Problems in Developing Countries
Making a film about the problems that people in developing countries struggle with often is not enough. It has to move people, make them talk and ideally influence change. Here are three films that highlight problems in developing countries and help change the world for the better.

“Desert Flower”

The film “Desert Flower” is based on the true story of Waris Dirie who experienced female genital mutilation (FGM) at 5 years old in Somalia. When she was 13, she escaped a forced marriage and ran away to London where she worked as a housemaid and at McDonald’s. At the age of 18, British photographer Terence Donovan helped her start a successful career in modeling. Now she is an activist against female genital mutilation. The film became a part of many anti-FGM campaigns in schools, universities, film festivals and other events across the globe. A number of organizations, including the UNHCR, UNICEF and embassies, have displayed “Desert Flower” as a profound statement in the fight against FGM.

FGM has impacted more than 200 million women around the world. According to UNICEF, it affects around 30 million girls across Africa. That is why, in 2002, Waris Dirie established the Desert Flower Foundation which aims to end female genital mutilation, educate people and save girls from it. The foundation also covers the cost of surgery and medical treatment for FGM victims. In 2013, in association with the hospital Waldfriede in Berlin, it opened the Desert Flower Center to provide quality health care for FGM victims. In addition, the organization created a project called Save a Little Desert Flower which saved 1,000 girls in Africa by entering into agreements with the parents to ensure their integrity. It started with the Together for African Women initiative in Ethiopia in 2011. The project gives women education and provides them with work skills that will allow them to become financially independent.


“Lion” is a film based on the story of Saroo Brierley. Growing up poor in India, he and his brother had to provide their family with money. In 1986, when Saroo was 5 years old, he fell asleep on the train while he was waiting for his brother. The train took him many miles away from his home to Calcutta. He had to survive on the streets, lived in an orphanage and then ended up in an Australian family. As an adult, he got a chance to find his family in India using Google Earth. He spent five years trying to recall the places he grew up in. After separation from his birth family, which lasted for 25 years, he finally found them. That shows how technology these days can do remarkable things.

In India, approximately 1.5 million children grow up without families in residential facilities that are badly managed and leave children prone to violence and exploitation. The movie highlighted that problem and inspired Purvi and Harsh Padia to collaborate with UNICEF USA to establish Project LION in 2018. In association with 12 state governments and the national Government of India, the project has developed non-institutional, family-based alternative care for children. Project LION took care of more than half a million children in its first three years. UNICEF has distinguished significant improvements in the provision of care for underprivileged children in India. There has been prevalent adoption of more child-friendly care models. The quality of care at children’s facilities has increased, especially when handling the special requirements and cases of children in a suitable and efficient manner.


“Capharnaüm” finishes off the list of films that highlight problems in developing countries. It is a story about a Lebanese boy named Zain who sues his parents for giving him life. Zain’s family is poor so they force their 11-year-old daughter Sahar into an arranged marriage with a man twice her age Assad. That decision makes Zain run away from home and survive on the streets of Beirut. At some point, he lives with another illegal immigrant Rahil and takes care of her baby Yonas. However, no matter how street-smart Zain is, he still ends up in jail and becomes another victim of the system because he does not have identity papers.

“Capharnaüm” is a docudrama which means that it mixes fiction with documentary. For instance, the events illustrated in the film have actually happened but the form is like a fictional movie. The boy who played Zain is also a Syrian refugee who has been working since he can remember. The actress who played Rahil did not have identity papers like her character and was arrested two days after she portrayed it in the film. The actors lived what they showed on the screen. Director Nadine Labaki carefully researched the situation in Beirut for four years. She talked to many kids in youth jails and detention centers. The film moved some people in Lebanon so they started a discussion and created a movement for change.

As Nadine Labaki said in an interview with The Guardian, “For me, film-making and activism are one and the same thing. I really do believe cinema can effect social change.” That is why it is important to learn by watching films that highlight problems in developing countries. It can start a conversation and affect change.

– Elizaveta Medvedkina
Photo: Flickr

Rural-urban migrationWhen thinking of rural-urban migration, experts tend to focus on the positive aspects for migrants. New economic opportunities, access to public services and greater social tolerance define the experience of newly-urban migrants in the conversation around rural-urban migration. When discussing flaws, the conversation gravitates toward the slum conditions and informal labor in large developing-world cities. However, the developing world’s rapid amount of rural to urban migration leaves many villages with less human capital and resources. What does this rural-urban migration mean for the rural developing world?

Urban Transition

Rural-urban migration has swept the developing world since the late 20th century. This transformation, known as “urban transition,” brings the economies of countries from rural-driven to urban-driven. Seeing this trend, many countries have supported larger development projects in urban areas, looking to get ahead of the curb. While an admirable strategy, it leaves out the rural populations who tend to be more isolated. This creates a vicious cycle, where people move where the government invests, and the government invests where people move.

This lack of investment creates a problem for rural areas. Unable to increase productivity and suffering from a lack of investment, impoverished rural areas are stuck in a loop, using the same basic techniques for subsistence farming utilized in the 20th century. Rural families have many children, hoping some will move to the city to send back money and some will work on their local subsistence farm. By sending the educated children to the city, families create a gap in living standards, with those with opportunity leaving while those without stay behind.

Migration in Trade for Remittances

However, this rural-urban migration also brings benefits to the rural areas. Many families send their young adult children into the cities, investing in their future in the city. Remittances, money sent back by those moving to urban areas, keep rural finances diverse and pay for many essential services for rural people. Without this income source, rural families would be completely dependent on the whims of nature, with no sense of security that a separate income gives. Studies show that these remittances increase life expectancy and happiness, two factors increased with security.

How to Help Rural Areas

One of the rural areas’ biggest difficulties is low productivity which hinders economic growth. Many Africans living in rural areas are subsistence farmers, meeting their own food needs but creating little surplus which drives economic growth. For this reason, young people commonly move to higher productivity urban areas. To prime rural areas for development, scholars have identified several factors which developing-world governments should attack. For instance, poor rural infrastructure, illiteracy and low social interaction all hinder rural growth, which drives rural-urban migration.

By attacking these problems, governments can increase rural development, attack poverty at its heart and protect rural communities in the long run. Severe “brain drain,” where educated people move to more productive areas, especially impacts rural communities. Lowering populations will lead to less monetary and representative allotments, decreasing the voice of rural residents. Additionally, men make up the majority of rural-urban migrants, leaving women in a vulnerable position both in caring for children and running subsistence farms.

Rural development projects which take into account community leaders at all levels of planning and execution can greatly increase their effectiveness. Improving the governance of these projects, especially reducing corruption, is essential in assuring rural development. The integration of system-wide rural development projects serves as an opportunity to increase rural development. Currently, thousands of NGOs operate rurally around Africa, with many separate governmental programs overlapping. By increasing cooperation, systematic development of rural areas can occur rather than a patchwork of unrelated development projects.

– Justin Morgan
Photo: Flickr

Third World Term Perpetuates Poverty Frequently, people use the term “Third World” to describe developing countries around the globe, but what does “Third World” actually mean for those living in poverty?

First, Second and Third World

The terms “First World,” “Second World” and “Third World” originate from the Cold War era. During this time of tension, the phrase “First World” was a description for industrialized capitalist countries such as the United States, various Western European countries and their allies. “Second World” described socialist countries still under the influence of the Soviet Union. “Third World” referred to those countries not allied with the Warsaw Pact or NATO. While these accepted definitions contain no quantifiable content to explain the designated numerical naming system, the choice of rhetoric certainly implies rank.

Negative Framing

The implied ranking system enacts what is known in psychology as the framing effect. The American Psychological Association defines the framing effect as “the process of defining the context or issues surrounding a question, problem or event in a way that serves to influence how the context or issues are perceived and evaluated.” In short, the way an idea is presented has a large effect on how the idea is perceived. For many years, many candidly used the term “Third World” to refer to developing countries around the globe, leading to growing unconscious biases.

Priming Negativity

Biases and heuristics play an important role in perception, judgment and decision making. Depending on how one frames a subject, different biases may form. Another important psychological concept at play when talking about biases is priming. In cognitive psychology, priming is “the effect in which recent experience of a stimulus facilitates or inhibits later processing of the same or similar stimulus.”

For instance, the emblematic hierarchy would therefore rank “Third World” countries third out of three, effectively pigeonholing these countries as inferior regions. The connotation primes an individual to think these countries belong in last place, making extreme poverty a normalized concept in these regions when it should be anything but normal. As a doom and gloom term, referring to developing countries as “Third World” countries is harmful because it perpetuates cycles of poverty in certain regions of the world.

The Power of Rhetoric

More than three billion people around the world survive on less than $2.50 per day. When such a tremendous amount of people are living in extreme poverty, there is an ethical obligation to care. Meeting this obligation with something as simple as a change in rhetoric is a small task that could potentially have a large impact. It is important to call developing countries what they are — developing. The term developing country has an undertone of hope, and while extreme poverty is common in these regions, further developments are on track to reduce poverty and improve quality of life. Framing developing countries in such a negative light has the potential to cause irreparable damage to the fight against poverty. Poverty anywhere in the world is not normal and it is important to avoid treating it as such.

– Michelle M. Schwab
Photo: Flickr

Congenital Anomalies
Worldwide, congenital anomalies cause approximately 295,000 deaths of children within their first 28 days of life. Every year, about 7.9 million children are born with life-threatening defects and 3.3 million children under the age of five5 die from congenital disabilities. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), congenital anomalies are structural or functional aberrations that occur during intrauterine life. The most common congenital disabilities include heart defects, cleft lip (palate), down syndrome and split spine (also known as spina bifida). Although 50% of all congenital disabilities do not have a single definite cause, common causes include genetic mutation, environmental factors and various other risk factors.

Geographic Disparities

Although congenital disabilities are widespread globally, they are particularly prevalent in developing countries. Developing countries account for 94% of worldwide congenital disabilities.

The level of income -both individual and national- in developing countries is a crucial factor that indirectly influences the high incidence of congenital disabilities. Low income affects the incidence of congenital disabilities in developing countries in the following ways:

  • Poor Access to Adequate Maternal Healthcare for Women During Pregnancy: About 99% of the global maternal mortality cases occur in low-income countries due to inadequate maternal care.
  • Poor Maternal Nutritional Condition: Deficiency of vitamin B can, for instance, escalate chances of birthing a baby with neural tube defects.
  • Excessive Prenatal Alcohol Consumption: Pregnant mothers’ consumption of alcohol increases their risks of giving birth to a child with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS). FAS is a total of the damage – both physical and mental – to an unborn child as a result of their mother’s alcohol consumption.
  • Presence of Other Infections: Some sexually transmitted diseases can transfer from a pregnant mother to her child. For example, syphilis during pregnancy accounts for an estimated 305 000 fetal and neonatal deaths annually. It also jeopardizes 215,000 infant lives due to congenital infections, prematurity or low-birth-weight.

How WHO is Taking Action

The World Health Organization has taken and implemented various measures to fight congenital anomalies. In the 2010 World Health Assembly, WHO took on a resolution encouraging its member states to fight against congenital anomalies by:

  • Raising awareness throughout governments and the public about congenital disabilities and the risk they impose on children’s lives
  • Developing congenital disabilities surveillance systems
  • Providing consistent support to children affected by congenital anomalies
  • Ensuring that children with disabilities have the same rights and equal treatment as children without disabilities
  • Assisting families whose children have congenital disabilities

In addition to the resolution, WHO designed a manual that showed illustrations and photographs of selected birth defects. The manual’s primary purpose was to foster further development of the surveillance system, especially in low-income countries.

The Global Strategy for Women’s and Children’s Health

In 2016, WHO went an extra mile and published the Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescents Health 2016-2030, an updated version of the Global Strategy for Women’s and Children’s Health devised five years prior. The Global Strategy’s grand theme was “Survive, Thrive, Transform.”

  • Survive: “Survive” encompassed various goals that the Global Strategy hoped to accomplish. These include ending preventable deaths, lowering maternal mortality rates and newborn deaths among others.
  • Thrive: The main target was promoting health and wellbeing by responding to the dietary needs of children, adolescents and pregnant & lactating women.
  • Transform: This objective’s primary goal was to create a safe and nurturing environment by terminating extreme poverty. Poverty one of the leading causes of congenital disabilities.


Over the years, the World Health Organization’s relentless efforts in battling against congenital disabilities have made remarkable progress in alleviating the issue. For instance, the number of newborn deaths has plummeted from 5 million to 2.4 million between 1990 and 2019, thanks to the various innovations and programs put in place. Although the current state of affairs is far from ideal, past accomplishments lay the groundwork and identify clear steps for future progress.

Mbabazi Divine
Photo: Flickr

Electrifying TransportationThe World Health Organization (WHO) has recorded 7 million premature deaths globally as a result of elevated levels of air pollution. In 2016, the WHO reported that 91% of the world’s population resided in areas that did not meet the threshold for acceptable air quality. Such conditions escalate the effects of and increase mortality from strokes, cardiovascular disease, respiratory disease and infections, cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. In 2010, the World Bank along with the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation reported more than 180,000 deaths and the loss of 4,100,000 disability life adjusted years directly attributable to road transport air pollution. Also, when declaring the ‘best practice group’ for policy handling of air pollution, the list consisted mainly of high-income countries that can afford preventative measures like electrifying transportation.

Air Quality and Poverty

The WHO reports that low-and middle-income countries suffer the highest effects of elevated exposure to harmful air pollutants. In fact, the majority of the world’s cities with the highest Air Quality Indices (AQI) are found in developing nations. These countries typically do not have adequate laws or enforcement to protect against air pollution. These nations tend to contain a higher number of coal power stations and less stringent restrictions on vehicle emissions.

Further, developing nations experience great disparity in the effects of air pollution and the burden typically falls on the countries’ most impoverished populations. The reason for this is that the impoverished usually reside in highly concentrated areas with dense harmful emissions, a consequence of their exclusion from suburban areas where there are fewer pollutant-generating spaces.

Despite air pollution challenges, a healthy environment, which includes clean air, is a human right and forms part of the United Nations (U.N.) Sustainable Development Goals. In order to improve air quality, one of the U.N.’s main suggestions is to adopt clean and renewable energy and technologies.

Electrifying Transportation

The emissions from current fuel and diesel-powered traditional transportation systems consisting of fossil fuel-powered cars, trucks and buses generate pollutants that have adverse effects on every organ in the human body. These forms of transport are also responsible for approximately half of all the nitrogen oxides in the air of the U.S. alone.

Furthermore, transportation stands as one of the greatest sources of greenhouse gases. Given the large contribution to air pollution arising from main-stream fuel and diesel vehicles, electrifying transportation systems is anticipated to be one of the most effective, shorter-term solutions to air pollution. This will, in turn, lift some of the burdens on impoverished and vulnerable populations.

One of the main advancements in renewable technology is the use of electric vehicles. One estimate finds that with the widespread accelerated adoption of clean transportation through the electrification of vehicles and fuel, an approximated 25 million aggregate years of life would be saved by 2030. Included in this figure are at least 210,000 reductions in premature deaths in 2030 alone. These gains would primarily occur in China, India, the Middle East, Africa and developing Asia, especially in locations with the highest rates of poverty.

So far, there are three classes of electric vehicles:

  1. E4W – Electric four-wheelers.
  2. E2W – Electric two-wheelers.
  3. HEV – Hybrid electric vehicles.

Access in Developing Countries

One of the main barriers to electrifying transportation in developing nations is the fact that electric vehicles (EVs) are typically more expensive than traditional fuel and diesel-powered vehicles. However, switching to EVs can prompt savings. Developing nations exist on a spectrum of development. For those with public transportation systems, working police and emergency health care fleets, the governmental investment in the transition toward electric vehicles and trucks would not only help to improve the air quality in the respective nations but would also prove cheaper and more sustainable in the long run.

Of the available classes of electric transport options, the E2Ws would be most beneficial in developing nations. This is because E2Ws have the lowest energy consumption rating. Unlike E4Ws, the E2W class of EV’s ability to charge via regular home outlets means that there are no substantial charging infrastructure investment requirements.

In terms of operational costs, all classes of EVs have lower operational costs than their corresponding fuel vehicles. However, the E2W class has benefits ranging from 24% lower operational costs, and in some countries like Vietnam, eight times lower operating costs than corresponding fuel-based transportation.

Many developing nations might not yet be in a position to invest in and benefit from the E4W or HEV EV classes due to their high initial investment and required charging infrastructure investments. The E2W class by contrast has been found to be a feasible investment for electrifying transportation for poverty reduction. Not only will this contribute to a significant reduction in air pollution, lightening its burden on the poorer populations, but it will also prompt savings for governments and stimulate economic growth. Additionally, as investments in EVs continue to rise, the initial purchase prices will fall and so developing countries might be able to afford higher classes.

Rebecca Harris
Photo: Flickr

Baseball Around The World
Baseball has been known as America’s game since its creation in 1839. It has served as an entertainment outlet for many Americans, bringing about positive feelings of nostalgia and pure competitive joy. As time went on, baseball proved to be a popular sport around the world, allowing kids to chase dreams of home runs and perfect games. With anything long enough to be a bat, and round enough to be a ball, people around the world have found numerous ways to create the game of baseball.

Kids Chasing Their Dreams

Many people in impoverished countries have used baseball as a way to express their competitiveness. With most professional teams coming from the United States and Korea, many kids in impoverished countries dream of one day making it to the biggest professional stage for baseball. For these kids, that starts with the Little League World Series. The Little League Baseball organization has put young kids on the world stage since 1939. Little League teams can represent their region in a world tournament every August. Historically, the United States and China have produced powerhouse teams that dominate consistently. However, every few years, the tournament experiences new young talent from countries like Uganda and Mexico, showing how baseball around the world has been expanding.

In 2012, the Little League World Series tournament said hello to its first team from Uganda. Though the team lacked skill, they made history by appearing in the tournament. Then in 2015, Uganda made its second appearance, showing great improvement since its original appearance. According to Roger Sherman, “Ugandan baseball is young and has faced a lot of obstacles. But these kids have gotten really good really fast, and they aren’t going away any time soon.” The sport has become a staple in Uganda as they continue to build up their baseball communities. Creating leagues and supporting kids in developing countries is one way that baseball has historically helped impoverished communities grow. Baseball around the world has impacted kids, and it continues to do so.

Fighting Poverty With Baseball

More recently, baseball has proven to be a huge supporter of ending poverty around the world. According to Stuart Anderson, 27% of major league players are foreign-born, with the majority of those players coming from the Dominican Republic. About 30% of the Dominican Republic population is living below the poverty line. It is only natural for major league baseball players to use their popularity and skill to support their home countries.

Food for the Hungry, a global nonprofit organization, has teamed up with many major league baseball players to launch the Striking Out Poverty initiative. For the last two years, players like Nick Ahmed of the Arizona Diamondbacks, Dee Gordan of the Seattle Mariners and Jake Flaherty and Michael Wacha both of the St. Louis Cardinals, have dedicated their skills to help raise awareness for countries below the poverty line. Some play for clean water, some play for food donations, some play for farmers and some play to save lives.

How to Help

Anyone can help by donating. Showing support for a team or player’s personal campaign can make a big impact. With each game played, they generate thousands of dollars to donate. With the help of fans across the United States and the world, they can generate even more.

For decades now, baseball has spread its popularity around the world. It is a sport that, played any way possible, provides joy and escape for many people. The sport itself and the professional players have had a positive impact on communities around the world.

Sophia Cloonan
Photo: Flickr

Child Poverty in the United KingdomWith the sixth-largest economy in the world, the United Kingdom has vast financial resources. Despite its economic strength, however, child poverty in the United Kingdom is a severe and growing problem.

Child Poverty in the UK

More than four million children live in child poverty in the United Kingdom, which accounts for nearly a third of children in the U.K. A child is considered to be in poverty when they live with a family whose income is less than 60% of the United Kingdom’s national average. For such a wealthy country, this is a staggering statistic.

Child poverty is becoming even more problematic. The rates of child poverty in the United Kingdom are expected to rise from four million to five million in 2020. There are a variety of reasons for the increase in poverty. Some of these include rises in living costs with lower labor wages, leaving parents having to choose between essential goods and services and feeding their children.

Does Employment Solve Poverty?

Poverty affects children, even when their parents are employed. Two out of three children living in poverty have a parent who is employed. A recent report highlighted the government’s role in child poverty, noting its increased cutting of social services since 2010. By enforcing work as a solution to poverty, the government essentially dismantled much of the social support systems upon which many citizens rely. Despite record levels of employment, one-fifth of people are in poverty, showing the limiting effects of work on decreasing poverty.

Child Poverty and Minorities

The impacts of child poverty in the United Kingdom are widespread and affect minority groups the most. Children who face poverty are more likely to struggle in academic environments, impacting their ability to find employment later in life, leading to lower wages, an increased likelihood of imprisonment for men and becoming a single parent for women. Children from minority groups, mainly Pakistani and Bangladeshi, are most likely to suffer from child poverty in the United Kingdom.

Buttle UK

There are charitable organizations addressing child poverty in the United Kingdom. While the government has cut social services funding, Buttle UK, a charitable organization, provides funds for desperate families who need to buy necessary household items. Of the 10,000 families it helped in 2017, over 3,000 of them used the money to buy beds for their children. Buttle UK estimates that hundreds of thousands of children could be without their own bed in what it calls “bed poverty.” Although the government has cut social services funding, fortunately, organizations like Buttle UK have helped thousands of families and their children every year.

The United Kingdom has many governmental and financial resources with its economic fortitude; however, the cutting of social services has been problematic for many families struggling with a lack of resources. Consequently, millions of children live in poverty, even when their parents are working and trying to provide for them. Fortunately, charities like Buttle UK are addressing some of the difficulties that children face in dire circumstances. Hopefully, with more awareness and support for social services, child poverty in the United Kingdom will soon subside.

– Eliza Cochran
Photo: Flickr

China’s Continued Hold on Asia
China is a country with a long cultural history and an equally long and tumultuous political history. Throughout history, there has been a power dynamic due to China’s continued hold on Asia.  Power in Asia has shifted many times, not only within China but also with respect to other nations. One can still observe China’s influence in the backbones of other nations.


In recent years, the rate of poverty in Vietnam has gradually been decreasing, bringing it to 9.8% as of 2016. There are plenty of untapped agricultural resources, such as coffee, black pepper and rubber. They exist in the region where Vietnam’s poor population is most concentrated. In harvesting these resources, the hope would be to jumpstart the economy in these impoverished areas. China gained power over Vietnam several times between 111 BC and 1427.

China’s power over Vietnam lasted until the fall of the Tang dynasty in 938 AD. Well into the modern era, China and Vietnam have had governance and structural similarities, due to similar obstacles they have encountered, including the establishment of communist power structures within their governments. Moreover, China has remained Vietnam’s largest trade partner – unsurprising given China’s advancement to the forefront of the global economic stage.

Keeping the Upper Hand

China’s interests in Vietnam stems largely from its want to keep the upper hand regarding disputes surrounding Hanoi, both in keeping Hanoi pro-China on most issues and making Chinese goods the most sought after in the market. Vietnam remains reliant on China to further develop its economy, utilizing China’s trade channels to yield more export growth than import growth, at 16.6% to 11.7% respectively. Vietnam’s top exports are broadcasting equipment and shoes, which are items that put the nation’s large supply of rubber to good use. These exports could potentially infuse more cash into Vietnam’s impoverished areas that are sitting on unused rubber deposits by creating jobs and growing the economy. However, a sustained reliance on China means that China can use its valuable trade channels and own booming economy to leverage its influence on Hanoi.


Currently, 28.4% of Mongolia’s population lives below the poverty line. Mongolia declared its independence from China’s last imperial dynasty in 1911 and established the Mongolian People’s Republic in 1924. China did not recognize Mongolia’s independence until a little over 20 years later. Like Vietnam, Mongolia’s economy is very much reliant on China, primarily concerning foreign trade. With Mongolia benefiting from its neighbor’s wide array of trade routes, China sends out 90% of Mongolian exported goods.

Moreover, China’s choice of trade partners in certain industries has impacted the growth of Mongolia’s mining industry. Mongolia’s economic growth spiked 5.3% from 2016 after China banned North Korean coal, which shifted the demand to favor what Mongolia could supply. China’s influence on Mongolia’s economic growth is an iron grip on a nation still struggling to fully develop and establish a sound infrastructure following a recent tumultuous, political history. This feeds into China’s continued hold on Asia.


Today, China is struggling to declare Tibet an independent region. In fact, Tibet still operates as an autonomous region of China. Xi Jinping, the president of China, plans to eradicate extreme rural poverty by the end of 2020. As of 2015, the poverty rate in Tibet’s Autonomous Region (TAR), the western part of historic or ethnographic Tibet, was about 25%. In declaring extreme poverty gone, China has determined that those in TAR make a minimum of $328 a year.

Tibet is heavily reliant on China, with Beijing being a significant investor. Beijing’s investments are inclusive of the dam on the Lhasa River which energizes much of central Tibet, including the capital. Tibet’s reliance on China’s economy and investments only gives China the ammunition to continue its claims to Tibet.

This economic hold on the state inhibits Tibet’s ability to thrive and grow, despite the money it receives from China. This also continues despite China’s claims of having eradicated Tibet’s poverty. China’s political maneuvers included the exile of the 14th Dalai Lama following Tibet’s uprising. China’s continued economic hold on Asia has made way for cultural, political and social influences China’s exacted on Tibet and other nations throughout history.

Buddhist Global Relief

Buddhist Global Relief (BGR) has partnered with Maitreya Charity. It is based in Washington in the U.S. Its goal is to help bring hot meals and educational resources to impoverished children in Mongolia. A relatively new project, BGR’s first run with the Hot Meal Project allowed it to feed 32 kids. This number grew to 34 within the year. With a capacity to serve 50, BGR is looking for ways to get funding and expand its reach in the area, where about 30% of the population lives in extreme poverty.

BGR is not only trying to feed and educate the children but also distributes clothes and daily vitamins. It is also offering games to try and improve the socialization of the children. In looking to grow its operation, BGR enlisted the help of volunteer dental professionals. It knows that dental health is a prevalent issue in the area. BGR hopes to have a well-stocked library accessible to the children, a dish sterilizer and funds for dental checks. These are ways to help mitigate dental hygiene issues in the region.

– Catherine Lin
Photo: Flickr

'Developed' and 'Developing'While the categories of ‘developed’ and ‘developing’ to describe countries may have been useful in the 1960s, Bill Gates and Hans Rosling—author of the book “Factfulness”—have begun using a new categorical system; four distinct income levels are now recognized as a more accurate way to describe countries and the range between them.

‘Developed’ and ‘Developing’ Countries

The terms ‘developed’ and ‘developing’ have become almost universal terms to describe the economy or wealth of countries. However, there is not one specific definition for these terms. Organizations such as the United Nations use the terms colloquially. However, they never introduced a specific, measurable definition for what actually classifies whether a country is developed or still developing.

In the 1960s, the terms were mostly based on infant mortality and birth rates. Developed countries had lower mortality and birth rates while developing countries had higher infant mortality and birth rates.

But ‘developed’ and “developing” have become outdated in this way, as just about every country in the world has improved infant mortality rates since the 1960s. In fact, some ‘developing’ countries of today have lower infant mortality rates than ‘developed’ countries in 1960.

Overall, the two terms are incapable of separating countries beyond ‘rich’ and ‘poor.’ This is a problem because the majority of people in most countries live somewhere in the middle. In fact, one can label 85% of countries as ‘developed.’ Meanwhile, 15% are in between and one can consider only 6% as “developing” in terms of fertility and mortality rates. That is why Hans Rosling uses four income levels to describe all countries instead.

The Four Income Levels

  • Level One: The majority of people live in extreme poverty on a daily income of $2 or less per day. Countries such as Lesotho and Madagascar are currently level one countries. For many people in level one, the main mode of transportation is walking. Some may not even have their own pair of shoes to travel in. In these countries, infant mortality, hunger and preventable disease prevalence are high. Approximately 1 billion people live at this level.
  • Level Two: People in countries such as China, Nigeria and Bangladesh generally live on $2 to $8 per day. They may ride a bicycle instead of walking, and they have their own pair of shoes. An estimated 2 billion people live at level two, which is more than any other level.
  • Level Three: In countries such as Egypt, Rwanda and the Philippines, about 2 billion people live on $8 to $32 per day. Transportation may include electric bikes, scooters, public transportation and cars. About 2 billion people live at level three.
  • Level Four: The wealthiest countries make up level four. The average person having an income of more than $32 per day. There is a large market for nice cars and houses. Simple necessities like clean water and nutritional food are widely available. The United States, Mexico, much of Europe and South Africa are some examples of countries at this income level.

This four-tiered system does not completely account for the variations within countries, but it provides more information than the previous terms. For example, some people living in level one countries are significantly richer than the $2 per day average, and many people living in level four countries experience poverty.

However, organizing countries in this way allows for a more accurate measure of progress. Bill Gates has argued that “It’s hard to pick up on progress if you divide the world into rich countries and poor countries. When those are the only two options, you’re more likely to think anyone who doesn’t have a certain quality of life is ‘poor.’” It is important to properly track global progress and development. We can then use the information to understand where further action must be taken.

A New Official Classification

It is difficult to distinguish between various countries with only two terms. The World Economic Forum stopped using the terms ‘developed’ and ‘developing’ in official reports. Instead, it has used a similar four-tiered categorization since 2016. The World Economic Forum states that it will now collect data “for the whole world, for regions, and for income groups – but not for the ‘developing world’ (or the sum of low and middle income).” Similarly, in 2016, the World Bank released a working paper looking into classifying countries by income as well.

According to Bill Gates, “Any categorization that lumps together China and the Democratic Republic of Congo is too broad to be useful.” Using these levels in data analysis creates a better understanding of variations between countries and their incomes.

Sydney Bazilian
Photo: Unsplash

Hunger in Finland
Despite enjoying one of the world’s most advanced social-democratic welfare systems and the lowest human insecurity rates, there are still major struggles with poverty and hunger in Finland.

First Signs

The first signs of hunger in Finland emerged following a financial crisis in the 1990s which resulted in roughly 100,000 Finnish people reportedly hungry during the years 1992 and 1993. As a result, the foundation for a network of charity-based food aid provisions proliferated in Finland during the 1990s. Several spikes occurred in CFA rates in the late 1990s, with the largest increase at the turn of the century.

What is interesting about this particular response to food insecurity in Finland is that, in principle, the Nordic welfare state “is assumed to provide universal social security against social risks, such as poverty, for all its citizens.” However, at-risk people in Finland have received support largely through charity-based food aid, indicating that the current welfare state falls short of feeding everyone.

Giving Back

In 2013, EVIRA, the Finish Food Safety Authority, improved food safety regulations by allowing food and retail industries to donate food to charity with greater ease. This new food waste redistribution project was part of a new wave of social innovations in the greater E.U. which operated in efforts to reduce food insecurity and ecological waste.

As of 2014, the CFA in Finland had 400 distributors “including parishes, FBOs, unemployment organizations and other NGOs.” It reached roughly 22,000 Finnish people every week.

At-Risk Populations

Statistics Finland’s research shows that the number of people at risk for severe poverty and homelessness was 890,000 in 2017, which is roughly 16.4% of the population. Findings from the European Anti Poverty Network (EAPN) Poverty in Finland Report from 2019 show that the number of people living on minimum income benefits and experiencing livelihood problems such as food shortages continues to be a growing problem. The share of Finns turning to food banks every week was roughly 20,000 in 2019. The risk of poverty and malnutrition is highest amongst single mothers and older women living alone, according to the National Council of Women in Finland. Finland is also among one of the most racist countries in the E.U., making it even harder for migrants, especially women, to achieve success in the current economic climate. As a result, many migrants in Finland are poor and at risk of food insecurity.

A Hopeful Horizon

Progressive social reform strategies such as Finland’s Housing First strategy with the extensive food aid provision network in the country have the power to eradicate hunger in Finland. In fact, Finland’s Housing First strategy already accomplished a lot in regard to shelter insecurity in the country. Perhaps a stronger state role in providing food aid could be the extra push necessary to completely tackle the stagnating food insecurity problem.

Jasmeen Bassi
Photo: Unsplash