Education in Africa A new education company, Bridge International, is transforming the landscape of education in Africa. Bridge improves education through technology and data analytics. The goal is not only to provide universal education to communities in need but also to use data gathered from thousands of schools to improve administration.

Bridge works to expand educational access. Worldwide there are 263 million children not in school. Bridge improves education for roughly 250,000 children living under what the World Bank defines as extreme poverty.

Beyond a lack of access to education, the problem in many African countries is the poor quality of education. In many countries, there is little infrastructure to ensure accountability needed to provide adequate education. A recent World Bank report stated that the average teacher absentee rate in Uganda was 56 percent and 47 percent in Kenya. Additionally, 67 percent of Kenyan government school teachers cannot pass exams based on the curriculum that they teach.

Many schools in Africa have to deal with communities in which literacy is the least of their concerns because famine, disease and malnourishment are prevalent. This means that generations have been unable to obtain a solid educational foundation. Many children go through school, but often not even learning to read.

Bridge improves education in Africa through innovative technology. Bridge teachers use wireless devices to record both teacher and student attendance. Through this Bridge has achieved an almost 100 percent teacher attendance rate. The “teacher computers” also track lesson pace, assess student scores and measure pupil comprehension. The devices free teachers up from administrative tasks so that they can focus on teaching and helping students who are struggling. The devices also send back data to be analyzed by Bridge administrators for a better educational product.

In Kenya, the 2016 average standardized test scores were 44 percent. However, the average standardized test score for a Bridge student was 59 percent. A recent study by Pencils of Promise, the University of Liberia, the Ministry of Education of Liberia and Bridge demonstrated that after four months there was a clear trend of improved learning among Bridge students. Moreover, after four years at Bridge, the average child’s test scores increase to 74 percent.

Recently, Bridge has partnered with the government of Nigeria to grant one million young people with coding skills. It has partnered with the Liberian government on an initiative to improve public education across the country. It has been proven that if given the correct government clearance, Bridge improves education in Africa.

Bruce Truax

Photo: Flickr

Central African Republic's Poverty Rate
The Central African Republic (CAR) is a country located in the middle of Africa. It is bordered by Chad, Cameroon and South Sudan. Despite its supply of gold, diamonds, oil and uranium, the CAR is incredibly impoverished. The Central African Republic’s poverty rate is considered to be one of the worst in the world, with a GDP per capita of $639.

Political instability in the CAR affects the prosperity of its citizens. In 2013, the Seleka group–a Muslim-affiliated group–seized power in the Christian country. The Anti-Balaka showed Christian resistance and rose up to counter the Seleka. This conflict created a legion of problems in the Central African Republic. In September 2013, Seleka was dissolved. However, there are still remaining rebel groups to this day, known as Ex-Seleka. This conflict has resulted in the use of child soldiers, causing a lack of enrollment in schools and internally displaced persons (IDP) throughout the country. Moreover, this political uncertainty has impaired food rates, health and increased the percentage of people living at less than $1.90 a day.

Unsustainable agriculture practices in the CAR have contributed to its alarming food insecurity rates. Years of conflict and political instability have damaged agricultural activities, and nearly 75% of the country’s population relies on these agricultural activities for food and income.

Malnutrition in the Central African Republic is one of the top concerns for the country. Nearly one-third of the population (1.3 million people) is food insecure, with 47.7% of the entire population undernourished. More than 10% of children suffer from malnutrition. Highly chronic malnutrition rates remain a concern in the CAR. The average life expectancy, for both males and females, is 51.4 years. This is below the international average of 71.4 years. In 2008, 66.26% of the population was living at less than $1.90 a day. This shows incredible under-development. The Central African Republic’s poverty rate shows characteristics of scarcity and hardship.

The Central African Republic’s poverty rate demonstrates a multitude of problems related to the country’s food insecurity, malnourishment and political instability. However, there is hope for the citizens of the Central African Republic. The United States has provided assistance to strengthen the U.N.’s mission to address the continuing humanitarian crisis in the CAR. The United States has provided approximately $500 million in development and security assistance, helping the people of the CAR to find long-term stability and peace. The World Food Programme (WFP) has begun its first food voucher program to assist more than 100,000 people affected by conflict. The organization plans to provide more than 1.2 million people in the CAR with nutrients for life-saving assistance.

Lucy Voegeli

Photo: Flickr

Common Diseases in the Central African Republic
The Central African Republic is a nation with a long history of political turmoil and humanitarian crises. It is also consistently named among the poorest nations in the world and has some of the worst global health indicators. The country has the sixth highest infant mortality rate and the third-highest maternal mortality rate in the world. As recently as 2013, a major crisis displaced over 25% of the population and almost collapsed the nation’s already precarious health system. Although it seems as if the CAR is finally able to stabilize its political situation—for the first time in its history, the nation has a democratically-elected president and parliament—endemic poverty and poor health infrastructure coupled with a tropical climate makes the prevalence of disease a major problem. Here are four of the most common diseases in the Central African Republic:

  1. Malaria: The mosquito-spread disease is endemic to the Central African Republic. Malaria infects a large portion of the population at least once a year. It accounts for 40% of all medical consultations and is the leading cause of death amongst children. Malaria is the primary public health issue and one of the most common diseases in the Central African Republic. Many international organizations, in partnership with the government, have attempted to carry out projects such as free treatment for children under five and mosquito netting distributions to curb the effect of the disease in the nation.
  2. HIV/AIDS: The CAR has one of the highest rates of HIV in Central and Western Africa. The rate is at 4.9% and is one of the most common diseases in the Central African Republic. People in urban areas, especially women, are at the highest risk of contracting the disease. Due to constant conflict and political turmoil, treatment is often hard to find. Organizations such as the UNHCR help diagnose and provide treatment, but they often suffer in conflict situations. In the 2013 crisis, looters descended on several facilities.
  3. Cholera: In 2016, the medical community panicked at reports of a cholera outbreak in the Central African Republic. Cholera is an acute diarrhoeal disease caused by ingestion of contaminated food or water. After the latest humanitarian crisis in 2013, thousands of people were displaced and access to clean water became very limited. This led to a breeding ground for cholera and its ensuing spread throughout the country. UNICEF and other organizations quickly mobilized to contain the outbreak.
  4. Tuberculosis: Tuberculosis (TB) is a highly infectious bacterial disease that affects the lungs and spreads easily in crowded spaces. Over the past decades, TB has been on the rise in the Central African Republic. The forced displacement of large swathes of the population due to constant ongoing crises often disrupts treatment and prevention operations. Tuberculosis is also a leading killer of HIV-positive people. In 2012, there were 8,084 reported cases of TB—a 44% increase from the year before.

The tropical climate of the Central African Republic means it is already a hotspot for contagious and infectious diseases; a precarious health system coupled with endemic poverty makes matters even worse. Although many international organizations have made a concerted effort to address these issues, the constant political conflict and instability make it extremely hard for them to properly do their job. The international community should help the CAR by not only providing medical aid and supplies but also helping it build a stable government that will properly handle these issues.

Alan Garcia-Ramos

Photo: Flickr

In the heart of Africa surrounded by Cameroon, Chad, and Sudan, the Central African Republic is rich in diversity, culture and resources. However, despite holding some of the world’s most valued natural reserves, including gold, diamonds, and oil, the Central African Republic is in a dire humanitarian crisis. Human rights in the Central African Republic are being violated at a high rate. However, aid agencies are working to eliminate these abuses.

This crisis erupted in 2012 when economic inequalities and ethnic tensions incited conflict. The violence is coming from two opposing non-governmental armed groups: the Seleka and the Anti-Balaka.

Under the control of these combat groups, many human rights in the Central African Republic have been compromised. These groups have attacked civilians, committed sexual assault and demolished villages. There have been more than 560 civilian deaths and upwards of 4,200 homes destroyed. This is likely a fraction of the full damage because of the lack or destruction of records.

With 1.2 million children affected, the worst human rights violation in the Central African Republic is against children. Nearly one in five children is a refugee or is internally displaced. This violence and displacement have resulted in one-third out of school, 41 percent under the age of five suffering from chronic malnutrition and up to 10,000 recruited by armed groups since 2013.

Despite these circumstances, there is optimism in the fight for human rights in the Central African Republic. In 2016, aid officials met in Brussels to discuss recovery plans, budgets and other efforts to help the crisis. At this meeting, the officials decided that the primary objective besides providing emergency relief should be building a foundation of basic social services, such as schools and clinics, to encourage a peaceful future.

Keeping to this plan, UNICEF trained more than 1,300 teachers as well as built and repaired 172 schools. UNICEF has also initiated projects to enhance primary healthcare, as well as expand access to clean water, sanitation, and education, and offer psychosocial care for children traumatized by violent experiences.

While human rights in the Central African Republic are in need of improvement, aid agencies are focusing their efforts on building a better future for this nation, hoping that the children who have witnessed these tragedies can build the solution.

Kelly Hayes

Photo: Flickr


Conflicts in the Central African Republic have had devastating effects on the country’s civilians, particularly the civil war that began in 2012. The healthcare system has become less effective as qualified doctors and nurses move to safer areas, and aid is often denied due to unsafe commuting conditions. Along with a one-third decrease in qualified medical staff, clean water supplies are becoming scarce because water leaks cannot be easily repaired. Due to an unstable healthcare system and less access to clean water and food, many diseases are becoming more prominent among the Central African Republic’s population. Below are two of the top diseases in the Central African Republic that are causing some of the highest mortality rates for both children and adults.

Malaria

Malaria is not only one of the deadliest diseases in the Central African Republic but is the top fatal disease in the world. Malaria is responsible for more than eight percent of total deaths in the country and 32.8 percent of deaths in children under five years old. This number has dramatically risen in direct correlation to the increase in malnutrition. The Central African Republic civil war has detrimentally affected healthcare, making malaria more widespread but less treatable. The war has forced civilians out of their homes, leaving them without shelter and protection against mosquito bites, and resulting in the destruction of 70 percent of existing medical centers.

Doctors Without Borders (MSF) is combating malaria, and many of the top diseases in the Central African Republic, by bringing aid in the form of treatments and shelters, particularly, mosquito nets to prevent the spread of malaria. The aim is to reach 80 percent of the Central African Republic’s civilians with aid in order to control the malaria problem. However, many locations are simply difficult to reach and the civil war only complicates this. MSF has designed mobile treatment facilities to treat a wider range of people.

HIV/AIDS

HIV/AIDS is a major problem in the Central African Republic and is ranked number nine on the world’s most fatal diseases list. This disease affects 15 percent of adults, most of whom are young women. Not only is the afflicted person severely affected by the disease, but many children have been orphaned by an infected parent or abandoned by their family for contracting HIV/AIDS. The Central African Republic has one of the highest rates of mother-to-child HIV transmission in the world.

The World Bank’s Multi-Country HIV/AIDS Program has provided more than $18 million to African nations since 2001 to combat this disease. This has helped to supply medical centers with proper medicine, such as ARV, which prevents mother-to-child transmission of HIV. In addition, World Bank aid has helped provide vaccines, educational services and mobile services to reach more isolated areas. This funding, however, is limited and not sufficient in reaching all patients in need of treatment. Many patients have also become resistant to the primary drug that is being used for treatment, and additional funding is needed to develop new and effective medicine.

Although these top diseases in the Central African Republic have had detrimental effects on its civilians, there are many forms of aid and organizations that are determined to decrease their crippling effects.

Miryam Wiggli

Photo: Flickr

Education in theEducation in the Central African Republic
In 2016, militiamen in the Central African Republic began setting up base at schools and preventing students from attending classes. In September, the U.N. responded by ordering the militia groups to vacate the schools, threatening to send in forces if they didn’t comply. The U.N.’s goal was to enable children to resume their education in the Central African Republic.

The Central African Republic, a land-locked nation of 5 million people, was thrown into a brutal civil war when its government was forced out in 2013 by Muslim Seleka rebels. According to the national post, the civil war has led to the country being ranked 187 out of 188 countries on the human development index.

According to the U.N., 10,000 children in the Central African Republic were kept from school due to the presence of militiamen. About a third of all schools in the country were either set on fire, shot by bullets, pillaged or occupied by armed groups. As a result, approximately 400 primary schools were shut down.

The U.N. took a firm stand against the militia and issued a statement known as “Minusca,” which mandated that no armed forces go within 1,650 feet of schools and warned against further interference in education in the Central African Republic.

UNICEF also denounced the militia groups’ behavior. UNICEF’s Chief of Communications in the Central African Republic, Donaig Le Du, issued a firm statement that despite the conflict and civil war occurring, education in the Central African Republic should be spared. School is not politically affiliated or party to the conflict, she said, and children should not be prevented from attending.

Despite disruption in areas near Bangui, the capital of the Central African Republic, children across the country returned back to school to resume their educations at the end of September as a result of the U.N.’s warning.

The U.N. recently reported that since the civil war broke out in the Central African Republic, “considerable progress” has been made. Ten thousand U.N. troops and 1,700 police are keeping peace as well between armed groups, and an additional 12,000 peacekeepers are stationed in the country. Although the state of the nation remains fragile, it is in a better place overall than it was in 2013.

Alex Fidler

Refugees in Central African Republic

The recent internal conflict in Central African Republic has prompted many of its citizens to flee to neighboring nations or safer places within the country. After settling into host communities, UNHCR (the United Nations refugee agency) has been able to provide assistance to the refugees and help them acclimate to new areas.

Here are six facts that you should know about refugees in the Central African Republic:

  1. Nearly 418,000 refugees in the Central African Republic are internally displaced because of the current conflict in the country. However, even prior to these issues many neighboring cities and countries were already hosting refugees from the Central African Republic. The new influx of refugees has prompted new response plans to accommodate these people, such as the CAR Regional Refugee Response Plan.
  2. Including those who are internally displaced, there are approximately 2.7 million people who are in need of humanitarian assistance, as well as 2.4 million children who are affected by the crisis.
  3. Almost one million citizens have fled their homes to seek refuge in local mosques and churches, or as far as Cameroon, Chad and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. After these journeys, many arrive having endured brutal attacks from heavily armed fighters along the way and are suffering from extreme malnutrition.
  4. The majority of these refugees are able to successfully settle into host villages or refugee camps. Here, UNHCR and partners provide basic social services and help the refugees to integrate into their new homes.
  5. UNHCR has received $24.7 million in aid to assist refugees in the Central African Republic. However, this is only 11 percent of the original $225.5 million that the organization appealed for. Foreign aid continues to help refugees become comfortable in their new surroundings, providing for basic needs and protection while they acclimatize.
  6. However, the basic needs of the refugees in the Central African Republic surpass the amount of aid that has been provided. More than 20 percent of the refugees arriving in camps are vulnerable with specific needs and health issues, such as malaria and malnutrition. While the UNHCR teams work to provide things such as emergency supplies and medical care, there is not enough funding to provide optimal assistance.

While UNHCR cannot provide the amount of assistance necessary, it has still been successful at helping refugees to acclimate to their host communities. As the internal conflict in the Central African Republic continues, foreign aid will continue to assist those who turn to host communities for refuge.

Amanda Panella

Photo: Flickr

Congo RefugeesAlmost half a million people have fled the Central African Republic (CAR) as a result of ongoing violence occurring in the region. Among those refugees fleeing violence in the CAR, 110,000 have sought shelter in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

“The support shown by Congolese for the neighbors from CAR is exemplary. We should remember that this is one of the poorer regions in sub-Saharan Africa. Many of the hosts already live below the poverty line,” Stefano Severe, the United Nations Refugee Regional Representative for Central Africa said on the organization’s website.

The CAR has been plagued by widespread conflict since 2013, when rebel group Seleka marched on the capital, overthrowing the president, François Bozizé, bringing instability and unrest to the country. The political struggle quickly led to violence among the Muslim and Christian communities in the area, as rival militia groups unleashed rounds of terror upon the region.

Amnesty International reported that international war crimes and crimes against humanity have regularly been committed throughout the nation, “including killings, mutilation of bodies, abductions, recruitment and use of child soldiers and forced displacement of populations.”

According to the United Nations News Centre, intercommunal violence in the CAR erupted in September, after nine months of improved stability in the country, killing 130 people and raising the number of internally displaced persons in the area by 18 percent. This led to a mass exodus of individuals out of the nation. Many of these residents have fled across the Ubangai River, bordering the DRC, with the aim of escaping the conflict occurring in the region.

While the majority of these individuals reside in refugee camps, approximately a third of the refugees in the DRC are staying with local Congolese citizens that are reaching out to help the displaced individuals, according to the U.N. Refugee Agency (UNHCR).

Residents of a town named Zongo have come together to improve the lives of the people flowing into their community. Located on the banks of the Ubangi River, directly across from Bangui – the capital of the CAR, the town is often the first place refugees enter after they flee the city.

“We are Congolese. We always offer shelter to someone who had to flee,” Zongo resident Blandine Ngeki said to the UNHCR.

Schools in the border town have increasingly stepped up their efforts to take in refugee children who are eager to continue their education, despite the lack of monetary funding they receive. In particular, the Mohamad Primary School in Zongo has set up six new temporary classrooms to give educational opportunities to the displaced children in the area.

“UNHCR gave us some plastic sheeting and benches. We have eight teachers,” Abdulaye Livana, the school’s manager, said to the U.N. Refugee Agency. “Only finding money for their salaries is not easy.”

Health centers throughout the area have also given aid to the influx of displaced persons entering the community, despite the lack of money they have.

“Sometimes, the refugees do not have much,” said Jacob Wakanza, manager of a health center that frequently subsidizes costs to help refugees in need. “It can be less than the treatment would normally cost. We try to show solidarity. They are human beings.”

The UNHCR’s ability to help refugees fleeing violence in the CAR has been hindered by a lack of funding. Earlier this year, the U.N. organization called on donor nations to pledge $500 million in aid to help the refugees fleeing the CAR and Nigeria, as well as the neighboring communities that are hosting them.

“UNHCR is doing its best to help local communities in this situation, including those near the border and next to the refugee camps,” Severe said.

Lauren Lewis

Sources: UNHCR 1, UNHCR 2, AllAfrica, UN News Centre, Leadership News, Newsweek, Amnesty International
Photo: Live58

Central_African_Republic_Children
UNICEF is halfway to its goal for assisting the children of the Central African Republic who continue to suffer due to sectarian violence and political instability.

UNICEF requested $70.9 million for malnourished children in the Central African Republic at the beginning of this year. The plan called for food and basic health services to be made available to the children. As of December, the organization has raised just over half that amount.

By the end of this year, UNICEF had planned for:

  • 1.2 million people to have access to basic health services and medicine
  • 4,000 children to be released from armed forces and groups and have access to alternative education opportunities
  • 40,000 highly vulnerable households in remote areas to be assisted with water, sanitation and hygiene and non-food items interventions

The Central African Republic has been in a state of conflict that escalated two months ago with the “worst violence” the capital, Bangui, has ever seen.

Clashes among religious groups have created a violent atmosphere especially for Central African Republic children, who have been caught in the middle of these tensions.

Exactly half of the total affected population or 2.4 million Central African Republic children need assistance. UNICEF hopes to reach two million people by the end of the year, including 1.4 million children.

From July to December, the organization has focused on treating vaccine-preventable and water-borne diseases, as well as other infectious diseases. Providing access to clean facilities has also been high on the agenda.

The UNICEF’s Rapid Response Mechanism (RRM) provides safe drinking water and sanitation facilities to about 200,000 people in remote areas. “The RRM will continue to advocate for a multi-sectoral response in the hard-to-reach areas,” UNICEF said.

Ashley Tressel

Sources: Reuters, UNICEF 1, UNICEF 2
Photo: Flickr

Humanitarian_Efforts
On August 11, the United Nations Common Humanitarian Fund allocated $13.2 million to humanitarian efforts in the Central African Republic (CAR) in order to provide much needed life-saving aid to those affected by the ongoing conflict in the African country.

The funds will go toward supporting local humanitarian aid agencies that provide clean drinking water, access to education and healthcare, food, protection, and shelter to vulnerable and displaced people. Though the amount of funds will provide some people with necessary help, it is not nearly what is needed to be able to provide aid for the entire population in need.

“Thanks to donors who have contributed in 2015, this CHF allocation allows humanitarian partners to continue helping thousands of displaced people and host families,” said Aurélien Agbénonci, the UN’s Humanitarian Coordinator in the African country. “However, it is only three percent of the $415 million we still need by the end of the year if we are to save more lives and reach all people in acute need in 2015.”

The Civil War in the Central African Republic between the Muslim Séléka alliance and the anti-Balaka militias with CAR government forces, which are predominantly Christian, began at the end of 2012 and has claimed many civilian lives and displaced many more. Additionally, the Lord’s Resistance Army continues operations within the southeastern region of the country.

According to the United Nations Office of the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), as of June 2015, there are about 463,400 refugees from the Central African Republic, and 368,900 internally displaced people. In total, OCHA concludes that there are presently 2.7 million people in the Central African Republic who are in critical need of humanitarian aid.

Unfortunately, the CAR is reportedly “one of the most difficult and dangerous environments in the world for aid workers.” On July 22, the UN condemned a surge of violence against aid workers along with the July 18 attack on a World Food Program food convoy which left a driver dead.

It is crucial that international humanitarian aid organizations continue to demonstrate their commitment to aiding those in need. The UN’s latest allocation of funds, though not sufficient to provide for every single victim, sent the right message. Aid organizations must never falter in the effort to protect and preserve the lives of innocent civilians, even in the face of danger.

Jaime Longoria

Sources: UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, UN News Centre 1, UN News Centre 2
Photo: UN News Centre