The World’s Largest Slum
Located in the northwest periphery of Karachi, Pakistan lies the world’s largest slum, Orangi Town. This slum is home to over 2.4 million people. Established almost 18 years ago, it stands as the largest town in Karachi. While it does not have a notorious reputation for poverty like many other slums across the world, the people in Orangi Town do have to deal with a lack of basic amenities and services. These are five important facts about Orangi Town, the world’s largest slum.

5 Facts About Orangi Town: The World’s Largest Slum

  1. The 12th Largest Megacity: In 2016, the U.N. named Karachi the 12th largest megacity with a projected population of 18.7 million people by 2025. Orangi Town also is home to a very diverse group of ethnicities including the Seraikis, Sindhis, Bohras, Ismailis, Punjabis, Mahajirs, Pakhtuns and Kashmiris. Despite the variety in ethnicity, Orangi Town is 99 percent Muslim, which implicates a lack of religious diversity.
  2. Water Scarcity: Water scarcity is one of the most potent problems in Orangi Town. The town relies heavily on the Hub Dam, which is unreliable at providing sufficient water. As a consequence, Karachi officials must look at alternate ways of obtaining safe drinking water. Experts found that the other channels have many pathogens in them. Water quality is the culprit of 40 percent of deaths in Pakistan and a prominent cause of child mortality, with 60 percent dying from diarrheal diseases.
  3. The Orangi Pilot Project: In 1980, Dr. Akhtar Hameed Khan founded the Orangi Pilot Project with the goal of alleviating the effects of poverty across the region. Dr. Khan emphasized the need to create affordable sanitation, health, housing and finance facilities. Currently, there are three institutions operating under the Orangi Pilot Project; the OPP Research and Training Institute, which manages sanitation and housing; the Orangi Charitable Trust, which specializes in finances; and the Karachi Health and Social Development Association, which manages health programs. Through research and promotion of education for citizens on pertinent topics, the Orangi Pilot Project became one of the most successful nongovernmental organization projects to date.
  4. Housing and Overcrowding: Similar to many slums in the world, Orangi Town has a housing crisis with the demand for homes three times higher than the supply. Roughly eight to 10 people share a two-bedroom household in many parts of Orangi Town. The suboptimal living conditions that overcrowding causes, combined with the lack of services such as clean water, led to the spread of harmful diseases such as cholera and dengue fever.
  5. Gang Violence: Orangi Town suffers from the effects of crime and violence all too common in poverty-ridden areas. Many instances of gang violence are a product of the various ethnicities that reside in Orangi Town. This led to turf conflict where groups mark their land, usually based trade and markets, and employ violent tactics toward those that encroach on their land. Furthermore, studies show that women are more susceptible to petty crimes and sexual harassment due to the socioeconomic standards in Orangi Town. From 2011 to 2014, 77 percent of women in Orangi Town were victims of rape.

While the situation may seem hopeless due to the plethora of issues including an inefficient government and ethnic tension, Orangi Town is taking steps in the right direction to help eradicate the effects of poverty. Sanitation continues to be a core problem in the region, but the efforts of the OPP and individual citizenry are significant. In 2016, Saleem Khan, a resident of Orangi Town, developed a plan to create a new sewer system and pipeline to eliminate wastewater and halt the spread of detrimental diseases on his street. The growth of microfinance and work centers for women helped strengthen the economy and facilitate cooperation, as opposed to conflict, across the people in Orangi Town. It is imperative that the government reforms the anarchical nature of Orangi Town and takes initiative to abate the widespread crises. Funding infrastructure projects, creating schools and building homes will go a long way to improve the lives of millions in Orangi Town, the world’s largest slum.

– Jai Shah
Photo: Wikipedia

10 Facts About Corruption in Colombia
Colombians often say that the biggest sport in the country is corruption. Since 1994, corruption in Colombia has steadily increased and as of 2018, Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index ranks the country 99 out of 180. The following 10 facts about corruption in Colombia break down the issue by looking at the various affected sectors, the implications of corruption and potential solutions that the country has attempted.

10 Facts About Corruption in Colombia

  1. One can trace Colombian corruption back to the early colonial legacies of the Spanish conquest. Many believe that the Spanish Empire had a corrupt and disorganized bureaucracy. As a colony of the Spanish Empire, Colombia adopted this system when it gained independence. During the early years, the elite members of society achieved a majority of their wealth through corrupt manners, and there was little punishment due to corruption in the judiciary court as well. Consequently, many aspects of society remained vulnerable in the future.
  2.  Eighty-one percent of the Colombian population believes that political parties are corrupt. Corruption levels have increased continuously since 2009, and as of 2019, corruption exists at every level of government, from local to national. Investigations for corruption have taken place regarding over 48,000 government officials across the political spectrum. Unfortunately, due to corruption in the judiciary system as well, a majority of these politicians avoid prosecution by using their own political parties’ budget to bribe judges.
  3. Colombia has lost up to 1 percent of its GDP annually due to corruption. There is a large amount of mistrust from the people when it comes to businesses and their products, as companies are often corrupt and there is no guarantee for a product’s quality or functionality. Furthermore, Colombia suffers from a trade deficit as other nations are reluctant to engage in business. Due to diminishing consumer interest, Colombia’s production, both domestically and internationally, has decreased.
  4. There has been a 39.7 percent annual increase in crime rates. Forty-nine percent and 61 percent of Colombians believe that the military and police, respectively, are corrupt. Due to military personnel, police officers and other armed forces repeatedly taking bribes, many crimes do not receive punishment. As a result, crime has become normalized and crime rates are climbing.
  5. Eighteen networks of corruption are in Colombia’s public health care system. The Colombian health care system has lost $160 million due to corruption. Doctors and other medical professionals manipulate medical records, including inventing fake patients or fake hiring employees, in order to acquire money for their own gains. The cost of corruption has increased treatment and drug costs and weakened health care performance.
  6. In 2012, audits prompted education secretariats to reveal the embezzlement of $125 million from school budgets. Corrupt officials are inventing ghost students, nearly 180,000, to secure money from the treasury for personal gains. Over the years, this number has decreased due to stricter regulations, but the practice continues to remain in effect; it is especially prominent in smaller areas, where school reports do not receive thorough checks.
  7. Only 2.9 percent of the population views the problem of corruption as a high priority. Corruption in Colombia has become normalized to the extent that most people disregard it, opting to focus on other issues such as increased crime rates and lack of health care. Unfortunately, many of these problems have corruption rooted in them. The widespread apathy from society enables corrupt behavior to persist.
  8. Colombia has put anti-Corruption policies into place such as the Anti-Corruption Act of 2011 and the Colombian Penal Code. These legislations redefined legal framework, criminalizing active and passive bribery, political corruption, foreign bribery, extortion and trading with confidential state information. The government’s goal in implementing such legislation was to increase prevention, investigation and penalty mechanisms against both, private and public corruption. By imposing more drastic measures, the government hoped that people would become more cautious and reports of corruption would increase.
  9.  President Santos created an Anti-Corruption Office in 2011. After the legislation improved, the government needed new agencies to tackle corruption. The Anti-Corruption Office maintains control and performs checks in order to ensure that others follow the legislation. The office intends to prevent conflict of interest and avoid nepotism, cronyism and patronage.
  10. Colombia has signed many international conventions to gain further assistance in addressing corruption. In 2013, Colombia signed the OECD’s Anti-Bribery Convention, the Inter-American Convention Against Corruption and the United Nations Convention Against Corruption. By signing such documents, the country sent an important message to the government, businesses and the people about the seriousness of the issue. Colombia has also taken part in the UNCAC’s voluntary Pilot Review Programme and the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, both of which allow an external review of corruption in Colombia as a means to keep the country in check.

As the current government is understanding the repercussions of high corruption, it is taking steps to counteract the problem. Unfortunately, the problem of corruption has not decreased and the country’s world ranking continues to fall. Looking at the 10 facts about corruption in Colombia mentioned above, it is clear that the issue affects many different aspects of life in the country; a lack of further change will significantly hinder Colombia’s development.

– Shvetali Thatte
Photo: Flickr
10 Facts About Corruption in Greece
When the Greek economy began to publicly collapse in 2009, it started to drown in a depression the likes of which many could not handle. Instead, the European Union and the International Monetary Fund stepped in with the largest bailout in the history of global economics. Greece got a second chance for a price of 240 billion euros. Many expected this to mark an end to illicit financial practices in Greece, however, in the past decade, corruption has managed to stay alive and well in a country with a new lease on life. These are 10 facts about corruption in Greece to help better understand what is happening and why.

10 Facts About Corruption in Greece

  1. The Price One Pays for a Civilized Society: Oliver Wendell Holmes was an American Supreme Court Justice and not an expert on the Greek economy, however, his definition of taxes shall be important in these 10 facts about Greek corruption. It expresses the importance of paying taxes to maintain a civilized society. Tax fraud is rampant in Greece. When millions of citizens lie about their income to get away with spending next to nothing on taxes and large corporations do the same (albeit on a larger scale), the tax burden often shifts to the middle class. When life in the middle class becomes unaffordable, poverty grows and the problem seems increasingly unsolvable, eroding the public’s trust in its own institutions. Former U.N. special rapporteur on extreme poverty, Magdalena Carmona, stated that “Tax fraud perpetuates income inequality. A government that does not do everything it can to fight tax fraud is a government that is not doing everything it can for economic equality.”
  2. Crime and Lack of Punishment: Millions of Greeks take no issue with lying about their income due to the fact that there are little to no consequences for it. Greek citizens and officials expect their names to disappear in a void of red tape and missing files, and it works more often than not. However, despite the general sentiment that corrupt officials can get away with their crimes, former Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, leader of the New Democracy Party, began actively pursuing financial corruption in his government. Perhaps the most notable of his achievements was the arrest of former defense minister Akis Tsochatzopoulos. Prosecutors had reportedly given him a 20-year prison sentence after they determined that he might have stolen close to a billion euros from defense contracts.
  3. Fakelakia: Corruption thrives in places that have normalized it. Generally, bribes in Greece happen through small envelopes stuffed with cash to expedite services from household utility maintenance to hospital care. The practice is so common that fakelakia, meaning little envelopes in Greek, has become shorthand for bribes. Anyone can do it in Greece, from high-level officials to everyday citizens. In an effort to combat this, a young woman named Kristina Tremonti started an anonymous whistleblower website in 2012 for people to call out corruption without risking persecution. According to Tremonti, “names are not revealed for the whistleblower’s protection. Once a significant number of complaints have been lodged against a particular clinic or doctor the authorities are promptly notified.”
  4. Justice is for Sale: It is not just everyday Greek citizens who have become all too familiar with bribery. According to the Council of Europe’s anti-corruption group, the Greek judicial system needs more clearly defined rules concerning professional conduct and integrity for judges and prosecutors in the judicial system. As the system is now, it does not resolve corporate regulation cases in an efficient manner. When it does, “over a third of companies perceive the independence of courts as fairly or very bad.” In addition, almost half of all Greek citizens believe corruption to be a common practice in Greek courts.
  5. Corruption is Classic: While overhauling a nation’s government to root out corruption is certainly a victory, as Samaras began doing in 2014, the process can be a bit messier than most people might want to deal with. When a corrupt system is the only system with which people are familiar and it goes away, the immediate aftermath is a nation of citizens who do not know what to do next or how they should do it. Older generations suffer frustration that they can no longer fully utilize a system they have known all their lives. A Greek senior citizen reported to the Guardian that, “Nothing gets done anymore because it’s so much more difficult to bribe civil servants… Now nothing works.”
  6. Expectance of Failure Can Ensure Failure: The desire to hold on to as much money as possible is not the sole motivation for the tax fraud crisis in Greece, it is also about withholding that tax money so that a government the people perceive as untrustworthy cannot spend it. Without public funds to spend on health care, social security and school systems, all public services suffer as a result, thus reinforcing the public’s belief that the government doesn’t have what it takes to help them. In the early years after the financial crisis, under-the-table payments to doctors and clinics totaled 300 million euros or $334,949,950.66 U.S. Greece has made some progress in recent years, though, and now dental and health care costs have reduced by half.
  7. Many are Guilty of Corruption: Tax dodgers or corporations are not the only offenders of bribery in Greece. Corruption is so widespread in Greece that even rehab networks and humanitarian organizations have a history of doing things under the table for the sake of efficiency. The former president of Kethea, the largest rehab network in Greece, even went on the record saying, “Even agencies like Okana, dealing with the very sensitive issue of drug addiction, have been found to have abused funds on a massive scale.”
  8. For the Record, There is not Always a Record: When people do not include economic activities in national records to avoid paying indirect taxes to the proper authorities, they are part of a country’s shadow economy. Obviously, funds that go into a shadow economy are nearly impossible to track, but the majority of funds in the shadow economy are the result of undeclared employment. Getting payment under the table means fewer taxes for everyone involved. The issue may not seem too pressing, however “various studies have calculated that the shadow economy makes up between 20 to 30 percent of GDP [in Greece], an unusually high percentage for a developed country.” To put that into solid numbers, the shadow economy took up 22.4 percent of the total economy in 2015. That means 40 billion euros went unaccounted for that year.
  9. Holding Greece’s Corruption Accountable: Through these are 10 facts about corruption in Greece, financial and political corruption are prevalent all over the world. That is why a bipartisan bill sponsored by Senators Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Sen. Todd Young (R-IN) called The Combating Global Corruption Act proposes requiring the U.S. State Department to rank countries on a three-tier system. Countries compliant with anti-corruption regulations would rank as a first-tier country whereas countries like Greece with a history of apathy towards rooting out corruption would rank as a third-tier country. This bill would let U.S. officials put money into anti-corruption policies with seized resources. Essentially, those who helped perpetuate global poverty would have to pay to clean up their own mess.
  10. Ninety Years of Financial Instability and Still Going Strong: Greece gained independence from the Ottoman Empire in 1830. The Greece that the world knows today is almost two centuries old and for 90 years of that time, it was either in the middle of restructuring debt or in default.

Despite Greece’s challenges with corruption, it is slowly moving in the right direction through Kristina Tremonti’s whistleblower website, government efforts and the reduction of costs for health care services. With the implementation of The Combating Global Corruption Act in the U.S. and Greece’s internal efforts to reduce corruption, these 10 facts about corruption in Greece may disappear into the past.

 – Nicholas Smith
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About the Sudan Genocide
The grave human rights abuses and mass slaughter in Darfur, West Sudan between 2003-2008 was the first genocide of the 21st century. The Sudanese government and the Janjaweed (government-funded and armed Arab militias) targeted civilians, burned villages and committed many more atrocities. Below are 10 facts about the Sudan genocide.

10 Facts About the Sudan Genocide

  1. The long term causes of the Sudan genocide stem from the two prolonged civil wars between the North, that promoted Arabisation and a Middle-Eastern culture, and the South, that preferred an African identity and culture. The First Sudanese Civil War began in 1955 and ended in 1972 with a peace treaty. Eventually, unsettled issues reignited into the Second Sudanese Civil War in 1983 and lasted until 2005, however. Both civil wars occurred due to the southern Sudanese rebels’ demands for regional autonomy and the northern Sudanese government’s refusal to grant it.
  2. The direct cause of the genocide during the Second Sudanese Civil War revolves around allegations that the government armed and funded the Janjaweed against non-Arabs. This supposedly led to the southern rebel groups, the Sudan Liberian Army and the Justice and Equality Movement, attacking a Sudanese Air Force base in Darfur in 2003. The government countered with widespread violent campaigns targeting non-Arabs and southern Sudanese civilians, which turned into genocidal campaigns.
  3. The United Nations estimated that the attacks killed at least 300,000 people and led to the displacement of 2.6 million people. Of that number, 200,000 fled and found refuge in Chad, which neighbors Sudan to the west. Most of the internally displaced people (IDP) settled in the Darfur region, which counts 66 camps. According to a UN report, the lack of law enforcement and judicial institutions in these areas generated human rights violations and abuses, including sexual violence and criminal acts of vulnerable IDPs.
  4. The government and militia conducted “ethnic cleansing” campaigns, committing massive atrocities. They targeted women and girls, deliberately using rape and sexual violence to terrorize the population, perpetuate its displacement and increase their exposure to HIV/AIDS. The government and militia conducted ‘scorched-earth campaigns’ where they burned hundreds of villages and destroyed infrastructures such as water sources and crops, resulting in the dramatic famine. These acts are all war crimes that still prevent IDPs from returning to their homes.
  5. In 2005, the International Criminal Court (ICC) opened investigations regarding the alleged genocide and crimes against humanity in Sudan, which produced several cases that are still under investigation due to the lack of cooperation from the Sudanese government. The ICC dealt with the genocide in Darfur, the first genocide it worked on and the first time the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) referred to the ICC.
  6. A military coup in April 2019 overthrew the former President of Sudan, Omar Al Bashir, allowing the country to secure justice and address the wrongs committed between 2003-2008. Indeed, the prosecutor of the ICC, Fatou Bensouda, urges the UN Security Council to extend the UNAMID’s peacekeeping mission to 12 months and the new government of Sudan to transfer Omar Al Bashir and two other war criminals to the ICC.
  7. Omar Al Bashir was the first sitting President that the ICC wanted (it issued the first arrest warrant in March 2009 and the second in July 2010) and the first example of the ICC incriminating a person for the crime of genocide. However, the ICC still cannot move forward with the trial until Omar Al Bashir receives arrest and becomes present at the ICC (in The Hague).
  8. The UNSC created and sent the peacekeeping force UNAMID (composed of the United Nations and the African Union) to Darfur in 2007, which operates to this day. The mission deployed almost 4,000 military personnel to protect civilians threatened by violence, especially in displacement areas and on the border with Chad. In addition, UNAMID facilitated humanitarian assistance by protecting and helping in the transportation of aid to isolated areas and providing security for humanitarian workers. The UN decided to extend the mandate of the UNAMID until October 31, 2019.
  9. Although the fighting stopped, there is still a crisis in Sudan; the UN estimates that 5.7 million people in Sudan require humanitarian support and can barely meet their basic food needs. There are many NGOs actively working to provide aid, such as Water for South Sudan, that works to ensure access to clean water to rural and remote areas, and the Red Cross, that provides medical care across the country due to its collapsed public health care system. Despite these efforts, there is still an unmet funding requirement of 46 percent in humanitarian aid as of 2018.
  10. In September 2019, a new government established with a power-sharing agreement between the military, civilian representatives and protest groups. According to Human Rights Watch, Sudan’s new government should ensure justice and accountability for past abuses. Moreover, the constitutional charter (signed in Aug. 2019) entails major legal and institutional reforms, focused on holding the perpetrators accountable for the crimes committed under al-Bashir’s rule, as well as eliminating government repression and ongoing gender discrimination.

These are just 10 facts about the Sudan Genocide which are essential to understanding the current events happening in Sudan. Despite the peak of violence in Sudan in 2019 which killed hundreds of protestors, the country finally has a new government and it seems willing to right the wrongs committed during the genocide. The new prime minister Abdullah Adam Hamdok expressed in front of the UN in September 2019: “The ‘great revolution’ of Sudan has succeeded and the Government and people and will now rebuild and restore the values of human coexistence and social cohesion in the country as they try and turn the page on three decades of abhorrent oppression, discrimination and warfare.”

– Andrea Duleux
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in South Africa
Following the national election in May 2019, Cyril Ramaphosa, a member of the African National Congress (ANC), started his first full term as President of South Africa. Born in a township outside of Johannesburg, Ramaphosa fought in the South African liberation struggle and negotiated on behalf of the ANC to bring an end to the segregationist regime. He was a member of the international Mandela Reception Committee and held the microphone in 1990 as Nelson Mandela gave his first public speech after 27 years in prison. Ramaphosa initially assumed the presidency after former president Jacob Zuma resigned in February 2018 following a large corruption scandal.

In the general election, Ramaphosa’s party, the ANC, won 58 percent of the vote, granting him the presidency for the next five years. The ANC won with less than 60 percent of the electorate in the May election, which was the first time since South Africa emerged as a free democratic state in 1994. This suggests a significant loss of influence for the party, which has been in power since the fall of apartheid because of its association with Mandela and other freedom fighters.

During his campaign earlier in 2019, Ramaphosa made many promises to the South African people; he vowed to end government corruption and state-capture, improve education and health care, achieve economic stability and drastically reduce poverty in South Africa. Many believe that the future of the ANC, which has been steadily losing support in recent years, depends on Ramaphosa’s ability to deliver on these promises. Here are his plans below.

Unemployment

“Let us declare our shared determination that we shall end poverty in South Africa within a generation.” Ramaphosa made this declaration in his inauguration speech to a country where 40 percent of the population falls beneath the poverty line and unemployment has increased to 27.6 percent.

In June 2019, Ramaphosa vowed to create two million jobs over the next five years through the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP), the Youth Employment Service (YES) and the National Youth Service (NYSP). He also plans to work with private sector investors on special projects that will create 115,000 jobs in the coming years.

Crime

Ramaphosa recognizes the concerns of residents over crime and has promised to cut violent crime rates in half by 2029. To spearhead this effort, he plans to create a national campaign to increase enrollment in police academies, thereby increasing law enforcement in communities around the country. He also pledged to strengthen investigative and prosecutorial processes through improved training. Reducing violence would help relieve poverty in South Africa by ensuring the safety and mental well-being of struggling communities.

Gender-based violence and sexual assault have been widespread in South Africa in the past several years. To combat this issue, Ramaphosa wants to strengthen the capacity of law enforcement to support survivors and deal with these cases more responsibly.

Health Care

Sickness, disease and injury can exacerbate poverty and deteriorate the quality of life if not treated properly. Health care is one of the universal rights that the South African Constitution outlines, which states, “Everyone has the right to have access to health care services, including reproductive health care…” Ramaphosa has promised to improve existing health care and cover all South Africans under a new state health insurance plan. On August 8, 2019, the South African Department of Health published a new National Health Insurance Bill which will cover all residents, including services for refugees, inmates and certain foreigners. The bill will cover all necessary health care services (including reproductive care) free of charge to all South Africans. The country will implement it in a multi-phase approach over the next several years, beginning in September 2019. Ramaphosa plans to use tax increases to pay for part or all of the program. Additionally, the government will promote the employment of health care professionals in rural areas, which are disproportionately underserved in terms of health care quality and access due to the historical legacies of apartheid.

Education

The public education system in South Africa is notoriously poor. The World Economic Forum recently ranked the country 126th out of 138 in the 2016-17 Global Competitiveness Report. Ramaphosa plans to fix the country’s schools by implementing a nationwide reading campaign and improving teacher training. He also supports efforts to diversify curriculums by including topics like coding and data analytics in primary school classes. Long before his presidency, Ramaphosa established a charity for South African students, the Cyril Ramaphosa Education Trust (CRET), which supports gifted but disadvantaged students in their efforts to attend university.

Corruption

Political corruption has long been a problem in South Africa; government officials routinely siphon money away from South Africa’s many social welfare and public improvement programs to enrich themselves and the corporations they connect with. The party with the most officials accused of stealing public funds for personal use is the ANC, which has remained in power despite scandals. The corruption has even led to the assassination of whistleblowers who have accused ANC officials of pocketing public funds. Former President Jacob Zuma had to resign in 2018 after intense corruption allegations that he had stolen government money and granted profitable government contracts to preferred corporations and friends.

President Ramaphosa has acknowledged that his party is currently under great scrutiny due to its previous transgressions. In June 2019, he vowed to redistribute more than $979 million recovered from successfully prosecuted corruption scandals, directing the funds toward services and infrastructure in poor communities. He also made a public commitment to strengthen the reach and influence of government watchdog agencies like the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), the Special Investigative Unit (SIU), the South African Revenue Service and State Security. Ramaphosa recently met with the national director of public prosecutions to create a plan to increase the capacity of the NPA to investigate public officials and seize assets of corruption proceedings.

–  Nicollet Laframboise
Photo: Flickr

10 facts about slums in BrazilBrazil, being among the top 10 most populous countries in the world, has one of the highest levels of wealth inequality. Wealth distribution is lacking, as the south is responsible for the vast majority of Brazil’s bustling economy and holds a large fraction of the nation’s money. The stark contrast between the affluent and the poor is as visible as the divide between the metropolis and the countryside. The outskirts of Brazil’s major cities, namely Rio de Janeiro, indicate a clear division as unregulated neighborhoods, or slums termed “favelas,” are ever-present. Here are 10 facts about slums in Brazil.

10 Facts about Slums in Brazil

  1. Construction of homes: The original slums were constructed from debris and stolen materials such as wooden scraps. The homes generally start as makeshift creations. After a time, improvements are made and the homes are solidified with brick, cinderblocks and sheet metal; however, the homes are far from being “adequate living conditions,” according to the World Bank.
  2. Growth: Favelas started growing between the 1950s and 1980s. As the cost of scarce land increased drastically and people migrated from the countryside to the city, rural migrants were trapped in poverty. During this time period, the population in favelas outside Rio de Janeiro alone increased from around 170,000 to over 600,000.
  3. Lack of housing: Brazil has anywhere between six to eight million fewer houses than it needs to house the residents of the favelas. The lack of housing leads to the proliferation of slum housing and the overcrowding of these neighborhoods. Habitat for Humanity is working alongside city councils to rehabilitate the slums and find solutions to the housing crisis.
  4. Population: According to the 2010 census, nearly 6 percent of Brazil’s population lives in a favela. This is likely due to the low wages and extremely high cost of living in Rio de Janeiro and other parts of Brazil.
  5. Poverty: Favelas are areas of concentrated poverty. More than 50 million Brazilians are living in inadequate conditions. Of these 50 million, most are families that have an income of around $300 per month.
  6. Sanitation: Twenty-six million Brazilians in urban areas do not have access to drinking water, 14 million are without trash collection services and 83 million live without sewage systems. In order to reach clean water, people living in favelas have to walk over two hours each day. Habitat for Humanity is making strides to alleviate the severity of this issue by repairing and enlarging roofs in favelas while also “building cisterns for water catchment and storage,” according to their website.
  7. Life expectancy: The life expectancy in Brazil is approximately 68 years while the life expectancy of individuals living in favelas is merely 48 years. Conditions are improving as medical care is available at no cost. However, essential medicines are lacking and care for illnesses such as bronchitis is rare as resources are slim.
  8. Crime: The favelas are overrun by drug-trafficking gangs, and the police presence is scarce. However, in the favela outside Rio de Janeiro, a local militia formed in response to these gangs. The Police Pacification Units were introduced in 2008 and are slowly reducing the crime rates in the favelas.
  9. Employment: Around 80 percent of people living in Rocinha, the largest favela in Rio de Janeiro, are employed and a grand majority of the inhabitants have no affiliation with the previously mentioned gangs and violence associated with favelas.
  10. Improving the favelas: While poverty and disease within the favelas is still high, there are social and religious organizations focused on gaining access to basic rights and services for residents of favelas. For example, The Future Begins at Home is a project based in Recife that allows 250 families access to healthier spaces for work, play, and family life.

The favelas of Brazil signify the divide between the poor and the wealthy. Rio de Janeiro has implemented programs to eradicate the favelas and replace the weak, dangerous infrastructure of the slums with more permanent housing. While the conditions of the slums in Brazil may seem hopeless, change is occurring and progress is being made.

– Clare Leo
Photo: Flickr

Living Conditions in Saint Lucia

The beautiful Caribbean isle of Saint Lucia is known for its natural amenities: a lush interior rainforest, volcanic mountains, sandy beaches and coastal reefs. More than 1.2 million tourists flocked to the tiny island in 2018 alone. Despite the country’s up-and-coming image as a sunny vacation spot, there are far more nuances to the daily lives of native Saint Lucians. Here are the top 10 facts about living conditions in Saint Lucia.

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Saint Lucia

  1. Tourism – Around 65 percent of Saint Lucia’s GDP is generated through tourism. The foreign-dependent nature of the tourism industry proved troubling for Saint Lucians, especially when the 2008 global financial crisis spurred a reduction of commercial flights to the island. However, recently the country began a new effort to boost cruise and yachting tourism through dock expansions and marketing campaigns. The total number of visitors increased by 10.2 percent from 2017 to 2018 alone.

  2. Education – According to UNICEF’s most recent data, Saint Lucia has a primary education gross enrollment rate of around 93 percent of children. The country’s secondary education enrollment rate is around 85 percent. As a member of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States, the country became a partner of the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) in 2016. The GPE is helping Saint Lucia strengthen its education system. The group has already disbursed more than $1.6 million dollars for teacher development, curriculum standardization and learning assessments.

  3. Hurricane Risk – Saint Lucia sits on the southeastern side of the Caribbean. That means it generally fares well during severe weather seasons because storms strengthen as they move northwards. For example, during Hurricane Maria in 2017, Saint Lucia only suffered minor road damage. Many neighboring islands, especially those to the north, faced complete devastation. However, the Saint Lucian economy does rely significantly on agricultural exports, which are often damaged in severe weather. For example, tropical storm Kirk damaged more than 80 percent of the island’s banana industry.

  4. Banana Industry – Saint Lucia’s agricultural industry employs over 20 percent of the island’s workforce. Bananas are the main export crop. Black Sigatoka Disease is also a serious concern. This disease damages the leaves of banana trees, rendering them unable to grow healthy fruit. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the UN is one organization that reached out to Saint Lucians, as well as other Caribbean nations, to provide expert support. The FAO holds training sessions in the management of the disease, including proper selection and administration of fungicides.

  5. Crime – Unfortunately, Saint Lucia’s homicide rates are notably high. In 2017, they peaked at nearly six times the global average (which is 6.2 per 100,000 people). The government of Saint Lucia recently released the county’s Medium Term Development Plan for 2019-2022. The plan established a goal of reducing serious crime by 45 percent. Prime Minister Hon. Allen Chastanet shared that the country will strive to meet that goal by improving prisoner rehabilitation services, the court infrastructure and resources for investigators.

  6. Public Health – Saint Lucia is among the healthier of the Caribbean countries, with an average life expectancy of nearly 75 years. That said, the country does have several serious health care issues. According to a 2016 survey, 92.5 percent of Saint Lucians felt “deprivations related to health insurance coverage.” Additionally, there are only 0.11 physicians per 1,000 people living in the country. The World Health Organization estimates that 2.3 health workers per 1,000 are necessary to cover primary healthcare needs. As a result, Saint Lucia is in need of change.

  7. Public Debt – Saint Lucia has a high level of public debt of 77 percent as of 2012. That is detrimentally high for a developing nation. The unemployment rate remains over 20 percent, as it has been since 2013. However, the recent spike in visitors to the island has encouraged Saint Lucians to capitalize on tourism. Industry officials expanded high-traffic port Pointe Seraphine to accommodate larger ships. The ministry of tourism also introduced new international marketing campaigns. The campaigns proved productive in the 10.2 percent visitor increase in 2018.

  8. Poverty – According to UNICEF, 25.1 percent of individuals and 18.7 percent of households live in poverty in Saint Lucia. This is largely due to the lack of diversity in the island’s domestic job market. Additionally, this is a result of an over-reliance on foreign markets. Economic expansion will be crucial in reducing poverty on the island and improving living conditions in Saint Lucia. Country officials are capitalizing on the increase of cruise and yachting tourism to create new jobs on the island.

  9. Sanitation – While some parts of Saint Lucia have relatively robust infrastructures, that is not the country-wide truth. There are several communities, largely in the north, that do not have access to electricity, potable water, flushable toilets or reliable roads. In 2015, the CIA World Factbook estimated that nearly 10 percent of Saint Lucians use unimproved sanitation systems. Consequently, there is a higher risk of preventable diseases. This is an example of poor living conditions in Saint Lucia.

  10. Erosion – The wearing away of mountains, hillsides and beaches is a dangerous problem for Saint Lucians. This is a result of particularly bad hurricanes, like with Hurricane Tomas in 2010. It is also due to poor agricultural practices, as erosion is a chief environmental concern on the island. Mudslides can ruin arable land, contaminate drinking supplies and shut down rural roads. Coastal erosion can damage houses and harm wildlife. Organizations like UNESCO promote better land management practices to mitigate these ill-effects.  The Saint Lucia National Trust also began a project in November 2016 to reduce coastal erosion through beach stabilization. The process is still ongoing.

These top 10 facts about living conditions in Saint Lucia demonstrate how this island is more than just a scenic visitor spot. It is a complex country, balancing tourist growth and educational improvements with agricultural and infrastructural instabilities. With the right developmental strides, Saint Lucia can ensure the prosperity of all its citizens.

– Molly Power
Photo: Flickr

10 facts about violence in honduras
In Honduras, the homicide rate is currently 43.6 per 100,000, meaning for every 100,000 of Honduras’ inhabitants, about 44 people will be murdered every year. With this statistic alone, it is easy to see Honduras has one of the highest homicide rates in the world. However, by evaluating the implemented solutions working to combat violence, homicides in Honduras appear to be dropping; raising the possibility of losing its position as the murder capital of the world. Here are 10 facts about violence in Honduras.

10 Facts About Violence in Honduras

  1. Murder – In 2011 Honduras experienced a peak in murder rates making Honduras the holder of the highest homicide rate in the world. Between 2011 and 2015, the murder rate in Honduras decreased by 30 percent. Homicides went down from 88.5 per 100,000 residents to 60.0 per 100,000 and have remained constant or decreased slowly depending on the year. However, in Honduras, only 4 percent of reported homicide cases result in arrest showing there is still lots of room for improvement.
  2. Lack of Trust – Police and judicial systems in Honduras suffer from corruption, lack of training and a list of cases so long that even honest, well-equipped officials struggle to keep up. As a result, members of the most vulnerable Honduran communities often do not trust the police, public prosecutors or judges to do their jobs. Fearing retaliation from violent perpetrators, they often refuse to provide witness testimony necessary to bring about a conviction. This causes Honduran judicial officials to lose trust in victims. This lack of trust and support fuels a vicious cycle of violence and impunity that has contributed to Honduras’ status as one of the most violent countries in the world. The Special Commission to Purge and Reform the Honduran Police is working to rid the force of corrupt leaders, strengthen public and police relations and reorganize their internal and external goals. Today, the Special Commission to Purge and Reform the Honduran Police has put in nearly 15 months of work and suspended or removed 5,000 police from the force.
  3. Poverty – Poverty and violence are directly related, and they work together to generate difficult living conditions in Honduras. As of 2017, 64 percent of Honduras’ population lives in poverty. Further, Honduras has the second smallest middle class in Latin America, at only 10.9 percent of the population. A larger middle class would result in stronger public institutions, stronger economic growth and greater societal stability. Therefore, Honduras would see lower levels of violence because of stronger societal relations. Working to stem both violence and increase economic opportunities is the key to sustainable development.
  4. Illegal Drug Trade – Central America serves as a transit point for at least 80 percent of all cocaine shipments between the Andean region and North America. Criminal groups in Honduras are very aware of this and profit primarily from drug trade and extortion as well as kidnapping for ransom and human trafficking. In February 2019, authorities in Honduras arrested four Colombian citizens caught in an attempt to smuggle over 100 kilograms of cocaine into the United States through a remote region of the country’s eastern coast. This is one example of thousands.
  5. Gangs – Gang presence in Honduras is common in poor urban areas and where territory is controlled by members of rival gangs, the most powerful being the Mara Salvatrucha and the Barrio 18. The most common age for Honduran gang members is between 12 and 30. Gangs constitute a real but often misunderstood feature of these 10 facts about violence in Honduras. While there is little doubt that they are involved in significant levels of violence, gangs are highly diverse and linked more to localized insecurity rather than the transnational danger ascribed to them by the media and certain policymakers. It is understood that 40 percent of gang members claim to be involved in gangs to ‘hang out,’ 21 percent because they had gang member friends and 21 percent to evade family problems. There is also a correlation between youth unemployment and gang membership: only 17 percent of gang members were employed and 66 percent actively characterized themselves as unemployed.
  6. Domestic Violence – One woman is murdered every 16 hours in Honduras, and the country has the highest femicide rate in the world. Shocking numbers of rape, assault and domestic violence cases are reported. However, 95 percent of cases of sexual violence and femicide in Honduras were never investigated in the year 2014. As mentioned above, widespread underreporting is likely to be linked to the lack of trust in governmental figures such as police and judicial systems. Rape is widespread and is employed to discipline girls, women and their family members for failure to comply with demands. In Honduras, there is a 95 percent impunity rate for sexual violence and femicide crimes and the lack of accountability for violations of human rights of women is the norm rather than the exception.
  7. Honduras Youth – The expansion of gangs and the increase in violence is linked to the lack of opportunities for the youth of the country. Many young Hondurans turn to gangs for their welfare protection and identity construction because they see no other way. Gangs emerge in this context as an option that is often desired for the marginal youth as it provides a form of transition from adolescence to adulthood. About 2 percent of females go completely uneducated, compared to 3 percent of males. Likewise, secondary school lasts between two to three years between the ages of 13 and 16, and 38 percent of females drop out compared to 33 percent of males.
  8. The Public and Prevention – In areas with low levels of violence, residents have taken incidents of crime and made an effort to minimize conditions that might allow violence to thrive. Kindernotheilfe has partnered with the community-formed group Sociedad más Justa (ASJ). They are dedicated to improving the living conditions of children and young people in Tegucigalpa and protecting them from violent abuse. Since 2004, parents, children, young people, teachers, churches, justice officials, city administrations and other NGOs have gotten involved. Some of their help include psychological and legal counseling, neighborhood patrolling and organized children’s clubs and activities.
  9. USAID and Honduras Citizen Security – On Sept. 30, 2016, the U.S. Agency for International Development programs for Honduras invested in a $34.17 million project lasting until Feb. 13, 2021. They are working to support the Government of Honduras’ efforts to improve the service delivery of justice institutions; increase the capacity of police to work with targeted communities; and incorporate respect for human rights to help reduce violence, decrease impunity and implement human rights standards within government institutions. During the third quarter of year one, they achieved key targets, including launching five city events, holding an international conference, instituting a Supreme Court Innovation Committee, connecting with the LGBTQI committee and collaborating with other donor programs.
  10. The Peace and Justice Project – The Peace and Justice Project provides investigative, legal and psychological support for people with few resources who have been victims of violent crimes and push for structural change in Honduras’ security and justice systems. The project has a 95 percent conviction rate, almost 24 times the national average. This has reduced the impunity rate in key communities from 4 percent convictions to 60 percent convictions for violent crimes, while also reducing the overall homicide rate drastically. Over the last 10 years, 600 lives have been saved through interventions in these violent communities.

These 10 facts about violence in Honduras prove that while strides have been made, violence in Honduras is still a major global concern. Communities and citizens of Honduras should continue to make a difference by demanding higher standards and continuing prevention actions. Furthermore, other nations should continue to support by becoming involved in helping strengthen institutional, governmental and police and judicial systems to see long term change.

Grace Arnold
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Gangs in Guatemala
Guatemala is a Central American country, home to volcanoes, rainforests and gang violence. Guatemala is ranked as one of the most violent countries in the world, sitting alongside Honduras and El Salvador. These three countries have been named the Northern Triangle, known specifically for their gang violence. Here are 10 facts about gangs in Guatemala.

10 Facts About Gangs in Guatemala

  1. Origin of Gang Activity
    After Guatemala’s civil war in 1996, there were a plethora of retired and unemployed men with easy access to weapons. The most notable groups to emerge from the postwar era became known as illegal clandestine security apparatuses (CIACS). CIACS are composed of several ex-generals and former high-ranking intelligence officers. The CIACS are still operational, assisting in drug trafficking, the making of false passports and contraband. CIACS are especially powerful gangs because of their close connections to the government. CIACS members are typically former war veterans with connections to government officials. This allows CIACS to corrupt the government to get away with federal offenses.
  2. Persistence of Violence
    Corruption and a weak, underfunded institution lend their hands to the persistence of violence. Tax revenues in the Northern Triangle are among the lowest in the world. Guatemala’s gross domestic product stood at 12.4 percent in 2016, which was straining public services such as police resources and health care facilities.
  3. Immigration
    Gang violence is one of the main reasons Guatemalans flee their country. With violence, forced gang recruitment and extortion, the Guatemalans are seeking asylum in Belize, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama. The four countries have seen an increase in asylum seekers since 2008, but most migrants hope to settle in the United States. In 2015, more than 80 percent of immigrants who settled in the United States fleeing from violence.
  4. Police Involvement
    In any society, police are expected to assist in the maintaining of public order and are responsible for handling criminals. In early 2000, Guatemalan laws defined the word “gang” in broad terms. This ultimately resulted in the mass incarceration of anyone fitting the description. A 2014 article from InSight Crime states Guatemalan prisons are at a “280 percent capacity.” The massive overcrowding epidemic makes prisoners susceptible to control the prison. According to the Public Ministry, 80 percent of Guatemala’s extrusions are perpetrated by incarcerated prisoners.
  5. U.N. Involvement
    In 2007, the United Nations enacted the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG). The organization investigates and prosecutes criminals believed to have infiltrated state institutions. Proving successful, the U.N. met with Guatemala’s attorney general in 2015 to investigate corruption schemes in Guatemala.
  6. U.S. Involvement
    Because of the surge in migrants in 2005, the Bush administration enacted Operation Streamline. This was a zero-tolerance policy that would criminally prosecute and deport anyone crossing the border illegally. In its last year, the Bush administration passed a security package for Mexico and Central America known as the Merida Initiative. Mexico then left the Merida Initiative, and it was renamed the Central America Regional Security Initiative. Through CARSI, the U.S. was able to funnel money into Central America and up to $1 billion was provided to improve governance and police force.
  7. Gang-Related Homicides
    According to a recent U.N. Development Programme report, Latin America and the Caribbean saw a 12 percent increase between 2002 and 2012. These two places are the only regions in the world that saw an increase in homicides. Homicides became categorized as an “epidemic.” There are three working theories as to why homicides have increased in Guatemala. One theory identifies street gangs as a cause, which is the case for Guatemala’s capital, Guatemala City. A study done by the Human Rights Office of the Archbishop in Guatemala found 40 percent of those polled in Guatemala had concerns with extortion. The UNDP examined the violence in Guatemala between 2004 and 2007. They noticed the victims changed their phrasing from “gangs” to “common thieves” mainly due to media coverage of the issues.
  8. Youth Gangs
    In 2017, the 18th Street gang was involved in a riot that killed three police officers. Thirteen suspected gang members were detained for possession of firearms, including a grenade launcher, an assault rifle and several small-caliber weapons.
  9. Gang-Affiliated Crimes
    Aside from the extortion and possession of firearms, Guatemalan gangs are also involved in poppy cultivation to meet the demand for heroin in the United States. Moreover, they are involved in human trafficking and kidnapping, among other criminal offenses.
  10. Gang Hotspots
    A great deal of gang activity takes place in Guatemala’s capital city, Guatemala City. In 2016, the Guatemala National Police reported approximately 4,500 homicides, 5,800 aggravated assaults and over 3,500 missing people.

With gangs in Guatemala continuing to plague and terrorize the country, Guatemalan residents are forced to flee to other countries for safety. Although a vast majority make it to their destination, the threat of eliminating asylums poses another obstacle for Guatemalans seeking safety.

Andrew Valdovinos
Photo: Google Images

fight against modern-day pirates
For the fishermen and industry workers that transport goods throughout the waters of the Caribbean, Latin America and Africa, pirates are an everyday encounter. These criminals steal millions of dollars, kidnap crew members and capture the goods being transported. For these workers and many others, it is a constant fight against modern-day pirates.

Transporting goods across ocean waters is one of the easier ways to get the product to the buyer.  An estimated 90 percent of all African exports and imports are moved across high seas, and the shorelines often become a target due to the large amount of good shipped. For example, the number of incidents in the Horn of Africa doubled in 2017 from 2016. Attacks also rose in 2016 with a total of 94 incidents off the west coast of Africa. It is clear that pirates seek out and target these high trafficked shipping areas.

When pirates board ships, they not only steal the goods that are being transported but also kidnap the crew members and hold them for ransom. In 2016, Somali pirates released 26 Asian crew members that were held for five years, releasing them once the ransom was paid. It is estimated that between the years 2005 and 2012, $339 to $413 million dollars were paid to pirates in ransoms off the Somali coasts. The average haul for these pirates comes out to just about $2.7 million, which usually comes out to about $30,000 to $70,000 for each person. Those that operate in the Gulf of Aden usually make $120 million in net profits. Studies also point to outside investors frequently help to ‘fund’ these pirate attacks and who then receive a cut of the payment after.

There are many different ways that governments, organizations and individuals are uniting to combat the damage caused by pirates. Some governments are focusing on unregulated fishing which allows local fisherman to thrive. Doing so provides long term, sustainable careers for locals who may otherwise turn to piracy. Shipping companies have also implemented several anti-boarding devices and armed contractors to deter pirates. Some ships have collapsible electric fences that act as a barrier between the ship and pirates, and tear gas and orange smoke flare canisters are sometimes placed along the side of boats. These preventive measures fight against modern-day pirates, help keep the crew members safe and are now lowering these attacks.

With anti-boarding devices, armed contractors and the creation of employment opportunities, pirate attacks are now lowering in numbers. While there is still work to be done, the fight against modern-day pirates has produced encouraging results.

– Emme Chadwick
Photo: U.S. Coast Guard