Key articles and information on global poverty.

Covid-19 Crisis
The COVID-19 crisis or coronavirus pandemic continues to grow as the number of global cases rises. With U.S. President Donald Trump approving a fiscal stimulus package of $2.2 trillion, the dire economic ramifications of the COVID-19 crisis grow more significant. Yet, there are disproportionate economic impacts on the world’s poor that highlight the implications of COVID-19 on global poverty.

What the COVID-19 Crisis Means for Global Poverty

Unfortunately, the aftershocks of COVID-19 will destabilize the world economy even further during the beginning of 2020 and beyond. The Asian Development Bank already estimates that the collective global impact of the COVID-19 crisis will be between $77 billion to nearly $347 billion in economic output costs worldwide.

The World Economic Forum calls the COVID-19 crisis a “pandemic in the age of inequality” as it especially impacts countries lacking universal health care or adequate health care systems. Many workers have lost work and are cannot even take paid sick leave of any kind.

“[I] fear hunger will kill us before coronavirus,’’ says Momanned Sabir, a young street entrepreneur in Delhi who owns a yogurt-based drink shop. Her words come in response to the three-week lockdown that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi imposed. Poverty and unemployment impact many daily wage earners and workers in informal and unorganized sectors. This is particularly evident in nationwide lockdowns from India, China, the Philippines, the Middle East and European countries.

Among the 50 countries under the United Nations’ Least-Developed Country Status (LDC), more than 900 million remain vulnerable to the risk of COVID-19. This is due to the poor health care infrastructure and resources to support a large-scale health crisis. Most importantly, many countries continue to be in short supply of testing kits.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has appealed for $2 billion to help the world’s poor who have been impacted by COVID-19. World Health Organization director Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus implores G20 nations to offer aid and support low and middle-income countries.

Future Course of Action

Indian Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharamn has proposed an economic stimulus package for financial relief to women and vulnerable groups. For example, there are welfare systems that distribute free gas cylinders, wheat and rice for up to three months. For women in India’s Jan Dhan banking system, the government offers compensation of 500 rupees for the next three months. In addition, India has issued a bailout package of $22 billion to help cushion the economic impacts of its lockdown, especially as several daily wage and unorganized workers have lost out on work and pay during this period.

The number of testing kits will also increase soon due to the invention of a new working test kit by Dr. Minal Dhakave Bhosale. India will thus rely less on more expensive imported kits. There will be a distribution of more than 100,000 kits every week from now on.

Moreover, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has provided $50 billion to control the COVID-19 crisis in low-income countries that seek support through its emergency financing facilities. Along with the IMF, the World Bank is also providing debt relief to poor countries through loans and grants. The group is also working with more than 35 countries to address the economic implications of the pandemic. The World Bank also plans to spend a whopping $160 billion over the next 15 months and is already securing fixed amounts for wide-scale mitigation efforts and projects.

Oxfam International is working on ways to use its knowledge and expertise in public health to better address the ongoing crisis, especially after its work during other outbreaks like Ebola and the Zika virus. Oxfam is also assisting in the delivery of sanitation services and offering accurate information to people.

Looking to the Future

To help those who have lost jobs due to COVID-19, the Asian Development Bank recommends focusing on strengthening social assistance. It also urges attention to upgrading labor market policies and programs.

The COVID-19 crisis could also impact the way the world addresses global poverty going forward, especially given the potential global impacts. It will take long-term development strategies to get low-income workers and poorer communities back on their feet.

Shivani Ekkanath
Photo: Flickr

Sustainable Technologies Solving Water Scarcity
More than 1 billion people live in areas with water scarcity or the lack of access to freshwater resources. However, current innovations are tackling water scarcity in creative and environmentally friendly ways. Here are five sustainable technologies solving water scarcity.

5 Sustainable Technologies Solving Water Scarcity

  1. Solar-powered Water Pumps: These pumps use energy from the sun to power electric pumps, which extract water from the ground. The price and technology have evolved in recent years, allowing solar-powered water pumps to be a more affordable, reliable and environmentally sustainable solution to water scarcity. Solar panels last approximately 25 years, requiring little maintenance throughout this lifetime. Also, the cost of solar panels that the pumps use has decreased by 80 percent. Solar-powered water pumps are most viable in areas with high solar insolation, particularly, many developing nations in Africa, South America and South Asia. Specifically, solar-powered water pumps have alleviated water scarcity for 40,000 people in Marimanti, Kenya, a country with annual sunshine.
  2. Solar-powered Desalination Units: Desalination technology harnesses energy from the sun and converts seawater into fresh, potable water. A system that Solar Water Solutions, a Finland-based startup, designed produces up to 3,500 liters of water per hour. Additionally, the system does not require batteries or oil-based fuel and it does not impart a large carbon footprint. Additionally, Solar Water Solutions has placed solar-powered desalination units in Kenya and Namibia. The desalination units are providing cheap, clean water to local communities. Additionally, large scale implementation of the technology could help solve water scarcity.
  3. Fog Catchers: Mesh nets trap freshwater from fog and eventually drips into the collection trays. A piping network then carries the water to the village. This system is free, clean and environmentally sustainable. People are using fog catching systems to provide water to communities in Chile, Peru, Ghana, South Africa and more. The largest fog catcher project is on the slopes of Mount Boutmezguida in southern Morocco.  Every day, about 1,000 people use water that fog captured for everything from drinking to agricultural use. 
  4. Portable Filters: In particular, one Swiss company, Vestergaard Frandsen, has developed a portable water filter. Lifestraw is a gravity-powered plastic tube, that people can use as a drinking straw. The filtration system eliminates protozoa, bacteria, chemical compounds and dissolved metals. Each Lifestraw can filter up to 4,000 liters of water — enough potable water to last three years for one person. Additionally, this portable filter eliminates the need for single-use plastics and fuel-combustion for water sanitization. Further, LifeStraw has partnered with the World Health Organization and the United Nations to alleviate the shortage of potable water for more than 64 countries, including Haiti, Rwanda and Kenya. 
  5. Drinkable Books: Each page of the drinkable book is a filter that turns raw sewage into potable water. The drinkable book houses silver and/or copper nanoparticles that kill bacteria when water passes through it. Motivated by a desire to create a water filtration system that uses greener chemistry, researchers designed the tool at Carnegie Mellon University. Field trials have shown that the drinkable book can eliminate 99 percent of bacteria in water. At the 25 contaminated water sources in South Africa, Ghana, Kenya, Haiti and Bangladesh, these trials have been promising enough that people can distribute the drinkable book commercially. Each book holds enough filtration sheets to filter clean water for four years.

For the millions of people across the globe lacking access to clean water, these are five sustainable technologies solving water scarcity. Technology like these has the potential to make a substantial difference in the world in terms of sustainable solutions for sanitation and access to water.

– Kayleigh Rubin
Photo: Wikimedia

3D Printing in Impoverished Nations
3D printing is a technology that has existed since the 1980s. Over time, additive technology has increasingly progressed where various medical applications can use it. 3D printing in impoverished nations has several benefits specifically in medicine and medical services relating to the affordability for the general populous of these nations. 3D printing for medical applications is the process of utilizing a digital blueprint or digital model, slicing the model into manageable bits and then reconstructing it with various types of materials, typically plastic. Here are three examples of 3D printing in impoverished nations.

3 Examples of 3D Printing in Impoverished Nations

  1. Custom Surgical Elements: The use of 3D printing has significantly increased in the manufacturing of customized surgical elements, such as splints. Manufacturers can make these devices and components quickly at a relatively low cost, which would greatly reduce the price of sale to the consumer. The reason for the reduced cost of production compared to conventional manufacturing systems is primarily due to the additive nature of 3D printing. For example, 3D printing actually adds material onto each layer, rather than subtracting (cutting/slicing) and combining material. This results in smaller opportunities for error to occur and the wasting of fewer materials in the long run.
  2. 3D Printed Organs: Many know this particular field of 3D medical printing as bioprinting. According to The Smithsonian Magazine, bioprinting involves integrating human cells from the organ recipient into the “scaffolding” of the 3D printed organ. The scaffolding acts as the skeleton of the organ and the cells will grow and duplicate to support physiological function. Although this particular method is still in the experimental stages, there have been successful procedures performed in the past. Researchers at Wake Forest have found an effective method for bioprinting human organs; they have successfully implanted and grown skin, ears, bone, and muscle in lab animals. Further, scientists at Princeton University have 3D printed a bionic ear that can detect various frequencies, different than a biological, human ear. The researchers behind the creation of this bionic ear theorized that they could use a similar procedure for internal organs. Similar to surgical components, 3D printed organs would greatly reduce the cost of organ transplants. Additionally, it would increase the availability of organs, which are nearly impossible to find. Locating an appropriate match within a specific proximity of the patient has resulted in a global organ shortage. Whilst some have presented a solution in the form of international organ trade, WHO states that international organ trade could provide a significant health concern because of the lengthy trips the organs would experience. 3D printed organs may be a sustainable method to help impoverished nations with supply organs quickly and cheaply.
  3. Prosthetics: 3D printing in impoverished nations could also allow people to print custom prosthetics for those in need. The lack of access to current prosthetics creates a lot of obstacles for people living in impoverished nations. Creating prosthetics with 3D printing technology has the potential to provide a person the ability to accomplish basic, daily tasks in order to support a family. Not only are current prosthetics expensive, but they are also often inconvenient or they prohibit natural motion. For example, Cambodia treats a prosthetic hand as a cosmetic item, leading the majority of the population to refuse the prosthetic due to the lack of functionality. The Victoria Hand project is currently attempting to change this perspective by providing functional, 3D printed prosthetic hands to Cambodia and Nepal. The team has performed user trials, where the aim is to distribute the 3D printed hand to the general populace. Subsequently, the design will go to multiple fabrication services to maximize accessibility.

These three examples of 3D printing in impoverished nations show just how important 3D printing is and will continue to be to aiding those in need. With further development, 3D printing should allow people to receive prosthetics and organ transplants more easily.

– Jacob Creswell
Photo: Wikimedia

HIV/AIDS Stigma in Mexico
Approximately 220,000 people in Mexico are living with HIV, and only about 60 percent of these individuals have access to antiretroviral therapy (ART). As in many countries, HIV/AIDS in Mexico is linked to socioeconomic status. HIV is highly concentrated in certain populations, including sex workers, prisoners, gay men and the transgender community. Mexico’s health system is defined by significant inequality, with the quality of health services varying greatly depending on socioeconomic status. Additionally, HIV/AIDS stigma in Mexico has a direct impact on its prevalence.

Implications of the Stigma Surrounding HIV

At the root of the HIV problem is the social stigma and discrimination based on sexual orientation in Mexico. Because of this, approximately 20 percent of those infected do not keep up with their treatment plans or continue their follow-ups. Addressing HIV/AIDS stigma in Mexico should be prioritized because it discourages many individuals from learning about HIV and getting tested. Tradition and religion, especially in rural and poorer areas, are major obstacles to destigmatizing HIV.

If people are not willing to get tested or comply with treatment plans, putting resources into facilities will be ineffective. The quality of treatment and healthcare is important but, ultimately, will not matter without patient cooperation. Sending health workers to educate communities about the importance of testing and treatment is a possible strategy to battle this stigma.

The Gap Between the Public and Private Sectors

Since the wealthier can afford to pay more out-of-pocket for quality services, private health workers earn more than public health workers. As a result, there is much more incentive for skilled doctors and health professionals to work in the private sector. Consequently, the quality of care is much lower in the public sector, exacerbating socioeconomic inequality. Bridging this gap will require increasing the government health budget, as well as the salaries of public health workers.

The current president of Mexico, President Lopez Obrador, has stated that increasing the budget is one of his top priorities. In April 2019, he announced that the National Institute of Health for Well-Being would provide medical services to more than 60 million without insurance. These changes are helping Mexico work towards universal access to health care.

HIV/AIDS treatments require close attention from providers, including regular tests and follow-ups, and patients need to be taking their medication regularly. This cannot be done without a well-structured health system that offers affordable care to all patients.

Recent Progress

New HIV infections have decreased by 22 percent and AIDS-related deaths have decreased by 1 percent since 2010. Additionally, the national health system in Mexico has been providing universal access to ART treatments since 2003. This program is funded by the government’s Catastrophic Expenditure Protection Fund, and in addition to providing ART treatments, it provides tests for people without social security. While this marks significant progress, only 60 percent of individuals with HIV are currently accessing treatment. This is likely, at least in part, due to the stigma and fear surrounding getting tested or treated.

There have also been recent improvements in policy that addresses this HIV/AIDS stigma in Mexico, including the code of conduct from the ministry of health, which includes training to prevent discriminatory behavior and promote respect and patient confidentiality for HIV cases. This code of conduct aims to reduce stigma and discrimination based on gender and sexual orientation in health centers throughout Mexico.

Overall, significant progress has been made to decrease the prevalence of HIV/AIDS in Mexico. The country has been making great strides to overcome various obstacles, including socioeconomic inequality and HIV/AIDS stigma, in order to increase the number of people getting tested and receiving treatment.

– Maia Cullen
Photo: Pixabay

Treat Cattle with Diseases
More than 500 million Africans gain money to support their families through the practice of small scale farming. As a result, healthy cattle are crucial because they offer meat, milk and labor. Keeping cattle healthy is critical to farmers who are trying to earn a living. However, many farm animals die every year in Africa from preventable diseases, especially in Ethiopia, which has the largest population of livestock in Africa. VetAfrica, a mobile app that first debuted in 2014, provides tips to farmers on how to diagnose and treat cattle with diseases.

Who Does it Reach?

VetAfrica tackles diseases in Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda because more than 80 percent of people in those countries work in farming. Some diseases that the app included are anaplasmosis (a disease that tick bites cause) and fasciolosis (a parasitic worm infection).

How Does it Work?

There are three main parts to the app: VetAfrica Mobile, VetAfrica Hub and VetAfrica Expert. VetAfrica Mobile gives information about disease symptoms to farms in order to educate them about how to identify them in their cattle. It also allows farmers to share data with other farmers to spread awareness and possible paths to treat cattle with diseases. VetAfrica Hub is an online website to sort and evaluate data that farmers upload to the app. Through VetAfrica Hub, farmers and health care specialists can learn about cases of cattle diseases and be aware of possible disease outbreaks. VetAfrica Expert lets medical professionals add information to the app about possible diseases.

Criticisms

One of the main criticisms of VetAfrica is that many Africans cannot use it because they may not have access to a smartphone or WiFi. To address the problem, VetAfrica creators designed the app to work offline. Proponents for VetAfrica also explain that purchasing a smartphone to use will provide various benefits to farmers outside of just saving their cattle, such as educational tools for their children.

Successes

The VetAfrica app has diagnosed more than 2,000 cases so far and 80 percent of the app’s diagnoses matched those of professional veterinarians. The app also helped farmers find quick diagnoses and treatments for their cattle, improving the quality of life and overall lifespan and productivity of their cattle. Data that uploaded to the VetAfrica database also helped spread the word about possible disease outbreaks to health care officials.

Overall, the implementation of VetAfrica to treat cattle with diseases has drastically changed the lives of East African farmers. The app provides a new perspective to farmers about cattle diseases, allowing them to be more knowledgeable and active in keeping their cattle healthy. VetAfrica, an app that is saving cattle from diseases every day has brought a newfound sense of economic prosperity to East African farmers.

Shveta Shah
Photo: Flickr

Health Disparities During Apartheid
Apartheid was a system that law in South Africa enforced. It was based on racial classification that imposed a rigid hierarchy. The system classified people into categories of white, Indian, colored and black. These categories determined where people could live, work and go to school, as well as who they could marry and whether or not they could vote. The government displaced many people and decreased funding for social services such as education and health care for nonwhites.

Disparities During Apartheid

Health disparities during Apartheid reflected these racial categories. Non-communicable disease rates increased for whites while poverty-related diseases, such as infectious diseases or diseases that poor sanitation or living conditions caused, increased for blacks. Additionally, blacks faced much higher maternal, infant and child mortality rates which reflects access and quality to health care.

Another significant issue that arose in the health system during Apartheid was the change in the doctor to patient ratio. Estimates in the early 1970s determined that the doctor to population ratio in the Bantustans, the areas the system specifically set aside for blacks to live, was 1 to every 15,000 rather than 1 to every 1,700 in the rest of the country. This highlights the lack of health care coverage and the extent to which black and non-whites suffered systematic discrimination both economically and in terms of health care. From 1980 to 1990, the number of doctors working in the private sector increased from 40 to 60 percent. By the time Apartheid ended in 1994, almost three-quarters of general doctors worked in the private sectors, making it even more difficult for people to afford health care.

Current Health Inequalities

Health disparities during Apartheid significantly impacted the health care situation in South Africa today. There are currently severe health disparities in South Africa stemming from economic inequalities. The wealthiest 10 percent of the country receives 51 percent of the income, while the poorest 10 percent receive .2 percent of the income.

Despite the fact that South Africa groups with middle-income countries in terms of economy, the health issues in South Africa are worse than in many low-income countries. Post-Apartheid, the burden of disease quadrupled due to an increase in diseases of poverty, non-communicable diseases, HIV/AIDs, tuberculosis and increased violence and injury. While the country has made significant progress, high tuberculosis and HIV prevalence remain major issues.

Improvements in South Africa

Many consider the 1996 Constitution that South Africa enacted after the end of Apartheid to be very inclusive and democratic even compared to other countries around the world. It reflects the difficult fight against lawful discrimination and segregation and includes a Bill of Rights, acknowledging the universal right to health care services, food, water and social security. This was a significant step towards progress despite the formation of severe health disparities during apartheid.

In addition to the 1996 Constitution, the national state pension system unified and new grants emerged such as child support grants. There have also been major improvements regarding providing basic services such as water and electricity to poor households. There has been significant progress with regard to legislation, but one should not overlook the social and economic factors.

Redistribution requires priority over growth in South Africa in order to address the issues of health inequality. Following Apartheid, President Mandela focused on growth through redistribution as a way of focusing on decreasing economic inequality. After Mandela, President Mbeki’s policies focused more on net economic growth rather than redistribution. In 2007, government revenue exceeded expenditure for the first time since the 1950s. The current president, Cyril Ramaphosa, has rallied behind National Health Insurance (NHI) and strongly advocates for universal health. care coverage. He acknowledges that there are enough resources in the country, so health insurance and care should be available to all regardless of ability to pay. This is a very important step for South Africa and suggests that progress will continue with regard to these health disparities.

Maia Cullen
Photo: Flickr

Girls’ Education in Suriname
Suriname, located on the Northern Atlantic coast of South America, originated as a Dutch colony and faced many of the difficulties that other formerly colonized nations face today. Since the introduction of Suriname’s democratic government in the 1990s, the economy, culture and tourism have been thriving. However, despite this economic growth, there is a lack of emphasis on education in Suriname. Surprisingly, most of the adolescents enrolled in school are actually girls. Despite this, girls’ education in Suriname requires improvement.

Improvements to Girls’ Education

Schools in Suriname have been making vast improvements since the 1990s. Following the economic crisis, many schools fell into a state of disrepair and lacked running water, electricity and materials necessary for lessons. This created a sense of apathy and caused school attendance rates among children and teens to plummet. Although the rates of attendance and student retention in secondary school are not currently stellar, they do show signs of improvement. For instance, there were 6,000 adolescents out of school in 2015, half the amount from 2009. This is likely due to the rising GDP and economic status of the country that favors an emphasis on education.

Barriers

Despite these improvements to girls’ education in Suriname, the changes have not occurred throughout the entire nation. In particular, rural areas have fewer resources for education and more barriers for girls to attain one. One of the main obstacles of academic success that girls face is teenage pregnancy; the adolescent birth rate is 62 in 1,000 for girls in the area. Additionally, one in every 10 girls marries before age 15. Poor sexual health education combined with poverty suggests that girls often abandon education in Suriname out of necessity to find work and raise a family.

One could assume that because of the barriers to education that girls face, far more boys would enroll in secondary school than girls, but the opposite is true. In primary education, the distribution is about even; however, once children reach secondary school, many boys drop out while the girls remain. In 2015, 88 percent of girls enrolled in secondary school while only 67 percent of boys attended. This is in high contrast to other nations that people commonly perceive as “developing” because it is usually the women who do not receive as much education as men, and therefore, people do not advocate on their behalf because they are not attending school.

Solutions

Despite many women completing their education, the fact remains that more women experience unemployment than men in Suriname. There is only so much an education can do if gender bias and inequality prevents women from earning a living. In 2016, the percentage of unemployed women was at 21 percent, which was twice as high as their male counterparts.

The dichotomy of girls’ education in Suriname indicates that despite the high percentage of girls enrolled in school, the fight for gender equality in the country is not over. Teen pregnancy remains at a high, which disproportionately (and almost only) affects girls. Many groups such as the Love Foundation give teens resources to educate themselves and their peers on sexual health, which could lead to more adolescents of either gender remaining in school. As girls’ education in Suriname advances, the labor industry must follow so women can fully enter the workforce as well.

– Anna Sarah Langlois
Photo: Flickr

Women’s Issues in West AfricaMany different factors undermine women’s public health issues and political power in West Africa. Many of these factors, such as gender inequality, weak economic capacity and gender-based violence disproportionately affect women in the region more than men. Gender-based social stratifications have resulted in a disparity in the benefits women receive when compared to their male counterparts, and this undermines their social status and power as well. Here is more information concerning women’s issues in West Africa.

Women’s Issues in West Africa

While certain factors do continue to impede upon the growth of women’s social status in the region, the region has made some small steps regarding women’s roles in society. The West African countries of Sierra Leone, Cabo Verde, Mauritania, Ghana, Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Burkina Faso and Senegal have recently been able to close the gender gap in primary school enrollment, making early childhood education more accessible to young girls within the region. Senegal has made even more progress in terms of women’s rights with increased representation in its parliament. The number of female parliament members has almost doubled in the past few years, which is a particularly good start in giving more political power to women in the West African region. Women’s equal political participation still remains a challenge in the majority of these countries, but following in the steps of Senegal could make for increased inclusion of women in politics throughout the region. Even though such changes will take time, the progress that Senegal has made has provided women with more representation for the time being.

Women’s Issues in the Workplace

Women in West Africa face issues in the workforce within the region as well. Struggles with infrastructure and fully-functional public services in the region push women into more domestic and care work. In the West African region, women spend approximately six times more than men on unpaid care work, which typically involves household tasks and caring for children and the elderly. This disparity leads to economic and social issues for women in West Africa. Since their work is unpaid, they often have little to no economic mobility and are instead reliant on members of the family that work for pay, and this lack of economic status pushes them further down in societal ranks. These two combined make for even more difficulties in addressing the issues that specifically affect women in West Africa.

With economic inequality disproportionately affecting women in West Africa, it is important to emphasize not only the issues at hand but also the ways in which people can change them for the better. The economy does not always legitimately count the household and family-centered work that women in West Africa typically perform because people deem it to be an informal sector of work where workers do not earn wages. In some cases, women will contribute substantial amounts of labor in the agricultural sector but lack access to credit and markets, making attaining a profit and higher economic status difficult once again.

Moving forward, people must put development policies into place and carry them out properly in order to engage women in the workforce in a way that will count in the formal economic sector. It may be in the best interest of women in West Africa for their countries to adopt the same sorts of policies that countries like Tanzania and Uganda have already proved successful. These countries along with several others have adopted a tool called gender budgeting which analyzes government spending and its impacts on gender and age subgroups. The goal of using this tool is to better understand where economic disparities arise and adjusting the government’s spending choices to alleviate adverse effects.

Child Marriages in West Africa

Aside from economic disparities affecting women in West Africa, another problem has arisen concerning the younger population. Previously, arranged marriages adversely affected young girls because little to no policies were in place protecting their rights. This practice is particularly salient in the West African region, where the rates of child marriage are more than double the world average.

Now, all West African countries are signatories of the Protocol to the African Charter on Human Rights and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa, the African Youth Charter and finally the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child. These show commitment to national campaigns looking to end child marriage and protect the rights of young girls, creating a great step in the direction of progress. Now that some legal loopholes have closed, new cultural customs must also put the rights of young girls and women first, therefore elevating their status and importance in greater society.

The Future for Women’s Issues in West Africa

Women in West Africa are not simply accepting these issues as unchangeable but are instead taking stances to improve their lives. The development of women’s organizations in West Africa has helped spark attention and change in certain areas thanks to the collective efforts of these women. From grassroots campaigns to highly professional and organized non-governmental organizations, these organizations have focuses ranging from specific women’s rights to even broader agendas. For many, the idea of gender equality in the region is at the forefront of its mission.

While all of these organizations tackle different issues and call for a response from the public in varying ways, each organization gives refuge for women to join together and learn about their rights. These organizations act as a support structure for women in West Africa and help to provide them with the resources to better themselves socially, economically and politically. By joining together, these women are creating unstoppable numbers that are currently pressuring political and structural change to rectify the issues women in West Africa face every day. With their perseverance and dedication, they will continue empowering women for generations to come and bring resolve to the issues that have adversely affected women in the region for decades.

Hannah Easley
Photo: Flickr

lessons from past pandemics
There are several lessons from past pandemics that apply to COVID-19 prevention today. With the rise of COVID-19, it is particularly important to look back at history to prevent similar detrimental results.

Spanish Flu and Social Distancing

One of the main lessons from past pandemics such as the Spanish Flu is that social distancing works. With cities around the world such as San Fransisco ordering social distancing, this lesson is as pertinent as ever. In 1918, Philadelphia threw a parade to support soldiers fighting in WWI that drew a crowd of 200,000 people. Just three days later, every bed in Philidalphia’s 31 hospitals comprised of people infected with the flu. Unfortunately, despite Philadelphia’s enforcement of social distancing after the infection rate rapidly increased, this response was too late.

St. Louis, on the other hand, was more proactive with enforcing city-wide social distancing regulations. Within just two days of detecting the first cases of the flu in St. Louis residents, the city enforced social distancing measures. This resulted in less than half of the flu’s death toll than in Philadelphia.

Social distancing is not just about staying away from others when ill but also about reducing the chances of becoming a carrier of the disease. Several people might have coronavirus and not even know it as only 19 percent of confirmed cases of COVID-19 become critical. Because of this, it is important to stick to social distancing regulations as much as possible.

HIV/AIDS and the Deadliness of Social Stigma

The ongoing HIV/AIDS pandemic faces a great amount of social stigma that has lead to insufficient government prevention methods. This stigma is due to discriminatory views that the virus infects those who are gay or drug addicts who use intravenous drugs.

Though governments are more responsive today, when the HIV/AIDS pandemic first arose, many including the U.S. were late to respond due to this stigma. This resulted in many protests and, eventually, the government became more responsive.

One of the main lessons from the HIV/AIDS pandemic that one can apply to the COVID-19 outbreak is the fatal impact of social stigma. There are several discriminatory sentiments toward the Asian community right now with the COVID-19 pandemic. This stigma has led to a rise in hate crimes. People of Asian descent are not the only community capable of suffering an infection from this virus, and discrimination towards them can be deadly just as the case with those that the HIV/AIDS pandemic affected.

Small Pox and Global Cooperation

The World Health Organization (WHO) ran a vaccination campaign to eradicate smallpox from 1966-1977. It jumped through many government hoops in order to run the campaign, which was eventually successful. The current coronavirus outbreak will require similar action. Following government orders and keeping up with guidelines and news from the CDC and WHO will greatly help with global cooperation to slow the spread of COVID-19.

A critical issue that requires immediate and rapid cooperation is the stocking up of medical masks and other medical supplies such as hand sanitizer in a frenzy. While buying these supplies might seem helpful at the moment, it is actually having consequential effects. Doctors have reported shortages of masks that could lead to a dire situation if buying habits like this continue. Additionally, reports state that masks for healthy people are ineffective as a means of prevention.

Another form of cooperation that will help prevent those that the virus affects is joining local activist coalitions in helping those vulnerable to COVID-19, such as unemployed or food insecure individuals. In Seattle, COVID-19 Mutual Aid is a coalition that is helping out in solidarity with those most vulnerable. One can obtain further information about its work by visiting its Instagram page.

Hope for the Future

Social distancing, destigmatization and global cooperation are key lessons from past pandemics that easily apply to COVID-19. Not only learning but applying these lessons to the current pandemic is key to beating this virus.

Emily Joy Oomen
Photo: Pixabay

Women Writing About Global Poverty
Due to an array of causes, including unpaid maternity leave and lower wages, women are statistically more likely to struggle with poverty than men. This imbalance has driven many female authors to speak up about the issue through writing. The publication of material to inform readers of the realities of poverty is extremely beneficial to the cause. Fiction or nonfiction books can play a major hand in urging the world to take action against this social injustice. Here are five women writing about global poverty.

5 Women Writing About Global Poverty

  1. Katherine Boo is an American journalist, whose reports on disadvantaged populations earned her a Pulitzer Prize in 2013. People know her best for her book, “Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity,” a compilation of interviews and observations from Boo’s time in India. The book follows the stories of several different residents of Annawadi, a slum dwelling in close proximity to Mumbai. The village is home to roughly 3,000 people who experience a life of scavenging through airport waste and residing next to a sewage lake. Boo’s accounts of Annawadi provide a jarringly honest look at life inside of a community struggling to battle poverty within a developing nation. She believes that shedding light on underlying issues is imperative to initiate real change in impoverished communities, like Annawadi.
  2. Shobha Rao was merely 7-years-old when she moved to the United States from India. Her novel, “Girls Burn Brighter,” and her short story collection, titled “An Unrestored Woman,” have received critical acknowledgment for the representation of varying social issues, including poverty. “Girls Burn Brighter” centers on two young Indian women who attempt to escape slavery, sex trafficking and prostitution. The novel distinctly describes various aspects of poverty in Poornima and Savitha’s intertwined tales. Both girls’ families are extremely poor, forcing them to scavenge junkyards; the family sends the children to work the spinning wheel, where the two characters meet. As one of many women writing about global poverty, Rao’s writings demonstrate the dark and brutal effects poverty places on those who endure it.
  3. NoViolet Bulawayo is a native of Zimbabwe, now living in the United States, who uses childhood experiences as inspiration for her writings. The Man Booker Prize shortlisted her literary debut, “We Need New Names;” Bulawayo was the first black African woman and Zimbabwean to receive this award. “We Need New Names” follows a 10-year-old Zimbabwean girl on her journey to escape the impoverished, corrupt conditions of her homeland and seek refuge in America, which does not end up offering any solace to the young immigrant. Bulawayo’s compassion for human rights, particularly of her fellow Zimbabweans, has driven her to become one of the most prominent women writing about global poverty today.
  4. Tsitsi Dangarembga is also a native to Zimbabwe; born and raised in the nation, her creative voice has traveled across oceans to reach the hearts of people everywhere. One of her books, “Nervous Conditions,” earned a place on BBC’s list of 100 Stories that Shaped the World in 2018. Further, the novel’s debut was the first time that a book that a black Zimbabwean woman wrote received publication in English. This story follows a young Zimbabwe girl’s struggle for a better education after her brother’s death. In addition to the other women writing about global poverty, Dangarembga also utilizes this theme as a primary element throughout the novel. Dangarembga’s writing captures an authentic view of the life that impoverished Zimbabweans lead, resulting in a raw story that emphasizes the struggles that millions of women in developing nations face.
  5. Anne C. Bromley is an American poet and children’s book author. In 2010, she published “The Lunch Thief,” a children’s book about poverty. The story focuses on Rafael, a boy who plots revenge against the bully who has been stealing his lunch. Rafael soon discovers that local wildfires had recently impacted the thief and the thief’s family, pushing the family into poverty thus fueling the boy’s theft. In the end, Rafael and the thief become friends through him sharing his lunch. Bromley is one of the few women writing about global poverty in children’s books, which is an engaging and efficient way to introduce children to such issues and how to properly react to them.

Books have the ability to spread information, teach children literacy skills and send hope to a person dealing with social, physical or other circumstances. Further, one could argue that books are one of the world’s ultimate weapons against poverty. These five women writing about global poverty have proven that adversity can give rise to a powerful voice. In a world where women are statistically more impoverished than men, such a voice is essential to starting a movement for change.

– Harley Goebel
Photo: Flickr