Culture Affects Poverty
Poverty is a universal issue. It affects people of every nation, religion and culture. Though global inequality has been decreasing in recent decades, many countries still stand at an advantage over others, and in many cases, are in a better position to help.

It is difficult to guarantee effectiveness in a foreign country by virtue of it being foreign. The way the government or people behave will differ. Even the general mindset toward poverty can vary—and these are important differences to note. Culture impacts poverty’s manifestation and means of escape.

These cultural differences continue to exist on an international scale. Culture affects poverty both directly in the way it interacts with poverty, and indirectly, with the conditions that stimulate or prevent poverty. Many of the critical factors focus on a culture’s standard for family structure.

Children are More Likely to Live in Poverty

Children are most likely to live in poverty. If approached per capita, children below 11-years-old in developing countries are nearly 10 percent more likely to live in poverty than the international average. In contrast, the elderly are 10 percent less likely to live in poverty.

There are similar numbers across the globe. In Sub-Saharan Africa, where the poverty rate averages 54.6 percent, children between six and 11-years-old are 62.7 percent likely to live in poverty, while those of 65-years-old stands at 47.9 percent.

The Middle East and Northern Africa have the lowest rates of child poverty. Mirza Izmagilov Makhmutov, former Minister of Education of Tatarstan, describes Eastern culture as being more family-oriented with a focus on upholding history and tradition, compared to Western culture, which places emphasis on science and the individual. Though she describes this rule as unattractive to most young people, it may hold ground in lessening child and elderly poverty in the Middle East.

This is not to dismiss economic factors. Poverty rates drop with even moderate economies of scale—that is, the more production in a country, the more efficiently its society runs. Countries with economies of scale tend to have fewer children in a household.

Single Parents are at a Disadvantage

Though it is difficult to isolate the causes of single parents’ likeliness to live in poverty, as they are often closely entangled with a lesser education and intergenerational poverty, single parents are more likely to live in poverty than their married or cohabiting counterparts. In the U.K., a child’s likelihood of being in the bottom quintile of income is 21 percent for married parents, 31 percent for cohabiting families and 81 percent for single parents.

While the U.K’.s rate of single parents has grown over the last few decades, as the gap in poverty between single and married parents decreases, people still largely look down on single parenthood in Asia.

Globally in 2012, 13.7 percent of children below 15 lived in single-parent households. In Japan and Korea, 12.3 percent and 8.9 percent of children respectively lived in single-parent households, compared to in the U.K. and the U.S., with a respective 20.7 percent and 16.7 percent.

On average, 15 percent of children in Japan live in poverty. For children of single mothers, this increases to 55 percent. Yukiko Tokumaru, who runs Child Action Poverty Osaka, a non-governmental organization, describes Japan as having a culture that places women below men, making it difficult for a woman to have a job after a child.

Yasuko Kawabe, who runs the Nishinari Kids Dining Hall in Osaka, describes the children as needing more than food when they come to her center. At school, the children often find themselves isolated from their peers because their peers consider them to be from a “bad house.” Mothers, too, do not receive pressure to look wealthy at the Hall. According to Junko Terauchi, head of the Osaka Social Welfare Promotional Council, there is massive pressure on single or poor mothers, with women going so far as to hide separations from their partners from friends and coworkers.

Though hope often feels far away for these Japanese women, change seems to be on the horizon. Japanese President Abe Shinzo aims to provide work for women, especially those returning to the workforce after giving birth. Daycare centers in Osaka and other cities offer free meals and playtime for children.

Globally, there is increasing aid for single parents, and there is decreasing global inequality. Culture and wealth gradually exchange. There are no clear-cut means of determining if any culture is more effective at dealing with poverty than another. Rather, culture affects poverty by determining the behavior of poverty in a nation. Culture affects poverty on many levels—in determining government support, in the way it changes the standard family structure and in wealthy treatment of the poor.

– Katie Hwang
Photo: Flickr

Menstrual Hygiene in South Asia
Globally, access to clean water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) is on the rise, especially in South Asia. According to UNICEF, in India, Bangladesh, Nepal and Pakistan, the percentage of people practicing open defecation—a leading cause of child malnutrition, disease and death—fell from 65 percent to 34 percent. While these WASH initiatives have seen success, they often neglect one important aspect of hygiene that pertains to women, menstruation. The ability for women to menstruate hygienically and with dignity is vital to their empowerment. Here are five facts about menstrual hygiene in South Asia.

5 Facts About Menstrual Hygiene in South Asia

  1. There is a culture of silence around menstruation; discussing it is often treated as taboo. Females on their periods are often excluded from society because they are seen as impure. One study in Nepal found that 89 percent of respondents practiced some form of exclusion or restriction during a menstrual cycle. However, organizations such as WaterAid are working to break the silence through female-led self-help groups. When just a few women came forward to speak, it inspired others to share their experiences and start breaking the taboo.
  2. Many girls do not understand their periods. Because the topic is taboo, it is often ignored in schools. As such, 10 percent of girls in India thought menstruation was a disease, and 66 percent of girls in South Asia do not know anything about periods before their first menstruation. A study of 160 girls in West Bengal found that, though 67.5 percent knew what a period was before their first, 97.5 percent did not know where menstrual bleeding comes from. While schools often neglect to teach about reproductive health, this is beginning to change. UK Aid is creating audiobooks for girls dispelling myths and teaching them about their periods, and non-government organizations are creating extracurricular activities that teach about menstrual hygiene in South Asia.
  3. Menstrual hygiene in South Asia is vital for keeping girls in schools. According to WaterAid, a study done in South India found half the girls in school were pulled out at the time of their first period, often to be married. The girls who stayed in school beyond their first period reported poor performance due to anxiety that the boys in the class would find out they were menstruating.
  4. Access to feminine hygiene products is expensive. According to WaterAid, in a West Bengal study, only 11.25 percent of girls used disposable feminine hygiene products. The most common obstacles to obtaining them are a lack of awareness about them, the high cost, the lack of availability and the need for disposal facilities. Focus group discussions indicated that girls would prefer sanitary pads because they were more comfortable, discreet, and easier to use and carry. WaterAid is working to make low cost disposable sanitary pads as well as facilities to dispose of them. In the meantime, most women and girls rely on reusable cloth, which comes with its own problems.
  5. Maintaining menstrual hygiene in South Asia requires improved sanitation. One of the biggest obstacles to menstrual health is a lack of sanitation practices and infrastructure. Most South Asian women and girls rely on reusable cloth. To sanitize them though, they need to wash them in clean water and dry them in sunlight. However, cultural taboos around menstruation often pressure women and girls to try to dry them in dark places, potentially leading to infection. For those who might have access to disposable sanitary pads, they often lack the facilities to get rid of them. This is especially a problem for girls in schools. However, WaterAid and its partners are working on implementing WASH facilities that are lockable and gender-separated, with at least one toilet or washroom with an opening leading to an incinerator or dustbin for feminine hygiene products.

While countries in the region are making great strides in sanitation, there is still much to be done to improve menstrual hygiene in South Asia. It is vital they do so because the ability for women and girls to menstruate with privacy and dignity empowers them to pursue work, education and gives them the opportunity to have a voice in society.

– Katharine Hanifen
Photo: Flickr

Epilepsy, Indigenous
Epilepsy represents an important public health issue, particularly in low-income communities where significant disparities are present in the care available to patients with epilepsy.

Where there is annually between 30 to 50 per 100 thousand people in the general population in high-income countries who suffer from epilepsy, this figure could be two times higher in low- and middle-income countries. Up to 80 percent of people with epilepsy live in low- and middle-income communities.

Due to the higher incidence of psychological stress, nutritional deficiencies and missed medication, poverty-stricken countries are prompted with greater seizure triggers, situations that precipitate seizures. Mortality associated with epilepsy in low-income countries is substantially higher because of untreated epileptic seizures.

According to a study by The World Bank, indigenous peoples are more likely to be poor as opposed to the general population due to their likelihood of living in rural areas and lack of education. Therefore, what can be said about their epilepsy rates?

Epilepsy in Indigenous Populations

Within the indigenous populations of Bolivia, the prevalence of this non-communicable disease is 12.3 persons out of 1000. This prevalence is also reflected within Canada’s First Nations, wherein 122 per 100,000 persons were found to have epilepsy, twice more than the non-indigenous populations. The numbers were even greater among the Australian Aboriginals, with over 44 percent of patients who were admitted to hospitals identifying as indigenous.

Despite the similarity in epilepsy syndromes among the indigenous and non-indigenous populations, the former presents with more serious degrees of the disease when diagnosed. Research has stated this is related to the inequitable access of healthcare resulting from geographic isolation and cultural issues to treatment.

Geographic Isolation and Epilepsy

The Bolivian Guaraní live in the Bolivian Chaco, a hot and semi-arid region of the Río de la Plata Basin. This area is sparsely populated, but of the 49 percent of indigenous persons, 68.9 percent of them live in conditions of poverty, with everyday issues of energy and sanitation.

Nevertheless, in 2012, an educational campaign directed to the Bolivian Guaraní has been implemented by general practitioners to teach the population about the main causes of epilepsy, its diagnosis, treatment and first aid. They also target the social stigma that exists around the disease.

With the help of programs like Bono Juana Azurduy, Programa Mi Salud, Ley de Gratuidad and Seguros Departamentales, there has been an increase in the social security and improvement in the treatment for epilepsy among the geographically isolated community.

Cultural Issues

Apart from geographic isolation, indigenous populations such as the Aboriginals of Australia also have traditional health beliefs about the causes of epilepsy. For instance, environmental factors like the moon are seen as an epileptic precursor. They also associate a connection with the supernatural due to transgressions as causes of the diseases, making it more difficult to find treatment for the neurological condition.

When such cultural issues arise due to a difference in beliefs, it is important for general practitioners and patients to find a suitable course of treatment that is acceptable for both parties. Various clinics in Far North Queensland, where many Aboriginals reside, have assessed and managed the situation through gathering as much information as possible about the person’s original function and the impact of the disease on them.

They also advise other hospitals treating Aboriginal people to identify and implement strategies, whether they be medication, behavioral, environmental or social, to be developed in conjunction with the patient, their families and communities. In time, it is believed that this will lead to the best interim solution for all parties in the support network and the patient themselves.

Within the Aboriginals living in Canada, the British Columbia Aboriginal Network on Disability Society (BCANDS) has also successfully delivered treatment for epilepsy patients by working as a liaison between service agencies and clients to find the best possible treatment. Their services extend to alleviate anxiety from patients who have previously had negative experiences with healthcare.

Moving Forward

Knowing that epilepsy is a neurological condition that receives substantial stigma in indigenous communities, there is a barrier for patients to have access to biomedical treatment and have it become integrated within the society they live in. Therefore, in order to reduce the burden of epilepsy in poor regions of the world, and especially within indigenous populations, hospitals, non-governmental organizations and the government have much to do. Aid can come in the form of risk factor prevention, offering check-up clinics in rural areas, stigma-reducing educational programs, improving access to biomedical diagnosis and treatment as well as providing a continuous supply of good quality anti-epileptic drugs to patients who need it, irrespective of their background.

– Monique Santoso
Photo: Pixabay

Living Conditions in GuadeloupeSoutheast of Puerto Rico and north of Dominica lie the French Caribbean islands of Guadeloupe. France is a parent of this archipelago, providing systems to manage the islands’ legislation, health and education.

Top Ten Facts About Living Conditions in Guadeloupe

  1. Guadeloupe’s government runs under the French Constitution and executes authority with the French legal system. With France as the head of state, this country has no military of its own, rather it relies on their overseas French parliament to defend their borders. Ironically, the most recent conflict was the riots of 2009 which revealed the French government’s inability to deflate the cost of living on the island.
  2. The construction of new housing and low-cost residence funded by tax plans created the availability of living spaces. This is a good start to addressing the issues of living costs challenged in 2009. However, in 2011, the National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies of France (INSEE) reported that 19 percent of households in Guadeloupe are still living in poverty.
  3. With an unemployment rate of 26.9 percent, the Regional Council of Guadeloupe decided to improve the job market through its Regional Scheme for Economic Development (SRDE). Their plan is to optimize access to employment through work placement programs. Satisfying Guadeloupe’s population with opportunities for wealth will feed into the country’s economy.
  4. As arable land decreases, so does Guadeloupe’s agriculture. This affects the industry which inputs 6 percent of the region’s GDP and employs 12 percent of its workers. The production can’t feed the population alone. In fact, the country imports 90 percent of its food for consumption.
  5. The urbanization rate is at an alarming 98 percent. This means, by 2030, 1,500 hectares (approximately 3,700 acres) will be needed for the construction of 19,000 units to house 50,000 dwellers. The unbalanced spread of the population creates congested urban centers.
  6. The annual expenditure on health care and medical products per habitant is 1,800 euros (approximately $2,000). Funding comes from partnerships and programs for EU members, so Guadeloupe doesn’t receive aid from international organizations such as the World Bank and U.N. entities. As a security system, laboratories, like Guadeloupe’s Pasteur Institute in Pointe-à-Pitre, report threatening cases of diseases like dengue which had a fatality ratio of 0.06 percent during the 2012-2013 outbreak. Public health authorities watch and respond to potential threats as a means to establish early warning systems.
  7. The country also follows the French education system with primary schooling from age six to 11 followed by a four-year middle school. At 15 years of age, students may take a leaving examination and begin working. Those seeking to attend a university continue into secondary school with an additional three years.
  8. The country’s history brought together a diverse ethnic culture. It is a mixture of European, Indian, African and Caribbean. As such, the people celebrate Carnival. Beyond this traditional music and dance jubilation, the Creole culture is displayed through the celebration of literature. In fact, Guadeloupe hosts the International Congress for Caribbean Writers, showcasing such work.
  9. Though French is the official language, Creole is also taught in schools to keep the country’s heritage alive. History lives in the buildings as well. Colonial sugar, banana and coffee plantations still remain. Their slave houses, also known, in Creole, as “cases,” hold presence and display the country’s roots.
  10. Travelers can visit this island via French, U.S., Canadian, British and Dutch airlines connecting to Pole Caraïbes International Airport or the other small airports on the surrounding islands. A ferry provides passage between Guadeloupe’s associated islands. The bus system services main routes but becomes scarce on Sundays in secondary routes.

These top 10 facts about living conditions in Guadeloupe depict more than French colonial power. The archipelago distinguished itself from simply taking on the French way of life. The islands have a culture of their own which is the catalyst in their tourist economy.

Crystal Tabares
Photo: Pixabay

Female genital mutilation in EgyptFemale genital mutilation has impacted at least 200 million women and girls worldwide, though the exact number is unknown. The practice is most common in western, central and northern Africa, though it also occurs in a few countries in the Middle East and Southeast Asia. Egypt has one of the highest rates of female genital mutilation in the world, with 87 percent of women between the ages of 15 and 49 having undergone the procedure as of 2016. Some progress has been made over the past few decades, thanks to efforts by the Egyptian government and international organizations, but the cultural preference for female genital mutilation in Egypt prevails, and there is much work that needs to be done.

Egypt has the fourth highest rate of female genital mutilation, tied with Sudan. Only Somalia, Guinea and Djibouti are higher, all with at least 90 percent of women between the ages of 15 and 49 having undergone female genital mutilation. In Somalia, the procedure is nearly universal, at 98 percent.

According to the World Health Organization, there are four main types of female genital mutilation, otherwise known as FGM. These types vary based on what parts of the female genitalia are removed or altered. In Egypt, the most common procedure is Type 1, which includes the partial or full removal of the clitoris.

FGM is condemned internationally for a number of reasons. It has no health benefits, can lead to infections, severe bleeding, infertility and other serious medical problems, is a violation of the rights of women and can result in psychological trauma.

Prevailing Cultural Beliefs

Female genital mutilation in Egypt was banned in 2008 and criminalized in 2016; however, these laws have had little impact on the prevalence of the practice. FGM is seen as an important rite of passage within many communities. It’s viewed as a way to promote female chastity and purity, and many view it as essential for a young woman to get married. According to some Egyptian villagers, husbands will require their brides to undergo the procedure before the wedding ceremony.

It is not only men, however, who support the procedure. While opinions about FGM vary among women, many women do adhere to this cultural tradition and support it being done to their children and grandchildren. According to UNICEF data, only 38 percent of Egyptian women who know about FGM think the practice should end. Egyptian woman Mona Mohamed remembers being tied down to get the procedure when she was ten, her mother and grandmother each holding one of her arms.

Slow Progress

In 2000, for married women, the rate of female genital mutilation in Egypt was 97 percent. Between then and 2014, there was little progress, as the 2014 health survey found that 92 percent of women between the ages of 15 and 49 had gone through FGM. There has been more significant progress between 2014 and 2018, however, as the rate has been reduced to 87 percent.

While this represents a higher rate of reduction, if progress continues at this rate, it will take more than 34 years to end the practice entirely. Success in ending FGM relies on working at a community level to change cultural perceptions.

Efforts by International Organizations

In 2008, UNICEF and UNFPA created a joint program targeting FGM in the countries where it is the most prevalent. Their program focuses on law reform, research, training medical personnel and fieldworkers, and engaging directly with religious leaders and local communities.

Both Muslim and Christian communities are known to support female genital mutilation in Egypt, so the program works with leaders from both religions to educate them on the realities of FGM. If religious leaders come to agree with international views on FGM, the program then provides resources to help them spread this knowledge in their communities through sermons and family counseling.

To better reach girls and women, the program also launched a national television campaign. By far their most innovative solution for community outreach, however, is an interactive street theatre show on female genital mutilation. The play provides a depiction of FGM and its impact on girls, and afterward, the audience is encouraged to be involved in an open community discussion.

Despite being a culturally-driven practice, FGM is often performed by licensed doctors. The 2014 health survey found that 72 percent of FGM procedures in Egypt was done by a doctor. As a result, it is important to also focus efforts on medical professionals. Beginning in 2013, UNFPA held workshops for the medical staff at hospitals to disseminate accurate knowledge about FGM and provide doctors and nurses with the resources they need to counsel their patients and argue against FGM.

Additionally, UNFPA is working on a legal front to address the lack of legal repercussions for those who perform FGM, in spite of it being criminalized. This involves working with law enforcement personnel and prosecutors to ensure that individuals aren’t able to exploit legal loopholes to avoid conviction.

Hopefully, the efforts of UNFPA, UNICEF and other international and regional partners will continue to have an impact on the prevalence of female genital mutilation in Egypt, protecting the human rights of thousands of women and girls.

– Sara Olk
Photo: Pixabay

creativity, innovation and poverty
Mainstream thinking revolves around the idea that emerging nations need the industrialized world to bring innovation to them, since they lack the resources to innovate themselves. Silicon Valley and their cohort have proven themselves to be masters of advancing and solving first-world issues, but they do little to solve the very real problems that exist in the developing world. Their hearts lie in the right place, but, having grown up in a different world with a vastly different life, they tend to lack the knowledge to fully understand what will and won’t work.

The true innovators of our time are those who live within the borders of developing countries, as they are the ones who truly comprehend the complex relationship between creativity, innovation and poverty.

Creativity and Poverty

In an interview with Innovations Online, a technology and entrepreneurial digital magazine, Marcelo Giugale, a senior economic advisor at the World Bank, stated that “innovation is not the same as invention. Innovation is the actual application of an invention.”

According to Ken Burns, an Ashoka fellow in a similar interview with Innovations, the minds in first world countries often innovate for the sake of innovating. When people live in dire situations and are consistently faced with constrained resources, they may be driven to solve problems and create in ways that can fundamentally change their daily lives.

The creativity that comes from the people who live in extreme poverty has the potential to instate meaningful and large-scale change that can improve the lives of millions, and not just those in the middle and upper middle class seen in developed countries. The link between creativity, innovation and poverty is being acted upon within the minds of several talented individuals living in emerging countries.

Map Kibera and Insiders4Good

In 2009, young Kiberans of the Kibera division in Nairobi, Kenya, created Map Kibera, the first open and free digital map of their own community. Until then, it was just a blank spot on the map. The primary goal of Map Kibera was “to find a new solution to an old problem: the lack of participatory democracy in Kibera.” The platform aims to address the omission of Nairobi’s citizens from policy decisions, mass communications and city representation.

The site utilizes the digital age to allow the region’s inhabitants to bypass the traditional gatekeepers of data and information. They no longer must rely on the common methodologies of NGOs to learn the facts about HIV, gender, malaria, sanitation and other important health facts in their own community – they can now research the information themselves. Map Kibera has recently grown into a full interactive community project and has expanded to Mathare and Mukura.

Insiders4Good East Africa Fellowship is a training program that, in 2017, brought together 20 young entrepreneurs from Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania who had innovative business ideas that have the potential to improve their communities. The program consists of six months of technical and strategic mentorship from international and local leaders.

Mensa Healthcare and Worknasi.com

Many of these young entrepreneurs utilized the cross-section between creativity, innovation and poverty to address and solve many critical local problems. Using artificial intelligence, Peter Aketch’s Mensa Healthcare provides actionable data to pharmaceutical companies, public health organizations and governmental agencies.

The necessity for such an innovation is vital due to the healthcare system’s lack of comprehensive and efficient digital record keeping. This innovation will decrease the possibility of misdiagnosis and allow for a more robust collection of public health data.

Eighty percent of graduates in Tanzania struggle to find jobs. This has led to an increase in crime, extremism, drug abuse, and violence. Edgar Mwampinge’s Worknasi.com aims to help these youths by making it easier for start-ups and freelancers to succeed.

His goal is to make shared office space available by connecting these youths with business and office owners who wish to share their workspaces.

IV Drip Alert and Lyon Analytics

In Rwanda, Ange Uwambajimana’s IV Drip Alert enables nurses to more easily manage intravenous fluids through its wireless system. This creative innovation was in response to problems such as embolism which can occur if the medical observer forgets to change the IV at the right time.

And Kenya’s John Mugendi developed a breast cancer prediction system. He proposes that his Lyon Analytics will track the progression from onset to late stages.

2015 Website

2015 is a site that launched in the Middle East. It invites users to submit their own creations that help bring awareness to social issues such as poverty in the Arab region. The relationship between creativity, innovation and poverty is front and center on the site as it showcases images and videos of hunger, the vulnerable and of poverty.

This “movement,” as some have come to call it, was born out of a reaction to the promise made by the nearly 200 world leaders at the United Nations Millennium Summit in 2000. They pledged to eradicate extreme poverty by the year 2015; however, as of 2012, the number of people still living in extreme poverty checked in at 3 billion.

The creative mind brings wonderous elements to the world — whether that be in new technological advances in the medical field, social satire, digital communications or a site dedicated to awareness. As long as ambition and goodwill prevail, there will always be a relationship that exists between creativity, innovation and poverty. The 2015 slogan reads, “Art changes perceptions, perceptions change people, people change the world,” and its mantra could not be more right.

– Aaron Stein
Photo: Flickr

the Media Misrepresents Lebanon
Lebanon is a sovereign state that lies on the western coast of the Mediterranean sea. With over six million inhabitants, this small country shares a long border with Syria, a country that is currently facing a multi-year civil war that has been the cause of hundreds of thousands of civilian deaths and intense human suffering.

Due to Lebanon’s close proximity to Syria, it naturally has faced some conflict in recent years with the overflow of refugees and military conflict on Lebanese soil. The Syrian war has already rendered and continues to produce much devastation for Syrian people, mainly through a lack of human rights.  

Because of this, the media has associated countries in the surrounding area with this chaotic state. There has been a very distinct picture painted of Lebanon, characterized as unsafe and disorganized. However, everything the public is being told is not exactly true, and the way the media misrepresents Lebanon has a major impact on how we categorize and make assumptions about this beautiful, culturally-rich state.

The main implication behind the way the media misrepresents Lebanon is the fact that the media industry survives off public opinion, meaning that headlines and article content are often edited and revised to fit a style that will capture a reader’s attention. Due to this, it is not uncommon for the media to misrepresent situations and give inflated facts to attract more coverage. This is one of the biggest factors of how the media misrepresents Lebanon and, more specifically, the country’s stability.

While certain parts of Lebanon have faced overflow from the Syrian war–for instance, there have been minor security incidents that have occurred in smaller cities like Baalbek and Sidon–these incidents have been both sporadic and uncommon. The way in which the media covers these topics often paints Lebanon as an unsafe environment for travelers, which is not entirely true.

While there are places to avoid, such as the smaller cities that lie on the Lebanon-Syrian border, larger cities like Beirut have remained nearly untouched and are still safe for tourism. In fact, sources like the New York Times and ABC News have published pro-Beirut pieces that highlight the beauty of Beirut culture. Specifically, the New York Times article touched on the Beirut art scene and the various cultures weaved throughout the city’s architecture and cuisine.

In addition to Beirut, other Lebanese cities like Byblos and Zahlé have also been marked safe for tourism in recent years, with standard travel-safety procedures. The truth is that these Lebanese cities are very similar to any other major city; it is simply a large metropolitan area with general security issues like pickpocketing, scamming and robbery. These problems exist in all major cities throughout the globe.

However, when visiting Lebanon, it is important not to ignore the struggle the country faces with border safety and its ongoing rubbish crisis, in which large amounts of trash continue to cover the state’s shoreline. While tourism helps the Lebanese economy, it is vital that tourists do not contribute to the country’s main issues such as littering.

Although it faces a few security concerns, Lebanon is a beautiful country. Cities like Beirut, Byblos and Zahle have enriching cultures and histories alike, and it is important not to let the way the media misrepresents Lebanon take away from the nation’s true colors.

– Alexandra Dennis

Photo: Flickr

Technology to HelpTechnology is becoming more accessible around the world, but some developing countries still don’t have access to new technology. An initiative by the Dubai Future Accelerators, called Humanitarian Accelerators, is working on using technology to help the Arab world. By using new technology such as artificial intelligence, the Human Accelerators’ goal is to help social, cultural and environmental issues in Arab nations.

The Dubai Future Accelerators program started in 2016 by the ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid. This program’s goal is to partner entrepreneurs with Dubai’s government in order to create solutions to global problems.

The Humanitarian Accelerators is part of this program and is partnered with the Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Global Initiatives (MBRGI). MBRGI is an organization that was started in 2015 with the goal of increasing ambitions of companies and communities to create a positive impact on challenges in the Middle Eastern world.

Today MBRGI is helping 130 million people in 116 different countries and operates more than 1,400 development programmes, including Humanitarian Accelerators.

With this partnership, the goal of Humanitarian Accelerators and MBRGI is to use technology to help create and implement solutions to improve lives of people in developing countries.

The initiative is looking to use technology for the betterment of education by providing e-learning tools. E-learning tools are a combination of technology that creates learning activities, such as computer games, that help students learn. These tools can also be a database system that provides training platforms for teachers and tracks grades, course content and student records.

The Humanitarian Accelerators initiative is also using technology to improve access to clean water. Further, it is developing platforms for businesses to give refugees opportunities to increase their skills, which is helping reduce poverty.

By utilizing technology, the Humanitarian Accelerators is helping developing countries with multiple issues that impact people globally, such as education, access to healthcare and poverty.

Deanna Wetmore

Photo: Flickr

Medical Anthropology Improves AidMedical anthropology, the study of health and healthcare in the context of specific cultures, exemplifies how the application of social sciences can improve policymaking. Medical anthropologists work within communities and observe health behaviors, which provides them with qualitative data that can inform healthcare-related aid. In this way, medical anthropology improves aid. Medical anthropologists have not only created aid organizations, such as Partners in Health, but also identified health issues in developing nations and discovered ways to make aid implementation more effective.

When Ebola began spreading rapidly throughout Liberia and Sierra Leone, knowing the cause of the disease was not enough to help aid organizations combat it. In 2014, the World Health Organization conducted medical anthropology-based research to pinpoint what was promoting the virulence of the disease. Among other data, the study found that the culture of burial in Liberia and Sierra Leone contributed significantly to the spread of Ebola.

WHO and other organizations’ attempts to quell Ebola include the cremation of the virus’ victims. However, the locals of Liberia and Sierra Leone view such a practice as an affront to their culture and traditions. In these regions, it is customary to have intimate contact with bodies during funeral ceremonies, including washing the corpse and even kissing it.

In order to eliminate the influence of regional funeral customs on Ebola transmission, WHO began promoting culturally compliant alternatives to burial rather than cremation. Funeral ceremonies performed for individuals who have died in war, which do not require a physical body, are now an encouraged alternative for the burial of Ebola victims. For the moment, Ebola outbreaks have been controlled. According to the CDC, over 25,000 cases of Ebola were recorded in West Africa between 2014 and 2016, while only 8 cases were reported from May 2017 to July 2017.

The Ebola crisis is not the only example of how medical anthropology improves aid and contributes to better global health. In 1997, researchers at the University of South Florida searched for cultural explanations for the shocking prevalence of dengue fever in the Dominican Republic. They discovered that, for a start, dengue education needed to be reformed.

In Dominican culture, women are in charge of collecting water for the household, so health organizations teach women how to clean water and prevent mosquitoes, the vectors of dengue fever, from breeding. However, men in Dominican communities control stored water, kept outside the home. The anthropologists discovered that men had not been taught how water sources and dengue were related, and thus left stored water sources uncovered, which allowed dengue-carrying mosquitoes to spawn.

The insight provided by medical anthropology allows aid organizations to implement healthcare reforms in culturally sensitive ways that are cohesive with local traditions, which in turn makes them more effective. Additionally, living within a culture, as many anthropologists do, helps them detect overlooked behaviors that may seriously impact health and healthcare initiatives.

Mary Efird

Photo: Flickr

International AdoptionAngelina Jolie made international adoption trendy, but humanity’s capacity to love is never out of style.

International adoption is not simply a child coming to the United States; it is so much more. The adoption process is an exchange of cultures. The journey to a happy family is a grueling and emotionally painful two to three years. The prospective parents remain at the mercy of the birth parents, a foreign court system and lawyers. This lack of control can be hard to bear.

In order to understand international adoption, the transformation and eventual reformation of orphanages within the United States is imperative to grasp.

In the 19th century, orphanages became important in the United States due to the financial hardships and violence of the era. The Civil War claimed hundreds of thousands of lives, and diseases many more, orphaning children throughout the country. Not only were orphans created due to the death of their parents, but also due to the financial inability of parents to support their children. As a result, hundreds of orphanages were established throughout the nation. Orphanages were responsible for providing children with shelter, food, clothing and education.

Eventually, it became common knowledge that children in orphanages were often abused or neglected. As a result, the United States shut down many of the orphanages found guilty of such crimes. The government shifted its focus to the foster care system in order to protect orphans from abuse.

Today, some improved and modern group homes exist for orphans. Despite the many news stories of horrific foster care situations, it is considered to be a better alternative than a group home. Nothing can replace a family.

Although the system in the United States is still lacking, institutions monitor children’s safety and health. Laws are in place to enforce good living conditions in both orphanages and foster care. But how does this system compare to international adoption? Why would someone adopt abroad?

When discussing the idea of international adoption, many critics respond by pointing out the thousands of children in need in the United States, but there is no right or wrong choice of where to adopt from. Each type of adoption is right; it simply depends on the prospective parents.

Another factor to consider is that governments in developing countries do not have the same standards and laws governing orphanages. These children often live in very dangerous situations caused by overcrowding, malnutrition and lack of healthcare. Foster care often does not exist and cultural norms make adoption very rare in foreign states.

Three examples highlight the conditions in some of the worst international orphanages: Nanning Orphanage, Shanghai Children’s Welfare Institute and others in China in the 1990s, Ungerini Home for the Incurable in Romania and Mazanovsky Orphanage in Russia, 2013.

Orphanages like Shanghai Children’s Welfare Institute specialized in the “holocaust” of female infants. Due to China’s one-child policy enacted in 1979, the proportion of female infants abandoned, aborted or murdered by their parents rose drastically. Those daughters who survived wound up in these orphanages, where they often died of neglect.

In Romania, Ungerini Home for the Incurable left children with significant illnesses for dead in “dying rooms”. Orphans suffered from malnutrition, lack of healthcare, abuse, neglect and often torture. One child suffering from polio was tied to a crib, causing him to develop deformities requiring thirteen reparative surgeries. Romania’s abuse was so significant that the Romanian government allowed the United States to investigate.

In Mazanovsky Orphanage, beatings were rampant. Throughout Russia, orphanages have maintained a strong reputation for abuse, overcrowding, malnutrition and neglect. The Russian government recently halted the adoption of Russian children by U.S. citizens.

One person can make a huge impact on the world, be it positive or negative. However, in order to become the best version of ourselves, love and nurturing are needed in our formidable years. When the world is chaotic, family is your only constant.

Love crosses all barriers. International adoption is a glimmer of hope in the otherwise bleak future of children suffering all over the world.

Danielle Preskitt

Photo: Flickr