Hunger Within Poland
One of the main challenges Poland faces today is malnutrition. Hunger in Poland is an issue every third child between the age of 7 and 15 suffers from, according to research done by Poland Human Resources.

In Warsaw, over 23,000 children suffer from malnutrition.

When diet fails to supply the body with the essential nutrients it requires, malnutrition results. This lack of nutrition exists predominantly in developing nations, but malnutrition is also an issue in developed nations. Protein-energy malnutrition, for instance, generally occurs in underweight children. In Poland, this type of malnutrition is seen in 1 percent of men, more than 3 percent of women and in 13 percent of children.

Poverty is the main cause of malnutrition and hunger in Poland. Nearly 7 percent of the Polish population lives below the poverty line. As a result, many of the poor have unhealthy diets, causing deficiencies in vitamin D, folate, vitamin C, calcium and iodine. Infants, teenaged girls and women are particularly vulnerable. Iron deficiency is also a problem in Poland, seen in about one-quarter of children and pregnant women.

The Polish Central Statistical Office recently released a report which reveals deteriorating living conditions for the working class. The report shows that more than half a million children suffer from hunger in Poland, as well as severe malnutrition. Other highlights from the report:

  • In 2009, 2.2 million Polish people lived in conditions of extreme poverty.
  • Over 170,000 Polish children suffer from malnutrition, which has slowed their growth and development.
  • More than 260,000 children start their days without breakfast. Additionally, more than 70,000 children only eat what they receive at school because they lack food at home.
  • One in five Polish children is malnourished.

These statistics are particularly relevant in small villages, where there are high rates of unemployment and social helplessness. Most of the children suffering from hunger and malnutrition have families that are at the edge of poverty.

The Polish government has focused on improving economic conditions for its people in recent years. It must do more to eliminate hunger and malnutrition for its children.

Yana Emets

Photo: Flickr


The refugee crisis is one of the biggest impacting the world, Europe in particular. With a prominent history of accepting refugees after the collapse of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (U.S.S.R.), Poland today is playing a surprisingly limited role. Here are 10 facts about Poland’s refugee efforts.

  1. Poland has been turning away refugees. Asylum seekers from Chechnya, an increasingly repressive part of Russia, have been being denied entry into Poland, even though the Terespol border became an entry point for Chechens, Tajiks and other citizens of former Soviet Republics when the U.S.S.R. dissolved.
  2. Terespol border guards rejected 85,000 attempts to cross the border from Belarus in 2016. Only 25,000 were turned away in 2015, illustrating a major change in the Polish perspective of refugees.
  3. Lack of refugee support reflects a lack of Polish influence in the EU. Poland’s anti-liberal shift has resulted in Poland losing a great deal of negotiating power with other European powers.
  4. “There is no mechanism that would ensure safety,” explained Jaroslaw Kaczynski, who leads Poland’s ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party. The PiS party takes a nationalist and right-wing stance. It is very vocal in opposing housing and feeding refugees from Syria and others in humanitarian crisis.
  5. The EU has suggested that countries should have a quota of refugees, or pay €250,000 ($280,188) for each asylum-seeker they turn away. The money would go to countries that have a disproportionately high number of refugees, such as Greece, Germany and Italy.
  6. Poland’s stagnation isn’t good for its politics. Such stubbornness could lead to less power and credibility with other European nations while also questioning the relationship it has with Europe on the one hand, and on the other hand, Russia.
  7. Human rights groups have been covering and warning the EU about Polish actions, but the EU has failed to reprimand or sanction Poland. An EU executive was even quoted as “closely following the situation” regarding Poland’s refugee efforts, but no follow-up has been taken.
  8. Chechens trying to go to Poland are in great danger. Trying to cross the border, Chechens risk getting sent to detention centers in Belarus.
  9. The most obvious solution is for Poland to respect the EU’s concept of “effective solidarity.” However, with the right-leaning government and anti-liberal views running through Poland, this seems the most unrealistic solution.
  10. Poland may be breaking the law. Chechens denied refugee status are sent back to Belarus and fear deportation to Russia. According to Polish law, however, the Office for Foreigners, not the Border Guard, is to evaluate applications for refugee status. Some refugees have applied more than 70 times and been denied each time.

Poland’s refugee efforts, or lack thereof, have led many nations to questions the future of Poland’s power and influence in the EU. Additionally, Poland’s relations with Russia will remain in question until Poland becomes active in the refugee crisis.

Mary Waller

Photo: Flickr

Education in Poland
Over the last two decades, public education in Poland has been seriously reformed, and today it is one of the best-performing educational systems in Europe and across the world.

Education in Poland began changing in the late 1990s after Miroslaw Handke took on the role of Poland’s minister of education. Amanda Ripley reports that Handke publicly announced his plans for change, stating, “We have to move the entire system — push it out of its equilibrium so that it will achieve a new equilibrium.”

Through a modernized core curriculum and regulated standardized testing, allowing school administrators to recognize areas of improvement and identify struggling students, this new equilibrium was achieved. Teachers were granted more freedom in implementing their own curricula and choosing textbooks, so long as they tailored their courses to meet national requirements.

Also, the transition of students into vocational schools was delayed by a year. This places a stronger focus on the general curriculum compared to specialized skills. Reading, writing and arithmetic are the focal points of education, as well as studying a foreign language.

There has been a change in jurisdiction from central government to local government in regard to education. This provides local authorities with increased control over budgeting. The development of new schools resulted in increased learning opportunities for more students.

Today, Poland ranks 13th in reading, 18th in mathematics, and 22nd in science worldwide, according to a 2015 OECD education report known as PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment). Student performance in these subjects has significantly improved since 2003, when the country either matched or fell below the OECD average.

Surprisingly, Poland has been able to accomplish all this by spending only five percent of its GDP, or roughly $5,000 per student annually. The U.S., by contrast, spends about three times as much, yet still ranks below Poland.

Despite these advancements, there is still room for progress. The OECD reports indicate an educational gap between students of lower classes and those of higher classes, which could be improved through more early childhood public education programs. In addition, there is a need to strengthen students’ capacity to problem-solve. By building on its achievements, education in Poland will continue to improve, serving as a global model.

Genevieve T. DeLorenzo

Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Poland Facts
Poland is not a poor country by any means, but the region has historically possessed little wealth due to occupation, wartime and political mistreatment. As such, alleviation of poverty in Poland has been a focal point of recent Polish governments. Discussed below are the leading facts about poverty in Poland, and how the issue is addressed at the national and international level.

 

7 Key Facts About Poverty in Poland

 

  1. Poverty in Poland has been steadily decreasing since 2004. Over the past decade, the country has cut the population of people living on less than $5 a day in half, from 20 percent to 10.
  2. Poland’s government spends heavily on social resources, with a quarter of the nation’s GDP spent on pensions, public health care, public education and other social services.
  3. Compared to other parts of the world, poverty in Poland is shallow. There are very few people living in dangerously extreme poverty or hunger. Less than a tenth of the population live on $2 a day or less.
  4. Income inequality in Poland is also relatively low. In a World Bank ranking of income inequality, Poland scored significantly better than the United States and Russia with stratification levels near the U.K. and France.
  5. While they are rarely in extreme poverty, many young people in Poland live on very little due to a lack of employment. Overall unemployment in Poland is at 14 percent, but is 25 percent for those who primarily seek industrial jobs.
  6. Poland’s heavily industrial economy is something of a double-edged sword. GDP growth was mildly hindered by the 2008-9 global economic downturn when compared with other European nations. This growth, however, has proven slow with an average of a one percent annual increase.
  7. Poland seeks to both decrease rural poverty and increase its economic productivity by improving the agricultural sector. The EU has been a major benefactor in this cause, revamping the nation’s agricultural policy in 2004 and annually contributing large sums of money. In 2014, Polish farmers received three billion euros in direct payments from EU funding.

These facts about poverty in Poland only begin to scratch the surface of such a complex region. This eastern European nation exudes fiscal prosperity amidst underlying unemployment and rural poverty, a conundrum that needs to be solved.

John English

Photo: Flickr