Living Conditions of the Muhamasheen
The Muhamasheen (the marginalized) pejoratively known as the Akhdam (servants) constitute a distinct community in Yemen that the broader Yemeni society consigns to the lowest part of the social hierarchy. Though Yemen has officially abolished its caste system, the legacy of centuries of discrimination persists today. Below are eight facts about the living conditions of the Muhamasheen.

8 Facts About the Living Conditions of the Muhamasheen

  1. Over 50 percent of the Muhamasheen population suffers from unemployment. Systemic exclusion from most employment in the agrarian sector, despite the community’s concentration in rural areas, contributes heavily to this unemployment rate. Muhamasheen workers compete for nomadic seasonal labor such as thrashing grain at harvest time. These deeply-embedded exclusionary practices cement the subordinate status of the Muhamasheen.
  2. Entrenched custom relegates urban sanitation jobs, such as street cleaners, to the Muhamasheen. Thus many urban Muhamasheen people encounter and treat waste products that higher castes view as contaminating and taboo. Inadequate compensation and the possibility of pretextual termination with little notice often awaits Muhamasheen sanitation workers employed by the municipal authorities in the cities.
  3. Inadequate housing, vulnerable to destruction by natural disasters, depresses the living conditions of the Muhamasheen. Rather than the solid and sturdy adobe construction characterizing traditional Yemeni home structures, many Muhamasheen reside in homes constructed from cardboard and thatch or even from sheets extracted from empty containers. Exposure to the elements, whether intense heat and cold or inundation during the rainy season, invariably characterizes life in these dwellings. Other Muhamasheen live in small and cramped concrete structures, the living conditions therein little better than those residing in makeshift cardboard structures.
  4. Southeastern Yemen’s October 2008 floods were particularly devastating to the Muhamasheen. In response, UNHCR provided shelters to Muhamasheen reduced to the status of internally displaced persons. The Yemeni NGO al-Dumir implemented this initiative, encompassing the construction of 100 two-room shelters, with financial backing from the Japanese government amounting to USD $300,224. Akhdam also received household items from UNHCR in the course of this relief program due to how flooding affected it.
  5. Regular exposure to the elements and inadequate access to clean water subject the Muhamasheen to increased health hazards. Respiratory and ocular infections and skin diseases all pose a greater risk to the Muhamasheen than to other groups. Muhamasheen children, many coming of age in lowland drainage areas or near landfills, are more likely to die of malaria and chronic infectious kidney disease than of other illnesses. Poor sanitation contributes to a high rate of infant deaths from parasites, while malnourishment worsens both maternal and infant mortality rates. The marginalization of the Muhamasheen limits the willingness of the health care sector to treat them.
  6. In 2014, a UNICEF study concluded that poor literacy rates pervade the Muhamasheen community. A survey sample consisting of 9,200 Muhamasheen households, encompassing 51,406 persons, yielded a literacy rate of one in five among Muhamasheen ages 15 and older. Survey data yielded school enrollment rates of two in four for youths between ages 6 and 17.
  7. In 2014, UNICEF and Yemen’s Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor administered a survey of 9,200 Muhamasheen households, which revealed significant inequities in education, sanitation, shelter and medical care. The following year, the government of Yemen began designing initiatives for the improvement of the social and economic standing of the Muhamasheen community. These ameliorative programs include the creation of family-targeted financial inclusion programs involving both the Social Welfare Fund Office in Taiz Governorate and nonprofit organizations such as Alamal Microfinance Bank. Other initiatives encompass enforcing the right of Muhamasheen children to attend school without discrimination and providing students with uniforms and school supplies.
  8. Testimony that WITNESS and the Yemeni NGO Sisters Arab Forum for Human Rights obtained attests to the epidemic of public abuse of Muhamasheen women by non-Muhamasheen men. Out of this research, the organizations above filmed an award-winning documentary, “Breaking the Silence,” successfully spreading awareness of these endemic attacks. Given the Muhamasheen community’s limitations of access to the full weight of the justice system, such documentaries as “Breaking the Silence” play an invaluable role in revealing the systemic abuses contributing to the living conditions of the Muhamasheen.

The marginal living conditions of the Muhamasheen, a legacy of centuries of caste discrimination, remains a serious issue in Yemen. However, NGOs such as UNICEF have increasingly paid more attention to the community’s plight and designed initiatives to improve the living conditions of the Muhamasheen. These measures, alongside the awareness-spreading efforts of such organizations as WITNESS and the Yemeni NGO Sisters Arab Forum for Human Rights, show that there is hope for the future of the Muhamasheen.

Philip Daniel Glass
Photo: Flickr

Literacy Rates in South Sudan
The Republic of South Sudan, more commonly known as South Sudan, has one of the lowest literacy rates in the world. It is a very young nation, having only declared independence from the Republic of Sudan in July 2011. However, recent data shows that only 26.8 percent of South Sudanese people aged 15 or older are literate. Additionally, while 35 percent of men can read and write only 19.2 percent of women possess these important skills. The government has created several initiatives over the past few years to improve literacy rates in South Sudan.

Factors Affecting Literacy

One reason literacy rates in South Sudan are so high is the fact that approximately 2 million, or about 70 percent of children in South Sudan are out of school, mostly young girls. Instead of attending primary school, children often work alongside their families for survival.

Implementing quality literacy programs for children is also costly, and South Sudan has been struggling to fund equal opportunities for all students. For the many who are unable to communicate via writing or consume written media, radio is often a popular alternative for getting the news.

Efforts to Improve Literacy

In recent years, the government has worked to improve literacy rates for both children and adults in South Sudan. For school-aged children, The General Education Strategic Plan, 2017-2022 has been proposed. Also referred to as the Strategic Plan, it has three primary goals: “to improve the quality of general education; to enhance the management capacity of senior staff of the Ministry, State Ministries, the County Education Department and affiliated institutions; and to promote Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) to improve the employability of youth and adults in the next five years.”

According to the Strategic Plan, the government’s alternative education system (AES) has three programs working to improve literacy rates and overall educational quality in South Sudan:

  • The Accelerated Learning Program (ALP) is designed for children ages 13 to 17, but people up to age 25 are allowed to attend.
  • The Community Girls’ School (CGS) is intended for primarily young girls who have not yet reached grade 5; and
  • The Pastoralist Education Program (PEP) is designated for both children and adults in pastoral areas of the country.

As gender disparities are significant, specific efforts have been created that focus on providing education for Sudanese girls. In addition to the Community Girls’ School, funding from an organization called Girls’ Education in South Sudan (GESS) will help more women and girls be able to attend school, thus improving the literacy rate among South Sudanese girls and women.

There are also two programs that have been specifically created for adults who cannot read or write: the Basic Adult Literacy Programme (BALP) and the Functional Adult Literacy Program (FALP). Intensive English courses (IECs) are included in these programs, giving participants the opportunity to improve their skills with the English language.

Moving Forward

Addressing low literacy rates in countries such as South Sudan is crucial to reducing global poverty. Without the ability to read or write, communication skills are weakened and employment opportunities are limited. Therefore, giving people the chance to access to an improved education such as literacy skills lowers the chance of one being in poverty and gets them on the path to an overall higher quality of life.

A. O’Shea
Photo: United Nations

safer child labor laws
Eritrea is a country in Africa founded in 1993. It is a fairly new country but has already faced many problems regarding poverty and its impact on the people who call Eritrea home. The poverty rate is roughly 50 percent of its 4.475 million inhabitants. Even before primary school, children often must start working due to the unfortunate circumstances that poverty created. A 2008 study showed that legislation already existed for safer child labor laws, but a 2016 study revealed Eritrea’s government offered very little implementation of these laws. With countless amounts of children in Eritrea’s workforce, the problem is less the actual laws in place, but the enforcement of these laws. Fortunately, Eritrea recently made big steps in furthering legislation for a safer workforce in 2019. Here is an overview of Eritrea’s progression toward safer child labor laws.

Eritrea’s Initial Legislative State

In 2008, the Bureau of International Labor Affairs conducted a study painting a clear picture of the state of child labor in Eritrea. Children in rural Eritrea often work labor-intensive jobs like working in fields, carrying water or collecting wood. Children in urban Eritrea can work as vendors selling cigarettes, gum or newspapers. At this time, there are some child labor laws in place to increase protection and safety. There is a minimum work age of 14. Children aged 14-18 have a daily work limit of 7 hours a day and they can only work between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. Children under 18 cannot work in hazardous environments. These laws seemed like a positive start for Eritrean children.

The True Picture

In 2016, shocking evidence revealed the scope of the child labor issue in Eritrea. The U.N. released a full-detailed inquiry that determined Eritrea’s government was responsible for not only encouraging child labor, but participating in extrajudicial killings, tortures and sexual slavery. The Eritrean army, the National Security Agency, the president and the police force were all huge factors in worsening child labor conditions. This investigation did not change any legislation and was a major step back in Eritrea’s governmental support toward safer child labor laws.

Recent Progress

On June 3rd, 2019, Eritrea’s government ratified eight important conventions formed by the International Labor Organization (ILO). The ratifications exemplify huge progress for the country because it shows signs that there will be better enforcement of safer child labor laws from now on. ILO’s conventions include prohibition and elimination of the worst forms of child labor. Eritrea’s goal is to eliminate forced labor and end all forms of child labor by 2025. With the government’s agreement to these eight ratifications, that goal is actually within reach. The future lives of millions of children who live in Eritrea will soon change for the better.

The progression of Eritrea’s government toward safer child labor laws from 2008-2019 has been a struggle. While Eritrea’s government initially appeared to show interest in creating a safer working environment for its children, further research proved how little it really enforced legislation. This year witnessed exceptional progress, lighting the way for a brighter future in safer child labor laws.

– Kat Fries
Photo: Pixabay

Technology to promote literacy

Papua New Guinea (PNG) is an independent state comprised of about 600 small islands, that also shares a land border with Indonesia. PNG uses technology to promote literacy in a number of ways. PNG broke off from Australia in 1975 but still receives substantial economic, geographical and educational gains from the country. However, the Australian government reports that in spite of their economic growth and middle-income country status (due to agricultural and mineral wealth), “PNG’s social indicators are among the worst in the Asia Pacific. Approximately 85 percent of PNG’s mainly rural population is poor and an estimated 18 percent of people are extremely poor.”

The World Bank details that PNG also faces a “vexing” situation regarding their remoteness and number of languages. Communities in PNG are very closed off from one another and land travel is strenuous. PNG has 563 airports and air travel has proven to be the common way to get from one place to another. At over 800 languages, PNG is recognized as “the most linguistically diverse country in the world.” As a result of these two factors, PNG’s education system faces a variety of challenges. PNG was ranked 153 on the Human Development Index in 2017, and its adult literacy rate was reported to be 63.4 percent in 2015. Australian Aid and the Voluntary Services Overseas (VSO) cooperated to produce The SMS Story research project, a way to use technology to promote literacy.

The goal of the SMS Story Research Project was to ascertain whether daily text message stories and lessons would improve the reading ability of children in grades 1 and 2 in Papua New Guinea. The text messages were sent to elementary school teachers in the Madang Province and Simbu Province using a free, open-source software program called Frontline SMS. The project was a controlled trial with two groups, one group of teachers received the message and the other did not. About 2500 students were evaluated before and after the trial. Using statistical testing, it was determined that the reading ability of the group who received text messages was higher than that of the group that did not.

It was found that the schools participating in the study had little to no reading books in the classroom and that students in groups without an SMS story were “twice as likely to be unable to read a single word of three sub-tests (decodable words, sight words and oral reading).” It seemed that many classrooms in PNG did not provide easy access to reading materials or proper reading lessons.

Amanda Watson, a researcher involved with the project stated that the SMS stories were helpful to the teachers as well. She says, “The teachers actually received almost like a reminder to teach, a bit of a motivator to keep teaching and they received that every single day and we think that really helped them to realize that they’re supposed to be teaching reading every single day, five days a week.” This suggests that before the trial, some of the teachers may not have promoted reading as much as they should have, either due to lack of access to materials or not realizing its importance.

Daniel A. Wagner, of the University of Pennsylvania and his colleagues, detail the importance of using technology to promote literacy in countries with minimal access to education or educational materials in their paper, “Mobiles for Literacy in Developing Countries: An Effectiveness Framework”. He underlines the importance of promoting literacy through information and communications technologies (ICTs) in today’s world where there are “more connected mobile devices than people” and provides several examples of organizations that are working towards increasing literacy through ICTs.

The Bridges to the Future Initiative (BFI) is run in South Africa by the Molteno Institute for Language and Literacy. They aim to “improve literacy through interactive, computer-based lessons” created by the University of Pennsylvania’s International Literacy Institute (ILI). They provide access to educational materials and issue students with “mother-tongue resources” in regions where computer sources or books are mostly in English. Comparably, Ustad Mobile is an application in Afghanistan that runs offline on phones. They center around instructing reading comprehension, listening, and numeracy. Teachers and students can download and share lessons; the app also includes exercises, videos and interactive quizzes in order to “mobilize education for all”.

BBC Janala is another project using technology to promote literacy in Bangladesh. It is a multi-platform service and can be accessed through TV, internet, print and mobile phones. BBC Janala concentrates on teaching English through three-minute audio lessons, quizzes, TV shows, newspapers, textbooks and CDs.

Illiteracy is an issue in Papua New Guinea; most likely due to the lack of reading materials and importance placed on literacy. However projects like, “The SMS Story” are all over the world and are working towards using technology to promote literacy one step at a time.

Jade Thompson
Photo: Flickr

Life Expectancy in Antigua and Barbuda
Antigua and Barbuda is a small nation in the Caribbean including several islands. Many consider it to be one of the most prosperous countries in the area and it boasts relatively good social indicators. That does not mean that its people have completely escaped the troubles of everyday life that come with residing in a developing country, though. Despite its high standing within the Caribbean it still does not compare well with the rest of the world. These 10 facts about life expectancy in Antigua and Barbuda will shed a light on the country’s struggles as well as the progress it has made and what impact that has on its citizens.

10 Facts about Life Expectancy in Antigua and Barbuda

  1. Life Expectancy is Improving: Life expectancy for the people of Antigua and Barbuda is 72.3 years old. This is one of the strongest indicators of the steady progress that the country is making. Since 1960, there has been an enormous jump from the previous life expectancy of 52.5 according to the World Bank.
  2. Infant Mortality is Improving: Infant mortality rates are improving but still stand at almost double those of many western countries. UNICEF reported that the current infant mortality rate for children under the age of 5 stands at 7.4 deaths per 1,000 births. This shows great improvement considering that the infant mortality rate was over triple that number in 1990 at 26.3 deaths per 1,000 births.
  3. The Country is Susceptible to Natural Disaster: A Caribbean country, Antigua and Barbuda faces the constant threat of hurricanes. A semi-recent hurricane to hit the country was Hurricane Irma which caused mass devastation. While the country did not suffer massive numbers of casualties, injuries and displacement were rampant. The country was still facing the damage years later resulting in Prime Minister Gaston Browne proposing a complete rehaul of the landowning system in an effort to rebuild the country’s destroyed property.
  4. Poverty is Prevalent: There is still a relatively large amount of poverty within the country. The Headcount Index places 18.3 percent of the population of Antigua and Barbuda as being below the poverty line. Around 3.7 percent of the population falls within the indigent population and another 10 percent is vulnerable. Estimates put the poverty line in Antigua and Barbuda at $2,366 puts into perspective the lack of income that such a large portion of the population lives on. Despite these grim numbers, Antigua and Barbuda still ranks among the most well perfuming Caribbean nations with the second-lowest poverty rate. While little new data is available, an optimist might take continued economic growth as a sign that things have been improving.
  5. Unemployment Rates are High: Reports stated that the unemployment rate in 2011 was 10.2 percent with a breakdown of 11.2 percent of men being unemployed and 9.4 percent of women being unemployed. The biggest age bracket falls within the 15-25 range and no doubt contributes to the relatively high aforementioned poverty rates.
  6. Nourishment is Varied:  Antigua and Barbuda does not guarantee nourishment to every citizen. Data collected in different areas of Antigua and Barbuda showed a major discrepancy with nourishment between those areas. When looking at the percentage of children malnourished over 12 months in two different cities, Bendals and Clare Hall, 1.2 percent of children in Bendals were malnourished, while 10.3 percent of children in Clare Hall were malnourished. The country is has continued to address this issue and in 2013, the Zero Hunger Challenge advertised as an advocacy tool for irradiating world hunger by the Food and Agriculture Organization, which is the leading U.N. agency fighting hunger.
  7. Water Shortages are an Issue: As a Caribbean nation, Antigua and Barbuda has not escaped the water shortage that the entire area is facing. As of 2015, the Antigua Public Utilities Authority (APUA) made it known that the country did not have consistent access to running water. In 2017, Antigua and Barbuda was among 37 countries predicted to have “extremely high” levels of water stress.
  8. Health Care has Potential: The government of Antigua and Barbuda provides 100 percent of the population with health care with a reported 2.77 percent of the GDP going towards public health. The publicly financed system provides maternal and child health, community mental health and dental care. While the country provides some care, several tourists have expressed dissatisfaction with the public health care system, which highlights that there might still be more room for further improvement.
  9. Educational Trends are Promising: Not only are primary and secondary school completely free, but they are also compulsory. This no doubt plays a part in the adult literacy rate of 98 percent for those above the age of 15. For context, the Caribbean has an overall adult literacy rate of just 71 percent, well below that of Antigua and Barbuda.
  10. Incentives to Eliminate the Top Killers: Antigua and Barbuda has had the same four leading causes of death for over 10 years. Those four are heart disease, stroke, diabetes and respiratory infections. While there is little clear data on the causes of these diseases in Antigua and Barbuda specifically, medical professionals often attribute them to poor diet, air quality, and access. There have been incentives to improve health care as well as education in the country.

A small nation with a small population of 105,000 people, people often overlook Antigua and Barbuda when addressing the global issues of poverty. However, it is important to realize that people should not overlook any nation and these 10 facts about life expectancy in Antigua and Barbuda are just a snapshot into the progress and problems the country is addressing.

– Samira Darwich
Photo: Max Pixel

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Tajikistan
Tajikistan is located in central Asia, with Kyrgyzstan, China, Afghanistan and Uzbekistan bordering. Though the smallest in land size, Tajikistan does have a higher elevation average with a more mountainous landscape which should place it at a disadvantage with the spread of health care. Here are 10 facts about life expectancy in Tajikistan.

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Tajikistan

  1. According to data from the United Nations, Tajikistan ranks 134th in life expectancy for both sexes and second in relation to its neighboring countries. Life expectancy in Tajikistan follows the global trend of rising and currently has a male life expectancy of 68.6 placing it at rank 126 for male life expectancy. Tajikistan has a female life expectancy of 73.1 years placing it at 134th for female life expectancy.

  2. During the past 60 years, the only time life expectancy in Tajikistan has dropped was during its five-year civil war through May 1992 and June 1997. The civil war resulted in between 65,000 and 150,000 deaths, which accounted for about 1 percent of Tajikistan’s population at the time. Additionally, severe food shortages, as well as refugees and internally displaced people negatively affected Tajikistan’s standard of living.

  3. Since 2005, Tajikistan’s maternal mortality rate decreased from 95/100,000 to 32/100,000 in 2008. Afterward, the rate decreased to 25.2/100,000 in 2016. Throughout this time USAID and the United Nation Population Fund (UNFP) were working with Tajikistan’s Ministry of Health to strengthen its health care programs through improved health care education and financial support. This support came through the USAID’s Maternal and Child Health Project which focused on improving health, nutrition and hygiene for the women and children at the community level, as well as the UNFP training of doctors and midwives on effective perinatal care.

  4. Tajikistan has 170 physicians and 444 nurses per 100,000, which is comparatively less than the EU average of 347 and 850, respectively. The Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SADC) is currently working to help improve the condition of health care education by promoting medical education. Currently its efforts are supporting roughly 900 undergraduate medical students, several hundred nurses and over 100 postgraduate residents per year.

  5. Since 2009, USAID has helped to create or fix 76 water systems allowing 242,000 or more people to access safe drinking water. Tajikistan also has an estimated 354,000 cubic meters per year, which is four times the average water flow than the entire region of Central Asia. This is important as roughly 3.7 percent of deaths are related to water-borne diseases such as bacterial diarrhea, hepatitis A and typhoid.

  6. Non-governmental organizations are working to fill the gaps in their health care systems relating to the prevention of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and the acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). These gaps exist due to Tajikistan’s limited manpower and financial resources.

  7. At 99.8 percent Tajikistan has a high literacy rate compared to countries of similar economic standing. The high literacy rate should help facilitate the spread of health care information.

  8. Since 1994, Tajikistan has had legislation to protect patient rights and give patient choice, complaint and reimbursement procedures. Tajikistan’s constitution even includes this legislation in Article 38 which promises that each person has the right to basic health care and any other sort that future laws deem necessary.

  9.  According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Tajikistan ties for the 76th rank in road fatalities at 18.8 deaths per 100,000 people. For comparison, the U.K. has 3.1 deaths for every 100,000 people related to road fatalities. Though road safety contributes to a large number of deaths in Tajikistan, the road affects access to health care as well. As mentioned previously, the mountainous landscape proves to be a major obstacle in improving access to health care.

  10. The 10th fact about life expectancy in Tajikistan is that even though these problems and solutions are occurring, 45 percent of women from the ages 15 to 49 agree that the largest issue is getting the necessary money to afford health care treatment.

Life expectancy in Tajikistan is steadily improving with help from NGOs and further promoted health care education. While proper laws are in place to allow the population to seek out proper/adequate health care, financial limits burden those in poorer parts of the country and force them to seek the cheapest alternative.

With data being collected on Tajikistan’s health care system, an interest in increasing clean water access and an ample desire to better its system, Tajikistan is on the road to progress. There are several ways to contribute to helping improve the life expectancy in Tajikistan through supporting NGO’s efforts to provide children and families with clothes, food and shelter and to improve education standards and accessibility.

– Richard Zamora
Photo: World Bank

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Oman
Oman is a country located in the southeastern Arabian Peninsula, bordering Saudi Arabia, Yemen and the United Arab Emirates. The majority of the country’s population is located on the coast of the Gulf of Oman and the Arabian Sea. Wealthy in oil and progressive in culture, Oman is experiencing high levels of immigration and some expect its population to double by 2050. These 10 facts about life expectancy in Oman contribute heavily to this.

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Oman

  1. Oman, with a population of 4.6 million (as of the last census in 2017), ranks 97th in the world in life expectancy with the average life lasting 75.9 years. The country ranks eighth in life expectancy out of the 19 Middle Eastern countries and fifth out of the seven countries on the Arabian Peninsula.
  2. Women outlive men by approximately 4.1 years on average with the female life expectancy at 78 years and the male life expectancy at 73.9 years. These averages are by no means abnormal on a global scale and are due to men being more prone to heart disease and accidents on the roadways.
  3. The life expectancy in Oman has more than doubled since 1950 when the average Omani life lasted just over 33 years. This is a 233 percent increase. The U.N. projects that the average Omani life expectancy will reach 80 years in the early 2030s. This is in large part due to the country’s advancing health care system. Qaboos bin Said Al Said, the Sultan of Oman since 1971, has stated multiple times that health care is a basic human right. He established the Ministry of Health (MoH) by a royal decree. The MoH guarantees that Omani citizens receive basic health care, free of charge.
  4. As of 2016, Oman had 69 hospitals and over 6,400 beds within them. That calculates out to slightly more than 15 beds per 1,000 people. This serves as a sign of substantial progress, given that when Qaboos bin Said Al Said came to power in 1970, only two hospitals were in operation.
  5. The World Health Organization (WHO) is working in collaboration with the MoH, and in 2014, the organization announced a long-term plan entitled Health Vision 2050. This plan calls for larger investments in the health care field. The WHO is assisting in the development and sustainment of health-related technologies. The organization also commits to teaching more proper methods of personal and professional care. The MoH currently covers more than 80 percent of the costs associated with these health care expenditures, which is roughly 11 percent of the Omani government’s entire yearly budget.
  6. Ischemic heart disease, road injuries, stroke, diabetes and lower respiratory infections are the leading causes of death in Oman. Communicable diseases have seen a sharp decline in frequency and severity in Oman due to the steadily increasing quality of life. Now, lifestyle diseases, such as diabetes, obesity and hypertension are on the rise.
  7. Obesity has become substantially more prevalent within the past decade. As of 2017, approximately 27 percent of Omani adults are obese. Oman is now the 36th most obese country in the world. The MoH is attempting to address this by educating the populous on the importance of having a healthy diet and exercising regularly.
  8. Typically, as birth rates decrease, life expectancy increases. Omani women are having far fewer children than their parents before them. The average Omani woman living in 1982 had 8.35 children. As of 2016, this number has fallen to a mere 2.67 children per woman, and many expect it to continue to decrease.
  9. As the Omani family is getting smaller, individuals are receiving more attention. Literacy rates are rising quickly, and as of 2017, 97 percent of Omani citizens are functionally literate. This is drastically higher than the surrounding countries, with the average literacy rate of the Middle East and Northern Africa at 80 percent.
  10. Oman is a young country with a median age of 25.8. Roughly 30 percent of the population falls between the ages of zero and 14.

These 10 facts about life expectancy in Oman highlight just some of the extraordinary strides the country has made since its renaissance in the early 1970s. Although its health care system still faces issues, the way the country has tenaciously planned to advance itself is admirable and people should view it as a model for what thorough and proper planning can accomplish.

– Austin Brown
Photo: Flickr

Facts About Life Expectancy in Malawi

The landlocked country of Malawi has a life expectancy rate of 60.2 years for males and 64.3 years for females. While this is much lower than the global average of 69.8 years for males and 74.2 years for females, it represents an improvement from previous years. These eight facts about life expectancy in Malawi will help shed light on the reasons for the low rate as well as what the country has done, and can still do, to improve it:

8 Facts About Life Expectancy in Malawi

  1. HIV/AIDS: As of 2017, an estimated 1 million people in Malawi were living with HIV/AIDS which places the country at 10th in the world in terms of the number of people living with HIV/AIDS. In addition, there were also 13,000 deaths from the virus in the same year. Still, the government has made major strides to curb the epidemic in the last 10 years. Part of its strategy includes providing free condoms as well as educating young people. As of 2018, 78 percent of all people living with HIV in Malawi are on medication. There was also a decline in the number of new infections from 55,000 in 2010 to 38,000 in 2018.
  2. Maternal Health: In 2015, maternal mortality stood at 634 deaths for every 100,000 live births. This is considerably higher than the global average of 216 deaths per 100,000 live births. However, it represents a significant improvement as the government along with support from USAID has been able to reduce maternal mortality by 53 percent between 1990 and 2013. Today, more expectant mothers in both rural and urban areas are now receiving prenatal care as well as skilled birth assistance.
  3. Child Health: Great improvements have also been made in terms of child health, as most children under 5 in both rural and urban areas are vaccinated. This has helped reduce deaths from communicable childhood diseases such as measles, tetanus and pneumonia. The Ministry of Health has also implemented strategies like deworming and has also distributed vitamin A supplements to deal with other major causes of childhood death.
  4. Fertility Rate: In the 1980s Malawian women had about seven children per woman. Today, that number is at 5.5 children per woman. The high fertility rate affects life expectancy in Malawi as it puts pressure on the government to provide adequate social amenities in order to improve people’s lives.
  5. Population Growth: According to a 2018 census, Malawi’s population is 17.6 million people. By 2020 this is projected to hit 20.2 million, before doubling by 2050. This rapid population growth puts a lot of pressure on the country’s land, water and forest resources and threatens life expectancy as most Malawians derive their income from agriculture. The Third Malawi Growth and Development Strategy (MGDS III) sets out a number of policies including promoting family planning and sexual and reproductive health rights as a means to slow population growth, and better managing migration and urbanization.
  6. Infectious Diseases: Malawians are at very high risk of contracting infectious diseases. Food and waterborne diseases include diarrheal diseases and typhoid fever. In order to deal with diarrheal deaths, Malawians are in need of nutritious food as well as an unpolluted environment. Other diseases include malaria, dengue fever and rabies from animal contact. The country has been dealing with malaria by subsidizing mosquito nets. Additionally, Malawi is one of the three African countries taking part in a malaria vaccine pilot. The pilot aims to reach 360,000 children each year across Kenya, Ghana and Malawi.
  7. Water and Sanitation: One in three Malawians do not have access to clean water while 9.6 million people do not have a decent toilet. This affects the life expectancy in Malawi as it leads to an increase in diarrheal diseases. With the support of UNICEF and organizations such as Water Aid, the government of Malawi has made significant progress in reducing the number of people who lack access to safe water. Additionally, the rate of open defecation has declined from 29 percent in 1990 to four percent in 2015.
  8. Education: Malawi introduced free primary education in 1994 which put a strain on the education system. This is because the infrastructure, number of teachers and number of teaching and learning materials were inadequate when compared to the number of students who enrolled. It resulted in poor performance by the students, especially in terms of literacy.  The government of Malawi has been making an effort to improve the education sector by allocating more than 20 percent of the national budget to education.  It has also partnered with bodies such as USAID and UNICEF to improve literacy levels as well as student enrollment and completion rates. An educated and skilled population will help increase Malawi’s economic growth. Educational reforms will help reduce the unemployment rate which is currently more than 20 percent.

Malawi is considered one of the poorest countries in the world, and a lot still needs to be done to improve the lives of its people. It is however clear that the government is working with the support of nonprofit organizations around the world to make life better for its people.

Sophia Wanyonyi
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Poverty in Central America
Recent news has increasingly mentioned the Northern Triangle, which includes Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, and its migration crisis. Each of these countries have economic systems that have similar financial agreements with outside countries. These 10 facts about poverty in Central America will identify issues, solutions and trends that lead back to Central America’s poverty crisis.

10 Facts About Poverty in Central America

  1. The Economy: The political economy of Central America has parallelled that of the world for the past five decades. A combination of factors such as a vulnerable bureaucratic system, a shifting population and aggressive globalization are causing Central America to experience gentrification on a national level, creating more significant gaps between economic classes.
  2. Climate Change: Changes in nature such as unusually warm temperatures, nutrient-poor water and the comeback of the southern pine beetle are occurring throughout the region of Central America. This insect is a result of a change in climate where the ocean temperature rises significantly, placing additional demand on presently strained water reserves.
  3. Population: In the past five decades, Central America’s population has continued to increase with the most considerable change occurring up to the mid-1970s, after which the difference in community numbers became highly sporadic. As the population continues to increase, resources like infrastructure and the economy struggle to match demand. As a result, the levels of poverty and extreme poverty have increased by approximately one percent between 2014 and 2017 and extreme poverty increased two percent between 2014 and 2016. Congresswoman Alicia Barcena mentioned the need for public services such as social security and labor inclusion, and how pairing these resources with increased wages could lessen the amount of poverty.
  4. Legislation: Central American countries are making efforts through previous legislation to alleviate their economic hardships. Since 2004, the Dominican Republic-Central America Free Trade Agreement has promoted stronger trade and stability throughout these regions. FTA reduces the barriers that countries previously had to access U.S. exports. As a result, traded goods all originate between Mexico and Canada with the exceptions of agricultural commodities. These areas give considerable attention to the conditions and the rights of workers in their countries. Countries are currently updating NAFTA to address additional concerns such as how to verify labor standards and eliminate the time restraint on labor violations.
  5. Clean Water Accessibility: Nicaragua is the only country in the region that has substantial access to waterways but the surrounding countries, like Honduras, Guatemala and Peru, do not due to the steep terrain that can make up significant portions of their countries. These collections of water are rarely safe for consumption even if they are accessible. For many households, accessing water is a timely chore that can take hours traveling back and forth between sources of water and homes, and limit people’s ability to attend work or school. For example, around 63 percent of Honduras’ population is living below poverty and those who live in rural areas work as farmers; as a result, their earnings rarely go to education, but rather daily tasks like water collection. To help with water accessibility, Doc Hendley started Wine to Water. Wine to Water is a nonprofit organization that works to bring clean water to underserved communities. It has served over half a million people in over 300 communities, across five continents. To date, it has worked in Honduras within eight communities and aided over 11,000 people.
  6. Literacy: Many regions have limited water supplies that are safe or close in the distance, meaning that in a single day, a trip for a container of water takes several hours. As a region, Central America has lower literacy rates with an average of 79.4, compared to the global average of 83.7. The countries in Central America with the highest literacy rates are Costa Rica and Panama, while the country with the lowest is Guatemala.
  7. The Northern Triangle: The Northern Triangle is a subregion in Central America between El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala. These countries have a secure connection with each other economically due to legislation that passed during the 1980s and 1990s. The majority of those changes, however, have had macroeconomic effects on the region leaving large portions of the population enduring unequal access to resources and encouraging many to migrate elsewhere, working against stimulating its economy. The House Committee of Foreign Affairs introduced legislation to address the causes of migration and authorized $577 million in foreign assistance for the years 2020.
  8. Women in Central America: Central American women are facing challenges to raise their economic status while being met with social obstacles. For example, some women in El Salvador meet with sexism, fragile protection and few rights. These challenges, along with limited assets, the possibility of extortion and insufficient education about business management and finances make some businesswomen wary of growing or succeeding with their activities.
  9. Migration: Many people have made efforts to migrate to other countries due to the rising concern of survival. Droughts, economic instability, increased violence between gang members and civilians, corrupt legal systems and a weak government have made daily life challenging.
  10. Violence: The violence in Central America has been on the rise for decades, causing hundreds of thousands of migrants out of the region. Of those who remain in the area, the violence, extortion and corruption are frequent. Legislation such as the Global Fragility Act of 2019 prevents and addresses the primary causes of violence in various countries.

These 10 facts about poverty in Central America emphasize the point that poverty is a broad issue with a number of solutions. While situations in Central America may seem dire, the efforts by nonprofits like Wine to Water and legislation like the Global Fragility Act of 2019 should aid in improving the area’s conditions.

– Kimberly Debnam
Photo: Flickr

literacy in bangladeshThe term “literacy” means far more today than in the past, incorporating not only the ability to read physical texts, but to also be able to comprehend and break down internet sources and articles as well. Bangladesh has been striving to make the country’s educational system develop these skills through the implementation of newer programs and the infusion of technology into schools. The government’s goal of creating an accomplished, educated population through digital education has helped to increase literacy in Bangladesh.

Education Overview

Bangladesh’s school system is broken down into four categories: pre-primary, primary, secondary and tertiary. The country currently has five years of compulsory education from age six to age ten. The country has been working to decrease the number of out of school children throughout the past ten years, with only 753 children not in school as of 2017. The number of out of school adolescents has also decreased, dropping from 2,776 children in 2010 to 995 children in 2017.

Impact of Digital Education

With these decreases in out-of-school children, Bangladesh has been working to increase the literacy levels throughout the country. Digital education is making access to reading materials and textbooks easier throughout all regions, which helps to improve literacy in Bangladesh. Using digital materials to increase the level of education in schools is helping children to understand the tools available through the internet and infuse a larger amount of knowledge into the current school systems in place. Many schools have adopted the use of technology to aid education throughout the country, incorporating digital white boards, tablet devices and learning apps to infuse more learning materials into classrooms.

JAAGO Foundation

One group working to improve literacy rates in Bangladesh is the JAAGO Foundation, which has helped through the creation of a digital school. This school helps to teach information and communications technology (ICT) to students, which was accredited by UNESCO in 2017 as an innovative, new method for ICT education. The school is set up into parts: a headquarters for teachers located in Dhaka, and classrooms in remote areas with video-streaming technology to broadcast lessons from the headquarters. JAAGO’s school also includes interactive calls between the students and the teachers in Dhaka so that these students have opportunities to ask questions and get individual learning time.

JAAGO has also partnered with Bangladesh’s government through the A2i project, which provides an e-learning platform for students looking for an online education. This platform, named Muktopaath, features both videos and educational lessons to supplement traditional education forms and help to increase the literacy rates throughout the country.

Literacy Rates on the Rise

Because of institutions like the digital school from the JAAGO Foundation, literacy in Bangladesh is currently at an all-time high, with 72.76 percent of the population being literate in 2016. This number has increased by 26.1 percent from 2007, where literacy rates were measured at 46.66 percent. The literacy rate for people between 15 to 24 has also increased drastically, from 61.87 percent in 2007 to 92.24 percent in 2016. These figures show how Bangladesh is working to break out of the Least Developed Country (LDC) designation and improve overall quality of education throughout the regions.

Bangladesh’s government has also been increasing funding to local schools to benefit the quality of literacy and education throughout the country. Government spending toward education was over $4.3 billion in 2016, which is more than double what the government spent in 2008. The National Education Policy of 2010 helped to make education accessible for everyone, and over 26,000 primary schools have been accredited by the government as national schools to ensure that a primary school is in every region of the country.

Literacy in Bangladesh has been steadily increasing by infusing technology into local schools. Through increasing government funding for schools and with the help of outside programs like the JAAGO Foundation, educational systems throughout the country are beginning to rise to meet international education standards. As more technology is added into school systems, Bangladesh will continue to improve in international standings and surpass LDC status within the next few years.

– Kristen Bastin
Photo: Flickr