Information and stories about developing countries.

The Evolution of Brain Drain in Developing Countries  The impact of establishing systems of education on the economies of developing countries and the well-being of its citizens are without question; education allows for higher-paying, skilled jobs to enter the market, it promotes gender equality among children and it has positive effects on the health of those children who go to school. A phenomenon that has stemmed from an increasingly globalized world is brain drain, which is the migration of educated and qualified people to countries with job opportunities better suited to their skill level, higher standards of living and higher rates of technological progress. Here is some information about brain drain in developing countries.

Brain Drain in Developing Countries

Brain drain in developing countries is a proven difficult hurdle for governments to overcome, and the effects of globalization have redefined what brain drain entails for countries such as India and Pakistan. The issue with this movement of intellect and skills lies in the fact that oftentimes, foreign-born workers and students in developed countries rarely return to their countries of origin, and they do not put the knowledge they obtain back into developing economies and development programs.

Why Does Brain Drain Happen?

One of the major causes of the phenomenon is the greater rates of technological advancement in developed countries compared to those in the developing world. Many developing countries have established education programs and continue to do so, but funding for research opportunities and investments in the scientific sector is lacking. For example, in 2000 there were 836,780 immigrants from India to the United States, with 668,055 of them having received tertiary education. These people tend to stay and work in the countries they migrated to. Brain drain does not only affect jobs in technical fields. Ten percent of teachers and people in academia are foreign-born, with 6 percent of them from developing countries.

Brain drain in developing countries produces more immigrants to countries such as the United States, and the theory suggests that the knowledge they obtain in a foreign country remains there and fails to make its way back to their country of origin.

As economies and education become more dependent on technological advancement, the circulation of foreign-born workers becomes increasingly important to globalization. An inverse effect of globalization as the world becomes increasingly aware of other countries’ international influence is the expansion of technological and scientific programs at a much faster rate in developed countries. One can see this in those nations with existing programs, funding and infrastructure to support technological advancements as opposed to those that do not.

The Future of Brain Drain

At the heart of the discussion of brain drain lies a necessity for a better understanding of how globalization affects perceptions of brain drain and its implications for education and employment in developing countries. Despite the negative effects of brain drain in developing countries, good things come from it too. An increase in attention from governments to education, incentives for developing countries to invest in the development of skilled jobs and globalization brings greater mobility and intellectual circulation that enhances the knowledge of the general population. The circulation of knowledge allows for an exchange of intellect between countries, improving relations and promoting understanding of different cultures. Brain linkage creates an opportunity for increased technological advancement when foreign-born workers interact with their home countries, furthering transnational connections. The understanding of brain drain in developing countries has shifted to allow for more positive mindsets surrounding brain circulation to allow for poor countries to experience the benefits of globalization.

Jessica Ball
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

How Desert Locusts Impact Global Poverty
With the rainy season falling upon Africa, a number of countries are rushing to take action against a catastrophic swarm of desert locusts currently in several regions. This swarm might be the most destructive of its kind in 25 years for Ethiopia and Somalia and the worst that has hit Kenya in over 70 years. People can predominantly find the insects in regions across Africa, Asia and the Middle East. They have the ability to eat their own weight in food, which poses a challenge to crop production in arid climates. Rain and planting seasons begin in March, meaning that efforts to contain infestation must happen quickly before the situation becomes too drastic and the locusts impact global poverty too severely.

Read more below for information on what desert locusts are, their impact on global poverty and the preventative measures that affected countries must take in order to address the destruction that will cut across these regions in 2020.

Desert Locusts

Desert locusts are the oldest and most dangerous migratory pests. They are short-horned insects that are part of the grasshopper species, but they differ in that they have the ability to alter their behavior in order to migrate across large distances. These migrations can easily become highly concentrated and mobile.

These locusts usually travel in swarms, containing up to 40 million insects that can consume enough food for 34 million people in a short period of time. They are able to stay in the air for a long time, meaning that they can regularly cross the Red Sea at a distance of 300 kilometers.

These swarms have already crossed into areas like Uganda, Tanzania and South Sudan. They typically form under heavy rain conditions, where they travel in search of food. Desert locusts are among the most destructive migratory pests because they not only threaten food security but economic and environmental development as well.

People can spray them with pesticides as a control measure, but it is not always preventative. Both humans and birds regularly eat them, but not enough to reduce swarms of a large size. Current environmental conditions that cause frequent droughts, cyclones in the Indian Ocean and floods have created the perfect atmosphere for locusts to breed.

Locusts’ Contribution to Global Poverty

Desert locusts primarily reside in the arid deserts of Africa and near east and southwest Asia and the Middle East. This poses a severe challenge to herders and may potentially cause communal conflict as herders move in search of pastures and other grazing lands.

Desert locusts consume as much food as 20 camels, six elephants or 350,000 people in a day. It is in this way that locusts impact global poverty because with large invasions in east Africa, where 2.5 million people are already facing severe hunger, there is a clear challenge in regards to the global poverty epidemic. The food crisis will deepen and grazing lands will no longer be able to sustain sufficient crop production, which will lead to an even more economic downturn for several African countries.

Solutions

The quickest vehicle for prevention is spraying pesticides or biopesticides in the air. Natural predators exist, but desert locusts can escape pretty quickly due to their mobility.

The United Nations (U.N.) has publicly called for international aid in alleviating the destruction that will inevitably arise from these swarms. Desert locusts will compromise food security all over Africa, which will, in turn, lead to higher poverty rates as people scramble for food. Its office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs has allocated about $10 million from its Central Emergency Relief Fund. This will help fund aerial operations that can enforce infestation control better.

The Food and Agriculture Organizations of the United Nations (FAO) is currently calling to raise about $76 million from donors and other organizations in order to limit how desert locusts impact global poverty. So far, it has raised approximately $20 million, which is largely from the U.N.’s emergency fund. The numbers should increase as the locusts travel larger distances and spread to more areas.

Desert locust swarms are growing at an exponential rate. Projections determine that they will increase by 500 times in East Africa by June 2020, which invokes even more of a humanitarian crisis as food shortage will impact millions of people.

– Brittany Adames
Photo: Flickr

Coffee Farmers in Ethiopia
Coffee production in Ethiopia accounts for about 3 percent of the global market with around 20 million people relying on it for livelihood in the region. These 20 million workers only see about 15 percent of the profits from the purchase of a bag of beans. Bext360, as well as several other companies, are using blockchain and AI technology to empower farmers through fair and immediate pay, awareness of the market value and direct communication with buyers. By simplifying the coffee production industry and creating transparency through a traceable digital footprint, coffee farmers in Ethiopia can reap the benefits of their harvest in a more efficient and innovative way.

Bext360

Daniel Jones launched Bext360 in Denver in 2017. Bext360 is a Software-as-a-Service platform that allows consumers to trace products from the point of origin, providing a measurable means of accountability.

This provides transparency and efficiency, ensuring fairness to all sides. Through the use of blockchain and AI, Bext360 is revolutionizing traceability in the coffee industry, doing away with the middle-man that takes most of the gains that rightly belong to the farmers.

The Solution

Stellar is a financial tech startup that can handle a high volume of micropayments across borders that allows Bext360—in partnership with Moyee Coffee Company (that sources and roasts its beans in Ethiopia)—to produce crypto tokens that immediately and directly transfers to farmers. Moyee also adds a 20 percent premium payment to all small-holder farmers.

Coffee berry harvesters take the cherries they pick and load them into a special bin (the bextmachine) that appraises the haul while simultaneously sifting and sorting the crop. Farmers have the power to accept or deny the offer for their coffee crop through the use of mobile devices, allowing them to have more freedom and bargaining power.

Bext360 has also created a platform where photos of the coffee bean farmers are available online. This profile also shows how much they are receiving for pay and what the current market value price is. Consumers can view this online profile by scanning a QR code that pulls up the exact location of the farm, and traces the journey and price of the bean to their cup.

How Does this Help Farmers?

The machine that Bext360 created allows farmers to know the value of their crop, and avoid exploitation from coffee companies. It also gives them the knowledge and incentive to take control of the market and harvest at the right time, maximizing return profit.

Coffee farmers in Ethiopia can also have a more direct relationship with buyers. Estimates determine that farmers can have about a 40 percent increase in revenue by using the bextmachine as opposed to other typical washing stations.

Going Forward — Other Companies Involved

Other companies such as IOHK are going beyond supply chain transparency. It is pursuing development in a blockchain training course for local developers who, once graduated, will go on to create their own projects in cryptocurrency in Africa using Cardano technology. This should create even more potential for improvements in all economic sectors, not just the coffee industry.

Through the innovation and scope that blockchain allows, Moyee Coffee Company is able to leave over 300 percent more value in Ethiopia compared to other coffee companies. In May 2018, Moyee also hosted a One Million Cups Campaign in Ireland that sent over $63,448 to Ethiopia. In the future, Moyee hopes to be able to use its blockchain tech to crowd-fund upgrading equipment or building new infrastructure to ultimately improve yields and sever Ethiopia’s reliance on foreign aid in the region.

The benefits of more transparency are twofold: creating greater awareness and participation in consumers, as well as improving living conditions. Living conditions may improve through more equal pay for farmers and ultimately allowing the hard-working growers to reap the benefits of their work and be able to support themselves. It gives coffee farmers in Ethiopia more empowerment over their craft, all the way to the cup of coffee that one buys at the store.

– Laurel Sonneby
Photo: Flickr

Water's Role in Development
To deny the necessity of clean and accessible water would be to deny the very thing that allows human civilization to exist, plants to grow and nourish people’s bodies and countries to foster globalization and connectivity across nations. According to the U.N., 785 million people lacked a safe and basic water source by 2015, and about a third of all countries reported being under some degree of water stress including low supply and hindered access to water. Water’s role in development has become the focus of ending poverty around the globe, and the efficient allocation and treatment of water still stand as major problems in developing countries.

Health Care and Sanitation

A lack of access to clean water often results in the spread of ailments such as malaria and diarrhea. Additionally, approximately 60 percent of people worldwide do not have access to adequate handwashing facilities. The effect of clean water on public health is staggering; the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that access to water for safe drinking and sanitation could prevent 500,000 annual deaths from malaria. An organization called The Water Project aims to make handwashing and sanitation a fundamental part of mortality reduction and works to change behaviors imbedded in communities to stress the importance of water’s role in development and disease prevention.

Women’s Health and Childhood Development

The most vulnerable groups regarding limited clean water access are women and children; women spend almost 40 billion hours a year on transporting and accessing water in Sub-Saharan Africa alone, and about half of all girls in school drop out due to improper sanitation methods that prevent them from maintaining their personal hygiene needs during puberty. Women are therefore more prone to infection and violence, perpetuating a cycle of gender inequality in developing nations. Additionally, WHO projects that safe water and sanitation could prevent 1.4 million child deaths from diarrhea and dehydration a year; most of the diseases inflicting children are preventable and further emphasizes the crucial nature of clean water’s role in development.

Economic Success

For every $1 that someone invests in clean water resources, $8 goes back into economies to help with economic development. When people are no longer fighting waterborne diseases and are spending valuable time fetching water for themselves and their families instead, they are becoming educated and skilled. The manufacturing and agricultural industries suffer most greatly from this; a lack of a water sanitation system in a factory means that employees must leave work to use the restroom or find drinking water, and rural areas that often have a lot of farms depend on safe water for growing crops. The farmers provide the raw materials to the manufacturing sectors, but without clean water, both enter a cycle that mirrors the endless trap of poverty in which their workers often find themselves.

Societal Implications

Education of the public is a fundamentally indisputable part of ensuring that societies have what they need to function politically and economically. When resources, especially vital ones like water, are in short supply, citizens are more likely to fall into cycles of desperation that result in extractive institutions that take advantage of their vulnerability. Water’s role in development goes beyond health and the productivity of citizens; access to clean water results in communities that are free of the burden to prioritize their survival, and empowerment of these communities can lead to civil organization in which citizens have a say in their system of government and those who control it.

With growing recognition of the importance of water’s role in development, some have taken new stances on multisectoral impacts of the distribution and treatment of water. Simple solutions are proving to make the most effective impact on the lives of impoverished people with low access to clean water. Handwashing initiatives and environmental policies that eliminate the probability of unsafe standing water could lead to a decline in the number of deaths from preventable diseases. Also, in an increasingly globalized and changing world, countries must take into consideration changing weather patterns that alter the face of water-related policies. Water’s role in development stretches far beyond the goal of providing suitable water conditions for those in poverty; it sets the stage for more inclusive policies that ensure the protection of those that limited clean water made vulnerable.

– Jessica Ball
Photo: Creative Commons

Mobile Technology Solutions for Developing Countries
Mobile line subscriptions in developing countries are at 98.7 percent. In fact, nations with lower economies have more access to mobile devices than to water or electricity. Here are five mobile technology solutions for developing countries.

5 Mobile Technology Solutions for Developing Countries

  1. iCow: A Kenyan farmer named Su Kahumbu Stephanou created an application called iCow. One can easily download the app to a mobile device and run it off of SMS, which can make it accessible to the vast majority of people. The app helps farmers and shepherds track the gestation periods of their cows. It can also connect farmers to each other so they can offer advice on taking care of their animals. The app provides the user with helpful locations such as insemination centers and veterinarians. Moreover, the system has a menu so the users can select what they need wherever they are. This improvement makes it much easier for users to monitor the health of their cows. The regions using iCow the most are Kenya, Ethiopia and Tanzania. App usage has resulted in both income and productivity. In addition, it serves to improve milk, poultry, eggs, crops, soil fertility, mortality rates and overall health.
  2. RapidSMS: RapidSMS is an open-source platform that UNICEF and Pivot Access developed in 2007. It originally emerged to collect data and create activities for children. However, it adapted to its user bases’ needs over time. Now, RapidSMS lets users make data collection and SMS services in its communities. This makes information available over the internet to all users. The app is also able to register births, monitor nutrition and remotely diagnose patients. The regions using RapidSMS the most are Uganda, Kenya, Nigeria and Ethiopia.
  3. M-PESA or Mobile Pesa: This application works with money. It is a mobile system that helps users transfer, deposit and withdraw money. M-PESA is for people who cannot access these services because of their location. The application works through SMS by loading money onto a SIM card and sending it to its desired phone. The minimum amount of money is KSHS 101 and the maximum is KSHS 70,000. In addition, it converts the amount into cash at any legitimate establishment. Then, the recipient receives said funds in their country’s currency. Villages in Kenya mostly used M-PESA, but it has expanded to countries in Eastern Europe, Africa and Asia. If one wishes to send money to someone in South Africa, they must first enter a secret word. Additionally, the recipient must know this word in order to receive the money. App usage resulted in an increase in income and a decrease in petty crime related to money.
  4. WorldReader: WorldReader is an NGO, with the support of USAID and other institutions, that distributed upwards of 30,000 e-readers in 16 African countries. Its application translates books into 52 languages. Also, the application makes education and reading much more prevalent in developing countries. So far, it has 35,000 titles for its user base of more than 10 million.
  5. Malaria-Diagnosing App: An upcoming application has the design to detect malaria in patients. More people will be able to use the application because it will be automated and mobile. The system uses Giemsa-stained peripheral blood samples, light microscopy, AI and image processing techniques to find Plasmodium falciparum species, a parasite that carries malaria. Concepts from the integral image and haar-like features inspire the algorithm. Thus far, its accuracy is 91 percent. Once released, it plans should be easily accessible through health centers and mobile devices. In addition, its automation makes it much easier for medical professionals to diagnose malaria without expensive equipment or much knowledge of malaria itself.

These five mobile technology solutions each allow a unique benefit to challenges that developing countries face. Through technology like iCow, M-PESA and WorldReader, farmers can maximize their crops, those with limited access to financial institutions can still deposit and transfer money, while people can access multitudes of books in their chosen language.

– Nyssa Jordan
Photo: Flickr

Randomized Control Testing
“It can often seem like the problems of global poverty are intractable, but over the course of my lifetime and career, the fraction of the world’s people living in poverty has dropped dramatically.” – Dr. Michael Kremer

In October 2019, Michael Kremer of Harvard and Esther Duflo and Abhijit Banerjee of MIT won the Nobel Prize in Economics for their extensive, randomized control testing-based research in tackling global poverty. At 46 years old, Duflo is the youngest economics laureate ever and only the second woman to receive the prize over its 50-year history.

Incorporating Scientific Studies

The trio set out to establish a more scientific approach to studying the effects of investment projects in the developing world. One of the ways they discovered that they could accomplish this is through randomized control testing. Commonly used in the medical field and made legitimate in the social sciences by the trio, this type of testing involves randomly selecting communities as beneficiaries of experimental projects. Randomly selecting the beneficiaries removes selection bias, providing more accurate and legitimate results.

Randomized Control Testing in India and Kenya

Duflo and Banerjee used randomized control testing experiments in schools in India in an effort to improve the quality of education. The authors discovered that simply getting students to school was not sufficient in improving test scores. Previous research also noted that additional resources, even additional teachers, had minimal impact on students’ performance.

The laureates discovered instead that providing support for an interventionist to work with students behind on their educational skills and making computer-assisted learning available so that all students could have additional math practice improved their scores. In the first year, the average test scores increased by 0.14 standard deviations and in the second year, they increased by 0.28 standard deviations. In the second year, the children initially in the bottom third improved by over 0.4 standard deviations. Those sent for remedial education with the interventionist saw 0.6 standard deviations increase and the computer-assisted learning improved math scores by 0.35 standard deviations in the first year and 0.47 in the second year for all students equally. These results provide clear and definite numbers on the success of the program and show that those who experienced the most benefits were the students in the greatest need of assistance.

Kremer completed a similar study in Kenya. Again, the research found that additional resources did little to improve the learning abilities of the weaker students and that much of the school policies and practices were helpful to the advancement of the already high achieving students. Another of Kremer’s studies in Kenya further showed the impact small interventions can have on student retention. His research found that by bringing deworming medication directly into the classroom, school absenteeism rates decreased by 25 percent, leading to higher secondary school attendance, higher wages and a higher standard of living.

Impact vs. Performance Evaluations

The key to Kremer, Duflo and Banerjee’s success was not the result of pumping out positive statistics. Their success, and reason for winning the Nobel Prize, came from the rigorous scientific approach they took with their studies by using randomized control testing that led to not only positive results but also to meaningful impact where they were working and beyond. For instance, after the success in Kenya with the deworming, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) agreed to finance Kenyan scientists to travel to India to help expand the program. Soon, 150 million children were receiving treatments of deworming medication each year.

This example shows the lasting impact of the work of the laureates. When the fields of economics and politics use more rigorous and randomized studies, it becomes clearer what programs work and which do not, creating greater efficiency and enabling successful projects to expand. The work of the three professors has already led to the leaders of USAID to question the utility of performance evaluations over impact evaluations. In other words, the agency has started to see a shift from success defined as the generated output of the programs to success as the net gain or impact as a direct result of the programs.

Altogether, the work of Kremer, Duflo and Banerjee has raised the bar for economic and social research in the future. Their work has set new expectations that will force researchers to create more detailed and accurate studies that will continue to guide policy.

– Scott Boyce
Photo: Flickr

Facts About Living Conditions in Nauru
Situated in the Pacific Ocean to the northeast of Australia, the Republic of Nauru is the smallest island nation in the world. Phosphate mining has rendered 80 percent of the island unhabitable and devoid of arable land. Phosphate deposits depleted in the 1980s and Nauru’s economy stagnated, transitioning the country from fiscally self-sustaining to externally dependent. The country’s history, economy and foreign relationships interlace with—and have shaped many aspects of—Nauruan life, as evidenced by the top 10 facts about living conditions in Nauru.

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Nauru

  1. Population: Nauru’s population is approximately 11,000. Ninety percent are indigenous to the island, almost half of the population are under the age of 24 and 3.5  percent are 65 and older. Although the country’s landmass is only eight square miles, Nauru is one of the world’s most densely populated countries.
  2. Colonialism: Nauru remained under colonial authority until gaining independence in 1968. For example, Germany annexed it in 1888, Japan occupied it in WWII and the United Nations (U.N.) subsequently placed Nauru under Australian administration. The nation only became of economic interest to colonial powers after the discovery of phosphate deposits in the late 19th century.
  3. Australian-Nauru Relations: Nauru sought damages from Australia in 1989 for “rehabilitation of the phosphate lands.” Before WWII, Germany and the United Kingdom split mining profits, and following the war, Australia and the United Kingdom divided revenues. The Hague sided with Nauru and the two countries settled in 1993 with Australia agreeing to pay $56 million AUD that year and another $50 million AUD over the next two decades. Australia continues to be Nauru’s greatest source of economic stimulus, its contributions making up 20 percent of the national GDP.
  4. Economy: Phosphate mining and production is integral to Nauru’s economy and continues to be the country’s most valuable resource. Phosphate is one of the key plant nutrients to make food crop fertilizer. Additionally, phosphate mines are an essential source of employment. A national economic crisis occurred in the 80s when Nauru exhausted existing deposits. Secondary mining did resume in 2005, but Nauru’s government estimates that reservoirs will be barren by 2030. Other niche industries have recently emerged, including immigration taxation and licensing commercial fishing. The Republic of China (ROC) and Nauru signed a fishing cooperation accord in 2004 to strengthen trade relations between the two countries. Renewed in 2016, the cooperation accord provides funds to improve Nauru’s fishing industry and promotes sustainable fishing practices.
  5. The Pacific Solution Policy: In 2001, Nauru became one of two Australian off-shore regional processing centers for refugees and asylum-seekers in an arrangement called the Pacific Solution policy. In exchange, the Australian Government would provide $1 million AUD annually for its operation, immediately pay $16.5 million AUD for infrastructure and provide increased access to Australian education and additional maritime security. Facilities closed from 2007 to 2012 due to international objections, including indefinite detention times and evidence of abuse; however, despite criticism, operations have since recommenced.
  6. Employment: Following the economic downturn in the 1980s, Nauru did not significantly diversify its industries, unemployment levels increased and the country became heavily dependent on external economic stimulus. For example, the uptick in employment levels in 2012 was the result of regional processing centers reopening. Facilities directly provided 500 jobs, and indirectly generated substantial ancillary employment opportunities; next to Nauru’s government, Australia is the country’s second-largest source of employment.
  7. Health Care: Nauru was one of seventeen countries in 2016 that, proportionate to its economy, spent over 10 percent of its GDP on health care. The Marshall Islands spent the most at 23.3 percent and Monaco spent the least at 1.7 percent. Despite this, many Nauruan’s develop noncommunicable diseases, specifically, obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Although obesity remains an issue in Nauru, it has made progress as male diabetes rates have declined 1 percent over the past decade and high blood pressure levels have decreased for both genders by 6 percent.
  8. Poverty: Nauru is officially a middle-upper-income nation, and previously, it was the wealthiest country per capita. However, a 2018 U.N. report showed that a quarter of Nauruans live in “basic need” poverty, too poor for the cost of food and access to necessities such as clean water, health care and education. The same 2018 report noted that Nauru had no instances of food insecurity, however.
  9. Education: Education in Nauru is free and mandatory until the age of 18. Eighty percent of Nauruan children enrolled in early and primary education in 2015, but only half that number attended secondary school. The Government addressed truancy in 2016, an ongoing concern for students in Nauru, by enacting the Nauru Education Assistance Trust Scheme (NEATS). NEATS incentivizes students to attend school by providing them with $5 a day to set aside for adulthood and help them establish businesses or purchase homes when they graduate. Following NEAT, school attendance increased by 11 percent from 2016 to 2018.
  10. National Sustainability: Nauru is confronting the significant damage that phosphate mining caused. The government acknowledges that it is an economically volatile and diminishing commodity. For example, the ROC and Nauru’s 360 Project is an initiative that encourages national self-sufficiency in areas such as vocational training, transitioning to solar energy and specialized forms of agriculture; the latter is to mitigate reliance on imported goods. The United Arab Emirates has aligned with Nauru to achieve similar efforts, providing financial aid for Nauru to establish its first solar energy plant, which opened in 2016.

These top 10 facts about living conditions in Nauru reveal that its history is complex. The country’s remote location, limited economic opportunities and increasing dependence on foreign investment—usually politically contingent for all countries—continue to impact the Nauruan population. However, ongoing U.N. involvement and foreign relationships with countries like Australia and the ROC, are working to address Nauru’s long-term social issues.

– Annabel Fay
Photo: Wikipedia Commons

5 Mental Health Effects of the Yazidi Genocide
In the past few years, the Yazidi populations of northern Iraq and northern Syria have faced forced migration, war, the enslavement of women and girls and genocide. These traumatic events have resulted in several, severe psychological problems among Yazidis. A lack of adequate treatment and a prolonged sense of threat compounds the five mental health effects of the Yazidi genocide.

The Yazidis, a Kurdish religious minority, practice a non-Abrahamic, monotheistic religion called Yazidism. When the so-called Islamic State declared a caliphate in Iraq and Syria, it specifically targeted the Yazidis as non-Arab, non-Sunni Muslims. ISIS has committed atrocities against the Yazidis to the level of genocide, according to the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC); these crimes included the enslavement of women and girls, torture and mass killings. This violence caused many Yazidis to suffer from severe mental health disorders.

5 Mental Health Effects of the Yazidi Genocide

  1. Disturbed Sleep: According to a study by Neuropsychiatrie, 71.1 percent of Yazidi refugee children and adolescents have reported difficulty sleeping due to the trauma they have experienced. These sleeping problems include trouble falling asleep, trouble staying asleep and nightmares. Children are afraid that if they fall asleep they will not wake up again. Importantly, disturbed sleep will worsen other problems, such as anxiety.
  2. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder: PTSD is one common mental illness that the Yazidi genocide caused. According to the European Journal of Psychotraumatology, 42.9 percent of those studied met the criteria for a PTSD diagnosis. Women and men experienced traumatic stress differently. Women with PTSD were more likely to show symptoms such as “flashbacks, hypervigilance, and intense psychological distress.” Men with PTSD more frequently expressed “feelings of detachment or estrangement from others.” Additionally, more women than men reported having PTSD. According to a study that BMC Medicine conducted, 80 percent of Yazidi women and girls who ISIS forced into sex slavery had PTSD.
  3. (Perceived) Social Rejection: Perpetrators of genocide have often employed systematic sexual violence against women to traumatize the persecuted population. In addition to the devastating injuries women experience, they also suffer from several psychological disorders, including PTSD, anxiety, depression and social rejection. Families and communities frequently reject survivors; Yazidi women who suffered enslavement perceive social rejection and exclusion from their communities at high rates. For instance, 40 percent of Yazidi women that BMC interviewed avoid social situations for fear of stigmatization, and 44.6 percent of women feel “extremely excluded” by their community. Social support is a crucial way to alleviate some of the pain from sexual violence and enslavement since rejection from their community magnifies the likelihood that girls will experience depression. Thus, social support, such as community activities organized by schools, can help by decreasing the factors that worsen psychological disorders like depression and by increasing the rate at which girls report instances of sexual violence.
  4. Depression: The Neuropsychiatrie researchers also found that one-third of the children they studied had a depressive disorder. In another study by Tekin et al., researchers found that 40 percent of Yazidi refugees in Turkey suffered from severe depression. Similarly, a 2018 Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF/Doctors without Borders) study in Sinuni found that every family surveyed had at least one member who suffered from a mental illness. The most common problem was depression. As a response to the growing mental health problems among Yazidis, MSF has been providing emergency and maternity services to people at the Sinuni General Hospital since December 2018. MSF has set up mobile mental health clinics for those displaced on Sinjar mountain and provides services such as group sessions for patients. In 2019, MSF health care officials conducted 9,770 emergency room consultations, declared 6,390 people in need of further treatment in the inpatient wards and have helped 475 pregnant women give birth safely. While MSF has increased its health care activities in the region, there are still people on the waiting list to receive treatment.
  5. Suicide: Since the ISIS takeover of the Sinjar region of Northern Iraq, the Yazidis’ historical homeland, the incidents of suicide and suicide attempts among Yazidis have increased substantially according to Médecins Sans Frontières. The methods of suicide or attempted suicide include drinking poison, hanging oneself and drug overdose. Many Yazidis, particularly women, have set themselves on fire. To alleviate this uptick in suicide and other negative mental health effects, MSF increased its presence in the area and offered psychiatric and psychological health care. Since the start of this initiative in late 2018, MSF has treated 286 people, 200 of whom still receive treatment today.

In the aftermath of ISIS’ genocide against the Yazidis of northern Iraq and northern Syria, many survivors have experienced mental health problems stemming from the trauma. These genocidal atrocities will have long-term psychological effects on the Yazidis, but such issues can be mitigated by psychological care. The five mental health effects of the Yazidi genocide outlined above prove the necessity of such health care for populations that have endured genocide and extreme violence.

– Sarah Frazer
Photo: Flickr

 

vision care in developing countries
DIFF is a sunglass company in Southern California that emerged in 2014. DIFF began with the intention of challenging the norm and doing good in the world. It has partnered with many charities over the years to help supply vision care in developing countries.

The Need for Vision Care in Developing Countries

Over one billion people in developing countries suffer from presbyopia. Presbyopia typically starts around the age of 40 and causes a gradual loss of close-up vision. For people in developing or impoverished countries, having clear vision is incredibly important in the workforce, especially if the jobs include skills like sewing, weaving and carving. About 2.5 billion people worldwide need eyeglasses to see clearly but are unable to access them. As many as 239 million children live with uncorrected vision. A lack of access to vision care puts another obstacle in the way of children in school without the ability to read easily and inhibits the ability of those in the workforce to do their jobs.

Eyeglasses for Everyone

For every pair of glasses that DIFF sells, it donates a pair of reading glasses to someone in need. DIFF partnered with many charities over the years to achieve this, including its original partner, Eyes on Africa. Eyes on Africa is a nonprofit organization that emerged in 2005 that provides eyeglasses to those in Africa who lack access to vision care. Through this partnership alone, DIFF has provided glasses to over 20,000 people in need. Restoring Vision is another organization DIFF has partnered with. Restoring Vision is the largest nonprofit provider of reading glasses to people living in poverty. Through DIFF’s partnership with Restoring Vision, it has helped over 150,000 people improve their vision.

Vision Care for All

DIFF has also partnered with an organization called SVOSH. SVOSH is a student chapter of the larger Volunteer Optometric Services to Humanity (VOSH). Under this organization, groups of optometry students provide eye exams to impoverished communities in developing countries. It also provides visual assistance and treatments for visual ailments with the help of DIFF’s funding. Projections determined that this partnership would provide vision aid to over 10,000 people around the world in 2017.

The necessity for vision aid is a facet of poverty that people often overlook, but should not neglect. Providing vision care to people in developing countries, whether that be optometry visits or providing a pair of reading glasses, can change the lives of those 2.5 billion people in need of vision aid. Accessible vision care will help millions of children struggling in school in developing countries. According to research, giving a child the appropriate vision aid is beneficial to the equivalent of an extra six months of schooling. Giving people in poverty the gift of sight makes work easier to find and to keep.

Amanda Gibson
Photo: PeakPx

diseases in UgandaAs a developing country, Uganda struggles with multiple intractable diseases that kill millions of Ugandans every year. HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis are among the top five causes of death in Uganda. But, medical research is providing innovations that give hope to relieve suffering and prevent death in Uganda. Here are three diseases in Uganda that can be tackled with treatments that seem like science fiction.

Tuberculosis and Bedaquiline

Science fiction often explores the possibilities of DNA manipulation. Now, this sci-fi premise is becoming a reality through a new tuberculosis drug called bedaquiline. Bedaquiline is a new drug that blocks energy transfer enzymes that a tuberculosis bacteria cell needs to survive. Without this essential energy, the cell dies. A June 2019 study discovered that bedaquiline has long-term treatment potential. The drug forms small reservoirs in the body, allowing it to naturally release throughout the body and continually kill tuberculosis cells over time. This is a major breakthrough for Ugandan citizens since this is the first tuberculosis treatment to come out in 50 years. 

Malaria and Genetic Mutation

Popular science fiction games outline the use of biological weapons, such as Mass Effect’s fictional “genophage” which causes a female host to produce sterile offspring. Experimental genetic engineering technology is now taking on a highly deadly disease in Uganda. Scientists have developed an engineered genetic mutation that deforms mosquito reproductive organs and passes from female mosquitos to daughter eggs, meaning that the hatched females are unable to breed. In other words, the mutation makes the next generation of mosquitos sterile, reducing the population and thus reducing the risk of malaria.

Further, the mutation changes females mosquitos’ mouths to resemble male counterparts’. Male mosquitos cannot bite humans, thus the mutation “de-fangs” female mosquitoes, making it impossible for them to transmit malaria. Releasing genetically modified mosquitoes has been controversial and research continues. According to Uganda’s Ministry of Health, malaria is endemic in 95 percent of Uganda. If it is found that modifying mosquitoes is safe and successful, this development could be a critical contribution to treating malaria and other mosquito transmitted diseases in Uganda.

HIV/AIDS and the Immune System

Science fiction extensively narrates the use of genetic properties to repair and fix humans. Dual studies from 2007 and 2019 used similar methods to combat the insidious syndrome of HIV/AIDS that plagues Uganda. A bone marrow transplant replaces the patient’s immune system with mutated systems via lymphatic pathways. It essentially replaces the patient’s immune system with a new, mutated version that combats the disease.

Using this technique, a 2007 patient has been off anti-retroviral medicines for 12 years. The most recent patient, cured in 2019, has been HIV-free for more than 18 months. With difficulties in bringing patients back for consistent treatments, a possible long-term solution for HIV/AIDS is an extremely important advance for the 1.3 million Ugandans infected with HIV.

Conclusion

Famous Star Trek character Captain Jean-Luc Picard stated, “Things are only impossible until they’re not.” Relieving Uganda’s suffering seemed impossible – the stuff of science fiction – as if they would never be free of disease. But, the above treatments provide hope for the people of Uganda. Through rigorous research and innovation, doctors are developing treatments for diseases in Uganda and other countries.

– Melanie Rasmussen
Photo: Flickr