Information and stories about developing countries.

NFTs Can Fight Poverty
NFTs, or non-fungible tokens, have taken the world by storm as an efficient way to invest and make a profit. In contrast to the also widely known cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin, each NFT is one of a kind, with unique pre-installed code and data. NFTs are not in typical commercial transactions. They are more like art pieces that people can sell, trade or buy. Since bidders and buyers use crypto graphics as displays of wealth and to represent property rights, it might be surprising to think that NFTs can fight poverty.

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey sold his very first tweet as an NFT for $2.9 million with the intention of donating the sum to GiveDirectly, a charity that supplies cash to various communities in extreme poverty around the world. Pioneering this wonderful use of the NFT, Dorsey conveyed his profits to the Africa Relief Charity through GiveDirectly in March 2021.

What is GiveDirectly?

Paul Niehaus, Rohit Wanchoo, Jeremy Shapiro and Michael Faye founded GiveDirectly in 2008. As the name might suggest, this organization provides direct money transfers to families in need worldwide, especially in African countries.

GiveDirectly operates in Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda, Liberia, Malawi, Morocco, Mozambique, DRC, Togo and the U.S. So far, this program has distributed millions of dollars to 20,000 people within 197 villages and surveyed an extra 100 villages to act as a control group for research purposes.

On top of one-time donations, the charity offers various useful programs and opportunities. One of GiveDirectly’s most beneficial schemes is its Universal Basic Income program, through which willing donors may donate $1 per day per individual.

Donors have the option of supporting one individual, three individuals, 10 people or an entire village. Some recipients will collect ongoing payments for 12 years, making this a great giving opportunity for those who have just scored big with an NFT jackpot.

NFTs, Millennials and Charity

Most, if not all of the time, NFTs sell for large sums of money, leaving the seller with an instant and enormous growth in their wealth. NFTs typically range in price from almost millions to millions of dollars. According to Morning Consult, millennials are the generation most involved in collecting and selling NFTs; a shocking 23% of those involved in NFTs were millennials.

Additionally, millennials suffered the most financially from the COVID-19 pandemic because they also experienced the 2001 recession and the Great Recession. Between the Great Recession and the recession that the pandemic caused, millennials are no stranger to money shortages. They are either on an ongoing job hunt, just lost their job or are unlikely to see a raise. Consequently, it is no surprise millennials swiftly took advantage of the NFT money-making format.

Urging NFT sellers to give to reliable charities like GiveDirectly is thus one avenue through which NFTs could have a significant impact on global poverty. An increasing amount of millennials are telling miraculous rags to riches stories, similar to the stories of the most charitable celebrities and millionaires.

Since competitive bidding systems determine NFTs costs, it is easy to wait for an NFT to reach an exorbitant price. Mike Winklemann sold the most expensive NFT for $69 million. The craziest bids amount to sums the average millennial may never see in their entire lifespan.

Celebrities who come from humble beginnings are the ones who donate the most, most notably Brad Pitt and Kanye West. With this empathy toward the experience of living in a state of prolonged scarcity and uncertainty, along with Jack Dorsey and his sold tweet’s respectable example, more and more NFT sellers may use their gains to aid in fighting poverty.

How NFTs Can Fight Global Poverty

A rapidly increasing number of millennials and zoomers are gaining a keen interest in NFTs, so it is valuable to have conversations with peers about what the funds could go towards, such as charitable endeavors. The young populace in the United States should know that NFTs can help in the fight against poverty.

– Fidelia Gavrilenko
Photo: Flickr

Child Displacement
Child displacement impacts children across all sectors and nations. As of 2020, more than 33 million children are living in forced displacement. This includes 11.8 million child refugees, 1.3 million asylum-seeking children, 20.4 million children displaced within their own country and 2.9 million children living in internal displacement as a result of natural disasters. Here is some information about child displacement in developing nations.

The Types of Child Displacement

A few types of child displacement exist. These include:

  • Internal Displacement: According to the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement, the definition of an internally displaced individual is “persons or groups of persons who have been forced or obliged to flee or to leave their homes or places of habitual residence, in particular as a result of or in order to avoid the effects of armed conflict, situations of generalized violence, violations of human rights or natural or human-made disasters and who have not crossed an internationally recognized border.”
  • Displacement on a Large Scale: An example of this is the Palestinian exodus in 1948 which resulted in the displacement of more than 750,000 people.
  • Separation From Family: This type of displacement uniquely relates to children in developing nations. When children are working away from family, they are susceptible to kidnapping, human trafficking and violence. For example, there are 10.1 million child laborers in India and one child is declared missing every 8 minutes.

Cognitive Harm

A study that Child Development published tested executive functions, which are the higher-order cognitive skills needed for decision making and complex thought, among Syrian refugees. The study found that the burden of house poverty affected displaced children’s working memory. This has a long-term impact on the ability to succeed in school and make correct decisions. These findings align and have a serious impact on the refugee crisis in Syria where 45% of Syrian refugees are children with more than a third without access to education.

Child Labor and Violence

Children comprise 25% of all human trafficking victims and are at higher risk for forced labor. After displacement, they can experience separation from family and traffickers can force them to work in fields such as agriculture, domestic services or factories. To date, an estimated 168 million children are in forced labor and more than 50% complete dangerous work.

Children who do not have access to safe and regular migration pathways often turn to irregular and dangerous routes, which further puts them at risk for violence and exploitation. According to the U.N., “around 1,600 migrant children between 2016 and 2018 were reported dead or missing, an average of almost one a day.”

A Lack of Data on Child Displacement

There is simply not enough data on child displacement which translates to inadequate information on the causes and long-term effects. For example, only 20% of countries with data on conflict-related internally displaced persons (IDP) break the statistics down by age.

Data disaggregation by age, sex and origin are essential as it will inform policymakers in the regions most directly impacted by child displacement on how severe the issue is. This will allow them to begin to construct resources to support all children. For example, children who cross borders may not receive services such as education and health care because the statistics regarding how many children are out of school and the long-lasting impact on child displacement are insufficient.

The Global Refugee Compact

In December 2018, the U.N. General Assembly adopted the Global Refugee Compact. This is an international agreement amongst nonprofits, the private sector and international organizations to provide objectives to better include refugees in national systems, societies and economies and provide equal opportunity for them to contribute to communities. Through updated guidelines, the U.N. and partner organizations can craft effective modern solutions.

One of the unique features is the digital platform where partners and practitioners can share effective techniques, or Good Practices, to allow others to implement them in another location. The platform also builds a repository of overcoming humanitarian crises through good work that can be studied and implemented across a multitude of sectors.

There are various good practices targeting child displacement shared on the platform. For example, The BrightBox Initiative by the Simbi Foundation began in Uganda in July 2019 with the goal “to enhance access to education for students in UNHCR refugee settlements.” It transforms shipping containers into solar-powered classrooms to“provide access to literacy resources for a community of 6,000 simultaneous learners.” These types of resources are essential as Uganda hosts the largest number of refugees in Africa at about 1.5 million. Additionally, 60% of them are children.

Child displacement across the world exists for various humanitarian issues all rooted in poverty and are detrimental to the well-being of the world’s most vulnerable population. However, through large-scale global action, the world can address the causes of child displacement and begin crafting effective solutions.

– Imaan Chaudry
Photo: Flickr

Let Our Girls Succeed
As Kenya moves closer to its goal of becoming an upper-middle-income country, many girls still lack educational opportunities, leading to gender disparities as the country develops. Girls living in urban slums and “arid and semi-arid lands” (ASALs) are particularly at risk of poverty. To address these issues, U.K. Aid developed a program, which will run from May 2017 to March 2023, called Wasichana Wetu Wafaulu, Swahili for “let our girls succeed,” as part of the Girls’ Education Challenge.

The Let Our Girls Succeed Program

The Education Development Trust has implemented the Let Our Girls Succeed program in “eight counties in [ASALs] and urban slums” in Kenya. The program targets 72,000 marginalized primary school girls, providing assistance for them to finish their current level of education with optimal outcomes and advance to the next phase of learning. The program builds on the original Wasichana Wote Wasome program, meaning “let all girls learn,” which began in 2013. The Let All Girls Learn program aimed to improve “enrolment, retention, attendance and learning.” Overall, the Let All Girls Learn program saw success, benefiting 88,921 girls.

Program Methodologies

The program uses several methods to help girls succeed:

  • Let Our Girls Succeed Considers Girls in All Contexts: The program addresses the needs of girls on an individual level as well as the needs of the girl in her household, in her school and within the community. Intervention at each of these levels allows for “a holistic approach” to confront issues acting as barriers to the girl’s success.
  • In-School Coaching for Teachers: The average primary school class size in Kenya is around 40 pupils. With this large class size, it is imperative that Education Development Trust offers gender-sensitive training to teachers so that they can teach in a way that supports girls, ensuring they feel comfortable and confident enough to return to class. As such, “more than 2,300” educators have received training on improved methodology and models, including gender inclusivity skills.
  • The Deployment of Community Health Workers to the Girls’ Homes: The Ministry of Health sends community health workers to households to talk to girls and their families about the importance of school. From 2013-2017, these workers made more than 15,000 visits to homes, leading to a rising rate of girls’ enrollment. In 2020, during the school closures due to COVID-19, community health workers were “the only education point of contact” for most marginalized girls in Kenya.
  • Community Education and Involvement: The program appeals to community leaders by seeking their involvement in girls’ education. The previous project saw success in this regard. At the beginning of the Let All Girls Learn project, 43% of community leaders did not agree that “vulnerable girls in [the] community should attend school.” At the end of the project, only 16% disagreed.
  • Implementing Catch-Up Centers: The centers allow girls who have dropped out of school to come back and catch up to their classmates. Rasol dropped out of school due to pregnancy but is now attending the catch-up center so she can re-enroll in primary school. The center focuses on girls aged 10-15 mostly. Typically, girls spend between six and 12 months in catch-up centers. By 2019, the center saw more than 650 girls attending these classes.
  • Cash Transfer Program Aids Underserved Households: More than 3,200 “households have received monthly cash transfers” to allow households to secure their basic needs and fund the costs of girls’ education.
  • Alternative Pathways: Let Our Girls Succeed pushes girls to attend secondary school or TVET (technical and vocational education and training) after primary school. Fatuma and her sister finished primary school in 2018, both with the prospect of attending secondary school. However, Fatuma’s parents could only afford the cost of one girl’s education. Fatuma’s sister attended secondary school and Fatuma chose to attend a TVET center to complete a dressmaking course. However, her parents still could not afford these costs. The program gave her a bursary for this course as well as “a start-up kit to enable her to start a business.” The program has given bursaries to more than 3,700 girls for secondary school and vocational training.

Looking Ahead

The Let our Girls Succeed program plays a crucial role in providing a pathway for marginalized girls in Kenya to gain an education so that they can lift themselves out of poverty. With an education, girls are more likely to have access to higher-paying jobs, gaining the ability to support themselves and their families.

– Amy Helmendach
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Hong Kong
Hong Kong features one of the world’s largest concentrations of wealth. It includes a thriving economy as well as a large number of billionaires. However, Hong Kong has an underbelly. Its Sham Shui Po District is located within the city and is one of Hong Kong’s underprivileged areas. It is a stark contrast to the severe poverty in Hong Kong and shows the provenance ugly side.

Living Arrangements

Among Hong Kong’s expensive residences and trendy retail complexes are dozens of minuscule, unnoticed dwellings. Old apartment complexes have fragmented rooms so small that some have dubbed them “coffin houses.” These accommodations house up to 24 people, yet many are crowded with their belongings shoved into compact boxes.

People must cook and dine in the same room where they use the bathroom due to their constrained arrangements. The bedrooms fit the size of a twin mattress, with just enough space to sit up. Some people are unable to completely stretch their legs in bed due to their belongings taking up too much room. Poverty in Hong Kong emphasizes the government’s prioritization of commercial aims over human interests.

Issues in Hong Kong

A foundation of socioeconomic issues has fed the emergence of societal dissatisfaction. Throughout 2019 and 2020, several Hong Kong residents flocked to the streets to protest inequality, showing their dissatisfaction with the imbalance and disproportionate concentration of wealth.

Hong Kong’s economic condition, like that of other developed capitalist nations, has become more stratified in recent years. In 2016, it became among the nation’s most inequitable metropolitan areas. Housing prices in Hong Kong continue to be notoriously astronomical. It is extremely difficult to reap the rewards of wealth unless one has the fiscal resources to be a significant participant in the property or financial markets.

The impromptu public uprising illustrates economic disparities in Hong Kong. Existing capitalistic models show how inequity has contributed to increased social discontent for those facing poverty in Hong Kong.

The Work of Oxfam

Though few, some organizations have recognized the crippling poverty in Hong Kong and are trying to help. One of them is Oxfam. This organization aims to aid disadvantaged groups to help them overcome poverty. It feels that structural issues such as unfair policies contribute to poverty in Hong Kong.

To help, Oxfam made an effort to develop street markets as a viable alternative source of income for low-income individuals. It instituted a meal program throughout the pandemic to help provide nutritious foods to those in the coffin houses. It also carried out home maintenance projects in partitioned flats that low-income groups inhabited.

In the 1970s, the nongovernmental organization began with volunteers in Hong Kong and has subsequently extended to assist people in other impoverished areas.

Despite their marginalization, Hong Kong residents have remained resilient. Their demonstrations illustrate their persistence. People relatively overlook poverty in Hong Kong. However, with the help of more nongovernmental organizations and a greater emphasis on poverty in Hong Kong, the people could certainly persevere.

– Tiffany Lewallyn
Photo: Flickr

solar farms on brownfields
Brownfields are areas of land that are vacant due to contamination. In recent years, solar firms have built hundreds of solar farms on brownfields to utilize the empty space. Brownfields are often located near low-income communities that lack affordable access to power. Installing solar farms on brownfields promotes environmental sustainability and can provide cheap, clean power access to local communities.

Jobs and Access to Power

Building solar farms on brownfields can create jobs and transform abandoned land into an economic and environmental asset for low-income communities. Both site owners and local communities have saved millions in energy costs from transforming brownfields into hotspots of renewable energy, according to the United States Environmental Protection Agency. Affordable access to electricity can help alleviate “energy poverty” in low-income communities that surround brownfields. Energy poverty is the phenomenon in which people experiencing poverty have the least access to power. Therefore, they are more likely to remain impoverished, according to the World Bank. Installing solar farms in brownfields could help provide electricity to the 1.1 billion people worldwide who lack access to it. Transforming brownfields into solar farms is a sustainable method of providing affordable energy to low-income communities.

Land Reuse and Protection

Installing solar farms on brownfields often involves land restoration, reuse and protection, which all serve nearby communities. For example, solar panels can sit atop a landfill without digging into the ground and damaging the land’s foundation, creating unwanted pathways for stormwater or puncturing the top of the landfill. Solar panels can also have a design that complements the pre-existing materials on the brownfield, like mill tailings, without further damaging or contaminating the land. Additionally, solar firms often avoid disrupting the soil as much as they can by mindfully designing, installing and operating their solar farms. Transforming brownfields into solar farms is a non-disruptive, and often even protective, method of utilizing vacant land while simultaneously providing clean, affordable energy to low-income communities.

Benefits of Sustainable Energy

Brownfields can offer solar power as a main source of energy to low-income communities, and renewable energy has a variety of social benefits. For one, renewable energy can be less expensive than non-renewable energy, especially when it comes from a local source. It can also minimize low-income families’ reliance on public utilities to provide them with energy. Solar energy is a reliable source of power that essentially will not run out. Renewable energy also reduces pollution, which creates a healthier environment, especially in places with brownfields and ample contamination. A healthier environment can often lead to a healthier population, both mentally and physically. Additionally, solar farms require people to build, operate and maintain the equipment. Therefore, building solar farms on brownfields can employ people in surrounding communities and help them support their families while also preserving the environment.

Creating solar farms out of brownfields has social, economic and environmental benefits. Countries around the world can utilize vacant, contaminated land to preserve the environment and help lift low-income communities out of poverty. Turning brownfields into “brightfields” could be the next great step in reducing energy poverty.

– Cleo Hudson
Photo: Flickr

improving Education in PeruPeru is a South American country rich in history and beauty with famous historical places such as the ancient ruins of Machu Picchu. However, poverty is also very high, standing at 20.2% in 2019, and greatly stems from the poor education system in the country, which impacts economic growth and development in Peru. The Economics Review explains that, by improving education in Peru, the nation will see “improvements in human capital, enhancements in labor productivity and upsurges in economic diversity and growth.” On top of a poor quality education system, the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic led to disproportionate impacts on the education of low-income Peruvians due to widespread school closures and barriers to remote learning. These barriers can lead to further long-term inequality “in a region already among the most unequal in the world.” Fortunately, organizations are taking action aimed at improving education in Peru.

Barriers to Education in Peru

In 2020, 83.7% of youth in urban parts of Peru had access to high school in comparison to 66.4% of youth in rural areas. The nation’s “main barriers toward high-quality education are poor infrastructure, inadequate learning materials, outdated curricula and a lack of well-trained teachers.” When the COVID-19 pandemic began in Peru, nationwide school closures led to an abrupt halt in education for young Peruvians.

Remote learning came as a possible solution for the continuation of education in many countries. However, in developing countries like Peru, due to a lack of resources such as computers and high-speed internet, many students in rural areas are unable to participate in remote learning. When students are unable to participate in education, they become more vulnerable to both child labor and child marriage as well as early pregnancy. In the long run, these circumstances simply serve to continue the cycles of poverty.

Creating Change

In June 2021, the World Bank granted “a $350 million loan to support the development of social, health and education policies that will contribute to promoting human capital accumulation” and help decrease poverty in Peru. The loan forms part of  “a broad portfolio of World Bank projects with the Peruvian government” that aims to “strengthen investment in human capital and increase the population’s resilience to external shocks.” In terms of education specifically, the objective is to ensure that children participate in school and “receive a quality education” from skilled educators.

“Managing the delivery of quality education for all children” in Peru “is a highly complex operation,” according to the World Bank. Communication and cooperation between government structures on all levels are necessary to ensure that resources and staff reach schools in a timely manner and “in the right numbers.”

Even though COVID-19 heavily impacts the education system of Peru, policy changes and funding from the World Bank seek to provide the necessary resources and reforms for students to access quality education. As a proven pathway out of poverty, quality education will help individuals break cycles of poverty and will also help ignite economic growth in the country overall.

– Robert Moncayo
Photo: Flickr

Agricultural Initiatives in HondurasNatural disasters heavily impact the livelihoods of people from the Central American country of Honduras. November 2021 marks one year since the disastrous effects of Hurricanes Eta and Iota on the Honduran landscape and people. These hurricanes led to the destruction “of up to 70% of Honduras’ crops and grains,” causing severe financial struggles for small-scale farmers and their families. Over the past year, organizations have come together to rebuild Honduran agriculture. Revitalizing the economy and creating opportunities through agricultural initiatives in Honduras is vital to ensuring sustainability and decreasing poverty in the nation.

Agricultural Initiatives in Honduras Improve Gender Inequality

Honduras has high levels of gender inequality — the World Economic Forum reported “a gender gap of 27.8%” in Honduras. Honduras also ranks as “one of the most unequal countries in Latin America in terms of development.” Inequality particularly affects women and girls. For example, in Honduras, coffee accounts for more than 32% of the nation’s agricultural GDP and women are responsible for “at least 20% of that contribution.” However, “the economic returns of women in agriculture are often lower than those of their male peers.”

The International Women’s Coffee Alliance (IWCA) began in 2003 when women from Costa Rica, Nicaragua and the United States formed the group to empower and connect women in the coffee sector. The Honduras chapter of the IWCA, AMUCAFE, seeks for more women to hold “leadership and decision-making positions” in top coffee organizations to “reduce the gender gap while creating better business opportunities” for women.

Currently, there are 391 active women in AMUCAFE who benefit from the networking and education opportunities that the organization allows for. Women face barriers in business loan approvals for their agricultural work “as only a few have land ownership which serves as collateral for loans.” Furthermore, at times, “the returns for the sale of women-produced coffee comes through the male figures in their families: fathers or husbands.” In order to empower women in the coffee industry, AMUCAFE seeks to learn “best practices related to trade and commercial promotion” to ensure “better returns for [AMUCAFE] members and long-term financial sustainability for [the] organization.” In turn, this will contribute to overall poverty reduction in Honduras while reducing gender inequality.

Creating Economically and Environmentally Sustainable Coffee

Coffee production is taxing on the environment of the countries that rely on it as an agricultural commodity. In Honduras, large environmental costs occur from the loss of forest habitats due to deforestation. Woodlands are disappearing in favor of growing crops because small-scale farmers depend on the sale of coffee to markets abroad.

With the support of a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF), two environmental experts, Timothy Randhir and David King, will undertake a five-year journey “to make Honduran coffee sustainable across environmental, economic and social fronts.” The project also aims to uncover how environmentally sustainable coffee-growing practices can “yield higher and more stable incomes” for Honduran coffee farmers. The project stands as important work as coffee represents a main source of income “for more than 100,000 Honduran families and provides employment for about a million people.”

Deforestation leads to greater rainfall and flooding which causes soil erosion. Replacing “older, wood-fired dryers” with new “solar-powered industrial coffee dryers” is another key aspect of the project. The experts will study “the environmental and economic sustainability” of this new technology in improving Honduran agricultural practices. Improved practices and technology will help decrease deforestation and minimize the use of carbon-emitting natural resources while ensuring sustainable coffee production and higher incomes.

In the long term, these sustainable and inclusive agricultural initiatives in Honduras should reduce poverty. Additionally, they may be helpful in conserving the environment while improving the lives of the Honduran people.

– Robert Moncayo
Photo: Flickr

Poverty Reduction in Guatemala
Many know Guatemala for its volcanic landscape, Mayan culture and the colonial city of Antigua, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. However, Guatemala has regularly faced high rates of poverty and economic inequality with the effects of the COVID-19 exacerbating it. Fortunately, organizations are coming together to form sustainable poverty reduction initiatives in Guatemala which will protect the environment while creating opportunity within Guatemala. The number of people living in poverty in Guatemala is very high. In fact, according to World Bank data from 2020, 47% of individuals live in poverty. As a result, poverty reduction in Guatemala is very important and the emerging poverty reduction measures are vital to improving public health and improving quality of life.

Reducing Deforestation to Improve Economic Stability

Deforestation is a problem throughout Central America’s rainforests due to the high demand for lumber throughout the world. It has caused negative effects on the agricultural environment leading to challenges for farmers throughout Guatemala. Reaching Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) while increasing job opportunities is vital to protecting agricultural commodities and decreasing poverty.

Enrique Samayoa, a farmer from El Jute, told Americas Quarterly that environmental challenges and deforestation have led to greater rainfall and flooding. Deforestation leads to this flooding, which trees and vegetation usually absorb, and causes soil erosion. This means that when a flood occurs, it washes away nutrients in the top layer of soil, creating a poor environment for agricultural workers.

Fortunately, organizations like Utz Che’ Community Forestry Association and Sustainable Harvest are leading the effort to create sustainable poverty reduction initiatives in Guatemala. Utz Che translates from the Mayan K’iche language to “Good Tree.” This organization is responsible for protecting more than 74,000 hectares of forest in the mountains of Guatemala.

It is increasing opportunities for Guatemalans by training thousands of families in better farming practices. As the forest provides livelihoods for villagers, Utz Che’ communities are planting trees to improve their lives. Poverty reduction in Guatemala is a key aspect of this Utz Che’s mission because, with a healthy environment, farmers’ livelihoods will flourish as well.

When soil erosion decreases the number of crops that farmers could produce, employees may lose their job which can lead to an increase in poverty. Sustainable Harvest and an organization called ASPROGUATE worked together in 2021 to help decrease gender inequities by focusing on women-owned and sustainably run farms.

Empowering Guatemala’s Youth

Reactiva Guate is a crowdfunding platform for young entrepreneurs which started in 2020. It creates opportunities for young people with business plans to help their communities after the pandemic greatly impacted the economy. This organization appeals to venture capital to invest in young peoples’ ideas to overcome the economic crisis and has successfully raised thousands of dollars.

According to Statista, “31.3% of the employees in Guatemala were active in the agricultural sector, 18.73% in industry and 49.98% in the service sector.” Providing alternative careers for Guatemalans that focus on decreasing the effects of environmental challenges will help improve the quality of life for people there.

A massive vaccination program began in February 2021. Since then, municipal workers have promoted vaccinations by going house to house to reach unvaccinated people. The Guatemala Ministry of Health said that 88.8% of the eligible residents of Guatemala City have received their first dose. These statistics are good news that could bring tourism back into the country. It could create more job opportunities for youth and impoverished individuals.

Revamping Transportation to Improve Accessibility

UNDP is working with Transmetro, a transportation program that began in 2008. It helps expand the bus system in Guatemala City from one bus line to seven. Improving the transit system is vital to creating accessibility to jobs within Guatemala City. Without an available mode of transportation, many individuals are unable to find work. This initiative will create greater access to jobs and education.

These sustainable poverty reduction initiatives in Guatemala are vital to improving the opportunities available to its citizens and while keeping the environment safe and sustainable. This could improve the situation in Guatemala and lead to poverty reduction in the country.

– Robert Moncayo
Photo: Flickr

Iraqi Orphans
Iraq’s youth stand as one of the most vulnerable yet valuable populations in Iraq’s war-torn nation. The humanitarian crisis in the conflict-ridden country of Iraq has led to a poverty rate of 24.8% as of March 2021. One of the most tragic consequences of the conflict and violence in Iraq is the fact that, in 2012, there were almost “2.5 million Iraqi orphans.” Although these statistics stem from the time of the brutal Saddam Hussein regime, the situation regarding orphans in Iraq remains dire. Currently, Iraqi Children’s Hope indicates that there are 700,000 Iraqi orphans.

Iraqi Orphans

To put the situation in perspective, one must note that in 2020, Iraq’s age 0-14 population stood at 37.02% of the total population in contrast to 7.53% of the population in the age category of 55 and older. Just as a comparison, 18.37% of the U.S. population is in the 0-14 age range, and, in 2014, more than 34% of U.S. citizens were 50 and older. Because Iraq’s youth make up a significant portion of the population, Iraqi children stand as essential human capital amid a dwindling older generation. Yet, millions of Iraqi orphans often have no support system and no shelter, making them susceptible to the lure of trafficking and a life of crime. This fact coupled with the statistic that almost “3.2 million school-aged Iraqi children [are] out of school” means that support to Iraqi children must become a priority.

However, with Iraqi orphans in mind, three nonprofits are working to alleviate the impacts of the last 40 years of conflict.

Iraqi Children’s Hope

Iraqi Children’s Hope works directly with Iraqi orphans, “enabling them to thrive educationally and economically” to ensure a better quality of life and lessen the impacts of poverty and war. The organization “prioritize[s] orphans who cannot afford to attend private schools or pay tutoring fees” through the Children Tutoring for Success program. The program supports “orphan students in grades 1-8 through homework assistance and various other academic needs.” Iraqi Children’s Hope also focuses on food drives for widowed mothers and orphaned children. For example, during Ramadan 2021, an Islamic tradition in which families fast from sunrise to sunset, the Iraq branch distributed more than 700 food packages to orphan families and other families in need.

The Iraqi Orphan Foundation

The United Kingdom-based Iraqi Orphan Foundation emphasizes supporting vulnerable groups through forms of humanitarian aid and advancing the education of Iraqi orphaned youth. The foundation reaches children across several towns and cities in Iraq. Through its Sponsor an Orphan program that prompts individuals to donate a minimum of £20 per month per child, the Iraqi Orphan Foundation has supported more than 6,000 orphans. In 2019, the organization raised more than £560,000 in donations to support Iraqi orphans. The organization also focuses on direct food distribution for children without sponsors. For Ramadan 2021, the organization distributed “more than 400 food parcels to the families of orphans.”

The Iraqi Children Foundation (ICF)

Iraqi Children Foundation (ICF) commits to supporting at-risk Iraqi children “who are vulnerable to abuse, neglect and exploitation by criminals, traffickers and extremists.” Its scope includes orphans. One of its unique programs is the Hope Bus where volunteers transform an old bus into a lively, child-friendly classroom. Each bus provides about 50 orphans and street children “with tutoring, nutrition, [health support], social services and childhood fun.” Each child participates in the Hope Bus program for a year in preparation for a traditional school. More than 500 children have attended the Hope Bus so far. The program has provided more than 36,700 healthy meals to students and all 2020 graduates “now have their legal documents.”

ICF Street Lawyers

The ICF Street Lawyers program provides “legal protection for children” to safeguard them from traffickers, criminals and other forms of exploitation. Street Lawyers also “help children obtain legal documents required to enroll in school and access government benefits.”

Children make up 25% of all human trafficking victims. Orphans, often without protection or security, are the most vulnerable to trafficking. About 168 million children around the world end up as child laborers with 50% coerced into hazardous work that damages physical and mental well-being. Human trafficking is difficult to track as less than 0.5% of cases are reported. From May 2016 to April 2021, ICF provided “legal protection and defense” to 1,469 children.

An example of ICF’s extensive impact is the story of Ahmed. Ahmed and his widowed mother earn an income by selling milk from their cow. One day, instead of selling the milk, he shared the milk with the Hope Bus children. This type of generosity despite poverty is a testament to the impact of ICF’s work.

The impacts of Iraq’s political turmoil affect Iraqi children most severely, especially Iraqi orphans. However, there is hope as nonprofits commit to addressing the void in government efforts by supporting the nation’s children, ensuring a brighter future for the youngest generation.

– Imaan Chaudhry
Photo: Flickr

PwDs in Kenya
The COVID-19 pandemic has devastated countries worldwide with illness, fear and economic instability. However, its impact has not been equal for everyone. The pandemic has affected persons with disabilities (PwDs) disproportionately. More than 15% of the global population are PwDs, 80% of whom live in developing countries. More than 2.2% (0.9 million people) of the population are PwDs in Kenya, according to the 2019 census.

Connection Between Poverty and Disability

There is undoubtedly a strong correlation between poverty and disability. According to The Aga Khan University, approximately 67% of PwDs in Kenya live in poverty. Before COVID-19, Kenyans living with disabilities already faced pre-existing challenges in accessing health care, education and the workforce. Now, these challenges are deeper than ever as a consequence of the measures to control the virus transmission and expansion, and their impact on the socio-economic aspects of life and service delivery.

Organizations and individuals all over the world have racked their brains to find innovative solutions that could make life easier again after COVID-19.  However, most of these organizations and individuals did not have PwDs in mind. This problem is not exclusive to the COVID-19 era. For persons with disabilities, especially in developing countries like Kenya, solutions and innovation itself are limited for most present-day challenges.

Concerned by this situation, UNDP in Kenya decided to launch an innovation challenge. It Is inviting solutions responding to the socio-economic challenges experienced by PwDs during the pandemic. This way, UNDP Kenya seeks to harness the power of innovation for disability inclusion and social cohesion to promote a stable and secure environment for PwDs to thrive.

UNDP invited registered Kenyan organizations or companies in order to provide those with disabilities access to education, employment and other opportunities. UNDP encouraged the applicants to focus on one of five different areas; Access to Technology, Access to Information, Access to Health Care, Access to Education, Access to Opportunities and Access to Financial Products/Services.

Submissions of applications emerged all over the country and after a rigorous evaluation process, UNDP selected five winners. The five winning organizations received a grant of $8,000 to assist in further development and scale-up of the solutions.

5 Innovative Solutions Improving the Lives of PwDs in Kenya

  1. Action for Children with Disabilities (ACD) – Action for Children with Disabilities (ACD) came up with a solution that tests the use of Virtual reality (VR) to support children with intellectual disabilities to learn. The organization aims to develop educational video tutorials for children with Autism Spectrum disorders. It also uses VR to create simulations on the challenges that PwDs face in their daily lives. It will use this to conduct community sensitization and awareness sessions with the community members.
  2. Kytabu – Kytabu began in 2012. Its goal is to enable African learning institutions and students to leverage education technology platforms by providing and integrating education content to PwDs. Kytabu’s innovative solution adds a mobile-based school management system to the institutions supporting deaf learners. It is helping them to track the learner’s progress and needs. It is also producing reports to share with stakeholders and partners. This data would likely lead to better decision-making in Special needs education’s resources.
  3. Riziki Source – Riziki is a social enterprise that seeks to connect PwDs in Kenya to job opportunities. It created an automatic job-seeking database of people with different kinds of disabilities looking for jobs. Users can download the mobile app and easily register to the platform through their website or by text message, in case they don’t have internet access. Thanks to the platform, employers can easily connect with PwDs seeking jobs and understand the best way to interview and work with PwDs.
  4. Signs Media Kenya – In 2011, Signs Media began with the mission to educate, inform and entertain in sign language by enhancing disability and deaf culture. Signs TV developed an app called “Assist All.” It allows deaf people to access sign language interpreters on demand, facilitating communication where it may not be available. The app counts with a sign language interpreters’ database accessible by the touch of a button through a virtual interface.
  5. The Action Foundation (TAF) – TAF is a youth-led organization that began in 2010. It works with communities and governments to help PwDs. It aims to launch the “Somesha Stories project,” a platform that enables accessible child-friendly stories for early literacy and inclusive education. Learners will be able to access educational content specifically designed for all persons at their schools, from the comfort of their homes and via the Somesha Mobile-Based App. The Somesha stories come in audio, visual, print and sign language formats, hence allowing every child to learn.

Looking Ahead

All these great solutions not only validate Kenya as a hub of knowledge and innovation, but they also show technological transformation is about improving each citizen’s experience, leaving no one behind.

Innovation has and definitely will continue to have a great role in Kenya’s response and recovery to the COVID-19 crisis. Investing in building solutions that can improve the lives of PwDs represents a massive opportunity for Kenya to ensure that its growth is genuinely inclusive and transformational, something crucial for the future of the country.

– Alejandra del Carmen Jimeno
Photo: Flickr