Information and stories on development news.

Gambia’s Solar Park
In 2019, the Gambian government announced that it would construct a solar park, the first 150 MWH utility-scale park in the nation. Apart from the government’s greater initiative to improve the Gambia’s energy reliability and affordability, the government plans to launch the solar park in two phases: an 80 MWH unit set for 2021 and a 70 MWH unit set for 2025.

The Background

Prior to national elections in 2016, the Gambian government struggled with a decreasing GDP, poor macroeconomic performance and high liabilities from the National Water and Electricity Company (NAWEC) and other state-owned enterprises. As cited in a 2018 World Bank report, the governing bodies of SOE’s such as NAWEC were highly inefficient and caused internal dysfunction under President Yahya Jammeh’s leadership. The government’s inconsistent budget support to NAWEC resulted in a “fiscal drain on public resources” and inadequate energy supply.

Therefore, as apart of the region’s master plan to increase energy availability to the public, the current Gambian administration will conduct a study measuring the feasibility of implementing a 150 MWH solar park. The park will connect to a substation in Soma, The Gambia, which is a grid infrastructure that should increase electricity access in the nation by 60 percent. The feasibility study will have three primary objectives:

  1. To select the land for the solar park.
  2. To finalize solar power station details.
  3. To evaluate the feasibility of creating a National Dispatch Center.

The Process

In selecting land for The Gambia’s solar park, consultants will choose a land size of around 250 Hectares within a 20 km perimeter from the Soma substation. They will conduct studies that measure the potential constraint to connect the substation to the park. Once consultants choose an ideal site, they will proceed to finalize aspects of the power station. The power station will produce shifts in solar energy for two to three hours toward the peak of each evening. Through a detailed study, consultants will need to confirm the phases required for the installation of the park and proceed to undertake a diagnosis for the creation of a dispatch center. Through a diagnosis, consultants will be able to construct an “evaluation of required investments in capacity building (research, training), and modernization of the network (hardware equipment, software, smart grid technology, etc.).”

The government plans to construct the park not only to provide further electricity to The Gambia’s citizens but to also reduce the electricity costs for SOEs and the government. The government plans to remove the system of auction organized with public-private partnerships (private banks, etc.) as a means to reduce the cost of electricity for SOEs and citizens.

As the first of its kind, The Gambia’s solar park will increase Gambians’ access to electricity by 25 percent. The park will serve as one of the administration’s first steps in transforming the nation into a hub for sustainable energy.

– Niyat Ogbazghi
Photo: Flickr

Five Israeli Charities
Despite its successful economy, Israel’s poverty rate is higher than average at 21 percent of the population below the poverty line. Many families in this percentage struggle for food and basic necessities, even with Israel’s government programs meant to assist the underprivileged. Fortunately, several nonprofit organizations within Israel devote themselves to helping the poor. Here are five Israeli charities that break the poverty cycle.

Yad Eliezer

One of Israel’s top poverty-relief charities, Yad Eliezer has provided for Israel’s poor for almost 30 years. At its founding, it intended only to deliver monthly baskets of food to families in need. Since then, the organization has grown to encompass 19 social service and economic programs devoted to aiding over 18,000 Israeli families per year. These programs include the distribution of food, clothing and household items, as well as job training and child education. Its efforts for economic recovery and social welfare have broken the poverty cycle for over 20,000 families living in Israel permanently.

Yad Ezra V’Shulamit

Another well-known charity among Israelis is Yad Ezra V’Shulamit and it also began as a hunger-relief charity in 1998. Today, it provides food to thousands of Israel’s poor. While food delivery remains a focus of the organization, it has since expanded its efforts towards humanitarian services, focusing on individual empowerment through tailored rehabilitation as well. These services include academic tutoring, after school educational programs, professional guidance and activities for at-risk teenagers. The extracurricular programs offer assistance in building self-confidence and ultimately future success, subsequently bringing these individuals out of poverty for good.

Leket Israel

Leket Israel is the country’s leading food rescue organization. Emerging in 2003 under the precursor name Table to Table, Leket Israel saves and collects the surplus of agricultural harvests and cooked meals, then distributes them to families in need. In doing so, it ensures that excess food does not go to waste and removes the problem of food insecurity. Members of its staff make sure that hungry families in Israel receive healthy, nutritious produce and meals and that the food is up to par with safety regulations. Today, Leket Israel is the largest food distribution network in the State of Israel.

Lev Lalev

Based in Netanya, Israel, Lev Lalev focuses on feeding and sheltering disadvantaged Israeli children. Primarily a Girls Orphanage and Children’s Home, the Lev Lalev Charity Fund provides the girls with not only food and shelter, but also individualized therapy, mentoring, tutoring, clothing and summer camp activities. The organization also supports the girls through adolescence and adulthood, arranging religious and cultural events for them, such as Bat Mitzvahs, graduations, weddings and meals for religious holidays.

Meir Panim

Meir Panim is a relief organization that runs multiple projects to ensure that no Israeli suffers from hunger and existential distress. Meir Panim runs soup kitchens, restaurant chains, children’s programs that offer academic assistance as well as food, activities to promote distressed youths and food packaging programs. In addition, it provides food cards and redistributes furniture and second-hand equipment to people in need.

In short, these Israeli charities have helped and saved thousands of people from poverty. Donation funds from Israeli citizens, as well as some of the organizations’ international branches, allow these charities to continue their good work and break the poverty cycle for yet more individuals and families in need.

– Yael Litenatsky
Photo: Flickr

Homelessness in ArgentinaWith political uncertainty and inflation rising, homelessness in Argentina is growing. In Buenos Aires alone, 6.5 percent of the population is homeless. This translates to approximately 198,000 people. This problem is not specific to the nation’s capital either. In fact, a report from the National Statistics and Census of the Republic of Argentina estimates that up to 5 million people are homeless (approximately 10 percent of the overall population).

According to the Social Debt Observatory of Pontificia Universidad Católica, while the national poverty rate was 29 percent in 2015, the current poverty rate is 35 percent. Rising homelessness is only the most visible manifestation of Argentina’s current economic crisis.

Economic Downturn

Recently, inflation reached 54 percent, while the peso fell by 30 percent. This depreciation follows Argentina’s recent primary election, which showed support for opposition to the current president, Mauricio Macri. Fearing these results indicate future political upheaval, international investors retreated from the market and caused the peso’s sudden drop in value.

On top of the decreased spending power of Argentines, the government recently discontinued subsidies for utilities and public transportation. Rising prices hurt average Argentine households.

Within the past year, the price of natural gas rose by 77.6 percent. Electricity and water suffered similar price jumps, rising by 46 percent and 26 percent respectively.

As Matias Barroetaveña, the director of the Center of Metropolitan Studies reports, seven out of 10 families consider basic utilities to be a strain on their finances. With the cost of living inflating, it is not surprising that homelessness in Argentina continues to rise as well.

The Reality

Homeless families and individuals end up living primarily in makeshift shelters around urban areas: in plazas and parks, as well as outside shopping malls and bus stations. There aren’t enough shelters around Buenos Aires to handle the homeless population; all of the current shelters are at capacity. Additionally, shelters divide everyone by gender, so families often forego them in favor of staying together.

Free meals from soup kitchens and similar organizations are staples for many as well. The National Institute of Statistics and Census (Indec) projects that food prices will increase by 80 percent by December. Indec also expects the situation will worsen, so that one out of every 10 Argentines will experience extreme poverty or homelessness by the end of the year.

Helping the Homeless

Project 7 (Proyecto 7 in Spanish) helps homeless individuals in Buenos Aires and works to raise awareness about homelessness. In addition to distributing donated clothing and supplies, Project 7 works on various initiatives to give voice to homeless people. Through initiatives, such as “La Voz de la Calle” (The Voice of the Street), Project 7 offers alternate ways to think about and discuss homelessness in Argentina.

According to Horacio Ávila, co-founder of Project 7, one of the most difficult aspects of homelessness is the psychological toll. As he puts it, “when people live on the streets, they feel like they’re a waste of space like they deserve to be there. Your opinion of yourself is so low.” Project 7 not only improves the living conditions of the homeless but also supports legislation addressing the homelessness problem on a national level.

– Morgan Harden
Photo: Wikimedia

Life Expectancy in Sri LankaSri Lanka is a country that used to be torn by civil war. Now, thanks to peace and foreign investment, the country is making major strides towards improving the lives of its citizens. Below are seven facts about how life expectancy in Sri Lanka is improving.

7 Facts about Life Expectancy in Sri Lanka

  1. Life expectancy in Sri Lanka is currently 77.1 years. The life expectancy for males is 73.7 and is 80.8 for females. This is an increase of more than seven years from 20 years ago.
  2. The country’s three-decade civil war resulted in thousands of deaths including more than 7,000 in the final months. However, since the war ended in 2009, the country has been able to stabilize and improve economic conditions.
  3. Since 2006 the percent of people living in poverty has decreased from 15.3 percent to 4 percent. This decrease in poverty has been in large part due to the improving economy in Sri Lanka which registered an average economic growth rate of 5.8 percent from 2010 to 2017. The correlation between poverty and life expectancy is clear. When one is out of poverty and has more resources, they are able to live longer lives.
  4. Children are being immunized against disease at a 99 percent rate. Children have access to immunizations leading to a lower rate of children dying of preventable diseases. They can live longer and happier lives without worrying about diseases such as measles, hepatitis and DPT.
  5. Sri Lanka is focused on educating its youth, by seeking foreign investment. For instance, in 2017, the country secured a $100 million loan from the World Bank in order to enhance the quality of degree programs and boost STEM enrollment and research opportunities at the university level. The country’s investments are paying off as Sri Lanka has the highest reported youth literacy rate in South Asia at 98.77 percent versus India (89.66) and Bangladesh (83.2 percent).
  6. The under-5 mortality rate is less than 10 percent. The under-5 mortality rate broke below 10 percent in 2014 and has been declining since 2005. In fact, the under-5 mortality rate stood at more than 20 percent less than two decades ago. CARE and the Red Cross are two organizations that have been especially focused on improved health care services since the 1950s.
  7. The U.N. projects that the life expectancy rate will exceed 80 years within the next 20 years. However, as the Minister of External Affairs noted at a U.N. conference in 2014, “with…increased life expectancy, we are facing new challenges, namely the incidence of NCDs, a growing aging population by 2030, addressing issues facing young people and containing the spread of HIV/AIDS.”

Sri Lanka is a great example of a country that shows what can happen with peace and investment. Their economy is growing and with it, the people’s lives are improving not only in quality but also in length.

– Josh Fritzjunker and Kim Thelwell
Photo: Flickr

Best Poverty Reduction Programs
In the global fight against poverty, there have been countless programs to effectively downsize this issue. Poverty reduction programs are an important part of the fight against poverty and because of this, countries should be able to cooperate and learn from one another. Thankfully, with the help of the U.N., the world has been making progress in terms of cooperating to implement good poverty reduction programs. In no particular order, these are the five countries with some of the best poverty reduction programs.

Five Countries with the Best Poverty Reduction Programs

1. China

For the Middle Kingdom, poverty reduction is a key contributing factor to its rapidly growing economy. China has helped reduce the global rate of poverty by over 70 percent, and according to the $1.90 poverty line, China has lifted a total of 850 million people out of poverty between 1981 and 2013. With this, the percentage of people living under $1.90 in China dropped from 88 percent to less than 2 percent in 32 years. China’s poverty reduction programs have also benefitted people on a global scale by setting up assistance funds for developing countries and providing thousands of opportunities and scholarships for people in developing countries to receive an education in China.

2. Brazil

Brazil has taken great steps in reducing poverty and income inequality. Brazil has implemented programs such as the Bolsa Familia Program (Family Grant Program) and Continuous Cash Benefit. Researchers have said that the Family Grant Program has greatly reduced income distribution and poverty, thanks to its efforts of ensuring that more children go to school. They have also said that beneficiaries of this program are less likely to repeat a school year. Meanwhile, the Continuous Cash Benefit involves an income transfer that targets the elderly and the disabled.

3. Canada

Canada has implemented poverty reduction programs such as the Guaranteed Income Supplement and the National Housing Strategy. The Guaranteed Income Supplement is a monthly benefit for low-income senior citizens. This program helped nearly 2 million people in 2017 alone. Meanwhile, the National Housing Strategy in an investment plan for affordable housing that intends to help the elderly, people fleeing from domestic violence and Indigenous people. With its poverty reduction programs in place, Canada reportedly hopes to cut poverty in half by 2030.

4. United States

Although the United States has a long way to go when it comes to battling poverty, it does still have its poverty reduction programs that have proven to be effective. According to the Los Angeles Times, programs such as Social Security, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, the Earned Income Tax Credit and food stamps have all helped to reduce deep poverty. In particular, people consider the Earned Income Tax Credit to be helpful for families that earn roughly 150 percent of the poverty line, approximately $25,100 for a four-person family. Social Security could help reduce poverty among the elderly by 75 percent.

5. Denmark

Denmark has a social welfare system that provides benefits to the unemployed, the disabled and the elderly, among others. People in Denmark are generally in good health and have low infant mortality rates. Denmark also has public access to free education, with most of its adult population being literate.

It should be stressed that none of these countries are completely devoid of poverty, but they do provide some good examples of how governments can go about reducing this issue. With the help of organizations like the USAID, it is clear that this is an issue many take seriously.

Adam Abuelheiga
Photo: Flickr

Cryptocurrency in BulgariaIn the years following the fall of the Eastern Bloc, Bulgaria still struggles in comparison with the rest of Europe. As of 2016, the government of Bulgaria reported that an estimated 23.4 percent of its population lived below the poverty line, while as of 2017 the unemployed constituted around 6.2 percent of the population. Bulgaria also happens to have the lowest annual salary, minimum wage and average pension amount in Europe, while also suffering high rates of outmigration, governmental corruption and overall mortality. Though these problems may appear overwhelming, the use of cryptocurrency in Bulgaria provides a means by which steps may be taken to mitigate these issues.

Fundamentals of Cryptocurrency

As a medium of exchange, cryptocurrency by its very nature expedites humanitarian aid to distressed regions. This is because it sidesteps the need for a financial institution as an intermediary between grantor and recipient, thus providing a means of direct payment for potentially large amounts. The realities of governmental and organizational corruption and incompetence that hinder international aid may be entirely evaded, resulting in more effective and efficient aid conveyance even to the most turbulent locations.

Furthermore, an estimated 40 percent of adults, mostly residing in the developing world, face impediments to the formation of a financial identity that may appear nearly insurmountable. However, cryptocurrency provides an alternative means by which people without easy access to financial institutions or who lack sufficient capital to open a bank account may establish a financial identity and improve their chances of escaping poverty. Moreover, despite the market volatility of cryptocurrency in Bulgaria and throughout the world, it provides a fairly stable alternative compared to entrusting one’s assets in banks and other financial institutions. Savings stored as cryptocurrency are less likely to be subject to the vicissitudes of inflation, corrupt governments and asset appropriation.

How an NGO Uses Cryptocurrency in Bulgaria

The BitHope Foundation, an NGO established by Vladislav Dramaliev, provides a global crowdfunding platform for humanitarian initiatives. As the first charitable platform of its kind established on the basis of cryptocurrency in Bulgaria, it seeks to facilitate NGOs and individuals alike in their fundraising efforts. This organization hopes to incentivize businesses that accept cryptocurrency to invest in these causes, which will further bolster the public impression and acceptance of cryptocurrency as a legitimate medium of exchange.

Many crowdfunding campaigns hosted through the BitHope Foundation’s website are considered to be humanitarian successes in Bulgaria. For instance, the “Support Burgas Municipality After the Floods” campaign raised €1,749 in cryptocurrency or approximately $1,925, in response to floods that damaged parts of Burgas municipality, a region of Bulgaria on the Black Sea coast. These charitable contributions went toward the purchase of household needs including refrigerators and microwave ovens for those affected by the floods.

Specific Campaigns by BitHope

  • “Every Child Deserves A Holiday” aimed to raise charitable funds for families living below the poverty line, raising €588 or approximately $647, in cryptocurrency.
  • The “Support Positive and Character Education” campaign, which raised the equivalent of €786 (approximately $865), sought funding for programs designed to inspire children and parents to persist with schooling regardless of what predicaments may arise.
  • The “Sports Charity League” campaign enabled the funding of sports competitions for children and adolescents, after raising a cryptocurrency total of €1,522 or $1,674.
  • The 2017 funding campaign “Preeclampsia? I want to know” raised €1,132 ($1,373) for the acquisition of biomedical tests for use in screening pregnant women without charge for the potentially serious medical condition preeclampsia.
  • Also in 2017, a campaign called “Hope for Mental Health” accrued €358 ($434) in funds to assist mentally disabled children and adults in obtaining health care.

BitHope in the Present

These successes emerged in spite of numerous impediments standing in the way of using cryptocurrency in Bulgaria. Besides a global decline in the total market cap of cryptocurrency from $604 billion to $131 billion in 2018, the Bulgarian government persists throughout 2019 in its refusal to allow cryptocurrency-based organizations to open a bank account for the storage of cryptocurrency. Although this complicates the withdrawal of funds, the cryptocurrency conversion process, accounting, tax payments and payments to internet service providers, such difficulties have made the BitHope Foundation more resilient in its fight to address humanitarian issues in Bulgaria.

– Philip Daniel Glass
Photo: Flickr

Life Expectancy in KiribatiKiribati is a small, low-lying island nation straddling the equator in the Pacific Ocean. The nation is comprised of three archipelagoes, scattered in an area roughly the size of India. Often overlooked globally, the Kiribati people have faced a number of challenges especially since gaining independence in 1979. This struggle is illuminated by these nine facts about life expectancy in Kiribati.

9 Facts about Life Expectancy in Kiribati

  1. Kiribati ranks 174th in the world in terms of life expectancy, with the average life lasting only 66.9 years. The country ranks last in life expectancy out of the 20 nations located in the Oceania region of the Pacific.
  2. The lives of Kiribati women last approximately 5.2 years longer than their male counterparts, with female life expectancy standing at 69.5 years and the male life expectancy at 64.3 years.
  3. The entire nation’s population is the same as the population of about 4 percent of the borough of Brooklyn, with roughly 110,000 citizens. Even with such a small population, Kiribati faces serious issues relating to overcrowding. The Western Gilbert Islands (one of the three archipelagoes comprising Kiribati) boasts some of the highest population densities on earth, rivaling cities like Tokyo and Hong Kong. This overcrowding causes great amounts of pollution, worsening the quality and length of life for the Kiribati people.
  4. Due to underdeveloped sanitation and water filtration systems, only about 66 percent of those living in Kiribati have access to clean water. Waterborne diseases are at record levels throughout the country. Poor sanitation has led to an increase in cases of diarrhea, dysentery, conjunctivitis, rotavirus and fungal infections.
  5. Around 61.5 percent of Kiribati citizens smoke tobacco products on a regular basis. There are more smokers per capita in Kiribati than in any other country in the South Pacific. Due to this and other lifestyle diseases, such as diabetes, there has been a drastic spike in lower limb amputations on the islands, doubling from 2011 to 2014.
  6. Suicide is on the rise. The number of self-harm related deaths increased by 14.4 percent from 2007 to 2017.  Climate change is suspected to play a large role in the growth of this troublesome statistic. With sea levels rising, the people of Kiribati deal with the daily fear that, even if only a small storm were to hit the island, the entire nation could be submerged into the Pacific. Such a foreboding possibility weighs heavily on the Kiribati people.
  7. Sexual violence is at a high in Kiribati, especially in regards to sexual violence between spouses. According to a 2010 study, approximately 68 percent of women between the ages of 15 and 49 reported experiencing physical or sexual abuse, or a combination of the two, from an intimate partner. Sexual violence towards children and adolescents is also expected to be prevalent, however, statistics are lacking in regards to children under 15.
  8. Kiribati is a young country, with a median age of 25. In most countries with relatively young median ages, women have a large number of children. This is not the case in Kiribati, where the average woman has 2.34 children. This can be viewed as a positive for the nation’s future, for when women have fewer children, the life expectancy typically experiences an increase.
  9. The Health Ministry Strategic Plan (HMSP) plans to raise both the quality and quantity of health care facilities in the country. The Ministry’s goal is to maintain a minimum of 40 trained health care professionals for every 10,000 people and to have at least 80 percent of medicines and commodities that have been deemed essential, available at all times.

– Austin Brown
Photo: Flickr

Smoking in Developing Countries
Smoking rates among adults and children in developing countries have been increasing for years. In developed nations, such as the United States, people have implemented certain policies in order to increase taxes and therefore reduce tobacco consumption, successfully. Such policies have not yet enacted in areas of extreme poverty around the world. In fact, tobacco companies have responded by flooding low-income areas with reduced-priced cigarettes, tons of advertisements and an excessive number of liquor stores and smoke shops. It is time to have a conversation about smoking rates in developing countries and whether or not tobacco control policies are the best approach long-term, worldwide. Here are the top 6 facts about smoking in developing countries.

Top 6 Facts About Smoking in Developing Countries

  1. Smoking affects populations living in extreme poverty differently than it does those in wealthy areas. Stress is a harmful symptom of poverty and contributes to smoking rates in low-income areas. Oftentimes living in poverty also means living in an overcrowded, polluted area with high crime and violence rates and a serious lack of government or social support. Stress and smoking are rampant in these areas for a reason. It is also important to note that smoking wards off hunger signals to the brain which makes it useful for individuals to maintain their mental health of sorts if food is not an option.
  2. Smoking rates are much higher among men than women across the globe. While the relative statistics vary from country to country, smoking rates among women are very low in most parts of Africa and Asia but there is hardly any disparity in smoking rates between men and women in wealthy countries such as Denmark and Sweden. The pattern of high smoking rates among men remains prevalent worldwide. One can equally attribute this to two factors that go hand-in-hand: the oppression of women and the stress that men receive to provide with their families.
  3. The increase in smoking rates in developing countries also means an outstanding number of diseases and death. The good news is that countries have succeeded in reducing consumption by raising taxes on the product. Price, specifically in the form of higher taxes, seems to be one of the only successful options in terms of cessation. Legislation banning smoking in certain public spaces is one example of an effort that places a bandaid on the problem instead of addressing the root cause. There is no data that shows a direct correlation between non-smoking areas and quitting rates among tobacco users.
  4. The World Health Organization (WHO) reports an estimated 6 million deaths per year which one can attribute to smoking tobacco products. It also estimates that there will be about another 1 billion deaths by the end of this century. Eighty percent of these deaths land in low-income countries. The problem at hand is determining how this part of the cycle of poverty can change when it has been operating in favor of the upper class for so long.
  5. Within developing countries, tobacco ranks ninth as a risk factor for mortality in those with high mortality and only ranks third in those with low mortality. This means that there are still countries where other risk factors for disease and death are still more prominent than tobacco use, but that does not mean that tobacco is not a serious health concern all over the world. Of these developing countries, tobacco accounts for up to 16 percent of the burden of disease (measured in years).
  6. China has a higher smoking rate than the other four countries ranked highest for tobacco use combined. The government sells tobacco and accounts for nearly 10 percent of central government revenue. In China, over 50 percent of the men smoke, whereas this is only true for 2 percent of women. China’s latest Five-Year Plan (2011 – 2015) called for more smoke-free public spaces in an attempt to increase life expectancy. A pack of Marlboro cigarettes in Beijing goes for 22元, which is equivalent to $3. This is far cheaper than what developed countries charge with taxes. This continual enablement is a prime example of why smoking rates in developing countries are such a problem. While many people mistake China for a developed nation because it has the world’s second-largest economy and third-largest military, it is still a developing country.

In countries like China where smoking rates are booming and death tolls sailing, tobacco control policies may not be the best solution. While raising taxes to reduce consumption may seem like a simple concept, when applied to real communities, a huge percentage of people living in poverty with this addiction will either be spending more money on tobacco products or suffering from withdrawals. While it might be easy for many people to ignore the suffering of the other, in this case, a lower-class cigarette smoker, one cannot forget how the cycle of poverty and addiction and oppression has influenced their path in life.

Helen Schwie
Photo: Flickr

Health Costs of The Syrian Civil War
The Syrian civil war, which began in 2011, has led to a monumental refugee crisis, hundreds of thousands of deaths, the rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and destabilization in the Middle East. Yet another devastating effect of the war is the health consequences for people still living in Syria. Civilian doctors and nurses in active war zones face significant challenges not encountered in peacetime. These include a massive amount of trauma victims, shortages of medical equipment and personnel, infectious disease epidemics and breaches in medical neutrality. Here are 10 health costs of the Syrian civil war for the Syrian people.

10 Health Costs of the Syrian Civil War

  1. Because of the war, Syrian life expectancy has plummeted by 20 years from 75.9 years in 2010 to 55.7 years through the end of 2014. The quality of life in Syria has also worsened. As of 2016, 80 percent of Syrians are living in poverty. Moreover, 12 million people depend on assistance from humanitarian organizations.
  2. The civil war devastated Syria’s health care infrastructure, which compared to those in other middle-income countries prior to the war. By 2015, however, Syria’s health care capabilities weakened in all sectors due to the destruction of hospitals and clinics. The country faced a shortage of health care providers and medical supplies and fear gripped the country.
  3. The Syrian Government has deliberately cut vital services, such as water, phone lines, sewage treatment and garbage collection in conflict areas; because of this government blockade, millions of Syrian citizens must rely on outside medical resources from places like Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey. In 2012, the Assad regime declared providing medical aid in areas opposition forces controlled a criminal offense, which violates the Geneva Convention. By the following year, 70 percent of health workers had fled the country. This exodus of doctors worsens health outcomes and further strains doctors and surgeons who have remained.
  4. The unavailability of important medications presents another health cost of the civil war. Due to economic sanctions, fuel shortages and the unavailability of hard currency, conflict areas face a severe shortage of life-saving medications, such as some for noncommunicable diseases. Commonly used medicines, such as insulin, oxygen and anesthetic medications, are not available. Patients who rely on inhaled-medications or long-term supplemental oxygen often go without it.
  5. A lack of crucial medications has led to increased disease transmission of illnesses, such as tuberculosis. Furthermore, the conditions Syrians live in, for instance, the “tens of thousands of people currently imprisoned across the country… offer a perfect breeding ground for drug-resistant TB.”  Indeed, the majority of consultations at out-patient facilities for children under 5 were for infectious diseases like acute respiratory tract infections and watery diarrhea. According to data from Médecins Sans Frontières-Operational Centre Amsterdam  (MSF-OCA), the largest contributor to civilian mortality was an infection.
  6. In addition to combatant deaths, the civil war has caused over 100,000 civilian deaths. According to the Violation Documentation Center (VDC), cited in a 2018 Lancet Global Health study, 101,453 Syrian civilians in opposition-controlled areas died between March 18, 2011, and Dec 31, 2016. Thus, of the 143,630 conflict-related violent deaths during that period, civilians accounted for 70.6 percent of deaths in these areas while opposition combatants constituted 42,177 deaths or 29.4 percent of deaths.
  7. Of the total civilian fatalities, the proportion of children who died rose from 8.9 percent in 2011 to 19.0 percent in 2013 to 23.3 percent in 2016. As the civil war went on, aerial bombing and shelling were disproportionately responsible for civilian deaths and were the primary cause of direct death for women and children between 2011 and 2016. Thus, the “increased reliance on the aerial bombing by the Syrian Government and international partners” is one reason for the increasing proportion of children killed during the civil war according to The Lancet Global Health report. In Tal-Abyad’s pediatric IPD (2013-2014) and in Kobane Basement IPD (2015–2016), mortality rates were highest among children that were less than 6 months old. For children under a year old, the most common causes of death were malnutrition, diarrhea and lower respiratory tract infections.
  8. The challenges doctors and clinicians face are great, but health care providers are implementing unique strategies that emerged in previously war-torn areas to meet the needs of Syrian citizens. The United Nations (the U.N.) and World Health Organizations (WHO) are actively coordinating with and international NGOs to provide aid. The Syrian-led and Syrian diaspora–led NGOs are promoting Syrian health care and aiding medical personnel in Syria as well. For instance, aid groups developed an underground hospital network in Syria, which has served hundreds of thousands of civilians. These hospitals were “established in basements, farmhouses, deserted buildings, mosques, churches, factories, and even natural caves.”
  9. Since 2013, the Médecins Sans Frontières-Operational Centre Amsterdam (MSF-OCA) has been providing health care to Syrians in the districts of Tal-Abyad in Ar-Raqqa Governorate and Kobane in Aleppo Governorate, which are located in northern Syria close to the Turkish border. The health care MSF-OCA provided included out-patient and in-patient care, vaccinations and nutritional monitoring.
  10. New technologies have enabled health officials to assist in providing aid from far away. For instance, telemedicine allows health officials to make remote diagnosis and treatment of patients in war zones and areas under siege. One organization that has used this tool is the Syrian American Medical Society, which “provides remote online coverage to nine major ICUs in besieged or hard-to-access cities in Syria via video cameras, Skype, and satellite Internet connections.” Distance learning empowers under-trained doctors in Syria to learn about disaster medicine and the trauma of war from board-certified critical care specialists in the United States.

Conditions on the ground in Syria make it more difficult for Syrian citizens to receive vital medical aid from health care workers. Many people and organizations are working diligently to help injured and sick Syrians, however. These 10 health costs of the Syrian civil war illuminate some of the consequences of war that are perhaps not as storied as the refugee crisis. While aiding refugees is an undoubtedly worthy goal for international NGOs and governments, policymaker’s and NGOs’ agendas should include recognizing and alleviating the harm to those still living in Syria.

Sarah Frazer
Photo: Flickr

life expectancy in JordanJordan is an Arab country in West Asia with a population of more than 10 million people and a life expectancy of 74 years. Although some in Jordan face health and economic struggles, efforts are in place to raise the average life expectancy rate. Here are seven facts about life expectancy in Jordan.

7 Facts about Life Expectancy in Jordan

  1. As of 2017, road injuries ranked number nine of 10 factors causing the most deaths in Jordan. In 2007, road injuries ranked much higher at sixth, as there were 110,630 road accidents and 992 fatalities. That statistic increased from 1987’s 15,884 accidents. In response to these 2007 numbers, the Jordanian government applied new traffic laws in 2008 and increased police activity, which, ultimately, boosted life expectancy.
  2. Air pollution is in the top 10 risk factors of death and disability combined in Jordan. In urban areas, 50-90 percent of Jordan’s air pollution comes from road traffic, and based on a report in 2000, air pollution causes around 600 premature deaths each year. The main factor of poor air quality is lead-based gasoline used in cars, emitting lead pollution. In 2006, the government introduced two types of unleaded petrol for cars. However, air pollution was still a leading cause of death in 2017.
  3. Noncommunicable diseases are on the rise in Jordan. Even though these diseases cannot be transmitted to others, they remain some of the most common causes of death. From 2007 to 2017, Ischemic heart disease continued to be the number one cause of death for Jordanians and diabetes moved up from fifth to fourth. As of 2017, strokes ranked second.
  4. Chronic illnesses are some of the most common diseases in Jordan. Approximately one-third of Jordanians over 25 have a chronic illness or suffer from more than one. Reported chronic illnesses are largely caused by the practice of smoking tobacco. Out of the entire population, 38.2 percent use tobacco, including 65.5 percent of males over 15. If the amount of smokers does not decrease in the future, it will negatively impact the mortality rates and overall life expectancy in Jordan.
  5. Jordanian’s access to healthcare and insurance is increasing every year. From 2000 to 2016, on average, the percent of those insured increased by an average of 1.2 percent. Overall, 70 percent of Jordanians are insured. All children under six and citizens older than 60 are eligible for insurance with Jordan’s public healthcare sector as well. Primary healthcare clinics are available in both urban and rural areas, and those with insurance receive free medication.
  6. The Jordanian government developed a national electronic medical library (ELM). The ELM gives students and healthcare workers free access to medical resources to encourage and increase the number of people pursuing a career in medicine. The government hopes that the ELM will help increase the availability of healthcare and allow the medical industry in Jordan to flourish in the future.
  7. Mercy Corps has been supporting Jordanians since 2003. The organization has 250 workers in the country. Mercy Corps not only provides basic needs but also long-term solutions, such as working to reduce tensions between leaders in communities. Mercy Corps has helped more than 3,000 vulnerable households with costs to meet urgent needs and in 2017 alone, more than one million Jordanians benefitted from their work.

Although certain health and economic issues are prominent, Jordan is making improvements to its quality of living. The government is taking the initiative to move the country forward, economically and medically, which can only mean an increase in life expectancy in Jordan in the future.

– Jordan Miller
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