has since entrapped his citizens in a cloud of fear. Furthermore, the nation was rocked by internal war, drought and famine. According to estimates of The World Bank, 69 percent of Eritrea’s population lives below the poverty line. Despite these conditions, Eritrea has drastically improved its public health conditions. Indeed since its liberation, life expectancy has increased by 14 years to 63 years. And over 70 percent of the population now has access to clean water, compared to just 15 percent in 1993.
  4. Ethiopia – In 2000, Ethiopia had one of the highest rates of poverty in the world, but by 2011, the poverty rate had fallen by 14 percent. In 2018, Ethiopia became Africa’s fastest growing economy in the sub-Saharan African region. However, some of the country’s development schemes have been wildly unpopular, such as the mass land-grab that is displacing Ethiopians so the government can lease out the land to foreign investors. On the other hand, some developments have actually made improvements in average household health, education and living standards.
  5. Madagascar – Madagascar has experienced a long period of political instability since its independence in the 1960s. Current President Hery Rajaonarimampianina was democratically elected in 2014. Rajaonarimampianina has prioritized recovering Madagascar’s relationship with foreign investment agencies, like The World Bank, IMF and The African Union. Unfortunately, in 2018, 75 percent of Madagascar’s population are still living under the poverty line.
  6. Myanmar – From 1966 to 2016, Myanmar existed under a military dictatorship that bore multiple wars spurred out of hatred and persecution of Rohingya Muslims and Christians. The crackdown and ethnic cleansing created a major refugee crisis. Today, Myanmar is reportedly inching towards democracy, but the military, headed by Gen. Than Shwe, still has major sway. In 2015, 35 percent of the population of Myanmar lived in poverty.
  7. Rwanda – Rwandan President Paul Kagame’s regime is often associated with maintaining peace and stability since the Rwandan genocide in 1994. However, critics of Kagame cite numerous human rights abuses and fear that the President is leading the country towards dictatorship. Still, Rwanda has taken major strides in addressing and decreasing the poverty rate. Between 2000 and 2010, the poverty rate declined by 23.8 percent. Recent economic growth within the country has been evenly distributed and pro-poor, with the majority of the Rwandan population benefiting from this economic growth.
  8. Sudan – President al-Bashir came to power in 1989 and reigned with a brutal dictatorship in Sudan until his exile in 2015. Poverty in Sudan is endemic. In 2018, 2.8 million were in need of humanitarian aid and 4.8 million were food insecure. Such high rates of poverty engender low literacy levels, crumbling infrastructure, little to no access to health services and high rates of food insecurity.
  9. Tunisia – President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali headed Tunisia’s dictatorship until 2011 when he was ousted by a people’s revolution. However, that stability was maintained by the military, which performed countless human rights abuses. However, poverty reduction strategies have rung successful as the poverty rate in Tunisia fell by 10 percent from 2000 to 2015.
  10. Zimbabwe – Robert Mugabe, who was the President of Zimbabwe for 37 years until 2017, had long been seen as a dictator and is attributed by The Economist as “ruining” Zimbabwe. Mugabe’s policies led to hyperinflation and an infrastructure system in disrepair. Build Zimbabwe Alliance claims that 72 percent of the population still lives under the poverty line. The main causes of poverty in Zimbabwe are the economic recession of 2008 and global warming’s impact on agriculture.

These 10 dictatorship countries have taken strides in increasing access to education, healthcare and economic growth. Such programs have been most successful in regards to pro-poor poverty reduction. The political outlook of some of these countries is improving, but there is still a lot of work needed to improve poverty in all of the countries listed.

– Sasha Kramer

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