Hunger in Côte d'IvoireFollowing the conclusion of a civil war in 2011, the West African nation of Côte d’Ivoire, also known as the Ivory Coast, has experienced economic growth rates averaging around 8% per year. Despite its growth, the nation still struggles with endemic poverty and hunger. It ranks 165 out of 188 countries in the United Nations Human Development Index. Under President Alassane Ouattara, Côte d’Ivoire has focused on the economy and the middle class, launching an ambitious National Development Plan in order to transform Côte d’Ivoire into a middle-income economy by 2020. Ouattara’s government has also made some strides to combat severe hunger in Côte d’Ivoire, particularly regarding child care. Côte d’Ivoire’s fast economic growth is admirable. However, it is also crucial to understand the problems afflicting the world’s most vulnerable people, such as hunger, and not just economic growth.

7 Facts About Hunger in Côte d’Ivoire

  1. Côte d’Ivoire has been successful in combating one of the worst consequences of widespread hunger: stunted growth in childhood. Between 2012 and 2016 rates of stunting and wasting for children under the age of five dropped to 21.6% and 6.1%, respectively. The average rates for developing countries are 25% and 8.9%.
  2. Another area of progress in combating hunger in Côte d’Ivoire is in promoting the exclusive use of breastfeeding for babies. Between 2012 and 2016 rates of exclusive breastfeeding rose from 12% to 23.5%
  3. The World Food Programme (WFP) has worked with the Ivoirian government to combat hunger in Côte d’Ivoire at the childhood level. The WFP distributes school and take-home meals at primary schools across Côte d’Ivoire. Before the COVID-19 crisis, the organization was set to expand its coverage to 125,000 schoolchildren in insecure zones. 
  4. Côte d’Ivoire has also experienced success in fighting severe food insecurity. This issue had previously disappeared from the country before returning in 2019. The overall food insecurity rate has declined from 12.8% in 2015 to 10.8% in 2018.
  5. Agriculture in Côte d’Ivoire employs over half of the labor force and takes up 84% of the arable land. Farmers in Côte d’Ivoire largely grow cash crops, such as cocoa. (Côte d’Ivoire is the largest producer of cocoa in the world.) A successful harvest is vital for Ivoirians to be able to feed their families. To that end, the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has distributed agricultural kits throughout the country in an effort to improve productivity and competitiveness.
  6. Hunger in Côte d’Ivoire is significantly impacted by the fact that 46% of people in Côte d’Ivoire live below the poverty line ($1.22 per day). Poverty is concentrated in the North and the West, which are more rural and insecure. Food insecurity is a bigger issue in these areas. It is more difficult to implement food distribution and agricultural aid programs there.
  7. The WFP gave Côte d’Ivoire a Global Hunger Index of 25.9 which indicates a “serious” problem. Such a ranking stems from the triple threat of malnutrition, undernutrition and overnutrition. Overnutrition is a newer problem that disproportionately affects the adult women population. However, malnutrition and undernutrition in Côte d’Ivoire have deep roots in food insecurity. The issues stem from a high dependency on the quality of the local harvest and a widespread lack of support among small farmers for food crop production.

While poverty and hunger in Côte d’Ivoire remain endemic, the government and a variety of international organizations have made significant progress in their struggle. This is particularly true at the childhood level. Developing market competitiveness and advancing economic growth is necessary. However, it is important to assist those who need the most help, like those who experience severe hunger and malnutrition.

Franklin Nossiter
Photo: Flickr

tuberculosis in Côte d'IvoireTuberculosis (TB) is a bacterial illness spread through breathing contaminated air droplets from an infected individual. TB is also transferable by drinking unpasteurized milk containing Mycobacterium bovis, or Bovine Tuberculosis. The bacterium primarily affects the lungs, which is known as pulmonary TB. More than 90% of individuals with TB have a latent form and do not experience overwhelming symptoms. With tuberculosis being one of the leading causes of death in Côte d’Ivoire, the government is making numerous efforts to help those with the illness. The health agencies in Côte d’Ivoire, using assistance from the government and other countries, are mitigating the spread of TB through medicine, proper healthcare and bringing awareness to the communities. Here are five facts about the rising issue of tuberculosis in Côte d’Ivoire.

5 Facts About Tuberculosis in Côte d’Ivoire

  1. More than 8,000 people died from tuberculosis in Côte d’Ivoire in 2018. In addition, there were 36,000 reported cases of TB. While active efforts are being made to try and control the spread of TB, the citizens of Côte d’Ivoire struggle to afford treatment, healthcare and testing. With over 46% of the population living in poverty, it is difficult for most of them to find access to hospitals and testing centers. TB is highly endemic in Côte d’Ivoire, meaning it is extremely prevalent within many of the impoverished Ivorian communities. For every 100,000 citizens, 23 of them will die from tuberculosis. Among those 100,000 citizens, more than 148 of them will be diagnosed with a form of TB. It is increasingly important that a global effort is made to bring awareness to this illness and help the citizens of Côte d’Ivoire receive proper medical treatment. Thankfully, the transmission of TB has been on the decline within the past few years. In 2000, 367 people per 100,000 citizens of Côte d’Ivoire were diagnosed with TB. This contrasts 2018 in which less than half the number of citizens were diagnosed (only 142 per 100,000 individuals).
  2. There are multiple factors that lead to the spread of tuberculosis. TB can be spread through Côte d’Ivoire by living in poverty, existing in a post-war environment and having HIV/AIDS. Ivorian citizens living in impoverished circumstances suffer from malnutrition and weakened immune systems. This makes contracting TB far easier for those with an inferior healthcare system and little access to basic resources. Living in poverty also means less access to tests for TB, which makes it hard to know who is infected. The war-torn climate of the country weakens the healthcare system. This causes a wider outbreak of TB with fewer people being treated. Political unrest and violence also force citizens to escape to other parts of the country. The emigration of families moving from northern cities to rural settlements in the south of Côte d’Ivoire increases the spread of TB while limiting immediate access to healthcare. Abidjan is one major city that faces overwhelming cases of tuberculosis. HIV/AIDS renders immune systems weak and increases individuals’ susceptibility to TB. The comorbidity between HIV and TB in Côte d’Ivoire is extremely high. In 2018, more than 7,000 of the 36,000 citizens with TB were also treated for HIV/AIDS. The Ivorian Ministry of Health (MOH) works with organizations like Measure Evaluation to track the spread of diseases like HIV and TB and increase testing in high-risk areas. The efforts have so far been successful.
  3. There are currently four treatments for tuberculosis. As of 2020, there are four recognized medicinal treatments for TB: Isoniazid (INH), Rifampin (RMP), Pyrazinamide (PZA) and Ethambutol (EMB). These medicines must be taken for three to nine months as directed by a medical professional. This ensures that the bacterium is killed. Skipping a dose, because of inaccessibility to a prescription or otherwise, causes a tuberculosis infection to come back stronger. While most forms of TB are curable with medicine, Côte d’Ivoire is plagued with strains of drug-resistant tuberculosis. In 2018, there were more than 2,000 individuals with a drug-resistant type of tuberculosis (DR-TB). These individuals are harder to treat since any known medicine is ineffective against the strain of TB. Luckily, 82% of people who are treated for tuberculosis in Côte d’Ivoire recover successfully. With the help of well-trained medical professionals and funding from other countries, the government of Côte d’Ivoire can better treat and identify those with TB.
  4. Tuberculosis is primarily observed in young men. Men ages 20-40 years old experience TB more frequently than any other demographic. Most of these men are working-class and have little education. Because men are also frequently diagnosed with HIV/AIDS in Côte d’Ivoire, they are at a greater risk for contracting TB. As the rates of HIV/AIDS increase in the male population (a 3:1 sex ratio), the tuberculosis infection rates have also increased.
  5. World organizations and other countries have greatly aided in treating and ending the spread of tuberculosis in Côte d’Ivoire. With help from NGOs and world health outreach programs, TB in Côte d’Ivoire has decreased. In 2007, TB was the 7th leading cause of death, however, a decade later in 2017, TB has dropped to the 8th leading cause of death in Côte d’Ivoire.

One important organization is The Stop TB Partnership. By pairing government agencies with other foundations, research agencies and private sector resources, this organization aims to create a TB-free world. In 2014, various partners met with specialists from the Programme National de Lutte contre la Tuberculose to design a national committee tasked with controlling and treating tuberculosis in Côte d’Ivoire. The members of these groups were responsible for designing a plan for infection control, allocating monetary and human resources and outlining the structure of the new committee. Through this workshop, the anti-TB program in Côte d’Ivoire established clear strategies for tackling the problem of tuberculosis. Stop TB developed oversight committees, regulations for how resources are spent and a plan for reducing the spread of TB.

According to the United Nations, Côte d’Ivoire is on the way to reaching various Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The U.N. is actively helping Côte d’Ivoire eradicate illnesses like HIV, malaria and TB by the year 2030 through free doctor visits and accessible medicine.

It is crucial that the citizens of Côte d’Ivoire receive the proper treatment and financial assistance to help them overcome the tuberculosis endemic. It is imperative that those diagnosed with this illness are immediately identified and properly treated. With strategic planning, proper funding and extensive training for medical professionals, the infection rate of tuberculosis in Côte d’Ivoire is expected to decrease in the coming years.

– Danielle Kuzel
Photo: Flickr

Sanitation in Côte d’Ivoire
Côte d’Ivoire, a tropical destination nestled in the south-western coast of Africa, is home to 22 million people who struggle to access clean water and sanitation facilities. The sanitation practices and systems in Côte d’Ivoire have faced setbacks from political instability and rapid urbanization. With the help of international aid, the country can increase access to clean water and sanitation facilities. By repairing infrastructure and reallocating funds, the sanitation in Côte d’Ivoire is on track to be up to par in the foreseeable future.

10 Facts About Sanitation in Côte d’Ivoire

  1. The sanitation crisis in Côte d’Ivoire is partly due to political unrest. Since the Second Ivorian Civil War in 2011, the country has experienced unrest that has pushed sanitation in Côte d’Ivoire to the bottom of the political agenda. Because of the sociopolitical crisis, large numbers of people have fled to settlements where there is little access to purified water or clean bathrooms. This displacement, paired with immigration from bordering countries like Ghana, caused the sewage systems and water purifying plants in Côte d’Ivoire to become overwhelmed and even harder to fix.
  2. Almost half of the population struggles to access clean water. In Côte d’Ivoire, 35% of individuals living in rural settlements do not have access to clean drinking water. Around 9 million people in the country are unable to reach a sanitation facility that houses bathrooms, showers, and places to purify water. Côte d’Ivoire is working to improve this; in 2010, only 14 million citizens had access to safe drinking water, but in 2015, more than 16 million people had access to basic drinking water.
  3. The sewage and water sanitation systems are outdated and neglected. Because of the ongoing political distress, important maintenance of sanitation systems has fallen by the wayside. In 2016, The World Bank started the Urban Water Supply and Sanitation Project, providing Côte d’Ivoire with a $50 million credit. Regular upkeep of water purifying plants and sewage pipes is crucial to public health.
  4. Tainted water supplies affect infants. One study found that E.coli fervently contaminates infant formula when areas store municipal water rather than treating it immediately. Around 41% of households in the study appeared to have E.coli present in the water they used for infants’ formula, increasing the infant mortality rate. Fortunately, since 2010, the infant mortality rate in Côte d’Ivoire has decreased from 107.2 per 1,000 births to 80.9 per 1,000 births.
  5. Contaminated drinking water increases water-borne illness. Many people must seek unsafe alternatives in the absence of properly cleaned water. Drinking or using contaminated water to cook can cause cholera, dysentery, typhoid and giardia, to name a few. Public health depends on government action to improve the sanitation in Côte d’Ivoire, which includes providing access to clean drinking water.
  6. The inaccessibility of clean water disproportionately affects women. Women and girls are typically responsible for bringing clean water to their homes. Because they must walk long distances alone to fetch water, they face an increased risk of others abducting or harassing them along their route. Girls also forfeit attending school because 0f this responsibility. According to the UNDP, the school enrollment rate for girls is 33% in comparison to a 45% enrollment rate for boys.
  7. Two of the country’s top 10 leading causes of death are a result of poor sanitation. Malaria and diarrheal diseases are two of the leading causes of death in Côte d’Ivoire. The lack of access to working bathroom facilities has caused many citizens to defecate outside, leaving cesspools for mosquitoes to breed and spread malaria. Drinking contaminated drinking water causes diarrheal infections.
  8. Côte d’Ivoire launched a team to tackle the sanitation issue. In November 2019, the Minister of Hygiene and Sanitation established a brigade of workers to help cities build working sewage systems and accessible sanitation facilities. The country is employing SODECI and other sanitation companies to clean up the community by picking up litter, cleaning gutters and cutting grass; they also encourage people to keep the area around where they live and warn of illegally dumping into water supplies.
  9. Many organizations work to help sanitation in Côte d’Ivoire. Habitat for Humanity has mobilized hundreds of workers to install water pumps and teach locals how to maintain them. USAID researches sustainable technology, develops prototypes and creates working models for new technology such as double pit latrines. Organizations like the World Health Organization (WHO) monitor and track the spread of various illnesses related to poor sanitation and provide funding to governments to help with these issues.
  10. Côte d’Ivoire received millions of dollars during COVID-19 to help with the sanitation crisis. In May 2020, The World Bank agreed on a $35 million credit to allow the government of Côte d’Ivoire to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. The credit will help the government install water treatment plants, restructure sewage systems and provide access to clean water and other resources needed to maintain proper hygiene.

Although these facts show Côte d’Ivoire’s sanitation challenges, they also indicate some of the initiatives to develop the country’s sanitation. The sanitation in Côte d’Ivoire should improve greatly throughout the next few years and continue beyond if aid from the international community and other organizations persists.

Danielle Kuzel
Photo: Flickr

Digital Cash Transfers in Cote d’IvoireCote d’Ivoire had been consumed by civil conflict at the beginning of the century. However, the conflict ended in 2011, soon after the election of Alassane Ouattara. Since then, Cote d’Ivoire has been one of the fastest-growing countries in the world. However, its growth has failed to reach large portions of the population as the country still struggles with a 46.1 percent poverty rate while an additional 17.6 percent of the population lives on the edge of poverty. In 2014, the World Bank Group started working to initiate digital cash transfers in Cote d’Ivoire to assist the poorest and most disconnected.

The Rise of Mobile Money in Cote d’Ivoire

From 2012 to 2018, the number of active mobile money users grew from less than 1 million to more than 9 million. Of note, the number of mobile cellular subscribers increased from 18.1 million to 33.81 million during the same time frame. With a population of less than 28 million, it is evident how popular the use of technology is becoming in the country. Ivorians have adapted to using mobile money for several reasons:

  • Person-to-person cash transfers in Cote d’Ivoire are easy to operate.
  • Due to high fees and the historic failure of several banks in the country, more Ivorians are turning away from licensed financial institutions. In 2017, 34 percent of Ivorians had mobile money accounts compared to 15 percent with bank accounts.
  • There is a rising trend in the digitalization of secondary school feels.
  • Migrants are digitally transferring remittances back home.
  • Paying bills digitally is growing.

How the Cash Transfer Program Works

According to the World Bank, the program operates as follows: “(i) a targeting system for cash transfers; (ii) a social protection household registry; (iii) a cash transfer payment system using digital mobile money technology; and (iv) management information system and capacity-building.”

For the actual transferring of money, the government of Cote d’Ivoire has partnered with the digital financial service organization, Orange. The Account of the Ministry of Social Protection sends a wire transfer to Orange. Then, it creates e-money and puts it into the digital accounts of the intended recipients. The recipients can then access and use their money electronically or cash-out.

Initial Constraints of the Program

Despite the widespread use of mobile devices in the country, there are a few issues with the implementation of the program. Many beneficiaries already owned mobile phones. However, others are given a device through which the program struggled to adapt. Financial literacy has been another issue as some beneficiaries are unsure about how much to withdraw and how much to save. Moreover, the lack of understanding of the importance of the PIN number resulted in some beneficiaries sharing sensitive information, thus compromising their accounts. Regulatory issues such as the requirement of a state-issued ID also created challenges in ensuring beneficiaries are eligible to continue to receive their transfers.

Successes of the Program

Peer-to-peer and community-oriented training focus on increasing knowledge surrounding the operation of devices and building awareness about security best practices with accounts. Those without a proper state-issued ID have been informed on how to obtain one. In addition, exemptions have been provided which allow beneficiaries to designate a trusted transfer recipient within the household or community. This led to 100 percent of beneficiaries receiving their payments in 2018.

By going digital, administrative and transactional costs are limited. As of April 2019, 300,000 poor individuals have benefitted from the program, more than half of whom are women. Additionally, as of the same date, 720,000 individuals have been registered with the social program’s registry. This expands the number of potential future social program beneficiaries.

Overall, the implementation of cash transfers in Cote d’Ivoire is an excellent example of how technology can assist those who are most financially vulnerable and most disconnected from the rest of society.

– Scott Boyce
Photo: Flickr

Building Schools Using Recycled Plastics
Education in Cote d’Ivoire continues to be a major challenge in the country which has had a literacy rate of 53.02 percent among 15 to 24-year-olds as of 2014. In fact, more than 2 million children are out of school due to a lack of infrastructure. Classrooms are often full beyond capacity with more than 100 students. Fortunately, West Africa is building schools using recycled plastics as a ground-breaking initiative to change the status quo.

The Fighting Women

Abidjan, a city in Cote d’Ivoire, produces about 288 tons of plastic waste every day. The country recycles only 5 percent of the waste, and when it is, it is usually women that do so informally. These women recover the waste and use it to make money.

A women’s group called The Fighting Women makes a living from collecting plastic and selling it for recycling. However, The Fighting Women is now a part of a project that will not only clean up the environment but will also help improve education. The Fighting Women is an organization of 200 women that collect plastic. A woman named Mariam Coulibaly runs the organization and she has been collecting trash for 20 years. Coulibaly’s organizational skills are what made the project possible. The plastic that these women collect go into bricks in order to build schools.

Conceptos Plasticos

UNICEF in Cote d’Ivoire has partnered with Conceptos Plasticos, a for-profit plastic recycling Colombian company that will turn plastic to bricks and build schools for children. This project will help reduce the issue of overcrowded classrooms and give children the opportunity to attend school.

In 2018, the first African recycled plastic classroom emerged in Gonzagueville. It only took five days to build this classroom as opposed to the nine months it would take to build traditional classrooms. In addition, within the first year, two small farming villages, Sakassou and Divo, constructed nine demonstration classrooms. These new classrooms included bricks that are cheaper and lighter than traditional ones, and also last longer.

Before the new plastic classrooms, children would go to school in traditional mud-brick and wood buildings. The mud-brick would erode from the sun and rain, and require repairs constantly. However, the newly built plastic classrooms are way better and longer-lasting. The classrooms are fire retardant and stay cool in warm weather. In addition, the classrooms are waterproof, have excellent insulation and can fight off the heavy wind. UNICEF and Conceptos Plasticos are planning to build 500 classrooms for more than 25,000 children with the most urgent need in the next two years.

Further Success of the Project

On July 29, 2019, a plastic converting factory opened in Cote d’Ivoire, which is also the first of its kind. This factory produces easy to assemble, durable and low-cost bricks others can use to build classrooms. The factory will solve a lot of major education challenges that children in West Africa face. According to UNICEF, kindergarteners from poor areas will be able to join classrooms with less than 100 students for the first time. Once the factory is fully functioning, it will recycle 9,600 tons of plastic waste a year and provide a source of income for women that collect trash. Moreover, there are plans to expand this project to other countries where there is a high percentage of children that are out of school.

Now, children are able to sit comfortably in classes that were once too overcrowded. This project of building schools using recycled plastics has not only constructed classrooms, but it has also reduced plastic waste in the environment. Although there is still a large number of children out of schools, this innovative project to help build schools in West Africa has been tremendously successful and has impacted the lives of many women and children.

Merna Ibrahim
Photo: Flickr

Industrialization of the Ivory CoastAlthough the Ivory Coast has a high poverty rate of 46 percent, its gross domestic product growth rate ranked number 10 out of 224 countries. High GDP growth implies increased productivity, which also leads to industrialization. The Industrial Revolution caused productivity to skyrocket along with mass industrialization and thus brought the poverty rate down. The industrialization of the Ivory Coast might be the key to eliminating the high poverty rate.

The Current Economy of the Ivory Coast

Rising prices of cocoa in 2018 and increased crop production marked a positive turn for the Ivory Coast since at least two-thirds of its population works in the agricultural industry. The Ivory Coast is the world’s biggest producer of cocoa. Although the amount of cocoa in the market surprised even analysts, the Ivory Coast must still transition from agriculture into manufacturing and service industries. This follows the same pattern of evolution that the U.S. and Japan took as they were industrialized. The transitional period will be long and gradual as industrialization is a major change to an economy.

To sustain one of Africa’s fastest-growing economies, the government is investing more than $7 billion in infrastructure between 2018 and 2023. Most of the investment was directed to the capital and major port city Abidjan. “We want to be an emerging country but to achieve that, we will need high-quality infrastructure to support the economy,” states Amede Koffi Kouakou, Minister of Economic Infrastructure. Kouakou explains work must be done to fix the roads damaged by floods. A train network and bridges to Abidjan are other investments currently underway. The roads are in poor condition. However, an infrastructure boom is a sign that the country is prepared to become an emerging economy.

The Benefits of Industrialization

Japan presents an industrialization success story. From the 1880s to 1970, Japan grew rapidly and became a powerful economic leader by the 1980s. Japan is now highly developed and is the third-largest economy in terms of nominal GDP, just behind the European Union and the United States. The process of becoming one of the most powerful economies took enormous effort and focused on infrastructures, such as building roads, schools and hospitals. Japan decreased its poverty rate from an unusually high number, the exact figure is unknown, to 16 percent as of 2013. In comparison, the U.S. has a poverty rate of about 15 percent. Ultimately, the progress Japan made originated with industrialization.

Job creation would be a major benefit of the industrialization of the Ivory Coast. Poor farmers flock to jobs and receive training. In turn, they become a valuable asset to companies and the particular industry. Another benefit is the advancement in farming equipment and machinery. These advancements will increase productivity and improve the quality of crops. This results in a more automated agricultural industry where machines do the arduous work and leave extra income to buy products and services.

“In developed countries, economic growth is driven by industrialization underpinned by strong manufacturing. We need to engage African leaders and policymakers to promote industrialization on the continent if we are to accelerate Africa’s transition into a middle-income continent,” states Joseph Mungarulire, director-general of the National Industrial Research and Development Agency in Rwanda. Mungarulire explains that Africa is mostly supported by agriculture, not industry, which leads to slow industrialization and high poverty.

A Pre-Requisite for Industrialization

Industrialization of the Ivory Coast must begin with a strong, stable government that welcomes private investment whether abroad or within its borders. Thankfully, China sees opportunity in investing in Africa. By 2018, China had invested more than $60 billion in Africa. Part of this investment is for building railroads, a simple but life-changing idea that brings jobs and people, just as it did in the U.S. from the 1830s to 1860s. The industrialization of the Ivory Coast, along with investments by the public and private sector, might be the solution to reduce poverty in the country.

Lucas Schmidt
Photo: Flickr

treating hiv in west and central africa
As of 2017, 1.8 million adolescents around the world are living with HIV. This accounts for five percent of total HIV cases. Approximately 1.5 million, or 85 percent, of these adolescents, live in Sub-Saharan Africa. Of this, 61 percent live in Eastern and Southern Africa and 24 percent live in West and Central Africa. The region with the second-highest HIV rates for adolescents in the world is West and Central Africa. Ending HIV in West and Central Africa requires strong national and international efforts to protect and treat children and adults.

One of the largest problems in the region is a lack of HIV testing. According to Marie-Pierre Poirier, UNICEF Regional Director for West and Central Africa, a majority of children living with HIV are not receiving the proper care because they have never been tested and do not know they have the disease.

One way to resolve this is to ensure testing is being done at primary health facilities in communities, with a family-centered approach. It is equally important to increase testing and treatment for pregnant women. Only 47 percent of pregnant women with HIV in West and Central Africa were able to use antiretroviral medicines, which prevent transmission to the unborn child.

Gender Matters

Among adolescents, there are often gender disparities in HIV infections. In many parts of the world—including South Asia, East Asia, the Pacific, Latin America, the Caribbean, the Middle East and North Africa—more boys than girls between the ages of 15 and 19 were newly infected in 2017. Whereas in West, Central, Eastern and Southern Africa significantly more girls than boys were infected. In West and Central Africa, 66 percent of the new were girls, while only 34 percent were boys.

Women and girls in this region are particularly at risk of HIV because of cultural, social and economic inequalities. They are less likely to attend school. Girls that are uneducated are twice as likely to become infected with HIV than girls who have attended school. Additionally, uneducated girls are at a greater risk for partner violence, increasing the risk for HIV.

Access to healthcare is also a significant issue. Women’s inability to see a healthcare provider prevents life-saving testing and treatments. Approximately 50 percent of girls and young women in Sub-Saharan Africa are not allowed to make personal health decisions.

International Efforts

Ending HIV has long been a focus of international humanitarian organizations. Recently, with the increased focus on preventing HIV infections among adolescents, UNAIDS created ALL IN! This collaboration improves knowledge about HIV, as well as how it can be prevented and treated. The goal is to reduce new HIV infections by 75 percent by 2020, aiming for ending the epidemic by 2030.

UNAIDS reports that HIV has already decreased in some of the most severely affected countries due to the adoption of safer sexual practices by adolescents. Often, school is crucial to providing the necessary sex education.

Efforts to reduce HIV in West and Central Africa is not only being done by international organizations such as UNAIDS; governments and their partners are taking initiatives to better prevent and treat HIV in youth and adults.

In Côte d’Ivoire, the government made the decision to stop charging people for HIV testing and treatment services. Fees have long been a barrier for those who live in poverty. Currently, only 46 percent of those in Côte d’Ivoire living with HIV were accessing treatment. Hopefully, this initiative will begin to increase this number, helping nearly half a million people.

Treatments and Strategies

Those who are at a high risk of HIV in West and Central Africa but have not yet contracted the disease can take the pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) regimen. A pilot study is taking place in Burkina Faso, focusing on providing this preventative treatment to the most vulnerable. This includes homosexual men, who often avoid medical treatment due to the stigma surrounding their sexuality.

Once the study, which began at the end of 2018, is completed the plan is to expand PrEP across the nation and, eventually, the entire region. Benjamin Sana, a participant in this pilot study, is thankful for the treatment and believes that PrEP has the potential to save lives.

In response to a new survey, Muhammadu Buhari, Nigeria’s president led the development of a Revised National HIV and AIDS Strategic Framework for 2019 to 2021. Since 2010, Nigeria has tripled the number of people who receive HIV treatment and adopted an effected test and treat policy in 2016.

The new strategy aims to ensure services are being delivered to the people who need them the most, even in remote areas with less health care access. One of their primary goals is to ensure that no more children are born with HIV in Nigeria, according to the president.

These efforts in Côte d’Ivoire, Burkina Faso and Nigeria, as well as other countries in the region, will hopefully have a significant impact on the future of HIV in West and Central Africa, saving thousands of lives.

– Sara Olk
Photo: Flickr

Cocoa Farmers in Côte d’IvoireCôte d’Ivoire produces 35 percent of all cocoa, making it the largest cocoa producer in the world. A majority of cocoa farmers in Côte d’Ivoire, however, live below the poverty line. Within the past couple of years, a financial crisis within the cocoa sector has worsened conditions for cocoa farmers. Improving financial inclusion and increasing yields could become ways to bring cocoa farmers out of poverty.

In 2017, the cocoa crisis left many farmers without pay for their work. George Koffi Kouame, a 50-year-old cocoa farmer, told the BBC that he had delivered 1.8 tons of cocoa and had not been paid. This is the result of plummeting cocoa prices, which led up to 80 percent of cocoa buyers to terminate their contracts with farmers.

Living Conditions

However, even without this crisis, most cocoa farmers in Côte d’Ivoire are struggling. As a condition of their poverty, many lack adequate access to education, healthcare and drinking water.

Only 43 percent of farming communities observed in a study by Barry-Callebaut, a major chocolate manufacturer, had a health facility in their village. For 54 percent of the communities, the nearest health facility was, on average, 12 kilometers away, a little over seven miles.

Additionally, 25 percent of villages did not have a primary school, with 22 percent of villages having no school at all. While 87.4 percent of villages had a primary school located within five kilometers, having a school in each village ensures that education is accessible even to the most impoverished, as they may not have the means to travel for schooling.

Finally, access to safe drinking water is also a concern for some cocoa farmers. While 32 percent obtain some of their drinking water from the national water supply and 63 percent have access to pumped water, 5 percent of farming communities do not have access to either source. This suggests that they mainly drink surface water, which is more likely to be unsanitary.

Rural Côte d’Ivoire is in desperate need of better and more abundant schools and healthcare facilities, as well as access to drinkable water in certain villages. These changes would help improve the standard of living of cocoa farmers and their families more generally, potentially aiding in efforts to raise them out of poverty.

Financial Inclusion

Cocoa farmers in Côte d’Ivoire are generally excluded from formal financial services. Rates for all residents of Côte d’Ivoire are high, with 53 percent of men and 64 percent of women lacking access to financial services.

Because of this, the crop cycle generally determines the financial lives of cocoa farmers. Cocoa farmers harvest from October to January and make their money for the year during this period. Then, from February to September, farmers must make the money they earned from this harvest last, as cocoa farming is the main source of income for most farmers.

If their money begins to run out during these months, many are forced to take informal loans with high-interest rates in order to make ends meet. Then, when the next harvest begins generating income, paying back these loans reduces their profit and makes it difficult to save money for the following year.

To improve the financial health of cocoa farmers in Côte d’Ivoire and help them rise out of poverty, more financial products need to be available. Access to formal loans is incredibly important, as loans through the banking sector will have lower interest rates and be easier to repay. Many farmers would benefit from being able to get formal loans for school fees, as these are due before the harvest season has begun.

Additionally, education programs to teach farmers how to best manage their money in combination with access to savings accounts can help farmers become financially sustainable over time. Advans, an international microfinance group, has been working in Côte d’Ivoire since 2015, helping farmers set aside money for the future.

Crop Yields

Another solution, proposed by Barry-Callebaut, is to help farmers increase their crop yields, thereby increasing their income. Farmers sometimes do not use pesticides and fertilizers, decreasing their cocoa yields, partly due to low access to financial services. Improving access to financial services, as well as implementing educational programs for farmers to help them learn better agricultural practices, has the potential to significantly increase farmers’ yields over time.

Overall, improving financial inclusion and crop yields has the potential to help cocoa farmers in Côte d’Ivoire rise out of poverty. Additionally, improving education, healthcare and drinking water access will improve their quality of life. As information about cocoa farming continues to be collected, this knowledge will hopefully be used to benefit impoverished farmers.

Sara Olk
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Cote d'IvoireAlthough Cote d’Ivoire’s GDP growth rate remains among the highest in the world from 2015 to 2017, 46.4 percent of the population still lives below the poverty line. The West African country, also known as Ivory Coast, relies heavily on agriculture, as do most developing countries. As the African country continues to develop, there are three possible areas that could help reduce poverty in Cote d’Ivoire: economic diversification, improving the agricultural industry and eliminating government corruption.

Economic Diversification

The country is over-reliant in one industry with 68 percent of Cote d’Ivoire residents having occupations in the agriculture sector. Although the country has grown partly due to the agriculture industry, relying solely on one industry is risky. Price fluctuations of popular exports, such as cocoa and coffee beans, are a high risk for Ivorians. Developing the healthcare, education, transportation, technology, infrastructure and mining industries would create tens of thousands of jobs and reduce poverty in Cote d’Ivoire.

Education is one productive area that would drive economic change and help reduce poverty in Cote d’Ivoire. Only about 48 percent of the population is literate. Education is a basic human right and necessary to develop further; investing in it is the foundation of a strong economy. However, Cote d’Ivoire is focusing more on public education. In 2014, the government spent about 4 percent of GDP on education. In comparison, the U.S. spent 5 percent of GDP on education in the same year. Investing in education has a spillover effect, as those seeking degrees in engineering or in the sciences may build hospitals or work in the lacking Ivorian healthcare industry.

Agricultural Industry Improvement

About 70 percent of the world cocoa production comes from West Africa. The country grew considerably and diversified the agriculture industry by exporting products such as cocoa beans, palm oil, coffee, bananas, sweet potatoes, cotton, sugar and many other products. Due to more than 60 percent of Ivorians relying on crops to feed their families and earn an income, further development in the agriculture industry is a viable option to reduce poverty in Cote d’Ivoire.

Cote d’Ivoire is the world’s largest producer of cocoa beans. Small farmers make up most of the agriculture industry. As the country slowly transitions toward urbanization, especially in the capital and in the major port city Abidjan, investing in more advanced farming techniques could help increase production and lead to a higher income.

Eliminate Government Corruption

Reducing poverty in Cote d’Ivoire begins with government initiative and policy. A strong foundation in government policy, particularly in strengthening the economy and creating jobs, is one fundamental way to reduce poverty in Cote d’Ivoire. A corrupt or passive government will lead to slow or little progress toward eradicating poverty. Under the leadership of President Alassane Ouattara, the country plans to have universal, affordable and clean drinking water by 2030. This goal demonstrates that Ouattara, unlike his predecessor who started a civil war, believes in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.

Under President Ouattara, the Ivorian economy grew significantly. Cote d’Ivoire ranked 10th in the world in real GDP growth in 2017. In an effort to improve the economy after the civil war that stemmed from Ouattara’s election, the president increased investment in infrastructure and services. In 2008, the poverty rate was 48.9 percent. A decade later, it went down to 46.4 percent, a modest reduction, but still representing a large percentage of the population.

Reducing and ultimately eliminating poverty in Cote d’Ivoire is a long, and sometimes slow, process. It takes leadership with a moral vision to help its own people. Three solutions to the high poverty rate in Cote d’Ivoire are economic diversification, investment in the agriculture industry and strengthening government policy in order to create jobs that pay above the poverty level. Thanks to the strong growth in the Ivorian economy, poverty has already gradually reduced.

– Lucas Schmidt
Photo: Flickr

Top Ten Facts About Living Conditions in Côte d'Ivoire
The Côte d’Ivoire is just one of those numerous developing countries that, though undoubtedly facing problems, is unfairly regarded by most people. Indeed, peeling back the poverty statistics and tear-jerking photographs, one finds a portrait of a people rich in shared determination towards building a better future. In the text below, top 10 facts about living conditions in Côte d’Ivoire and the everyday struggles of the people of the country, are presented.

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Côte d’Ivoire

  1. Hunger has become a real problem in Côte d’Ivoire after post-election violence disrupted cyclical planting and regular harvesting times for farmers. With so much of the population suffering from food insecurity, it is just as unsurprising as it is regrettable that the country received a Global Hunger Index Score with the score of just 25.7 out of 100.
  2. In addition to the various initiatives of Ivorian President Alassane Ouattara, organizations like the World Food Programme and Action Against Hunger have provided food for a combined one million Ivorians. The positive forward momentum is strong but gradual.
  3. Poverty in Côte d’Ivoire has led to the prevalence of substandard housing that further led to an increase in diseases as poorly constructed lodgings have granted malarial mosquitoes and similar infectious-insects easy opportunities to spread illness. Most families live in traditional homes made of mud walls and thatch roofs. However, local Habitat for Humanity office has succeeded in helping to break that deadly cycle. Since setting out on their mission 20 years ago to provide safe and secure homes with decent sanitation to the poor, their team of almost 10,000 volunteers have built or repaired over 6,000 homes, as well as provide around 10,500 local people with additional sanitation.
  4. The education problem in Côte d’Ivoire is reflected by one powerful statistic: in 2007, nearly one in two children did not attend primary school. Public schooling is both painfully underfunded and frustratingly overcrowded, owing to previous civil conflicts that shattered the national economy, and with it, the chance at a solid educational infrastructure.
  5. Through the concerted efforts of the UNICEF and the Government of Côte d’Ivoire, over two-thirds of children now attend primary school. Their accomplishments range from improving up to 200 schools with better furniture and more extracurricular activities, to a four-year national development plan to make the push for education a priority.
  6. The Tai Rainforest is one of the last primary rainforest left in West Africa and it is home to hundreds of species of plants and animals, including the endangered pygmy hippo, chimpanzee and leopard. But similar to such defining features of Côte d’Ivoire, its teeming, verdurous rainforests have also become one of its most vulnerable, regularly encroached upon and deforested by ambitious cocoa farmers. As country relies primarily on cocoa for its economy and is the world’s largest cocoa exporter, serious concerns surround the remaining, protected 4 percent of the rainforests as illegal farmers continue to make moves.
  7. The government has worked with large chocolate companies to help stop the farming of protected land, but faces economical and ethical dilemmas as 40 percent of cocoa farms are estimated to be on such protected territory, and ending them would land a big punch to the country’s economy. Additionally, most farmers are poor and use the farm to support themselves and their families. One bill proposes legalizing cocoa plantations in reserves, which would create a place where new trees are planted while farmers continue to grow cocoa, dubbed as “protected agroforests” and is hoping to be footed soon.
  8. In 2011, when the Second Ivorian Civil War broke out, forces loyal to Laurent Gbagbo, the President of Côte d’Ivoire, battled against supporters of the internationally recognized president-elect, Alassane Ouattara. While Ouattara’s forces were victorious in the end, horrific human rights violations were reported on both sides. As a result, tensions between supporters of the two camps have increased ever since. Going into the new elections in 2020, Ivorians are hoping that the tension doesn’t lead the country into a new crisis. Nevertheless, Ouattara maintains that the 2020 elections will “take place in excellent conditions”.
  9. The standard of Côte d’Ivoire health care and health facilities is poor, especially in areas outside of the major cities and this problem is in no small part exacerbated by the previous abolishment of free public health care by the government in response to the political upheaval. At the start of 2015, Ivorians got their health care back, but endemic diseases such as HIV/AIDS and malaria still run rampant. As the HIV/AIDS problem is largely attributed to the lack of sexual education, UNICEF stresses the importance of information and awareness related activities when educating youngsters. So far, hundreds of thousands of kids have been educated and sensitized.
  10. One of the Côte d’Ivoire’s most endearing traditions is the Festival of Masks, held each December in the city of Man. In this well-known “fête”, competitions are held between villages to find the best dancer and homages are paid to the forest spirits that are represented on their decorated masks. In a politically divided country, Festival of Masks has helped to unify a people who are occasionally at odds with each other. Indeed, after suffering from two civil wars within the last 20 years, Côte d’Ivoire has been an at-times hotbed of political turmoil.

In conclusion, Côte d’Ivoire has its problems, but just as the country is experiencing them, innovative ways and solutions exist side-by-side. Hunger, poverty, disease, political strife and other discouraging statistics that the Ivorians are facing have not stopped the country’s improvements in many fields and various organizations are there making sure that the grim realities do not stop the citizens from sparking breathtaking change.

– William Cozens
Photo: Flickr