Information and stories about developing countries.

Peace Talks in Afghanistan
Afghanistan has endured war for decades with very little opportunity to rebuild and address the growing poverty rates and diminishing living conditions of its people.

In recent months, U.S. officials have begun discussions of peace talks in Afghanistan including plans to withdraw U.S. troops. The question is how will the prospects of peace under the terms that are being discussed affect poverty levels and quality of life for the Afghan citizens? Although peace is necessary for the growth of the Afghan economy, a reduction in U.S. support and funding could be detrimental to the lives of the Afghan people.

Effects of Conflict on Population

Years of conflict have had a disastrous effect on poverty in Afghanistan. According to a study from the World Bank, the number of people living below the poverty line has grown from 38.3 percent in 2012 to 55 percent in 2017, an increase of 5 million people. In addition, necessary resources such as education and employment remain inaccessible to the average Afghan citizen.

Secondary education attendance rates have dropped from 37 percent of children in 2013 to 35 percent of children attending in 2016. This decline is largely due to fewer girls attending school. Unemployment is rampant with 25 percent of the population unemployed and 80 percent of jobs qualify as insecure, meaning they consist of self or own account employment, day labor, or unpaid work. According to the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the economy of Afghanistan is dependent upon three main factors: foreign aid, the sale of narcotics and the Taliban.

Peace Talks in Afghanistan

In order for the Afghan economy to successfully recover and improve the quality of life of its citizens, institutional changes must be made. The peace talks in Afghanistan may provide an opportunity to end the cycle of poverty in Afghanistan, but only if it is done carefully and political stability can be ensured. Peace in Afghanistan would be beneficial for the economy, allowing for the opportunity to spend less on war efforts and more on the needs of the poor. According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), estimates suggest that a return to the low levels of violence that were recorded in 2004 would result in an increase in annual revenues of around 50 percent, or approximately 6 percent of GDP per year.

However, this is only the case if the peace talks in Afghanistan are successful in creating political stability. For example, in 2014, allegations of election fraud created a highly unstable political atmosphere in Afghanistan resulting in a fall in the country’s revenue and growth. An inability for the Afghan government and the Taliban to find an agreement that is suitable them both in the peace process may result in a similar instability and economic downturn.

US Aid and The Afghanistan Economy

The Afghan economy is reliant upon U.S. aid and when that aid has been cut in the past, the effects have been detrimental for the lives of the Afghan people. In 2013/2014, the U.S. reduced civil aid and withdrew a portion of its forces. In the same year, there was a 3 percent increase in the overall poverty rate, the unemployment rate for Afghan men tripled and 76 percent of rural jobs that were created in 2007/2008 were lost.

Should U.S. aid be cut in a new peace deal, the effects will not be positive for the poverty levels in Afghanistan. Peace is necessary to create substantial economic growth in Afghanistan. However, any peace talks in Afghanistan that fail to address the political instability in the country and that reduce foreign aid to the Afghan people can only result in further suffering for the country.

Success Stories

Despite the bleak realities of war and violence in Afghanistan, there have been several successful aid programs in the country that have been improving the lives of the citizens. For example, the government of Afghanistan has struggled to implement an effective police force. As a result of the UNDP’s Law and Order Trust Fund for Afghanistan (LOTFA) over 150,000 Afghan police officers receive payment on time and accurately. The organization has also taken the initiative to recruit and train female police officers, resulting in 70 Police Women Councils in every province in Afghanistan. The UNDP has also funded a program to create 19  hydroelectric power plants, which are now supplying electricity to 18,606 people in Afghanistan.

Although war has ravaged Afghanistan for decades, the presence of various nongovernmental organizations and their projects to improve the lives of the citizens in combination with peace talks currently ongoing in Afghanistan that can ensure political stability and continued aid to the country have the possibility to break the cycle of poverty.

– Alina Patrick

Photo: Flickr

Special Education in refugee camps
Lack of education is a contributing factor to the cycle of poverty. The 1989 ‘Convention on the Rights of the Child’ and the 1951 ‘Refugee Convention’ emphasizes the fact that access to education is a basic human right. However, approximately half of the world’s refugee children are out of schools. Access to schooling becomes increasingly difficult when countries enter conflicts and develop refugee camps.

The United Nations passed the ‘Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities’ in 2006. The declaration clearly stated disabled peoples’ right to an education. This right is only accessible in 28 percent out of 193 states, and although there are many initiatives to support special education in refugee camps, further support is needed to help refugees with disabilities obtain and maintain the education they need.

Classification of Disabilities

Disability can be categorized into two branches: mental disability and physical disability. A mental disability is any mental disorder that affects the everyday life of an individual, and examples include post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, intellectual disabilities and schizophrenia. A physical disability is an impairment of the body and/or a person’s motor abilities. These are either acquired at birth or as a result of a traumatic experience and include cerebral palsy, spina bifida, muscular dystrophy and amputations.

Obstacles Faced by Refugee Children

Special education in refugee camps is not an easy task to accomplish, and there are many obstacles that refugee children with disabilities must face in order to receive an education. The first obstacle is very simple to notice — the challenge of getting to school. In many large refugee camps, there are typically no more than a few schools that children can go to and children usually walk to school. For people with physical disabilities, transportation can pose a great problem, especially as most infrastructure is not built to accommodate disabilities. For example, an 8-year-old girl named Hayam lives in the Za’atari refugee camp in Jordan and suffers from muscular dystrophy. Hayam had to take a quarter-mile walk to her school every day, and her illness made this very difficult.

Another obstacle for people with disabilities is the misunderstanding of physical and mental disabilities in many communities. In many cases, people are taught to fear and look down on people who have disabilities. There are situations in which parents of able-bodied children do not want to have students with disabilities in the same classroom as their child for fear that their child’s education will be harmed.

Furthermore, integration into schools for refugee students can be a difficult task due to political, cultural, religious or linguistic differences. It can be extremely hard for schools to deal with these differences and misconceptions if they lack necessary resources, and such status is incredibly harmful to refugee children with disabilities as it can make it very difficult for them to receive schooling. Refugees are also likely to have PTSD and other related mental disorders due to witnessed trauma, and such effects can harshly affect education if there are no treatments for mental disorders that make it difficult for children to pay attention in class or attend school at all.

Organizational Support

UNICEF and Mercy Corps helped 100 students in the Za’atari refugee camps in Jordan. The two organizations have given wheelchairs to students who have physical disabilities and cannot walk. In another part of the world, the Karen Women Organization (KWO) works in Burma to support special education in refugee camps and rights for the disabled. Not only does KWO aim to ensure increased levels of education, but the organization also aims to support and expand care to children who have disabilities and educate the community.

In 2003, the KWO started the Special Education (SE) Project that runs in every Karen refugee camp. SE Project gives instruction to teachers in the schools and families at home to fully maximize the disabled child’s well-being and reach their goal of integration into society. KWO also helps to combat the misconceptions by creating various activities and workshops for those who are able-bodied and those who are not.

A nongovernmental organization helping refugees receive mental healthcare is the International Medical Corps (IMC). The IMC knows that mental illness is a huge limiting factor for education and they work to make sure there are ways that refugee children can acquire treatment. The group works with local partners in refugee camps to create spaces to talk and provide activities for children and adolescents to develop healthy habits and create relationships. IMC connects children to local youth support and sets up sustainable mental healthcare.

An Unalienable Right

Education is an unalienable right of every person, and special education in refugee camps is crucial for enabling the most endangered people to achieve this right. It is critically important that various organizations and governments continue to build systems that support the abilities of all, especially those most vulnerable.

– Isabella Niemeyer

Photo: Flickr

Technology Transforms Agriculture in Developing Countries
Smallholder farmers and their families make up to almost 75 percent of the world’s poor population. Struggling with access to health care, clean drinking water and education are just some of the daily challenges these people face. A digital technology company called Ricult is striving to improve the productivity and profitability of smallholder farmers in developing countries by solving agricultural problems with technology-based solutions. Ricult has already helped 10,000 farmers across Thailand and Pakistan and continues to prove that technology transforms agriculture in developing countries every day.

Technology Transforms Agriculture

Ricult requires farmers to enter in their geo-coordinates through their app. It then uses geospatial data streams that monitor the environment through weather, satellite, and soil analytics. This provides the farmer with valuable data such as soil conditions to ensure optimal growth.

Some of the basic problems that poor farmers face include inadequate access to weather data, no pest attack forecast, storage issues, low-profit margins and credit access. According to Usman Javaid, the CEO of Ricult, the biggest reason why microfinance institutions haven’t been able to alleviate poverty in developing markets is that they only focus on one part of the problem by providing credit.

The Work of Government of Pakistan

Providing credit is the main way the Government of Pakistan seeks to transform agriculture. The government has adopted a long-term development strategy that aims to remodel the country into an upper middle-income country by 2025. The government developed the Five Year Plan that aims to ensure national food security and reduce rural poverty by increasing productivity, competitiveness and environmental safety. Through this program, the government provides $3 billion in subsidies, grants and loans. They are also providing credit to farmers who own up to 12.5 acres of land and are facing massive irrigation costs.

Ricult as Example how Technology Transforms Agriculture

Javaid says that one of the biggest problems in developing countries is that when farmers receive cash, they will use it for anything and everything but not for agriculture. The country gives an in-kind loan of inputs delivered to the doorstep of the farmers and accompanies this with insightful and actionable agronomic data from optimal sowing times to yield forecasts. This is just one of the examples of how exactly technology transforms agriculture.

Another great component about Ricult is that it allows farmers to get paid within 48 hours. Farmers generally use a middleman who delivers produce from the farm to the markets. Middlemen often stagger payments and cost additional input. Ricult offers five times lower interest rates than middlemen. Ricult has received a $100,000 grant from the Gates Foundation and continues to transform agriculture in developing countries by making a positive impact in the lives of farmers.

A Pakistani farmer named Faraz Shah has said that the current system of informal credit was not working for the farmers. They were very upset, but Ricult has greatly improved their lives by offering credit at much cheaper prices and improving them with high-quality products. Thailand farmer BubpaWorawat said that Ricult dashboard with its color coding system lets him know in which part of his land growth is stunted so he can take immediate action unlike before when he could not personally scout the areas and he would not know about the problem until it was too late.

Ricult is only one example of how does technology transforms agriculture. Since agriculture is a prevalent way of life in less developed countries, in which most of the poor people of the world live, it is very important to develop the new ways and to use technology to help these people to be more effective in their line of work. By doing so, technology can help poor people get out of the cycle of poverty.

– Grace Klein

Photo: Flickr

Maternal Health Program for Low-Income Families
Since 2001, the province of Manitoba, Canada, has provided 63,000 pregnant and low-income women with cash supplements to help them take care of themselves and their families. The program is called the Healthy Baby Prenatal Benefit.

The supplements are “financial cushions” meant to provide women with the money they need to get health care, healthy food and nutritional supplements. Researchers who have worked with the program say that it has provided a blueprint for other provinces in Canada to follow. If this maternal health program for low-income families works well on a cross-country scale, it could possibly be further developed to help other countries as well.

Maternal Health Program

The money is not the most important part of this project, though. Because the cash supplement was only around $62 per month, the mothers cannot afford many things with it. However, the financial cushion encouraged women to seek healthier food, better transportation options and other things they might not splurge on.

Also, this was a gateway for ensuring that women get into prenatal care as soon as possible. Along with the stipend comes a community. There are approximately 70 prenatal and postnatal support groups across Manitoba that educate women about their future children, what they need to know during pregnancy, and other tips and tricks they may not have received otherwise. All in all, it has been a successful maternal health program for low-income families.

Impact of the Program

Women who have participated in the Healthy Baby Prenatal Benefit program said they felt like confident mothers after going to support groups and using their supplements to better their lives. The program drew inspiration from France, the country that is touted as one of the best countries in the world to raise children. Programs like the Healthy Baby Prenatal Benefit are inspiring others around the world as well.

Cambodia has set up a UNICEF funded pilot project that gives stipends to women if they follow up on their prenatal checks. It was relatively successful, which gives hope to the government and other nongovernmental organizations that funding projects like this are important in the long term. Taking care of the mother’s body while pregnant not only helps the future child but also helps the mother. It decreases the death rate among pregnant women, which can drastically change a child’s future.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 830 women die every day from preventable issues related to pregnancy and childbirth and 99 percent of those women come from developing countries. Women in rural areas are affected the most because they do not have access to adequate health care. The most interesting thing that can be concluded from these facts is that skilled care before, during and after childbirth can save the lives of women and newborn babies. This directly relates to the cash programs in countries like Canada, France and Cambodia.

Other Countries That Need Similar Programs

There are a lot of countries that could benefit from the programs such as the Healthy Baby Prenatal Benefit program and that can develop their own maternal health programs. In this article, three of such countries are listed.

Sierra Leone is the first country on the list that could improve maternal health care. There are around 1,360 deaths per every 100,000 live births in the country, which makes the situation urgent. The second on the list is Chad, a country that has approximately 856 deaths per every 100,00 live births. Children make up for 57 percent of Chad’s population and this dangerous trend could potentially leave many of them without mothers. In Nigeria, there are approximately 814 deaths per every 100,000 live births. Nigeria has looked into cash supplement programs before, but creating one specifically for pregnant women would create a great and much-needed change.

Developing countries can and should follow Canada’s example and success with a maternal health program dedicated specifically to low-income families. There is a successful blueprint in the world and it just needs to be adapted to each country that needs it.

– Miranda Garbaciak
Photo: Flickr

Top 10 Facts About Girls’ Education in Cote d’Ivoire
When facing the prevalence of gender gap issues in the media today, the increase of eligibility for basic education, especially for young girls, has been a glaring and globally spread issue.

Over the past decade, however, Cote d’Ivoire has made extensive strides in trying to bridge this gap within the country’s borders. This West African country, although not at the forefront of the headlines, has had many successes that have been the model for many more developing girls education programs to come.

All of the top 10 facts about girls’ education in Cote d’Ivoire presented below are the result of such improvement and a true testament to the power of policymaking in the country.

Top 10 Facts About Girls’ Education in Cote d’Ivoire

  1. According to the Journal of Education and Learning, Ivory Coast’s Education for All program, whose goal is to implement compulsory education in the country, has made its focus to invest more resources towards marginalized groups including children of disadvantaged socioeconomic groups and especially girls. The success of the program depends on enabling all groups and communities to participate in education.
  2. In 2017, the gross enrollment of female students in pre-preliminary education was greater than that of male students. However, in all other levels of education, the enrollment for girls is at the lower level. On the flip side, the enrollment of girls is constantly increasing.
  3. The National Development Plan for Cote d’Ivoire (2016-2020) highlights the importance of education to the social wellbeing of the country. This plan included a new law that requires children from the ages of 6 to 16 to receive mandatory education furthering the skills of the country’s overall job force. The Plan would also enforce a greater incentive for female enrollment as they usually make up less than 10 percent of those enrolled in schools.
  4. Remarkably for developing countries, according to UNESCO, 89 percent of girls transition successfully from primary to secondary school. In comparison, percent of boys that transition is 95 percent, and the difference of 6 percent among genders is a truly noteworthy feat for the country.
  5. A recent Global Partnership for Education (GPE) grant focuses on a project that would provide and promote higher rates of girls’ education through in-service teacher training, the dissipation of learning materials and a school program with a focus on health and nutrition.
  6. In 2013, only 83.43 percent of female teachers were certified trained teachers. Today, 100 percent of all female teachers are properly trained for their jobs. Through the training of female teachers, girls are more likely to succeed in having both the trained educators and female role models to look up to.
  7. Agence Francaise de Developpement (AFD), notes that only about 2 percent of girls from rural areas have hope to complete secondary education. The organization has, in response to this problem, put together a program that focuses on reducing such inequalities. One of the most important goals is to facilitate the travel to school for girls who live in rural areas.
  8. In 2007, UNICEF administered 550,000 pupil kits to the targeted schools. More than 50 percent of the help is going towards girls who have little chance of going to school due to gender discrimination. This project had positive national, local radio and television message that promoted all children’s rights to education. The project has been a model for many ongoing projects today.
  9. According to UNICEF, over 72 percent of female adults are able to read. This surpasses the average for sub-Saharan Africa and has proven to have a huge impact on poverty and health in the country.
  10. Ivory Coast’s Education Sector Plan for 2016-2025 foresees quality education for all children by reducing inequalities in provided resources and opportunity based on gender. This new program promotes training in science and technology while especially increasing literacy rates for women.

Although there are many aspects that can be still be improved, the top 10 facts about girls’ education in Cote d’Ivoire presented above show that the country has made huge efforts to eradicate the gender gap in education and to enable education for everyone.

With the help of several nongovernmental organizations, the country will continue to make positive strides in the future.

– Sarah Chocron

Photo: Flickr

Cooling in Developing Countries
Cooling in developing countries is a major problem that affects health, disease treatments and hunger.

Many developing countries do not have access to electricity and consequently do not have proper cooling systems either.

Lack of cooling makes it difficult for fresh produce to last, leading to massive food waste. An average of 23 percent of food production in developing countries is lost because of poor refrigeration.

Cooling in India

In India, around 70 percent of people do not have refrigerators. With 43 percent of rural and 13 percent of urban households not receiving enough electricity to maintain a fridge, access to cooling for the public is limited.

This makes it difficult for people to store food for long periods of time and puts more strain on women, who traditionally have to cook for their families.

A lack of refrigeration is present in the food industry as well, where only 4 percent of produce is refrigerated during transport, causing losses of $4.5 billion each year.

This poses a huge risk to India’s growing food sector, especially as it moves towards perishables and limits India’s ability to accommodate its growing food demand.

Although the country has more arable farmland than most countries, India’s domestic production is expected to meet only 59 percent of its demand in 2030.

One of the reasons for this inefficiency is because farmers cannot store their food for long periods of time, leading to around 40 percent of agriculture production to go to waste. With many farmers being considered food insecure, poor access to cooling proves to be a major roadblock in reducing hunger.

The lack of cooling is also dangerous for vaccines since 20 percent of health care products and 25 percent of vaccines are damaged due to poor cooling systems in the country.

Although air conditioning ownership has gone up from 2 million in 2006 to 5 million households in 2011, that number still only represents around 3 percent of Indian households. Restricted energy access prevents many from being able to purchase air conditioners.

Still, the Indian cooling industry is expected to grow up to 25 percent each year, showing that progress is being made for cooling in developing countries.

The government is making changes and has taken an initiative through the National Cooling Action Plan.

A major focus of the 2018 plan is household air conditioners. As more and more people purchase them, energy efficiency and environmental consciousness have become increasingly important.

The action plan discusses ways to reduce the energy intake of air conditioners so that poorer families with lower access to energy can afford to maintain them. Another approach is cool roofs that encourage using certain materials to reduce the amount of heat that gets trapped inside a building.

With cool roofs being cheaper and advantageous for India’s rising temperatures, more cities are implementing them as a viable cooling method.

The Case of Nigeria

Nigeria similarly faces rising temperatures and low access to electricity, both which contribute to unsatisfied demand for cooling devices.

Over 50 million rural and 44 million urban Nigerians do not have adequate access to electricity and, consequently, refrigeration. Restricted cold food storage continues to the agriculture sector, where 36.7 percent of production goes to waste due to a lack of cooling.

With food and vaccines at risk of spoiling, Nigeria’s defense against hunger and disease is impaired. Nigeria’s history of disease outbreaks and high rates of poverty make this issue critical.

In response to these potential and immediate effects of the lack of cooling, the first National Food Safety Policy was adopted in 2013. One of its goals is to reduce food waste, which it addressed through improving cold chain efficiency.

Corresponding to the goals set in the policy, the Nigeria Expanded Trade and Transport Program (NEXTT) works towards economic development in Nigeria. In order to expand trade, NEXTT analyzes the inefficiencies in Nigeria’s existing cold chain.

Through projects like these, cooling in developing countries is making progress.

Cooling in Bangladesh

In Bangladesh, cooling is especially important for almost 50 percent of the population that are farmers. While many of them farm mainly for their own families, they do sell any surplus.

However, their sales are limited by how long their product lasts without a refrigerator, causing around 50 percent of production to spoil before being sold.

A Bangladeshi food company, Golden Harvest, dealt with this problem firsthand when most of the food they bought from farmers was spoiled. As a result, their own perishable products were unable to sell because of the unreliability of local farmers.

In response, they partnered with USAID to establish the first integrated cold chain system in Bangladesh. USAID helped to provide farmers with education related to maximizing their yields and gave technical assistance with Golden Harvest’s projects.

Golden Harvest has since invested in numerous refrigerated trucks, freezers and cold storage units. As the company grows, it continues to provide a foundation for the cold chain in Bangladesh.

Cooling in developing countries is no doubt urgent issue, especially with rising global temperatures.

Food insecurity, vaccine distribution and poverty are all exacerbated by poor cooling systems.

For many countries, access to refrigeration is vital to the advancement of their respective food industries, especially as the total population constantly increases in those countries.

Still, numerous projects are implemented towards improving the issue of low access to cooling in developing countries, showing hope that the situation will soon be resolved.

– Massarath Fatima
Photo: Pixabay

A Developing Country: BangladeshAs a new academic year draws near in the fall, we reminisce spring graduation celebrations for secondary and post-secondary students in the United States, but also the heralding of a special graduation for one South Asian nation. During the March 2018 review, the United Nations’ Committee for Development Policy (CDP) predicted Bangladesh to satisfy the criteria to become a developing country.

Bangladesh Growth

With just 47 years of independence, Bangladesh is expected to earn a status of a developing country from the least developed country in the next six years. The CDP will most likely recommend Bangladesh at its triennial review of least developed countries in 2021, and full endorsement is expected to follow at its 2024 meeting.

Consideration for becoming a developing country means demonstrating years of satisfactory human and economic advancements, and Bangladesh has been gaining on the developing community with precocious stride.

Foreign aid, non-government organizations and state-operated agencies have been key in Bangladesh’s development. Since 1973, the Asian Development Bank has assisted Bangladesh with $20.75 billion in aid. Close to 70 cents per dollar has been allocated to four sectors—energy, transportation, education and agriculture, as well as to natural resources and rural development.

Criteria for a Developing Country

Eligibility for becoming a developing country is based on three standards: an economic vulnerability index, a human assets index and per capita income. The United Nations’ most recent standards to graduate from least developed to a developing country are scores of 32 and below for its economic vulnerability index, scores of 66 and above for its human assets index, and a gross national income per capita of at least $1,230.

These thresholds must be met on two of the three categories for six years or the course of two successive, triennial Committee reviews. Bangladesh is on pace to fulfill all three requirements since its economic vulnerability, human assets and per capita income graduation thresholds were respectively met in 2003, 2015, and 2017.

Economic Vulnerability

Economic vulnerability is calculated considering eight factors: population size, the population living in low coastal zones, remoteness, the share of agriculture, forestry and fisheries, export instability, export concentration, and victims of natural disasters.

In a show of economic ascendancy and national pride, Bangladesh launched its first communications and broadcasting satellite, the Bangabandhu-1, transported by an American manufactured SpaceX rocket in May 2018. In addition to accelerating telecommunication development, the Bangladesh Space Research and Remote Sensing Organization has developed remote-sensing technology that can be used in agriculture, forestry, fisheries, water resources and oceanography. Remote sensors collect data on energy emitted from the Earth and can be used for shoreline erosion prevention, natural disaster preparation and natural resource management. This type of growth is vital to becoming a developing country.

Bangladesh’s strong textile and fabric industry drives 80 percent of the country’s export economy, the 57th largest in the world. Only China and the European Union topped Bangladesh’s clothing exports in 2015. Clothing exports made up almost 14 percent share ($26 billion) of Bangladesh’s 2015 gross domestic product (GDP).

Bangladesh has experienced GDP growth of 6 percent or more since 2011 and 7.3 percent in 2017, the second-most of all South Asian countries behind Bhutan.

Human Assets Index

Becoming a developing country also requires notable progress in education and health. The CDP’s human assets index is calculated by maternal and under-five infant mortality, malnourishment, gross literacy, and gross secondary school enrollment.

From 2011 to 2016, Bangladesh boosted its literacy rate from 47 to 73 percent. Room to Read, a non-profit organization, dedicated to girl’s education and child literacy in Asia and Africa, has opened 6,000 classroom libraries for over 300,000 Bangladesh children in 1,000 primary schools. The organization has concentrated its outreach in rural areas such as the Brahamanbaria District, a flood-prone area just 14 meters above sea level, and the Natore District, an agriculturally dependent rural area. Bangladesh has also reached all-time highs of secondary school enrollment rates: 72.5 percent for girls and 69 percent for both sexes.

The Strengthening Household Ability to Respond to Development Opportunities II (SHOUHARDO II)–Bangladesh project has reduced physical growth failure due to chronic malnutrition, known as stunting, by 13 percent in children under the age of five. Bangladesh villages affected by the SHOUHARDO II project are Cox’s Bazar, Mymensingh, Rangpur and Sirajganj regions. As part of the SHOUHARDO II project, women learned optimal breastfeeding, life-skills, and investment and finance strategies. This project also implemented a monthly food ration program consisting of wheat, vegetable oil and yellow split peas. There is also an indication of improving health conditions for women in Bangladesh as maternal mortality ratios dropped by 32 percent from 2012 to 2015.

Per Capita Income

With a current economy worth $686.5 billion and a gross national income per capita of $1,433, Bangladesh has exceeded the average least developed country for over 20 years. On its road to becoming a developing country, about 50 million people in Bangladesh have escaped extreme poverty (living on $1.90 a day) since 1991. This rate has declined from 40 percent to 14 percent today.

While Bangladesh still faces challenges, such as Rohingya refugees, overpopulation, flooding and insufficient sanitation, it is well on its way to becoming a developing country within the years to come.

Thomas Benjamin
Photo: Flickr

BUILD ActThe Better Utilization of Investments Leading to Development Act (BUILD) was created to allocate private-sector dollars to assist developing countries. The BUILD Act would create The United States International Development Finance Corporation (USIDFC). The budget would be set at $60 million, which is nearly double Overseas Private Investment Corporation’s (OPIC) current funds. There will be a focus on low income and lower-middle income countries and assistance to turn them into market economies.

The BUILD Act

The importance of the BUILD Act is that it allows the USIDFC the opportunity to: 1) make loans, 2) obtain equity or financial interest in entities, 3) provide reassurance to private sector entities and qualifying countries, 4) provide technical assistance, 5) conduct special projects, 6) crate enterprise funds, 7) issue obligations and 8) charge service fees.

The BUILD Act was passed by the House on 17 July 2018. The vote was spearheaded by Co-Chairs of the Congressional Caucus for Effective Foreign Assistance, Rep. Adam Smith and Rep. Ted Yoho. The importance of The BUILD Act is recognized by both parties because it recommits the United States to be supportive of developing countries.

According to Rep. Adam Smith, the United States must “take an all in approach to our foreign assistance.” Programs like The BUILD Act are essential because they promote “health, peace and stability that are vital to our national security.” Rep. Ted Yoho believes The BUILD Act is a huge step towards the United States becoming more effective with foreign aid. The end goal of the BUILD Act is to take countries that are struggling with extreme poverty from “aid to trade.”

The importance of the BUILD Act for developing countries can be seen in 5 major areas:

  1. Building infrastructure
  2. Increasing obtainability of electricity
  3. Starting businesses
  4. Job creation
  5. Reducing the need for foreign aid from The United States

Helping Economies Around the World

Developing countries have difficulty attracting the investors that are needed to begin creating economic growth. In order to assist these countries and gain the advantages of helping, The U.S should be encouraging the private sector to invest. That is where The BUILD Act comes into play. This act will allow developing countries the opportunity to get out of poverty and accomplish becoming self-sufficient.  

The act will bring billions of dollars in private-sector investments to fight extreme poverty along with making it easier for American business to work in developing countries. If an American investor would like to have a business in a developing country, but the banks think that could be too risky of an investment, The USIDFC would be available to provide assistance; subsequently, helping Americans while creating more jobs and helping those dealing with extreme poverty.

The BUILD Act is an important piece of legislation that both parties feel will be a benefit to both our economy and that of developing countries in need. Countries facing extreme poverty will now have the capability to become self-sufficient.

– Olivia Hodges
Photo: U.S. Dept. of Defense

Mass Media in Developing CountriesRadio, newspapers, television, Internet, social media, etc., all of these are forms of mass media. Each of these outlets has the capability of bringing information to thousands of people with one device. While in some communities it is easy to take advantage of these communication outlets such as television and Internet access, not everyone has access to such outlets.

Radio is one of the most common forms of mass media in developing countries because it’s affordable and uses less electricity than many other forms of mass media, but only approximately 75 percent of people in developing countries have access to a radio, and roughly 77 percent of people in rural areas have access to electricity.

For developing countries that have implemented forms of mass media in their communities, there have been numerous positive outcomes. Here are five positive impacts of mass media in developing countries.

  1. Brings people together- With implementing mass media in societies in Tunisia and Egypt, citizens were able to reach out to each other through social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter and create, organize and initiate street protests and campaigns. Furthermore, having access to social media in developing countries, people are able to connect to those that they usually wouldn’t have the chance to talk to.
  2. Provides educational opportunities- In many countries, the division between local and national languages as well as issues of literacy can make communication difficult. With the use of mass media, a bridge can be built between these two gaps. In India, there is a radio station that provides information in local languages and respects local culture and traditions.
  3. Watchdog for the public interest- Media is the watchdog for public interest in many ways. One of the main ways is to create public awareness of what is going on with businesses and government officials. The media plays an important role in giving people the opportunity to act against injustice, oppression and misdeeds that they otherwise wouldn’t know about.
  4. Information on available healthcare- In Burkina Faso, a mass radio broadcast was sent out encouraging parents to seek treatment at local healthcare facilities for their sick children. With this mass outreach on healthcare, the encouragement of people to take their children to healthcare facilities saved thousands of lives. This easy way of encouraging others and bringing awareness about certain diseases was made possible through a simple radio broadcast.
  5. Brings social issues to life- Similar to “watchdogging”, media brings many social issues to life that otherwise would remain unknown to many people. In developing countries and communities like Burkina Faso, when the radio broadcast was released about malaria, diarrhea and pneumonia, people were educated and moved to action and knew to take their children to healthcare facilities for preventative care.

As it is seen, having access to different media outlets is vital for those in developing countries. Here are three ways that those in developing countries can implement mass media to help their people and communities.

  1. Provide radios or newspapers in public places- By providing radios and newspapers in public areas it gives community members to access news, information and emergency warnings. Even though radios can be on the cheaper side, there are still many people that can’t afford to have a radio in their home. By providing one in a local place, not only would it better educate the community members but also it will bring the community together.
  2. Have the community involved in sharing the news- When making individual communities responsible for providing their own news it not only makes them independent and proud of the work that they are putting out but it also has a positive effect on local economies. The media can provide many jobs that otherwise wouldn’t have been there.
  3. Make media outlets a two-way platform- Creating a two-way platform between the community and those who are behind the radio stations, newspapers or broadcasts makes the community feel involved and that their voices are being heard. An organization called Soul City in sub-Saharan Africa is showing how well two-way platforms work by engaging their listeners and having them contribute thoughts and ideas about complex issues.

Whether through radio or cell phones, forms of mass media are constantly being used to inform, educate and strengthen people all over the world whether they be in urban or rural communities.

One easy way to help gain access to mass media in developing countries is to reach out to government officials in the United States. Click here to email U.S. Senators about The Digital GAP Act and ask them to give first-time access to mobile or broadband Internet to 1.5 million people in developing countries by 2020.

– Victoria Fowler
Photo: Flickr

FGM/C and Poverty
Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C) is a practice that has occurred for generations — a female, often in childhood, is subjected to some form of cutting to her genitalia in the promotion of religious following and the detraction of desire for sexual interaction. Its purpose is to reduce sexual desire in women, thereby making them less likely to be interested in intercourse outside of marriage. It is also highly symbolic to many groups of people who practice it as a religious necessity; however, there is no known religion that demands this practice.

FGM/C and Poverty

FGM/C and poverty are connected in developing countries as the girls who undergo FGM/C are often from poor families who are then married as children, never continue their education and subsequently repeat the cycle of poverty. Recently, there has been a decline in FGM/C practitioners, which should lead to lower levels of extreme poverty on an individual basis.

Countries such as Burkina Faso, Egypt, Kenya, Liberia and Togo have experienced a decline in FGM/C prevalence, with Egypt reducing prevalence from 69 percent to 55 percent between ages of 2005 and 2014. As the correlation with lower education becomes more well-known, it can be inferred that the decline in FGM/C victims has led to a higher attendance rate for girls at school, which can, in turn, affect the poverty in the region.

Millennium Development Goals

The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), a program designed to create social equality throughout the world, works to end poverty in developing countries. A primary focus of the organization is to work to end FGM/C and poverty because the list of side effects and results of the practice leave women often unable to contribute in their society because they are traumatized, physically incapacitated, unable to maintain strength and nutrition, and in some cases, do not survive the procedure.

When injuries or death result, the cost of caring for these women or paying for their funeral causes strain on family members and communities. Such a responsibility can, in turn, increase the poverty issues already at play. Disability due to the trauma from FGM/C can also lead to a woman’s decreased productivity level, thereby bringing in less money for the family and continuing the cycle of poverty.

The Beginning of the End

The decline of the practice is increasing in developing countries, with more people wanting FGM/C to end. In 2010, a Burkina Faso survey determined that 90.6 percent of women wanted FGM/C to end, a staggering increase from 75.1 percent in 1999. With such a trend beginning, countries should encourage education, discourage FGM/C and lower the poverty levels by introducing a new way of thinking.

FGM/C and poverty are both declining, but it can be agreed that the decline is not occurring quickly enough. More must be done to protect young girls from the sexual alterations that are often completed without consent.

By not cutting into perfectly healthy and innocent girls, developing nations can promote a stronger and healthier workforce. FGM/C and poverty are connected, and one cannot be reduced in isolation — it is imperative that both be tackled to end the other.

– Kayleigh Mattoon
Photo: Flickr