Key articles and information on global poverty.

https://pixabay.com/photos/jerusalem-worship-history-holiday-597025/
Multiple Middle Eastern countries and the Mediterranean Sea surround the State of Israel. The nation declared its independence in 1948 after the British cabinet ended its rule of Palestine and the United Nations failed to partition the area into Arab and Jewish States due to dissent from Arab groups. The day after the establishment of the State, this disagreement escalated into a civil war known as the 1948 Arab–Israeli War. Since Israel’s inception, conflict and bloodshed have plagued its history, including the Six-Day War in 1967 and Operation Badr in 1973. Yet today, Israel is the only democracy and technologically advanced economy in the Middle East. Reports show that Israel ranks high in various health indicators, especially life expectancy, yet there are still concerns for the nation’s well being. These 10 facts about life expectancy in Israel will provide insight into the country’s current state.

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Israel

  1. Israel ranks 13th in worldwide life expectancy and research projects it to be seventh by 2040. The life expectancy at birth for Israeli citizens is 82.3 years, which is higher than the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Germany and other highly developed nations. Many expect the lifespan of Israelis to increase as the country tackles issues such as air pollution.
  2. Israel’s infant mortality rate is lower than the average in the developed world. Up to one year after birth, Israel sees 3.4 deaths per 1,000 births and five maternal deaths per 100,000 births. These low rates can be attributed to Israeli’s highly regarded doctors, most of which train in the U.S. and then return.
  3. Israel is the largest recipient of U.S. foreign aid. Since World War II, the United States has provided Israel $142.3 billion in foreign assistance, most of which is military assistance. In 2016, the two countries agreed on a 10-year plan that provides Israel $38 billion in military aid. This includes $500 million in missile defense, including $70 million for the Iron Dome, which directly helps protect Israeli citizens from regional threats that endanger their lives
  4. Israel guarantees health care to all citizens as a fundamental right. A national health insurance law passed in 1995 provided universal coverage. In 2015, benefits such as psychotherapy and medication improved the provision of mental health care. Thus, no citizen suffers from an inability to access health care, which greatly improves life expectancy. For instance, the chance of dying from heart disease, stroke, cancer or diabetes at ages 30-70 is among the lowest in the world.
  5. Israel’s mandatory military service increases male life expectancy. In 2016, a study published by the Taub Center for Social Policy Studies in Israel discovered that mandatory military service for men over the age of 18 leads to improved physical fitness and adds more than three years to life expectancy.
  6. Diet contributes to Israel’s long life expectancy. Israelis generally adhere to the Mediterranean diet, which is high in fruits, vegetables, olive oil and fish.
  7. Despite high life expectancy, Israel faces a shortage of doctors and nurses. A report published by Israel’s Ministry of Health found that the nation’s numbers of doctors, nurses and hospital beds are declining. For every 1,000 people, there are only 3.1 doctors, placing Israel below the average of other OECD countries. As a result, doctors are immigrating from North America to lessen Israel’s shortage
  8. Poverty could also threaten life expectancy. An estimated 22 percent of the Israeli population lives below the poverty line. High housing and commodity prices exacerbate this issue, an increasing concern for many Israeli citizens. Although only .03 percent of the country is homeless, only a small number qualify for social services due to stiff criteria. As a solution, the OECD recommends increasing competition and efficiency in the economy, as well as investing in infrastructure and promoting skills, especially among socioeconomically disadvantaged groups. Therefore, Israeli leaders are calling for reforms to increase competition in the banking sector and boost the supply of housing.
  9. Gender equality can help reduce Israel’s poverty. One report from the OECD found that more female participation in the workforce can reduce economic inequality. Mark Pearson, the author of the report, said, “More women in work really does seem to have an effect on inequality.”
  10. Terrorism remains a constant, looming threat to Israeli lives. Since 1948, the total reported number of casualties from terrorist attacks include 3,705 killed and 14,736 injured. To help solve this constant threat, the country deployed the Iron Dome, an air defense system, in 2011, and Defense Minister David Ben-Gurion began a conscript army, the Israel Defense Forces, in 1948.

These 10 facts shed light on how factors such as Israel’s health care system and lifestyle contribute to its high life expectancy, while also highlighting areas for improvement. The life expectancy of Israel’s neighboring countries provides extra context for these facts, such as Egypt at 70.5 years. These 10 facts about life expectancy in Israel reveal why, despite recent challenges, the nation is an ideal model for other unstable Middle Eastern countries to strive toward and ensure longer, healthier lives for their citizens.

– Adam Bentz
Photo: Pixabay

Eight Facts About Education in Serbia
Education levels have been improving in the Balkan country of Serbia since the early 2000s and especially since Serbia’s partnership with Switzerland. It is evident that Serbia’s work with other European countries and its attempt to bridge the gap between the rich and poor are doing wonders for Serbia’s education system. Here are eight facts about education in Serbia that highlight the progress of its education.

Eight Facts About Education in Serbia

  1. Serbia is fighting an uphill battle due to the fact that 25 percent of its population lives at the poverty line, with the Roma people making up two percent of the Balkan national population. Laws for the 2018 education system should help temper this issue, which includes the implementation of procedures regarding the handling of discriminatory behavior and insulting reputation that affects honor and dignity. These should help put an end against any form of discrimination. The second most important law for this trend is the Bylaw on additional education, health and social support for children, pupils and adults. This Bylaw made it so that the education system would include less fortunate children in lower standings of society with the right to use of resources and individual assistance.
  2. Serbia has made great progress in increasing the successful outcomes of its education system since the mid-2010s. The fact that the Harmonized Learning Outcomes (averaged over all subjects and grades) have shown a 63 point increase from a meager 458 in 2003 to 2015 reinforces this. This is due to an attempt to bridge the social gap between the poor and wealthy which has also lead to an increased interest in education after high school. This is due mostly to the laws mentioned in point one, which led to increased spending on education.
  3. Other European countries, like Switzerland, have been integral to helping Serbia reform its education since 2012. The Swiss displayed to Serbia how to provide more inclusive education for those less fortunate. Switzerland also provided agents to show the leaders of the Serbian education system how to properly analyze schooling data to better reform the system.
  4. The Red Cross has provided humanitarian aid that has targeted families in need of food, hygiene and social inclusion to allow children the basic opportunity of enjoying and learning in the schools they are in. In contrast, UNICEF has focused on school programs to allocate funds to allow students to be more involved in extracurricular activities.
  5. The Joint Programme on Roma and Marginalized Groups Inclusion is also taking steps to make sure the Roma children are able to catch up within Serbia’s school system. One of these steps is to make education more affordable for those who require a secondary education so that the system includes more of the population. This is important since the jobless rate for the Roma is over 60 percent, which is exacerbated by the fact that over half the Roma people do not get an education.
  6. Serbia can collect much of its education system’s data partly because it has become the 31st member of the European Agency for Special Needs and Inclusive Education. This organization of 31 member states works and collaborates to improve Europe’s education system to make it more inclusive for everyone. Through the use of technical support, this agency supports Serbia by better organizing data so that the Balkan Nation’s Education Organizer can use it. This, in turn, has allowed for better use of evidence-based information to solve critical issues in Serbia.
  7. Serbia has also addressed its plans to fix the large success gap between the wealthy and poor, with the latter only having an upper secondary education success rate of 45 percent. Although this number may seem low, it is an improvement of 22 percent since 2011. The reason for this is affordability as higher forms of education can be too expensive for most families in Serbia. The Inclusivity Act mentioned above should help change this, which works to bring the wealthy or discriminated these higher levels of education.
  8. In 2018, Serbia implemented a program that included a financial education program to help pave the way for greater minds to lead the country’s economy. This is a law that seeks to help students have a better grasp of the business world, how to better find jobs and create them, as well as how to better create teachers who can impart this knowledge on the student body. It should start sometime in the later part of 2019.

These eight facts about education in Serbia show that while Serbia has issues, the country has greatly improved its education system, and will continue to do so at the apparent rate it has set themselves. So long as Serbia is open to accepting outside help and to work to bridge the gap between the wealthy and the poor, the number of people that will benefit from its system will only grow. These eight facts about education in Serbia will hopefully serve as something Serbia can expand upon in the future.

– Collin Williams
Photo: Flickr

Children in India
Conditions in India are constantly improving and the country has one of the highest rates of poverty reduction. Between the years 2005-06 and 2015-16, India transformed into a lower-middle-income economy by decreasing the number of poor people from 630 million to 360 million. By improving the standard of living, bettering nutrition and increasing public expenditure, India became home to the largest number of people coming out of poverty. While this improvement has greatly boosted India’s economy, children have also undergone positive changes that improved their lives in many aspects.

There are multiple issues children in India face, and although the challenges continue today, many children live a better life than they did 10 years ago. Here are some of the main problems children in India face and the ways in which the conditions have improved.

Education

Due to poverty, overcrowding and the lack of teachers, less than 50 percent of children receive a proper education. However, in the past two decades, the government has worked toward putting more children into schools. For example, India’s Education For All program has helped educate 200 million children, making it one of the biggest elementary education programs in the world. Additionally, this program has put around 20 million children into primary school since 2001. The government hopes to enroll all children in school regardless if they live in urban or rural areas. Ideally, students would complete school up until grade eight. Hundreds of millions of children would be uneducated and not have the opportunities they have now without the help of the government and the program.

Health Issues

Health has always been a serious issue in India, especially up until the 21st century. The gap between the rich and poor caused the poor to have little medical support which, in turn, increased the spreading of diseases. Private sectors, as well as the government, have set out to reduce the spreading of diseases and, so far, it has eliminated yaws, leprosy, Guinea worm and polio. Infant mortality rate, another serious health problem, has been steadily declining over the past decade. The National Family Health Survey taken in 2015-16 indicated that since the previous survey (2005-06), 57 children out of 1,000 died before reaching the age of one. Now, the number has decreased to 41 deaths out of 1,000. The improvements in underweight children younger than five years have also decreased from 42.5 percent in 2005-06 to 35.7 percent in 2015-16. These health improvements are continuing to help the lives of many children and families.

Violence

Inequality between males and females has caused violence to emerge toward women and girls alike. Violence, abuse and exploitation are all serious struggles faced by many, and UNICEF, along with many other programs and organizations, has been acting to prevent such brutality. The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO) has begun to standardize the response to sexual violence. The government has also recently launched the Integrated Child Protection Scheme (ICPS) which protects all children in the country.

A lack of education, health issues and violence continue to threaten the wellbeing of children in India, but through government legislation and the work of NGOs, these conditions have been improving. If all goes well, they will continue to improve.

– Veronica Bodenstein
Photo: Flickr

New Job Creation in AfricaAfrica’s unemployed population is made up mostly of young people. African youth account for 60 percent of the continent’s unemployed. Many of these young people are viable job candidates with college degrees; however, they are often forced to accept work doing menial tasks outside of their area of studies, such as physical labor or hotel maintenance. Development Channel is aiding in job creation in Africa

African Youth and Information Technology

In the last 25 years, unemployment for young people has increased by 80 percent, further contributing to the economic and social divisions these countries already feel. Of those who are employed, many still belong to Africa’s large population of working poor. In an effort to make themselves more marketable to the job markets in Western nations, many African youths are pursuing an education in Information Technology.

Degrees in IT are viewed as sustainable and respectable by young people. Because of this, IT has become one of the most popular avenues of study by African university students. This creates huge potential for new job creation in Africa in the IT sector as a solution to some of these continent’s youth unemployment disparities.

Development Channel in Africa

Development Channel is a collection of companies that seek to bridge the divide between developing and developed nations by improving access to resources that will offer financial assistance, affordable nourishment and other resources that will improve quality of life. These programs are all available through the Development Channel “Mother App.” The introduction of this app also brings positive news for the many young people across Africa with training in IT as Development Channel’s app is creating more than 5,000 jobs.

The position, “Mother App Trainer,” will focus on teaching others how to access the myriad platforms for aid that Development Channel offers. The position offers room for a continual increase in a salary based on performance as well as healthcare coverage and discounts on items sold by their food stores. The job is even more appealing as it can be performed from one’s home, with all training done online and over the phone.

More Than Just a Job

The company itself is contributing to the fight against global poverty and disparity. Development Channel’s slogan is “bridging the development divide.” The platform offers aid in myriad services, including food stability, credit cards, homeownership, emergency relief infrastructure, water infrastructure, community development, information technology, philanthropic income support, student loans, vehicle ownership, legal defense, women’s empowerment, waste management, education and more.

For example, Development Channel believes malnourishment and a lack of access to viable food sources greatly contribute to the poverty cycle. This is why the platform has a chain of “corner stores” called SISCHI that offer easily accessible, affordable food. Another of its companies, Flow, makes it easier for people to access lines of credit in locations where citizens formerly had no basic bank accounts at all.

Not only is Development Channel initiating new job creation in Africa for the largely untapped market of educated African youth but the companies housed under Development Channel are aiding in creating a better quality of life for people in developing nations.

– Gina Beviglia

Photo: United Methodist News Service

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Belarus
Belarus is a former member of the Soviet Union, located between Russia, Poland and Lithuania. Like most post-Soviet states, Belarus has experienced substantial economic and societal problems since attaining sovereignty. The country has developed under a dictatorship and today Belarus has virtually full employment and an official poverty rate of less than six percent. However, the country still faces significant obstacles to public health and economic development. Here are 10 facts about life expectancy in Belarus.

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Belarus

  1. There is a Stark Gender Gap: The first of the 10 facts about life expectancy in Belarus is that the average life expectancy is 73 years, but there is a significant disparity in life expectancy between males and females. While women in Belarus have an average life expectancy of 79 years, men in the country live until only 67.8 on average. Non-communicable diseases are the leading cause of death in Belarus. While a genetic predisposition is typically the leading risk factor for non-communicable disease, lifestyle choices are commonly to blame in Belarus. The biggest risk factors for both Belarusian men and women are alcohol consumption, tobacco use and a lack of exercise.
  2. Alcoholism is a Major Problem: Belarus is one of the heaviest alcohol consuming countries in the world. In 2010, Belarusian males consumed an average of almost 29 liters of pure alcohol per capita annually. By 2016, this number was down to 18 liters per capita, which was still triple the global average. Alcohol abuse has concrete consequences for life expectancy in Belarus as alcohol consumption was the cause of over half of liver disease in Belarus in 2016.
  3. There is a Culture of Male Tobacco Use: Almost half of all adult men in Belarus smoke daily, while less than 10 percent of women do. Despite laws establishing an age minimum of 18 for purchasing tobacco, one in every 20 boys between 10 and 14 years old identified themselves as daily smokers in 2016 alone. That same year, tobacco use related to over a quarter of deaths from non-communicable diseases among males in Belarus.
  4. Men Often Die Early: Premature death is very common, particularly among males, skewing data for the average life expectancy for men in Belarus. In contemporary Belarus, an average of close to 40 percent of men dies prematurely between the ages of 30 and 70. Non-communicable diseases are the leading cause of death in Belarus, accounting for almost 90 percent of all mortalities and the vast majority of premature deaths.
  5. Belarus Guarantees Health Care: The Constitution of Belarus guarantees that the government will provide free, accessible health care to all Belarusians. This does not translate into universally free health care but does include free emergency care, vaccinations, hospital stays and childbirth. According to the 2019 Bloomberg Health Efficiency Index, Belarus ranks within the top 50 most efficient health care systems globally.
  6. Suicide is Prevalent: In 2019, Belarus had the fifth-highest suicide rate in the world. Further, men were reportedly six times more at risk than women. This is largely linked to alcoholism, which is far more common among Belarusian men than women.
  7. Premature Death Hurts Economically and Demographically: According to a 2018 report by the World Health Organization, the loss of productivity and government expenditure associated with premature deaths cost the Belarusian economy over five percent of its GDP every year. Belarus is one of the fastest shrinking countries due to its net population decline of 750,000 since 1990.
  8. Substance Abuse is a Rural Problem: Rural regions of Belarus, particularly those bordering Russia and Lithuania, experience many alcohol-related deaths at a disproportionate level. This is largely due to increased poverty, which fuels the widespread production of homemade alcohol. One of the first-ever studies on rural alcoholism and homemade alcohol took place in 2016, but due to its significant impact on life expectancy in Belarus, as well as its unregulated nature, the government has made the alcohol black market a legislative priority.
  9. Many Slavic Countries Have Similar Problems: Russia, Belarus’s closest ally, has higher rates of suicide, substance abuse and premature mortality than its neighbor. It has a similar gender gap in life expectancy and is also experiencing a decline in population. Belarus’ cultural, political and geographic proximity to countries like Russia, which have similar cultures of unhealthiness, strengthen may of its problems.
  10. The Government Has Made Steps: The government of Belarus has taken action recently to improve the country’s health standards. In 2018, the World Health Organization reported that the total alcohol consumption per capita had fallen to just 10 liters. In February 2019, the Belarusian president instituted new regulations on the tobacco industry in order to decrease its use, particularly around children.

These 10 facts about life expectancy in Belarus show that the tradition of substance abuse impacts the country’s life expectancy gravely, which Belarus largely ignored until recent years. Belarus’ robust health care system shows that the government has an interest in public health. Until recent years, state-run and international health organizations alike had difficulty combating the country’s culture of unhealthiness. This has become a clear governmental priority as reflected in the gradual shift toward more restricted access to tobacco and alcohol.

Since 2015, more studies on alcoholism in Belarus have published than ever before, and the issues of premature death and life expectancy have become common pieces of the national dialogue. Although Belarus has not yet definitively solved the problem of premature death and substance abuse, the country is certainly on the right path to reversing its health trends.

Daniel Rothberg
Photo: Flickr

Life Expectancy in Sweden
As one of the more progressive countries in the world, Sweden boasts multiple government agencies and nonprofit organizations actively working toward improving citizens’ health and longevity.  Sweden also possesses an efficient and well-equipped health care system. Thanks to these efforts, the country’s average life expectancy is improving. Below are 10 facts about life expectancy in Sweden, including current initiatives to continue improving the country’s average life expectancy.

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Sweden

  1. The average life expectancy in Sweden is 82.2 years with men living an average of 80.3 years and women living an average of 84.3 years. Sweden has the 16th-highest life expectancy from birth in the world. The average life expectancy in Sweden is about four years more than the United States’ average life expectancy (78.6 years). The average, including every country in the world, is a little over 79 years.
  2. In the past century, the life expectancy of Sweden improved from about 55-58 years to 82-84 years, a significant jump of about 25 years.
  3. Citizens’ longevity is due in part to Sweden’s commitment to environmental cleanliness. The water quality is satisfactory; 96 percent of those included in a poll approved of their country’s drinking water. A lack of pollutants may also contribute to Sweden’s higher-than-average life expectancy.
  4. A sense of community helps many achieve a high quality of life in Sweden. Ninety-one percent of citizens report that they know “someone they could rely on in time of need.” Along with high voter turnout, the country’s civic engagement keeps citizens socially involved, enhancing their health and well-being.
  5. Sweden’s health care system has one of the highest rankings in the world. The country’s universal health care system enables those in poverty to access important services for themselves and their families. Affordability of services is crucial for many citizens and Sweden is only improving in this regard.
  6. Life expectancy is improving thanks to efforts to curb self-harming behaviors and remedy preventable lower respiratory infections. As the country’s health care system improves, the rates of premature death from preventable causes are declining for those in poverty. Premature death from lower respiratory infections has decreased by 49 percent from 1990 to 2010.
  7. The Public Health Agency of Sweden commits to improving the lives of Swedish citizens. A recent study showed the effectiveness of vaccines for children. Since Sweden offers universal health care, children from varying socioeconomic backgrounds receive the medical treatment they need. New studies are being conducted to measure the effectiveness of treating boys for human papilloma virus (HPV), even though the virus normally afflicts girls. These studies help Sweden continue to improve life expectancy for all its citizens.
  8. Seven percent of Swedes live below the EU’s poverty threshold. This is lower than the average of people living below the poverty threshold in other EU countries (10 percent). While the poverty rate has remained relatively unchanged in recent years, efforts to reduce the poverty rate and enhance life expectancy are growing. The Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, or Sida, is a Swedish government agency that functions to eliminate global poverty. In the fight to end poverty domestically and abroad, Sida makes enhancing life expectancy a priority in its humanitarian work. The agency is public under the jurisdiction of the Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs.
  9. In Sweden, government grants and municipal taxes fund the majority of elderly care. The country’s health care system subsidizes its elderly citizens for medical care. In different municipalities throughout the country, elderly patients can request in-home caregivers or relocation to live-in facilities that provide medical services.
  10. Easy access to sanitation has also helped Swedes live longer than the world average. Just over 99 percent of the urban population has access to sanitation, while 99.6 percent of the rural population have such access. No matter where one lives in the country, Sweden offers sanitation to all citizens, improving the overall life expectancy of Sweden.

The Swedish government involves a large body of agencies dedicated to providing the best health care to its citizens. As a result, life expectancy in Sweden is one of the best in the world. Even those living below the poverty line can still access the services they need, and the life expectancy of all Swedish citizens is improving.

– Aric Hluch
Photo: Flickr

Notre-Dame RepairsThe cathedral of Notre-Dame de Paris is a cultural, religious, and architectural icon that has stood at the center of Paris for nearly a millennium. For many, this cathedral is a sacred place of refuge, an escape from the world or a childhood memory. On April 15, a fire nearly destroyed the cathedral, severely damaging the spire and roof of the building. In the aftermath of this tragedy, news headlines focused on the noteworthy flurry of donations from billionaires and small donors pledged to Notre-Dame repairs.

After reaching nearly $1 billion just days after the fire, several articles marveled at how easy it was to raise these funds when investing the same amount of money and public support for other pressing issues seems so difficult. In a few op-ed pieces, authors even expressed the sadness and disappointment of how vigorous the funding was to repair a church whose religion preaches helping the poor and oppressed. This begs the question of what else could $1 billion be used for? Here are five different ways the funds for the Notre-Dame repairs could have been used.

What $1 Billion in Aid Could Do Around the World

    1. International Aid: In 2017, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) spent more than $1 billion on agricultural aid worldwide, which includes investment in capital for agricultural and technological development. USAID spent a similar amount on maternal and child health worldwide to treat cases of illness and provide medical technology to assist in childbirth.
    2. World Hunger: Through local partnerships and government leadership, the Feed the Future Inititiaive spent roughly $3.3 billion in agricultural and rural loans between 2011 and 2017 to mobilize farmers and families in developing countries. The average spending per year for this program amounts to about half of what was donated to the Notre-Dame repairs ($0.5 billion), yet the progress made through this initiative has added an estimated value of nearly $42 billion in economic output.
    3. The Refugee Crisis: The Office of the United Nations Higher Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has requested $783 million to aid the South Sudan crisis where there are an estimated 2.4 million refugees. It raised $783 million in just 24 hours after the Notre-Dame fire. The funds UNHCR has requested for the crises in the countries of Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Afghanistan comes to around $879 million. That money would aid more than a million refugees collectively in the three countries.
    4. Homelessness: In Beijing, China, homelessness is an increasing problem. The Fengtai Shelter, located in Beijing, serves almost 3,000 people annually and receives just $1.2 million each year in aid from the government. With $1 billion, nearly 800 similar homeless shelters could receive $1.2 million in aid.
    5. Climate Change Relief: Alaskan residents have witnessed dramatic changes where whole villages have been sliding into rivers. The United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) said relocating one such village, Newtok, would require anywhere between $80 to $130 million. Given this analysis, $1 billion could be used to relocate roughly ten such villages in Alaska, impacting thousands of people who are being displaced by increasing water levels.

Here are just five different ways that $1 billion could be used towards important problems in the world. These examples go to show the magnitude of what can be done with $1 billion to help the poor and oppressed. Although it is hearting to see so many people rally together to help with the Notre-Dame repairs, it would be an amazing leap to see that kid of dedication put towards humanitarian aid efforts.

Luke Kwong

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Slums in Latin AmericaCurrently, one in seven people worldwide lives in a slum. By some estimates, this number will rise to one in four people by the year 2030. A slum can be defined as housing with no land permits, inadequate access to basic services (water, toilets and electricity), unsafe components (broken windows, dirt floors and leaks) and an overcrowded population. These 10 facts about slums in Latin America explain how people are affected by these poor living conditions.

10 Facts About Slums in Latin America

  1. Rapid Urbanization: South America has historically been dominated by rural living. However, in more recent years, the cities of South America have seen a rapid rate of urbanization. Urban living now supports 82 percent of the population. When people move from the countryside to the city in large numbers, there are often not enough resources to support everyone. As a result, people resort to constructing illegal housing to survive.
  2. Millions Affected: In Latin America, approximately 117 million people survive in poverty. Most of these people survive in slums just outside major metropolitan areas. These cities include Mexico City, São Paulo, Bogota, Rio de Janeiro and Lima.
  3. Neza-Chalco-Itiza: On the cusp of Mexico City rests Neza-Chalco-Itiza, one of the largest slums in South America and the fourth largest in the world. With a population of 1.1 million people, the slum is filled to the brim. People flooded to the city after World War II in hopes of work, but they found poverty instead. Today, the slum has developed a systematic way of living that mimics life inside the major city.
  4. Favelas: Some of the most infamous slums can be found in Brazil. In Portuguese, slums are called favelas. Most favelas in Brazil can be found in the areas surrounding Rio de Janeiro. More than 11 million people live in this type of housing.
  5. Entrepreneurship: While slums can be a source of hardship and poverty, they can also be the birthplace for many entrepreneurs. With so many people struggling to survive, some take it upon themselves to create businesses out of the little resources that they have. For example, Bistrô Estação R&R is a bar inside a garage in Rio de Janeiro. These small businesses bring people together in their communities and can help boost the economy.
  6. Widespread disease: Slums are often a breeding ground for disease. With a lack of proper sanitation and people living in such close proximity, illness develops fast and spreads even quicker. Tuberculosis is just one example of a disease that has spread in slums. In Peru, 60 percent of tuberculosis cases in 2011 were reported from the slums surrounding Lima. Luckily, organizations such as the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) have hosted several government interventions to advocate for development plans.
  7. Drugs, gangs and violence: With a lack of central authority, slums are more susceptible to drugs, gangs and violence. Many of the world’s most infamous drug lords originate from these areas and threaten the local community. While police intervention sometimes occurs, often these communities are ignored. In 2015, 47 of the 50 most murderous cities were found in Latin America.
  8. Upgrading housing: With the aim of improving housing for communities living in slums, several nonprofits, such as TECHO, have advocated for the improvement of infrastructure. TECHO’s policy is that slums of 10 or more families who lack one or more necessities, such as water or sewage, qualify for aid. In several of TECHOs projects, houses have been reconstructed using pinewood and tin. Families who received this assistance have stated that their quality of life has effectively improved after the refurbishments.
  9. Pride: While slums can be riddled with poverty and crime, they are also filled with pride. In a 2013 study, 85 percent of favela residents said that they like where they are from. This could largely be attributed to the communities formed within these tight housing situations and the entrepreneurship that binds people together.
  10. Slum tourism: Slum tourism is when travelers visit impoverished populations in order to see the areas. The practice began in the 1800s when wealthy Londoners would pay to see a lifestyle that was so drastically different from their own. Slum tourism can have negative effects on a community for multiple reasons. For one, it promotes the wealth gap by separating the wealthy from the poor. In addition, poverty tourism does not necessarily benefit local areas. If tourists pay larger organizations to conduct the visit rather than community members, the money will not reach the slums. On the other hand, poverty tourism that challenges negative stereotypes and is led by slum residents can aid in the growth of the local economy.

By looking at these 10 facts about slums in Latin America, it easy to see how these living conditions can damage a person’s health and wellbeing as well as how the residents of these slums are struggling to survive. However, by upgrading communities and being conscious tourists, these areas can be uplifted and improved, helping the one-seventh of the world that lives in slums.

-Anna Melnik
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Child Labor in Niger
Niger, a country in Western Africa, is one of the most impoverished nations in the entire world. While its economy is growing, many children enter harsh jobs to provide for their families. Here are 10 facts about child labor in Niger.

10 Facts About Child Labor in Niger

  1. Niger has the highest fertility rate in the world. On average, a woman from Niger will have around seven children. The high fertility rate has led to consistent population growth and large family sizes. It is quite common for large families in Niger to hire underage girls as housemaids where they receive poor treatment and make as little as $6 a month. According to UNICEF, “three out of five girls are working in an environment considered as prejudicial to their health and development.” The high fertility rate has led to consistent population growth and large family sizes which makes it difficult for families to sustain themselves solely off their own farming.
  2. The main form of agriculture in Niger is subsistence farming, however, only 11 percent of the land is arable. Even the arable land is extremely dependent on rainfall, with droughts leading to widespread food shortages. When food becomes scarce, Nigerien children, like 12-year-old Oumar Soumana, must drop out of school and look for work to support their families: “It is a painful job for me… I spend the whole day walking. I do not really rest because I have to sell and bring the money back.”
  3. Roughly 48 percent of Niger’s population is 14 or younger. Niger’s population is increasing so fast, its median age is an alarming 15 years old. Food production is not matching the increasing population of Niger. Lack of consistent rainfall makes it very difficult for rural families to avoid malnourishment. When it does rain, families use their children for labor to try and maximize their food production. This is back-breaking work includes hand planting seeds in rough soil during extreme heat.
  4. According to a report by UNESCO, 42.9 percent of Nigerien children between five and 14 are working instead of going to school. This, coupled with only 70 percent of children in Niger completing elementary school, greatly limits their educational opportunities. Article 23 of Niger’s constitution provides free public education, but experts claim that instituting compulsory education would help keep even more children in schools.
  5. The insurgent Islamist group Boko Haram has contributed to Niger’s child labor crisis with its kidnapping of Nigerien children. Boko Haram uses children mainly for menial labor like cooking and cleaning, but in the past, they have used children for suicide bombings. While Boko Haram agreed to stop using children in 2017, there are still thousands of children missing. Additionally, children who formerly worked as child soldiers receive discrimination at an alarming rate.
  6. Many of the children who do not attend school and enter the workforce experience harsh working environments. “Uneducated, these children grow up in very miserable conditions: long working hours, low wages, no food. Furthermore, they run the risk of becoming victims of prostitution, discrimination, abuse, etc.” Additionally, children whose parents did not register them at birth and “lack the appropriate official papers, are not recognized as members of society and cannot exercise their rights.” These children are severely unprotected from life-threatening situations because their rural families were not aware of Niger’s birth registration law.
  7. Part of the reason why child labor in Niger is so prevalent is that the government either lacks regulation prohibiting these practices or it fails to adequately enforce its laws. In 2017, Niger took a significant step forward in combatting its child labor crisis by increasing the minimum age for hazardous work to 18 and increasing the number of jobs under the hazardous label. People under 18 can no longer work at jobs like quarrying, mining, welding and construction.
  8. While article 14 in Niger’s constitution outlaws forced labor, ethnic minorities like the Touaregs have a history of enslavement. Certain Nigerien traditions effectively endorse child slave labor. Whether it be the purchasing of young girls to serve as fifth wives or Wahaya, or koranic teachers forcing their pupils to beg on the streets and surrender their earnings, slavery is still prevalent in Niger.
  9. Niger is not ignoring the unfortunate truth that slavery still exists. With the help of the group Anti-Slavery International, Niger has successfully prosecuted men engaging in the fifth wife practice. This group also joined forces with a local Nigerien organization called Timidria and opened six elementary schools for descendants of slaves.
  10. These 10 facts about child labor in Niger illuminate the issue of child labor that the country must solve. Social programs funded by the Nigerien Government and other nongovernmental organizations like UNICEF are attempting to combat the crisis. In 2017, both of these groups ran 34 centers tasked with providing “food, shelter, education, and vocational training to street children, many of whom are victims of child labor.”

While most of these 10 facts about child labor Niger are disheartening, there is evidence that the situation is improving. For instance, a 45-year-old Nigerien woman named Tatinatt was a slave for the majority of her life, but today she is free and her youngest children are the first ones in her family who are attending school instead of entering the workforce. Hopefully, exposure to this crisis will galvanize more groups into focusing their resources on ending child labor in Niger.

Myles McBride Roach
Photo: Flickr

U.S. Aid to Afghanistan
For the past 18 years, U.S. involvement has been a constant in Afghanistan. Much of that involvement takes the form of financial aid. The economic and development aid offered to Afghanistan by the U.S. since 2001 has had a positive impact, but an emphasis on military aid diminishes that impact greatly. This article provides 10 facts about U.S. aid to Afghanistan.

10 Facts About U.S. Aid to Afghanistan

  1. As of 2016, U.S. aid to Afghanistan amounted to $5.1 billion per year. Of that aid, $3.7 billion went towards security. Afghanistan also received more economic help from the U.S. than any country outside Africa.
  2. Total annual U.S. spending on Afghanistan amounted to about $45 billion as of 2018. Most of that spending was funding to military forces and security objectives. The U.S. spent only $800 million on economic development.
  3. Afghanistan’s GDP has increased from $4.055 billion in 2002 to $19.444 billion in 2017. Primary school enrollment increased from about 22 percent in 2001 to 98 percent in 2004 after only three years of U.S. aid and has not gone below 90 percent since then. In 2002, the average life expectancy in Afghanistan was about 56. It has increased steadily since then and reached about 64 by 2017.
  4. USAID involvement in Afghanistan began in 2002. Humanitarian aid from USAID has had long-term impacts on conditions in the country. USAID faces more challenges with regard to development projects because of ongoing violence. USAID cooperated with the U.N. to transport emergency food supplies to Afghanistan by air.
  5. In 2018, USAID spent over $145 million on initiatives in Afghanistan. The three primary initiatives of 2018 focused on responding to natural disasters and providing food-related aid.
  6. In 2018, U.S. aid to Afghanistan targeted agriculture more directly. USAID repaired 177 kilometers of irrigation systems, positively affecting about 30,000 hectares of land. USAID also distributed vouchers allowing Afghan farmers to purchase more farming equipment and formed the Agriculture Development Fund, which provides credit and assistance for farmers and their families.
  7. USAID also works to improve Afghan infrastructure. USAID increased access to electricity in Afghanistan by 73 percent from 2010 to 2016. Currently, USAID is supporting a project to expand access to electricity to the entirety of southern Afghanistan. The construction of hundreds of schools and hospitals occurred in Afghanistan with U.S. support. In the past decade, over two million Afghans gained access to clean water thanks to USAID cooperation with the Afghan government.
  8. Despite the amount of U.S. aid sent to Afghanistan, poverty persists. The poorest Afghans continue to struggle with illiteracy and unemployment. High amounts of military aid have not affected the high rates of poverty that exist in Afghanistan.
  9. As of 2018, the U.S. was spending more on Afghanistan than ever. But the U.S. only used $780 million of the $45 billion for economic and development purposes. Most of the $45 billion was used for military and security purposes.
  10. Since 2012, the majority of U.S. aid to Afghanistan has been military aid. In 2012 alone, $9.95 billion of the total $12.9 billion in U.S. aid to Afghanistan was military aid. This decision led to criticism from the Human Rights Watch.

Military aid cannot solve poverty in Afghanistan alone. U.S. development and economic aid are vital to Afghanistan at this time. To protect this type of U.S. aid to Afghanistan, U.S. voters can email their representatives in Congress.

– Emelie Fippin
Photo: Flickr