Key articles and information on global poverty.

eco-cities in developing countries

Nature has become increasingly separated from humanity over time, especially in our cities. However, urban planners around the world are working to reintegrate aspects of the natural environment with our lived spaces. This reimagination of traditional infrastructure has led to the creation of eco-cities. Urban planners are working to make eco-cities in developing countries a reality. The global population is projected to reach 8.5 billion people by 2030, with the majority of the increase coming from the developing world. If city planners continue to answer population growth with an endless sprawl of concrete and few green spaces, the future of our urban centers seems dismal especially for the world’s poor.

The Goal of Eco-Cities

In response to the inequalities and health concerns traditional planning produced, a new generation of urban planners is embedding elements of nature in urban ecosystems. In order to create healthier environments and more equitable communities, planners are:

  • Increasing access to public transportation
  • Increasing the number of community green spaces
  • Building skyscrapers fitted with solar panels to reduce emissions
  • Constructing wetlands to filter runoff before it enters the watershed

The Benefits of Eco-Cities

The planning goals of eco-cities will improve the lives of citizens in a few crucial ways. First, Eco-cities promote public transportation and walkability in order to increase mobility and access to economic opportunities for all citizens. Second, eco-cities will reduce emissions and pollution by increasing renewable energy sources, decreasing city traffic and creating parks and other green spaces. These actions will increase air quality and provide citizens with recreational opportunities, ultimately improving the health and wellbeing of citizens.

The use of green spaces in eco-cities demonstrates the range of benefits from an individual planning goal. In general, urban green spaces in traditional cities are only accessible to the wealthy. Eco-cities, however, provide easily accessible green spaces would for all residents, regardless of socioeconomic status. In addition to the environmental benefits, increased access to healthy social and recreational green spaces will improve the mental and physical health of the entire city’s population

Examples of Eco-Cities

Tianjin, China

There are many compelling examples of eco-cities that exist today in both the developed and developing world. Tianjin, China is an audacious example of using sustainable planning practices to create an eco-city. In 2008, China and Singapore collectively reconstructed Tianjin’s Binhai district to meet a variety of “Key Performance Indicators,” such as the conservation of ecological resources, and enhancement of access to health, education and employment.

In 2018, the Tianjin eco-city celebrated its tenth anniversary, and it is now a functioning district with full-time residents. Since its construction, the city has:

These projects and policies are aimed to achieve the key performance indicators laid out for the city and ultimately improve the overall quality of life for its citizens. 

Curitiba, Brazil

There are already many expiring examples of sustainable planning in developing countries that have improved the wellbeing of its citizens. For instance, Curitiba, Brazil implemented many principles of an eco-city without the resources of a developed country. In Curitiba, city officials have:

  • Implemented an inexpensive “Bus Rapid Transit” system and prohibited cars in the city center
  • Rehabilitated wetlands instead of constructing expensive levees
  • Created a city-wide public recycling system

These projects and programs have improved the city in several ways. First, the “BRT” system increased mobility for citizens of all socioeconomic statuses. As a partial result of this program, income loss due to lack of transportation is 11 times lower in Curitiba than in Sao Paolo. Next, The restoration of wetlands has mitigated the threat of floods at a much lower cost traditional levees. These wetlands have saved numerous homes from flood damage and now serve as public parks. Finally, the public recycling program has created numerous jobs and encouraged  70% of the city’s population to actively recycle.

Following these successes, Curitiba is now widely considered a classic example of excellent urban planning. For this reason, Curitiba’s planning decisions can and should provide a framework to construct eco-cities in developing countries.

Implications for Developing Countries

The countries that will undergo the most urbanization in the next century are developing countries. Currently, 77% of Latin Americans live in urban areas, nearly a quarter of whom live in slums. In sub-Saharan African, 62% of urban citizens live in slums, as do 43% of urban citizens in south-central Asian cities.

By 2030, the urban population of these regions is expected to be double what they were in 2000. Surely, this level of population growth will require the construction and expansion of new and existing cities. Rapid urbanization, and the concentration of urban citizens in slums, affirms the need for a shift in city planning towards sustainable practices.

The inevitable growth of cities to accommodate these populations provides an opportunity to break the 19th-century urban growth models. Traditional urban planning has been prevalent around the world since the Industrial Revolution and is the cause of many public health concerns such as insufficient waste management and air pollution. Instead, developing countries can utilize the eco-city approach to create more equitable and healthy communities.

Supporting the Construction of Ec0-Cities

Eco-city Builders, created in 1972, is one of the most prominent international organizations in the eco-city movement. This non-profit trains urban planners across the world on how to achieve eco-city standards. In Peru for example, the organization taught 75 planners how to use geospatial and community data to design green infrastructure. They also mobilized 800 citizens, academics and politicians to engage in active research regarding the design of their communities.

Since 1990, Eco-city Builders has held 13 different Eco-city World Summits that have taken place in various countries across the globe. These summits host conferences and presentations that reflect on the work already accomplished and look forward to new methods for implementing eco-cities in developing countries.

By providing training for urban planners and achievable standards for what defines sustainability, Eco-city Builders can help local officials in developing countries create more environmentally friendly and equitable communities.

 – Christopher Bresnahan

Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Rwanda
Rwanda is a small landlocked country in the center of Africa. With a sprawling savanna in the east and mountainous jungle in the west, the country has impressive natural features that have increasingly drawn international intrigue. Beyond Rwanda’s natural wonders, there have been great strides to combat poverty in Rwanda since the 1994 genocide in which 800,000 people died in 100 days. While the country faces substantial obstacles, there are many positive indicators of Rwanda’s future economic stability.

The Good News

Over the last two decades, Rwanda has shown an average annual GDP growth rate of 7%; this is consistently above the average in Sub-Saharan Africa. Another promising factor is that Rwanda has an increasingly diverse economy. Traditional sectors, such as agriculture and services, are contributing alongside emerging sectors, such as electricity, infrastructure and construction. Tourism has also been a key factor and now contributes to 10% of the national GDP.

Due to these economic advances, Rwanda has become the darling of the World Bank. The World Bank consistently invests hundreds of millions of dollars in public improvement projects in areas ranging from education to renewable energy. The results of those projects are promising. From 2009 to 2019 national electricity access jumped from 9% to 47%. Additionally, through the World Bank-supported Rwanda Urban Development Project, six cities have directly benefited from a massive increase in urban roads and stand-alone drainage.

The Obstacles

Poverty in Rwanda is still significant; around 39% of the population lives below the poverty line. One contributing factor is that Rwanda suffers from a poor education system where only 68% of first-graders end up completing all six years of primary education. Another component is that domestic private investment in Rwanda has yet to take off, mainly due to low domestic savings. Additionally, many rural Rwandans operate subsistence farms and thus have little disposable time and income.

According to The Washington Post, the authoritarian streaks of Rwanda’s President, Paul Kagame, are another hindrance to the alleviation of poverty in Rwanda. In recent years, tourists have marveled at the clean streets of Rwanda’s cities. What those tourists cannot see, is the forced removal of “undesirables” into detention centers.

In rural areas, the government has burned farmers’ fields because they did not grow their assigned crops. Rural residents have also had to deal with Kagame’s heavy-handed approach to modernization. In some villages, Rwanda’s regime has stripped villagers of their grass roofs with the promise they would return with metal replacements. When the new roofs do not come residents live in exposure which leads to illness and fatalities.

Some of Kagame’s policies have drawn international outrage. In 2012, Kagame supported Congolese rebels which resulted in the United States and the European Union suspending international aid. Another similar scenario may be on the horizon with recent reports of Kagame’s regime manipulating poverty statistics.

In 2019, a Financial Times analysis of poverty statistics found that the government was misrepresenting data to exaggerate the decrease in poverty. Despite that claim, the World Bank has continued its myriad of investments in the country and so have many other major donors. However, as countries on a global scale focus more resources domestically due to the COVID-19 pandemic, international aid to Rwanda is in danger. Aid is still necessary to prevent catastrophic consequences as Rwanda is experiencing a dire humanitarian situation. The silver lining is that many of Rwanda’s usual donors are still in positions to assist.

The pandemic has also adversely affected tourism and exports, which are huge pillars of the Rwandan economy. Furthermore, as the country directs its healthcare workers and fiscal resources towards emergency response, other health concerns, such as the AIDS epidemic, move to the sidelines.

Hope for Poverty in Rwanda

Though Rwanda has problems that it cannot easily solve, there still is hope. Before the pandemic, Rwanda’s economic growth exceeded 10% in 2019. A two-thirds drop in child mortality and near-universal primary school enrolment accompanied this statistic.

Additionally, two World Bank-funded projects including the Rural Sector Support Program, and the Land Husbandry, Water Harvesting and Hillside Irrigation Project have increased the productivity and commercialization of rural agriculture. As a result, maize and rice yields doubled and potato yields tripled between 2010 and 2018. These results are especially promising considering poverty in Rwanda is the most severe in rural areas.

Rwanda has also achieved a strong level of political stability. Women make up 62% of the national legislature and previously marginalized opposition parties have gained parliamentary seats without disrupting the system’s stability. These are indicators that will increase confidence in foreign investors. While Rwanda has a troubled history, the future holds a lot of potential.

Cole Penz
Photo: Wikimedia
Gender Inequality in VenezuelaIn Venezuela, like other conservative countries, women have often been viewed as the weaker sex, creating vast gender inequalities. In the past few decades, the country has faced severe political turmoil and women have shouldered the brunt of the force. The coronavirus pandemic has exposed the extent of gender inequality, as Venezuelan women must rely on their partners for financial support – those same partners from whom many women face domestic violence. Thankfully, there are many resources for Venezuelan women to turn to, including the Women’s Development Bank, abbreviated Banmujer, the only state-owned women’s bank in the world. Here are six ways that Banmujer is addressing gender inequality in Venezuela.

Six Ways Banmujer is Aiding Women

  1. For women, by women – The Venezuelan Women’s Development Bank was created in 2001 to help empower women by ensuring financial stability independent from their partners. Banmujer supports female entrepreneurs by only providing loans to women, promoting financial independence, creativity and innovation. In addition, the organization employs women who travel to rural communities to develop female-led business proposals instead of having regional offices. This makes it extremely easy for women all over the country to apply for a loan.
  2. More than just a bank – Not only does the bank provide loans, but it also provides training and education to women. The organization teaches women how to develop an entrepreneurial idea, efficiently use the loan and manage a business. Extending their efforts even further, the bank hosts workshops on women’s health, prevention of domestic violence, community leadership, legal advice and more.
  3. Real and long-lasting change – The bank is fighting gender inequality in Venezuela by offering small loans to groups of women with business ideas and has trained over 100,000 women. Many women have benefited from these small loans and each story is unique. The Guardian highlights one such success story. Matild Calixte used to work at a hair salon earning well below the price of a haircut. She even had to take on a second job to provide for her family. With the help of the Women’s Development Bank, Calixte was able to open her own hair salon and equally split the income with the other hairstylists. Because of this, she has achieved financial stability and can now afford to send her daughter to college.
  4. Making it easy – Most of the world’s property owners are men. It is easier for men to be approved for loans – they have collateral to secure them. When the idea of a women’s bank was proposed by Nora Castañeda, Banmujer’s original president, she made it a priority to allow women with no financial assets to be included in the loans. This alone is absolutely revolutionary in the gender equality movement. In addition, when women successfully pay back their loans, they can take out another loan worth one and a half times their previous one. Monthly interest rates are also fixed at a low rate of 1% which makes getting a loan even more attainable.
  5. Creating a caring economy – The Women’s Development Bank doesn’t solely measure success by financial profits, but societal ones. While there has been criticism of high default rates in the bank’s earlier years, it should not be defined in purely economic terms. Banmujer focuses on the progress being made to address gender inequality in Venezuela. Castañeda explains that “we are creating…an economy at the service of human beings, not human beings at the service of the economy.” The bank cares more about helping Venezuelan women than it does about making a profit.
  6. Helpful for the whole economy – Banmujer recognizes that fighting gender inequality in Venezuela by empowering women means reducing poverty. Close to 45% of Venezuelans live in poverty, and 70% of those are women. However, the loans have created over 70,000 jobs. By empowering women to reach financial independence, it stimulates the economy.
Banmujer has had an incredible influence on more than 100,000 women, effectively addressing gender inequality in Venezuela. By giving small loans, the program encourages entrepreneurial ideas and financial independence. The loans are meant to spur collaboration between women, not competition. The president of the bank made sure to focus program efforts on lifting women out of poverty and empowering them to start their own businesses.

– Karin Filipova
Photo: Banmujer CA

daylilies in ChinaChinese President Xi Jinping has made substantial efforts to alleviate poverty in China for the millions living without basic necessities. In 2015, President Jinping set the goal of eliminating poverty in China by 2020. There were 1.4 billion people in poverty at that time. The government defined impoverished people as earning less than $1.10 a day. This is a lower benchmark than the World Bank poverty guideline of $1.90 a day. While some of his methods to alleviate rural poverty have been conventional, like increasing tourism and promoting produce production, in one Chinese district, his tactic has been far from ordinary. Here’s an explanation of how daylilies in China are fighting poverty.

What are Daylilies?

The Yunzhou district of China is located about 200 miles west of Beijing, in the Yanshan and Taihang mountains. Given its remote location, the cities in that district have dealt with high levels of poverty. However, in the last decade, farmers have capitalized on the fecund growth of daylilies. Farmers have positioned the daylilies to alleviate the district’s poverty and poverty in China generally. 

Daylilies are an edible flower used in Chinese herbal medicine. According to studies, they possess detoxification properties, aid in reducing insomnia, lessening hemorrhoids and calming nerves. Daylilies in China belong to a heartier class of flowers since they can grow in a variety of soil conditions. Additionally, the flower itself can come in many colors. Its botanical name, Hemerocallis, translates to “beauty for a day” because most daylilies will bloom in the morning and die by nightfall. However, the flower will stay in bloom for several weeks because each stem has over 12 flower buds. 

Though areas in the district like Datong city and Fangchong new village have been cultivating daylilies for over 600 years, the district recently increased the land the daylilies were grown in by tenfold. Now, 10,000 hectares, equivalent to over 18,000 football fields, grow millions of daylilies. 

Benefits of Daylilies in China

In a recent trip to the district, President Jinping encouraged farmers and locals alike to continue developing the industry of daylilies in China. During his visit, President Jinpng spoke to the country’s efforts to reach its goal of total poverty eradication by the end of 2020. So far, daylily production has helped lift over one million people out of poverty. Last year, daylily production generated $9.17 million for the district. President Jinping remains steadfast in alleviating poverty in the country despite the few months left before his deadline.

Revenue from daylilies in China may seem like an unusual product to reduce poverty by Western standards; however, according to Eastern culture, the flower is a cornerstone of the Chinese market and therefore a logical aspect of poverty alleviation. Even though the Yunzhou district has been cultivating the flower for over 600 years, it may be comforting to know that the towns and cities in that district have utilized daylily production in the last ten years to bring over a million individuals out of poverty. 

– Mimi Karabulut 
Photo: Flickr

 Global Poverty ActThe U.S. is heading towards a historically unique presidential election later this year. In the lead up to this November, it’s important to know how Joe Biden has helped fight global poverty. Specifically, Biden’s actions with the Global Poverty Act of 2007 demonstrate his commitment to increasing national security by combating poverty.

Biden’s Political Background

Before he became Vice President in 2009, Biden served in the U.S. Senate for over three decades. During this time, Biden was a ranking member and two-year chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee. Throughout his political career, Biden has supported foreign aid and implemented U.S. programs to help those in need. 

In the spring of 2007, Representative Adam Smith introduced the Global Poverty Act of 2007 to the U.S. House. The bill passed in September 2007 with bipartisan support and moved onto the Senate. Senator Barack Obama and two other senators introduced the bill in December 2007; Biden co-sponsored the bill and added minor amendments. The official bill saw no further action following its proposal on April 24, 2008.

What was the Global Poverty Act?

The Global Poverty Act aimed to make fighting global poverty the main goal of U.S. foreign policy. The bill itself did not detail a specific plan to combat global poverty. Rather, the bill ordered the President and Secretary of State to draft and implement a plan. The bill stated that the President’s strategy must have detailed goals, reasonable timelines, and include consistent progress reports to Congress.

The Congressional Budget Office estimated that the Global Poverty Act of 2007 would cost less than $1 million per year and would not order new spending, meaning that the plan could be implemented with minor changes to the fiscal budget. As foreign assistance is less than one percent of the federal budget, implementing this plan would have a major impact on the world with minimal monetary changes. 

The bill argued that it is America’s duty to help those in need. Moreover, solving global poverty would help combat terrorism and strengthen national security. This legislation stated that Congress had already taken steps to fight global poverty, but the executive branch could do more. In particular, Congress established goals that cut the number of people who live on less than $1 a day, lack reliable food, drinking water, and sanitation in half.

Wider Impact

The initiatives mentioned above were part of the Millennium Development Goals formed in 2000. These goals were not yet achieved by 2007. Consequently, The House introduced the Global Poverty Act to emphasizing the need to combat global poverty and make progress on these goals. The bill also emphasized the need to invest in U.S. programs that help reduce global poverty. In particular, these programs increase debt relief for poverty-stricken countries, promote sustainable development, and emphasize the need for future action. By putting fighting global poverty at the front of the presidential agenda, it would show other countries that they should do the same.

The 2008 Recession likely contributed to the bill stalling. At that time, Congress was focused on drafting domestic legislation. Although the House never implemented that Global Poverty Act of 2007, Biden’s involvement shows he understands fighting global poverty is an important aspect of U.S. national security. In essence, Biden’s involvement with the Global Poverty Act suggests he will use the executive branch to help combat poverty if elected this coming fall.

Jacquelyn Burrer

Photo: Obama White House Archives

Life expectancy in Hong KongSince being declared a “Special Administrative Region” of China in 1997, Hong Kong has its own judiciary and financial systems, and its residents are granted rights not typically found in China. Guangdong borders the territory to the north and the South China Sea to the east, south and west. While Hong Kong is a region, not a country, it has the highest life expectancy in the world, surpassing Japan. Access to good healthcare coupled with the promotion of healthy living for all ages contributes to longevity in the region. Here are eight facts about life expectancy in Hong Kong.

8 Facts About Life Expectancy in Hong Kong

  1. In 2017, life expectancy in Hong Kong was 81.9 years for men and 87.6 years for women.
  2. Hong Kong’s population has been aging for the past 20 years. The proportions of persons aged 35-64 and 65 & above increased from 28.2% and 6.2% in 1979 to 47.3% and 16.4% in 2017, respectively. This is due to the high influx of migrants from the mainland in the 1960s and ’70s. However, most districts in Hong Kong are categorized as “age-friendly cities” which promote positive images of older generations. Furthermore, older people often engage in morning exercise on a regular basis even in urban spaces. The districts are mindful of all ages and adjust the lifestyle within the district to allow personal autonomy, despite someone’s age or handicaps.
  3. Hong Kong’s infant mortality rate is among the lowest in the world. The maternal mortality ratio has also remained low for years, standing at 1.8 per 100,000 registered live births. Globally, the ratio is 211 deaths per 100,000 live births.
  4. Hong Kong ranks first for “enabling environments,” which facilitates a better quality of life. The streets are safe, and there is easy access to public transportation and people are comfortable enough to walk to all places. The layout of cities “enables” citizens to live healthier lives due to the concentration of active and safe amenities like trails and parks.
  5. Hong Kong has universal health care for hospital treatment, but it does not have universal primary care. Older residents receive priority for hospital care and most care is paid for from taxation.
  6. Estimates state that 70% of Hong Kong residents over the age of 70 were born in mainland China and came over in search of better opportunities. Studies indicate that these residents are physically and psychologically stronger than their counterparts remaining on the mainland, so they have more motivation to succeed.
  7. The Chinese diet is similar to the Mediterranean diet. Meals consist of fish, fruits, vegetables, rice, nut oils and meat chopped up into dishes, rather than eaten as whole portions. This style of cooking is healthier than the traditional “Western diet.” 
  8. It is uncommon in Hong Kong culture to place elderly relatives in retirement homes. Family members generally care for older residents and do not rely on assisted living facilities. 

In the early 1960s and ’70s, Hong Kong saw an influx of highly motivated, physically and psychologically strong individuals move to the territory. These individuals contributed to the aging of Hong Kong’s population over the last 20 years, and their healthy and active lifestyles helped them achieve a long life expectancy.

Anna Brewer
Photo: Flickr

Marie Stopes International Nigeria recently donated almost 1,500 units of the medication misoprostol to the Nigerian state Nasarawa. This donation will hopefully reduce maternal mortality in Nigeria, which, in Nasarawa, is higher than average. The donated misoprostol cost one million Nigerian Naira altogether, approximately $2,580.

What is Marie Stopes International?

Dr. Tim Black founded the current Marie Stopes International in 1976 when he purchased and revitalized the Marie Stopes Clinic in London, named after the late Dr. Marie Stopes. A year later, Dr. Black and his wife opened a clinic in Dublin, followed by another in New Delhi.

MSIN first came to Nigeria in 2009. These clinics provide ultrasounds, testing for pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections, counseling, and other related forms of reproductive healthcare. As of 2018, the Non-Governmental Organization has helped more than three million women in Nigeria alone, and Marie Stopes has opened clinics in 37 countries around the world. The NGO’s Nasarawa State Clinical and Training Officer Nathaniel Oyona praised Marie Stopes’s decision to “support the government by assisting pregnant women especially those that cannot afford to pay their bills.”

Why is Maternal Mortality in Nigeria So High?

A study from 1985 to 2001 at the University of Jos found that hemorrhage after delivery caused most maternal deaths, followed by sepsis and eclampsia. Furthermore, in 2015, Nigeria registered around 58,000 maternal deaths resulting in a maternal mortality ratio of more than 800 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births. By comparison, the WHO cited that the 46 most developed countries in the world had a maternal mortality ratio of 12 deaths per 100,000 live births in the same year.

As of 2017, childbirth causes the deaths of 7% of women in Nasarawa each year. Nasarawa’s shortage of medical staff, equipment and medicine means that many women do not trust the birth centers. Instead, many women choose to give birth at home without a doctor present. However, home births can pose problems if complications arise, such as a postpartum hemorrhage. Unfortunately, this situation leaves many pregnant women without proper access to much needed medical care.

How Does Misoprostol Help Maternal Mortality in Nigeria?

Misoprostol is an oral medication with multiple uses that can lower the chance of hemorrhage after childbirth. Various studies have found that misoprostol can reduce postpartum bleeding by 24% to 47%. Because misoprostol is taken orally, it is easy to distribute and administer. Heat exposure will also not negatively impact misoprostol’s effectiveness. Misoprostol’s versatility makes it useful for women who choose to have a home birth or lack access to birth centers.

MSIN specified that the 1,497 packs donated are earmarked for women without the means to afford postnatal care. The Commissioner for Health in Nasarawa confirmed the misoprostol will be distributed accordingly.

What Are the Next Steps to Fight Maternal Mortality in Nigeria?

Though the donation of misoprostol is a welcome short-term solution, long-term reform is needed to reduce maternal mortality in Nigeria. Since 2011, the government of Nasarawa has shifted to the Nigerian State Health Investment Project, in hopes of rebuilding trust with clinics and hospitals and giving better care to patients. The government has since granted multiple facilities in Nasarawa updated medical equipment and a better supply of necessary drugs. These reforms have caused a positive change in clientele and productivity.

As for Marie Stopes International, the NGO will continue to open clinics worldwide and train local people to provide reproductive healthcare. Through their social franchise networks, MSIN staff train Nigerian doctors and nurses to provide better reproductive healthcare and counseling in their facilities. Once local healthcare providers complete their program, MSIN gives them the medicine and other materials they may need for their practice. In Nigeria, 200 franchisees have completed the MSIN training program.

Though more work is necessary to combat maternal mortality in Nigeria, misoprostol has proven to be an accessible and effective tool to help prevent postpartum hemorrhage in women. This is one step in a larger plan to rebuild trust in the healthcare system and reduce maternal deaths in Nigeria.

– Jackie McMahon
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in LesothoIn the country of Lesotho, a mountainous region landlocked by South Africa, there are two playing fields, although neither one of them results in a fair chance of winning a life away from poverty’s grasp. Instead, the two fields paint similar pictures of poverty with contrasting colors. The first field, the lowlands, is statistically less impoverished than its towering companion, the highlands. Agricultural impacts are not the only factor impacting poverty. Here is some information about the impacts on poverty in Lesotho.

Agricultural Impact

According to UNICEF, 82% of children living in the highlands are multidimensionally poor compared to 53% of children living in the lowlands. This is due to the fact that the natural landscape of the lowlands is more suitable for agricultural endeavors as opposed to the rocky, mountainous terrain of the highlands. Since the majority of Basotho, the proper term for the country’s natives, grow their own food, a season of drought could greatly impact not only the current year’s harvest but future harvests as well because seeds would not reproduce for the Basotho to use the following year. Children lacking food and proper nutrition also increase student growth. In 2014, stunting impacted approximately 88,900 of 275,000 Basotho children. Stunting can result in a compromised immune system and poor cognitive performance which adds an unnecessary barrier to childhood education and future employability.

Educational Impact

One of the impacts on poverty in Lesotho including both the highlands and the lowlands is the absence of proper and consistent education. School is free for elementary-aged children. However, after these years, children have to purchase school uniforms to continue their education. This pulls many children out of the cinder-block classrooms and back into their homes. At home, they must often care for younger siblings or other abandoned children even though they have yet to reach puberty.

Allison Barnhill of Reclaimed Project, a nonprofit that partners alongside local churches to educate, equip and care for orphaned children, spoke with The Borgen Project saying, “Education is a huge part of it [poverty]. If you want to grow up and change the country, you have to be educated.” Reclaimed Project acknowledges this need by providing uniforms and school supplies to children in its program. These children also receive educational training outside of the classroom after each school day at one of Reclaimed Project’s orphan care centers. The care centers are located in two different highland villages and allow students to grow forward. Later in 2020, Reclaimed Project plans to open a skills training center to teach high schoolers and local Basotho basic computer, mechanic and sewing skills.

HIV/AIDS Impact

Another of the impacts on poverty in Lesotho is HIV/AIDS. It is easy to tell if a family does not have the means to purchase school uniforms. However, there is a type of poverty the Basotho people face that others cannot see. It is invisible and inescapable. HIV and AIDS fell upon the country of Lesotho in the 1990s, creating a wave of economic and social destruction. Currently, it affects 74% of children under the age of 2 with 23.2% of adults affected. Many victims of the disease are Basotho who once held steady jobs and now must succumb to treatment interventions.

Unfortunately, Basotho culture still highly stigmatizes this disease. Medical clinics, which predominantly serve people infected by HIV and AIDS, have specific days when people come to receive treatment. Therefore, if others witness a Basotho walking towards the clinic on this given day, they might assume that he or she has HIV or AIDS. This makes the unknown known and creates a social scar. To prevent this from happening, some Basotho willingly choose to avoid treatment and risk death to maintain their social standing. Overtime, refusing treatment can result in the inability to work, further lengthening the downward economic spiral of poverty.

Fortunately, with the passage of time comes the gradual reformation of these ideals. Within a five-year time span, the average percentage of full acceptance of Basotho living with HIV increased by 3.5%. This indicates that community acceptance is improving. However, HIV/AIDS treatment funding is limited and a burden on the government of Lesotho. In fact, the government funds less than half of Lesotho’s HIV/AIDS response. The majority of funding for HIV/AIDS reform comes from international resources. Therefore, the country relies heavily on the generosity of middle-income countries and nonprofits.

Future Impact

Speaking on the many dimensions of poverty, Barnhill stated that, “The issues are always compounding. If you’re living on the brink, it doesn’t take much to push you over the edge.” Fortunately, by 2030, the number of people living near the edge should reduce as the World Bank works with the Government of Lesotho to reduce extreme poverty. Even though poverty plagues the country of Lesotho, the country has come a long way from its roots. Lesotho continues to grow forward, creating branches of prosperity and leaves a budding of hope.

– Chatham Kennedy
Photo: Chatham Kennedy

Poverty in Honduras
Honduras is a large, scenic country located in Central America with a population of nearly 10 million people. Historically, its abundance of natural resources has staked it as a vigorous player in many international economic industries, namely agriculture and mining. The country has also grown in many statistical categories; its population, global rank and GDP growth rate have increased steadily in the last five years. Ostensibly, Honduras has a strong foundation for economic prosperity, which should be encouraging for all of its citizens and leaders. However, a closer examination reveals that these improvements mask poverty issues that the country continues to struggle with. This struggle leads to poor quality of life for the average citizen of Honduras. Here is some information about poverty in Honduras.

Economic Problems

The main problems that cause poverty in Honduras are wealth distribution and low income. These issues impact an alarmingly high percentage of the country’s population. According to the World Bank, about 48% of the population lives below the poverty line, which includes over 60% in rural areas. Urban areas exhibit a lower percentage of impoverished citizens, but it remains high among global standards. Honduras frequently ranks high globally on the GINI index, which calculates the level of economic disparity among classes, and hosts a diminutive middle class, making up a mere 11% of the population.

Employment rates are dismal as well, with unemployment/underemployment around 40% as of 2015. Underemployment manifests itself in two different ways: when a person is working a job not commensurate with their skills due to a lack of opportunity (invisible) and when a person is working insufficient hours at a job or receives insufficient pay to support their family (visible). An example of invisible underemployment is a local man who has the requisite talent and education to be a lawyer. A scarcity of opportunity in his area leads him to a mining job that pays less and is much more physically grueling. Underemployment is rampant in Honduras and contributes to a working-class that has low morale and scarce opportunity to excel in their field of choice.

Other Factors Affecting the Economy

Violence is the largest internal factor in punctuating the nation’s economic problems. Honduras is among the deadliest countries in the world, according to the World Bank. The high rates of homicide and violence are detrimental in many ways including how they impact education. According to a U.N. agency report, more than 200,000 children stopped attending school between 2014 and 2017, due to the prevalence of gang violence in and around the school environment. The report also gathered that teachers were the third-most displaced group between 2016 and 2017. The Honduras government documented 83 murdered teachers between 2009 and 2014. Additionally, there were over 1,500 student deaths due to gang violence between 2010 and 2018. The expansion of gang culture makes education secondary to survival. This problem has stunted the system for years, translating to a lack of skilled labor and vibrant industry.

Another antecedent to structural poverty in Honduras is political instability. The Economist Intelligence Unit Democracy Report labeled Honduras as a hybrid regime, which is where a country holds elections that are susceptible to voter fraud and manipulation. As recent as 2017, the country endured an election crisis that led to nationwide unrest, rioting and dissension on the premise of suspicion that the voting had been rigged. Tenuous leadership has let corruption run rampant, economic disparity worsen and access to food decline.

The Solution

Organizations such as Proyecto Mirador and CARE/Cargill are working diligently to quell poverty in Honduras. The former is a project that provides stove-building jobs for families. This initiative creates an easy and profitable venture for lower-class people who have no other options. Its website reports that builders have constructed and installed over 185,000 stoves in Honduras. Meanwhile, CARE and Cargill partnered in 2008 to create an initiative that supports women in agriculture, both nutritionally and economically. The program is investing $10 million over three years in Village Savings and Loan Associations. It also employs advocacy strategies designed to ignite agricultural policy change that benefits the lower-class farmer. The partnership originated in Honduras and has now expanded to reach 10 countries in total, directly impacting nearly half a million people as of 2018.

The United States has intervened in many Central American countries to mitigate gang violence with Project GREAT, a police-taught gang violence prevention program. The program aims to teach young people how to avoid gang life and to repair the fractured relationships that many of these communities have with local law enforcement. Project GREAT gathered 87,000 student participants in 2017, hoping to breed a sense of optimism among the young community. By doing so, Project GREAT seeks to dissolve the presence of gangs in the future.

Beating poverty in Honduras requires systemic change initiated from the top. It takes resources, both internal and external, to silence gang culture, restore safe education and uproot government corruption. Once the lower-class of Hondurans begins to escape the cycle of poverty, that is when economic industries will begin to thrive. The future of Honduras relies on the viability and strength of its youthful working-class.

Camden Gilreath
Photo: Unsplash

Sanitation in Djibouti
The Republic of Djibouti is a small country in the Horn of Africa that is home to nearly 1 million people, many of whom are living in poverty. Sanitation in Djibouti continues to be a concern today. However, its location near Ethiopia, the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean make it a site of interest for many foreign powers. As a result, the country receives significant aid as its leaders work to provide Djiboutians access to sanitary water sources and services, many for the first time. Here are 10 facts about life and sanitation in Djibouti.

10 Facts About Life and Sanitation in Djibouti

  1. Djibouti is among the least developed and most impoverished countries in the Horn of Africa. Of its nearly 1 million residents, an estimated 42% live below the poverty line. As of 2018, the average life expectancy for Djiboutians was 66.8 years.
  2. Djibouti’s dry climate, nomadic farming lifestyle and periods of civil war have led to poverty, disease and malnutrition. Malnutrition rates have been as high as 30% in some rural areas, while many others living in urban areas like the capital city of Djibouti must rely on foreign aid and imported foods to survive. According to the World Food Programme, while malnutrition rates continue to decline, as much as 7.5% of Djiboutians experienced malnourishment as of 2016.
  3. Djibouti does not have a source of surface water and often experiences extensive droughts, so citizens rely on underground water aquifers that scarce rains refill. However, many of these aquifers run dry during the dry season from April to September, forcing many rural residents to adopt nomadic lifestyles or seek refuge in urban areas.
  4. Sanitation in Djibouti continues to be a challenge. The country faces several health crises as a result of open defecation practices and a lack of sanitation facilities. As many as 17% of citizens go out into the open to defecate in urban regions, while 83% of those living in rural areas have no access to sanitary latrines and toilets. This has led to a sharp increase in water-borne and diarrheal diseases since 2000, predominantly in children and women.
  5. The demand for sanitation programs has increased dramatically as a result of poverty and food insecurity. Since over half of those living in rural areas are food-insecure, mass migrations to urban areas have begun, increasing the need for essentials such as sanitary water and waste management. An estimated three-fourths of Djibouti’s population now lives in urban areas. As of 2011, UNICEF estimates that 73% of people have access to proper facilities in densely urban populated areas, compared to only 21% in rural areas. That means nearly 39% of all Djiboutians do not have access to improved sanitation facilities.
  6. The mass migration to densely populated urban areas and lack of proper facilities pose a significant risk during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that Djibouti’s current rate of infection, about 98 cases for every 100,000 people, represents the highest prevalence and quickest multiplication rate on the continent. Djibouti’s president, Ismail Omar Guelleh, announced a national lockdown starting on March 23, 2020, but has conceded since the country has not contained the outbreak. Guelleh has pledged an emergency fund of 1 billion Djiboutian francs ($5.6 million) and announced that food distributions have reached thousands of impoverished families. However, the initiative continues to face an uphill battle as it tries to reach all those in need, especially amid allegations of favoritism. Scrutiny on sanitation in Djibouti is particularly pertinent during the COVID-19 pandemic as the country lacks sufficient handwashing stations and waste disposal systems.
  7. Djibouti’s geographical location in the Horn of Africa has been a minor saving grace, as it represents a site of significant interest for several foreign powers, including the United States. USAID’s Water, Sanitation and Health (WASH) project hopes to address sanitation in Djibouti primarily by modernizing water services and access to potable water in rural areas. The WASH project is working to improve governance of water points, pay for water services to ensure affordable access for the most vulnerable and provide efficient maintenance services. To date, USAID’s project has rehabilitated five boreholes and five ring wells in rural areas, serving over 5,700 people. Over 2,000 of these Djiboutians are gaining access to sanitary water sources for the first time.
  8. The USAID’s WASH project in partnership with UNICEF also intends to end unsanitary practices and promote better hygiene in Djibouti through education. The project plans to help teach over 25,000 poor and vulnerable Djiboutians, particularly children, by providing classes on proper handwashing, water-gathering and waste disposal techniques.
  9. Foreign aid systems of support continue to help impoverished Djiboutians today. UNICEF has donated over $1 million to improve sanitation services and hygiene education programs. However, the Republic of Djibouti will need to search for more ways to provide public services to its vulnerable populations, especially as the Trump Administration continues to scrutinize such U.S. global health initiatives, proposing to cut as much as 28% of USAID’s funding in its 2020 fiscal year budget.
  10. As Djibouti works to wean itself off of foreign aid, President Guelleh has promised more funding for public services addressing the country’s sanitation needs, especially in wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. As of March 2020, the Djiboutian government has pledged to fund and erect more public handwashing stations, but such efforts to improve sanitation in Djibouti are still on-going.
The Djiboutian government continues to encounter challenges as it works to help its vulnerable citizens. Foreign aid efforts such as USAID and UNICEF are providing funding for projects aiming to clean up sparse water supplies and waste management programs, but it ultimately will be up to President Guelleh and his administration to ensure proper sanitation in Djibouti.
 

– Andrew Giang

Photo: Flickr