10 billion treesWith Pakistan being one of the countries that environmental challenges most affect in the world, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan promised to be more proactive in combating the problem at the September 2019 United Nations Climate Action Summit in New York. Nearly one year later, it is fair to say that he is on track to fulfill this promise. His 2018 10 Billion Trees Tsunami Initiative aims to plant 10 billion new trees by 2023.

10 Billion Trees and Tiger Force Day

On Aug. 9th, 2020, Khan launched Tiger Force Day, the largest tree plantation drive in the country’s history. The goal of Tiger Force Day was to bring together Pakistanis to plant 3.5 million trees throughout the country as part of Khan’s 10 Billion Trees Tsunami initiative. According to Khan, this will save six districts in the country from transforming into inhabitable deserts by 2050 as a result of climate change in Pakistan. These districts include Hyderabad, Sukkur, Mirpur Khas, Lahore, Multan and Faisalabad. The 10 Billion Trees Tsunami initiative will also inhibit the spread of poverty. Planting trees can help increase honey and wheat production, mitigate floods, protect wildlife and plants from extreme weather. This would create 63,000 jobs during a critical time in which the global COVID-19 pandemic threatens 19 million jobs within the country.

Over 1 million volunteers participated in Tiger Force Day. This includes ordinary citizens like men, women and youth; members of Parliament and chief ministers; singers Ali Zafar and Ali Aftab Saeed and foreign diplomats like Chinese Ambassador Yao Jin and Yemen Ambassador Mohammed Motahar Alashabi. Throughout the day, these volunteers shared photographs of themselves planting trees as well as recording how many trees they planted at their location on the Corona Task Force application. This led the government to conclude that the country hit its goal of planting 3.5 million trees throughout the country on Tiger Force Day, making this achievement a major stepping stone in the 10 Billion Trees Tsunami initiative.

Plant for Pakistan Day

The incredible success of Tiger Force Day led Khan to declare August 18th as Plant for Pakistan Day. On this day, the government will encourage all citizens of Pakistan, including the armed forces, to harvest plants throughout the country. The World Health Organization will also give Pakistan $188 million for the 10 Billion Tree Tsunami and Recharge Pakistan initiatives, which aim to better utilize floodwater to recharge aquifers that had been used up as a result of unchecked water pumping and drilling. To ensure this money is readily available when needed, it will be kept in the National Disaster Risk Management Fund.

Moving Forward

Details about Tiger Force Day illustrate the incredible progress Khan has made, especially during the global COVID-19 pandemic, in bringing ordinary citizens, celebrities and national and foreign political officials together to fight against environmental difficulties in Pakistan through his 10 Billion Trees Tsunami initiative. This will inevitably inhibit the spread of poverty in Pakistan and inspire other countries to take a similar course of action, which will undoubtedly change the world for the better.

Rida Memon
Photo: Flickr

Low-income pakistanis
The COVID-19 pandemic has led to a major healthcare crisis in Pakistan and reversed years of efforts to eliminate poverty. The pandemic has also disproportionately affected low-income Pakistanis. The poverty rate in Pakistan declined from 64% to 24% in 2015 — after 20 years of progress. However, with the arrival of COVID-19, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) predicts that the poverty rate will increase to 40%, reversing years of progress.

Who is Most Vulnerable?

The IMF also expects Pakistan’s GDP growth slow by 3% as a result of the pandemic. Agriculture accounts for 20% of Pakistan’s GDP and 43% of its labor force. The continuation of lockdowns with no end in sight is negatively affecting transportation, labor and the consumer market — which in turn, affects the millions of people working in the agriculture industry.

Children and youth amounting to 17 million are missing important vaccinations for diseases such as polio. Moreover, the pandemic has increased the number of people that suffer from food insecurity by several million, bringing up the total to 43 million. Those most at risk are the people that already exist below the poverty line including women, children, senior citizens, the disabled and minorities.

As more and more of these people fall below the poverty line, Pakistan is coming up with different digital solutions that can cater to the millions of people experiencing multidimensional poverty. Here are three digital solutions helping low-income Pakistanis.

3 Digital Tools Helping Low-income Pakistanis

  1.  The Ehsaas Program is a Pakistani government-launched scheme in 2019, to fight the nation’s prevailing poverty levels. With the coronavirus and lockdowns stifling the income of millions of daily wagers — the program quickly implemented a new project known as the Ehsaas Emergency Cash Program. Under this program, low-income Pakistanis can gain access to financial assistance through text messaging. As of right now, the program is helping 12 million families throughout the country — providing stipends of 12,000 PKR each, which families are using to buy food rations.
  2. The Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP) is a federal scheme launched in 2008. Its purpose was to provide unconditional cash support to help alleviate struggling families living in poverty, in Pakistan. It remains the largest support program in Pakistan — distributing approximately 90 billion PKR to 5 million low-income Pakistanis. The program uses tools such as its BISP debit cards to make cash transfers convenient. The program notably helps women and low-income Pakistanis from minority groups gain access to financial assistance.
  3. The Kamyab Jawan Program is the first of its kind in Pakistan. Launched by Prime Minister Imran Khan and his government, it is a program to provide assistance and resources to youth, on a national level. This platform provides opportunities to the country’s youth, ages 15–29. Some of the schemes that are under the Kamyab Jawan Program include youth empowerment programs, loans for youth entrepreneurs and startups, youth legislations as well as youth councils. Through this program, Pakistani youth are finally experiencing integration into civil institutions and capturing opportunities designed to lift them out of poverty.

A Need for Non-Digital Solutions

Collectively, these digital solutions, as well as other solutions implemented by NGOs and separate companies, help many low-income Pakistanis gain access to the necessary resources and assistance they require. This assistance enables low-income Pakistanis to help themselves, specifically during this time of need. However, Pakistan cannot solely rely on digital solutions to combat their poverty crisis. Many of its population do not have access to the necessary digital devices to access these solutions. People who lack internet access, as well as computers and smartphones, are at an obvious disadvantage when it comes to accessing these digital resources. Therefore, Pakistan must also look toward digital-alternative solutions for people who are not able to access these digital ones.

Abbas Raza
Photo: Flickr

Child LaborChild labor in Pakistan continues to be a reality faced by many Pakistani children. Deprived of the opportunity to study like most other children, many are forced into work from an early age. Although Pakistan’s Employment of Children Act 1991 addresses this issue, the country continues to have difficulties implementing the legislation.

Child Labor in Pakistan

According to a 2018 report by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), Pakistan has a big problem with child labor: an estimated 12 million children work in the country. Many of these children have limited educational opportunities. One of the most common jobs that these children are forced to do is domestic servitude, which requires children to serve the owners of the house. These child laborers may be forced to work from dawn to dusk, fed with leftovers and allowed to be punished in different ways. As a result of this form of labor, children are deprived of healthcare and education.

Since 2016, a project called Pakistan Decent Work Country Programme has operated in Pakistan. The organization assists the Pakistani government in eliminating the worst forms of forced labor for children. However, a new campaign is targeting attention on domestic child labor in Pakistan.

End Child Domestic Labor Campaign

In Pakistan, it is illegal to employ children under the age of 18 in factories. Until recently, the country lacked a law prohibiting children from working at home in most states. However, in June, a campaign was launched by Idare-e-Taleem-o-Asgahi (ITA) called End Child Domestic Labor. The campaign consists of 20 rights-based Pakistani organizations and suggests that children between 10 and 18 years of age belonging to any economic stratum be treated the same. In short, it argues that child abuse occurring through domestic labor must end. Accordingly, the campaign proposed a constitutional amendment that would prohibit all children under the age of 16 from engaging in any type of work.

Along with the campaign, the International Labor Organization (ILO) has developed the following strategies to address child labor in Pakistan:

  1. Strengthen the capacity of tripartite constituents to address child and bonded labor in the rural economy.
  2. Raise awareness in rural communities about the importance of ending child labor and bonded labor.
  3. Support federal and provincial authorities to improve their capacities in data collection and analysis.
  4. Promote inter-agency cooperation, partnership and learning to improve knowledge sharing and advocacy.
  5. Support ILO constituents to develop a community system for monitoring children and bonded labor.

New Law Bans Child Labor in Pakistan

On Aug. 6, 2020, Pakistan banned child domestic labor for the first time, passing an amendment that makes it illegal for children to participate in domestic labor. The government recognized the consequences of this labor, such as trauma and abuse, among young domestic workers.

The new law was implemented in response to the death of Zohra Shah, an 8-year-old girl and domestic worker who was brutally beaten and died. At the same time, Shah is not the only victim of abuse as a result of child labor in Pakistan. Among the other victims is 16-year-old Uzma Bibi, who was beaten. In addition, 10-year-old Tayyaba Quein was abused, making this a serious problem for the country. Accordingly, the Federal Minister of Human Rights announced that the cabinet’s decision will now include child domestic labor under the Employment of Children Act 1991.

The new law marks a change in Pakistan, where children will have access to education and a better life, without mistreatment or abuse. At the same time, it takes a step toward a better quality of life for all minors who are forced to work. This is and will be a great step for children’s rights and an example for other countries.

Juliet Quintero
Photo: Flickr

Clean Water TechnologyNearly 30% of the world’s total population does not have access to clean, on-site water service. Roughly 26% of the world also consumes toxic water. Toxic water spreads various diseases including hepatitis A, cholera, diarrhea and polio. Therefore, it is essential for communities and populations to receive access to clean water. Numerous nongovernmental organizations are attempting to tackle this issue by providing affordable clean water technology to developing regions.

Maji Safi

An engineering student and two professors at the University of Purdue are founders of Maji Safi. Their goal was to provide affordable clean water technology to developing regions. The organization began doing so by installing sand filters in rural communities.

The sand filter technology requires rudimentary supplies that can be found within the region they are implemented. For example, containers are made out of plastic buckets that are filled with sand and water. A plastic dish with a webbed bag is then used to collect water at the bottom. Finally, the filter purifies the contaminated water by utilizing sand as a breeding ground for bacterial growth. This type of bacteria absorbs and digests specific materials in the water that are toxic. As a final precautionary step, minimal quantities of chlorine further purify the water.

Maji Safi International has successfully applied this sand filter technology, ceramic filters and wells in various developing communities. The nonprofit organization would like to install a thousand of these filters over the next decade as well as improve its filter technology with the use of water pumps and smartphones.

The Paani Project

Paani is another NGO that has a mission of providing affordable clean water technology to developing regions. Four students at the University of Michigan are founders of the Paani Project. Their parents were raised in Pakistan. These students focus primarily on preventing Pakistan from becoming a water-stressed nation. Therefore, the students created a nonprofit organization that builds sustainable wells.

Since the organization’s creation, more than 750 wells have been built. Each well generates safe drinking-water for one hundred citizens. The organization also aids in providing Pakistani hospitals with supplies to effectively treat water-borne diseases.

The Paani Project’s mission is not only to provide affordable clean water technology to developing regions in Pakistan. It is also to raise water security awareness, provide hospitals with supplies for disease treatment and educate citizens about water-borne disease prevention.

Water.org

This NGO may not provide an innovative solution to purify water, but water.org does break down economic obstacles prohibiting individuals from acquiring water. Water.org does so through its “WaterCredit Intiative.” In over a dozen countries, this initiative allows individuals to apply for financing to acquire water services.

 

These are just three examples of NGOs that aim to provide affordable clean water technology to developing nations. Founders of these organizations understand that having access to clean water is necessary for health, economic development and more. Clean water allows our bodies to sustain healthy organs, eradicate the possibility of water-borne transmitted diseases and is essential for sanitation and hygiene, which is why it is crucial.

John Brinkman
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Five Examples of Police Brutality InternationallyProtests in the United States are bringing light to a troubling issue which has taken lives for generations: police brutality. However, police brutality affects almost every country in the world. Wherever there is a police force, there is the potential for police brutality. Here are five examples that demonstrate police brutality internationally.

5 Examples of Police Brutality Internationally

  1. Kenya: Police officers in Kenya often accept bribes. Not only that, but police often accuse, imprison or even kill those who cannot offer a bribe. Police officers demanding bribes disproportionately affect poor Kenyans. Kenyans in poverty are often unable to pay police and can experience detainment without probable cause for an indefinite period of time. Additionally, police frequently get away with assaulting or murdering citizens without suffering legal repercussions themselves. On June 8, 2020, citizens took to the streets of Nairobi, Kenya, to protest the police brutality that police employed when enforcing curfews during the COVID-19-related lockdown.
  2. Hong Kong: During the protests for democracy in 2019, widespread human rights violations occurred at the hands of the Hong Kong police, largely without repercussions. The brutality included improper use of rubber bullets, which have a design so that police can fire them at the ground before they bounce and hit people. Also, there was a misuse of bean bag rounds, the physical beating of nonviolent protesters, misuse of tear gas and pepper spray and the use of water canons. In some cases, detained protesters experienced subjection to severe beatings that amounted to torture. As a result, there has been a call for an inquiry into the police’s use of violence from an impartial and independent source as opposed to an internal investigation.
  3. Philippines: Since 2016, the drug war that Philippine Director General Oscar Albayalde waged has resulted in thousands of deaths. The killers, including police and independent gangs of men on motorcycles reportedly affiliated with the police, have not experienced legal action. Law enforcement killed more than 12,000 people during the drug war, and Human Rights Watch has urged Albayabe to consider the rights of the population. Frequently, police executions of citizens result from drugs that police plant on citizens, compounding the injustice. Some have called the drug war in the Philippines a “war on the poor” because it discriminates against the urban poor. Robberies often follow police killings of the urban poor. By targeting vulnerable populations, crooked police are able to commit extrajudicial crimes.
  4. Pakistan: Police brutality also affects the people of Pakistan. A particularly unjust example of this is the death of Salahuddin Ayabi, a person with mental disabilities, who went into police custody for an armed robbery. The police severely tortured him and ended his life. In Pakistan, police have killed hundreds of detained people by means of torture. The police often produce false testimonies and plant evidence on people before detaining them and sometimes murdering them. The Punjabi government has proposed legislative reform. However, some argue that the problem is not the legislation itself but the lack of proper implementation to hold police accountable. Impoverished Pakistanis are a targeted demographic, experiencing subjection to extrajudicial killings, detainment and police torture.
  5. El Salvador: Between 2014 and 2018 in El Salvador, police killed at least 116 people. To put this in perspective, El Salvador’s population is 6.421 million, about three-fourths of New York City population. Raquel Caballero described these killings as “brutal assassinations” in an interview with Reuters. The brutal actions of the police seem to correlate to the gang violence which plagues El Salvador, as many victims are gang members. Of the 48 cases of extrajudicial murders committed by police, only 19 officers experienced prosection and only two received convictions. El Salvador’s murder rate is one of the highest in the world, but some argue that should not excuse police officers to act in such a brutal manner. Additionally, women from high-poverty areas suffer from police brutality as a result of scant reproductive rights. For instance, women who seek abortions, even for obstetric emergencies, often suffer prosecution.

The examination of police brutality internationally by groups like the U.N., Human Rights Watch or Amnesty International is crucial in maintaining awareness of the pervasiveness of this problem. Perhaps the organizations which prosecute guilty police officers worldwide will emerge victorious in their efforts. Police need to meet the same standards as the populations they serve.

Elise Ghitman
Photo: Flickr

Pakistan is located in South Asia and controls part of Kashmir. The nation was first founded in 1947 during the partition of India, leading to lasting tensions between the two countries. Due to an ethnic civil war in 1971, East Pakistan became the country of Bangladesh. Today, Pakistan is one of the most populated countries worldwide. It has a robust reputation, as well as cultural and religious history. The nation relies on many natural resources for economic growth. These include minerals and oils, as well as traditional textiles that are known worldwide. Even with natural resources, there is rising homelessness in the country. Here are seven realities of homelessness in Pakistan.

7 Realities of Homelessness in Pakistan

  1. Pakistan is one of the top seven most populous countries: Currently, Pakistan is estimated to have a population of 220 million. With a growing population, the nation faces limitations to shelters and standards of living. The gap between those who are homeless and those living well off in urbanized areas only seems to be increasing. Researchers categorize 20 million people as being homeless in Pakistan. Statistics show that 35% of the total population live under the poverty line, while many barely stay above the poverty line. The conditions of homelessness in Pakistan disproportionately affect women and children because of malnutrition, healthcare and access to education.
  2. Homelessness in Pakistan disproportionately affects women and children: Of the population that is without stable shelter, women and children are the most affected. While living in temporary housing and slums, the homeless population is not receiving proper nutritious food. This leads to health issues, especially for young children who don’t have access to proper healthcare. Additionally, women and children aren’t going to school because they spend their day finding short term work, protecting their shelter and selling goods on the street.
  3. Natural disasters have a lasting effect: Over the past two decades, Pakistan has felt the effects of multiple natural disasters, from the lasting effects of an earthquake to yearly flooding. In 2005, northern Pakistan was dealing with the aftermath of a 7.6 magnitude earthquake, leaving 3.5 million people homeless, generating severe damage to the whole region. Even with the government’s help, many of those affected by the earthquake were left searching for employment and moving into temporary shelters/slums. Additionally, in 2010 Punjab felt the devastating effects of flooding that displaced at least 10 million people. Following the 2010 natural disaster UNCHR was quick to provide relief via materials for tents, food, etc. The region is still recovering from the damage and experiencing floods yearly. Damages from the floods sweep away temporary shelters, slums and require those without a home to constantly relocate.
  4. Multidimensional poverty is a factor for homelessness in Pakistan: In 2016, an official report by the Ministry of Planning, Development and Reform was released on multidimensional poverty being a factor in the poverty index, concluding that 39% of Pakistanis are living in multidimensional poverty. The percent has decreased over the past decade, but the progress is disproportionately effective from urban to rural regions. This index pertains to not only income and wealth but includes healthcare, education, living standards, etc. The report creates a path to understand how those in poverty may remain under the poverty line or become homeless due to outside factors. By creating these index factors, the government plans to help determine where the need lies for improvement throughout Pakistan.
  5. Imran Khan’s initiative for shelter homes: The current prime minister of the country had led his campaign on bettering situations for those under the poverty line and creating adequate housing situations for those suffering from homelessness in Pakistan. The goal of his initiative ‘Panagah’ (shelter homes) is to create shelter for the homeless and those in poverty across the country. The initiative is still underway, with multiple shelters that have been built or bought. His plan describes a five-year timeline and the initiative was first accepted in 2018. But many regions are waiting for those promised accommodations for the homeless population to reach their regions of Pakistan.
  6. FINCA international organization: FINCA is a nonprofit organization that is headquartered in the USA. The organization works on market-based solutions for people who are homeless or living in poverty internationally. Its work to uplift communities is prevalent in countries such as Pakistan with solutions provided from three categories: microfinance, social enterprise and research. As of recently, the organization has given small loans and savings accounts for 1,128,248 homeless/poverty clients to successfully create financial stability with reasonable and successful planning. Introduced to Pakistan in 2017, a mobile money platform called “SimSim” is an impactful tool for change. It allows quicker depositing, transfer and organization of money for those creating stable work for themselves. It has also provided donations to The Institute of Public Health in Punjab to help diagnose and combat COVID-19 via kits in poor communities. FINCA can be found in South Asia, Africa, Latin America, the Middle East and Eurasia. The organization works to aid families to become educated and create self-sustaining work for themselves and their communities.
  7. Save the Children: Save the Children is an international nonprofit organization that focuses on providing a healthy start and opportunity in life for vulnerable children. In Pakistan, the group supported children who were displaced during the natural disasters and conflicts of 2005 to 2010. The nonprofit’s goal is to provide shelter kits, food, education and medical aid to children for over 30 years. It works with local authorities to rebuild communities of poverty. Save the Children has rebuilt 102 schools and 181 temporary learning centers in Pakistan. The nonprofit also protects and supports the basic needs of over 600,000 children.

Even with an abundance of natural resources, Pakistan still suffers from a large homeless population. The country is working to better their living standards. Natural disasters and the poverty index are key to understanding the factors involved in the displacement of families living in poverty. These seven realities of homelessness in Pakistan bring context to the issue. They also highlight where the country and organizations are putting forth efforts for change.

– Sumeet Waraich
Photo: Flickr

Hunger in PakistanPakistan is a country that has been the victim of natural disasters and chronic political and economic turmoil. These volatile conditions have led to high rates of poverty and hunger in the country. Here are five things to know about hunger in Pakistan.

Five Things to Know About Hunger in Pakistan

  1. In Pakistan, about 20% of the population is undernourished. This equates to nearly 40 million people who are not getting enough nutrients on a daily basis. This is nearly double the percentage of people worldwide who are undernourished.
  2. Poverty and food insecurity are inextricably linked. Nearly a quarter of Pakistanis live below the poverty line. In 2019, natural disasters like drought and heavy rainfall in Pakistan affected the livelihood of millions of people. In mid-2019, a drought caused acute food insecurity in the populations of seven districts, over one million people.
  3. As high as 40% of the population lives in multidimensional poverty. While 25% of Pakistanis live below the poverty line, multi-dimensional poverty takes into consideration a variety of factors beyond just a person’s income. It considers access to clean water, electricity and basic healthcare needs as well as poor infrastructure. All of these factors can impact a community’s access to food.
  4. Undernutrition and malnutrition have led to stunting in 38% of Pakistani children under the age of five. In some regions, the percentage of children who experience stunting is nearly 50%. Pakistani children experience some of the highest stunting rates in the world.
  5. Pakistan actually has a surplus of food. However, instead of being distributed to its own people, much of this food is exported. From mid-2018 to mid-2019, around a half million tons of wheat and more than seven million tons of rice were exported from Pakistan. One in five Pakistani’s are not malnourished because there is a lack of food availability, but because of socio-economic factors that prevent them from accessing the country’s abundant resources. However, even if Pakistani’s had more access to the wheat and rice resources of their country, these crops alone cannot provide a nutritious and sustainable diet.

What is Being Done

In Pakistan, there are several community-driven efforts to fight hunger and, more specifically, stunting. These groups have been able to provide nutrient supplements to more than 700,000 Pakistanis experiencing undernutrition or malnutrition.

In 2020, the Food for Peace (FFP) program, a division of USAID, has provided $2 million to UNICEF for nutrition services for children under the age of five who experience severe acute malnutrition in Pakistan. This number is much less than in previous years. In 2019, FFP provided $18 million to UNICEF and in 2018, the figure was more than $21 million.

In 2018, the Pakistani government pledged to achieve self-sufficiency in food and set a goal of eliminating hunger in the country by 2030. To achieve this goal, the government has put an emphasis on crop diversification, water management and “climate-smart” farming to reduce the catastrophic impacts of natural disasters on food security.

Pakistan is a country that has experienced political and economic turmoil for decades. These conditions coupled with the impacts of natural disasters have made undernutrition and malnutrition a huge concern in the country. While over the past several years the country has implemented initiatives to improve the food situation, the challenges surrounding food security remain and hunger in Pakistan remain a major issue.

– Jessie Cohen
Photo: Pixaby

The Fight Against Locusts
Asia, the Middle East and Africa are in a battle with an entity that threatens the food security of 10% of the population. This problem has come and gone before and goes by the name of the desert locust. These locusts fly in swarms of 10s of billions, in coverage ranging from a square third of a mile to 100 square miles. For reference, a swarm the size of one-third of a square mile could eat the equivalent of 35,000 people.

The leading cause of the sudden outburst of locusts is the months of heavy rain that Africa and Southwest Asia had towards the end of 2019. Locusts thrive in wet conditions when breeding and the rain sparked a massive emergence of the bugs.

The locusts could become the cause of food insecurity for millions of people. The reason for this is the sheer number of insects and also how quickly they can travel. They swarm from one food supply to the next, while moving from one country to the next within days. When they decide to land in a town or city that seems to have an abundance of crops, they will eat anywhere from 50 to 80% of all the plants. This has resulted in many countries and international institutions increasing cooperation, as the locusts do not discriminate against which country they deplete of resources. Below are five of the ways that collaboration has developed in the fight against locusts, which highlights the importance of working together during national emergencies.

5 Cases of International Cooperation in the Fight Against Locusts

  1. The World Bank has put together a $500 million program called The Emergency Locust Response Program to immediately assist farmers in the Middle East and Africa. This will help the citizens of affected countries with cash transfers, and will also go towards investing in agricultural industries. The first four countries that will receive the aid are Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda. They will collectively receive $160 million of the $500 million total.
  2. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has paired with the United Nations to strengthen technology that tracks locust swarms. The administration typically helps track weather and other changes in the environment, but now will use its resources to help monitor the locusts. It is trying to re-purpose technology to track smoke in order to follow the migration of locusts. This will help prepare countries and cities better, as they will have a more accurate prediction of when the swarms will reach them. These institutions are also developing different types of bio-pesticides, which will have less of an impact on humans and crops.
  3.  India has offered a detailed plan to Pakistan and Iran to team up against the swarms effectively. Pakistan has yet to accept the deal, but if accepted, the countries would “coordinate locust control operations along the border and that India can facilitate the supply of malathion, a pesticide, to Pakistan.” The plan originated in hopes of trying to save some of the estimated $3 billion of lost crops within the affected regions.
  4. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has contributed $19 million to the FAO to fight the locusts in East Africa. The money will go to Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia, which are three of the worst-hit countries. The aid will help these countries afford airplanes to perform aerial spraying and training for infestation fighters on the ground.
  5. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has committed another $10 million to the FAO. This money will go towards the same countries as the USAID contribution went to. The countries have gratefully accepted the money, yet still need more support. However, contributions from organizations like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation are closing the gap between necessary resources and obtained resources.

The cooperation between organizations and countries in the fight against locusts proves to be the silver lining of the infestation. International institutions are effectively planning, tracking and coordinating efforts to minimize the problem for farmers and food-insecure people around the world.

– Aiden Farr
Photo: Pixabay

Healthcare in Pakistan
In a study that The Lancet conducted, healthcare in Pakistan currently ranks 154th out of 195 countries in terms of overall system performance. As a developing country with a mere 2% of its GDP allocated for total health expenditures, Pakistan struggles to maintain a proper healthcare system with regard to quality and accessibility.

Pakistan’s numerous cases of communicable and vaccine-preventable diseases highlight its struggling healthcare system. Viral hepatitis, dengue, tuberculosis, malaria, typhoid, HIV and cholera have long been leading causes of death. They are the result of overpopulated cities, poor sanitation, unsafe drinking water and inadequate socioeconomic conditions.

Pakistan has one of the lowest amounts of immunized children, with overall vaccination coverage of just 60%. The result is a high newborn mortality rate: 69.3 deaths per 1,000 live births. Moreover, while the rest of the world is free from polio, experts still consider the disease as an endemic in Pakistan. Documentations determined that there were nearly 150 polio cases in 2019. With these alarming statistics in mind, here are six facts about healthcare in Pakistan.

6 Facts About Healthcare in Pakistan

  1. Healthcare in Pakistan includes both private and public sectors. The private sector serves approximately 70% of the population. Private hospitals and healthcare institutions consistently outperform their public counterparts, as measured by the overall quality of healthcare and patient satisfaction.
  2. A common misconception is that healthcare services in the public sector are free of charge to Pakistani citizens. This is not the case, as 78% of the population continues to pay for healthcare out of their own pockets.
  3. Healthcare in Pakistan has been a focal point after the country signed the U.N. Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Pakistan began to initiate healthcare programs, establishing both Basic Health Units as well as Rural Health Units. Basic Health Units are assigned to NGOs, who manage the day-to-day operations, administer medicine and overlook the facilities.
  4. Reports estimate that there are roughly 175,000 doctors registered to serve the population. However, many Pakistani doctors choose to practice abroad due to poor service structure, increased workload, lack of funding and a rise in hostility by some. Moreover, many female doctors have stopped practicing due to family and social compulsions. Taking into account all these factors,  the doctor to population ratio stands at one doctor for every 1,764 persons. For adequate population coverage, Pakistan needs at least two doctors for every 1,000 persons.
  5. Healthcare in Pakistan has gradually improved over time. Currently, 92% of the rural population and 100% of the urban population have access to health services. Such improvement has been a direct result of Pakistan meeting the MDGs. Despite measures to increase the quality of healthcare facilities, most of the population prefers to consult private doctors and practitioners.
  6. Pakistan continues to commit to the MDGs in order to eradicate a multitude of preventable diseases. The introduction of immunization programs, such as the Expanded Program on Immunization (EPI), has increased vaccination coverage in Pakistan from 5% to 84%. EPI partnered with the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI), a global health organization dedicated to increasing immunization in low- and middle-income countries. With this partnership, countless people are working to eradicate vaccine-preventable diseases, such as measles, polio and neonatal tetanus.

With the arrival of COVID-19, Pakistan’s healthcare system is under immense pressure and is struggling to deal with the thousands of cases arriving each day. Frontline workers are taking the brunt of the virus. An estimated 3% of the total cases in the country consist of healthcare workers. Medical professionals are resorting to strikes and protests over the lack of protective gear necessary to safely treat patients.

In light of the unrest, Prime Minister Imran Khan announced new healthcare reforms to fix the faults of the health sector. The reforms allocate $300 million to pay for additional ventilators and other medical equipment. Additionally, major cities are setting up isolation centers to increase hospital capacity for infected patients.

These six facts about healthcare in Pakistan determine that the country will need to radically transform its health system performance in the following years in order to confront outbreaks that continue to threaten the population. The World Health Organization has recommended that Pakistan’s Ministry of Health increase healthcare expenditures to 5% of its GDP. Doing so would not only put an end to controllable diseases, but it will also ensure that the healthcare system will be able to deal with dangerous outbreaks in the future.

–  Abbas Raza
Photo: Flickr

 

Poverty in Pakistan
Founded during the partition of India and located in South Asia, the Islamic Republic of Pakistan is the fifth most populous country in the world, with a population of more than 210 million. Cornerstones of Pakistani culture include incredible cuisine, iconic architecture and the popular game of cricket. However, like so many nations across the globe, Pakistani citizens are forced to confront the harsh reality of extreme poverty. Here are ten facts about poverty in Pakistan.

10 Facts About Poverty in Pakistan

  1. As of 2015, approximately 24% of Pakistani citizens lived below the national poverty line. This is more than twice the global percentage of people living in extreme poverty and amounts to more than 50 million people in Pakistan living in poverty.
  2. Nearly 4% of Pakistan lives below $1.90 a day. As a result, nearly 9 million Pakistani citizens live in extreme poverty. This puts them below the Purchasing Power Parity (PPP) outlined in the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals.
  3. As of 2018, almost 7% of babies died before their fifth birthday. Life in poverty makes it extremely difficult to have access to proper housing, nutrition and medication.
  4. The adult illiteracy rate in Pakistan is around 35%. Unequal access to proper and requisite education is inseparable from the reality of poverty.
  5. Pakistan also faces a severe overpopulation problem. While the nation has the fifth-highest population in the world, it takes up less than a percent of this planet’s surface. Overpopulation and unequal access to education amplify problems caused by poverty.
  6. Pakistan has a Human Development Index (HDI) of 0.560. The nation ranks 152nd out of 189 countries and territories. In the last three decades, Pakistan’s HDI has increased by nearly 40%.
  7. Appproximately 38% of Pakistani citizens are living in multidimensional poverty. Another 13% are vulnerable to this status. From 2004 to 2015, the multidimensional poverty rate has dropped from 55% to its current rate at 38%.
  8. Poverty levels in Pakistan fluctuate throughout regions. In urban areas, poverty rates are around 9%, while in rural areas poverty rates rise all the way to 55%. This disparity can be seen among provinces in the Republic as well.
  9. About 25 million Pakistani families rely on wage workers. They have unfortunately become vulnerable due to the current COVID-19 pandemic. The Prime Minister has said that the pandemic is harder to deal with in countries facing the challenges of poverty.
  10. The Pakistani government hopes to receive $5 billion in financial aid. This would come from outside sources and countries, along with the $1.3 billion they have already received from the IMF.

With continued efforts, poverty in Pakistan will hopefully decrease. The Citizens Foundation is one of many non-profits that have been working to improve the quality of life for underprivileged Pakistani citizens. In 25 years, the Citizens Foundation has created 1,652 schools, providing a proper education to over 266,000 children who would not have had it otherwise. These schools also combat gender inequality in Pakistan, as they have all-female faculty and a 50% student gender ratio.

However, there is still work to be done. In Pakistan, gender disparities compound the unjust realities of poverty. Poverty rates in rural areas are more than five times higher than those in urban areas. Yet, similar to global trends, the amount of people living in poverty in Pakistan has clearly been decreasing in recent years. This is in large part due to individuals and organizations dedicating themselves to the cause of ending poverty. These continued efforts will help fight and eventually end poverty in Pakistan, and in turn will make the Republic a more just and equal country for all those who call it home.

Ehran Hodes
Photo: Flickr