Information and stories about developing countries.

the fight to end AIDSOn June 21, President Emmanuel Macron presented Elton John with the highest decoration in France, the Legion of Honour, at the Champs Élysées. It was given during France’s Fête de la Musique in recognition of John’s notable mark on the music industry. The musician’s speech, however, did not focus on his own artistic abilities or the celebration. Rather, John concentrated on the global maladies plaguing the world’s impoverished countries.

In particular, John highlighted the fight to end AIDS as an issue of “great importance.” He further vowed to join Macron in his effort to help those suffering from the illness and prevent it from spreading. In order to achieve this goal, the two have called upon the world’s youth and political leaders to replenish the donation given to the Global Fund.

What is the Global Fund?

The Global Fund is an international organization that aims to strengthen health systems. To do so, the organization focuses on locating and treating individuals with AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. Over 100 countries have received aid from the Global Fund since its establishment in 2002.

Macron is affiliated with this organization as France is both a founding member and a top financial contributor. Many of the countries who receive aid from the Global Fund were once colonies of the French Empire. To date, France has given more than $4.2 billion in donations to the organization since 2002.

Global Fund Accomplishments

The three diseases, AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria, affect the same population. The organization thus allocates funds in proportion to the amount of population affected in each receiving country. In the past, countries such as Nigeria, Tanzania, and the Democratic Republic of Congo have received the most aid.

The Global Fund has an impressive list of achievements. Since 2002, it has saved 27 million individuals through treatment and prevention methods. Moreover, these accomplishments highlight the efficiency of the organization. In 2017, 17.5 million people were treated with antiretroviral therapy for HIV, 5 million were treated for tuberculosis and 197 million were provided mosquito nets to prevent the spread of malaria. By 2030, the Global Funds hopes to end all three epidemics.

Using Influence to do Good

France has proven to be dedicated to both the Global Fund and the fight to end AIDS. Next October, France will host the organization’s conference in Lyon. In anticipation of the upcoming event, Macron and John have called to raise $14 billion in funding over the next three years.

These ambitious goals become more attainable as awareness increases. John’s speech and Macron’s mobilization in the fight to end AIDS incentivizes the French community. If AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria, are to be terminated by 2030, they will require acute attention and enthusiasm on the part of those fighting to these diseases.

– Annie O’Connell
Photo: Flickr

ways natural disasters affect impoverished nationsAfter a natural disaster, an impoverished nation faces even more struggles as it attempts to recover. While the media is a tool that helps inspire assistance to disaster-stricken nations, countries that experience natural disasters often still need more aid after the disaster is no longer in the spotlight. Developing countries are particularly vulnerable to the effects of natural disasters, and it is important to remember these effects when thinking about what you can do to help a nation in distress. Here are five ways natural disasters affect impoverished nations.

Five Ways Natural Disasters Affect Impoverished Nations

  1. Women are at higher risk. Women are at a higher risk of danger during and after natural disasters. In fact, more women than men are killed or injured during floods and hurricanes. Because of the expectation for women to be household caregivers in most developing countries, they are less likely to flee from their homes in an emergency. They are also less likely to know how to swim if there is a water emergency. Medical Teams International (MTI), an organization that seeks to bring medical help to those in need after natural disasters, recognizes the need for intervention. After the 2010 Haiti earthquake, women endured the brunt of a health crisis – in addition to a cholera epidemic, women experienced unsafe births and unhealthy pregnancies. To combat this, MTI entered the village of Crochu and provided vaccines and education about how to improve maternal health. The group also trained community members to help with births so the ordeal would be safer for the women. MTI remained in Crochu until 2018, when the community was able to maintain control of its health activities independently.
  2. Agriculture suffers. Natural disasters can damage croplands and livestock production, which hurts a developing country’s agricultural sector. Between 2005 and 2015, developing nations lost $96 billion in agriculture due to natural disasters, with half of these losses occurring in Asia, where floods, earthquakes and tsunamis are common. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the U.N. has created a risk assessment and reduction program that studies losses from natural disasters and implements new solutions to minimize future losses. This program also takes into account the losses in the forestry sector and fisheries, which provide additional sustenance.  The disaster analysis paves the way for other humanitarian groups, like the World Health Organization and the World Bank, to intervene directly.
  3. Children are more likely to become stunted. A child in India is seven percent more likely to experience stunting within five months of a natural disaster. For areas like India that face many disasters per year and already have a stunting rate of 38 percent, the stunting risk is great. Stunted children can face developmental difficulties that impact school performance and physical abilities due to a lack of nutritional fulfillment. The Center for Disaster Philanthropy is an international group that helps individual countries after natural disasters by providing meals, developing food security education programs and strengthening agricultural recovery. In 2017, the group was able to send lifesaving nutrition products to Mexico after two dangerous earthquakes ravaged the agricultural sector. This was possible because of a $600,000 donation from Abbott Laboratories Corporate Giving Program.
  4. Natural disasters can spur economic activity. Studies have shown that countries suffering numerous natural disasters also have higher rates of economic growth. After a 2008 earthquake in China, the economic growth rate increased by 0.3 percent due to billions of dollars spent on rebuilding efforts. Creating new and more efficient infrastructures with the help of disaster relief programs can improve the economy by providing immediate construction jobs, but also can facilitate long-term economic growth with safer, newer work buildings. This is made possible by donations to humanitarian organizations like the International Red Cross or All Hands and Hearts.
  5. Disease is likely to follow. A natural disaster itself does not cause disease, but it can become easier to contract a disease after a natural disaster. When there is a flood, there is a higher risk of cross-contamination of water with toxic materials, and water sources become breeding grounds for malaria-carrying mosquitos. In the event of an earthquake, people are forced to live in crowded shelters with limited access to sanitation systems and food. Immunity to vaccine-preventable diseases decreases significantly in this time. Doctors Without Borders is one group that helps disaster victims onsite and provides necessary vaccines or other medical treatment. The organization created pre-made disaster kits to send to countries in need of aid. The kid includes a full set of surgical tools and a large, inflatable tarp to be used as hospital space. The kit was introduced in Haiti in 2010, and now, it is known as a model for other disaster relief organizations.

Natural disasters and the ways natural disasters affect impoverished nations continue to be a threat to global health every day. Donating to relief and recovery organizations is a great way to be involved in helping poor communities abroad.

– Katherine Desrosiers
Photo: U.S. Department of Defense

Emergency Medical Care in Developing NationsNearly 88 percent of injury-related deaths happen in poverty-stricken countries. There is an urgent demand for emergency care in low- to middle-income countries. One study found that, in these countries, emergency professionals see 10 times the number of cases that a primary doctor does, and the rate of death in these areas is extremely high.

Many emergency care centers in developing countries are severely underfunded and under-resourced. Some lack basic medical instruments while others have medical professionals that work without training or any sort of protocol. The burden of emergency medical care in poor nations is not only due to the lack of medical care or training, but also poor infrastructure. Together for Safer Roads outlines the difficulties presented by deteriorating roads or indirect routes that affect both transport to the emergency scene and transport to the hospital. Improving these roads reduces the likelihood of crashes and unsafe traffic routes and increase the efficiency of trauma transport.

Kenya

Another study done by the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) has outlined a significant lack of emergency care. Only 25 percent of Kenyans are covered by health insurance, meaning that many must pay for medical care themselves. With so many bearing the financial burden of medical care, it is less likely they would seek it in an emergency.

There are barely any skilled professionals working in emergency medical clinics, resulting in a lack of specific training for emergency medical situations. However, it has recently been recognized as a specialty by both the Medical Practitioners and Dentists Board and the Clinical Officers Council (COC). The other issue at hand in Kenya is the lack of resources. The nation is severely lacking in ambulances, and due to the significant cost of transport by ambulance, many patients take private means like taxis. There is also not a reliable dispatch system in Kenya, making the rapid response of an ambulance unlikely.

The study concluded that there needs to be a creation of new policies at a national level to improve access to emergency care. It also states it is crucial that Kenya recognize emergency care as a significant part of the healthcare system in order to develop authority for emergency response, improve the expensive cost of emergency care and implement a communication network for an emergency system.

Haiti

The country of Haiti has been struck by several natural disasters, making the need for an adequate emergency system crucial. One of the largest issues is the location of clinics and hospitals. The country has around 60, but they are primarily located in larger cities, leaving rural areas with little to no access to trauma care.

Basic necessities like gloves and medicine are things patients have to pay for before they can receive care. Even asthma attacks can be fatal because some cannot afford the inhaler. Also, the medical instruments patients have to pay for out-of-pocket are not necessarily the most up-to-date or high quality. Similarly to Kenya, medical professionals are rarely trained to deal with emergency situations. However, some groups have begun the effort to train professionals in Haiti to be prepared for emergency situations. Dr. Galit Sacajiu founded the Haiti Medical Education Project for this purpose after the earthquakes of 2010. Her courses not only train the nurses and doctors of Haiti but also provide them with the knowledge of what to do with the little or substandard medical instruments they have access to.

Economic Benefit of Improvement

If the amount of injury-related deaths that occur in developing nations was reduced to that of high-income countries, over 2 million lives could be saved. The same study also set out to find the economic benefit of improving emergency care. They found that, if these deaths were reduced, it could add somewhere between 42 to 59 million disability-adjusted life years averted. By using the human capital approach, they also conclude that there is an added economic benefit to the reduction in mortality of $241 to $261 billion per year.

There are several factors that contribute to the effectiveness and availability of emergency medical care in developing nations. These factors mainly concern infrastructure or quality of medical care. Although the issue of trauma care seems far from being solved, a study done by the Brookings Institution states there are indications that it may improve. By monitoring the improvements in medical care in high-income countries, they found that similar improvements were beginning to occur with emergency medical care in developing nations. As trauma care becomes increasingly recognized as an urgent need, it can improve and save thousands of lives.

– Olivia Halliburton
Photo: Wiki

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

developing countryMany citizens in the United States would categorize the continent of Africa as being predominantly developing. But what actually makes a developing country? Without understanding the classification system of the various worlds, along with the specifications that would classify a country as developing, it is difficult to have an informed perspective on the subject.

The Term “Third World” Originates From the Cold War

Today, the term “developing” is more appropriate to refer to the economically developing nations of Asia, Africa and Latin America, instead of “Third World.” The Cold War represented a division between two industrialized powerhouses, the United States and the Soviet Union. These two distinct countries were opposing sides of a proxy war in which many countries chose not to participate. Conceptually, the “Third World” was created to describe the countries that had no stake in the Cold War. However, today, there are more descriptive factors that define what a “Third World” country is other than its neutrality during the Cold War.

The “Third World” is a Victim of Colonialism

Colonialism is the most common factor used to describe whether a country is part of the so-called “Third World” or not. While neutral during the Cold War, these countries did not take sides in part due to the effects of colonization. This was the case for a large portion of Africa but not only. By this standard, The Caribbean islands and many nations within East Asia and Latin America fall into the “Third World” category. The hierarchy of the previously called “First World” (U.S. and Western nations), “Second World” (U.S.S.R. and Eastern bloc nations) and “Third World” was created by the United States to rank nations. There was an implicit bias in this categorization, mainly due to the fact that the so-called “First World” countries represented supporters of capitalism. A racial component also appears obvious upon examining the nations categorized as “Third World” versus “First World.” The racial element of the classification system also ties into cultural views of colonized countries, which were all non-white.

Recent “World” Classifications Revamped

According to the economist and international relations specialist Parag Khanna, the “First World” represents the nations with the highest performing economies, such as the United States, the European Union and China. The “Second World” comprises developing countries that have moderately successful economies, some of which are Turkey, Russia and Saudi Arabia. Finally, the “Third World” nations are the least economically successful, a few of which are Rwanda, Honduras and Cambodia.

How to Approach These Classifications Moving Forward?

As detailed above, using the Cold War “world” classification system no longer applies to the 21st century. In terms of economic classification, a severe restructuring of the classification system is necessary. Some characteristics defining a developing country are access to healthcare, education, clean drinking water and career paths, cost of living versus inflation, infrastructure and prevalence of democracy. This brief but nuanced classification system would no longer classify countries based on race or preferred economic systems. Rather, it would focus on the detailed aspects of a country that make it “livable.” The vilification of less fortunate citizens in nations across the world would be eliminated, while also being able to predict whether a country is backsliding in each of the signifying categories above.

– Zach Margolis
Photo: Pixabay

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