Information and stories on development news.

improvements in RwandaRwanda is the fourth-smallest country in Africa, located in the Great Rift Valley in the central part of the continent. The nation has a population of about 13 million people and is home to two main ethnic groups: the pastoral Hutu and the agricultural Tutsi tribes. In 1990, tensions rose between these two groups and sparked a civil war, resulting in the Rwandan genocide in 1994. The genocide led to the massacre of approximately 800,000 Tutsi civilians by Hutu extremists, marking one of the worst genocides in history. Since then, Rwanda has been in a state of repair and has made great strides in many areas of development. In particular, the Rwandan government notes 10 impressive improvements in Rwanda.

10 Improvements in Rwanda

  1. Poverty is on the Decline. In 2001, the poverty rate in Rwanda was as high as 77%, dropping to 55% in 2017. The introduction of the first five-year Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Strategy in 2008 and a second five-year plan in 2013 largely account for this reduction.
  2. Increasing Life Expectancy. The Rwandan Civil War had a significant impact on life expectancy, which fell to a mere 26 years in 1993. Since then, the government has committed to improving the health and quality of life for its citizens, achieving a life expectancy of 69 as of 2019.
  3. Rwanda is a Leading Country in Gender Equality. In the World Economic Forum’s 2017 Global Gender Gap Report, Rwanda ranked as one of the top five leading countries in gender equality alongside Finland, Iceland, Sweden and Norway. Since the civil war, the nation has pushed for more female leadership in politics — as of November 2021, the Rwandan parliament has a 61% women-led majority, the world’s highest rate of female representation in parliament. Rwanda also has one the highest rates of women participating in the labor force at 84% in 2019.
  4. Unemployment is Decreasing Despite the COVID-19 Pandemic. Before the pandemic, unemployment in Rwanda was steadily declining, dropping to less than 1% in 2019. Like many countries, lockdowns and other preventive measures for COVID-19 originally caused unemployment to skyrocket back up to 1.35% in 2020. However, Rwanda quickly bounced back — employment rates rose from 43% in the second quarter of 2020 to nearly 49% in the third quarter.
  5. Maternal Mortality Rates are Falling. In 2019, the maternal mortality rate in Rwanda decreased by nearly 23% “from 1,270 per 100,000 live births” in the 1990s to 290. This significant decrease is largely due to innovations in the medical field, which allow for better storage and delivery of blood supplies, preventing postpartum hemorrhaging deaths in women.
  6. Inequality is on the decline. Inequality is defined as “disparities between individuals or groups in areas such as income, wealth, education, health, nutrition, space, politics and social identity.” Historically, Rwanda was home to some of the highest rates of inequality in Africa. However, this is changing. Over the past two decades, Rwanda has noted significant improvements in terms of access to utilities. Access to health care is also improving although there are still disparities between urban and rural communities. From 2006 to 2017, inequality declined from 0.52 to 0.43 as measured by the Gini index.
  7. The Rwandan Economy is Growing. Prior to the pandemic, Rwanda was experiencing “an economic boom.” From 2000 to 2019, the economy grew by an average of 7.2% and the country’s GDP rose by about 5% annually. Rwanda has put in place measures to control COVID-19 within its borders, resulting in an unsurprising 3.4% GDP decrease in 2020. However, the nation hopes to resume growth following the distribution of vaccines.
  8. Land Restoration. Rwanda also notes great improvements in terms of the environment. In 2012, the Rwandan government initiated the Green Fund, “the largest investment fund of its kind in Africa.” So far, the project has created more than 10,000 jobs and encourages rural communities to participate in agroforestry and reforestation.
  9. Malaria Progress. Medical improvements in Rwanda have reduced fatal malaria cases significantly in recent years. In 2017, the country experienced upwards of 4.8 million cases, but in 2020, cases dropped to 1.8 million. Malaria-related deaths also reduced from 700 in 2016 to 148 deaths in 2020.
  10. Health care is Universal. Mutual Health is the name of Rwanda’s universal health care system, which was created in 2008. As of 2019, Mutual Health covered close to 96% of the population, lowering medical costs and providing services for even the most impoverished citizens of Rwanda.

Rwanda: A Success Story

The COVID-19 pandemic has created many new obstacles for Rwanda, but the “Land of a Thousand Hills” is advancing nonetheless. Since the civil war and the Rwandan genocide of 1994, the country has committed to recovery and restoration and has certainly exceeded all expectations. These many improvements in Rwanda are due to the great resiliency of the nation’s people, a nation that will continue to rise above all obstacles.

– Hannah Gage
Photo: Flickr

CVD in Sub-Saharan AfricaThe term CVD, or cardiovascular disease, refers to a variety of disorders related to cardiac muscle and the blood vessels that supply “the heart, brain and other vital organs.” CVD is the leading cause of death worldwide, killing more than 18.56 million people in 2019. Although many people tend to associate CVD prevalence with high-income regions, CVD in sub-Saharan Africa is also quite common. In 2016, CVD overtook HIV/AIDS as the leading cause of death in this region.

Prevalence of CVD in sub-Saharan Africa

There are nine main risk factors for CVD: “smoking, history of hypertension or diabetes, obesity, unhealthy diet, lack of physical activity, excessive alcohol consumption, raised blood lipids and psychosocial factors.” Psychosocial factors are defined as characteristics that impact an individual on a psychological or social level. Negative psychological factors include stress, anxiety and depression.

Several of these risk factors are common in sub-Saharan Africa and are continuing to increase in prevalence with the rise of urbanization. The region is starting to face high rates of hypertension. In 2016, in the African region, 46% of adults 25 and older had hypertension, a figure that experts expect to climb rapidly. As urbanization in sub-Saharan Africa increases, lifestyle choices diversify — diets change and lifestyles often become more sedentary. These factors all increase the risk of CVD among sub-Saharan Africans, which provides a feasible explanation for the steep increase in this health issue over the past decade.

How Does Poverty Increase the Risk of CVD?

The number of sub-Saharan Africans living in extreme poverty face increased exposure to multiple risk factors for CVD. In 2018, 40% of sub-Saharan Africans endured extreme poverty. Poverty exacerbates negative psychological factors. Researchers from the National Institutes of Health found that those struggling with poverty have “more stress-related brain activity,” which leads to inflammation that increases the risk of CVD. These stress levels link to job insecurity, living in crowded environments and the difficulties one may face in providing for oneself and one’s family.

In addition, people living in poverty have reduced access to adequate preventative health care services. In addition, when sub-Saharan Africans begin to develop diseases that increase their risk of CVD, such as obesity, hypertension and diabetes, they often lack the health care resources to promptly and properly treat these issues. As a result, these health problems often spiral into CVD. CVD can also lead to disability and chronic illness, which impacts the human capital of the nation, leading to a loss of productivity that exacerbates negative psychosocial factors and existing economic instability.

ScienceDirect published a research study in 2013 indicating that child poverty may also increase the risk of developing CVD later in life, in part due to the negative psychosocial factors these children face. In 2017, an estimated 64% of children in sub-Saharan Africa lived in multidimensional poverty. Considering the link between child poverty and CVD, the health impacts of impoverished living conditions are of imperative concern.

Preventing CVD

Although CVD in sub-Saharan Africa is highly prevalent, there are solutions to reduce the burden of this disease. One initiative working to reduce CVD is the Healthy Heart Africa (HHA) program run by AstraZeneca. The program aims to reduce CVD risk by providing hypertension care. Since its launch in Kenya in 2014, HHA has given training to more than 7,600 health care workers “to provide education and awareness, screening and treatment services for hypertension.” In addition, HHA has supported more than 900 health centers in Africa in supplying “hypertension services” to the public. The program now serves five additional countries — Ethiopia, Tanzania, Ghana, Uganda and Côte d’Ivoire. By 2025, HHA aims to reach 10 million people suffering from high blood pressure across the African continent.

Researchers studying CVD have historically neglected sub-Saharan Africa as an area of interest. Although research in this region is expanding, there is still much to learn about the prevalence and causes of CVD. Increased knowledge of this health issue will aid in developing effective courses of action to reduce the prevalence of CVD in sub-Saharan Africa.

– Aimée Eicher
Photo: Flickr

dental healthThere is a strong association between oral diseases and poverty. According to the World Health Organization, oral diseases impact approximately 3.5 billion people. In addition, it is estimated that 3.9 billion people worldwide suffer from dental decay, which can impact their overall “health and well-being” and increase the burden of health care costs for already impoverished people. Many remote and underserved communities lack access to treatment and preventative services, however, several nonprofits are working to increase access to dental health services globally.

7 NGOs Making Strides in Improving Global Dental Health

  1. Academy of Dentistry International Foundation. The Academy of Dentistry International is an honor society “for dentists dedicated to sharing knowledge… to serve dental health needs and to improve the quality of life throughout the world.” Its Academy of Dentistry International Foundation provides grants for missions and projects that assist disadvantaged communities, supporting dental care for people in Honduras, Columbia, Kenya, Jamaica, the Philippines and Belize since 2010. The Foundation funded Bright Smiles Cameroon in 2018, which offers oral health education to school-aged children. Another grant recipient was the Health and Development Society Nepal, which offers oral health training to primary care workers who can then offer health care services to marginalized communities in Nepal.
  2. Dentaid. This organization began its work in 1996, delivering dental treatment to more than 70 countries since then, including the U.K. Dentaid supplies dental equipment and sends volunteers to impoverished and rural communities. Its “DentaidBox,” an innovative portable bin, includes all the equipment necessary to perform dental surgery even when electricity and running water are unavailable. In 2021, the DentaidBox reached seven African countries. In that same year, Dentaid created eight free clinics for people who are homeless in the U.K. and has plans to launch nine more. It also offered services to refugees and asylum seekers in the U.K.
  3. Global Child Dental Fund. This organization aims to serve every child needing dental health services. Currently, the organization is working with Jordanian dental students to aid Syrian refugees in Jordan. About 1,500 children in Jordan’s refugee camps have received “toothbrushes, toothpaste and oral health education.” One of the fund’s projects, SEAL Cambodia, has treated more than “66,000 children with dental sealants.” Global Child Dental Fund also provides “special care dentistry” in poverty-stricken and remote areas. The fund has trained students in Zambia and offered services to children with special needs in Kenya and Cambodia.
  4. Global Dental Relief. Since 2001, Global Dental Relief has offered free dental care to children across the world, serving close to 200,000 children from 2001 to 2020 with its volunteer work in eight countries. In addition to providing dental care, Global Dental Relief is unique in that, in Guatemala and Nepal, it also provides meals to families suffering from food scarcity.
  5. Open Wide Foundation. The Foundation’s mission is “to bring lasting change to the state of oral health in underserved communities worldwide.” The Foundation targets communities that have the greatest need for dental health care, beginning in 2012 and since serving more than 200,000 people. Open Wide Foundation built its first clinic in the Guatemalan city of Peronia, an impoverished community that had little to no access to dental health services. Since then, the Foundation has opened additional dental clinics in Guatemala. The Open Wide Foundation also works with students, offering “mentoring and practicum opportunities” to first-year dental students.
  6. Smiles for Everyone. Smiles for Everyone offers free dental health services in several countries. Since its inception, more than 27,000 individuals have received free dental care. Smiles for Everyone offers basic dental services as well as root canals, dentures and implants. The organization also provides training to Paraguayan dentists on complex dental procedures. Many of the patients at the free dental clinics have never visited a dentist before.
  7. World Health Dental Organization. This organization offers free dental care and education to marginalized communities, primarily in Kenya. Its flagship clinic provides annual dental treatment to around 4,000 Maasai people who have limited access to dental services. One particular Maasai initiative is the Momma Baby Clinic program that offers “preventative oral health and early intervention strategies… to pregnant mothers and mothers of infants and young children,” educating “hundreds of mothers” a year. Another program, I Am Responsible, has led to the oral health education of more than 700 school children. The organization, through its programs, has also distributed 1,500 bamboo toothbrushes to children living in the Mara.

Looking Ahead

While many oral diseases continue to plague impoverished communities, NGOs are committed to addressing the issue by providing free dental care to previously out-of-reach communities. By volunteering services, supplying resources and carrying out skill-based training, these NGOs aim to create global change. Many also aim to offer education to school-aged children on good oral health and hygiene. As people have better access to essential resources for oral disease prevention, such as toothbrushes, toothpaste and running water, the burden to alleviate the public health problem of oral diseases will subside.

– Amy Helmendach
Photo: Flickr

Food Insecurity in South SudanThe North African country of South Sudan is currently facing its worst hunger crisis to date. Estimations indicate that close to 8.5 million people out of the nation’s total population of 12 million people “will face severe hunger” in 2022, marking an 8% spike from 2021. There are several reasons for the worsening levels of food insecurity in South Sudan.

Issues Contributing to Food Insecurity in South Sudan

South Sudan’s most recent civil war, beginning in December 2013 and ending in February 2020, is one of the many reasons for the major food insecurity in South Sudan, among other issues. According to Oxfam International, the war caused an “economic free–fall,” leading to rising food prices and a crumbling economy. Furthermore, food stocks have diminished and harvests are poor due to extreme weather conditions.

The country is facing “the worst floods in 60 years,” affecting close to 1 million people and serving as a significant contributor to food insecurity in South Sudan. In just seven months, from May 2021 to December 2021, about 800,000 South Sudanese people endured the impacts of “record flooding” within the country. The floods have not only destroyed lands where crops were growing but have also led to the loss of a quarter million “livestock in Jonglei state alone.” The floods also swept away vital supplies such as fishing nets, impacting people relying on fishing in waterways as a means of securing food sources.

Along with the devastating floods, in 2021, the United Nations had to cut its food aid by about 50% due to reduced funding and increased costs of food. This reduction in the amount of food aid from the United Nations alone affects more than three million people.

Extreme Measures and Potential Collapse

To prevent starvation, families are resorting to extreme measures such as “ground-up water lilies” as their only meal of the day. Other people living in hunger have attempted to flee to other towns and states in search of food and shelter.

Further compounding the issue of food insecurity in South Sudan is “government deadlock as the country’s two main political parties try to share power.” Resistance among the political groups to work together is a cause of concern for the head of the United Nations mission in South Sudan, Nicholas Haysom, who warns of “a collapse in the country’s peace deal” if parties cannot find common ground in the political arena.

The World Food Programme (WFP)

One of the organizations working to help end food insecurity in South Sudan is the WFP. The WFP is currently employing a variety of methods to get food to the millions of South Sudanese people enduring food insecurity. These methods “include airdrops, all-terrain vehicles, river barges and SCOPE registration.”

The WFP utilizes airdrops as a last resort to deliver food to the most “dangerous and inaccessible” locations in South Sudan where safe road travel is not possible. The WFP also utilizes SHERPs, a type of all-terrain vehicle, to deliver food supplies to isolated areas where travel is challenging but still possible. The SHERPs can traverse the most adverse roads, go over obstacles and “float across water” in flooded areas.

The WFP also uses river barges that run along the Nile River to transport food to families who live in areas where there are no roads. Lastly, the WFP uses SCOPE, which is a blockchain service employed to “register and document people who receive food assistance” from the WFP. SCOPE helps workers to track the individuals receiving assistance and record each person’s “nutrition and health status” and determine full recovery and treatment success.

Looking Ahead

Although the situation in South Sudan is dire and experts predict these circumstances will worsen, many organizations are committing to providing as much aid as possible to South Sudanese people facing the devastating impacts of several disasters. By supporting these organizations, even an ordinary individual can make a difference in reducing food insecurity in South Sudan.

– Julian Smith
Photo: Flickr

Tanzania Builds Infrastructure
The Tanzanian government announced that it will begin construction on a $1.9 billion railway throughout the country to better increase the country’s infrastructure and connect communities. The country will pay for the railway from loans and the government said it will not raise or impose any taxes on the citizens to afford the railway. The railway is part of a larger railway line that will cover 1,219 km with the hopes of boosting Tanzanian trade with its neighbors. The section that the government announced will connect two towns, Makutopora and Tabora, in central Tanzania. Once the full 1,219 km railway line is complete, it will run from Tanzania’s Indian Ocean port, Makutopora, to a port city on the shores of Lake Victoria, Tabora, which Tanzania also shares with Uganda and Kenya. During the announcement of the project, Tanzanian President Samia Suluhu Hassan stated that the line will be a priority because of its importance in connecting the country to its neighbors.  The fact that Tanzania is building infrastructure will help bridge the divided country.

Earlier Railway Construction

In January 2021, the Tanzanian government announced a different railway line that would be built in the country using Chinese companies. The announcement, which occurred a year ago, lengthens Chinese involvement in Tanzania to now more than 10 years. In the announcement, the government of Tanzania said that the railroad will connect Mwanza to Dar es Salaam and span a distance of 341 kilometers from one side to the other. The announcement was part of a 2,561 kilometer of new railways through the country that will connect Dar es Salaam to the rest of the country.

According to Reuters, China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation and China Railway Construction Limited won the contract worth 3.0617 trillion shillings or $1.32 billion to build the railway. The former has already won several other projects in Tanzania and is now working on the railway.

Economics

In recent years, the fact that Tanzania is building infrastructure increased its debts as more infrastructure projects are in the works across the country. In 2021, fiscal spending was $15.7 billion while donors only covered 8% of the amount. The government expects to see a 6.3% growth in the economy by 2023 from 2021.

In July 2020, Tanzania was upgraded from a low-income country to a lower-middle-income country and the government has hopes of being a middle-income country by 2030. To reach this goal the government of Tanzania is working to develop its infrastructure, energy, and agriculture sectors to grow its economy and provide more opportunities for exports.

Along with this, the private sector is working to expand mining in a country that has faced underinvestment in the past. Through the COVID-19 pandemic, Tanzania was not as badly affected as its neighbors mostly affecting its travel and tourism sector of the economy.

Extreme Poverty

It is estimated that the percentage of people in extreme poverty in Tanzania increased from 49.3% to 50.4% from 2019 to 2020 and 1 million Tanzanians have fallen into that group in 2020 alone.

Before this time and the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the country was experiencing rather low poverty rates based on the national poverty line according to data from the World Bank with 26.4% of the population living in poverty. An overwhelming majority of the urban population at 71% falls under the non-poor category while only 42% of the rural population falls into the same category.

The fact that Tanzania is building infrastructure could benefit future generations as they grow up and improve Tanzania’s ability to make sure it can take care of its citizenry and provide a reliable source of transportation and movement of people and goods throughout the country.

– Julian Smith
Photo: Flickr

Classroom AfricaThe African Wildlife Foundation created a program in 2013 called Classroom Africa “to provide rural communities access to a quality primary school education” along with “a strong incentive to engage in conservation.” The main aim of Classroom Africa is “to foster the link between education and conservation, ensuring a stronger future for Africa’s children and its wildlife.” Operating in several African countries such as Ethiopia, Uganda, Zambia, Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of Congo, the program empowers underprivileged children by providing them with education and opens opportunities for them to pursue careers as conservationists. Wildlife education programs like Classroom Africa can uplift low-income children while also protecting the environment.

Primary Education in Developing Nations

Children in developing countries often lack access to primary education, especially in rural areas. In sub-Saharan Africa where Classroom Africa is based, more than 20% of children ages 6 to 11 are not receiving a classroom education, according to the African Wildlife Foundation. Extreme gender disparities in school attendance also exist — females are more unlikely to never receive an education in comparison to males.

Wildlife education programs like Classroom Africa provide educational opportunities to children in low-income areas and teach them about their local environment and sustainability. As a result, children are more likely to utilize and protect the natural resources around them, which can improve their quality of life in the long run. According to the World Bank, in 2018, sub-Saharan Africa held 66% of the world’s most extremely impoverished people. Wildlife conservation organizations can alleviate poverty by offering primary education opportunities that teach children practical skills and lessons about their local environment.

Greater Access to Opportunities

Wildlife education programs can set up low-income students for career opportunities later in life. With knowledge about wildlife conservation from a young age, children are more likely to grow up to pursue and succeed in careers as conservationists. In turn, these children serve their local communities and environments by improving sustainability and preserving natural resources. Children may also learn skills involving resource management and conservation, which have a multitude of social and economic benefits for low-income communities.

Additionally, wildlife education programs may provide teacher training programs, which create productive job opportunities for adults in the community. Wildlife education can alleviate poverty by creating job opportunities in developing countries and encouraging members of low-income communities to conserve and utilize valuable natural resources.

Quality of life is closely linked to environmental sustainability. Natural resources can yield an expansive range of socioeconomic benefits when people have the knowledge and power to conserve the environment. Wildlife education programs teach children from a young age how to use natural resources sustainably. One generation of educated conservationists can pave the way for future generations to reap the benefits of a sustainable environment.

Wildlife conservation can provide ample economic advantages that improve quality of life. For example, “safaris in Kenya generate close to $1 billion in annual revenue,” which would simply not be possible with a crumbling ecosystem and diminishing wildlife. A thriving ecotourism sector is able to create jobs for people in surrounding communities, providing an income that helps lift disadvantaged people out of poverty.

Looking Ahead

Wildlife education is particularly valuable in rural, low-income communities that are surrounded by nature but home to few people who have expertise in resource management and conservation. Children who partake in wildlife education programs can spread their knowledge to other community members, leading to a more sustainable community as a whole.

Classroom Africa shows that wildlife education benefits people in all stages of life. It teaches children valuable knowledge about resource conservation and sustainability and it opens career opportunities for young adults, especially in developing countries. Younger generations who partake in wildlife education programs can work alongside older ones to conserve their local environment and reap benefits while still prioritizing sustainability.

– Cleo Hudson
Photo: Flickr

Iceland’s Tourism Industry
Iceland’s tourism industry is one of the country’s most dependable money-makers and job providers. Like many countries, Iceland’s tourism industry underwent severe economic losses and lacked new jobs and job security because of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the Bank of Iceland, Islandsbanki, released a report publishing its expectations for a significant resurgence in tourism for Iceland in 2022.

Tourism’s Importance to Jobs and Economic Growth in Iceland

Tourism provides 39% of Iceland’s annual export revenue and contributes about 10% to the country’s GDP. Iceland’s tourism industry accounts for 15% of the workforce. In 2017, 47% of Iceland’s newest jobs were in some way related to the tourism industry.

Iceland experienced a devastating financial crisis in 2008. Job availability dropped nationwide, the poverty rate increased and the GDP dropped dramatically in the following years. It took some forecasting, but the Icelandic government developed plans calling for the tourism industry to be the savior of the Icelandic economy.

To this end, the government established a brand new Tourist Control Centre, which coordinates the government’s work in tourism nationwide. It creates new typical tourist surveys and improved cooperation under the government’s four tourism ministries. The government also implemented efforts to track the most popular tourist destinations and receive input from tourists on how to improve their experiences at those destinations.

Iceland’s tourism is so popular that the government has had to devise limits on how long individuals can rent on Airbnb and on whom must receive limitations. Rental cars are similarly limited, with nearly 80% of tourists reported renting a car at least once during their visit to Iceland. The airfare to Iceland is one of the cheapest deals year-round.

The tourism industry has been primarily responsible for the economic boom that has occurred since 2012. The plans that the Icelandic government developed went into effect in Fiscal Year 2012 and involved the government’s expanding funding opportunities in the tourism industry.

Since the expansion of the tourism industry, the increase in job availability and economic growth, Iceland has made great strides in keeping the poverty rate low and the population of those at-risk of poverty lower than what was possible pre-2012.

Impact of COVID-19 on Iceland’s Tourism Industry

Iceland has the lowest poverty rate in the world, but the COVID-19 pandemic put this at risk. The international average for a country’s poverty rate is 11%, but Iceland has the world beat. The country’s poverty rate is at 4.9% and has been dropping since the expansion of the tourism industry.

Furthermore, there were an estimated 36 Icelandic citizens for every 1,000 who were at risk of falling into poverty in 2008, at the beginning of the economic crisis. Since then, the number rose briefly above 40 individuals then rose and fell for several years, but distinctly dropped in 2014. This coincided with the beginning of the full establishment and implementation of Iceland’s expanded tourism industry.

The pandemic’s impact on tourism left the country with another drop in jobs and an economic dip. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Iceland experienced a 10-month long halt in tourism. Iceland’s GDP dropped from $24 billion to $19 billion in one year largely because of the loss of tourism between 2019 and 2020, according to Data Commons.

Expected Resurgence in Iceland’s Tourism

As soon as it became feasibly safe, Iceland reopened its borders to tourists with clear instructions. First, it allowed tourists to travel to the country as long as they isolated themselves for 14 days prior to their trip and were able to provide a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours of arrival in Iceland. Since then, Iceland has allowed its visitors to arrive without those other restrictions as long as the tourists are fully vaccinated and boosted against the virus.

The increase in Iceland’s tourism is not unprecedented. In 2018, the increase in tourism was 5.4% and in 2017, it was 24.1%. Icelandair, the main airline for travel to Iceland, has its own plan for balancing safety and getting as many tourists to Iceland as feasible in the works.

Iceland’s central bank, Islandsbaski is expecting a minimum of 1 million tourists to Iceland, but as many as 1.3 million may come. In November 2021, there were a meager 75,000 tourists for the entire month. However, this is more than 20 times the final tally for tourists for that month in the preceding year.

Even though tourism paused for the better part of a year, the tourism industry is ready and raring to go. Despite the pains of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Icelandic tourism industry will reopen in 2022 as much as possible and the economic boost to come from it is invaluable.

– Clara Mulvihill
Photo: Flickr

Water Quality in Sierra LeoneSierra Leone is a small, tropical country located on the west coast of Africa. Despite its six-month “wet season,” characterized by 90% humidity and torrential rainfall, Sierra Leone struggles to provide quality drinking water to its citizens. As of 2019, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that 98% of Sierra Leoneans do not have access to clean drinking water and that “most households lack basic sanitation.” Fortunately, there are many organizations, both internal and external, that are seeking to combat poor water quality in Sierra Leone. These organizations utilize five strategies to broaden access to clean water.

5 Strategies to Broaden Access to Clean Water

  1. Installing Wells. Many of the wells in Sierra Leone are dug by hand and are unable to reach underground aquifers where clean water is stored. For this reason, many nonprofit organizations, such as World Hope, Living Water and Sierra Leone Rising, are prioritizing efforts to install deeper wells in both urban and rural areas of Sierra Leone. Generally, the installation of a quality, long-lasting well costs about $11,000. To minimize the cost of developing these much-needed wells, World Hope and Sierra Leone Rising are teaming up, splitting the cost of building 20 wells. Between 2017 and 2018, World Hope drilled 45 wells in Sierra Leone and its neighboring country, Liberia. When people have local access to clean water wells, they are less prone to diseases and do not have to waste as much productive time seeking out potable water.
  2. Monitoring Local Water Sources. Many of the water sources in Sierra Leone are polluted and spread diseases to the people who drink from them. This is why the CDC is partnering with public health officials in Sierra Leone to better monitor water quality and respond to waterborne disease outbreaks. The CDC began guiding “public health staff” in 2018, successfully training 50 employees “to detect and respond to waterborne diseases like cholera and typhoid.” Those 50 staff members went on to teach 500 other community members the same methods of water testing. As a result of these training sessions, new job opportunities are arising, the spread of waterborne illness is decreasing and water quality in Sierra Leone is improving nationwide.
  3. Expanding the Sanitation Sector. The Millenium Challenge Corporation (MCC) is a foreign aid agency based out of the United States, working in Sierra Leone since 2015 in an effort to improve the country’s poor water quality. The program helped draft the first digital map of the water distribution system in Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone, which will allow water companies to “better assess the water system’s performance” and “more efficiently address service delivery problems,” ultimately providing more Sierra Leoneans with access to clean, safe water. The nation also recently drafted blueprints to expand all water and sanitation services in urban areas and neighboring towns by 2023, aiming to reach all cities by 2030. With the expansion of the sanitation sector, improved water quality in Sierra Leone is inevitable.
  4. Developing Rainfall Collection Systems. During Sierra Leone’s six-month wet season, the country experiences torrential rains and flooding. However, “from November to April,” the country experiences a harsh dry season during which droughts and water shortages are commonplace. This is why the Freetown city mayor, Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr, campaigned in 2021 to install “more than 160 rainwater harvesting systems” in rural areas outside of the capital. Each rainwater harvesting system has the capacity to collect between 5,000 and 10,000 liters of water, which means that citizens can harness excess water during the rainy season to use during the dry season droughts.
  5. Installing Public Latrines and Handwashing Stations. In an effort to fight the spread of COVID-19, Mayor Aki-Sawyerr is also working to install easily accessible latrines and handwashing stations throughout the city of Freetown. So far, she has built handwashing kiosks in 23 different marketplaces and has hired citizens to monitor each station and use a megaphone to remind shoppers of the importance of washing their hands. Many of the natural water sources in Sierra Leone are contaminated due to poor waste management and a lack of access to functional latrines. To help improve the water quality in Sierra Leone, the mayor is installing public bathrooms in addition to the handwashing kiosks. These public restrooms will help contain liquid and solid waste so that it does not seep into the nation’s water supply, significantly reducing the spread of disease.

Looking Ahead

Historically, Sierra Leone has faced many obstacles, including civil war, extreme seasonal weather and devastating outbreaks of the Ebola virus and COVID-19. However, the small African nation is taking great measures to improve the water quality in Sierra Leone so that its citizens have access to clean, safe drinking water all year round.

– Hannah Gage
Photo: Flickr

Women in the Philippines utilize solar energy
Natural disasters are a major threat to all, yet even more so when electricity is absent. Women in the Philippines utilize solar energy and TekPaks to better endure hurricanes. Renewable solar energy has been on the rise for those in poverty, due to its inexpensive and environmentally-friendly aspects. A group of strong Filipino women is taking charge to bring solar energy and life-saving technology to their town.

Learning From Experience

In 2013, tropical cyclone Haiyan hit the middle of the Philippines, killing 6,000 and displacing 4 million. With winds reaching 195 miles per hour, this was one of the biggest and most powerful typhoons ever recorded. One town, Marabut, managed to have zero casualties due to its evacuation plan. The town did not have a designated building to go to for safety. As a result, residents had to find shelter in a cave.

The Tinabanan Cave has provided shelter for centuries and is 32 feet high. When the typhoon hit, more than 1,000 people made the trek up a stairless hill to safety. Lorna dela Pena was alone in Marabut when the super-typhoon struck. She described how her “grandfather’s dream was for it to have stairs” when questioned on the evacuation, as Reuters reported. Building stairs and implementing solar energy became a priority after the tropical disaster.

The Philippines-based Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities (ICSC) trained Lorna dela Pena and Azucena Bagunas, both from Marabut, as solar scholars. They use their training to educate their community and implement vital technology.

TekPaks “Light” the Way

TekPak is a portable solar energy generator, which prepares communities for disasters preemptively. It is capable of powering phones, lights, kitchen appliances and more. The portable feature allows for easy evacuation and installation. Counting the number of people evacuated and communicating are greatly improved as well.

ICSC developed TekPaks and utilized them for storms since its first introduction. Azucena Bagunas described how ICSC used TekPaks “to power a nebulizer when someone had an asthma attack.” Additionally, it trained Pena and Bagunas on how to use TekPaks and educated others on its benefits.

Since electricity is a luxury for those in poverty, solar energy raises more ideas on its use, like harnessing solar energy as a replacement for coal energy. Not only is solar energy cheaper than coal, but it is safer as well. TekPak technology spread across the world for energy solutions and its new versions bring greater success.

Women Warriors in the Philippines

Bagunas and Pena work to educate and improve their community’s quality of life. Their women-led TekPak training sessions in their town make great strides to efficient evacuation drills and protocols. Women and children are among the most vulnerable to disasters, making solar energy a vital initiative.

Natural disasters disproportionately affect women since they “are more dependent on accessing resources that may be impacted.” Domestic work that women endure doubles during a disaster. Further, “women remain susceptible to poor health outcomes, violence and inequalities in all stages of a disaster,” according to Women’s Agenda. Solar energy provides solutions to many problems women face during and after natural disasters.

The use of solar lights rather than oil lamps has been extremely beneficial for the women in Marabut since it prevents crossing the sea for fuel. Collecting water after dark is hazardous for women yet once again, solar energy improves the task.

A Bright Future

Solar energy brings affordability and renewability together. Electricity is vital for the development and quality of life in communities. Solar energy provides a unique opportunity for those far away from power grids to have power. Ending extreme and energy poverty starts with basic necessities.

Women in the Philippines like Pena and Bagunas provide education and innovation to natural disaster victims. With the continuation of their work, the future of solar energy is bright.

– Anna Montgomery
Photo: Flickr

Batwa People Facing Extreme Poverty
Being among the poorest populations in one of the poorest nations, Uganda, the Batwa people face extreme poverty in their everyday life. Once known to live in the depths of the African forests as one of the oldest indigenous tribes in the continent, they now reside in town slums. Many have come to wonder how a population that thrived for centuries started resorting to scavenging garbage cans for their next meal.

The Forest: A True Loss For The Batwa

In 1991, the Ugandan government “reclassified lands of the Batwa” to national parks. This move forced many Batwa people to relocate from their homes, sometimes by gunpoint. A 2008 report indicated that 45% of the Batwa people were landless and lived in poverty.

The Batwa people went from a community that once thrived in hunting and gathering to now struggling to find means of survival. The report also highlighted that many Batwa people are seeking work from foreign people under “bonded labor agreements,” resulting in them experiencing discrimination from “their ethnic neighbors.”

In addition, it is important to note that the Batwa people have lost more than their home; the forest was their place of worship and healing. With strong “spiritual and religious ties to the forest,” Batwa people have lost a significant part of their history and livelihood that provided them with herbal remedies when members became sick. The forest was incredibly significant to the lives and culture of the Batwa people.

The Batwa People’s Current Conditions

As aforementioned, some Batwa work for foreign people who are not part of their tribe. Others make a living from performing for tourists who visit the country. Unfortunately, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been limited travel of tourists which means that many Batwa people lost their income, resulting in poverty. Due to these circumstances, many Batwa have resorted to “eating from garbage bins” to stay alive.

Solutions

With the massive displacement that took the place of the Batwa, their community is shrinking more and more as time goes by. With little to no resources to stay alive, extinction is knocking on their door. Furthermore, tourism is a key component to the Batwa people’s survival.

To keep the community going, Uganda is encouraging local tourism where the Batwa people are now giving tours of the Ugandan national parks, a place they once called home. With a keen knowledge of this territory, the Batwa people are the perfect tour guides for the forests.

Additionally, Uganda contains an impressive gorilla population that many people travel to see in person. Having shared the forest with them for centuries, the Batwa tour guides introduce visitors to this impressive species with respect and caution. Such tours, which now target even local tourists, offer a memorable experience that is a “culturally sensitive” visit whose proceeds go to people who truly need them.

The Takeaway

It is incredibly important to bring awareness to the Batwa tribe who live in extreme poverty and could disappear after centuries in the forest. With the modernization of their territory, this community has suffered a great loss of their home and livelihood and now faces extreme poverty and famine.

By supporting their efforts to survive through tourism and lobbying the Ugandan government to aid displaced peoples, this community could find hope again.

– Kler Teran
Photo: Flickr