Key articles and information on global poverty.

Education in Timor-Leste
Timor-Leste is a Southeastern Asian country occupying the east side of the island, Timor. The small country is home to a little more than 1 million people. Unfortunately, the literacy rate is only 67.5 percent. Improving the quality of education has been a struggle, but there has been significant progress in the past 18 years. Here are eight facts about education in Timor-Leste.

 8 Facts About Education in Timor-Leste

    1. By 2001, a year before gaining its independence, 90 percent of schools had been destroyed due to the violence and destruction that ensued from Indonesia’s rule over the country. These destroyed schools had once employed 6,000 teachers and educated 240,000 children. After Timor-Leste gained its independence, the country had to completely rebuild these institutions from the ground up.

    2. Because of the focus on rebuilding education, Timor-Leste was able to make quick progress. Between 2002 and 2014, enrollments went from 240,000 students enrolled to 364,000. The number of teachers doubled during this time, going from 6,000 to 12,000. Primary education enrollment increased from 68 percent in 2005 to 85 percent in 2008.

    3. Despite the increase in school enrollment, many young and adult Timorese lack the basic education needed to fully participate in society and contribute to the economy. Unfortunately, 27 percent of the adult population is semi-literate and 37 percent is completely illiterate.

    4. In 2010, the World Bank set up its Second Chance Education project to boost the number of out-of-school youth and adults who have access to an equivalency program to receive the education they missed. The Second Chance Education project ran from December 2010 to December 2015, supporting the Ministry of Education in Timor-Leste. Its major goals included training staff members, developing school curriculums and improving existing adult literacy programs. The same year, the government aimed to accelerate the completion of basic education for uneducated students due to lack of availability, while trying to build the education system back up. Government expenditure on education had increased from 13 percent in 2004 to 25 percent in 2010.

    5. The quality of education has room for improvement. About 70 percent of students in grade one could not read a single written word in Portuguese and the native Tetum language, the two most commonly spoken languages in the country. This, however, decreased to 40 percent by the end of grade two. Still, by the end of their second year of schooling, 40 percent of kids are still illiterate.

    6. Many teachers have only completed secondary school themselves. But with UNICEF supporting the Ministry of Education, teachers are trained in order to improve the quality of education. Teachers who have already gone through training have noticed that with their new direction toward teaching, students are more engaged and more conversation between instructor and student.

    7. There is a large gap between access to education between rural and urban areas. For urban residents, the enrollment rate for pre-secondary and secondary levels is 100 percent, while in rural areas, it is only 60 percent. Likewise, the literacy rate for youth ages 15-24 in urban sections of the country is 94.3 percent, but 78.5 in rural locations. The Education Management Information System works toward future teacher redistribution. This will place more teachers in rural areas in hopes of increasing the quality of education and bridging the gap between rural and urban.

    8. CARE’s Lafaek Education project provided “Lafaek Prima,” educational magazines written in Tetum, for 85,276 students in grades three and four. This builds off of what these students already learned in grades one and two; the content prepared in collaboration with teachers, educational staff and the government, ensures that the magazine is suitable for their students.

Despite working from the ground up, education in Timor-Leste has greatly improved since it gained its independence in 2002. The government has stepped in, as well as other organizations, to prioritize educational needs across the country. In the long term, this will assist the Timorese in climbing out of poverty.

Jordan Miller
Photo: Flickr

The Link Between Poverty and Tourette’s SyndromeGlobally, one in every 100 people lives with Tourette’s Syndrome. This is a neurological disability categorized by having one or more vocal tics or repetitive sounds an individual makes and cannot control. Some tics can be as simple as blinking and grunting while some individuals live with more complex tics. In order to be diagnosed with Tourette’s Syndrome (TS), the individual must start displaying their tics before they turn 18. People who have Tourette’s Syndrome cannot help the movements or noises that they make, and they can become even worse when under stress. Poverty and Tourette’s Syndrome make life much more difficult because higher stress levels have more of an impact on individuals with TS.

Poverty and Tourette’s Syndrome

A recent study showed that individuals with TS experience more psychological stress than individuals without. Poverty, which is already a stressful factor, has a more negative effect on individuals with the disorder. This study showed high amounts of psychological stress eventually lead to severe depression as well as an increase in tics and their severity. This is often seen in individuals facing both poverty and Tourette’s Syndrome. Limited access to medical care and the stress caused by their financial situation are ultimately making their condition worse.

Individuals with Tourette’s Syndrome struggle with finding jobs. According to the United Nations’ Department of Economic and Social Affairs Disability, 80 to 90 percent of the disabled population in developing nation’s is unemployed. In Asian and Pacific countries, there are 370 million disabled individuals. Statistically speaking around three million of those people will have Tourette’s Syndrome. Being unable to find work only exacerbates the situation and continues the cycle of poverty and stress.

Access to Medical Care

Many impoverished areas lack access to proper medical care. Many developing countries have very limited access to hospitals and doctors’ offices. Much of the resources offered by nonprofits and NGOs are equipped to help with HIV/AIDS support and common illnesses. They do not have the equipment needed to support and treat individuals with Tourette’s Syndrome.

Furthermore, people below the poverty line cannot afford medication. Impoverished people make up nearly 70 percent of the uninsured population. So, when they need medications for disorders such as Tourette Syndrome, they have to pay out of pocket. For many families facing poverty and Tourette’s Syndrome the medicine is out of their price range and not a top priority. The most common medication used to treat TS is risperidone. Without insurance, the retail price can be anywhere from $20 to almost $90 for 30 tablets depending on the dose, making it a monthly expense that some people cannot afford.

For some people, medicine does not help control their tics. Instead, they benefit from a therapy treatment called CBIT. Short for Comprehensive Behavioral Intervention for Tics, CBIT is a type of behavioral treatment that helps individuals develop actions known as competing responses to help either slow or reduce their tics and severity. More severe cases of TS might need deep brain stimulation. This is a surgical procedure where an electrode is implanted in the brain and sends shocks to alter the activity of the brain’s circuits, essentially restarting them and decreasing the tics. As of 2019, however, these treatments are only offered in the United States.

Organizations Helping with Tourette’s Syndrome

One organization assisting with TS globally is the Tourette’s Association of America. The website has access to research, resources, support, advocacy and webinars. Another organization is Tourette’s Around the World. It is a U.K. based website that provides links to all of the global websites that help and support individuals with TS. On the website, there are links to websites from more than 20 countries that provide information on support and treatment in those areas. However, there are no websites specifically addressing poverty and Tourette’s Syndrome.

Contrary to what is shown in the media, Tourette’s Syndrome is not an uncommon disorder. With exceptions to extreme cases, it does not inhibit a person’s ability to work. Because of this negative media portrayal many people with TS struggle to find work. This contributes to global poverty and leaves individuals without access to basic necessities or proper medical treatments and medicines. Although there are organizations working towards ending the negative stigma, negative media portrayals are still inhibiting individuals and leaving them excluded from the workforce, creating a link between poverty and Tourette’s Syndrome.

Destinee Smethers
Photo: Flickr

Solutions to Desertification
Desertification is the “degradation of land in arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid areas,” according to the United NationsWorldwide, people are seeing the encroaching effects of desertification increasing due to factors such as climate change, overgrazing of pastoral lands, deforestation, over drafting groundwater and over-farming land. When clearing trees and using groundwater, soil begins to lose root systems and hydration, causing it to simply blow away.

According to the United Nations Education, Science and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), one-third of the world’s land surface is susceptible to desertification. The issue is even more dire for areas already suffering from water scarcity, for when they lose their resources, there is often little rain or irrigation available to allow for the regeneration of forests and green lands. This then leads to subsequent food scarcity. However, many global initiatives exist to come up with solutions to desertification and its impact.

Technology

Satellite data has become an integral tool to map the spread and suppression of desertification globally. For 10 years, the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) has worked with the European Space Agency (ESA). Its partnership involves efforts to monitor global desertification.

Satellites allow scientists a bird’s eye view to be able to strategize better and cut off desertification as it spreads. They can map the levels of moisture in the soil, allowing scientists the foresight into areas that may become more susceptible to desertification. Satellites are also offering scientists the ability to maximize their rehabilitation efforts. In doing so, they can gauge the number of trees an area can withstand. Planting too many trees in an area involves wasting time and resources, considering the trees will not survive.

Rehabilitation Efforts

Rehabilitation is critical in reducing desertification. In Africa, a plan that the African Union instituted will create a wall of trees stretching from Senegal to Djibouti. The Great Green Wall will reduce the spread of desertification across the African plains and create an ecosystem for animals to be able to return. With purposeful and considerate planning, the green wall should allow for the cohabitation of humanity and nature. The wall also offers industry. By planting fruit-bearing trees, local people will be able to see the trees as a profit rather than a hindrance.

As of 2019, these efforts have only resulted in the planting of 15 percent of the planned 8,000 km of trees due to monetary issues. In addition, the process of planting and caring for trees is very slow. In 2002, China began enforcing the Law of Prevention and Control of Desertification. This involved the world’s first integrated wall for the prevention and resolution of desertification. The law itself is rather vague, merely stating that “units or individuals that use desertified land have the obligation to rehabilitate the land.” However, that is intentional as it allows provinces affected to implement solutions to desertification that work for them, rather than trying to make the same program fit for a vast range of peoples and landscapes.

Education

In 1994, the United Nations instituted The World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought, held annually on June 17. Observing the day acts as a way to promote education on the impacts of desertification globally. It also serves as a reminder that land degradation neutrality is achievable through problem-solving, community action and consistent cooperation at all levels.

Desertification has become a growing global concern, but affected countries are keenly and routinely taking action to develop solutions to desertification. Through preventative initiatives, pushes towards clean energy and climate change reducing measures, the hope is that someday land can restore so that desertification will be a problem of the past. However, it will need a global effort invoking the power of nations and people to care for the planet.

Emma Hodge
Photo: Flickr
eradicate global povertyThere has been so much progress to overcome global poverty since 1990. About 10 percent of people around the world live on $1.90 a day, but The United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals aim to completely eradicate global poverty by 2030. Here are 10 ways people can help speed up the process to eradicate global poverty.

10 Ways to Help a Developing Nation Out of Poverty

  1. Fundraising: Fundraising is very important in the way that nonprofits, such as NGOs and other organizations, raise money to fund projects, operations, salaries and overhead costs. The money these associations raise will help them make people’s poverty-reduction efforts a reality.
  2. Donating: Donations are voluntary gifts or contributions towards a specific issue or cause. Donations “comprise of a large chunk of NGO funding,” which also helps organizations fund projects to help eradicate global poverty. While a majority of nonprofit organizations depend on donations for their projects, a large amount of its funding is because of the wealthy individuals that donate massive amounts of money as well.
  3. Calling Congress: Calling congress is one of the most effective ways to contribute to the eradication of world poverty because of the way that it can get congressional leaders to notice specific issues or bills. Political offices keep tally marks on every call they receive, so making multiple phone calls during the week will increase the chances of change, such as encouraging congress to protect the International Affairs Budget.
  4. Mission Trips: Going on mission trips allows a person to personally and intimately help others living in poverty. These interactions can lead to a change of perspective and life after seeing and experiencing poverty first hand.
  5. Advocating: Advocating for a developing nation ensures that the most vulnerable people in society have their voices heard on important issues. It also defends and safeguards their rights so that others take their views and wishes into consideration when making decisions about their lives.
  6. Lobbying: Lobbying is important because it is the reason why the U.S. has a productive government. Lobbying bills or solutions to certain issues can help resolve them in developing nations, which positively influences the eradication process of global poverty.
  7. Volunteering: Building a house, a fence, even handing out canned food are amazing ways to start helping those in poverty. Volunteering for nonprofit organizations, foundations and missions involve small acts of kindness that make the biggest differences in people’s lives.
  8. Microlending: Microlending is when a development organization provides a small loan to start or expand businesses that can act as a push to a virtuous economic cycle. Not only does microlending improve the living conditions of developing nations, but it also encourages citizens that they are capable of starting a business of their own.
  9. Saving services: Since people in developing nations receive low wages and irregular incomes, saving facilities deliver tools to help manage cash flow and risks. This minimizes citizens’ vulnerability. Saving services can be there to help whenever there is a necessity of money accumulation regarding events that a person either expects or does not expect.
  10. NGOs: Non-governmental organizations are great associations that help with the eradication of poverty. They work to fundraise, advocate, lobby and volunteer in efforts of poverty-reduction. If a person joins an NGO, it is the best way to help a developing nation out of poverty.

There is always a way to help a developing nation out of poverty. Following any of these 10 steps will ensure the future of millions who are seeking a way out and eradicate global poverty.

– Isabella Gonzalez Montilla
Photo: Flickr

Health Care in Bangladesh
Bangladesh is a country in South Asia that borders Myanmar, India, Nepal and Bhutan. In 2019, the country’s estimated population was about 163 million people. Additionally, the country’s economy has shown an increase in exports and remittances in 2019. According to the World Bank, the country’s extreme poverty rate has reduced by half but people still consider it a developing nation. The country’s under-five mortality rate has declined in recent years as well as its maternal mortality rate. There has been an increase in malnourished children and lung diseases, however. There has also been an increase in health and safety in workplaces. Organizations both in the country and worldwide are helping to increase health care in Bangladesh.

5 Organizations Improving Health Care in Bangladesh

  1. World Health Organization (WHO): Based in Switzerland, WHO is a United Nations agency that focuses on international public health. In Bangladesh, the company provides medical aid such as vaccinations, medical research and alerts on medical outbreaks and emergencies. It also helps develop health policies, as well as monitor illness and disease trends in an attempt to prevent outbreaks. By offering these resources, the World Health Organization is improving Bangladesh’s health faster than before, which the organization’s research shows. The organization’s research shows that in 2018, 94 percent of new or relapse Tuberculosis cases received treatment, compared to around 60 percent in 2008. By introducing advanced medical techniques to the country, vaccinations and monitoring, WHO has been able to decrease the number of individuals who die from the illness.

  2. Bangladesh Department of Inspection for Factories and Establishments (DIFE): Bangladesh’s Ministry of Labor and Employment runs this organization and is responsible for the safety of factories, workplaces and their employees. Its job is to ensure the welfare, safety and health of all workers in Bangladesh. It ensures this by enforcing the country’s labor laws, as well as constantly updating policies to ensure employee safety. The organization has three departments including the Labor Department, the Department of Inspection for Factories and Establishments and the Department of Trade Union Registration. By breaking the organization into smaller departments, workplace health and safety has improved, as well as the number of businesses in the country. This increases jobs as well as job security because there is less fear of injury or illness from the workplace.

  1. Public Health Foundation of Bangladesh: The World Health Organization has established the Public Health Foundation of Bangladesh, which is a volunteer-based organization. HR experts, researchers, scientists, clinicians, nurses, sociologists and other health science experts lead this group. The goal of the group is to conduct research and provide education that will develop the Bangladesh health in both society and health care systems. The organization aims to improve health care access to Bangladesh citizens by making health care more affordable and easily accessible for individuals below the poverty line.

  1. World Lung Foundation: Established in 2004, the World Lung Foundation aims to increase global response to lung disease, an illness that kills around 10 million individuals annually. In 2017, lung disease made up 8.69 percent of the country’s deaths, which equals up to 68,462 people. The organization is decreasing the number by providing programs in Bangladesh, as well as emphasizing tobacco control, the negative effects of air pollution and how lung disease leads to illnesses such as Tuberculosis and acute respiratory infections. By educating Bangladesh citizens, Tuberculosis, maternal and infant mortality rates have dropped.

  1. USAID: A U.S. based agency, USAID has set up programs to help improve health and nutrition in Bangladesh. Because of this, the organization has helped decrease the under-five mortality rates, as well as maternal mortality rates. USAID has also expanded the use of family planning, improved and integrated health systems into Bangladesh, as well as strengthen the health care system and government. This leads to overall better access to health care, healthcare policies and better health practices.

Bangladesh’s extreme poverty rate has reduced by half, but the country’s population has been rising. With an undesirable health care system, organizations such as WHO and USAID have helped the country’s overall health improve, and has also decreased mortality rates. The DIFE and Public Health Foundation of Bangladesh have ensured the safety and health of individuals in the workplace and in society. Also, organizations such as The World Lung Foundation bring awareness to some of the leading mortality rates.

– Destinee Smethers
Photo: Flickr

violence in el salvador
The Republic of El Salvador is a country in Central America situated between Honduras and Guatemala. It is the smallest and most densely populated coastal country in Central America, with 6.4 million people residing within approximately 8,000 square miles. Here are eight facts about violence in El Salvador.

8 Facts About Violence in El Salvador

  1. From the late 19th century to the mid-20th century, chronic political and economic instability plagued the country. The coalition of socioeconomic inequality and societal unrest culminated in a brutal 12-year civil war. The right-wing military-led government sought to quell the left-wing guerrilla fighters, who had been instigated by a rigged election that saw General Carlos Romero, an anti-communist, take power in 1977. Protests burst throughout El Salvador to express the people’s anger with Romero’s election, and in response, the military slew thousands.
  2. With growing tensions between the government and its people in 1980, civil war broke out when a left-wing military coup deposed Romero. The Revolutionary Government Junta of El Salvador took power and quickly formed a military dictatorship. The Junta began killing peaceful demonstrators, assassinating socialist leaders and even killed archbishop Oscar Romero. The Junta then found allyship in the U.S., which was eager to suppress the possible spread of communism. Nearly $1 billion funneled into the Revolutionary Government Juta, by then-president Ronald Regan.
  3. Throughout the civil war, thousands fled the violence in El Salvador. Many displaced people found their way to Los Angeles, California. In LA, some of the children of the Salvadorian immigrants encountered gangs; this began the development of one of the most violent gangs to populate LA: MS-13. However, in the 1990s, the U.S. began to mass deport criminals from the country, sending LA’s MS-13 problem back to El Salvador. Gang members arrived in a country still wounded from civil war and unstable to its very core. Weak governance and poverty allowed MS-13 to infiltrate, gain power and flourish. As of 2017, an estimated 60,000 active gang members populate El Salvador, outnumbering the 52,000 police and military officers. The gang also found many sympathizers in El Salvador who rely on income from the gang’s activity.
  4. In 2018, the homicide rate in El Salvador was 50.3 per 100,000 people. However, these numbers are dropping and have been for the past three years with 60.8 per 100,000 in 2017 compared to 103 per 100,000 in 2015. This drop is important and shows progression within the country, although it did not move the country away from its ranking as the second deadliest country in the world not engaged in war.
  5. From 2012 to 2013, the murder rate in El Salvador cut in half after MS-13 and the Barrio 18 gangs entered a temporary cease-fire. In 2012, homicides in El Salvador occurred up to 14 times a day. In an attempt at peace, the Catholic Church and the Salvadorian government stepped in to arrange a truce between the two rival gangs. The truce lasted only around a year before the country plunged back into a gang war. However, in April of 2016, another attempt for a truce occurred between the gangs and government, but the government instead decided to intensify its anti-gang efforts and crack down on gang activity within prisons.
  6. Imprisonment of gang members only bolstered the problem of gang violence in El Salvador. By containing gang members within four walls with nothing but time on their hands, El Salvador breathed a new level of organization into gangs. Gangs use prisons not only as a place to plan and to make connections but also to recruit. To protect themselves from violence, new inmates often align themselves with gangs who, in return, ask them to steal, cheat and kill to earn their protection. Then once on the outside, the cycle only continues as honest work is hard to come by for convicts, so they turn back to the gangs.
  7. In the 1990s, the U.S. poured billions of dollars into the Colombian government to fight the country’s drug cartels in an attempt to stop the flow of Colombian cocaine into the U.S. However, the problem merely shifted to Mexico, who reacted with a forceful crackdown on the drug trade within the country. The cartel then moved again, finding a home in El Salvador and other Central American countries. With the gangs’ control, the country quickly fell into the grasp of the Colombian cartels, who recruited gangs to act as drug runners.
  8. Fighting violence by fighting corruption seems to have become the effort of the new Salvadorian government, run by President Nayib Bukele. Bukele is working to solve El Salvador’s gang and crime issues from the inside out. Previous administrations attempted to corral violence through militaristic force. Bukele, however, is focusing on addressing institutional problems that fostered a society that creates and accepts gang members and gang violence. In 2019, he launched mass arrests of gang members, business people, lawyers and police officers who were known to be corrupted or to have committed violent acts. There are also plans to strengthen border security in El Salvador to quell the importing and exporting of drugs.

Violence in El Salvador grew from the culmination of political unrest, poverty and socioeconomic inequality. Shook to its very core by the brutal civil war of the 1980s and 1990s, El Salvador found little time to recover. However, through the work of President Nayib Bukele and organizations like the Integrated Community Development Program run by the Anglican Episcopal Diocese of El Salvador, the country has a chance of getting its self back on track. The Integrated Community Development Program works to bring food security, community-centered economic stability and disaster risk reduction to the Salvadorian people so that they will not have to turn back to the gangs and cartels. The hope is that this will create a country where people can develop and stand on their own and foster a level of stability that El Salvador has lacked for decades.

Emma Hodge

Photo: U.S. Department of Defense

Solutions to Pollution
The solution to pollution is not an easy fix and many industrializing countries in the Global South are facing the challenge of mitigating pollution while continuing to sustain economic growth. Because of this, environmental degradation and pollution are common in developing countries, both of which have adverse effects on health and the economy. Environmental degradation is near-inevitable for developing countries, due to industrialization, agricultural herbicides and groundwater dumping. This leaves developing countries with the challenge of finding solutions to all of this pollution. Finding solutions to pollution has brought sustainable industry and trade to developing countries. Here are 5 examples of innovative ideas that are creating jobs and reducing pollution in industrializing countries.

Five Solutions to Pollution and Poverty

  1. Ghana’s Climate Innovation Centre: Ghana’s Climate Innovation Centre (GCIC) holds an annual competition that rewards entrepreneurs who develop products that counteract pollution. Since its launch in 2015, GCIC has supported 53 businesses, had 12 partnerships with entrepreneurs, awarded $772,435 in grants and created 117 jobs. The products sponsored by the GCIC are available to 170,000 households. The 2019 recipient of the Launchpad Competition was Sabon Sake, whose team invented soil supplements that will counter mineral erosion from pollution and increase the fertility of the soil.
  2. Alternative Energy Sources in India: Indoor and outdoor air pollution are the largest environmental health risk in the world. In India alone, indoor and outdoor air pollution was responsible for the death of 1.24 million individuals. The World Health Organization is proposing solutions to minimize health problems caused by air pollution. These changes are not large scale economic changes, but rather small changes — the WHO proposed a switch to non-coal stoves, a reduction in diesel transportation and a limitation on the burning of biofuels. Professor Ramanathan stated that such changes have empirically created jobs and increased the number of individuals eligible to work, thus bolstering the economy.
  3. International Trade and Access to Global Markets: When developing countries prioritize environmental protection, developed nations often increase trade in order to encourage sustainable economic growth. The green industry in developing countries not only provides a solution to pollution by decreasing non-renewable energy but also by increasing efficiency. The adoption of greener markets in developing countries created 3.5 million new jobs, increased access for developing countries to global markets and decreased annual energy costs.
  4. Clean Water Drives Growth: Water pollution due to chemical dumping, feces and trash is responsible for the death of 3.2 million children in developing countries annually. Clean water is an investment that affects not only mortality rates but also the economy. UNESCO estimates that investment in cleaning and sanitizing water in Africa — even on a small scale — would increase the GDP of Africa by 5 percent. A 5 percent increase in GDP would create jobs, trading opportunities and create new markets. Additionally, the investment in clean water would increase the number of jobs by opening water treatment facilities.
  5. Solar Market in Tunisia: In 2018, Tunisia began to transition to solar energy through its Plan Solaire Tunisien (PST), which is funded by the National Agency for Energy Management through various global investors, including the German Investment Bank. This project, which has decreased the need for dirty forms of energy, will contribute 10,000 jobs to the Tunisian economy. There has been resistance to the development of solar alternative powers, however, increasing the time-frame of power outage occurrences.

Although the perfect balance between economic development and environmental protection is difficult to achieve, industrializing countries are successfully transitioning their economies to accommodate environmentally friendly business practices. This has increased job availability, prevented deaths and directly benefited the poor in the Global South. Private markets, Foreign Direct Investment and government initiatives have all alleviated pollution in developing countries and successfully created jobs. These solutions to pollution have the ability to drive the Global South to a cleaner and more economically viable model for industrialization while reducing poverty.

– Denise Sprimont
Photo: USAID

mental illness and poverty in India
There is a web of denial that people weave around the issue of mental health in India. Most families and communities refuse to see mental health as a serious concern. Adding on to the stigma, there is also a lack of physicians available to treat mental illnesses and those affected often go unchecked. While mental health can affect individuals of all income levels, there is a significant link between mental health and poverty in India.

The Relationship Between Mental Health and Poverty

Specifically, there is a cyclical link between mental health and poverty in India. A case-control study conducted in Delhi from November 2011 to June 2012 found that the intensity of multidimensional poverty increases for persons with severe mental illnesses (PSMI) compared to the rest of the population.

As people receive diagnoses of mental illness, their work performance and social status decrease. Without much treatment available, these individuals continue to suffer in silence, slowly falling back from their jobs, families and friends. These individuals lose employment, which means they have a lack of income, ending up without a support system and resulting in poverty. In particular, women with severe mental illness (SMI) or those who are a part of the lower castes (Untouchables or Shudras) suffering from SMI are more likely to face multidimensional poverty. Because society often looks down on women and individuals of the lower caste system, they are the least likely to receive treatment or assistance when they receive a diagnosis of mental illnesses.

On the other side of this relationship, poverty, which many describe as a lack of employment and income, aggravates mental illness. When individuals do not have the necessities for survival, mental disorders such as depression or anxiety can develop and intensify. Without treatment, these disorders build up, eventually leading medical professionals to diagnose individuals with SMIs. Out of those in poverty, women, individuals of the lower castes and individuals with SMIs suffer the most, as they have the hardest time finding work or receiving external help.

In short, untreated mental illnesses can lead to or further exacerbate poverty, but unchecked poverty can cause mental illnesses as well, creating this link between mental health and poverty.

In an attempt to fix the cyclical link between mental health and poverty in India, the government, doctors and businesses have taken action which aims to increase treatment and guarantee more rights to persons with mental illnesses.

Past Actions by the Government

In 2016, the Parliament in India passed the Mental Health Care Bill. This law replaced the older Act which stigmatized mental health and prevented people from receiving treatment. The new legislation provides state health care facilities, claiming that anyone with mental illness in India has a right to good quality, affordable health care. Individuals with mental health now have a guarantee of informed consent, the power to make decisions, the right to live in a community and the right to confidentiality.

The hope is that the act will help people from all levels of income because if an individual cannot afford care, the government must provide treatment. Even in rural or urban areas, mental health care is a requirement and the government is working to build access to such facilities. Anyone who violates or infringes on the rights of those with mental illnesses is punishable by law.  The government is hoping that by taking legal action for individuals with mental illnesses, society will slowly stigmatize the issue less, increasing overall acceptance.

Individuals and Organizations Taking On Mental Health

As the issue of mental health persists, doctors in India have attempted to integrate their services of mental health within the primary health care system. Since 1999, trained medical officers have an obligation to diagnose and treat mental disorders during their general primary care routines. Furthermore, district-level mental health teams have increased outreach clinical services. The results have shown that if people receive treatment in primary health care facilities, the number of successful health outcomes increases. In the future, doctors are looking to expand services into more rural areas, hoping to offer more affordable care to those in severe poverty because there is such a significant link between mental health and poverty.

Alongside medical professionals, businesses are using the shortage of mental health care treatments in India to expand their consumer outreach; these companies rely on technology to bring together a global community of psychologists, life coaches and psychiatrists to help individuals through their journey. Using AI, companies like Wysa can use empathetic and anonymous conversations to understand the roots of people’s problems. Companies, such as Trustcircle, rely on clinically validated tests to allow individuals to determine their depression, anxiety or stress levels, enabling them to understand when to seek help. These companies are all providing free or drastically low-costing help, giving people feasible access to the treatment they need. The hope is that with quicker and cheaper access to treatment, people can address mental health on a wider scale.

Further Action Necessary

Despite the increasing support for mental health, there is a great deal of change that needs to take place. Currently, only 10 percent of patients suffering from mental illnesses receive treatment in India; while all patients do have the right to treatment, the shortage of money and psychiatrists hinders the accessibility. India spends as little as 0.06 percent of its budget on mental health, and there are only 0.3 psychiatrists per 100,000 people in the country. India needs to primarily focus on changing the societal culture regarding mental health. By educating children from a young age about the importance of mental health and acknowledging that mental illness is real and valid, the overall acceptance of mental health can increase. Changing the stigma surrounding mental health will enable more people to pursue jobs in treating mental health, increasing access. The cyclical link between mental health and poverty in India can only be broken by giving people, regardless of income, social status or gender and equal access to mental health treatment.

If India does not take a more aggressive stance on the issue of mental health, the country could face serious problems in the future. The World Health Organization predicts that if mental health remains unchecked, 20 percent of the Indian population will suffer from some form of mental illness by 2020; additionally, it determines that mental illness could reduce India’s economic growth by $11 trillion in 2030. Essentially, the cyclical link between mental health and poverty in India must break to enable optimal growth in the future.

Shvetali Thatte
Photo: Pixabay

Malala Yousafzai Scholarship Act
Malala Yousafzai is a Noble Peace Prize laureate. After surviving a Taliban encounter, she wrote the memoir, “I Am Malala.” She advocates for education and against discrimination.

On September 26, 2019, Hakeem Jeffries introduced the Malala Yousafzai Scholarship Act. Communities of Pakistan and the United States have aligned with Malala’s text, principles and initiatives while many support her opinions on terrorism and poverty. The Malala Yousafzai Scholarship Act intends to ensure that young adults and Pakistani students live without fear of discrimination, and can successfully garner an education.

The Malala Yousafzai Act

There are government programs that guide access to education throughout the diaspora communities of Pakistan. The Malala Yousafzai Scholarship Act is pushing for the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to support education initiatives for all in Pakistan, but in particular, for women and children. In Pakistan, approximately 22.8 million children under 16 are not enrolled in school. There is a significant gender disparity too as boys tend to outnumber girls.

This is the main reason for the Malala Yousafzai Act and Congress intends to uphold the very nature of equality. The purpose of the bill is to enhance opportunities for women to obtain a scholarship. If the bill passes, USAID will leverage the number of scholarships available to women in Pakistan.

Rurally, Pakistani women face many obstacles. The development of health, nutrition and the overall labor force is a determinant in the education of women. Issues such as early marriage, transportation and societal pressures as housewives prevent women from enrolling in higher education. The World Bank states, “The benefits of education go beyond higher productivity for 50 percent of the population. More educated women also tend to be healthier, participate more in the formal labor market, earn more income, have fewer children, and provide better health care and education to their children, all of which eventually improve the well-being of all individuals and lift households out of poverty.”

The Malala Yousafzai Act continues to mitigate discrimination and gender inequality. Malala Yousafzai frequently discusses the war on terrorism and how violence is a harsh reality for the vast majority of Pakistani women. These women continue to face seclusion and exclusion on the basis of patriarchy. Terrorists actively threaten girls and women to remove them from advancement opportunities in higher education and the public sphere.

Conclusion

For her 16th birthday, at the United General Assembly, Malala said, “So let us wage a glorious struggle against illiteracy, poverty, and terrorism. Let us pick up our books and our pens. They are the most powerful weapons. One child, one teacher, one book, and one pen can change the world. Education is the only solution.”

Currently, Malala is a student at the University of Oxford. She is studying politics, economics and philosophy. She continues to engage with women from across the globe, inspiring emerging adults to voice opinions. Anyone can make a direct impact by sending an email to Congress via The Borgen Project. For more information on how to advocate for the bill, visit here.

– Zach Erlanger
Photo: Flickr

Orphans in Belarus
In 2008, an economic crisis hit Belarus causing over 25,000 orphans. In addition to this, the effects of Chernobyl are still causing birth defects in children. Limited resources have put these disabled, Belarusian children into orphanages which contributes to a large number of institutionalized children without proper care.

5 Facts About Orphans in Belarus

  1. Economic Crisis: In 2008, an economic downturn caused over 25,000 children to become orphaned. In many cases, the government separated Belarusian children from their families because it deemed their families’ homes unfit, especially since many did not have the financial ability to care for children with disabilities. The ChildFund is an organization that helps work with communities in order to help Belarusians deal with neglect, poverty and misconceptions about orphaned and disabled children. Childfund states that, as a result of its efforts, three of five piloted communities have stopped placing children in orphanages.
  1. Disabilities: According to UNICEF, about 35 percent of institutionalized Belarusian orphans are living with some form of disability. Belarusian disabled children lack the care and education necessary to facilitate their growth and improve their well-being. UNICEF is currently working with the Belarusian government in order to make disabled Belarusian children a priority.
  1. Worst Conditions: Nearly 100 children and young adults were starving in Minsk orphanages in 2017. Some weighed under 35 pounds with one 20-year-old weighing under 25 pounds. The director of children’s hospices said that staff treat many children as plants. A full criminal investigation launched and many people lost their positions. UNICEF opened in Minsk in 1997 and is working with the Republic of Belarus in order to create a healthy and safe environment for every child.
  1. Adoption for Americans: From 2001 to 2004, Americans adopted hundreds of Belarusian children. In 2004, President Aliakansandr Lukashenko imposed new restrictions on adoptions and this has put a hold on the number of adoptions between Belarus and America. Still, in 2019, this hold is in effect and has prevented Americans from being able to adopt Belarusian children, even if they are living in Belarus.
  1. How to Help: There are several fantastic organizations that are helping children in Belarus. ChildFund International has implemented a program that allows people to donate vitamins to help disabled orphans in Belarus. It has also established a Supporting Orphans and Vulnerable Children program which allows people to sponsor and donate to orphans in Belarus. UNICEF is also supporting orphans in Belarus by defending their rights. World Without Orphans is another organization that helps orphans in Belarus and has offered support for children and families since 2012.

A lot has been accomplished in Belarus in order to help Belarusian orphans, however, the changes are slow and require everyone to do their part. More awareness, a release of holds on potential parents and financial assistance should end the increased influx of Belarusian orphans in Belarus. In addition to this, children with disabilities should receive the proper care they require.

– Lisa Di Nuzzo
Photo: Flickr