period poverty in IndiaPeriod poverty is often described as a lack of access to menstrual education and sanitary products. With 800 million women and girls menstruating daily, this is a subject that concerns half the population around the world. However, the issue is particularly prevalent in India where only 42 percent of women have access to sanitary pads. What is being done to alleviate this common problem? Here are the top five facts about period poverty in India.

Top Five Facts About Period Poverty in India

  1. Increased risk of disease: In India, an estimated 70 percent of all reproductive diseases are caused by poor menstrual hygiene. Women often use dirty rags as a replacement for sanitary pads. Even rags that are cleaned can still develop bacteria if not dried properly. Furthermore, 63 million adolescent girls in India, do not have access to a toilet in their homes. Without a clean and private space to change menstrual products, girls are less likely to properly manage their own hygiene
  2. Cultural stereotypes have a huge impact: Menstruation in India is often seen as a shameful conversation. Studies estimate that 71 percent of girls have no knowledge about menstrual health until after their first period. Women are often described as “dirty” while menstruating and are commonly separated in the home when dining, praying or participating in other activities. Some studies suggest that this is due to gender norms that become more prevalent at puberty. In addition, there is no required curriculum surrounding menstrual health in school.
  3. The high cost of sanitation facilities: Third on the list for the top five facts about period poverty in India is the expense of menstrual products. Approximately 70.62 million people in India live in extreme poverty on less than $1.90 dollars per day. The average Indian woman needs 300 rupees ($4.20) per month for menstrual products. For low-income households, the cost of sanitary pads is often unattainable. Furthermore, Since most adolescents do not have access to toilets at home, girls are more likely to pay for restrooms in public, which is another unaffordable expense.
  4. Period poverty in India affects education: On average, girls miss six days of class each month due to shame surrounding their periods or a lack of sanitary products. This contributes to the number of girls in India who drop out of school each year, around 23 percent. Girls that leave school are stunted in their careers and are more likely to become child brides. India has the highest number of child brides in the world, with 15.5 million children being married by the age of 18.
  5. Removal of taxes: While some parts of period poverty seem daunting, other parts seem hopeful. In 2017, the Indian government labeled menstrual products as luxury goods. Quickly after the announcement of the new tax, the public gathered to campaign against it. In July of 2018, the government removed the tax, thus making sanitary products more accessible to low-income households.

Working to Improve Conditions

The good news doesn’t end with the removal of taxes. Many positive strides have been taken to address the issues of period poverty. Binti is one organization in India (as well as 11 other countries) aiming to minimize the issue. The nonprofit is fighting for menstrual equality through education, distribution of sanitary products and government advocacy. The World Bank and WASH partnered together to create Menstrual Hygiene Day to spread awareness about the importance of sanitary products for women and girls around the world.

Documentaries have also aided in global education surrounding period poverty. For example, “Period. End of Sentence.” partnered with Action India (a nonprofit aiming to create gender equality) to create a documentary about the situation. The Netflix original was successful in fundraising enough money to install a vending machine of menstrual products in Hapur, India. It was also awarded an Oscar for “best documentary short film, gaining public recognition for its efforts.

Ultimately, when looking at the top five facts about period poverty in India, one can see it is a very prevalent issue. Menstrual inequality is often caused by shame around the conversation as well as the high cost of feminine products. This creates challenges in education and an increased risk of disease. However, many positive strides are being made, and governments are starting to see that this is a cause worth advocating for.

Anna Melnik

Photo: Flickr

10 Facts about Life Expectancy in ZambiaZambia is home to 16.45 million people. It had one of the world’s fastest-growing economies up until 2014. Despite this, rural poverty and high unemployment levels remain rampant across the country. As a result, the nation’s average life expectancy is lower than the global average. However, significant steps have been taken in an attempt to improve the situation. Here are 10 facts about life expectancy in Zambia.

10 Facts about Life Expectancy in Zambia

  1. The CIA reports the average life expectancy for in Zambia to be 51.4 years for males and 54.7 years for females. This is a slight increase from life expectancy in 1980 when Zambian males had an average life expectancy of 50.4 years while Zambia females had an average life expectancy of 52.5 years. Zambia currently ranks 222 in life expectancy out of 223 countries.
  2. Over the last 10 years, there has been a 30 percent reduction in child mortality in Zambia. UNICEF reported that Zambia’s under-five mortality rate was 60 deaths per 1000 births in 2017. This is an extremely large decrease in comparison to the 1990 under-five mortality rate, which was 185 deaths per 1000 births.

  3. Zambia’s high rate of child stunting is due in part to lack of poor water sanitation and hygiene. Currently, 14 percent of the Zambian population and 46 percent of Zambian schools do not have access to basic hygiene services, such as handwashing facilities with soap and water.

  4. UNICEF has set up the WASH program in response to the lack of hygienic access in Zambia. In partnership with the Government’s Seven National Development Plan, UNICEF is helping Zambia achieve the Vision 2030 and Sustainable Development Goals. WASH has been providing sustained access to clean water and encouraging the adoption of hygiene practices in schools throughout Zambia.

  5. Since 2010, Zambia has been part of the Scaling Up Nutrition Movement (SUN) in order to further battle childhood stunting, which affects 40 percent of children under the age of five. Since joining SUN, the District Nutrition Coordinating Committees (DNCC) has expanded its efforts throughout several districts in Zambia. From 2010 up to 2017,  SUN in Zambia had reached 44 percent of its goal to create coherent policy and legal framework, 62 percent of its goal of financial tracking and resource mobilization and 81 percent of its goal to align programs around a Common Results Framework.

  6. The top cause of early death in Zambia is HIV/AIDS. However, new HIV infections have dropped since 2010 by 27 and AIDS-related deaths have dropped by 11 percent. In order to maintain this downward trend, comprehensive sex education have been implemented in schools. As of 2016, 65 percent of Zambians living with HIV had access to antiretroviral treatment to prevent further transmission.

  7. The AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) has expanded its efforts to spread treatment for HIV/AIDS throughout Zambia. In 2018 alone, AHF provided treatment for 71,000 Zambian HIV/AIDS patients.
  8. HIV/AIDS, neonatal disorders, and lower respiratory infections are the top three causes of death in Zambia since 2007. However, the number of deaths caused by these diseases have dropped since 2007 by 63.1 percent, 8 percent, and 14.5 percent respectively.
  9. As of 2018, a total of $64 per person was being spent on health in Zambia. This money comes from development assistance for health ($28) and government health spending ($24) while $12 comes from out-of-pocket and prepaid private spending, respectively. This total is expected to increase to $135 by 2050.

  10. Though the Zambian uses 14.5 percent of its total expenditures on health expenditure, there is still much work to be done. Currently, Zambia benefits from USAID’s assistance in order to scale up prevention, care and treatment programs. However, the country does not have enough advanced hospitals to offer specialized treatment. Nationally, there is an average of 19 hospital beds per 10,000 people. Additionally, WHO reports that Zambia has a physician density of 0.1 doctors per 1,000 people, which is far below the comparable country average of 3.5 physicians per 1,000 patients.

The 10 facts about life expectancy in Zambia listed above can be corrected through proper planning, targeted efforts to decrease poverty, the establishment of water/hygiene practices and development of education throughout the country. With the help of other nations and organizations, life expectancy in Zambia can be improved.

– Shreya Gaddipati
Photo: Flickr

Girls Education in IndiaIn 2017, India was ranked 130 in human development out of the world’s countries, putting the country on the medium level in regards to human development. This placement is due to imminent barriers that prevent girls from equal access to India’s academic opportunities. By contributing more to girls’ education, India’s ranking would improve as it would help to alleviate some poverty. This article presents the top 10 facts about girls’ education in India.

Top 10 Facts About Girls Education in India

  1. The caste system, dating back to 1200 BCE, is a form of discrimination that had been officially outlawed in 1955; however, its influence thrives in India’s modern-day education system. On the top of the system is a group called the Brahmins, and at the very bottom are Dalits (“untouchables”). This method has kept many Dalit girls secluded from promising scholastic endeavors. These children are often from their peers segregated during lunchtime and ridiculed by them in class. This rhetoric causes 51 percent of Dalit children to drop out of elementary school. Another law passed in 1989 was supposed to protect the Dalit caste, but it is not being sufficiently enforced.
  2. Gender inequality has deterred education for girls in India for a long time. In 2017, 32 percent of girls were not enrolled in school in comparison to 28 percent of boys. A male’s education in India is more valued, therefore; it is often seen as unnecessary to financially support a girl’s education due to these binding gender roles.
  3. In impoverished villages where schools are inaccessible and not encouraged, gender roles lead to a third of girls in India marrying off their educational futures. As high as 47 percent of the girls in India are subject to marriage by 18 years of age. This leads to early pregnancies, which makes it impossible to attend school as they must shoulder the stigma and the additional workload. Some regions also don’t permit pregnant girls to attend school, which puts education even further from their grasp.
  4. In 2009, the Right to Education Act (RTE), mandated that it is the right of every child to obtain a minimum amount of education. The program was supposed to make it compulsory for children ages 6 to 14 to access educational opportunities as more provisions were enacted. This was a step in the right direction, but more must be done to actively close the gender gap and retrain society to value girls’ education.
  5. The Right to Education Act in India seems to have improved the country’s ranking when looking at the growth in literacy rates. In 2001, literacy rates were 64.8 percent; however, this had increased to 74.04 percent by 2011. As of 2001, around 54 percent of girls were literate; however, after the RTE, the percentage had increased to more than 65 by 2011.
  6. Every year, 23 million girls in India drop out of school after they begin menstruating due to lack of sanitary napkin dispensers and overall hygiene awareness in schools. Lack of reproductive education leaves 71 percent of girls unaware of what takes place in their bodies during menstruation. Many girls even believe that was is happening is “unclean” and shameful. Even with awareness, lack of sanitary pads in rural areas force girls to use cloths that sometimes cause infections; only two to three women use sanitary pads.
  7. At least 47 percent of schools lack toilets, forcing girls to rid their bodily waste onto the streets, which is morally degrading to them. This is another reason they drop out of school, to avoid this shame. RTE included adding toilets to schools to solve this problem, but it wasn’t enough. Therefore, the Department of School Education and Literacy under Ministry of HRD implemented a program named, Swachh Vidyalaya, which would add $4,582.91 worth of toilets to schools.
  8. In Bihar, where the literacy rate for girls is 20 points lower than for their male counterparts, the trek to school is far. For someone in the Rampur Singhara village, the trek is 4 miles, and the bus fare is too expensive to send the child to school. However, the state government has given free bikes to families to encourage a higher literacy rate in poorer regions like Bihar. The bicycle program instantly showed success as the number of girls registering for schools went from 175,000 to 600,000 in the span of four years.
  9. India is expanding its horizons with technology to combat illiteracy, and it seems that women are benefiting the most. Computer-Based Functional Literacy (CBFL) teaches the basics of reading. This program targets individuals ages 20 to 50, which branches out India’s education system in terms of age for both sexes. Women comprised 81 percent of those who signed up for this efficient program. Girls who are at home due to poverty, gender roles or a host of other reasons are able to engage in education, thereby increasing the literacy rate.
  10. The poverty rate in India has declined from roughly 54 percent in 1983 to 21.2 percent in 2011 ever since educational improvements began taking place. Knowing this, it can be found that if India provided more resources for girls’ education, its GDP would increase. By simply increasing girls’ enrollment in secondary school by 1 percent, the  GDP in India would increase by $5.5 billion.

India aims to grow from a medium developed country to one of higher rank. Considering its recent strides in education, it is possible for India to attain this goal. However, this can only be done by realizing there is still more work to be done in closing the gap between boys and girls as these top 10 facts about girls’ education in India show.

Gowri Abhinanda

Photo: Flickr

Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene
In many developing countries, gender inequality in access to water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH for short) creates additional risks and hardships for women and girls, in addition to all equalities that women must endure. As of 2015, 2.1 billion people globally did not have access to safe water services and 4.5 billion did not have access to a safely managed sanitation service. In order to improve access to these services and the livelihoods of women in developing countries, it is essential that policy-makers view WASH as a gendered issue and involve women in decision-making.

Water Collection

In the absence of basic water services, individuals must travel to a water source to collect water for their household. This burden disproportionately falls on women, with women and girls responsible for water collection in eight out of 10 households without water on the premises. More than 73 percent of water collection is done by women, and 6.9 percent is done by girls under the age of 15. While water collection can be important to the social lives of women, as it offers an opportunity to communicate with women from different households, it poses a risk to women’s safety and takes away time that could be spent on other activities.

In sub-Saharan Africa, it takes approximately 33 minutes to travel to and from a water source in rural areas, and 25 minutes in urban areas. Many people have to make this trip more than once per day. During this trip, women may be vulnerable to gender-based violence, including sexual assault while traveling on their own. For girls, water collection takes away from time that could be spent on obtaining an education. For women, this is the time that could be spent on childcare, housework or income-generating activities.

Sanitation and Hygiene Issues

Many people do not have access to latrines in developing countries and therefore practice open defecation. In Central and Southern Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, nine out of 10 individuals openly defecate in fields, forests, bushes and bodies of water. Women and girls may require additional privacy when defecating, and therefore in some cultures can only do so at night. This increases the risk of violence, and suppressing their bodily functions during the day can lead to urinary tract infections and chronic constipation.

Menstruating can also be extremely difficult in these settings, with many women lacking access to basic products and services. Many schools lack private bathroom facilities for girls, causing many girls to leave school once they reach puberty. If they do stay, they often stay home while they are menstruating, decreasing their chances for educational success. Adult women are also impacted, and may not be able to work at certain locations if they do not have gender-segregated bathroom facilities.

Additionally, without water, sanitation and hygiene become increasingly difficult. Even if women and girls do have access to private toilets, if they do not have clean water to wash their hands, this poses a serious health risk for them and for others. In general, women are more likely to be exposed to dirty water, as they do a majority of household work, including taking care of young children. Contact with wastewater increases the risk of disease for many women.

Issues to Consider

Those trying to solve the problems associated with water, sanitation and hygiene must take into account a few different factors. First, in emergency situations, such as natural disasters or conflict, water may become additionally scarce, increasing hardships for women and girls. They may have to walk farther to collect water, making them more likely to experience violence.

On the other hand, cultural or social constraints may confine women to the home during more dangerous times, further decreasing their access to water and sanitation facilities. Second, household gender dynamics and societal gender roles need to be considered. If gender roles are radically altered, particularly if women are given more power than they initially possessed, this could increase gender-based violence because men feel as though they are losing control.

Moving Forward

Involving women in efforts to improve water, sanitation and hygiene is crucial in solving these issues and is already underway in many communities. Women are influential in raising awareness about water and sanitation issues, and improving water and sanitation can greatly empower them.

A study by the International Water and Sanitation Center conducted in 15 countries found that water and sanitation projects that included women were more effective and sustainable. For example, in Zimbabwe, female community members were involved in committees on WASH, and this highlighted community health concerns and provided insights for the construction and maintenance of water sources. Similarly, a project in Uganda worked with women to help them build rainwater harvesting jars, decreasing the amount of time needed for water collection.

Projects like these are being conducted in developing countries around the world, and the general lesson remains the same- involve women in decision-making at every level and remain conscious of the role played by specific cultural contexts in these issues. Efforts that effectively work with communities have the potential to vastly decrease the problems associated with water, sanitation and hygiene for women and girls, reducing gender inequalities and improving livelihoods of everyone.

– Sara Olk

Photo: Flickr

five NGOs are petitioning the government to end the war in Yemen
The war in Yemen between Houthi rebels and the Saudi led coalition has created the world’s largest humanitarian crisis. Despite the dire situation, there is reason to hope. On November 26, five NGOs petitioned the U.S. Government to call an end to the war. Two days later, the U.S. Government announced it would add an additional $24 million to USAID’s Office of Food for Peace. On December 13, the Senate voted to end the United States support of the Saudi coalition. These are the five NGOs that are petitioning to end the war in Yemen.

Since 2015, there have been more than 16,000 civilians casualties, 22.2 million people, including 11 million children, are in need of aid and eight million are at risk of famine. The war has led to a host of other problems as well, including a cholera outbreak and a lack of access to clean water. Many organizations are trying to stop the conflict in Yemen. These are 5 nonprofit organizations working hard to protect the people of Yemen.

These are the 5 NGOs that are petitioning to end the war in Yemen

  1. International Rescue Committee (IRC): The International Rescue Committee, headed by David Miliband, a former U.K. Secretary of Foreign Affairs, is focused on humanitarian relief operations in war-affected areas. Right now it operates in more than 40 countries, and its refugee resettlement program operates in 28 U.S. cities. The IRC has been providing aid to Yemen since 2012, working to protect women and children as well as provide access to healthcare and education.
  2. Oxfam: Oxfam is a global organization working in more than 90 countries to end poverty. Led by Abby Maxman, the former Deputy Secretary General of CARE International, Oxfam believes in identifying and changing the root causes of poverty rather than just sending material aid. Through fighting and eliminating injustice, Oxfam feels that poverty can finally be eliminated. The organization has been working in Yemen since 2015 to prevent diseases by providing sanitation, hygiene assistance and clean water to those affected by the war.
  3. CARE: CARE is active in 93 countries around the globe working to combat social injustice and poverty. The organization is headed by Michelle Nunn, who previously ran the organization Points of Light and had been a candidate for the U.S. Senate. CARE current goal is to reach 200 million of the world’s most vulnerable people by 2020. CARE has been working in Yemen since 1992 and is currently providing food, water and sanitation to one million Yemenis people each month.
  4. Save the Children: Save the Children is an organization that works in the U.S. and around the world to provide for underprivileged children. It is headed by Carolyn Miles, who has been with the organization since 1998. Save the Children is active in 120 countries worldwide promoting nutrition, health and education programs. Save the Children is doing just that in Yemen by treating almost 100,000 Yemenis children for malnutrition through mobile health clinics.
  5. Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC): The Norwegian Refugee Council started its relief efforts after World War II and continues its mission to this day. The organization is active in 32 countries across the world to provide clean water, education, camp management, legal aid, food assistance and shelter to refugees. The Norwegian Refugee Council is headed by Jan Egeland, who has been with the organization since 2013 and was appointed in 2015 by the U.N. as special envoy to Syria. In 2017, the NRC has provided food for more than 300,000 Yemenis and shelter to more than 50,000.

These 5 NGOs that are petitioning to end the war in Yemen are all fighting for a better world for the world’s poor. Through their work, they were able to spur the government into action. Since the petition, millions of dollars have been added to the aid package for Yemen, and the U.S. has voted to end its military involvement in the conflict.

Peter Zimmerman
Photo: Flickr

hygiene and sanitation
In November 2018, The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation hosted the Reinvented Toilet Expo in Beijing. The Expo was the latest iteration of the Reinvent the Toilet challenge that was started in 2011 to help bring clean, safe sanitation to millions of people living in poverty in the developing world. The expo unveiled the world’s first pathogen killing toilet along with small-scale wastewater treatment plants ready for sale to both private and municipal entities. Innovations showcased at the Expo have the potential to greatly decrease human and economic losses because they provide improvements in sanitation and hygiene.

The Importance of Sanitation and Hygiene

Unlike most modern toilets, where waste is flushed away with water, these reinvented toilets separate the waste and water and were designed to be used in areas where no sewer systems exist and to safely reduce waste byproducts  With 2.3 billion people worldwide not having access to basic sanitation facilities, it is no wonder that as many as 892 million people defecate in open places like street gutters and bodies of water. This creates serious sanitation concerns as it contributes to the spread of diseases including Hepatitis A, typhoid and polio, as well as intestinal worms, schistosomiasis and trachoma.

Poor sanitation and hygiene along with inadequate water kill as many as 842,000 people in low and middle-income countries each year, affecting children under five the most. According to a 2013 UNICEF report, “2,000 children under five die every day from diarrheal disease, and of these 1,800 deaths are linked to poor sanitation, water and hygiene.” These figures underline the importance of hygiene and sanitation around the world, showing just how important the work done with the Reinvented Toilet Expo is.

Decreasing the Number of Sanitation and Hygiene Related Deaths

The innovative ideas displayed at the Reinvented Toilet Expo aim to significantly decrease the number of deaths from poor sanitation over the course of the next 10 years, especially in urban areas.  The World Bank, the Asian Development Bank and the African Development Bank were among the financial institutions that have pledged financial commitments with the potential of reaching $2.5 billion toward urban sanitation projects, which is the largest ever coordinated commitment to urban sanitation.

Currently, 55 percent of the world’s population resides in urban areas, and that number is expected to increase to 68 percent by 2050. This poses a growing challenge for sanitation and hygiene for impoverished people in urban areas where sanitation is at a premium. What limited data exists on urban sanitation suggests that human waste is discharged directly into rivers, lakes and oceans. Making improvement in sanitation and hygiene in urban areas will not only create a healthier population but it also is good for the overall economy.

Better Sanitation Equals a Better Economy

According to The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, poor sanitation and hygiene lead to more than $200 billion lost in healthcare costs, decreased income and productivity. The new toilets would greatly reduce that number. The reinvented toilet could represent an estimated $6 billion in the global market by 2030 and could even help open up a new sanitation sector. The World Health Organization reported that every dollar invested in global sanitation could have an average return of $5.50.

Since 2011, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has invested over $200 million towards improvements in sanitation and hygiene and plans to invest another $200 million into decreasing the cost for nations where improved sanitation and hygiene will have the most impact. The continued improvements in sanitation and hygiene will decrease the mortality rate, boost the global economy and have the potential to offer new sources of renewable energy and water.

Peter Zimmerman
Photo: Flickr

Top 10 Facts about Living Conditions in Venezuela
The situation in Venezuela, sparked by political turmoil and hyperinflation, has denigrated into a dire case of global poverty. Despite its former status as one of the richest countries in South America and its access to the largest oil rig in the world, Venezuela’s economy has sparked both a humanitarian crisis and a refugee crisis within South America. Here are the top 10 facts about living conditions in Venezuela:

Food Scarcity & Weight loss

According to a study by three universities in Venezuela, 74.3 percent of the population lost an average of 19 pounds of weight in 2015, and around 9.6 million Venezuelans ate two or fewer meals a day.

Due to past government subsidies of oil production, the people of Venezuela have historically relied heavily on imports of even basic necessities rather than domestic production.

Now that Venezuela’s borders have been closed and its currency devalued, imported resources within Venezuela have become increasingly scarce, making food prices rise significantly.

Population and Inflation

Approximately 81 percent of Venezuela’s 31.5 million people are now considered to be living in income poverty, while over 50 percent are estimated to be living in extreme poverty.

Additionally, the IMF predicts that inflation will reach 13,000 percent in the coming year, making it the biggest recession in the history of the Western Hemisphere — twice as large as the Great Depression.

Education Decline

For a country that once boasted free education for all students under Hugo Chavez’s socialist regime, the education structure in Venezuela is crumbling under the current economic crisis. Many schools in Venezuela have closed or are operating at limited capacity.

Such conditions are due to insufficient salaries for school teachers who are working for just over a dollar a month, as well as lack of school lunches as the government has run out of funds for the state-run program that provided children with free lunch. An increasing number of children have stopped going to school because, without food, they may faint in class.

Of 8 million school children, approximately 3 million students have stopped attending some or all classes. Education professionals within Venezuela fear for a future of uneducated and unskilled workers if this trend continues too long.

Lack of Hygiene

As most families have been scraping by just to put food on the table, those receiving the minimum wage face a choice every time they receive their paycheck: food or hygiene? According to Jonathan Marquez, a security guard and now also a taxi driver, he always picks food, adding water to the little bit of shampoo that he has left to make soap.

Additionally, one reporter from Venezuela spent 86 percent of the monthly minimum wage on eight rolls of toilet paper, after failing to find it in any stores for a whole week.

Businesses Cannot Operate

Number five of the top 10 facts about living conditions in Venezuela is that lack of resources for the individual means lack of resources for small businesses as well. The economic emergency in Venezuela has led to declining business within Venezuela, resulting in layoffs and even many business shut-downs.

Hairdressers only have running water two days a week and hair products are scarce to find; bakers have no flour to make bread; restaurant owners have no customers to cook for and very little pasta to cook.

Lack of Medicine

The medical profession is suffering as well. While doctors can still prescribe medicine, there is hardly any medicine to supply to their patients as the country endures an estimated 85 percent shortage of medicine, according to the Pharmaceutical Federation of Venezuela. Chronic diseases like kidney disease or diabetes are not being treated due to this limited supply of medicine, which leads to serious health risks.

A box of ten pills for high blood pressure can be more than a retiree’s monthly pension. Even highly preventable and curable diseases can now develop into life-threatening illnesses from the lack of antibiotics and proper treatment.

Water and Electricity Shortages

Drought from the Guri Dam has sparked a country-wide rationing of water and electricity. The hydroelectric plants in the reservoir contribute to 70 percent of the nation’s electricity supply.

While a standardized 4 hour outage was enacted daily, residents have noted that some days there is no electricity for up to 14 hours. In efforts to conserve electricity, Maduro has cut public sector work weeks to two days per week.

Concerning water rationing, faucets only run once or twice a week for most people; however, in harder-to-reach places like Margarita Island, water is only supplied once every 21 days.

Violence and Protests

Street protests and looting have become almost commonplace in Venezuela as people continue to lose faith in their government. In three months, 111 protests were recorded in Sucre — one of Venezuela’s 23 states — as reported by Indice, a human rights group monitoring the protests.

Reporters have noted 5 or 6 protests per week, all demanding basic necessities and fighting through tear gas and rubber bullets to get it.

The South American Refugee Crisis

To escape the turmoil within Venezuela, there has been a mass exodus into neighboring countries, particularly Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Chile. The UNHCR estimates that nearly 5000 people escape from Venezuela each day, totaling 2.3 million migrants from Venezuela since 2015.

While South American border policies have eased the refugee migration process for many Venezuelan people, neighboring countries are not equipped with the facilities and resources to host refugees in the capacity at which they’re arriving.

Aid and Access

Government restrictions under President Maduro have rejected humanitarian aid by obstructing shipments, particularly targeting medicine, but that does not mean that there is nothing that can be done. Church groups and non-profit organizations like Sanando and the Cuatro Por Venezuela Foundation are doing their best to provide aid to the people of Venezuela.

Cuatro Por Venezuela began in 2016 when four Venezuelan women living in the U.S. decided to deliver relief to their country. They have since provided over 50,000 food servings per year and attended to over 17,000 medical patients. Neighboring countries, such as Colombia, have also been immensely helpful to Venezuelan refugees by providing food and shelter for hundreds of thousands of people.

While the U.S. is still pressing sanctions on President Maduro, Mike Pence has promised $48 million to support regional partners that are taking on the brunt of this crisis.

Giving Hand, Willing Heart

The humanitarian readiness to help is inspiring; however, the onus remains on Nicolas Maduro and the Venezuelan government to open its borders to aid and imports to ensure the safety and health of their people.

The U.S. government and the world is ready to help alleviate the situation in Venezuela. The hope is that these top 10 facts about living conditions in Venezuela will have significantly changed by next year.

– Sara Andresen
Photo: Flickr

menstrual hygieneMenstruation is a normal part of being a young woman, but many feel ashamed and often won’t go to school because of it. Silence about the issue has also led to poor reproductive health practices and gender disparity in the workforce. However, some people have chosen to speak out. In honor of Menstrual Hygiene Day on May 28, the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS) partnered with U-Report Global to promote discussion about the struggles that come with being a girl. This collaboration has challenged the stigma surrounding menstruation and sought to reinvent the societal norm.

Menstrual Hygiene Day

Menstrual Hygiene Day was founded by a German nonprofit called WASH United. The movement promotes advocacy for women’s reproductive health and urges political leaders to make it a priority. Advocacy efforts have ranged from individual voices to nonprofit organizations to government agencies. Participation has increased with every year. In 2016, 34 countries held 180 events, growing to 54 countries and 350 events in 2017. This year, 475 events were hosted in 70 countries.

U-Report Global, created by UNICEF, is a mobile platform that encourages youth to use social media to discuss issues relevant to their communities. The goal is to give kids the power to create social change and promote democracy among political leaders. Some countries have already seen the impact of U-Report’s polling system. In Liberia, 86 percent of U-Reporters said that “sex for grades” is a prevalent issue in their schools. Because of this, UNICEF staff met with the Minister of Education about how to address the problem.

Giving African Women a Voice

In alliance with U-Report’s mission, WAGGGS has used polls to give young women in Africa a voice. The results show that 59 percent of female respondents reported receiving an adequate amount menstrual education, 31 percent reported not having enough education, and 11 percent said they had received none. One in five girls had said the taboo subject of menstrual hygiene prevented them from seeking proper sanitary products. The polls also reported one in three respondents believing that menstruating women get unfair treatment. These results were used to encourage decision makers to offer more support to menstruating girls and encourage their school attendance.

Other groups like Speak Up Africa have contributed to the empowerment of young girls by providing menstrual education. They set up classes at the National Girls’ Camp in Sierra Leone, which dedicates itself to promoting a positive self-image and making smart decisions about reproductive health. First Lady H.E. Sia Nyama Koroma oversees this camp and other programs to benefit girls.

Respondents in Africa have told U-Report that girls should not feel ashamed of something that is normal. Many believe in the power of education to not only teach girls about menstrual health but let everyone know that it’s not dirty. Testimonies on WAGGGS show that the health of menstruating girls involves more than just teaching them how to use a pad; it’s about addressing gender inequality too.

– Sabrina Dubbert
Photo: Flickr

Ghana Eradicated Trachoma, a Disease That Left Millions Blind
On June 13, 2018 the World Health Organization (WHO) confirmed that trachoma, an infectious and painful disease of the eye that may potentially lead to blindness, is no longer a public health concern in Ghana.

Trachoma and Ghana

Ghana sits on West Africa’s Gulf of Guinea and is a home to 28 million people — 2.8 (or 15 percent) of which were at risk of trachoma in 2000. The WHO attributes the success to a collective effort between local and regional communities and international collaboration.

Trachoma is caused by Chlamydia bacterium and is spread by flies, a lack of sanitation and lack of access to clean water. When a person has the disease, the inside of the eyelids become scarred and curl inwards, causing the lashes to scrape against the lens of the eye, eventually destroying it if left untreated.

The disease was once common in the west, but has since been reduced to areas of the world where people do not have the resources to fend off the disease, usually attacking the world’s poor and leaving them unable to properly carry out their daily tasks.

Trachoma of the Past, Present and Future

Often described as a sensation of “thorns” in the eyes, trachoma is an extremely uncomfortable and serious disease. The disease is ancient, and dates as far back as the time of the pharaohs and ancient Greeks and Romans. Even prominent figures across ancient history such as St. Paul, Cicero, Horace and Galileo were believed to have suffered from the disease.

In 2000, the Ministry of Health and Ghana Health Service put in place a national Trachoma Elimination Program. This program involved putting the Surgery for Trichiasis, Antibiotics to Ward Off Infection (SAFE) strategy into action.

Surgery for trichiasis, the condition in which the eyelashes grow inward, was provided free of charge for more than 6,000 patients, and the pharmaceutical company Pfizer donated 3.3 million doses of Zithromax antibiotics to help avoid infection.

Pfizer also has plans to continue to donate Zithromax globally to help other trachoma-endemic countries. The importance of hygiene and facial cleanliness was promoted throughout the community during events, school health education and radio messages — while Ghana’s Community Water and Sanitation Agency worked towards environmental improvements.

Number Seven, Ghana

Ghana is the seventh country to have officially wiped out the disease, along with Oman, Morocco, Mexico, Cambodia, Laos and Nepal — and it is the only sub-saharan African country to have done so. In spite of this brilliant success, up to 200 million people are still at risk of contracting trachoma in 41 countries, many of which are on the African continent.

Experts are hopeful for the future eradication of the disease considering the ways in which Ghana eradicated trachoma. WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus expressed his optimism saying, “Although there’s more work to do elsewhere, the validation of elimination in Ghana allows another previously heavily-endemic country to celebrate significant success.”

– Camille Wilson

Photo: Flickr

Sanitation Facilities in BhutanBhutan has made tremendous strides over the last few decades toward ensuring all people have access to clean and safe drinking water. In 1990, only 72 percent of the population of Bhutan had access to an improved water source and only 67 percent in rural areas. Just over 20 years later, The World Health Organization (WHO), in its 2012 Global Analysis and Assessment of Sanitation and Drinking Water (GLAAS) for Bhutan, reported that now 98 percent of the population of Bhutan has access to an improved source of drinking water.

Room for Improvement

Despite these tremendous improvements, 13 percent of childhood deaths in Bhutan are attributed to diarrhea. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates 88 percent of diarrhea cases are caused by unclean water or improper sanitation facilities. Likewise, an estimated 30 percent of all health problems reported in rural areas of Bhutan stem at least partially from unsafe drinking water or improper sanitation methods.

Bhutan’s Ministry of Health and the Bhutanese Public Health Engineering Division recognize that a lack of access to clean water and sanitation facilities is still a major cause of death and disease. It also recognizes that rural areas are especially in need of better sanitation facilities. In response, improving access to clean water and to high-quality sanitation services has become a priority.

Accessing Sanitation Facilities in Bhutan

Having access to clean water and having access to proper sanitation facilities are intrinsically linked. Sanitation facilities that are not properly containing waste can pollute what otherwise would be a clean source of water. However, data from the WHO indicates a lack of access to sanitation facilities in Bhutan is by far the larger of the two issues. In 2012, when 98 percent of Bhutanese had access to an improved water source, only 47 percent had access to an improved sanitation facility. The problem is especially acute in rural areas, which contain 80 percent of those who lack access to sanitation facilities.

To continue improving access to clean water and sanitation facilities in Bhutan, the government teamed up with UNICEF’s WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene) program and formed the Rural Sanitation and Hygiene Program (RSAHP). RSAHP works in rural communities across Bhutan to promote proper hygiene and sanitation practices and to help communities develop improved sanitation facilities.

RSAHP was initially brought to three of Bhutan’s most rural districts. By 2017, all three had improved sanitation coverage by more than 95 percent. Since its inception, the program has now spread to more than 800 rural communities. RSAHP strives to empower these communities by educating people about the importance of proper hygiene and sanitation and helping communities mobilize existing resources and manpower to construct new, effective sanitation facilities.

Importance of Clean Water & Proper Sanitation

Access to clean water prevents numerous diseases, including cholera, typhoid, diarrhea, dysentery and dracunculiasis. It is also associated with rates of school attendance for girls and rates of women in the workforce. Without easy access to clean water, many girls and women are forced to spend their time accessing and transporting water and, as such, stop attending school or are unable to work. The progress Bhutan has made toward ensuring access to clean water and modern sanitation facilities will help ensure a better future for all.

– Abigail Dunn
Photo: Flickr