Living Conditions in Myanmar
The term “living conditions” encompasses all the major necessities in life, shelter, food, safety, water and electricity. In recent years, living conditions in Myanmar have vastly improved, as shown through formal statistics and public opinion. For instance, public electricity in the nation has increased by 8% between 2015 and 2017 while connectivity also increased, with 82% of households owning phones. Public opinion polls of citizens reflect these positive statistics. Specifically, 91% of Myanmar residents believe when today’s children grow up, they will have a better standard of living than themselves. Many major organizations, including those discussed below, have helped to create such great strides.

3 Organizations Improving Living Conditions in Myanmar

  1. CARE: CARE is a worldwide organization working towards ending poverty while focusing on social justice. The organization emphasizes gender equality, with over 55% of its efforts focused on assisting women and girls. As of 2019, CARE and CARE’s partners have helped 130 million people in 100 nations through its programs. CARE has been assisting those in need in Myanmar since 1995. Currently, it is focusing on improving living conditions for Myanmar’s women and girls. Many long-term plans have been developed for the nation, such as the Rural Long-Term Program 2013-2028 and the Urban Long-Term Program 2013-2028. Both of these plans focus on protecting women from humanitarian emergencies and increasing their economic opportunities.
  2. Action Against Hunger: Action Against Hunger takes a different approach to improve living conditions around the world. It is an organization concentrated on ensuring food security and access to water. Internationally, Action Against Hunger has aided 21 million people in 2018 alone. Another focus of the organization is fighting child malnutrition by assisting in emergency food and water aid. Action Against Hunger has been bettering living conditions in Myanmar since 1994 through its numerous programs. One of its major programs works to expand safe access to water by fixing water infrastructure and making wells. Additionally, after providing access to water, the organization guarantees long-term access through training and creating groups of community members to manage their water. These Action Against Hunger programs have an expansive reach throughout Myanmar and have made a lasting change in many lives. In 2018 alone, its water, sanitation and hygiene programs reached 19,460 people and food security programs reached 23,790 people in Myanmar.
  3. Habitat for Humanity: Habitat for Humanity improves lives worldwide by creating adequate and affordable shelters for impoverished people and disaster victims. In 2019, the organization improved the lives and houses of 7 million people while also training another 2.3 million people. Since its establishment in 1976, it has helped over 29 million people worldwide. The organization has been working to better living conditions in Myanmar since 2008. It began its work in the nation after a  cyclone destroyed many homes. The organization partnered with World Concern to restore 1,700 homes in the most heavily impacted region of Myanmar. On top of rebuilding houses, Habitat for Humanity successfully assisted over 950 Myanmarese families in gaining access to clean water and health centers. Currently, the organization continues to assist families across Myanmar.

As shown through these three organizations, there are many different strategies for humanitarian aid. Increasing women’s opportunities, creating safe water accessibility, providing food security and creating shelter are all essential to the development of improved living conditions both in Myanmar and across the world.

Erica Burns
Photo: Flickr

Living Conditions in Africa
Although the percentage of African citizens living in extreme poverty has decreased over the last 30 years,  poor living conditions and growing populations help to perpetuate a continuous cycle of poverty. 90% of people in Africa live in informal housing, and often lack basic needs such as sanitation, clean water and food security. Poor living conditions affect entire communities, as crowded living spaces, dirty water, lack of hygiene and food insecurity contribute to disease transmission. As living conditions improve, more people are able to stay healthy and participate in education and the economy, thus reducing inequality. Here are 3 organizations working to improve living conditions in Africa.

Habitat for Humanity

Habitat for Humanity improves living conditions for people across 10 African countries by building and renovating homes. The organization also improves access to sanitation and promotes hygienic practices. In Uganda, where rapid population growth will require 3 million more homes by 2022, Habitat for Humanity is providing housing for those in rural areas. These homes include a ventilated pit latrine, shower stall and water tank. Simultaneously, the organization educates families about HIV/AIDS, malaria, reproductive health, proper hygiene and sanitation. Habitat for Humanity also promotes economic security by encouraging youth to learn vocational skills that are desired by local markets. The organization served more than 60,000 Ugandans in 2019.

In Ethiopia, where 70% of homes are in need of replacement, Habitat for Humanity improves sanitation by renovating houses and building water facilities and shared toilets. Families are trained in adequate hygiene practices, resulting in community-wide improvement and an overall decrease in health risks. The organization served almost 20,000 Ethiopians in 2019. Habitat for Humanity’s multifaceted approach to improving living conditions in countries across Africa serves thousands in need.

Okodwela

Okodwela constructs housing and increases employment rates in rural Zambia through the Okodwela Home Project. The organization assesses individual families and hires locals to build homes using regional materials. Additionally, to encourage sanitation, Okodwela ensures that each house has a toilet, bedding and filtered water bottles. Every home has two rooms, giving families the option to rent out a room as an additional source of income.

Since its founding in 2018, Okodwela has provided housing for 32 people and employed 26 construction workers. An Okodwela-built home for a family of four in Meloni Village provided income that was sorely lacking after their young daughter was diagnosed with a health condition. For a family of five in Mulala Village, Okodwela’s new home provided shelter, as their previous residence had nearly collapsed. By evaluating families and providing solutions for their specific needs, Okodwela drastically improves living conditions for the rural communities.

Action Against Hunger

Action Against Hunger improves living conditions in more than 20 African countries by enhancing access to clean water and sanitation services and promoting food security. In Somalia, the organization built 29 shared water sources and 324 emergency latrines to improve hygiene and sanitation. Food shortages and droughts coupled with extreme poverty make food security a challenge in Somalia. In response, Action Against Hunger worked to reach over 97,000 people in the area with food security programs.

The organization also directly provides money to families to purchase food and implements improved health systems for herd animals. Additionally, its work includes enhancing agricultural practices and educating communities about acquiring savings. By improving sanitation and food security across Africa, Action Against Hunger reduces malnutrition rates and the spread of disease. As a result, the living conditions of hundreds of thousands of people have improved.

Next Steps

In light of Africa’s rapid population growth, significant interventions are necessary to improve living conditions in both urban and rural areas. Habitat for Humanity, Okodwela and Action Against Hunger positively impact an array of people across the continent. However, governments in African countries need to focus on mitigating the effects that urbanization and population growth have on living conditions. Inequalities that contribute to and are perpetuated by poor living conditions should be placed at the forefront of governmental concern. These organizations are paving the way for much-needed change in the living conditions in Africa.

Melina Stavropoulos
Photo: Flickr

Top 10 Facts about Living Conditions in Sao Tome and Principe
Sao Tome and Principe (STP) is a small island nation just north of the Equator. This formal Portuguese colony achieved its independence in 1975. As a Portuguese colony, from 1470 to 1975, people knew Sao Tome and Principe for its sugar production and trade. The slave labor utilized in the island’s sugar industry persisted into the 20th century. The country’s economy is largely dependent on agricultural exports, but the Sao Tome and Principe government is making efforts to diversify its economy. Here are the top 10 facts about living conditions in Sao Tome and Principe.

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Sao Tome and Principe

  1. Life expectancy in Sao Tome and Principe is 70.2 years old. While this is lower than life expectancy in developed countries such as the U.S. or the U.K., STP’s life expectancy is higher than its neighbors. Compared to other developing nations in Africa such as Gabon, Angola, Nigeria, Cameroon and Equatorial Guinea, STP has a higher life expectancy.
  2. As of 2018, the literacy rate in STP was 92.8 percent. Primary level education, which lasts for six years, is compulsory and free of charge. This, combined with a high primary school enrollment of 97 percent, resulted in a high literacy rate. However, the quality of education and teachers raises some concerns. To remedy this, in cooperation with the Global Partnerships for Education (GPE) and the World Bank, the STP government is striving to improve the quality of education facilities and training of teachers.
  3. About 97.1 percent of the STP population has access to an improved water source. While STP has access to more than 50 natural water sources, these sources are unevenly distributed within the island. With the support of the U.N. Environment and the Global Environment Facility, STP enacted its first water law in January 2018. The new law guides the use and control of water with the aim of long-term water sustainability and access to water for all populace in STP.
  4. Sixty-eight percent of the population in STP has access to electricity. While 87 percent of the urban area has access to electricity, only 22 percent of the rural areas in the STP have access to electricity. This lack of access to electricity for the rural populace negatively affects the living conditions in Sao Tome and Principe. To remedy this, the STP government is cooperating with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in creating hydro-powered power plants which will utilize STP’s multiple rivers to generate power.
  5. Approximately 66.2 percent of the STP population lives below the poverty line. STP’s economic dependence on cacao export resulted in the country’s over-dependence on its agricultural sector. The majority of STP’s population depends on agriculture for their income. The recent fall in cacao prices severely affected the STP’s economy. To remedy this, the STP government is investing in the country’s tourism industry. STP is also co-developing the recently discovered oil in the Gulf of Guinea with Nigeria.
  6. STP relies on foreign imports to support itself. Living conditions in Sao Tome and Principe depend heavily upon foreign imports. The majority of food, fuels, manufactured goods and consumer goods enter STP as imports. This leaves STP’s economy and access to goods vulnerable to the fluctuating international prices of goods. For example, of the estimated GDP of $686 million in 2017, $127.7 million went into foreign good imports.
  7. STP also relies heavily on foreign aid. UNICEF’s 2018 report showed concern that the GDP of the STP is still heavily dependent upon foreign aid. According to the report, only 14.9 percent of STP’s GDP came from domestic resources. In 2019, 90 percent of STP’s country budget received funding from foreign aid.
  8. Infant mortality in STP is in sharp decline since 1992. Compared to the 69.5 per 1,000 infant mortality rate in 1992, infant mortality in STP declined to 24.4 per 1,000 as of 2018. In UNICEF’s 2018 annual report, UNICEF noted the continuous progress that the STP government is making in improving access to basic services, education, maternal health and treating HIV/AIDS and malaria.
  9. STP will graduate from the U.N.’s list of least developed countries. According to the World Economic Outlook report, STP and Angola will leave the U.N.’s group of least developed countries. Angola will graduate from the list in 2021 and STP will graduate in 2024. This reflects the continuously improving living conditions in Sao Tome and Principe and Angola.
  10. As of 2017, the unemployment rate in STP is 12.2 percent. This unemployment rate was a 0.4 percent drop from 2016. However, some experts wonder if this truly represents the living conditions in Sao Tome and Principe. Since many workers in STP work as farmers, experts are calling for improvements in STP’s manufacturing and tourism sectors.

Living conditions in Sao Tome and Principe are steadily improving. There are still many mountains that the STP government must climb in order to lead its country into a more prosperous future. While the STP economy’s dependence on agriculture and foreign aid is concerning, the high literacy rate in STP reflects the potential for growth. STP’s planned graduation from the U.N.’s list of least developed countries certainly seems to reflect this optimism. With this progress, a better future is surely coming for the people of STP.

YongJin Yi
Photo: Flickr

Sitting on the eastern African coast, Comoros is an island nation in the Indian Ocean. Though Comoros is experiencing steady economic growth, government debt could cause a decline in the growth rate as time goes on. Here are the top 10 facts about living conditions in Comoros.

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Comoros

  1. Poverty: One household-conducted survey from 2014 found that approximately 18 percent of Comoros’ population lives below the international poverty line. The government is continuously funding infrastructure projects with non-concessional loans aimed to improve the island’s living conditions.
  2. Unemployment: Rates of unemployment in Comoros currently rest at 14.3 percent. With about 38.4 percent of people working in agricultural zones, employment is one of the country’s top priorities. 
  3. Education System: One aspect of living conditions in Comoros is that students are required to attend Quranic schools for two to three years from the age of 5. Then, students will advance to primary and secondary school, which is modeled on the French system. Subsequently, students receive six years of primary education and seven years of secondary education. Comoros does not have any post-secondary education in place, like universities, therefore students will either pursue higher education abroad or partake in business, teaching, or agricultural training.
  4. Political Unrest: Much of the living conditions in Comoros, specifically the education system, are negatively affected by political unrest and instability. This often results in teacher and student strikes across the island, which has affected student performance and completion rates. In 2004, education indicators showed that while 85 percent of children were enrolled in primary education and only 35 percent continued to enroll through secondary school.
  5. Life Expectancy: Comoros has a life expectancy of nearly 64 years, a significant improvement from 41 years in 1960. The country currently spends approximately $57 per capita on health care which falls below the average of sub-Saharan Africa ($98) but is significantly higher than that for lower-income countries overall ($37). According to the World Bank, public financing for health makes up 8.7 percent of total government spending.
  6. Clean Water Access: Over 90 percent of Comoros’ population has readily accessible potable drinking water. Clean water supply and access have been improving tremendously because of programs like UNICEF, which has received funding of almost $1.3 million from the European Commission Humanitarian Aid’s office. This funding supports endeavors such as cleaning and protecting roughly 1,500 reservoirs across the nation.
  7. Human Development: In 2016, Comoros ranked 158 out of 188 on the United Nations’ Human Development Index. This low number indicates a dire need for focusing on initiatives that combat hunger and malnutrition. Further, a report by the World Bank found that nearly 30 percent of children face chronic malnutrition and stunted growth.
  8. Malaria: The government has developed a goal to fight malaria, where the aim is to reach zero cases on the island. A surge of malaria cases has hit Comoros over the past two years, primarily due to the weak health system. In 2018, nearly 16,000 indigenous malaria cases were reported.
  9. Child Labor: In an effort to improve living conditions in Comoros, the government has recently launched an initiative to reduce child labor rates. Children often perform domestic and agricultural work in order to provide support to the family. Often, these children are sent to wealthier families if the parent is unable to properly care for the child. It has been found that 20.8 percent of children between the ages of seven and fourteen work while in school.
  10. Working Women: Over a third of women in Comoros are in the labor force, providing financial support for a majority of the home bills and school fees for the family. There are strong matrilineal traditions present across the island. Women represent approximately 20 percent of key positions in the government, like the minister of telecommunications and labor minister.

As one of the world’s poorest countries, these top 10 facts about living conditions in Comoros are essential in understanding the importance of economic growth and reduction of poverty on the island.

– Brittany Adames
Photo: Flickr

Facts About Living Conditions in Nauru
Situated in the Pacific Ocean to the northeast of Australia, the Republic of Nauru is the smallest island nation in the world. Phosphate mining has rendered 80 percent of the island unhabitable and devoid of arable land. Phosphate deposits depleted in the 1980s and Nauru’s economy stagnated, transitioning the country from fiscally self-sustaining to externally dependent. The country’s history, economy and foreign relationships interlace with—and have shaped many aspects of—Nauruan life, as evidenced by the top 10 facts about living conditions in Nauru.

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Nauru

  1. Population: Nauru’s population is approximately 11,000. Ninety percent are indigenous to the island, almost half of the population are under the age of 24 and 3.5  percent are 65 and older. Although the country’s landmass is only eight square miles, Nauru is one of the world’s most densely populated countries.
  2. Colonialism: Nauru remained under colonial authority until gaining independence in 1968. For example, Germany annexed it in 1888, Japan occupied it in WWII and the United Nations (U.N.) subsequently placed Nauru under Australian administration. The nation only became of economic interest to colonial powers after the discovery of phosphate deposits in the late 19th century.
  3. Australian-Nauru Relations: Nauru sought damages from Australia in 1989 for “rehabilitation of the phosphate lands.” Before WWII, Germany and the United Kingdom split mining profits, and following the war, Australia and the United Kingdom divided revenues. The Hague sided with Nauru and the two countries settled in 1993 with Australia agreeing to pay $56 million AUD that year and another $50 million AUD over the next two decades. Australia continues to be Nauru’s greatest source of economic stimulus, its contributions making up 20 percent of the national GDP.
  4. Economy: Phosphate mining and production is integral to Nauru’s economy and continues to be the country’s most valuable resource. Phosphate is one of the key plant nutrients to make food crop fertilizer. Additionally, phosphate mines are an essential source of employment. A national economic crisis occurred in the 80s when Nauru exhausted existing deposits. Secondary mining did resume in 2005, but Nauru’s government estimates that reservoirs will be barren by 2030. Other niche industries have recently emerged, including immigration taxation and licensing commercial fishing. The Republic of China (ROC) and Nauru signed a fishing cooperation accord in 2004 to strengthen trade relations between the two countries. Renewed in 2016, the cooperation accord provides funds to improve Nauru’s fishing industry and promotes sustainable fishing practices.
  5. The Pacific Solution Policy: In 2001, Nauru became one of two Australian off-shore regional processing centers for refugees and asylum-seekers in an arrangement called the Pacific Solution policy. In exchange, the Australian Government would provide $1 million AUD annually for its operation, immediately pay $16.5 million AUD for infrastructure and provide increased access to Australian education and additional maritime security. Facilities closed from 2007 to 2012 due to international objections, including indefinite detention times and evidence of abuse; however, despite criticism, operations have since recommenced.
  6. Employment: Following the economic downturn in the 1980s, Nauru did not significantly diversify its industries, unemployment levels increased and the country became heavily dependent on external economic stimulus. For example, the uptick in employment levels in 2012 was the result of regional processing centers reopening. Facilities directly provided 500 jobs, and indirectly generated substantial ancillary employment opportunities; next to Nauru’s government, Australia is the country’s second-largest source of employment.
  7. Health Care: Nauru was one of seventeen countries in 2016 that, proportionate to its economy, spent over 10 percent of its GDP on health care. The Marshall Islands spent the most at 23.3 percent and Monaco spent the least at 1.7 percent. Despite this, many Nauruan’s develop noncommunicable diseases, specifically, obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Although obesity remains an issue in Nauru, it has made progress as male diabetes rates have declined 1 percent over the past decade and high blood pressure levels have decreased for both genders by 6 percent.
  8. Poverty: Nauru is officially a middle-upper-income nation, and previously, it was the wealthiest country per capita. However, a 2018 U.N. report showed that a quarter of Nauruans live in “basic need” poverty, too poor for the cost of food and access to necessities such as clean water, health care and education. The same 2018 report noted that Nauru had no instances of food insecurity, however.
  9. Education: Education in Nauru is free and mandatory until the age of 18. Eighty percent of Nauruan children enrolled in early and primary education in 2015, but only half that number attended secondary school. The Government addressed truancy in 2016, an ongoing concern for students in Nauru, by enacting the Nauru Education Assistance Trust Scheme (NEATS). NEATS incentivizes students to attend school by providing them with $5 a day to set aside for adulthood and help them establish businesses or purchase homes when they graduate. Following NEAT, school attendance increased by 11 percent from 2016 to 2018.
  10. National Sustainability: Nauru is confronting the significant damage that phosphate mining caused. The government acknowledges that it is an economically volatile and diminishing commodity. For example, the ROC and Nauru’s 360 Project is an initiative that encourages national self-sufficiency in areas such as vocational training, transitioning to solar energy and specialized forms of agriculture; the latter is to mitigate reliance on imported goods. The United Arab Emirates has aligned with Nauru to achieve similar efforts, providing financial aid for Nauru to establish its first solar energy plant, which opened in 2016.

These top 10 facts about living conditions in Nauru reveal that its history is complex. The country’s remote location, limited economic opportunities and increasing dependence on foreign investment—usually politically contingent for all countries—continue to impact the Nauruan population. However, ongoing U.N. involvement and foreign relationships with countries like Australia and the ROC, are working to address Nauru’s long-term social issues.

– Annabel Fay
Photo: Wikipedia Commons

10 Facts About Living Conditions in Guyana
Guyana is located in the northeastern corner of South America. After gaining independence from the British in 1966, it has struggled economically and politically, but the recent find of over five billion barrels worth of oil should bring in vast amounts of money. These 10 facts about living conditions in Guyana go to show the great potential the country has to improve its population’s quality of life.

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Guyana

  1. Poverty: Unfortunately, Guyana is very poor as over a third of its population lives in poverty. Along with this, Guyana ranks 164 out of 228 nations in human development.
  2. Political Parties are Ethnically Based: There are multiple ethnic groups in Guyana. Forty percent of Guyana’s population is South Asian and are descendants of those brought over for indentured servitude. Meanwhile, about 30 percent are Afro-Guyanese (Guyanese of African descent) are the descendants of ancestors who went to Guyana to work the plantations. Additionally, 20 percent have mixed heritage and 10 percent are indigenous. These differing ethnicities have led to the formation of a number of political parties. There are three main political parties including the People’s National Congress, the People’s Progressive Party, the Alliance for Change and several smaller political parties. These parties include the different ethnicities present in the country, which has led to issues. Some people feel that President David Granger favors his own ethnicity.
  3. Political Tensions: An example of Granger favoring his own ethnicity over others is when he cut subsidies for the sugar industry while making no cuts against the government bureaucracy. This is problematic because a majority of the government is Afro-Guyanese, Granger’s ethnicity, whereas most people who work on sugar plantations are Indo-Guyanese. Although there have been some ethnic-related tensions, Granger has made improvements. An effort to lower the rate of AIDs, which has become an issue for all in recent years, shows this. Since 2010, the rate of AIDS and HIV has increased by over 10 percent.
  4. Emigration: An important point among these 10 facts about living conditions in Guyana is the fact that there is a significant amount of emigration that takes place each year. In 2013, over 7,000 people emigrated. A study also determined that 40 percent of people in Guyana would emigrate if they could. Motivators to leave the country might be a lack of political support and job opportunities. In order to combat this President Granger has raised funds to improve the national public university and increased teachers’ salaries.
  5. Human Resource Drain: Many people leave Guyana because of a lack of jobs. The current unemployment rate in the world is around 5 percent, whereas, in 2017, Guyana’s unemployment rate was 12 percent. Many young Guyanese people are moving to large cities such as New York to secure work. Even though the jobs they get might be low paying, stressful and below their educational levels, having a job that pays is better than not having employment. People who come to work in big cities often send money back to their families in Guyana. All of this emigration leads to the country having a reduced number of human resources. Many of the people who leave have skills and are professional. In fact, 80 percent of students from the University of Guyana leave the country statistically.
  6. Improving Education: Many qualified individuals are leaving the country. A focus on improving youth education has occurred to combat the loss of educated people. An example of this is a partnership between the NGO Family Awareness Consciousness & Togetherness with the U.S. Government that aims to support youth education. The NGO has received a grant of $64,800, which will provide after-school activities, lessons and homework based around arts, sports and life skills. This program is for 80 children between the ages of 10 and 18 in the town of Corriverton, Guyana. Eventually, the NGO hopes to spread these after-school activities to the surrounding communities.
  7. Newfound Money and Potential Issues: The mass amounts of money from oil could present some issues because of the current political tensions. Troy Thomas, the head of global anti-corruption NGO Transparency International, stated that “corruption is rampant.” An example of the corruption that Thomas speaks of was in December 2018 when the governing coalition lost a no-confidence vote, yet disregarded the results. It responded by challenging the vote in courts, which resulted in the occurrence of protests. On September 20, 2019, hundreds of People’s Progressive Party Civic supporters and members protested outside of a hotel where President Garner was to deliver a speech to the business community, who were mainly his ethnicity, Afro-Guyanese. Members and supporters of the People’s Progressive Party Civic feel Granger will use the newfound money from oil to only help the Afro-Guyanese.
  8. Oil to Help the Economy: Among the 10 facts about living conditions in Guyana is the fact that the country’s newfound oil should greatly improve the economy. Predictions determine that the overall economy should grow by 86 percent by 2020. This is 14 times more than China’s predicted rate. Along with this, according to the International Monetary Fund, the oil revenues should reach $631 million by the year 2024.
  9. Guyana and Greener Practices: Guyana has made a commitment to the Green State Development Strategy. This is a long-term plan that will use the money from oil to improve the lives of all ethnicities within Guyana. To achieve this goal, Guyana hopes to create quality education, social protection and low carbon development that is resilient. These things will lead to new economic possibilities. This strategy calls for using the country’s investments to implement more environmentally friendly practices. Guyana will focus on how this change affects agriculture, forestry, energy and road transport infrastructure. By 2040, Guyana wants to transition to nearly 100 percent renewable and clean energy sources for generating electricity. Another main aim of this strategy is to provide all people with necessities, including safe and affordable housing, water, sanitation facilities and electricity.
  10. The Green State Development Strategy to Create Jobs Through Tourism: A focus of the Green State Development Strategy is to lessen poverty through things such as creating more jobs. A way that this strategy hopes to create jobs is through tourism. In 2018 alone, tourism led to the creation of 22,000 jobs. The Guyana Tourism Authority stated that tourism is the country’s second-largest export sector, bringing in nearly $30 million to the economy in 2018. The Ministry of Business in Guyana predicts that tourism and travel will make up nearly 8 percent of the country’s GDP in 2019.

When it comes to these 10 facts about living conditions in Guyana, the country has faced political and economic issues, but this has the potential to change soon. After finding over five billion barrels worth of oil off the coast, Guyana’s potential for economic growth skyrocketed. Predications state that Guyana’s GDP should triple within the next five years.

This new influx of money will allow Guyana to improve the lives of all ethnicities within the country. Guyana should be able to achieve this by investing money into education, job creation, natural resources and tourism while using greener practices.

– James Turner
Photo: Flickr

Garbage CommunitiesGarbage: the word brings to mind unpleasant smells, flies and filth. But to some, it is home. Garbage communities consist of individuals making a living from and living within the confines of literal garbage dumps. For some people living in extreme poverty, the scrap cash that recycling garbage brings and the free space for building simple homes is the only option. And it isn’t an isolated, rare way of life. Nearly 15 million people across the globe live and “work” in garbage communities.

Making a Living

Members of garbage communities spend each day rummaging through the trash, hoping to find something decent enough to recycle. Once they find something — say a can or bottle — they collect these pieces and bring them to a middleman called an “agent”. The agent, (oftentimes a gang leader or crime lord) then sells the goods for much more, sucking up a large portion of the collector’s wage. This method brings in somewhere around $2.50 a day, not nearly enough for a decent living in most countries. Getting rid of the middleman is not an option, as violence and coercion are commonly used methods of silencing the garbage workers if they attempt to sell the items directly to the recycler.

Breeding Grounds of Disease

Living in waste — whether human, animal or artificial — brings with it a host of health problems. Contact with feces can cause intestinal worms, which can lead to stunted cognitive and physical growth in children. Pneumonia, spread by poor hygiene, is rampant in these communities, as are many other infectious diseases. This is likely because each gram of feces in which people in these conditions come into contact holds 10 million viruses. As a result, the average lifespan of people raised in these communities is about 35 years old.

But along with the physical burden is a huge mental and emotional weight. Garbage pickers are often stigmatized in their communities and referred to as “local rats”. Even if they are able to attend school or enter society looking for a job, they are seen as less than because of their occupation. Infections, illness, injuries from sharp objects, trauma and mental illness, spontaneous combustion from a buildup of methane gas, the list of dangers is endless. And yet, for the world’s most vulnerable, this is what it costs to live.

Promise for a Better Future

Several organizations are committed to bringing change to garbage communities and offering them a shot at a better life. ActionAid is an organization that specifically works with women and children in impoverished regions to help them stand up to sexual abuse and violence. ActionAid also helps children living in landfills get into school by pairing them with sponsors throughout the world. International Samaritan does similar work, providing promising young people in the dumps with scholarships so that they can escape the dump. This organization also funds entrepreneurs to start up their own businesses outside of the landfills.

By reaching the next generation, these programs bring promising hope for the future. Yet, many people still live under the burden of collecting and sorting the world’s waste. Although insufficient, an improvement would be providing a living wage, clean environment and benefits for garbage communities. Even by following correct rather than cheap landfill protocol, governments could greatly improve the quality of life for these communities by reducing the number of toxic waste individuals come into contact with.

Hannah Stewart
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

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in MaltaLocated in the middle of the Mediterranean, south of Italy, Malta is a country made up of a small set of islands full of life and unique culture. Geographically, Malta is just smaller than twice the size of Washington, D.C. and home to nearly 450,000 inhabitants. From 1814 to 1964, Malta was a British colony but has since established itself as a republic, become a member of the European Union and adopted the euro as its currency. Here are the top 10 facts about living conditions in Malta.

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Malta

  1. Malta was the only member of the EU not to have legalized divorce up until 2011. Until then, if married couples wanted to divorce, they had to leave the country to do so. This is largely due to the Roman Catholic Church’s influence over the country’s more than 95 percent Catholic population. The legislation went into effect beginning October 2011, despite opposition from even the prime minister, who worried legalizing divorce would “weaken the family structure in Malta.”
  2. The most common form of transportation in Malta is driving by car. The country permits tourists to bring cars over to the islands for a maximum of six months. There are also rental cars available for those of age. Subsequently, traffic is highly congested. Alternative modes of transportation include taxis, buses and the karrozzin, traditional horse-drawn carriages that have been in use in Malta since the mid-19th century.
  3. Malta’s government offers comprehensive varieties of health care, as well as high-quality dental care, to citizens. People can find multiple pharmacies as well, along with two main hospitals and many health centers. Although Maltese is the main official language of the islands, people speak English across all hospitals, health care facilities and pharmacies.
  4. While Malta is not really a point of conflict or transnational problems, it does have a military branch named the Armed Forces of Malta (AFM). This military branch includes all aspects; air, naval and land. While there are not any real international relations issues, Malta does serve as a transshipment point for transportation of hashish — coming from cannabis — from North Africa into Western Europe.
  5. Britain’s military presence in Malta had a massive impact on the country’s economy up until its independence in 1964. Because Malta lacks enough natural resources and has a small, domestic economic market, it relies heavily on other nations for imports. The Maltese economy also leans on the shipbuilding and repair industry, but even that is becoming depleted further and further since gaining independence.
  6. In Malta, 29.8 percent of the population is obese, causing the country to rank 28th in the world for obesity. This is likely due to Maltese citizens’ heavy reliance on cars as opposed to walking or cycling. While some use bicycles, bicycling is largely unpopular due to the poor road conditions and heavy traffic. When not on main roads, it is a bit easier to navigate the streets on a bicycle, making it an increasingly popular mode of transportation.
  7. Literacy rates among citizens 15 years and older are essentially the same at 88 percent. The Maltese Constitution warrants that both men and women have equal rights in terms of employment. Malta established The Ministry of Social Development and Equal Status for Women and has allowed for more married women to participate in the workforce.
  8. Malta expanded education systems to include compulsory schooling for children ages five to 16 in the mid-1980s. As of 2005, Malta further reformed its the education system to include regional colleges that incorporated primary and secondary school educations in addition to a junior college. Malta also has two forms of higher education, the University of Malta at Msida and the Malta College of Arts, Science and Technology.
  9. Malta imports an abundance of fossil fuels in order to supply its energy. As Malta’s only natural mineral resource is limestone, used in construction, it has extremely limited clean energy resources.
  10. The youth unemployment rate in Malta is 10.30 percent as of April 2019. While this is not a huge portion of the population, youths (those under the age of 24) make up 11.44 percent of the Maltese population.

These top 10 facts about living conditions in Malta highlight that, in spite of the country’s tumultuous history, it has persisted. While there are aspects Malta must improve upon such as transportation reliance and employment rates, Malta is a tiny country with an impressive development story.

Emi Cormier
Photo: Flickr

Living Conditions in San Marino
In the northeastern part of the Italian Peninsula lies San Marino, one of the world’s tiny micro states surrounded entirely by the country of Italy. Its modern form has shaped since 1463 and the country has maintained its autonomy until today. In fact, it is the world’s oldest republic. Here are the top 10 facts about living conditions in San Marino.

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in San Marino

  1. Population: As of 2019, there are 33,683 people living in San Marino. It has the fifth smallest population on Earth. Roughly 15 percent of the population are migrants and 53 percent are individuals within the working ages of 18 to 65. The nation’s official language is Italian. The poverty rate of the country is very low, so the country does not officially measure it.
  2. Education: Education is compulsory until the age of 14 and attendance is free. Almost the entire population has completed secondary school as the country has a 91 percent completion rate. Over 10 percent of government spending goes towards education. Citizens of San Marino mostly pursue college degrees in surrounding Italy or abroad.
  3. Economy:  Economic output relies heavily on finance and manufacturing. The banking sector accounts for more than half of the country’s GDP at roughly 60 percent. Corporate taxes are low in comparison to the EU and the standard of living is high.
  4. Health Care: Life expectancy in San Marino is 83.4 years old. Health care is not free, but a universal system exists parallel to a private system.  The Azienda Sanitaria Locale insurance fund provides the government system. There are six physicians for every 1,000 inhabitants as of 2014. Child mortality is extremely low with only one death in 2018.
  5. Government System: San Marino has nine municipalities and the country is a parliamentary, representative, democratic republic. The legislation is within two chambers and there are two captain regents as heads of state. The country directs foreign policy mostly towards aligning with the EU. Therefore foreign aid policy is similar to that in the European Union.
  6. Social Security: There is social insurance for the elderly and the disabled. Furthermore, there are survivorship benefits for the unemployed and the widowed even though the unemployment rate has reduced in the past years.
  7. Communications: As access to information can make a big difference in human development, an important aspect of the top 10 facts about living conditions in San Marino is the country’s access to this right. Its living standards reflect this. More than half of the population are active internet users and broadband is widely available. There are 38,000 cellphone subscriptions active today which is more than the entire population.
  8. Labor Conditions: The law forbids workplace discrimination for any reason. The state guarantees contracts and the minimum wage is 9.74 euros per hour. In general, labor conditions are safe with an eight-hour working day in guaranteed humane conditions. Meanwhile, as of 2018, the unemployment rate was only eight percent.
  9. NGOs in San Marino: There are no specific NGO projects in San Marino, but a number of NGOs do exist from time to time specially aiding in education and training as well as health. For instance, the British organization, Hope is Kindled, was present in 2006 with a project to advance health through medical and technological research.
  10. The Serene Republic: As a small enclave, San Marino does not have large natural reserves within its territory. Nonetheless, it shares the geography of surrounding Italy which is slightly mountainous and mild. It imports most of its resources and food. To be able to keep its stable political and social system while being dependant on other countries, it must be in good terms with its neighbors and the international community.

These top 10 facts about living conditions in San Marino demonstrate why this small nation has been able to maintain such serenity for more than six centuries. As a result, it has been able to ensure its citizen’s freedom and security in all aspects.

– Diego Vallejo Riofrio
Photo: Flickr