Clean Water in LaosThe issue of water in Laos is not one of abundance but cleanliness. The Southeast Asian nation is home to heavy rainfall, the Mekong River and plenty of other smaller bodies. However, according to the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), only 17.87% of people in Laos have access to an improved water source that is safely managed. This means that of the 7.5 million Lao people, only 1.5 million can obtain properly treated clean water that comes from reliable delivery systems such as pipes, wells and protected springs. In terms of rankings, this puts Laos second to last in the region and 110th out of the 120 countries that USAID has calculated this statistic.

Furthermore, a significant portion of the predominantly rural Lao population lacks access to proper sanitation facilities, forcing them to defecate in open areas. This practice leads to runoff, contaminating the drinking water supply with fecal matter. The scarcity of clean water in Laos has severe public health implications. Contaminated water is a major contributor to diarrheal diseases, which are the 8th leading cause of death in the country. According to a 2019 World Health Organization (WHO) estimate, 21.6 people per 100,000 in Laos died from diarrhea.

Joint Partnerships

Even though much needs to be accomplished, improvements have been made. In 2023, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the Government of Laos celebrated the 50th anniversary of their partnership. When they started working together, less than 300,000 people had access to clean water. As of 2023, the capital province of Vientiane was officially declared Open Defecation-Free (ODF). Additionally, “three more provinces are nearing ODF status and nearly 86% of villages nationally achieved this benchmark.” A lot of this success can be attributed to intergovernmental organizations like UNICEF, the WHO and USAID. However, several smaller organizations have done and continue to do vital work in providing water to the people of Lao. Here are three nonprofits providing access to clean water in Laos.

Abundant Water

Founded in 2008 by Australian Engineer Sunny Forsyth, Abundant Water makes clay pottery water filters. It has been operating in Laos since 2011. After an initial 12-village survey that involved recording water use data, sample testing and trainee hiring, the organization built its production and training center in Vientiane. So far, it has “distributed 11,670 handmade ceramic water filters reaching 103,881 beneficiaries throughout the country.”

Through its work, Abundant Water also promotes sustainability. Beyond manufacturing the clay filters, it also trains local potters on how to make the filters themselves. During the first year of operation, it trained five ceramicists from remote rural villages to produce the filters on their own. By the end of the training, all of them were able to make a filter that produced clean enough water to meet the national standard.

After 12 years, more than 192 Lao people have been trained, leading to a significant impact on the ground. Abundant Water’s flagship project in Xaisomboun province targeted 33 villages, installed 794 filters and provided clean water to 3,864 people. Of all 3864 people, 98% of the households reported improved health, 86% saved time from not having to boil water, 81% reduced firewood consumption and “65% of families saved” between $0.23 to $0.90 (5,000-20,000 KIP) a week.”

Planet Water

Mark Steele established the Planet Water Foundation in 2009. Since then, it has provided clean water to more than 4 million people in 28 different countries in the Asia-Pacific region and Latin America. Planet Water has been operating in Laos since 2010. The primary method by which it produces clean water is through its AquaTower community water filtration system. Mostly implemented in rural schools, the AquaTower uses gravity to remove dangerous pathogens, producing drinking water for up to 1,800 people. There are also handwashing stations attached. This is particularly important because 44% of schools do not have a basic water supply and 68% lack basic sanitation. Most kids in these schools have to “rely on bottled water for drinking. Students who cannot afford this luxury have no option but to bring unfiltered water from their home.”

East Meets West

East Meets West, also known as Thrive Networks, was founded in 1988 by Le Ly Hayslip, the author of “When Heaven and Earth Changed Places.” This memoir, about her peaceful childhood and war-torn early adulthood, later served as the inspiration for Oliver Stone’s “Heaven & Earth,” starring Tommy Lee Jones. Initially, East Meets West operations provided clean water, health and education to communities in Vietnam. However, since 2010, East Meets West expanded into Cambodia and Laos. This was possible with help from the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs, the World Bank and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. 

Since 2014, East Meets West has supplied water to nearly 90,000 people in Laos, including more than 12,000 schoolchildren. It has also built more than 5,000 toilet facilities in rural areas. Working in Luang Prabang, Sayyabouly and Champasak provinces, the organization uses a Women-led Output Based Aid (WOBA) solution, creating “meaningful gender empowerment outcomes by systematically engaging women as change agents in the sector and decision-makers in the household.” In the future, East Meets West is looking to expand into more provinces in order to continue providing clean water in Laos.

– Mason Borden

Mason is based in New York, NY, USA and focuses on Technology and Global Health for The Borgen Project.

Photo: Flickr

The Rwanga Foundation in KurdistanThe Rwanga Foundation is a nongovernmental organization (NGO) founded in 2013 by philanthropist Idris Nechirvan in the Kurdistan region of Iraq. Nechirvan began the charity with the aim of providing every child access to quality education. Since then, the foundation has expanded its reach and helped more than three million people.

History of the Kurdistan Region in Iraq

The Kurdistan region is no stranger to instability and the 2010s were a particularly challenging decade, marked by political turmoil, economic crisis and threats to security. In February 2014, the then-Prime Minister of Iraq blocked 17% of the federal budget constitutionally allocated to Kurdistan. This triggered a crippling financial crisis in the region as many Kurds rely on employment from the Kurdistan Regional Government for their livelihoods.

In June of that year, the Islamic State (ISIS) captured Mosul, Iraq. This led to an influx of Iraqi refugees into the Kurdistan region. In August, ISIS attacked Kurstian and implemented a genocidal campaign against the Yazidi people, prompting the United States (U.S.) to intervene. Liberation from ISIS was eventually achieved in October 2016.

In 2017, the independence referendum, where an overwhelming 93% of Kurds voted in favor, was met with severe repercussions from Iraq. The Iraqi army retook Kirkuk and closed Kurdistan’s airspace and borders, leading to the displacement of more than 100,000 Kurds. Despite these challenges, the decade ended with improved relations with Iraq and although the region has yet to recover fully, Kurdistan has remained resilient in the face of significant adversity.

The Rwanga Foundation’s Mission and Vision

The Rwanga Foundation is dedicated to improving Kurdish youth’s quality of life and providing avenues for educational growth in all sectors. The foundation emphasizes creating a culture and passion for learning by enhancing education standards in Kurdistan through services, capacity-building and policy design. The foundation’s vision is a world where quality education is accessible to everyone.

How It Operates

The Rwanga Foundation operates through four main sectors:

  1. Education: Rwanga aims to transform the culture of education into a continuous journey of learning. It works to develop platforms such as e-learning systems using the latest technology, allowing young people to discover their talents, fulfill their potential and improve their quality of life.
  2. Youth: Rwanga recognizes the power of youth and actively engages them within society to empower them to become the aspiring leaders of the future.
  3. Vulnerable groups: Rwanga believes in the transformative nature of education and hopes to extend the avenues of education and skill discovery to those living in poverty. The foundation believes education is a sustainable and lasting solution to the cycle of poverty.
  4. Environment: The foundation is committed to designing new strategies and solutions to safeguard the environment.

The Rwanga Foundation’s Latest Projects

  1. Message From Children Project: The project is an annual competition coordinated with the Kurdistan Parliament and the Ministry of Education. It encourages primary school students to express themselves through art. The best paintings are displayed in the Kurdistan Region Parliament building. This year’s subject is “How do you see yourself in 2045?”
  2. Empowering Sustainable Livelihoods 2023-2026: This project is a collaborative initiative funded by the Department of Migration, Stabilization and Fragility at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark. It hopes to facilitate the sustainable long-term reintegration of Iraqi returnees into their communities by enabling a supportive environment. The project aims to strengthen the capabilities of governmental bodies and NGOs, thereby improving access to economic opportunities. Additional aims include assisting returning business owners and informing returnees about their rights and opportunities.
  3. Parcel of Smile: During the holy month of Ramadan, the Rwanga Foundation distributed 7,000 baskets containing essential food items. The baskets included rice, food oil, tomato paste, sugar, tea, lentils and white beans, and were distributed across the Kurdistan region.
  4. Planting 1000 Trees in Erbil: Sponsored by the Oval Company, the Rwanga Foundation planted 1,000 trees in May 2024 to increase the natural and urban forests in the region.
  5. You Are Not Alone Project: Since 2022, in cooperation with the General Directorate of Welfare and Social Development in Erbil, the project, which ran from February to August 2022, established a rehabilitation system for the Erbil orphanage. Using technology and human resources, Rwanga developed a strong management system for all orphanages across Iraq. This has empowered the children with psychological, educational and intellectual skills to achieve a bright and stable future.

Final Remark

More than a decade after its formation, the Rwanga Foundation has significantly improved the quality of life in the Kurdish region of Iraq. The continuous efforts of the Rwanga Foundation paint a hopeful future for Kurdistan, strengthening the region’s already resilient people.

– Fatima Naqavi

Fatima is based in London, UK and focuses on Good News for The Borgen Project.

Photo: Pxhere

Nongovernmental Organizations Operating in KiribatiThe United Nations (U.N.) currently lists Kiribati as a Least Developed Country (LDC). The U.N. defines an LDC as one that requires significant international aid to assist its development. This designation is based on three main criteria: an average income below $1,080, a low score on the Human Asset Index, an index designed to assess multiple factors in a country’s education and health outcomes and a high score on the Economic and Environmental Vulnerability Index. Additionally, the designation must be accepted by the country.

Kiribati has made significant strides in its goal of graduating from this distinction and meeting the economic threshold. However, concerns exist regarding its ability to survive independently without the support of the U.N. Situations like this are when the efforts of NGOs become crucial. With volunteer efforts working within Kiribati on a daily basis to provide its citizens with critical, potentially life-saving information, Kiribati can, in turn, place a greater emphasis on not only meeting its goal of graduation but on progressing the country’s development in order to continue the positive strides it has already made.

Nongovernmental Organizations Operating in Kiribati

The impact of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) can be felt worldwide. In developing countries like Kiribati, homegrown efforts often arise to make drastic strides in the fight for good. Here are seven nongovernmental organizations operating in Kiribati.

KANGO

The Kiribati Association of NGOs (KANGO) helps to enact the Kiribati Vision 20 plan, a 20-year development program for the betterment of the islands. One way it does this is via one of the many workshops it holds on the island. In these workshops, participants are first educated about the Kiribati Vision 20 plan. The plan is a blueprint for the country’s long-term development goals and the U.N.’s sustainable development goals (SDGs) for Kiribati.

After the lecture, participants participated in activities, including weaving, sewing and making local handicrafts. Though it may seem pedestrian on the surface, learning to craft in this manner helps the community achieve Kiribati’s SDGs by allowing even the unemployed to contribute to the economy.

ICAAD

The International Center for Advocates Against Discrimination (ICAAD) is an advocacy group working within Kiribati to support marginalized communities on the islands. These include the indigenous peoples of Rabi island, the Banaban people. A primary goal of the ICAAD is to ensure that the voices of the native population are heard. Methods it uses to achieve this goal include artivism projects and interviews with members of the population. Highlighting and elevating the stories of these groups serves to pass on their memories and traditions to future generations, a value that can’t be calculated on a chart.

KFHA

The Kiribati Family Health Association (KFHA) works to provide crucial information and resources regarding family planning and sexual health. In addition to this, it advocates for social justice programs for marginalized groups across Kiribati. By hosting programs relating to reproductive health, critical information can be delivered to those in need of it. The most marginalized communities can receive the tools needed to thrive in times of crisis.

KTU

The Kiribati Teachers Union advocates on behalf of teachers across the islands. Providing a voice for a sector of society that is all too often overlooked, the KTU serves as an organization that can organize, negotiate and advocate on behalf of teachers across the islands. In addition, there are also separate wings of the union, including one dedicated to improving conditions for women teachers and one dedicated to those younger than 35.

Teitoiningaina

Teitoiningaina is a group dedicated to providing women on the island with crucial knowledge and resources regarding subsistence methods. Due to scarce water availability, many in Kiribati rely on water tanks for daily subsistence. In these workshops hosted by Teitoiningaina, composting techniques are among the methods taught to produce greater yields of crops. Attendees are given the ability and knowledge to better provide for their families.

KiriCAN

The Kiribati Climate Action Network (KiriCAN) is an NGO dedicated to raising awareness of the nation’s unique climate struggles. Given the Island’s location, climate and weather concerns are often crucial to its development. Mitigating the potential issues faced by its remoteness is key to the Island’s prosperity. Kirican has a long history of cleanup efforts and educational programs and its efforts to advocate for the planet are well appreciated.

Lifebox Foundation

The Lifebox Foundation, an NGO dedicated to distributing lifesaving medical equipment across the world, has a branch focused on Oceania that operates in Kiribati. Its initial goal was to distribute Pulse Oximeters to underserved communities. Though it has since expanded from this initial goal during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Lifebox Foundation demonstrated that this was still a crucial point of its operation.

Pulse oximeters are critical to COVID-19 relief efforts, as a potentially life-threatening symptom of the disease is Hypoxia or an absence of oxygen in the blood. The best tool to detect this lack of oxygen is a pulse oximeter. During the relief efforts, the Lifebox Foundation distributed more than 100 pulse oximeters to medical centers across Oceania, including Kiribati. The help of the Lifebox Foundation was key in such a critical time for Kiribati. Without it, many patients would have been left without this crucial piece of lifesaving kit.

Final Remark

These are just a few ways NGOs can impact the local Kiribati community by directly targeting key issues in the island nation. By addressing these issues on a community level, Kiribati can see its broader goals met in due time. Suppose the finish line is graduating from the LCD status. In that case, nongovernmental organizations operating in Kiribati will be the fuel needed to propel the country to its development goals.

– Malik Vega

Malik is based in Florida, USA and focuses on Good News for The Borgen Project.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Migrant Workers in SingaporeFor many people, dorm rooms evoke memories of sharing close quarters in college or the halcyon days of summer camp. However, in Singapore, dorm rooms mean something very different: the cramped and inhumane living conditions of the migrant workers who form the backbone of Singapore’s economy.

About Migrant Workers in Singapore

Migrant workers, primarily from China, Indonesia, the Philippines, India and Bangladesh, compose 38% of Singapore’s labor force and play a particularly crucial role in the construction, manufacturing, maritime and service industries. A particularly large contingent of these foreign workers are classified as migrant domestic workers (MDWs). These workers, who are predominantly female and make up 4.4% of Singapore’s population and 7.3% of its labor force, are particularly vulnerable to domestic abuse and overworking.

Unhealthy Living Conditions

Human Rights Watch has reported that up to 20 workers are packed into the same room and forced to share a single bathroom. These cramped living conditions are often unsanitary and proved particularly hazardous during COVID-19 when strict government lockdowns forced workers to remain in hot, crowded dorms that lacked proper ventilation. In the early days of the pandemic, 90% of Singapore’s COVID-19 cases were among migrant workers.

Migrant workers in Singapore often find themselves in precarious positions because their work permits and legal status in the country are tied to their employers. Foreign domestic workers are especially vulnerable to exploitation because they are excluded from many labor protections, including paid days off and limits on working hours. In addition, foreign workers are barred from organizing and taking part in labor unions.

The International Labor Organization (ILO) has also found a concerning decline in positive attitudes toward migrants, even toward the foreign domestic workers that many Singaporeans come into personal contact with every day.

Solutions

Despite the many challenges facing migrant workers in Singapore, various nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) are working to address these issues. Its Raining Raincoats is a charity focused on providing services for migrant workers in need, with the broader goal of ensuring that they are welcomed and integrated into Singaporean society. The charity runs various welfare programs that ensure migrants have access to dental and vision care and assist them with salary and employment issues. It also provides English language, financial literacy and first aid classes. In 2023, the charity raised more than $1.2 million for migrant workers and distributed more than 650,000 essential items, including meals, bikes, phones and glasses.

Additionally, the Migrant Workers’ Center, established in 2009 as a collaboration between the National Trades Union Congress and the Singapore National Employers Federation, is an NGO that advocates for the uniform application of fair employment practices. It provides free legal advice, humanitarian assistance and peer support networks, among other services. It also offers an associate membership for just $6 a year, which allows migrants to access critical health and disability insurance in addition to benefits.

Despite public opinion and the dearth of substantive government action, these NGOs are working to improve the lives of migrant workers in Singapore.

– Josephine Koch

Josephine is based in New York, NY, USA and focuses on Politics for The Borgen Project.

Photo: Flickr

Health Improvements in Rural KenyaKenya is a country in West Africa that has experienced a significant decline in poverty in recent years. This reduction is due to health improvements in rural Kenya. This has been achieved with the interventions of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) such as Core Health and Wealth International (CHW). Both organizations run programs that educate and assist pastoral populations.

The Situation

Like many developing nations, Kenya experiences poverty and its consequences on a large scale. To clarify, in 2005, poverty levels in rural parts of the country were around 50%, but in 2016 these levels fell to about 38.8%. It is also important to note that the rates of poverty in rural areas are about 6.5 times that of urban areas.

Kitchen Gardens

One important CHW program is its work in educating rural populations on how to grow and maintain kitchen gardens successfully. The goal of this program is “to promote a healthier organic living to vulnerable communities who have small pieces of land.” To achieve this goal, CHW supplies seedlings and conducts training on how to build and maintain multi-story, keyhole or raised bed gardens.

This method of farming is suitable for those living on small plots of land. It creates a small farm that can grow a variety of crops. Through this program, more than 200 rural citizens have grown enough to feed themselves and then some. The results of this program have led to food security, increased immunity through nutrition and profitable gardens.

Sericulture

Another important program that CHW began in rural Kenya is the introduction of sericulture. Sericulture is the practice of raising silkworms through their development stages in order to eventually harvest, process and weave silk. In this program, silkworms are raised on mulberry trees, which not only provide food for silkworms but also aid in soil conservation.

CHW partnered with the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO) to educate farmers about “sericulture techniques, crop management and silk processing.” Since sericulture is a sustainable and eco-friendly way of developing in-demand silks and silk blends, it is an excellent mode of economic growth for rural Kenyans. This creates wealth for farmers, weavers, garment producers and more. When wealth is created, it also creates strong health improvements in rural Kenya, as citizens are able to afford nutritious foods, medical treatments and other sanitary necessities.

Vaccinations

In Western Kenya, rabies is spread to both people and livestock, mostly through dogs across rural areas. In such pastoral locations, it is difficult to maintain the refrigeration that vaccines require, so most victims of rabies bites must travel long distances on rough roads to receive necessary treatment. However, in a recent effort to reduce rabies levels, CHW collaborated with Boehringer Ingelheim. Together, they implemented the Making More Health initiative to find an innovative solution to rural Kenya’s rabies problem.

The solution unfolded with the help of  Zipline, the world’s largest delivery system, which used drones to deliver packages full of vaccines and VacciBox, which utilizes solar power to run refrigerators. On the first day of this drone-to-refrigerator delivery, 2,000 dogs were vaccinated across counties in Western Kenya. This is only the beginning of an extensive movement to reduce rabies levels and is an excellent example of the health improvements in rural Kenya that CHW aims to achieve.

A Sustainable Future in Rural Kenya

Thanks to CHW’s tireless efforts, rural citizens in Kenya have seen improvements in agriculture, production and access to vaccines. Additionally, they have received assistance in education, period poverty and sanitation. Organizations like CHW, which address all aspects of rural poverty, are making significant contributions to health improvements in rural Kenya.

– Carlie Duggan

Carlie is based in Newtown, PA, USA. and focuses on Technology and Global Health for The Borgen Project.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

NGOs in India India is currently going through a severe water crisis amid the record-breaking heat wave. In New Delhi, the temperature spiked to 121.8 degrees Fahrenheit in late May, resulting in 40,000 heat strokes and 110 deaths in the past three months. The majority of victims were low-income outdoor workers who spent most of their time outside in the sweltering weather. A contributing factor to the worsening weather crisis is the severe water shortage in India. Drinking water prevents heat strokes as water lowers the body temperature and replenishes the fluid lost from sweat. However, water has always been scarce in India due to agriculture. Agriculture alone takes up 80% of India’s water, but inefficient agricultural practices, such as the lack of irrigation and infrastructure, exacerbate the shortage. The low rainfall impacted by varying climatic conditions also contributes.

The Indian Government’s Response to the Water Crisis

The Delhi Jal Board is responsible for distributing potable water in New Delhi by providing municipal water tankers to the people. However, not everyone can access it. With New Delhi being an overly populous city, 30%- 40% of the people don’t have access to municipal water. With supply outweighing demand, this gave rise to the water mafias. These private water tank owners sell water to locals at expensive prices and often smuggle water illegally. However, people have no choice but to buy it because it is their only option. Bengaluru is one of the cities facing a severe water shortage. During election seasons, politicians promise to resolve the water crisis, knowing that all the voters want is water. However, that promise has yet to be implemented. In combating the water shortage in India, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) are offering additional help to augment drinking water, enhance water quality and create a more effective agriculture system.

The Response of NGOs in India

Two NGOs, Sehgal Foundation and Save Indian Farmers, have been instrumental in combating India’s water crisis.

  • Sehgal Foundation: This NGO focuses on rural development and water management is one of its five main programs. The foundation has been constructing dams, ponds and tanks to augment water resources and Jalkap biosand water filters to enhance water quality. These stainless steel water filters are cost-effective as there is no need for electric power to filter and they are also effective against bacteria and parasites. Rooftop rainwater harvesting to conserve rainwater in underground school buildings is also one of its efforts. Since its inception in 1999, the organization has reached approximately five million people across 12 states in India.
  • Save Indian Farmers: This NGO strives to increase awareness of the high suicide rates among Indian farmers and help the farmer’s families and their agricultural practices. And creating a better water use system for agriculture is one of its goals. For example, in the village of Choriya Khata, there is extreme water scarcity as the village relies on agriculture and cattle rearing. To meet their agriculture and personal needs, the residents rely on insufficient groundwater. As a result, girls and mothers spend countless hours in search of water. In response, Save Indian Farmers has constructed rainwater harvesting systems to help recharge groundwater and augment drinking water, in addition to piped irrigation systems to reduce water use.

Technology for Better Water Management

The role of technology is crucial in better water management. Thus, adopting enhanced technology is inevitable to alleviate the water crisis in India. Technology enables a more effective use of water by analyzing accurate empirical data. Through data, water distribution and conservation can be improved, which can discover where water gets leaked and wasted. These technologies can have a tremendous impact in reducing water waste, which can then be used as drinking water instead. Technology also increases the public’s attention and fosters support. Donations and volunteering can be taken at a much larger scale through websites and social media.

– Eunsung Koh

Eunsung is based in Seoul, South Korea and focuses on Technology and Global Health for The Borgen Project.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Guatemala City Garbage DumpGuatemala is characterized by its diverse and vibrant landscapes and equally rich cultural mosaic. However, with an estimated 55% of the population surviving on less than $6.85 a day, poverty frequently drains the color from everyday life there. According to the World Bank, limited access to services and opportunities is one reason why Guatemala’s steady economic growth, which has made the Guatemalan economy the largest in Central America, has yet to lead to significant poverty reduction. The poverty rate is the third highest in Latin America and the Caribbean and nowhere is the issue more visible than in the community surrounding the Guatemala City garbage dump.

Life in Landfill

A country of rolling mountain ranges and lush tropical forests, Guatemala is known as the Land of Eternal Spring. The Guatemala City garbage dump is an open-air landfill. An estimated 60,000 people live in extreme poverty along the periphery of the 40-acre landfill. According to a recent article by the environmental magazine Mongabay, underdeveloped infrastructure allows for build-ups of methane gas that ignites deadly fires, for waste to amass into mountains that shift underfoot. The surrounding neighborhood is rife with dangers and devoid of opportunity. Many inhabitants survive by scavenging through hazardous mounds of waste in search of materials for resale.

How Safe Passage Is Clearing Pathways Out of the Dump

Safe Passage is a nongovernmental organization (NGO) that helps families in this community free themselves from cyclical poverty. With the average adult resident having yet to progress beyond the fourth grade, the organization works towards long-term development. This is achieved by providing children with free quality education.

Within its full-day school, Safe Passage employs an experimental methodology called “Expeditionary Learning,” which integrates off-site activities into an immersive curriculum focusing on life skills and citizenship as well as traditional academic disciplines. Creating experiences away from the dump shows students how the knowledge they gather at school can be applied to real life. With this approach designed for maximum engagement, 90% of the organization’s students graduate in the ninth grade. In contrast, the national retention rate between the sixth and 10th grades is estimated at 42%.

Students navigating the transition between school and adult life can access vocational guidance, support with university and job applications, and training and employment opportunities with Safe Passage’s partner organizations through the “Próximo Paso” program. In 2023 alone, 32 students started vocational training and 14 began the university enrolment process. Furthermore, with Guatemalan schools opening for just four hours a day. The “Oportunidades” program offers students from other institutions the opportunity to participate in various extracurricular activities. This, in turn, provides a refuge from the chaos of life in the neighborhood and from the grip of its gangs.

Forging Futures with Creamos

Creamos was established in 2008 as an entrepreneurial initiative when a group of women began selling jewelry made from upcycled materials and were able to leave a life of scavenging in the dump behind them. It has since evolved into an NGO that helps others surmount the systemic barriers facing the community. Although its services extend to all in need of them, Creamos focuses especially on the neighborhood’s women. The women are subject to the converging forces of poverty and gender-based inequalities and violence. On a national level, Guatemala’s female labor force participation rate is the lowest in Latin America and the Caribbean at just 32% as of 2018. Similarly, the femicide rate is among the highest in the world, with 1.6 deaths per 100,000 women in 2021.

In 2020, Creamos introduced its Accelerated Education Program. It steers adult learners, many of whom were forced out of school and into work at the dump by a lack of resources, through a compressed academic curriculum and toward a high-school diploma. It also offers flexible scheduling and free childcare. As of 2022, an incredible 434 individuals had re-enrolled in education with Creamos. Furthermore, in 2022, the organization implemented its Workforce Development Program, through which students can access vocational training courses and internships with numerous partner organizations. They can specialize in various sectors, all selected to match current labor trends. In 2022 alone, the program served 250 people.

Holistic Approaches

In alignment with their shared mission of personal and community development, Safe Passage and Creamos provide various health care services. Safe Passage operates an on-site infirmary that treats health complaints and fosters long-term community well-being through education. It also has a social services team and offers pastoral care and a support program for at-risk families.

Epidemic levels of gender-based violence plague the community surrounding the Guatemala City garbage dump. To help address this, Creamos seeks to create safe spaces for vulnerable women. This includes providing a range of emotional care services operated by licensed psychologists, such as specialized support groups and a program designed to fortify family dynamics.

Looking Ahead

Guatemala has a human capital index of 0.46. This indicates that children born there today are projected to attain just 46% of their lifetime potential. However, organizations like Safe Passage and Creamos are working determinedly to equalize access to resources. Safe Passage is guiding children from the fringes of society inward.

Creamos, meaning “we create” in Spanish, began as a jewelry-making initiative but now strives to provide marginalized people with the tools they need to manufacture a life for themselves. Both organizations are creators at their cores: creators of safe spaces, opportunities and hope for a future where all of its people can feel Guatemala’s vitality.

– Leila Powles

Leila is based in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, UK and focuses on Global Health for The Borgen Project.

Photo: Flickr

Remedy for Period Poverty Fosters Circular Economy in GhanaPeriod poverty, a significant issue in Ghana, describes the inability of women to afford menstrual products, which can significantly impact various aspects of their lives. The absence of basic sanitary needs often prevents individuals from attending work or school, adversely affecting the prospects of low-income individuals. Young girls are particularly vulnerable to the negative impacts of period poverty, which often prevents them from attending school. Girls who lack the financial resources to buy sanitary products may miss up to a week of school each month. This amounts to about a fifth of their school year annually. Ghana’s sustainable solution to period poverty aims to create an economically beneficial circular economy.

Taxation and Economic Burden

In Ghana, period poverty is exacerbated by some of the highest taxation rates on menstrual hygiene products in the world. The Ghana Revenue Authority classifies these products as Finished Goods– otherwise known as final consumer goods, subjecting them to a 20% import tax plus a 15% Value Added Tax.

Research indicates that the average minimum wage for women in Ghana is about $26 a month, while period products can cost between $3 and $7 for just eight pads. This means that out of every 80 cedis earned, 11 cedis are spent solely on menstrual products. This calculation does not consider the number of family members these women need to support with essentials like water, food and clothing. Additionally, families often have more than one member who menstruates, compounding the financial burden, as the 80 to 11 ratio applies to each menstruating individual.

Despite the high rates of period poverty in countries like Ghana, communities and advocates are actively working to address these ongoing challenges and alleviate the financial strain that menstrual products impose on women.

Kodu Technology’s Innovative Solution

Kodu Technology, an organization focused on eradicating period poverty in rural communities through eco-friendly products, actively works to ease the stress of menstruation using banana fibers.

Umar Farouk Mubraka, Co-Founder of Kodu, explains how the company initially intended to make paper from banana fiber. During its research, it discovered that banana and plantain fibers have high absorption capabilities, leading to the development of a new type of sanitary pad. This innovation utilizes by-products from the agricultural industry, fostering a circular economy that benefits local farmers and minimizes waste. Farouk added, “{this project is} positioned as a catalyst for positive environmental and socio-economic change,” in addition to helping the economy and proactively working against poverty. 

Farouk, born in Wa, a town in the Upper West Region of Ghana, is a licensed nutritionist who dedicates her time to facilitating this circular economy and alleviating period poverty. In 2023, Kodu received more than $8,000 after winning the Circular Economy Competition. Circular economies are increasingly seen as a guiding principle in today’s world, helping to generate economic revenue in impoverished nations and sustainably reusing materials to benefit the environment.

Looking Ahead

Ghana’s innovative approach to addressing period poverty through sustainable practices exemplifies the potential for creating impactful change. Initiatives like eco-friendly menstrual products made from locally sourced materials are making menstrual hygiene more accessible and affordable. These ongoing efforts contribute not only to improving the lives of women and girls but also to fostering economic resilience and environmental sustainability.

– Hailey Nurry

Hailey is based in PA, USA and focuses on Good News and Global Health for The Borgen Project.

Photo: Flickr

KSRelief-WHO Funding Agreement for Sudan, Syria and Yemen Ongoing conflicts in Sudan, Syria and Yemen have devastated public health institutions and affected millions. In Sudan, more than two-thirds of main hospitals are out of service, leaving 11 million people in need of urgent health care since April 2023. Syria faces a similar crisis, with more than 12.2 million people needing immediate medical attention due to inadequate health facility services. In Yemen, about 46% of health facilities are nonfunctional or partially operational, affecting 21.6 million people, at least two-thirds of the population. In response, the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Centre (KSRelief) is actively providing crucial support and resources to address these health care challenges.

International Aid and Collaboration

On May 25, 2024, KSRelief signed an agreement with the World Health Organization (WHO) to fund WHO’s critical health response operations in Sudan, Syria and Yemen to the amount of $19.4 million. Before signing the funding agreement, both organizations worked extensively to alleviate the pain the people in Sudan, Syria and Yemen endured.

At Jordan’s Zaatari camp for Syrian refugees, KSRelief has been operating medical clinics where doctors have provided health care assistance, including treatment for sinus and middle ear infections, to 2,349 Syrian patients. Similarly, WHO has been reinforcing disease surveillance in Sudan and Yemen to help countries such as the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia respond effectively to the health crises in these countries. KSRelief’s funding support to WHO’s critical health operations in Sudan, Syria and Yemen facilitates medical care on the ground.

Funding Dialysis Treatments in Sudan

KSRelief’s efforts includes providing $5 million to supply 100 dialysis machines and strengthen dialysis centers in Sudan. Currently, 77 renal dialysis centers in Sudan are only partially functioning and cannot provide life-saving dialysis treatment for the Sudanese people. According to the International Society of Nephrology, there are approximately 8,000 Sudanese people and more who have been relying on dialysis to stay alive since the conflict started. 

Healing Syria After the Earthquakes

On Feb. 6, 2023, a devastating earthquake in Syria destroyed many buildings, including essential hospitals and health clinics, affecting 8.8 million Syrians and resulting in the deaths of 5,954 Syrians. KSRelief supported WHO with a $4.75 million contribution to provide necessary medications and supplies to around 350,000 Syrians in need urgent health care. The funds allocated to Syria will also help WHO restore diagnostic capacity and ambulance services, assisting an estimated 4.1 million Syrians.

Countering Disease Outbreaks in Yemen

KSRelief is providing $9.5 million to support WHO’s operations in Yemen, focusing on strengthening responses to disease outbreaks like cholera and measles. Yemen currently faces over 40,000 suspected cholera cases and more than 34,000 cases of measles and rubella as of August 31, 2023. This funding also aims to help WHO enhance health care facilities in Yemen by improving their sanitation and hygiene services, thereby boosting their capacity to tackle disease outbreaks. These ongoing efforts are expected to benefit approximately 12.9 million Yemenis in urgent need of care due to the public health crisis.

Multilateral Collaboration to Address Critical Health Issues

KSRelief’s critical financial support to WHO’s health operations aims to ensure the safety of Sudanese, Syrian and Yemeni people who dream of a stable and secure future. The ongoing efforts highlight the impact multilateral collaboration between countries and organizations could have in addressing global health issues.

– Abdullah Dowaihy

Abdullah is based in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia and focuses on Good News and Global Health for The Borgen Project.

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Financial Assistance Schemes for Singapore's Low-Income Families Financial assistance schemes in Singapore aim to help low-income families equip their children for future success. Despite challenges in measuring poverty within Singapore, data reveals that the country ranks 26th out of 136 nations for income inequality, making it the second most unequal in Asia. A primary cause of global poverty is the inability of low-income families to provide education for their children, which often leads to high unemployment rates and significant poverty levels. This issue is a concern in Singapore, but the government has recently implemented measures to tackle it, reflecting a commitment to addressing income disparity and promoting educational opportunities.

Impact of Poverty on Educational Success

Studies indicate that poverty significantly impacts children’s ability to succeed in educational settings. Children born into poverty from birth to age 2 are 30% less likely to complete high school, severely limiting their future opportunities. Those who do not finish high school often struggle to find employment as adults. Research by the Center for Universal Education has revealed that millions of children reach adolescence without acquiring basic skills. In developing countries, individuals lacking skills contribute to higher poverty rates. UNESCO reports that 59 million children are out of school.

Government and Organizational Support for Education

The Singaporean government, along with organizations like the Ministry of Education Financial Assistance Schemes (MOE FAS), actively provides financial aid to low-income families to help cover school-related expenses. For primary and secondary school students, MOE FAS completely covers school fees, standard miscellaneous fees, school uniforms, meals, transportation subsidies and textbooks. For pre-university students, the organization provides all the aforementioned support plus a $1,200 cash bursary.

Extended Financial Aid

Ongoing financial assistance schemes extend beyond primary and secondary school students. The Singaporean government subsidizes a large portion of educational costs for citizens pursuing higher education at publicly-funded institutions. Additionally, the Ministry of Education provides financial relief to students in Special Education (SPED) programs. The SPED Financial Assistance Scheme (SPED FAS) offers waived school fees and supplies materials for low-income families with students who have disabilities.

The Role of Subsidized Education in Social Inclusion

The Ministry of Social and Family Development reports that a subsidized education is a key component of the Singaporean approach to social inclusion and social mobility. Subsidized education is reportedly instrumental in the creation of equal opportunity. Moreover, ensuring a quality education is a conduit for what the ministry calls “leveling up,” which involves ensuring that students who come from disadvantaged backgrounds can still become successful and stay on an educational track.  

Looking Ahead

Singapore’s financial assistance schemes aim to provide low-income families with greater access to educational resources. By expanding these initiatives, the government seeks to address income inequality and improve social mobility. As these programs continue to develop, they focus on enhancing educational opportunities for young Singaporeans and contributing to a more equitable society.

– Hailey Nurry

Hailey is based in Pennsylvania, USA and focuses on Good News and Technology for The Borgen Project.

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