Information and stories about developing countries.

Mental Health in the Developing World
“All countries can be thought of as developing countries in the context of mental health,” says a 2018 report by the Lancet Commission on Global Mental Health — a sobering diagnosis for the worldwide distribution of mental health resources. Only 20% of people suffering from depression in the developed world receive proper treatment. In the developing world, this rate plummets to 4%. The world also puts a lower dollar value on recovering the years lost to those with mental illness, investing only 85 cents for each year of illness, as opposed to $144 for each year lost to physical diseases like HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis. Here are five ways to tackle the problem of mental health care in the developing world.

5 Ways To Improve Mental Health in the Developing World

  1. Empowering Nurses – The lack of psychiatrists in developing countries is severe, and the task of mental caretaking often falls on nurses who are undertrained and overworked, but a 2020 report from the Journal of Family Medicine and Disease Prevention offers a solution that works from the ground up. Training Mental Health Nurses (MHNs) to prescribe medicine and treatments with the guidance of available psychiatric staff, and encouraging nursing colleges to incorporate a mental-health curriculum that both incentivizes MHN training and develops in collaboration with other doctoral programs, has the potential to strengthen the quality of mental health care and lessen the amount of time people in developing countries must wait to get it. 
  2. Combining Economic and Psychological Assistance – There is an undeniable connection between economic hardship and poor mental health, but solely financial assistance can overlook important cultural and environmental variables for mental well-being. Dr. Leyla Ismayilova, a professor of social work at the University of Chicago, has been studying the effects of the Trickle Up program in Burkina Faso since 2017. Trickle Up was established in 1986 to lift the extremely poor out of poverty and make them “economically self-sufficient” after two years, and operates in Africa, India and Latin America. Her study indicates that economic assistance from Trickle Up combined with family counseling produces better outcomes than economic assistance alone, decreasing hunger, depression and trauma while increasing self-esteem among children. Child and family mental health is of special concern in Burkina Faso, one of the poorest nations in the world where, according to a 2012 survey, 1.25 million of its children (37.8%) are engaged in child labor, and where harsh parental discipline and domestic violence are widespread. Family counseling was able to empower children within their families, giving them a voice and elevating them beyond simple instruments of income. By encouraging families to talk through their problems while giving them an economic leg up, mothers were more inclined to protect and nurture their children rather than impose cruel corporal punishments, such as depriving them of food or forcing them to stand in uncomfortable positions. Counseling also helped curb domestic violence by reducing male resentment of women as breadwinners, allowing husbands to open up emotionally instead of internalizing their anger and frustrations. 
  3. Technological Outreach – Roughly 88 psychiatrists serve the entire nation of Kenya, leaving one for every 5 million people, most of them based only in Nairobi. However, free apps like TrustCircle, developed by the Psychiatric Disability Organization and U.S. app developers, have the potential to connect millions of Kenyans without the ability to travel with mental health specialists. The app also provides free, anonymous and clinically tested screenings for conditions like PTSD, substance abuse disorder and depression. Africa especially is a fertile testing ground for this kind of technological outreach due to its combination of very low attention to mental health care (46% of countries in Africa have no standalone mental health policies) and a burgeoning trend of digital connectivity. For instance, mobile phone ownership in Ghana increased from just 8% to 83% between 2002 and 2025. A 2022 study by The Brookings Institution showed a 9.8% decrease in mental distress and a 2.3% decrease in the likelihood of severe mental distress among low-income Ghanaians who were given mobile-calling credits during the COVID-19 pandemic, increasing their ability to make unexpected calls and decreasing their dependence on digital loans. If low-cost connectivity is enough to have a positive impact on mental health, then low-cost mental health connectivity could reap exponential benefits in the developing world.
  4. Decreasing Stigma – The social ire directed towards mental illness in the developing world prevents people not only from seeking treatment but from even disclosing that they are sick at all. A potent example comes from a 2011 study of people suffering from schizophrenia in India, where 46% of participants felt discriminated against by their community and 42% by their own families. One of the largest and most exciting efforts to combat stigma is the Indigo Partnership, which started in 2018. A partnership between several low-to-middle-income countries like China, Ethiopia and Nepal, its five-year mission is to identify stigmatizing language and behavior and develop culturally adapted ways of intervening through communities and health care providers. 
  5. Empowering Families and Communities – There are some truly inspiring examples of community mental health empowerment throughout the developing world. In Rawalpindi, Pakistan, the Family Network for Kids project uses technology to train family members and neighbors of children with developmental disorders to provide care, reaching 270 families. The African Mental Health Foundation, in partnership with Columbia University and the Canadian Government, works with traditional healers and clergy in Eastern Kenya to collect vital data on mental illness in their communities, and to direct those in need to mental health care centers. The Friendship Bench project in Zimbabwe, the result of 20 years of research in the country, has empowered 600 grandmothers since 2006 to provide talk therapy in their communities, reaching 30,000 people in just 2017 and reducing depressive symptoms to a degree recognized by the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2016. 

– John Merino
Photo: Flickr

Sanitation ServicesThough ubiquitous in countries like the U.S. and U.K. and easy to ignore, basic sanitation services remain unavailable to more than 1.7 billion people. Without private toilets, almost 500 million of these individuals practice open defecation, going to the bathroom in places like street gutters or into bodies of water. 

Human waste that is not disposed of properly can come into contact with other humans, usually by contaminating drinking water, causing diseases like cholera, dysentery and polio. Poor sanitation causes almost 450,000 deaths each year as a result of diarrhea in addition to contributing to malnutrition. While it is true that the number of people who openly defecate has almost halved in the past two decades, there is still a dire need for sanitation services to become accessible to all. 

In fact, even the idea of adequate sanitation services in developed countries is not at all sustainable: it is estimated that 5 billion people will be unable to flush their toilets in the next decade so as to not flood centralized sewer systems. 

One invention, the iThrone, is a portable toilet that hopes to provide a solution for the issue of substandard sanitation that persists in the developing world and is encroaching on developed nations.


Diana Yousef is the founder and CEO of change:WATER Labs, a startup launched in 2015 that is focused on inventing and investing in solutions that address the inadequacy of current sanitation standards in many developing countries. The iThrone is the startup’s primary product. Yousef first found inspiration for the iThrone in 2009 while working with NASA to create a water treatment initiative. She wanted to see if the techniques that they conceptualized for the project, an attempt to develop a method of recycling water for space agriculture, could extend to water sustainability in poor countries. Since securing early funding from MIT, change:WATER Labs has received financial support from organizations like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the UN Development Program. 

How It Works

The iThrone is able to circumvent many of the existing barriers to quality sanitation services. Firstly, it does not require any water to function. For communities that face a scarcity of nearby water sources, the iThrone is an invaluable form of sanitation. It can work without water because it operates by dehydrating human waste, which is mostly water, and converting it to water vapor rather than flushing it away into a sewer system. 

The little waste that is left over can then be used as fertilizer for farming. Due to this aspect of its design, the iThrone is extremely low-cost and efficient, only needing to be emptied every few weeks rather than every day like other non-flushing toilets. 

Even more impressive, four iThrones can be installed for the same price as one communal toilet. As a whole, the iThrone is completely off-grid and needs neither access to plumbing nor power. This means that installation is possible in practically any location, no matter the state of its infrastructure. Due to the simplicity of its construction, it is able to fit in crowded areas, eliminating the need for people to travel long distances just to go to the bathroom. The toilet is also capable of deodorizing deposited human waste by utilizing a biobattery that uses that waste to power a ventilating fan. 

Gender Imbalances

Open defecation presents a particular risk to women and young girls, as having to go to the bathroom in the open, and often in remote locations, makes them vulnerable to sexual assault. In order to relieve themselves without attracting the attention of men, some women restrict their water and food intake so that they need to go to the bathroom very late at night or early in the morning. The iThrone’s ability to provide proper sanitation even in crowded locations reduces the risk of sexual violence, providing women and girls with a sense of safety when they are performing one of their most private tasks and allowing them to eat and drink freely. 

Open defecation also increases the possibility for women and girls to contract reproductive and urinary infections and also renders the entire process of menstruation frustrating and degrading. Girls in regions without adequate sanitation will often skip school during their period, meaning that they miss weeks of instruction. The iThrone acts as an answer to these problems and effectively supports the health and well-being of women and girls in developing countries.  

Future Distribution

Before COVID-19, the iThrone was distributed during its first pilot deployment to a district school and hospital in Uganda. The toilets wound up servicing more than 400 people and received a wholly positive reception from locals. The pandemic unfortunately prevented further distribution from occurring, though the Turkish government expressed interest in purchasing a number of toilets for use in refugee communities in late 2021. The iThrone has also been eyed by construction companies in Central America and Indian companies wanting to test out the toilets in port-a-potties and on transportation and maritime equipment. 

Yousef and her team spent the duration of the pandemic refining their product, ensuring that when distribution does restart, the iThrone can help as many people as possible as effectively as possible. Though the iThrone has yet to be fully deployed, it is clear that it represents exactly the kind of innovation that is required to combat global poverty.

– Sofia Oliver
Photo: Unsplash

Medical Services in Developing NationsAccess to quality health care is a fundamental human right, yet millions of people in developing nations continue to face significant barriers when seeking medical services. The challenges that impede health care access are diverse and complex, ranging from economic constraints to inadequate infrastructure. Addressing these barriers is not only crucial for improving individual well-being but also for achieving broader global health goals. The following is an overview explore some of the key challenges and potential solutions to ensure health care access for all in developing nations.

The Challenge of Economic Barriers

Economic constraint is one of the most pervasive barriers to health care in developing nations. Many individuals simply cannot afford medical care, including essential treatments and medications. High out-of-pocket expenses and low levels of income lead to unfortunate scenarios where individuals delay or avoid seeking medical attention due to financial concerns.

Insufficient Infrastructure and Resources

Inadequate health care infrastructure is another critical challenge. Developing nations often struggle with a lack of health care facilities, medical equipment and trained health care professionals. Rural areas are disproportionately affected, as they frequently lack even basic medical facilities. This scarcity limits the availability and quality of health care services, making it difficult for people to access the care they need in a timely manner.

Geographical Barriers and Limited Transportation

Geographical barriers pose a significant challenge, particularly in countries with large rural populations and difficult terrain. Inaccessible or impassable roads make it hard for individuals to reach medical facilities. Moreover, the cost of transportation can be prohibitive, further deterring people from seeking health care services. Addressing these geographical challenges requires innovative solutions such as mobile clinics, telemedicine and community health workers.

Lack of Awareness and Education

Health-care-avoiding behavior is also influenced by the lack of awareness and education. In some communities, people may not fully understand the importance of preventive care or the available treatment options. Cultural beliefs and misinformation can further contribute to low utilization of health care services. Public health campaigns, community engagement and health education programs are essential to overcome these obstacles.

Potential Solutions and Collaborative Efforts

Overcoming these barriers requires a multi-faceted approach involving governments, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), international bodies and local communities. Here are some potential solutions:

  • Universal Health Coverage (UHC): Governments can work towards implementing UHC programs that provide essential health care services to all citizens regardless of their ability to pay.
  • Health Infrastructure Investment: Increased investment in health care infrastructure, including the construction of clinics, hospitals and training facilities for health care workers, is crucial.
  • Telemedicine and Technology: Leveraging technology to offer telemedicine services can bridge the gap between patients and health care providers, especially in remote areas. This approach can offer advantages like accessibility, timely care, specialized expertise, cost savings and equitable health care. Technology can facilitate virtual consultations, remote monitoring through devices and secure data sharing. Despite challenges, such as connectivity and privacy issues, telemedicine’s future is promising.

Medical services for all in developing nations remain an ongoing challenge, but it is a challenge that can be overcome through concerted efforts. By addressing economic barriers, improving infrastructure, raising awareness and fostering global collaboration, there is hope for moving closer to the goal of providing equitable health care services to every individual, regardless of their location or socio-economic status. 

– Sudipta Barua Munmun
Photo: Unsplash

Common Agricultural Policy
When the European Union was formed, all the countries that joined it collaborated on an extensive, detailed farm policy. The countries enacted this policy, known as the Common Agricultural Policy, in 1962. The policy aimed to create a cohesive market within the EU, where agricultural goods would move freely, and all members would have standardized prices. It also aimed to prioritize products from within the internal market over foreign imports by implementing shared customs tariffs and fostering financial cooperation through joint funding for agricultural initiatives. The European Union has found great success with this policy, especially in its recent efforts to support small rural farmers and implement initiatives that promote sustainable farming practices and resource management.

The implementation of this policy in the European Union has had an exponentially positive impact. However, past versions of the Common Agricultural Policy, which focused solely on domestic initiatives, did not provide assistance to developing nations. Recently, the Common Agricultural Policy has started to yield beneficial effects on developing nations, along with recommendations for modifying this policy to offer even greater assistance to these countries.


Within the framework of the Common Agricultural Policy, the European Union has taken a concrete step to generate positive impacts for developing nations. The step involves the gradual reduction of import barriers to access EU markets. Prior to 2017, the European Union maintained skewed trade policies that exclusively favored its own interests. Subsequently, these subsidies were eliminated to facilitate affordable access to the European Market for developing countries, including those in Africa. This shift is of particular significance as Europe serves as the primary market for numerous crops originating from Africa, such as coffee or peanuts.

A year after removing these subsidies, the European Union conducted a study on the global impact of the Common Agricultural Policy, which led to the conclusion that “In recent years, progress has been observed in better aligning agriculture with international development goals.” It becomes clear that the reduction of barriers for developing countries to enter the European agricultural market benefits both these nations and the global economy. This instance represents merely one example of the barriers the European Union has eliminated. Many more barriers remain in place to ensure the policy’s benefits for European farmers, while also safeguarding developing countries and their populations from exploitation. With achievements like this, further progress can be achieved in enhancing the inclusivity of this policy, promoting international development and simultaneously maintaining a thriving European Union.

Green Practices 

While more indirect, the Common Agricultural Policy is benefiting developing nations through innovations and the adoption of green practices. European farmers receive numerous supports under the policy, but these often come with requirements for implementing green practices. This alignment ensures that initiatives within the Common Agricultural Policy adhere to environmental and climate regulations. Consequently, this arrangement proves advantageous for developing nations. Green farming practices, including those addressing environmental degradation, can be trialed within a supportive platform. Once their efficacy is established, these practices can be replicated in these nations, facilitating sustainable agricultural development.

Pre-Accession Assistance 

Lastly, the Common Agricultural Policy has expanded its assistance to developing nations by offering pre-accession support in the agricultural sector. Strengthening their competitiveness, promoting sustainable practices and enhancing resilience against climate challenges constitute the core objectives of these forms of aid. These measures not only facilitate their prospective membership in the European Union but also enhance their stability and economies. Pre-accession assistance embodies practical international development.

Although these elements may appear modest within the context of the Common Agricultural Policy, the policy itself has progressed significantly from its earlier focus on international development. Nonetheless, substantial room for improvement remains to better serve developing nations, particularly within the agricultural sector. The 2018 study assessing the impact of the Common Agricultural Policy on developing nations underscores this point, pinpointing areas ripe for enhancement. Expanding this policy poses various challenges, yet the initial stride taken by the European Union in acknowledging its responsibility and influence is evident. The Union’s consideration of the study’s recommendations and its deliberation on the optimal approach to their implementation stand as indicative of this recognition. 

– Ada Rose Wagar
Photo: Flickr

Abroad ScholarshipsEducation remains one of the most influential and longstanding resources in ending global poverty. Higher education institutions are increasingly reaching beyond borders, offering abroad scholarships to students from developing nations. Through study-abroad scholarships, students from developing countries are equipped with the skills and knowledge to address poverty-related issues in their home countries. With more than 700 million people living in extreme poverty globally as of the end of 2020, addressing these issues appears to be imperative.

Education Endangered

In developing countries like those in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), tertiary education such as college and university is a privilege, not a right. Furthermore, as of 2020, only 9.4% of secondary education graduates in SSA enrolled in any form of tertiary education. This is almost 30% below the global average and 60% below that of the U.K.

Deprivation of education all too often goes hand in hand with broader poverty. In 2018, an estimated 40% of sub-Saharan Africa’s population lived below the poverty line of $1.90 a day as estimated by the World Bank.

This deficit carries significant repercussions. The tertiary education system primarily generates professionals equipped with the expertise and skills to navigate political, corporate and economic systems effectively.

The absence of these professionals significantly complicates the task of sub-Saharan African nations in constructing a financial and political infrastructure resilient enough to withstand the challenges of the global landscape. Indeed, a 1991 World Bank Report highlighted this as one of the major hurdles facing these nations in their developmental journey. Regrettably, this challenge persists even today.

Saved By the Scholarship

In our increasingly globalized world, prestigious universities worldwide are recognizing exceptional talents that do not need train tickets but air miles to reach their campuses. Academic promise deserving of encouragement and backing blossoms from Kibera, Kenya, to Dharavi, India — the talent that scholarships can nurture to its full potential.

In response to this trend, numerous independent organizations and government-funded educational institutions have introduced scholarships for postgraduate and undergraduate studies, particularly targeting individuals from developing nations. Some of these scholarships encompass comprehensive support, including funding for travel and accommodation.

The Saïd Foundation

One prominent illustration of this trend is the Saïd Foundation, which has been awarding scholarships and educational opportunities for master’s degree programs in the U.K. since 1984. The foundation’s primary mission revolves around fostering the progress of the Middle East by empowering individuals through advanced education at the master’s level.

By affording outstanding individuals from Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, and Palestine the chance to cultivate the skills needed to become pioneers in various fields, ranging from international development to neuroscience, the Saïd Foundation paves the way for these extraordinary individuals to return to their home countries and lead transformative changes.

Saïd Scholars have initiated substantial positive transformations at the very core of social, political and economic structures. For instance, Ambassador Husam Zomlot, who completed a doctorate in International Political Economy from SOAS University of London in 2000 with support from the Saïd Foundation, exemplifies the impact of such scholarships. His LinkedIn profile attests, “The combination of scholarship and practice has given Dr. Zomlot an edge in conducting scholarly and policy-oriented research in the area of international peace and security, with a focus on the Middle East. His work centers on international interventions in conflict and post-conflict zones.”

After founding the Birzeit School of Government, working as an economist with the Palestine Policy Research Institute, and serving as the Strategic Affairs Advisor to the Palestinian President, Zomlot currently holds the position of Head of the Palestinian Mission to the U.K.

Furthermore, in addition to facilitating long-term transformations in developing nations, study-abroad scholarships confer significant benefits upon the countries and institutions that make these scholarships possible. By supporting groundbreaking research and pioneering initiatives aimed at addressing global poverty, guided by individuals who have firsthand experience with this issue, these nations and institutions solidify their status as leaders in both economic and academic development on the global stage.

The Cambridge-Africa Scholarship

The Cambridge-Africa Scholarship has funded a cohort of five African scholars each year since 2014. As with the Saïd Foundation, the focus of the scholarship is to fund those working on projects designed around positive impacts on their home countries. There is also a strong focus on relevance to the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals; 17 goals related to tackling global poverty by 2030.

As such, this study-abroad scholarship has enabled recipients to make research strides in several fields that will positively benefit issues plaguing the African continent. For instance, terrorism and specific diseases.

For example, South-African-born Nikita Hiralal’s contributions to countering Islamic State cyberjihad through a postgraduate thesis as part of the 2020-2021 Cambridge-Africa Scholarship cohort, and Ghanaian Mark Asare Owusu’s research as a 2021-2022 Cambridge-Africa Scholar into the epidemiology and control of meningitis in his home country, speaking to the World Health Organization’s objective to defeat meningitis by 2030.

It appears that these scholarships are only the start of a deeply valuable and widely beneficial dialogue between nations across the globe. This dialogue is the beginning of a conversation that remains expansive and ongoing. A conversation that articulates education as a global institution built on equal access and aspiration, valuing countries not by economic output or political circumstance, but by innovation, ideas and intelligence. And it is study-abroad scholarships that allow such intelligence to make a real difference.

Graduates return to developing countries to tackle issues of poverty, sustainable development and education, inspiring economic and political connections and new markets by enhancing the standing of such nations on the global stage and introducing new ways of solving old problems. As such, scholarships prove an invaluable resource for a better world.

– Izzy Grout
Photo: Unsplash

Communicable Diseases In Developing Countries
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), communicable diseases are those that are spread from person to person through “microorganisms such as bacteria, viruses, parasites and fungi.” These diseases, also known as infectious diseases, disproportionately impact developing countries. Based on 2001 data from the National Center for Biotechnology Information, 98.6% of the burden of infectious diseases arose in low and middle-income countries. Some of the most common communicable diseases burdening developing countries are tuberculosis, respiratory tract infections, malaria, HIV/AIDS and most recently, COVID-19.

Although the global burden of communicable diseases reduced by about 44% from 1990 to 2019, there is still a long way to go. Fortunately, there are numerous techniques to combat communicable diseases and alleviate the burden on underdeveloped nations across the globe. Here are five ways to combat communicable diseases in developing countries.

5 Ways to Combat Communicable Diseases in Developing Countries

  1. Promoting Hand-Washing: Although it seems simple, hand-washing is a highly effective way of hindering the spread of disease and is not always as commonly practiced as it may seem. About 2.3 billion people around the world do not have access to hand-washing facilities. This may be due to a lack of infrastructure or lack of access to clean, sanitized water sources. Hand-washing is one of the cheapest public health interventions available to solve this issue. In fact, WHO states that, with less than one dollar per year invested, “all households in the world’s 46 least developed countries could have hand-washing facilities by 2030.” This money could go toward building facilities in houses and hospitals or educating people on the importance of hand-washing.
  2. Improving Housing: Many people in developing countries have to live in unsafe conditions. As mentioned earlier, many households lack facilities with clean water, as well as other necessities like proper waste disposal and heating. These conditions create breeding grounds for bacteria and insects or rodents that carry diseases. Many people also must live in crowded houses due to their low income. Crowding makes it easier for respiratory illnesses like tuberculosis to spread. Addressing these issues could include creating temporary housing facilities for the homeless that are better regulated and sanitary. A more long-term solution would be building houses that are sustainable, affordable and safe. It is worth mentioning that the construction of new housing should involve the community at all stages and be adaptable to the local environment.
  3. Providing Vaccines: With the recent spread of COVID-19, the importance of vaccines is clearer than ever. According to the UN, only around 1% of people in low-income countries received one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine by 2022. This contrasts with the 60.18% of people in high-income countries that received at least one dose. Not only does vaccine inequity prevent developing countries from slowing the spread of communicable diseases, but it also affects countries economically. 2022 data from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) shows that Nigeria, Ethiopia, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and South Sudan lost 19.87 billion in GDP due to unequal access to vaccines. Without vaccination, lockdowns last longer, and people continue to get sick, forcing them to miss work. The European Investment Bank is working to establish local facilities for the development of vaccines. A new facility at the Institut Pasteur de Dakar in Senegal is an example of how developing countries can become more self-reliant in the production of vaccines.
  4. Access to Treatment: While preventing the spread of diseases is the first priority, there is also a need for better access to treatment once people contract the diseases. Health care often does not receive enough funding in developing countries which leads to more negative health outcomes. These areas face a lack of equipment, doctors and proper training. In addition, many people are unable to pay for treatment or live in remote areas. Christophe Paquet, Head of Health & Social Protection for the Agence Française de Développement (AFD), notes that the health care sector is “highly dependent on international aid.” The AFD is supporting health care programs in developing countries by renovating facilities, providing access to training for nurses and reducing costs incurred by procedures. For example, they currently cover 80% of the cost of a Cesarean section, a procedure that can save many women’s lives.
  5. Providing Education: In order for any intervention to be successful in the long run, it should be coupled with educational efforts. One contributor to the communicable disease burden in developing countries is a lack of understanding of how these diseases spread and how efforts can prevent them. Having accessible, easy-to-understand information about public health allows individuals to recognize signs of illness and take preventative measures. More general education may also promote longer lifespans and more positive outcomes. Reaching tertiary education, in particular, reduces infant mortality and improves child vaccination rates.

Looking Ahead

These are just a few methods that can help ease the burden of communicable diseases on low-income populations. The U.S. can do its part by providing aid and funding for health-related interventions, much like the AFD in France. Alongside aid, education should be at the center of all of these methods to empower countries to fight these diseases locally.

– Yesenia Aguilera
Photo: Flickr

Debt-Poverty Pause
The United Nations (U.N.) has called upon global finance ministers to provide a debt-poverty pause for impoverished countries. It has emphasized the need for funding to go toward social programs that will help reduce poverty, rather than toward repaying debts.

A Global Poverty Crisis

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has estimated that the COVID-19 pandemic, paired with the subsequent rise in inflation and borrowing costs, has resulted in an additional 165 million people falling into poverty. The UNDP says that more than 20% of the population worldwide is living on less than $3.65 a day, making it difficult for them to afford basic necessities like food.

In response to the pandemic and the rise in costs of food and fuel, exacerbated by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, many low-income countries resorted to substantial borrowing. This situation strained their economies as it affected agricultural commodity supplies and led to energy prices reaching close to record levels.

According to the UNDP, approximately 25 low-income countries spent more than 20% of their revenues on debt servicing in 2022. This is the highest number of countries surpassing this threshold since the beginning of the century. This rate can also continue to rise if global interest rates increase further. Debt interest payments account for more than 10% of the general government revenue in 46 countries, and developing countries owe around 30% of the worldwide $92 trillion of government debt. Costs associated with servicing debts are rising quickly, attributed to the actions of the world’s influential central banks, which are raising interest rates in response to the rapid increase in inflation rates.

The rise of interest rates means that poorer nations now spend two or three times the share of their revenues on paying back their debt compared to wealthier countries. Impoverished countries also spend about two times more on interest payments than public assistance and social support programs.

The UNDP Pushes for a Debt-Poverty Pause

The UNDP says that low-income countries need reprieves from repaying their debt to alleviate the repercussions of rapidly increasing borrowing costs. It urges countries burdened with debt to allocate resources typically used for debt servicing toward mitigating the social effects of economic shocks. This approach aims to alleviate some of the adverse effects on society due to these shocks so that the focus can be on poverty reduction.

Looking Forward

The United States (U.S.), the European Union and the other members of the Group of 20 (G20) recently met to discuss global solutions, including debt restructuring and global poverty. However, the debt restructuring discussions made very little progress during the finance meeting of the G20 countries in India.

The UNDP continues to push for debt alleviation to fight global poverty. So far, there have been some elements of international financial activity aiming to increase focus in terms of financing poverty reduction and social programs. However, western countries and the G20 still have work to do. The UNDP has urged Western countries to give developing countries the debt-poverty pause they require to focus their financial efforts on alleviating poverty in their communities.

– Marisa del Vecchio
Photo: Flickr

The UK StrikesRecent unrest amongst various public-sector industries in the U.K. has ballooned amid rising inflation and stagnating wages. The ongoing U.K. strikes appear to be a result of these issues, and to an extent, present a picture of the situations abroad and the need for aid.

Record Strike Action in Over 30 Years

Strikes seem to have almost become part of normal life in the U.K., with sectors engaging in industrial action ranging from public transportation to education, post services and health care. February’s strike of ambulance staff, nurses and physiotherapists marked the National Health Service’s most dramatic strike since its beginning 75 years ago. Yet, there is still no lasting solution in sight. Insufficient pay is the biggest reason for those taking part in strikes, as public-sector wages have not kept up with record-high inflation, which makes disposable income much tighter for those who work for government-controlled entities.

A Global Crisis

The ongoing cost of living crisis in the U.K., including sharp increases in the price of energy bills and food now at a 45-year high, is causing a lot of unrest within the country, but these problems are not unique to the developed world. If communities in one of the world’s wealthiest countries are struggling, it points to the harshness of the situation for those in low-and-middle-income countries. Inflation has been surging abroad also and is more likely to have devastating effects on communities that were struggling to attain basic life necessities before the price hikes. The U.N. estimated in the summer of 2022 that the increase in costs of food and energy will plunge an additional 71 million people into poverty, with forecasts suggesting that Sub-Saharan Africa and the Balkans could be two of the worst-affected regions.

The Bleak Situation Abroad

In 2022, strikes in developing countries’ health sectors were also widespread, including in Zimbabwe, where the government passed a controversial bill limiting workers’ ability to strike in 2023. Poor pay and working conditions were the underlying reasons for the strikes, with similar situations in Asian countries such as Sri Lanka where poverty levels continue to increase.

Why Maintaining Aid Is Essential

Delivering aid helps reduce political insecurity and the chance of conflict, which benefits all countries. Improving health standards abroad is also crucial for preventing the rise of global epidemics, such as the COVID-19 pandemic. There is also the potential for new markets to open in countries assisted by aid in the future. This is another economic opportunity for developed countries like the U.K. Finally, there is the opportunity to gain more soft power, or global political influence, through the maintenance of foreign aid. Improving existing friendships and partnerships can potentially result in positive outcomes for the countries involved. And developed countries working with less-developed nations in economically challenging times could be crucial for geo-political relations.

Looking Ahead

In the face of ongoing strikes and rising living costs, the need for aid becomes evident not only within the U.K. but also in low-and-middle-income countries facing similar challenges. Reports suggest that providing foreign aid is essential for reducing political insecurity, preventing global epidemics and fostering economic opportunities for both developed and developing nations. It also presents an opportunity to strengthen global partnerships and promote positive geo-political relations in economically challenging times.

– Hannah Naylor
Photo: Unsplash

Extreme Weather Conditions
Developing countries are set to receive $100 billion worth of funding from wealthy countries to combat extreme weather conditions. In 2009, wealthy countries pledged to commit $100 billion annually from 2020 onward to disadvantaged countries struggling with the impacts of changing weather patterns. However, only now, three years after the pledge, these countries are on track to fully meet this commitment. On May 2, 2023, more than 40 country representatives met in Berlin, Germany, to discuss effective ways to tackle harsh weather changes.

Severe Weather Changes

Currently, the change in weather patterns is affecting people worldwide, from dried-up lakes in California and rising sea levels in Venice to mega-droughts in Somalia and floods in South Sudan. Extreme weather conditions most harshly affect impoverished people due to their dependence on vulnerable sectors such as agriculture.

In sub-Saharan Africa, 65% of the labor force works in agriculture. Floods and droughts not only destroy their source of income but also their sources of food. Extreme weather events also increase the risk and transmission of diseases such as cholera and malaria, especially among impoverished populations with high exposure to these diseases and limited access to health care.

Furthermore, impoverished people struggle to recover from extreme weather events due to a lack of access to insurance and credit. A lack of education and lack of access to information also stand as barriers to achieving climatic resilience.

The Situation in Somalia and South Sudan

Recent reports show that Somalia’s last rainfall season (October to December 2022) consisted of below-average rainfall for the fifth consecutive year, depleting water sources in the country and increasing droughts. The country is one of the worst drought-affected countries in sub-Saharan Africa. In 2011, after three back-to-back seasons without sufficient rain, the country experienced a famine that led to the deaths of about 250,000 people, with children accounting for half of this number.

Due to continuing extreme weather conditions, in the first quarter of 2023, the World Food Programme (WFP) forecasted that 6.3 million Somalis will face crisis levels of food insecurity or worse and more than 320,000 people will face catastrophic levels of food insecurity (the highest insecurity level) out of Somalia’s 17.1 million population.

South Sudan is currently facing its worst humanitarian crisis since 2011. The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reports that at least 7.7 million people are experiencing food insecurity due to the ongoing conflict in the nation coupled with severe weather conditions.

With the conflict putting people’s lives on hold and keeping them from conducting any type of work to get money and food, alongside the increase in temperatures making the land in South Sudan barren, there is a need for aid from foreign countries and organizations like the U.N. now more than ever.

The WFP Takes Action

In December 2022, the WFP served 4.7 million people in Somalia with life-saving assistance, which came in the form of cash-based aid or food supplies. The WFP also provided aid to nearly 352,000 vulnerable people facing the effects of droughts in the country under the expansion of the national safety net program, which aims to support the poorest and most vulnerable families.

In South Sudan, the WFP handed out more than 13,880 metric tonnes of food and $3.6 million worth of cash-based aid. In February 2023 alone, the WFP assisted 1.6 million people impacted by climate effects and the nation’s internal conflict.

The WFP South Sudan director Mary-Ellen McGroarty announced that the organization needs an additional $567 million to continue covering the most severe needs in South Sudan alone, excluding the effects of the current conflict.

The WFP funding for South Sudan goes to a number of great causes. For instance, in 2022, the organization built irrigation systems in rural towns and helped local farmers gain access to larger markets. WFP programs not only provide food and cash-based assistance but also teach people how to prepare for potential extreme weather patterns and establish resilience by creating climate-smart food systems.

The Way Forward

A European Union study on changing weather effects predicted that by 2050, increased temperatures and higher demand could leave as many as 150 million people in the world severely affected by water stress. The 2023 climate pledge reaching the designated amount of $100 billion is good news for organizations helping those in need in developing countries.

Funding is essential for tackling extreme weather conditions. Hence, the $100 billion provision from developed countries will help to advance resilience and sustainability goals and address the humanitarian issues that arise from changing weather patterns.

– Sam Kalantzis
Photo: Flickr

Fishing in Developing Countries
The marine fisheries of many developing countries, which stand as a critical source of food and income for coastal communities, are under threat from illegal foreign fishing vessels that take advantage of the rich ocean resources that lie far from prying eyes. Illegal fishing damages livelihoods, the economy and the marine biodiversity of affected countries. However, advances in technology are offering new solutions to countries struggling to protect their oceans as the world begins to look toward drones to help combat illegal fishing in developing countries to reduce poverty and boost economic growth.

Illegal Fishing in Developing Countries

Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs) are the areas of the ocean belonging to coastal countries. These large swathes of the ocean hold a multitude of opportunities to facilitate economic development. However, many countries do not have the resources or the capacity to monitor their EEZs, let alone fully utilize them. The costs of obtaining and maintaining fleets of coast guard vessels are extremely high and many countries have only a handful of vessels to cover the entire extent of their EEZ.

Illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing costs developing counties billions of dollars. Companies involved in these practices originate from countries such as China, Colombia and Spain.

In the fight against illegal fishing, countries are looking to technological innovations to provide faster, cheaper and more accessible methods of monitoring EEZs. Advances in technology are providing ways for countries to monitor illegal vessel activities in their EEZs not from the sea but from the sky.

Drones Provide Eyes in the Sky

Drones or unmanned vehicles (UMV) provide “eyes in the sky” for coast guards and fisheries organizations attempting to detect and prosecute illegal fishing vessels. The most significant benefit of drones is that the device can collect photographic, video and radar evidence of illegal vessels fishing in EEZs without the major resource requirements of sending a vessel out to make an arrest. Authorities can then use this as evidence for prosecution later.

The FishGuard Project

The Republic of Seychelles is one of the first countries to embrace this new technology and hopes to use drones to fight illegal fishing in the new program FishGuard.

The island nation of Seychelles is responsible for an enormous EEZ of almost 1.4 million square kilometers. The rich ocean resources of its EEZ have attracted hordes of illegal fishing vessels, including European fishing fleets targeting tuna and fleets from Sri Lanka targeting sharks.

Over the past 30 years, “illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing led to an over 60[%] decline in the main fish stocks, resulting in loss of livelihood and revenue for the majority of Seychellois fisherfolk,” according to a 2020 research paper by Malshini Senaratne. About 17% of the Seychelles’ population depends on the fisheries sector to derive an income.

ATLAN Space developed FishGuard, a technology startup creating drones with artificial intelligence. It hopes to aid Small Island Developing States (SIDS) in the fight against illegal fishing by providing low-cost intelligent technological solutions. ATLAN Space has provided Seychelles with drones to monitor marine areas, particularly the fishing hotspots. Each drone can cover 10,000 square kilometers. ATLAN Space will train the Seychelles Air Force to operate the drones while the coast guard will provide the vessels from which to launch the drones.

As part of the FishGuard partnership, a Norwegian analytical organization called Trygg Mat Tracking will provide fisheries with intelligence and analysis services and Grid-Arendal will provide Earth observation data. ATLAS Space has received funding from National Geographic for this pilot program. It plans to use the technology to combat terrestrial environmental threats such as illegal mining and deforestation.

Looking Ahead

For now, the Republic of Seychelles hopes that the drones will aid in the endeavor to keep its oceans safe from poachers of the sea. Maintaining legal licensing processes will provide the island nation with a critical and reliable source of income and will allow more effective management and protection of its vulnerable marine ecosystems. By combating illegal fishing in developing countries, the world can safeguard the livelihoods of the vulnerable people who depend on fishing as a means of income.

– Amy McAlpine
Photo: Flickr