Poverty in Bhutan Over the last 14 years, poverty in Bhutan has substantially decreased. This is a result of the nation’s philosophy of Gross National Happiness and its developmental Five Year Plans. Support from other nations has also helped make Bhutan’s successes possible. With further support, the nation could eradicate poverty within its borders. 

History

Bhutan, officially named the “Kingdom of Bhutan,” is a small nation in South-Central Asia. Historically, poverty in Bhutan has been an ongoing struggle. In 2003, the poverty rate in Bhutan was well above 25%, and the proportion of the population in extreme poverty (living on less than $1.90 a day) was 17.6%. 

However, there have since been major successes in the fight against poverty in Bhutan. As of 2017, poverty in Bhutan was 8.2%, less than a third of what it was 14 years prior. More impressively, the proportion of Bhutan’s population living in extreme poverty dropped to 1.5%. 

Gross National Happiness

The key to success in fighting poverty in Bhutan can be attributed to the nation’s developmental philosophy. The nation does not believe in measuring its progress through the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) lens used by other countries. Rather, Bhutan evaluates its success through Gross National Happiness (GNH) indexing.

The GNH system directs Bhutan’s government to step in and present the country with the best path to maximize the happiness of its citizens. The nation places a high priority on taking the initiative to fight poverty and inequality for this reason. In the country’s 1629 legal code, it states: “If the government cannot create happiness for its people, there is no purpose for the government to exist.” This sentiment still stands today in Bhutan. The government continues to direct its focus on allowing more and more people to pursue happy and healthy lives. 

Five Year Plans

To combat poverty in Bhutan, the country began a series of five-year development plans in 1961. Fittingly named “Five Year Plans,” each successive half-decade strategy sets forward a targeted initiative to address the largest assessed proponent of poverty in Bhutan.

Part of the success of the Five Year Plans was derived from its flexibility. As Bhutan continued to develop and change, the development strategies were able to shift with it. Each new implementation of the Five Year Plans would involve recreating the successes of the previous plan. Thus, any practices that proved to be inefficient could be replaced.

Nevertheless, all of the Five Year Plans initiatives had some commonality that greatly boosted the fight against poverty in Bhutan. The strategies all pushed for increased sources of income generation, expanded social resources, and rural development.

Bhutan’s strategic development planning, in combination with its GNH philosophy, was crucial toward its successes against poverty. However, Bhutan’s vast success would not have been possible without assistance from foreign nations. Further global efforts will continue to play a large role in the fight to eradicate poverty in Bhutan. 

Asa Scott
Photo: Flickr

PEPFAROne of the most effective programs in the fight against AIDS is the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, or PEPFAR. The program was first authorized by Congress in May 2003. It initially started as a way to help the people of Africa, where the AIDS epidemic was most concentrated. Now, PEPFAR has international and domestic programs that fight AIDS in over 50 countries.

Poverty and HIV

The prevalence of HIV/AIDS is widely recognized to correlate with impoverished rural and urban areas. Poverty is not a necessary condition for contracting HIV. However, it can be related to risky sexual behaviors, such as participation in sex at a young age and prostitution. Poverty can also lead to inadequate sexual education or resources that would assist in preventing AIDS.

The underlying factors in poor areas that increase the risk of AIDS —  violence, social mobility, economic strain and access to education — need to be addressed. Tackling risk factors as a method of prevention has already proven to be largely successful in fighting AIDS internationally. Further, that approach has helped families simultaneously fight sources of intergenerational poverty.

PEPFAR

When President George W. Bush announced PEPFAR at the State of the Union, he said of the program: “seldom has history offered a greater opportunity to do so much for so many… And to meet a severe and urgent crisis abroad, tonight I propose the Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, a work of mercy beyond all current international efforts to help the people of Africa. This comprehensive plan will prevent seven million new AIDS infections, treat at least two million people with life-extending drugs and provide humane care for millions of people suffering from AIDS and for children orphaned by AIDS.”

Today, PEPFAR has far exceeded its once lofty goals. The program has provided over 18 million people with HIV treatments and helpful services, like cervical screenings and education programs. To celebrate its incredible success, PEPFAR launched a new website in July 2020. It provides a timeline of scientific discoveries, legislation and social outreaches pivotal in the worldwide fight against AIDS.

Starting in 1981, the timeline explores the first known cases of AIDS in the U.S. and Africa. It moves on to facts about school education about AIDS and global programs like the World Health Organization’s Global Program on Aids (1987). A few tabs later, it relates the explosion of Congressional funding and legislation for PEPFAR and allied programs circa 2006 all the way to present day, 2020.

Additionally noted are milestones, such as PEPFAR’s 10th anniversary marking one million HIV-free babies born due to PEPFAR programs. This corresponds to the increased financial investment by the U.S., which proves the initiative’s substantial success.

Continued Efforts

PEPFAR is not satisfied with resting on its existing laurels, however. The same month PEPFAR released its celebratory website, PEPFAR also announced its latest report and upcoming budget. The new budget doubles funding for its HIV program that helps adolescent girls and young women to $400 million.

The program has so far helped over 1.5 million women and girls in only six months in 2019 and decreased HIV cases in that demographic by 25% since 2014. The new budget additionally increases PEPFAR’s cervical screening program, Go Further, by 70%. Together these effective programs are only a small piece of PEPFAR’s astonishing $85 billion total investment over the past 17 years of its existence.

Elizabeth Broderick
Photo: Flickr