Inflammation and stories on healthcare

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

Sierra Leone Health Care
Access to quality health care in Sierra Leone has been an ongoing struggle for many people in the country due in part to a history of war and conflict. Poor living conditions also have an impact on the percentage of the population with access to essential, life-saving health care services. Of note, in Sierra Leone, 73 percent of rural citizens live in poverty. Fortunately, both local and international powers are making attempts to change the status quo in order to create a more promising future for Sierra Leoneans. Keep reading to learn more about efforts to improve.

5 Ways Health Care is Improving in Sierra Leone

  1. In September 2017, the Ministry of Health and Sanitation proposed the National Health Sector Strategic Plan. The plan outlines how years after the Ebola outbreak of 2014, the disease still impacts survivors’ daily lives. The Ministry of Health and Sanitation proposes a long-term recovery plan to last until 2021. The proposal states its vision of “A well-functioning national health system that delivers efficient and high-quality healthcare and ultimately contributes to the socio-economic development of the country. This care must be of high quality, accessible, affordable and equitable to all Sierra Leoneans.”
  2. In 2017, the International Organization for Migration began the Strengthening Sierra Leonean National Health Care Capacity through Diaspora Engagement project. This project connects health care professionals in Sierra Leone with residents in rural areas, providing them with free health care assistance. Over 1,000 people living in the Moyamba District benefited from it because it provided surgeries, dental care and examinations to those who needed them. Although the project lasted for only two years, ending in March 2019, a new Mobile Health Clinics campaign began shortly afterward in May 2019 in association with the Sierra Leonean Ministry of Health calling to continue to serve those in need of health care in rural towns.

  3. In March 2019, The United Nations Development Programme distributed 15 vehicles to the Ministry of Health and Sanitation in Freetown, Sierra Leone. Because the country has many roads and other areas that are difficult to travel on foot, the vehicles allow people to deliver health care supplies to those in need more safely and quickly. The United Nations also trained Sierra Leoneanese, including 360 women, in the management of the Health and Sanitation facility. “Health-related issues shouldn’t be restricted to one agency,” said the UNDP’s Resident Coordinator, “there should concerted efforts from all stakeholders. Development starts with healthy people.”

  4. According to the World Health Organization, hand hygiene has served as a major issue within the country. Many people in Sierra Leone do not have access to clean water to wash their hands, which aids in the spread of diseases. In response to this and to support World Hand Hygiene Day each May, Sierra Leone now has handwashing stations near hospitals. WHO has also held events educating locals about the importance of handwashing to keep both individuals and communities disease-free.

  5. In September 2019, Sierra Leone’s government opened Rokupa Hospital in Western Urban District, Freetown, aiming to improve health care services for women and children. An estimated one in 17 women in the country dies due to complications from childbirth and the facility aims to provide women with access to better maternal health care. The hospital has added 4,000 new health care staff and increased the financial investment for health services by 2.1 percent. On top of the Sierra Leoneans government, the U.K. government and the United Nations Population Fund also funded the construction of the new facility.

Sierra Leone may have a long way to go to improve its health care, but its significant progress is impressive. With increased efforts, the country should be able to provide even better care in the future.

– A. O’Shea
Photo: Unspash

Global Infancia Global Infancia is a nongovernmental organization (NGO) that specializes in protecting children from abuse in Paraguay. It was founded in 1995, “Global Infancia works towards creating a culture which respects the rights of children and adolescents in Paraguay.”

It has attempted to promote the human rights of children in a myriad of ways, ranging from creating a branch of the government tasked with protecting children to founding a news agency focusing on children’s rights. Global Infancia represents the blueprint for a successful NGO because of its ability to form partnerships with governments, influence local communities, and follow through with its goals.

Partnerships with Governments

Studies have estimated that roughly 60 percent of children in Paraguay have been victims of violence. Faced with this fact, Global Infancia worked with the National Secretariat for Childhood and Adolescence along with the Paraguayan Government to pass a law stating “all children and adolescents have the right to be treated properly and with respect for their physical, psychological and emotional well-being. This includes protections for their image, identity, autonomy, ideas, emotions, dignity and individual values”.

Additionally, Global Infancia spearheaded the forming of Municipal Councils for the Rights of Children and Adolescence who have become instrumental in protecting children’s rights throughout Paraguay. Global Infancia’s work is proof of how a successful NGO can form fruitful partnerships with local governments.

Integration into the Local Community

Since the end of authoritarian rule in Paraguay, it has been working to integrate itself into local communities and promote the recognition of children’s rights. In the town of Remansito, Global Infancia is providing supplementary nutrition and school support to over 1,000 children. Approximately 22 percent of Paraguayans live below the poverty line. The child labor force of participation with a rate of 25 percent, shows that the conditions for many children in Paraguay are not ideal.

However, Global Infancia recognized these problems and has created national media campaigns to raise awareness for children’s rights and used training forums around the country to educate the public that violence against children will no longer be tolerated. Finally, Global Infancia has harnessed the power of local communities by “installing an alert system which reduces the demand for childhood labor”. These actions illustrate how a successful NGO employs the power of the communities they are working in.

Accomplishing Goals

At its inception, it was primarily focused on fighting the trafficking of babies and children. Today it has evolved into a children’s rights organization with a bevy of goals. Whether it be their success at establishing legal rights for children in Paraguay or the founding of CODENIS bodies which protect children throughout the country today, Global Infancia has had a considerable impact on Paraguayan society. In a 2017 report by the United States Department of Labor, experts found significant advancement in Paraguay’s fight to end child labor.

However, the current situation still puts many children in danger, requiring more resources to fully end child labor. With the help of Global Infancia and the multitude of other successful NGO’s, there are no doubts that Paraguay will continue to see improvements to children’s rights.

Overall, Global Infancia is a perfect example of how a successful NGO operates. From its crucial government and community partnerships to their impressive track record of accomplishing its goals.

Myles McBride Roach

Photo: Flickr

Breastfeeding in Zimbabwe
Zimbabwe is an African country located in the southern region of the continent. It has beautiful landscapes and wildlife that attract many people every year, but the country is still intensely poverty-stricken. In fact, it is one of the poorest nations in the world with a whopping 70 percent of the entire nation living under the poverty line.Many of the downsides that come with poverty are present in the country, but one downside that people often do not consider is how poverty affects breastfeeding in Zimbabwe. While people often see breastfeeding as a natural process that even the poorest populations do, breastfeeding is limited in Zimbabwe. About 66.8 percent of Zimbabwean women exclusively breastfed their newborns between the first six months of life with only 32 percent starting breastfeeding within the first day of life. In a country of malnourished people and food scarcity, this article will explore why women do not frequently breastfeed in Zimbabwe.

The Reason Women Do Not Breastfeed in Zimbabwe

One can attribute the lack of exclusive breastfeeding in Zimbabwe to a set of issues that include low education, low income and traditional practices as well as the country having a patriarchal society. Women said what they were only comfortable exclusively breastfeeding for the first three months of their child’s life and this directly relates to the fact that there is intense pressure from in-laws to include different foods in their babies’ diets which stems from long uninformed traditions. With little to no support from the male partner, mothers can find it difficult to resist this pressure.

In combination with these factors, there is also the simple fact that many Zimbabwean women suffer extreme malnourishment. Some reports also stated that many mothers who did not engage in exclusive breastfeeding for at least the first three months of life were simply unable to produce enough milk to fully nourish their babies.

The Effect On Zimbabwean Babies

Zimbabwe has an infant mortality rate of 50 deaths per 1,000 births. For perspective, the infant mortality rate in the United States is five deaths per 1,000 births. Reports determined that 10 percent of all mortality in children aged 5 years was because of non-exclusive breastfeeding at the beginning of life, which is quite significant.

In conjunction with this high infant mortality rate, there is also chronic malnutrition and stunting. Approximately 27 percent of children under the age of 5 in Zimbabwe suffer from chronic malnutrition. Stunting also occurs in Zimbabwean children but varies by region from 19 percent to 31 percent.

There is a correlation between education and breastfeeding in Zimbabwe as well. People have observed a connection between education and breastfeeding not only in the patterns of the mother but also in how it affects her children.

Solutions

Some are making efforts to bring more awareness and education to the people of Zimbabwe. One of these efforts is the initiation of World Breastfeeding Week which representatives from WHO, UNICEF and the Ministry of Health and Child Care launched due to concerns about the low exclusive breastfeeding rates. Only 48 percent of babies below the age of 6 months received exclusive breastfeeding at the time of this event which is significantly lower than the 66.8 percent in 2019.

The improved statistics show that efforts to combat the misinformation and societal pressures among Zimbabwean women to improve rates of exclusive breastfeeding are working. While poverty negatively affects breastfeeding in Zimbabwe, others are slowly combating it.

– Samira Darwich
Photo: Pixabay

Diseases in India
India is a sub-continent in Southern Asia that boasts the second largest population in the world following China, with roughly 17 percent of the world’s population. India plays a vital role in multiple international organizations including the U.N., World Trade Organization (WTO) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). While India has sustained large economic growth—up to 10 percent annually—and a GDP amounting to roughly $1.6 billion, not everyone has reaped the benefits of these feats. India ranks as one of the poorest nations in the world with approximately 68.8 percent of its citizens living in poverty—that is over 800 million people. A life of poverty for these citizens hastens the spread of diseases that inevitably lead to chronic impairment or death. These are the top eight diseases in India.

Top 8 Diseases in India

  1. Ischemic Heart Disease – Commonly referred to as coronary artery disease (CAD), this condition is the number one cause of death in India. Independent groups such as the Indian Heart Association work to raise awareness of the issue through cardiac screenings and informational sessions. Indian dietary habits can be poor with many foods involving butter, grease and fatty foods. This is especially true for poorer segments of the population where this type of food is cheaper and easily accessible. From 2007 to 2017, there was an approximate 49.8 percent increase in the number of deaths in India caused by ischemic heart disease.
  2. Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) – People primarily contract this disease through smoking, second-hand smoking and fume inhalation. Roughly 30 million Indians suffer from a moderate or severe form of COPD. Early detection of COPD can lead to successful treatment and survival of the patient. Factory pollution in India is rampant and the use of cigarettes is all too common, especially among poorer sections of the population. The impoverished have limited access to medical clinics with 56 percent of the population lacking health care, and thus, unable to get adequate treatment for COPD.
  3. Diarrheal Diseases – Diarrheal diseases account for a significant portion of childhood mortality in India. It is the third leading cause of childhood mortality and studies have correlated this to hygiene, malnutrition, improper sanitation and an impoverished upbringing. A lack of affordable care and education for families will lead to further prominence of diarrheal diseases in Indian society. Currently, the U.S. Agency for International Development is working to implement effective and affordable solutions to counteract sanitary related diseases in India.
  4. Lower Respiratory Infections – Respiratory infections such as influenza, pneumonia and bronchitis are all diseases that harm lung function in the body. Indians are extremely susceptible to these due to the high concentration of air pollution throughout the country, especially in poor rural and urban areas. In 2018, 14 out of 15 of the most polluted cities in the world were in India according to the World Health Organization. Further, air pollution also led to roughly 1.24 million deaths in India over the course of 2015.
  5. Tuberculosis – In 2016, there were 2.8 million reported cases of TB and about 450,000 deaths. This disease is rampant among the impoverished in India because there is not a sufficient amount of clinics and professionals to resolve the issue. The vaccine for tuberculosis is not accessible for Indians in the poor parts of the nation. Prime Minister Narendra Modi aims to eradicate tuberculosis by 2025. Through a $1 million partnership with USAID, India hopes to strengthen the detection and treatment of tuberculosis.
  6. Neonatal Disorders – While incidences of neonatal disorders in India have decreased from 52 per 1,000 live births in 1990 to 28 per 1,000 in 2013, this is not an indicator of sustainable progression in India. The truth of the matter is that neonatal decline simply boosted the infant mortality rate because of a brief time-lapse in the survival of the newborn. In India, one can attribute neonatal deaths to asphyxia, pneumonia, sepsis, meningitis, tetanus and an array of other preterm abnormalities. Further, studies show that there is an inverse correlation between socioeconomic status and neonatal deaths. In impoverished rural parts of the country, the neonatal mortality rate is 31 per 1,000 live births whereas it is 15 per 1,000 live births in urban parts of the nation.
  7. Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) – Contrary to popular belief, CKD impacts lower-income countries as well as developed ones. In more developed countries, individuals are able to get access to life-saving treatments. Lower-income nations and portions of nations do not share the same luxury. Scientists predict that there will be 7.63 million deaths from CKD in India in 2020; this is up from the 3.78 million CKD deaths in 1990. The poor in India do not have the finances to receive transplants or the means to attend a reputable hospital.
  8. Tumors – Accounting for 9.4 percent of deaths in India, tumors are the product of pathogens and the buildup of harmful germs in the human body. While not extremely common, these tumors are affecting young and middle-age individuals at an alarming rate. Tumors are also root identifiers of cancer. In the last 26 years, the cancer rate in India has doubled and caused significant economic loss, exemplified by a $6.7 billion loss in 2012. Breast cancer, cervical cancer, lung cancer and oral cancer are extremely prominent in the nation. The costs of treatment are not attainable for all of the affected and thus cause an increase in mortality. India aims to increase the number of physicians and centers for treatment and research through a $20 million initiative. Nongovernmental organizations are also working to raise awareness and supporting early detection methods across the nation.

Since its independence in 1947, India became one of the strongest nations on the planet. With an unprecedented economic boom, India is an emerging global superpower. Despite India’s successes, it is still lagging behind many western countries in its accessibility to medicine, medical facilities and equal wealth distribution.

The top eight diseases in India are pressing problems the nation can resolve through adequate reform. While the situation may appear hopeless, India is taking strides forward to ensure that each citizen lives a prosperous and meaningful life. Technological advances such as new surgical techniques and radiotherapy equipment continue to help counteract malignant tumors and potent cancers. Furthermore, the Indian government has enacted the National Clean Air Plan to reduce air pollution by 20 to 30 percent by 2024. This has prompted individual cities throughout the nation to limit their carbon output through the use of more efficient technologies and stricter regulations. India can continue to thrive as a global economic power while working to resolve its internal problems.

– Jai Shah
Photo: Flickr


Qatar borders Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf in Asia. From villages to a booming urban sector, it promotes sustainable development across a gradient continuing to flourish. Here are the top 10 facts about living conditions in Qatar.

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Qatar

  1. Oil: As the third-largest reservoir of natural resources Qatar makes up 14 percent of worldwide oil production. The reserves endure 25 trillion cubic meters. Predominantly obtaining resources in The North Field, petroleum accounts for more than half of GDP.
  2. Mowsalat: A government organization, Mowasalat, operates public transportation, limo and taxi services. It has headquarters in Doha and works throughout various communities within the region. It provides dispatch services under Karwa technologies and a variety of telecommunication amenities with regards to living conditions in Qatar.
  3. Water: Desalination contrives 99 percent of the domestic water supply. The majority of the population has access to clean drinking water and sanitation facilities. Groundwater is one of the main freshwater resources. The country has no rivers or lakes.
  4. People: With a population of approximately 2 million, the median age of Qatar’s inhabitants is 33 years old. Non-Arab immigrants comprise the majority with Pakistanis, Indians, Iranians and other various ethnic backgrounds. Arabic is the official language and English is a close second.
  5. Women’s Rights: Personal status laws victimize women in child custody, marriage and divorce. Male frontrunners must approve of women’s’ rights to marry. Boundaries contiguous with divorce provide unilateral rights only to men.
  6. Kafala: Kafala is a sponsorship program for migrant workers that the International Labor Organization (ILO) brought forth. Labor laws prohibit workers from leaving the country without permits with regards to living conditions in Qatar. It implements reforms for increasing minimum wage, procedures surrounding recruitment and elements against human trafficking.
  7. Reforms on Education: Reform is continually taking place in Education City to bolster and enhance sustainable development amidst Qatar’s youth and higher education. Increasing motivation and factors stem from region-specific tradition to import best practices, globalization and transnational education, global competition, local education reform policies and liberalization.
  8. Health Care: With an increasing population, free health care offerings extend to all people in the country. Life expectancy stands at approximately 79 years as of 2005. The government regulates planning and infrastructure among initiatives.
  9. Municipalities: Qatar has 10 municipalities including Jarayan al Batinah, Madinat Ash Shamal, Messaieed, Umm Salal, Ad Dawhah, Al Ghuwayriyah, Al Jumayliyah, Al Khawr, Al Wakrah and Ar Rayyan. The Ministry of Municipal Affairs controls urban planning and economic development. Municipalities are responsible for answering to councils within their region.
  10. Tourism: Doha and surrounding cities have been renovating tourism for the preparation of the 2022 FIFA World Cup. Tourist attractions such as Al Wakra Museum and Aspire Park provide cultural identification for living conditions in Qatar. In previous years, it has been hosting the 2006 Asian Games and the 2011 Pan Arab Games.

Rapid economic and industrial expansion began at the price of reform. Qatar has the highest per capita GDP in the world largely due to the discovery of petroleum. As a syndicate of the Gulf Cooperation Council, the country continues to develop at an alarming pace. From the racing of camels to the vastness of their sand dunes the culture derives from nomadic Bedouins.

– Zach Erlanger
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Corruption in Colombia
Colombians often say that the biggest sport in the country is corruption. Since 1994, corruption in Colombia has steadily increased and as of 2018, Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index ranks the country 99 out of 180. The following 10 facts about corruption in Colombia break down the issue by looking at the various affected sectors, the implications of corruption and potential solutions that the country has attempted.

10 Facts About Corruption in Colombia

  1. One can trace Colombian corruption back to the early colonial legacies of the Spanish conquest. Many believe that the Spanish Empire had a corrupt and disorganized bureaucracy. As a colony of the Spanish Empire, Colombia adopted this system when it gained independence. During the early years, the elite members of society achieved a majority of their wealth through corrupt manners, and there was little punishment due to corruption in the judiciary court as well. Consequently, many aspects of society remained vulnerable in the future.
  2.  Eighty-one percent of the Colombian population believes that political parties are corrupt. Corruption levels have increased continuously since 2009, and as of 2019, corruption exists at every level of government, from local to national. Investigations for corruption have taken place regarding over 48,000 government officials across the political spectrum. Unfortunately, due to corruption in the judiciary system as well, a majority of these politicians avoid prosecution by using their own political parties’ budget to bribe judges.
  3. Colombia has lost up to 1 percent of its GDP annually due to corruption. There is a large amount of mistrust from the people when it comes to businesses and their products, as companies are often corrupt and there is no guarantee for a product’s quality or functionality. Furthermore, Colombia suffers from a trade deficit as other nations are reluctant to engage in business. Due to diminishing consumer interest, Colombia’s production, both domestically and internationally, has decreased.
  4. There has been a 39.7 percent annual increase in crime rates. Forty-nine percent and 61 percent of Colombians believe that the military and police, respectively, are corrupt. Due to military personnel, police officers and other armed forces repeatedly taking bribes, many crimes do not receive punishment. As a result, crime has become normalized and crime rates are climbing.
  5. Eighteen networks of corruption are in Colombia’s public health care system. The Colombian health care system has lost $160 million due to corruption. Doctors and other medical professionals manipulate medical records, including inventing fake patients or fake hiring employees, in order to acquire money for their own gains. The cost of corruption has increased treatment and drug costs and weakened health care performance.
  6. In 2012, audits prompted education secretariats to reveal the embezzlement of $125 million from school budgets. Corrupt officials are inventing ghost students, nearly 180,000, to secure money from the treasury for personal gains. Over the years, this number has decreased due to stricter regulations, but the practice continues to remain in effect; it is especially prominent in smaller areas, where school reports do not receive thorough checks.
  7. Only 2.9 percent of the population views the problem of corruption as a high priority. Corruption in Colombia has become normalized to the extent that most people disregard it, opting to focus on other issues such as increased crime rates and lack of health care. Unfortunately, many of these problems have corruption rooted in them. The widespread apathy from society enables corrupt behavior to persist.
  8. Colombia has put anti-Corruption policies into place such as the Anti-Corruption Act of 2011 and the Colombian Penal Code. These legislations redefined legal framework, criminalizing active and passive bribery, political corruption, foreign bribery, extortion and trading with confidential state information. The government’s goal in implementing such legislation was to increase prevention, investigation and penalty mechanisms against both, private and public corruption. By imposing more drastic measures, the government hoped that people would become more cautious and reports of corruption would increase.
  9.  President Santos created an Anti-Corruption Office in 2011. After the legislation improved, the government needed new agencies to tackle corruption. The Anti-Corruption Office maintains control and performs checks in order to ensure that others follow the legislation. The office intends to prevent conflict of interest and avoid nepotism, cronyism and patronage.
  10. Colombia has signed many international conventions to gain further assistance in addressing corruption. In 2013, Colombia signed the OECD’s Anti-Bribery Convention, the Inter-American Convention Against Corruption and the United Nations Convention Against Corruption. By signing such documents, the country sent an important message to the government, businesses and the people about the seriousness of the issue. Colombia has also taken part in the UNCAC’s voluntary Pilot Review Programme and the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, both of which allow an external review of corruption in Colombia as a means to keep the country in check.

As the current government is understanding the repercussions of high corruption, it is taking steps to counteract the problem. Unfortunately, the problem of corruption has not decreased and the country’s world ranking continues to fall. Looking at the 10 facts about corruption in Colombia mentioned above, it is clear that the issue affects many different aspects of life in the country; a lack of further change will significantly hinder Colombia’s development.

– Shvetali Thatte
Photo: Flickr

Top 10 Facts About Human Rights in Venezuela
People have long associated the current humanitarian crisis in Venezuela with the autocratic governance of late President Nicolás Maduro and decades of socioeconomic downfall. Gross political corruption persists in Venezuela that constitutional violations show. These began in 2017 and have barred acting president Juan Guaidó from assuming the duties of his office. In September 2019, The UN Human Rights Council dispatched a team to the country to investigate alleged human rights abuses, including state-sanctioned killings, forced disappearances and torture. With this information in mind, here are the top 10 facts about human rights in Venezuela.

Top 10 Facts About Human Rights in Venezuela

  1. The Situation: Deteriorating social and economic conditions in Venezuela have incited a refugee crisis in the country. Since 2014, more than four million Venezuelans have fled (a figure which excludes unregistered migrants). Displaced by violence and corruption, Venezuelan migrants struggle to obtain legal residence, food security, education and health care resources in the nations they flee to. These bureaucratic hurdles and unstable living situations force many to return home.
  2. Maduro and Corruption: The dismantling of Venezuela’s National Assembly in March 2017 was the Maduro Administration’s first attempt of many to silence political opposition. The move stripped the opposition-led parliament of its legislating powers and immunity—important checks against potential exploits by the executive branch. Research from Amnesty International confirms that Maduro’s government used torture, unhinged homicides and extrajudicial executions to maintain support in the years following this constitutional scandal.
  3. Protests and Arrests: Nationwide protests and demonstrations began in 2014 in response to human rights violations and a buckling economy. According to the Penal Forum, authorities have arrested more than 12,500 people between the years 2014 and 2018 in connection with protests. Security personnel and government-backed militias often use excessive force—tear gas, firearms, asphyxiation, severe beatings and electroshock, etc.—against protesters and detainees in order to quell resistance efforts.
  4. Censorship: Maduro’s regime has used censorship of mainstream media to control Venezuelan civilians and eliminate its critics. A pervasive fear of reprisal effectively denies Venezuelans their freedom of expression and speech.  During times of global scrutiny, the government has blocked online news broadcasts, VPN access and streaming services to curb bad press and anti-government organizing. The government staged an information blackout in February 2019 in response to a clash between the military and aid convoys at the Colombian border.
  5. Political Bribery: The Venezuelan government has used political bribery to keep Venezuelans compliant. The government has used its monopoly on resources to withhold food and other basic goods from dissenters and reward supporters with the same incentives. In 2016, Maduro launched the government-subsidized food program, Local Food Production and Provision Committees (CLAPS). Through this insidious program, Venezuelans received monthly (oftentimes late or empty) food shares in exchange for having their voting activity tracked.
  6. Human Rights Crisis Denial: In February 2019 Maduro denied claims to the BBC that the country was undergoing a human rights crisis. He has repeatedly used the same rhetoric to reject foreign aid and unassailable evidence of health and welfare shortages in the country, by equating the acceptance of aid with the fall of his regime. That same month, there were disputes over $20 million in U.S. and European aid shipments at the Colombia-Venezuela border.
  7. Venezuela’s Inflation Rate: The International Monetary Fund forecasts Venezuela’s inflation rate will reach 10 million percent in 2019. Food scarcity and hyperinflation have led to millions of cases of malnutrition and premature death, especially amongst children.
  8. Doctors and Hospitals: Twenty thousand registered doctors have left Venezuela between 2012 and 2017 due to poor working conditions and growing infant mortality rates. Hospitals are unhygienic and understaffed, lacking the medicine and medical equipment to accommodate the excess number of patients. Tentative water sources and power outages make most cases inoperable, presenting a liability to doctors and causing untreated patients to become violent.
  9. Death Squads: In June 2019, the UN reported that government-backed death squads killed nearly 7,000 people from 2018 to May 2019. Maduro attempted to legitimize the killings by using the Venezuelan Special Police Force (FAES) to conduct the raids, which he staged through family separation techniques and the illegal planting of contraband and narcotics. Again, Maduro devised this strategy to threaten political opponents and people critical of the Maduro government.
  10. Human Trafficking: A 2016 report conducted by the U.S. Department of State condemned Venezuela’s handling of human trafficking in the country, in both regards to sex trafficking and internal forced labor. Venezuela lacks the infrastructure to properly identify and assist trafficking victims due to governmental corruption and rampant gain violence which facilitates human trafficking and forgoes accountability. Traffickers often trick or coerce Venezuelan migrants into the sex trade. In fact, 10 percent of 1,700 recorded trafficking victims in Peru between 2017 and 2018 were Venezuelan.

The top 10 facts about human rights in Venezuela should read as a call to action. Global aid agencies and national governments are currently working to bring humanitarian aid to Venezuelans and the growing Venezuelan migrant community. While the current political climate complicates internal relief efforts, spreading awareness about the state of human rights in Venezuela is the first step in addressing the crisis.

Cuarto Por Venezuela Foundation is a nonprofit organization conceived in 2016 by four Venezuelan women living in the United States eager to alleviate the situation at home. The Foundation works to create programs and partnerships to deliver comprehensive aid to Venezuelans in need. In 2018, the organization shipped over 63,000 lbs. of medicine, food and school supplies to Venezuela (four times the number of supplies shipped the previous year). Additionally, its health program has served nearly 40,000 patients to date through vaccination and disease prevention services.

– Elena Robidoux
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Corruption in Pakistan
Pakistan, a nation of 197 million, has long been an ally of the U.S. and has come a long way in combatting corruption and graft within its government infrastructure. Nevertheless, the 21st century has seen corruption grip the country. Pakistan rates 33/100 on Transparency International’s Corruption Index (lower numbers = more corrupt and vice versa) and ranks 133/180 in terms of corruption. GAN states that corruption is a significant obstacle to all forms of business in Pakistan, regardless of whether the actor is a large multinational, an international NGO or a Pakistani corporation. Despite efforts by the national government and provincial legislatures to reduce corruption, it still presents a severe stumbling block to national growth. NGOs, despite the massive hurdles that corruption creates, have filled in the gap and begun working across the country to fight it. Anti-Corruption Force Organization Pakistan (ACFOP) is one such organization with chapters active in every province of Pakistan providing representation for the marginalized and a voice for those who have suffered monetarily and physically as a result of corruption in the system. With that, here are 10 facts about corruption in Pakistan.

10 Facts About Corruption in Pakistan

  1. Corrupt Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif: The leak of the Panama Papers in 2016 revealed that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his children owned four offshore companies through which they laundered money and facilitated bribes. Sharif received 10 years in jail by Pakistan’s anti-graft court, while his daughter Maryam received a seven-year sentence.  Sharif also garnered a lifelong ban from politics, effectively ending his hopes of a political dynasty.
  2. Corruption in the Army: Pakistan’s Armed Forces has a long history of corruption. According to Shamil Sams, writing for DW, the Pakistani government manages its own budget and can increase it without civilian oversight. Army officials have engaged in illegal activities such as cross-border smuggling, illegal toll collection at military checkpoints, illegally levying funds from private businesses and extorting landowners in the Okara region.
  3. Corruption in Law Enforcement: The presence of police corruption in Pakistan is a daily reality for a shocking number of Pakistani citizens. According to the Michelsen Institute, almost 100 percent of correspondents to a Transparency International survey reported daily solicitation of bribes by police officials. Policemen in multiple provinces have received accusations of performing extra-legal killings and torturing detainees. There is even a phrase for the culture of corruption in the law enforcement field; Thana Culture, an Urdu-derived word for police station. Human Rights Watch indicates that there is a critical lack of political will to reform law enforcement in Pakistan and that there is a framework of legal protections that shield law enforcement officials from accountability.
  4. Corruption in the Judiciary: Bribery is incredibly commonplace in Pakistani courtrooms. The Michelsen Institute found that 96 percent of all correspondents who came into contact with the judiciary encountered corruption in 2006 and that 44 percent had to pay a bribe directly to a court official. The procedure to select judges on a national level is highly susceptible to political favors, and the judges themselves receive an exemption from an audit by the National Accountability Bureau. The PTI party (Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf/Pakistan Movement for Justice) has made judicial reform one of its targets now that it is the head of the ruling coalition. It is currently considering numerous reforms to the judiciary to combat rampant corruption.
  5. Corruption in Rail Transit: According to Pakistan Today, corruption and mismanagement in public transportation are exceedingly common. In a 2010-2011 audit, the Pakistani government concluded that the lion’s share of Pakistan Railways’ financial deficit was the result of embezzlement and wastage of funds. Following the audits, there were numerous investigations to provincial and national level transit administrations. Another high-profile surplus scandal in 2014 prompted another wave of investigations, with the NAB (National Accountability Bureau) spearheading the effort.
  6. Corruption in Public Utilities: Transparency International found that almost 64 percent of citizens surveyed established power in their home through alternative methods, all of which fall under the purview of corruption. These methods include payments to office staff and having to make repeated payments in order to get services. Ninety-five percent of these correspondents also reported additional corruption when it came time to pay the bills. ACFOP has been active in this field, advocating for the poor in provinces like Punjab and Balochistan and offering legal counsel in their struggles against utility companies as a part of their mission.
  7.  Corruption in Health Care: According to research from the University of Karachi, petty corruption in health care is an increasingly dire problem in Pakistan. Its research uncovered the widespread presence of corruption in hospitals servicing low-income communities. It also found that out of 342 people surveyed, one-third encountered corruption in the form of paying bribes during admissions. People paid these bribes to doctors, hospital staff and even nurses. ACFOP has taken to social media and the public sector to raise awareness of corruption in health care on the provincial and national levels.
  8. Corruption in Taxation: Transparency International reports that corruption is prevalent among bureaucrats that involve themselves in tax collection. Its research found that tax inspectors and officials accounted for 14 percent of bribes that the average consumer paid out in a year. NGOs like the ACFOP and Transparency International Pakistan are working across all provinces of Pakistan to fight corruption in tax collection by identifying cases of corruption and lobbying local governments.
  9. Cricket Corruption: Corruption is so prevalent in Pakistan that it has leached into its sports teams. In 2011, members of Pakistan’s national cricket team received a conviction of receiving bribes from a bookmaker and agreeing to underperform at the team’s match against the British cricket team during the Lord’s test match. The International Cricket Council banned the players along with bookmaker Mazhar Majeed, and the players received prison sentences.
  10. National Accountability Bureau: Others have even accused the National Accountability Bureau, which is an organization that emerged in 1999 to fight corruption. In 2015, the Supreme Court of Pakistan accused the NAB of mismanagement. According to DAWN, two mishandled cases, one involving finance officers stealing from bomb victims and another dealing with land misappropriation, drew the ire of the Supreme Court, which claimed that “This represents serious maladministration and want of proper procedures and supervision within NAB.”

Hopefully, these 10 facts about corruption in Pakistan illuminate a critical but often overlooked shortcoming of one of the U.S.’s closest allies in the Middle East. It is important for a wider audience to see these facts so that NGOs around the world can do their part to help the people of Pakistan.

– Benjamin Mair-Pratt
Photo: Flickr

Ebola Virus DiseaseImagine traveling 1,316 kilometers from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) to Uganda seeking medical help for your nine-year-old daughter who seems to have been infected with the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD).

On August 29, 2019, a nine-year-old girl from the DRC was exposed and later developed symptoms of this rare and fatal disease. She was identified at the Mpondwe-Kasindi border point and then sent to an Ebola Treatment Centre (ETC) in Bwera, Uganda. Sadly, not too long after her arrival, the child passed away.

This sporadic epidemic has come back yet again and bigger than last time. This disease has infected the North Kivu Province and has caused more than 2,200 cases, along with 1,500 deaths just this year. Thus, making this the second-largest outbreak in history following behind the 2014-2016 outbreak that killed about 11,000 people. As of September 4, 2019, a total of 3,054 Ebola Virus Disease cases were reported. Out of that total number of cases, 2,945 of them were confirmed reports and the rest of the 109 were probable cases. Overall, 2,052 of those people died.

This disease has had a total of 25 outbreaks since its first flare-up in the Ebola River in 1967. It has plagued countries spanning from the West to sub-Saharan Africa and has a 25 to 90 percent fatality rate. Even though reports are coming from 29 different health zones, the majority of these cases are coming from the health zones of Beni, Kalunguta, Manima and Mambasa. About 17 of these 29 health zones have reported new cases stating that 58 percent of probable and confirmed cases are female (1,772), 28 percent are children under the age of 18 (865) and 5 percent (156) are health workers.

This 2019 case is different because of the way that Ebola Virus Disease is affecting an area of the country that is undergoing conflict and receiving an influx of immigrants. The nation’s “political instability,” random acts of violence and “limited infrastructure” also contribute to the restricted efforts to end the outbreak.  As of June 2019, the disease started its expansion to Uganda, with four cases confirmed near the eastern border shared with DRC, South Kivu Province and Rwanda borders. The World Health Organization (WHO) Country Representative of Uganda, Yonas Tegegn, stated that whoever came into contact with the nine-year-old patient had to be vaccinated.

Out of the five Congolese who had contact with the little girl, four of them have been sent back to their country for “proper follow-ups.” Another 8,000 people were vaccinated against Ebola due to “high-risk areas in the country.”  Overall, 200,000 people in DRC have been vaccinated against EVD along with “health workers in surrounding countries.” With this being said, there is no official vaccination that is known to effectively protect people from this disease. Therefore an “effective experimental vaccine” has been found suitable enough for use. Also, a therapeutic treatment has shown “great effectiveness” in the early stages of the virus.

Ugandan authorities have taken matters into their own hands, strengthened border controls and banned public gatherings in areas that have been affected by EVD. According to the August 5, 2019 risk assessment, the national and regional levels are at higher risk of contracting EVD while the global level risk is low.

The Solutions

The World Health Organization (WHO) is doing everything they can to prevent the international spread of this disease. They have implemented the International Health Regulations (2005) to “prevent, protect against, control and provide international responses” to the spread of EVD.

This operational concept includes “specific procedures for disease surveillance,” notifying and reporting public health events and risks to other WHO countries, fast risk assessments, acting as a determinant as to whether or not an event is considered to be a public health emergency and coordinating international responses.

WHO also partnered up with the Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network (GOARN) to ensure that proper “technical expertise” and skills are on the ground helping people that need it most. GOARN is a group of institutions and networks that use human and technical resources to “constantly alert” one another to rapidly identify, confirm and respond to “outbreaks of international importance.”  WHO and GOARN have responded to over 50 events around the world with 400 specialists “providing field support” to 40 countries.

– Isabella Gonzalez Montilla
Photo: Flickr