Aid Poverty in MozambiqueThe country of Mozambique, located in southern Africa, has 46.1% of its population living below the poverty line. Children living in rural areas are among the most impacted as poverty in Mozambique hits rural areas the hardest. Economic growth has occurred in the country over the last decade but rural poverty persists due to meager transport infrastructure ultimately segregating rural regions. However, a new initiative is underway to help aid poverty in Mozambique.

The Integrated Feeder Roads Project

Funded by the World Bank, the Integrated Feeder Roads Project is an ongoing initiative that is enhancing road access in selected rural regions of Mozambique to support the well-being of local communities. For Mozambique and its segregated rural regions, added transport infrastructure that the Integrated Feeder Roads Project provides will connect these poverty-stricken rural regions to greater Mozambique. As a result, poverty in Mozambique is set to improve through imports, exports and overall improved levels of accessibility to and from rural regions.

Cyclones Strike

In 2019, the powerful Cyclone Idai and Cyclone Kenneth ravaged their way through the Southern Hemisphere and Mozambique was one of many countries deeply affected. Cyclone Idai was deemed to be one of the worst natural disasters to ever hit southern Africa over the last 20 years. Only six weeks later, Cyclone Kenneth hit Mozambique, marking the first time that two strong tropical cyclones struck the country in the same season. The aftermath of both cyclones was devastating, and in the destruction, the already minimal roads connecting rural regions were further damaged and relief efforts from humanitarians became nearly impossible. Poverty in Mozambique worsened after these cyclones and so did the transportive means of aiding it.

The World Bank Helps Aid Poverty in Mozambique

The Integrated Feeder Roads Project was initially approved by the World Bank in 2018 as Mozambique’s transport infrastructure has long been insufficient to sustain steady economies in rural areas and support local communities. Following the cyclones and the damage they left behind, the World Bank approved an IDA grant of $110 million to further aid reconstruction efforts given the severe aftermath of Idai and Kenneth. Overall, the World Bank is financing the Integrated Feeder Roads Project with an estimated total of $185 million.

COVID-19 in Mozambique

As if Mozambique had not endured enough, COVID-19 has been yet another unfortunate obstacle thrown at the country in its rebuilding process after the cyclones. Negatively impacting poverty, Mozambique’s economy has further declined as a result of COVID-19 due to travel restrictions and precautions affecting the flow of goods and services. Transport infrastructure built from the Integrated Feeder Roads Project will aid relief efforts and boost the economy even though COVID-19 is impacting poverty relief efforts.

The Future of Mozambique

In the face of much adversity, the Integrated Feeder Roads Project offers plenty of hope for poverty relief success in Mozambique. Added transport infrastructure will connect rural regions to greater Mozambique, and in a time of heavy need, these opened connections will help rural communities and affected individuals who desperately need it. Overall, foreign aid will help aid poverty in Mozambique.

– Dylan James
Photo: Flickr

3 Ways Kenya Has Worked to Drop Its Poverty RatesMany countries in Sub-Saharan Africa have found the majority of their populations living below the poverty line. With a lot of work being done to eliminate poverty in these countries, there have been dramatic changes in the lifestyle and the overall economies of many regions. The most notable changes have come from Kenya, showing some great economic advances between the years 2005 and 2015. Taking a look at the numbers, in 2005, 43.6% of Kenya’s population was living below the poverty line, earning less than $1.09 per day. Then, 10 years later, in the year 2015, Kenyans saw a dramatic change in their economy, dropping its poverty rate to 35.6%, and proving a continuous downward trend. Kenya’s significant socioeconomic improvement has prompted many to look closely at how Kenya has worked to drop its poverty rates. Here are three ways that Kenya was able to drop its poverty rates.

Education

By improving the education system and focusing on its younger population, Kenya is creating opportunities for the youth, and as a result the country, to prosper. Through the use of newer classroom technology and better resources, it has become evident that Kenyan youth are coming into the world more prepared to work and increase economic growth.

By giving younger people the opportunity to build their knowledge around things they love, Kenya is dropping its poverty rate. Because the economy grows from the increase in educated people, poverty decreases as a result.

Reducing Poverty in Rural Areas

Rural regions in Kenya face the highest poverty rates. As such, in order to address the issue at hand, more economic progress was offered in more rural areas. As written in the World Bank Blog by Utz Pape and Carolina Mejia-mantilla, “this was possible because of the increasing importance of non-agricultural income (particularly commerce) to supplement agricultural income for rural households, which has been aided by the expansion of mobile money and the telecommunication revolution.” This explains one of the ways economic growth was offered in Kenya’s rural areas.

Construction and Infrastructure

Building up communities has become one of Kenya’s main methods of alleviating poverty. Partaking in construction and building infrastructure has become one of the most booming businesses in the country, overall helping the economy and allowing for newer and safer residential areas to be built all around the country. According to the Privacy Shield, the construction industry has helped Kenya tremendously in creating jobs and a safer living environment. Along with that, Kenya has been able to strike up deals with outside countries, including the United States, thanks to the progress made within the construction industry. As a result of the attention on its booming industry, Kenya has been able to drop its poverty rates.

Although Kenya is making great advancements in alleviating poverty, there is still much to be done. To completely eradicate poverty in Kenya and support the country’s efforts to drop its poverty rates, the international community and humanitarian organizations must continue to donate and support Kenya’s poverty alleviation efforts. One of the ways the international community can help is by volunteering. Through the Overseas Program, one can volunteer and take a trip to Kenya to help push forward more advancements toward a less impoverished future for the country.

Sophia Cloonan 
Photo: Flickr

The Belt and Road Initiative
Approximately 26.5 million out of 221.8 million Pakistani citizens live below the national poverty line, determined based on one’s ability to afford to consume 2,350 calories a day. Indigence is particularly widespread in rural areas, which houses almost two-thirds of the national population. Due to persistent fiscal deficits, Pakistan has failed to implement appropriate anti-poverty and welfare measures. Currently, Pakistan lacks an umbrella social protection institution, while state loan schemes exclude many rural inhabitants, whose economic activity is largely informal and temporary. However, the Belt and Road Initiative may provide support to Pakistan’s poor.

The Situation

Farming and animal husbandry remains indispensable to the country’s agrarian regions. However, while almost 40% of Pakistan’s labor force relies on other sources of income, rural development may not occur without industrialization and infrastructural advancements, which is essential to connect the locals with the neighboring urban areas. Luckily, the Belt and Road Initiative, launched in 2013 by the Chinese and the Pakistani authorities, has endeavored to facilitate these positive changes. The BRI or the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor is the collective name for a plethora of Sino-Pakistani projects that primarily concentrate on infrastructure and energy, with an estimated budget of more than $62 billion.

Although the BRI is not the only major investment scheme operating in Pakistan, with the Asian Development Bank similarly funding road construction and having spent circa $14 billion on developing the country’s energy sector and rural communities, the former’s scale is unprecedented. Whether one could say the same about its impact on the Pakistani poor is equally important to establish, and now that the Belt and Road Initiative’s initial projects have come to fruition, it is possible to discern that.

Energy Sector Benefits

Within the first seven years of its existence, the Belt and Road Initiative resulted in the completion of 24 energy projects, which are worth $25.5 billion altogether. These include the erection of non-renewable power plants, namely coal stations in the Pakistani towns of Port Qasim and Sahiwal, as well as of solar and wind facilities. Thanks to this, where Pakistan’s annual GDP growth has been traditionally undermined by at least 2% owing to energy shortages, and where only half of the rural population had permanent access to electricity in 2018, the projects successfully replenished its national grid with 3,240 MW.

This was an 11% increase in its overall power capacity, and it helped stabilize the electricity supply to the indefeasible benefit of rural communities due to its diversification of the national energy resources. Furthermore, rural communities are expected to benefit from the construction of natural gas pipelines from Iran to the Pakistani provinces of Baluchistan and Sindh, whose rural poverty rates remain the highest in the country.

Infrastructure Benefits

Besides helping Pakistan attain energy self-sufficiency, the Belt and Road Initiative has invested $12 billion in constructing new roads and modernizing the local railway system. For example, Pakistan is currently building a 680-mile-long motorway linking its two major economic powerhouses, Karachi and Lahore. Moreover, the equally ambitious Karakorum Highway is connecting those cities to other Pakistani towns.

With faster, higher-quality roads accelerating cargo movement across Pakistan, the government determines farmers will face fewer hardships when transporting their produce to urban markets and city-based purveyors of important amenities will be able to improve their presence in rural areas. Additionally, the former will increase earnings, whereas the latter might encourage competition and bring down prices for basic goods, thereby making them more accessible to the rural public.

Other Economic Benefits

In 2019, China gave Pakistan $1 billion to cover the costs of 27 projects in education, agriculture and poverty alleviation. Most of these projects are concentrated in Southern Punjab and Baluchistan, which scored few points on the Human Development Index and correspondingly have many impoverished villages.

Analyzing the Belt and Road Initiative

Although Sino-Pakistani cooperation under the BRI has created more than 70,000 jobs in Pakistan and the World Bank believes that it could lift as many as 1.1 million Pakistanis out of poverty, it constitutes no silver bullet to the problem of domestic rural poverty.

On many occasions, the dire state of the country’s economy stifled project implementation, which suffered yet another balance of payments crisis in 2018, as well as by government bureaucracy. Thus, the construction of a power plant in Gwadar, a Pakistani port located in the province of Baluchistan and leased to Chinese companies, experienced a three-year delay, awaiting local government authorization.

Some have also questioned the Belt and Road Initiative’s socioeconomic inclusivity. According to the Sino-Pakistani agreement concerning the lease of Gwadar, the Pakistani economy will only receive 9% of the port’s revenues. An even smaller proportion of these funds will go to poverty alleviation programs. Moreover, the nation’s skilled wages have not registered significant growth, which suggests that many professionals still receive meager pay and struggle to cover their daily expenses.

The Belt and Road Initiative in Pakistan is hardly a finished enterprise. Although the majority of the so-called “early harvest” projects have reached fruition, many more are undergoing planning and construction. For this reason, we cannot conclude our evaluation of the BRI’s contribution to fighting rural poverty in Pakistan. Yet, since impoverished populations have benefited from the energy sector and job creation initiatives, this project may indeed prove helpful in alleviating poverty in Pakistan.

– Dan Mikhaylov
Photo: Flickr

Flooding in LibyaLibya has been a regular victim of severe flooding for many decades and the problem is only becoming more severe. Heavy rains have caused significant problems, with flooding and landslides in urban and rural areas making day-to-day life infeasible for thousands.

Flooding in Al-Bayda, Libya

On November 6 2020, Al-Bayda, Libya, experienced torrential rains and extreme flooding, resulting in the displacement of thousands. High water levels on public roads have made daily commutes impossible for many. Additionally, the floods have left thousands without electricity and have greatly damaged properties.

The flooding of 2020 is reminiscent of the flooding in the Ghat district in 2019, which affected 20,000 people and displaced 4,500. In June of 2019, flooding devastated areas in south Libya and damaged roads and farmland.  Central infrastructure suffered unrecoverable damages, setting the region back. Areas prone to disaster are significantly limited in their progression and development when devastation is so frequent.

Flooding and Poverty

The pattern of flooding in Libya has consistently contributed to problems of economic decline, poor infrastructure and poverty. As one of the most common natural disasters, flooding impacts impoverished areas more severely because their infrastructure is not built to withstand floods or landslides.

Poor countries take a long time to recover from the impact of flooding because they do not have the resources and money to repair property damage and help people to bounce back from the effects. War-affected countries are even more vulnerable and Libya is such a country affected by war and conflict.

Within the country, a two-day holiday was declared on November 9 and 10 of 2020 due to the extreme flooding and $7 million has been allocated to address damages in Al-Bayda municipality.  Since the flooding, there has been little recognition and support from the international community.

Humanitarian Aid

A humanitarian aid team from the European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operation (ECHO) assembled to provide aid to support the city of Al-Bayda and other cities vulnerable to flooding in Libya. The team worked to gather information and identify what resources are most needed to help families get back on their feet and be better prepared for future severe flooding and weather. Cleanup efforts are ongoing and teams started using satellite imaging and other data-collecting resources to help assess and plan for resource distribution.

The Need for Foreign Aid in Libya

In response to Libya’s chronic vulnerability to severe flooding, in 2019, the U.S. Government provided nearly $31.3 million to address the humanitarian needs of conflict-affected populations throughout Libya. Since the floods are ongoing, ongoing assistance is needed. Proactive and preventative measures need to be implemented in response to the devastating pattern of flooding in Libya. These are expensive investments, however, and Libya cannot implement these preventative measures alone. Help from the international community is crucial in order to create a more resilient country.

– Allyson Reeder
Photo: Flickr

Engineers Without Borders
Engineers Without Borders (EWB) is a foundation that partners with poor communities to help provide them with basic human needs. Its mission is to build a better world with engineering projects that will help solve the world’s most urgent problems. It builds to save lives.

Building Safe Structures

Many people are without a home in poverty-ridden countries, often living without so much as clean water or electricity. Due to environmental disasters, forced refugees and internally displaced people, many must roam the streets. Back in 2015, estimates determined that there were 100 million people facing homelessness. The need for durable and permanent refugee camps and homes is more pressing than ever. This is where EWB-USA saves the day. It addresses the challenges in engineering associated with “transitioning emergency infrastructure to more permanent systems,” which helps boost host communities who take refugees in.

Engineers Without Borders often takes on villages’ needs for bridges to aid in safer and easier travel. It found that one Guatemalan village had to walk three hours on dangerous mountain roads just to reach the capital. Access to capitals or bigger towns can be dire as they encapsulate hospitals, schools, markets and so forth. So, the Engineers Without Borders project team and volunteers decided to create bridges for these communities. The foundation takes up to several weeks to construct these bridges to make sure they are sturdy, safe and dependable for these villagers.

Engineers Without Borders also discovered the need for schools. It found out that a native Guatemalan girl had biked over an hour to reach her school. As a result, the foundation started building schools and improving the schools’ infrastructures, making them safe and durable. It has brought education to places like Guatemala, Lat Cantun II, Santa Eulalia and more.

Installing Solar Panels

Electricity is a luxury that not many homeless or poor people get. However, it is a necessity for the safety and well-being of many people. This is why EWB-USA not only makes solar panels for villages in need but also introduces and installs them. The solar panels bring hot water, better food storage, increased phone access and light to homes and schools alike. Engineers Without Borders also installs solar street lights to help keep the residents and refugees safe.

University students in EWB-USA even built a solar charging station for villages. These stations could be used by all, specifically to charge phones. It found that cell phones were extremely important for youths to apply for jobs, apply for housing and communicate with friends and family.

Engineers Without Borders helps bring electricity to these areas by partnering with foundations like IKEA and UNHRC. Its partnerships have been a key way to faster and more efficient help for these communities. Currently, Engineers Without Borders is working on over 55 projects located in more than 20 states and two territories, trying to make a difference.

Providing Clean Water

Clean water is yet another widely inaccessible luxury in many poverty-stricken countries. In Uganda alone, over 23 million people must walk over 30 minutes a day to get water that is often contaminated, bringing disease and even death. Engineers Without Borders saw how water brings life and found creative ways of providing clean water for villages. The foundation has dug and repaired wells, built rainwater catchment systems and constructed water filters. Additionally, it has built gravity-based water supply systems in phases for those in the mountains.

In Cyanika, Rwanda, the villagers benefited from one of the Engineers Without Borders’ creative rainwater catchment systems that consisted of two single tank systems. It allows the villagers to save time as well as their lives. One villager even sent a letter of thanks, expressing their gratitude as it bettered many lives, health and well-being of all the villagers.

Engineers Without Borders continues to fight to provide people their basic rights and needs. It continues to live up to its mission of building to save lives through the power of engineering. For more information about this organization, check out its website.

Katelyn Mendez
Photo: Pixabay

Poverty AlleviationFor the past four decades, the Chinese government has viewed poverty alleviation as integral to its economic development. The government’s efforts against poverty have intensified under the leadership of President Xi Jinping who proposed ambitious measures to eliminate poverty by the end of 2020.

China has made tremendous progress in alleviating poverty through the government’s efforts, as the number of people living in poverty in China has fallen from 750 million in 1990 to just 16.6 million in 2019. However, obstacles remain ahead of China’s efforts to completely eradicate poverty and improve the standard of living for its residents.

Poverty Eradication Under Xi Jinping

In 2014, China’s government implemented a strategy of Targeted Poverty Alleviation, which allows the government and local officials to address the needs of individuals and households rather than entire villages. Local officials use data from a local registration system containing information from more than 128,000 villages to identify and provide support to poverty-stricken areas. According to China’s President Xi Jinping, Targeted Poverty Alleviation follows an approach based on policies in five areas:

  • Industrial development
  • Social Security
  • Education
  • Eco-compensation
  • Relocation

 At a local level, the Targeted Poverty Alleviation program employs the pairing-up strategy, which enables impoverished families in western provinces to receive support from the more affluent eastern provinces. Officials who exclusively support rural inhabitants support impoverished households, including those in ethnic minority areas. The government supports the local industry by establishing internet commerce centers in rural areas known as Taobao villages. In Taobao villages, rural residents can support themselves by selling crops and local products online. By 2015, Taobao villages supported 200,000 shop owners and employed one million people.

The Targeted Poverty Alleviation campaign has also implemented nationwide initiatives to facilitate industrial development. In 2019, China spent 19 billion dollars on a variety of infrastructure initiatives. Through these initiatives, China has been able to build or renovate more than 124,000 miles of roads and provide 94% of rural villagers with internet access.

China also uses a resettlement program to help elevate rural residents from poverty. Under this program, the government encourages residents in remote and ecologically vulnerable rural regions to relocate to areas closer to the cities. By one estimate, over nine million people have been resettled by this initiative between 2016 and 2020. Increased economic opportunities in cities and reforms that allow greater internal migration in China have also encouraged resettlement. These migrations have resulted in China’s urbanization rate rising from 17.92% in 1978 to 57.3% in 2016.

Metrics of Success

China’s efforts to alleviate poverty have been judged as tremendously successful by most measures. Between 2014 and 2019, 68 million rural residents have risen from poverty. China’s reforms to its economy has enabled 730 million people to emerge from poverty over the past four decades, accounting for nearly three-fourths of global poverty accomplishments from this time period. According to the UN Millennium Global Development Report, China’s policies have enabled the international community to meet the UN’s goal of reducing extreme global poverty by 50%.

China’s economic success has enabled it to address disparities between its urban and rural populations in healthcare. Urban and rural populations have both witnessed infant mortality rates decline below 1%, and maternal mortality rates for urban and rural mothers have declined and attained parity at the level of two per million in 2019.

Obstacles

Despite China’s progress in eliminating poverty, the nation continues to face obstacles in attaining its ambitious standards and supporting the needs of poor residents. Local officials’ administration of financial support is often arbitrary or impeded by stringent bureaucratic procedures, which has resulted in some poor households being denied or receiving insufficient financial support. The increased funds invested in poverty alleviation efforts has also contributed to significant “corruption and mismanagement.”

China’s Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) reported that 730 yuan (112.21 million USD) in poverty alleviation funds were misappropriated in 2018 through violations, such as embezzlement, fraud and bribery. The government uses the CCDI to maintain oversight on how its funding is used, and officials who fail to accomplish poverty reduction in their region face expulsion from the Communist Party and “career oblivion.”

The government’s poverty alleviation efforts have also been criticized for its emphasis on the rural poor while ignoring those in urban areas who are struggling to meet high living costs. China’s poverty alleviation campaign invited high polluting industries, such as those that have been associated with reduced air and water quality in impoverished regions, causing many to question whether China’s progress is sustainable. The relocation program has also been controversial as many rural residents often relinquish their land for little compensation, only to subsequently struggle to find work in the cities. Government officials have also expressed impatience with residents who were unwilling to relocate.

The progress of the poverty alleviation campaign was also complicated by the COVID-19 pandemic. During the initial four months of 2020, unemployment rose to 6.2% and one expert calculates that 80 million people in China were unemployed when rural villagers and migrant workers were included in the calculation. Despite the economic effects of the pandemic, Beijing has not relented in its endeavor to eliminate poverty, and experts doubt that China will admit to having failed to meet its goal for 2020, regardless of the state of the economy. Regardless of whether China attains its goal for 2020, experts doubt that it will abandon its endeavors to improve its people’s standard of living.

China’s efforts towards eradicating poverty have yielded tremendous success, yet the government and the country’s people will be responsible for ensuring that its progress is sustainable and results in tangible improvements to the standard of living of people in urban and rural areas.

Bilal Amodu
Photo: Pixabay

road infrastructure in ugandaUganda is a country in East Africa made up of around 43 million people. There are three transport systems in Uganda: airways, railways and roadways. Most roads in Uganda are in a poor condition. As a result, this inadequate road infrastructure leads to dangerous conditions and poses a safety threat to its users. Here are three effects of inadequate road infrastructure in Uganda.

3 Effects of Inadequate Road Infrastructure in Uganda

  1. Inadequate roads lead to more deaths. Unpaved roads are dangerous because cars can fall into potholes or get hit by debris. In 2016, 20 accidents happened on the Mbale-Nkokonjeru road in Uganda because of dangerous conditions. Moreover, one in 10 deaths in Uganda occurred because of road accidents in 2018. Uganda accordingly ranks first in road fatalities in East Africa. Additionally, road accidents in Uganda increased by 74% from 2006 to 2016. The Uganda National Road Authority (UNRA) has been in charge of most road renovations in Uganda. In Mbale Municipality, the UNRA has attempted to get private companies to place tarmac on the roads. However, the companies have abandoned the projects. The residents of Mbale Municipality continue to be outraged by terrible road infrastructure in Uganda and have protested several times about the unfinished roads.
  2. Poor road infrastructure in Uganda reduces tourism. Tourists rely on roads to go to different villages and experience Uganda, a land-locked country. Unpaved roads create problems for travelers trying to get to different locations. For example, the Queen Elizabeth National Park Road usually takes more than two hours to travel 72 kilometers, but it can take more than four hours if the weather conditions change because it is not a finished road. If mudslides or severe weather conditions occur, the roads are unnavigable. However, tourism accounted for $1.6 billion or 7.7% of Uganda’s GDP in 2019. In addition, the tourism sector created 667,600 jobs for Ugandan residents in 2019. Despite the government’s attempts to increase tourism, the Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities has not focused on road construction.
  3. Farmers rely on roads to transport agricultural products. The agricultural sector is one of the largest industries in Uganda, making up 70% of available jobs. The Ministry of Works and Transport estimated that 95% of cargo is moved through roads, while only 16% of roads are finished in Uganda. The inadequate road infrastructure in Uganda elevates the cost of transportation. Additionally, gasoline prices in Uganda stand at about $1 a liter, but most farmers make only $7 a day. Hazardous road conditions may require farmers to use more gasoline, thus raising the price of transportation. Along with this, users may need to repair their vehicles more often because of unpaved roads being unsuitable for the two rainy seasons in Uganda. Farmers unable to travel to sell produce lack a steady income.

The Ugandan Government’s Solution

The U.N. recommended that the Ugandan government implement a Decade of Action to target road safety from 2011 to 2020. In order to succeed, Uganda had to follow certain guidelines set by the U.N. They included working with local governments to create a better infrastructure and educating the public on road safety. So far, the Ugandan government has completed only 40% of the plan, but it is an ongoing process.

The U.N.’s main criticism of Uganda’s policies is that there is no method of implementing road safety. The UNRA does not have sufficient jurisdiction to engineer roads in the best way to deal with heavy traffic, steep cliffs and mudslides. However, the UNRA continues to work on road projects to improve infrastructure in Uganda. For example, the China Communications Construction Company finished the Mubende – Kakumiro – Kagadi road with asphalt in January 2020.

Road infrastructure in Uganda still needs tremendous improvement. By continuing to create contracts with private countries and enforcing road safety laws, the Ugandan government can work toward bettering inadequate road infrastructure. In doing so, Uganda would advance toward reaching the U.N.’s Decade of Action guidelines.

Sarah Litchney
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in BhutanBhutan is a small country tucked away in the mountainous terrain of the Himalayas. Known as the Kingdom of Happiness, Bhutan is notable for creating its Gross National Happiness Index. This index serves as a tool for the Government of Bhutan to outline what must be done in order to foster and maintain a holistically sustainable environment. To uphold this index, Bhutan has made it a priority to reduce poverty in Bhutan and better the quality of life for the population.

Poverty in Bhutan

Poverty in Bhutan stems largely from issues with the country’s terrain. The Himalayas, while beautiful, are also difficult to cultivate, traverse and control. Farmers struggle to grow enough crops to maintain a stable income due to the limited access to farmable land. What workable land there is, often rests at the whims of various natural disasters. The lack of education and diverse job opportunities also have made it difficult for many to rise out of their economic situation without help and intervention.

Over the last 10 years, the government has made impressive strides to address poverty in Bhutan. Between 2007 and 2012, poverty dropped from 23% down to 12%. In 2017, Bhutan announced that it had once again cut its poverty rate by half over five years, dropping the number down to 5.8%.

Strategies and Improvements

The value of land productivity has been rising and thus, farming has become a more profitable and sustainable industry. Bhutan cultivates less than 3% of its land but the country has shifted to producing high-value commercial crops. These crops sell for a high price with countries such as India and Bangladesh, making up for the lack of farmable land. Trade agreements have stimulated the value of agricultural exports, increasing the international cash flow into Bhutan’s own economy.

Infrastructure and road production have become vital players in the reduction of poverty in Bhutan. The Government of Bhutan set out to update existing paths, develop new highways and ensure that no town is more than a half-day walk from the closest road. High-quality roads allow for traffic both through and out of rural areas. This increased traffic to urban areas provides easier access to jobs, education and other opportunities for those who previously struggled with inaccessibility.

Hydroelectric projects also play a sizeable role in Bhutan’s efforts to fight poverty. These projects have not only stimulated job growth within rural communities but have also brought in many foreign workers. The presence of these workers increases local spending, benefitting rural communities with income.

Looking Forward

Over the last decade, the rate of poverty in Bhutan has fallen to new lows. While there are still many in the country that struggle with poor living conditions, the government is working to ensure that they too will benefit from the economic changes that Bhutan is trying to normalize. The Gross National Happiness Index accounts for all the people of the country and thus, Bhutan will continue to work at helping its people until all are holistically happy.

Nicolette Schneiderman
Photo: Flickr

Engineers Against Poverty
Engineers Against Poverty mobilizes engineers around the globe to fight poverty through more effective, transparent and equitable infrastructure development. Founded with an engineering focus, the U.K.-based group has expanded its work to improve ways of life in low- and middle-income countries by advocating for ethical working conditions, mitigating the effects of climate change and reducing poverty worldwide. As a massive infrastructure funding gap stands in the way of global poverty relief, Engineers Against Poverty works to empower a multi-sector network to improve infrastructure policy and practices.

Infrastructure and Global Poverty

Engineers and infrastructure development play a vital role in the fight against global poverty. According to the Asian Development Bank, poverty reduction requires not only well-governed economic development, but also improved infrastructure for irrigation, electricity, water and sanitation and other basic needs. In 2016, Our World in Data reported that 40% of the globe experienced water scarcity and 13% of the world did not have electricity. In 2015 and 2016, one-third of the global population did not have access to an all-weather road. Engineers Against Poverty explains that infrastructure will play a vital role in achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, which were released in 2015 to be achieved by 2030.

“For EAP, its goal is to scale up influence on global infrastructure policy and practice to promote sustainable social, climate and economic impacts that contribute toward the elimination of poverty,” Engineers Against Policy Senior Communications Manager Charlotte Broyd said.

The Infrastructure Funding Gap

One of the greatest barriers to global poverty reduction is a massive infrastructure funding gap. At the 2015 release of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the World Economic Forum reported the infrastructure funding gap would prove the biggest challenge to meet the SDGs. The World Economic Forum explained that there exists a $15 trillion investment gap between the money needed and the existing funding to reach “adequate global infrastructure by 2040.” This gap, Engineers Against Poverty explains, must be tackled as a “governance challenge.” Up to one-third of global investment in infrastructure is lost to mismanagement in governance, particularly in low-income countries.

Broyd commented, “There is a role for many stakeholders in addressing the infrastructure investment gap (governments, international organizations as well as donors). For donors specifically, they can help by recognising the importance of transparency and accountability in the infrastructure sector and the need for support to initiatives and others promoting these principles. This is particularly important in the coronavirus pandemic and the ensuing economic crisis where any economic loss must be minimized.”

The World Bank has identified collaboration between the private and public sectors as a key approach to closing the infrastructure funding gap. The former managing director of the World Bank explained at the release of the SDGs that to help mitigate these investment hazards, investors and donors must make more comprehensive investments in policy, insurance, regulation and more to make their investments effective.

Engineers Against Poverty’s Infrastructure Transparency Initiative

Engineers Against Poverty’s global Infrastructure Transparency Initiative (CoST) is key to closing this infrastructure funding gap. CoST, which currently works in 19 countries, encourages collaboration between civilians, engineers and policy-makers to work toward “improving transparency and accountability in public infrastructure” to reduce investment losses to mismanagement and corruption.

CoST has already seen success in many countries, including Thailand, where transparency, competitive bidding, decreasing contract prices and more efficient fund management have saved the country $360 million in infrastructure spending since 2015. In Afghanistan, CoST-prompted contract reviews saved the country $8.3 million in just one year for road-network maintenance.

The initiative focuses on increasing infrastructure project transparency by improving data disclosure, ensuring data is accessible to the public, creating social accountability for decision-makers and empowering civilians and communities to advocate for better infrastructure governance and delivery. By 2018, CoST had helped disclose data on around 11,000 projects through accessible platforms. CoST has also established legal mandates and disclosure commitments with governments in many countries.

“Our experience indicates that informed citizens and responsive public institutions help drive reforms that reduce mismanagement, inefficiency, corruption and the risks posed to the public from poor quality infrastructure,” the CoST website explains.

A key feature of CoST is citizen engagement and media attention, which enables civilians to hold their policy-makers accountable and make the infrastructure funding gap a priority for civil society. “CoST has enabled citizens to advocate for quality infrastructure through community events in several of its countries including Uganda, Ghana, Malawi and Thailand,” Broyd said. “Simply by raising the issues affecting them, citizens give the media powerful stories to report, which has generated much good publicity.”

CoST therefore illustrates the importance of involving citizens in solving poverty locally, nationally and globally. The combined efforts of engaged civilians and Engineers Against Poverty stand to make important headway in the fight against global poverty.

Emily Rahhal
Photo: Pixabay

Healthcare in IranIran, officially recognized as the Islamic Republic of Iran, has a population of more than 84 million. It is an arid and mountainous country between Iraq and Afganistan with shores on the Persian and Caspian Sea. Iran is the 17th largest country in the world. Healthcare in Iran has improved since the implementation of the Primary Health Care system, but there is still a divide between rural and urban access.

In 1974, Iran began fueling more resources into the expansion and development of its healthcare system. The government hoped that implementing Primary Health Care (PHC) would improve citizens’ access to healthcare in Iran. By 1979, PHC networks slowly began integrating into healthcare in Iran. It wasn’t fully developed and functioning until 1985.

Rural and Urban Divide

Since the Iranian government created a PHC, it has continued to expand healthcare. Currently, Iran has public and private systems; however, public healthcare has taken on the main role in healthcare services. Unfortunately, there continue to be disparities between rural and urban access. Rural citizens obtain healthcare services at health houses that are scattered across Iran’s countryside. These places generally have two working medical professionals with basic equipment to meet standards needs for nearby residents.

There is approximately one health house to care for the needs of 1,200 rural citizens. These centers offer general healthcare needs, such as vaccinations, maternal and child health and health education. As of 2018, around 90% of those in rural areas had access to basic health services. Although these health houses didn’t provide the same care as urban hospitals it did increase the access to health services for those living in rural areas. Those in rural communities did not have to venture into urban cities for their basic healthcare needs or checkups.

At least 75% of the population lives in urban areas and cities. Here, they have access to Iran’s private and public hospitals. There are 773 hospitals in urban areas in Iran. This is where advanced medial professionals reside and specialized treatment is available for the citizens. However, even in urban areas hospital infrastructure is lacking.

Reconstructing Healthcare in Iran

In May 2014, healthcare in Iran entered a major reconstruction period as the Iranian Ministry of Health and Medical Education (MoHME) began implementing its new Heath Transformation Plan (HTP). The new plan involved nine packages to reform the current healthcare system, including improved access and quality of healthcare and increasing the number of specialized doctors. These improvements have since provided healthcare to almost 10 million Iranians in “marginalized areas” throughout Iran. The program also rehabilitated 13,000 existing health centers and built 3,000.

While there continue to be disparities in healthcare access between rural and urban areas. Iran has continued to increase its expenditures for healthcare services and create programs like the Heath Transformation Plan. This has helped healthcare in Iran to continue on the path of growth and development while allowing Iranians to have more confidence in their countries healthcare system.

George Hashemi
Photo: Flickr