Information and stories about developing countries.

Breast Cancer in Developing CountriesWomen in developing countries lack access to safe and cost-effective breast cancer screening practices, leaving cancer frequently undetected. As a result, three times as many women in low-income, developing countries die each year due to breast cancer compared to developed countries. A team of young women from John Hopkins University is working to change this disparity and save lives through the creation of a new biopsy device.

Early Detection: A Better Chance for a Cure

Great strides have been made in the prevention and treatment of breast cancer in developed countries. More than 80 percent of women diagnosed in North America, Sweden and Japan survive. However, the situation is far different for women in the developing world. Less than 40 percent of women diagnosed in developing countries survive the disease, according to the WHO. This disparity in fatalities can be attributed to a lack of early detection. Studies in Europe and Canada found that the risk of breast cancer death decreased by more than 40 percent among women who underwent early diagnostic screening. In the U.S., data reveals the widespread use of early detection procedures and a 39 percent decrease in U.S. breast cancer fatalities after the 1990s.

Screening for Breast Cancer in Developing Countries

In 2003, the World Health Survey found that only 2.2 percent of women aged 40 to 69 years received breast cancer screening in low- to middle-income nations. More than half of women newly diagnosed with breast cancer in those nations have already progressed to stage III or IV disease. In the United States, 71.5 percent of women aged 50-74 have been screened within the past two years and over 90 percent of recently-diagnosed women have locoregional breast disease.

Why Aren’t Women Screened?

One of the main factors preventing women in low- to middle-income countries from early breast cancer detection is the high cost of screening procedures. Core needle biopsy (CNB) is a common diagnostic procedure that allows doctors to test a sample of breast tissue from the area of concern. In high-income countries, doctors use efficient and expensive disposable CNB drivers for breast biopsies. Low-income countries often cannot afford the same expense, relying instead on reusable drivers. These drivers are easily contaminated and the cleaning process is extremely time-consuming and costly, rendering breast cancer biopsies unavailable to most women in developing countries.

Ithemba: Hope for Women with Breast Cancer

A group of Johns Hopkins undergraduates won a 2019 Lemelson-MIT Student Prize for their creation of a safe, low-cost, reusable breast cancer biopsy device. After learning of the unsafe and inefficient diagnostic methods in developing countries, the team of four young women set out to create a safe and cost-effective CNB driver. Their device is named Ithemba, the Zulu word meaning “hope.” the CNB driver is centered around increasing women’s access to early breast cancer diagnosis. The device’s disposable needle contains a chamber that traps contaminants and is easily sterilized with a bleach wipe, ensuring safe reuse. Ithemba is expected to last up to 20 years before replacement is necessary.

The Johns Hopkins students have conducted over 125 stakeholder interviews. They predict that within the first five years on the market, Ithemba will impact the lives of 300,000 women in developing countries. In May of 2018, the team filed for a patent and are now searching for low-cost manufacturing methods and finalizing estimated costs.

Valerie Zawicki, one of the four undergraduates on the team, insists that the location of a woman’s home should not determine her odds of surviving cancer. The mission of Ithemba is to give all women—no matter where they live—hope with the chance to fight and survive breast cancer.

– Sarah Musick
Photo: Wikimedia

10 Facts About Farming in AfricaAfrica is home to 54 countries, with 36 percent of people living on less than one dollar a day. Farming is how a large majority of Africans feed their family and generate revenue. Although the sweeping plains of East and South Africa are abundant in natural resources, there are still high levels of poverty among farmers. These 10 facts about farming in Africa will explain why farmers in Africa fall below the international poverty level.

10 Facts About Farming in Africa

  1. The Sahara Desert is growing. A future threat to farmers is the Sahara, the world’s largest hot desert. While most deserts’ boundaries expand and contract seasonally, data collected over the past 100 years shows that the Sahara grew by at least 11 percent and now takes up 3.6 million square miles of Northern Africa. As the places where people farm grow drier, famine and drought become more of a risk.
  2. Sub-Saharan Africa contains 19 of the 25 poorest countries in the world. This includes the Central African Republic, which is nearly self-sufficient in crops but ranks as the poorest country in Africa (681 GDP) due to poor livestock quality. Overall, this “horn” of the African continent contains a population of 626 million people, and 384 million—or 61 percent—of them are farmers.
  3. Roughly 65 percent of Africa’s population relies on subsistence farming. Subsistence farming, or smallholder agriculture, is when one family grows only enough to feed themselves. Without much left for trade, the surplus is usually stored to last the family until the following harvest. While subsistence farming is appealing to rural farmers because it allows families to be self-sufficient, it is heavily susceptible to climate change and works best when there is no drought or flood, which usually isn’t the case.
  4. Farmers suffer from Africa’s loss of share in world trade. Unfortunately, there are higher trade taxes placed on the continent compared to other regions. This is due to roads that lead toward ports rather than other countries, as well as rigorous tariffs and inspection laws between borders. Working to boost intra-African trade, regional economic communities (RECs) face immense challenges and policymakers are focusing on RECs in order to increase regional integration.
  5. Africa’s common cash crops are cocoa, cotton and coffee. Initially, cocoa was as a smallholder crop but has grown in popularity due to global demand. Robusta is a typical coffee bean grown in Africa, commonly used for instant coffee. It faces competition with the higher quality Arabica beans exported from Asia and South America. Overall, the exposure of cash crops to the world market has expanded growth in Africa but also slowly eroded farmer incomes. Cash crop farmers receive very small proportions of the final traded price.
  6. Women make up the largest share of the agricultural labor force in Africa. Although they produce 80 percent of the continent’s food, they are excluded from determining agricultural policies and certain laws deprive them of their land and livelihood. The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization has estimated that if women were given the same access to productive resources as men, crop yield could be increased 20 to 30 percent—in turn, reducing the number of world hunger up to 17 percent. https://www.farmafrica.org/what-we-do-1/women-in-the-field
  7. Africa has the largest number of child labor, and the agriculture sector accounts for most of it. In sub-Saharan Africa, child labor increased over the 2012 to 2016 period, in contrast to continued progress in the rest of the world. Most child labor is unpaid, going on in family farms and not between employment with a third-party.
  8. Countries with high child labor rates, like Cote D’Ivoire and Ghana, also report high school attendance rates at 90 percent. Families that do subsistence farming anecdotally report high career aspirations for their children. The high child labor rates are not necessarily an alternative to school, but an act performed for the necessary family income that leads to subsistence and high attendance rates. In a sense, child work often contributes to improving the family farm that they may eventually inherit.
  9. Focus on agribusiness can help improve the lives of farmers. The African Center for Economic Transformation (ACET) promotes a focus on the chain of process: land tenure, farming technology, markets and pricing. Agribusiness also involves technology, such as mobile apps used as a means to reach farmers and track data on land conditions. By turning farming into an entrepreneurial endeavor, agribusiness could create the mass number of jobs needed for Africa’s youth.
  10. By increasing local production of chemical fertilizers, the lives of African farmers could improve. Globally, Africa consumes only one percent of fertilizer and produces even less. With high costs and short supply, African farmers pay up to six times the average price for fertilizer. If a farmer is living on one dollar a day, imported fertilizer is unaffordable. Increasing local production of fertilizer would reduce costs and shorten the supply chain to farmers.

Improving the lives of African farmers is possible through education and outside funding. USAID can focus on improving transportation networks for rural areas, as well as expanding the infrastructure of suppliers and markets. Through gender-equalizing laws and lowering tariffs, African farmers can also increase their benefits from their work. These 10 facts about farming in Africa show that African farmers make up a large majority of the world’s poor, and there is much to be done when it comes to improving their future.

– Isadora Savage
Photo: Flickr

Maternal Mortality Rate in MalawiThe maternal mortality rate in Malawi is one of the highest in the world. The country ranks at number 13 for the highest number of maternal deaths during pregnancy or after birth.

The maternal mortality rate in Malawi has decreased over the years, but it is still an alarming issue that the country is addressing. It is estimated that per every 100,000 live births, over 600 mothers die from mostly preventable causes.

In Malawi, the circumstances of maternal mortality are complex but preventable. Like most countries in sub-Saharan Africa, the health care system in Malawi is not as developed as the rest of the world. Having better access to health care and qualified personnel will save the lives of mothers and children in developing countries.

Causes of High Maternal Mortality

There are several causes related to the high maternal mortality rate in Malawi. Poverty is one of the main contributing factors. Given that half of the country’s population lives in poverty, most women cannot afford conventional health care.

The majority of the population live in remote, rural areas, making it difficult for mothers to find access to quality maternal health care. In many cases, they cannot travel long distances on foot to the nearest available clinic. According to a 2014 study, 44 percent of women in rural areas attended at least 4 antenatal care visits whereas, in urban regions, the figure jumped to 51 percent.

In Malawi, women have historically given birth in their homes due to cultural beliefs and practices. In most cases, traditional birthing attendants were present. However, many of them were not trained to respond if something were to go wrong. This most commonly occurred in impoverished families. Today, the country recognizes the need for professionally trained personnel. In 2015-2016, 91 percent of women were recorded giving birth in a healthcare facility.

Most maternal deaths are related to diseases or complications during pregnancy or childbirth. The most common direct causes of maternal death are:

  • hemorrhages,
  • infection,
  • eclampsia,
  • obstructed labor and
  • abortion.

The indirect causes include malaria, anemia, HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis. In most cases, these diseases or complications would have been preventable if there was better access to health care.

Improving Malawi’s Maternal Mortality

Due to foreign aid, and the dedication of the Malawian government, the maternal mortality rate in Malawi is improving with every year. In 2001, out of 100,000 live births, 868 mothers died. Today, that number is significantly lowered to just over 600.

Former Malawian president, Joyce Banda made maternal health her top priority in 2014. Through her influence, the government of Malawi constructed new maternal health facilities in rural areas, created a new system to better train birthing attendants and changed cultural norms and attitudes regarding maternal health and pregnancy.

Banda also believed in the importance of educating young women about their reproductive health. A survey on Maternal and Perinatal Health has shown that women with lower levels of maternal education are at risk of high maternal mortality even if they have access to health care facilities.

Banda made lasting changes in Malawi for the women and children of today and the generations to come.

USAID Investments to Improve the Maternal Mortality Rate in Malawi

The United States financially supports Malawi by investing in maternal and child care. USAID is investing in maternal health facilities and quality care interventions in order to progress the country’s healthcare system. USAID is also supporting national family planning programs that promote maternal education and informed decision-making for the mothers of Malawi.

As the country continues to develop, the maternal mortality rate in Malawi is decreasing.

Due to more accessible facilities, better-educated mothers and the addition of trained professionals, the status of maternal health care in Malawi has made significant strides.

– Marissa Pekular
Photo: Flickr

Social Entrepreneurship in Developing CountriesToday, social entrepreneurship is growing rapidly in size, scope and support. An unprecedented number of organizations are using entrepreneurship as a strategy to address social problems like poverty, at-risk youth and hunger. Social entrepreneurs are developing creative and innovative organizations that give people the tools, education and resources to become an entrepreneur. As entrepreneurs, they can serve their own communities, improving health, decreasing hunger, creating safer environments and accessing clean water. Here are five organizations using social entrepreneurship to help create jobs in developing countries.

5 Examples of Social Entrepreneurship in Developing Countries

  1. The Adventure Project
    The Adventure Project works in developing countries seeking out partnerships with organizations creating jobs for their communities. Some organizations include KickStart, LifeLine, Living Goods, Water for People, and WaterAid. The organization chooses partners based on their measurable social impact, a proven track record of success, and readiness to scale. Since its inception, the Adventure Project has empowered 798 people to find a job. This has led to thriving local economies, improved environmental conditions and even reduced mortality rates. In Kenya, cooking over an open fire posed a huge health risk to both people and the environment. Now, stoves are made and sold locally. Masons create stoves and vendors earn commissions for their sales. And because they’re using 50 percent less charcoal, families are saving 20 percent of daily expenses. In other countries, villagers have been trained as health care agents, selling more than 60 products at affordable prices. These health care agents also care for more than 800 people in their communities.
  2. Indego Africa
    Indego Africa is a nonprofit social enterprise that supports women in Rwanda through economic empowerment and education. This enterprise aims to break intergenerational cycles of poverty. To do so, Indego Africa provides female artisans with the tools and support necessary to become independent businesswomen and drive local development.Partnering with 18 cooperatives of female artisans, Indego Africa sells handcrafted products through an e-commerce site, collaborations with designers and brands and at boutiques worldwide. To develop their entrepreneurial skills, Indego Africa provides artisans with training in quality control, design and product management. Indego currently employs over 600 women, 58 percent of whom make over $2 a day. According to the World Bank, $2 a day marks the entry point into Africa’s growing middle class.
  3. Mercardo Global
    Mercardo Global is a social enterprise organization that links indigenous artisans in rural Latin American communities to international sales opportunities. As a result, this organization helps provide sustainable income-earning opportunities, access to business training and community-based education programs. Mercado Global also increases access to microloans for technology, such as sewing machines and floor looms. Mercado Global believes income alone cannot solve long-term problems. Therefore, the organization focuses on both business education and leadership training. In doing so, Mercado Global enables artisans to address systemic problems within their communities. Artisans are given microloans, ideally to purchase equipment that allows them to work more efficiently. They then pay back their loans, allowing another artisan to attain one. Forty-four percent of Mercado Global entrepreneurs held a leadership position within their cooperatives in the last three years. Ninety-six percent participate in the finances of their households. And 77 percent of women voted in their last community election.
  4. Solar Sister
    Everyone should have access to clean energy. And the team behind Solar Sister believes women are a key part of the solution to the clean energy challenge. In sub-Saharan Africa, more than 600 million people have no access to electricity. Moreover, more than 700 million must rely on harmful fuels. However, women bear the majority burden of this energy poverty and disproportionately shoulder the harmful effects. In order to address this issue and create more equity around clean energy and economic opportunities, Solar Sister invests in women’s enterprises in off-grid communities. By doing so, the Solar Sister team builds networks of women entrepreneurs. Women are first given access to clean, renewable energy. Then, they participate in a direct sales network to build sustainable businesses. Centering local women in a rapidly growing clean energy sector is essential to eradicating poverty. This allows helps achieve sustainable solutions to climate change and a host of development issues. Evidence shows the income of self-employed rural women with access to energy is more than double the income of those without access to energy. For rural female wage or salary workers, access to energy is correlated with 59 percent higher wages. Solar Sister is currently helping over 1,200 entrepreneurs. The team is also partnering with Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, Sustainable Energy for All, U.N. Women and Women in Solar Energy.
  5. United Prosperity
    United Prosperity is a nonprofit organization providing an online lending platform connecting lenders to poor entrepreneurs across the globe. A Kiva-like peer-to-peer loaning system allows anyone with spare cash to guarantee loans to entrepreneurs in need. Lenders select the entrepreneur they want to support and lend any amount they wish. United Prosperity then consolidates the loan amount and passes it on to the entrepreneur through a local bank. For every $1 given by the lender, the bank makes a nearly $2 loan to the entrepreneur through a partner Microfinance Institution (MFI). Once a loan or a loan guarantee has been made, the entrepreneur’s progress is tracked online. When loans are repaid, lenders get their money back. They then have the opportunity to recycle it by lending or guaranteeing the loan to another entrepreneur. These microloans aim to help entrepreneurs, mostly women, grow their small businesses. United Prosperity has transferred more than $280,000 in loans to 1,300 entrepreneurs. Moreover, MFI helps build entrepreneurs’ credit history with local banking systems, thus encouraging more banks to lend to them.

These organizations are wonderful examples of how social enterprises have effectively empowered locals in the social entrepreneurship space. Through innovation, investment in local resources and talent, and measurement practices, these organizations have helped social entrepreneurs around the world to scale and grow. In doing so, they also address social problems like poverty, at-risk youth and hunger in their community. The results have been improved health, increased economic opportunities, safer environments and increased access to clean water and energy.

Leroy Adams
Photo: Flickr

Role of STEM in Developing CountriesScience, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics are important for building and maintaining the development of any successful country. From the medical scientists, who develop treatments for diseases, to the civil engineers, who design and build a nation’s infrastructure, every aspect of human life is based on the discoveries and developments of scientists and engineers. The importance of STEM today should not be underestimated as its role is becoming increasingly significant in the future. The technology produced today is altering people’s lives at a rate faster than ever before. Consequently, it is vital for countries seeking to reduce their poverty levels to adopt new scientific research and technology. In doing so, these countries can improve their economy, health care system and infrastructure. As this impacts all aspects of society, the role of STEM in developing countries is of significant importance.

STEM and Economic Progress

STEM education fosters a skill set that stresses critical thinking and problem-solving abilities. This type of skill set encourages innovation among those who possess it. Similarly, a country’s economic development and stability are dependent on its ability to invent and develop new products. Technological innovation in the modern age is only obtainable through the expertise of specialists with knowledge of recent STEM research. Therefore, the role of STEM in developing countries is important because a country’s economy is completely dependent on new developments from technology and science.

Overall, the economic performance of metropolises with higher STEM-oriented economies is superior to those with lower STEM-oriented economies. Within these metropolises, there is lower unemployment, higher incomes, higher patents per worker (a sign of innovation), and higher imports and exports of gross domestic products. According to many experts, this holds true at a national level as well. The world’s most successful countries tend to efficiently utilize the most recent scientific developments and technologies.

In recent years, there is a major increase in the number of science and engineering degrees earned in India. India now has the largest number of STEM graduates in the world, putting the country on the right track for economic development. This has led to widespread innovation in India and a consistent increase in its gross domestic product. The role of STEM in developing countries can thus improve its economy. As of early 2019, India has seen an increase of 7.7 percent in its total GDP.

STEM and Health Care

Over the past 50 years, the Western world has made remarkable progress in medical science. With new breakthroughs developed through vaccinations and treatment, many serious diseases in developing countries are now curable. Common causes of death for children in developing countries are diseases such as malaria, measles, diarrhea and pneumonia. These diseases cause a large death toll in developing countries, but they have been largely eradicated from developed countries through proper vaccinations. As a result, these diseases take a large toll on the children of developing countries. In developing countries, a high percentage of the population is under 15 years of age. As such, it is important to prevent diseases that affect children under 15.

Lately, Brazil has seen an epidemic level of yellow fever which has resulted in numerous deaths. Brazil has addressed this by implementing a mass immunization campaign. In particular, this program will deliver vaccines to around 23.8 million Brazilian citizens in 69 different municipalities. The role of STEM in developing countries with preventable diseases will be vital to improving health and life expectancy rates.

Engineering and Infrastructure

Engineers build, create and design machines and public works to address needs and improve quality of life. Engineers construct and maintain a nation’s infrastructure, such as its fundamental facilities and systems. This includes roads, waterways, electrical grids, bridges, tunnels and sewers. Infrastructure is vital to a country, as it enables, maintains and enhances societal living conditions.

Subsequently, poor infrastructure can seriously hinder a nation’s economic development. This is the case in many African countries. Africa controls only 1 percent of the global manufacturing market despite accounting for 15 percent of the world’s total population. Ultimately, poor infrastructure, such as transportation, communications and energy, stunts a country’s ability to control a larger share of the national market.

Afghanistan has improved its energy infrastructure, using a large portion of the assistance received from the U.S. Through this effort, they have been able to reduce electricity loss from 60 percent to 35 percent. Consequently, they have improved long term sustainability and created a reliable energy system for their citizens. The role of STEM in developing countries is important on a large scale, improving infrastructure to impact their citizens’ daily lives.

STEM and the Future of the World

Societies seeking new scientific knowledge and encouraging creative and technological innovations will be able to properly utilize new technologies, increase productivity, and experience long term sustained economic growth. The developing societies that succeed will be able to improve the living standards of its population. As our world becomes more interconnected, countries prioritizing STEM education and research will make significant advances in alleviating poverty and sustaining economic, cultural and societal growth. Undoubtedly, the role of STEM in developing countries is of significant importance, just as it is in our modern world.

Randall Costa
Photo: Flickr

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