poverty and pollutionPollution impacts people’s air, water and food worldwide. In general, pollution affects impoverished individuals the most. Many individuals in developing countries already struggle to find clean water, edible food and good healthcare. Unfortunately,  pollution only exacerbates these pre-existing issues. The city of Nairobi, Kenya is a prime example of this. Its largest garbage dump surrounds and pollutes churches, schools, shops and places of business. As such, poverty and pollution are closely related. Eliminating pollution may be able to help eradicate global poverty. 

Poverty and Pollution

Runoff from factories, farms and towns has made drinking water sources dangerous because of contamination. In some places, the effects of pollution also decrease the crop yield and increase food prices, as runoff also contaminates farm land. Additionally, imported food products are often tainted with bacteria, thus making these food products dangerous for consumption. These circumstances could increase the number of people suffering from malnutrition, especially in developing countries. Poverty and pollution are therefore connected through causation: high food prices and food insecurity can both contribute to poverty. Indeed, pollution could contribute to the number of people living in global poverty increasing by 100,000 million.   

Pollution and Hunger

There are currently 815 million people around the world suffering from chronic undernourishment. Importantly, one of the main causes of malnourishment and undernourishment is contaminated food. India, for example, lost an estimated 24 million tons of wheat in one year due to an airborne pollutant. More recently, India may also lose 50% of its rice production because of the same pollutant. On a global scale, studies have found that air pollutants decrease the production of staple crops like wheat, rice, maize and soybeans from 5% to 12%. Experts estimate that this is equivalent to the loss of up to 227 million tons of crops, which equals $20 billion in global revenue lost.

However, food is also becoming contaminated through industrial runoff in the ground. Pollution via industrial run-off affects crops in sub-Saharan Africa, East Asia and South America. In these regions, access to foods that are high in nutrients is low and irrigation runoff is high. Runoff especially impacts Africa, where farmers depend on subsistence farming to feed themselves and their families.

Both of these types of pollution can increase food insecurity and hunger. In these conditions, individuals cannot use their land to grow clean food for themselves and their families. Worldwide, 33% of children who come from middle- to low-income countries already endure chronic malnutrition. This contributes to the fact that 45% of all children’s deaths are due to undernutrition or a related cause. Furthermore, there are at minimum 17 million children worldwide who are acutely malnourished, resulting in the death of two million children each year. Thus, pollution and poverty are related through the issue of hunger, which is fatal for children around the world.  

Pollution Clouds the Water

Unfortunately, pollution does not only amplify the issue of hunger, it also contributes to a lack of clean water. Globally, 844 million people do not have regular access to clean water. The vast majority of these people live in extreme poverty. In Uganda alone, there are 28 million people who cannot readily access clean water. These Ugandans must drink water polluted by sewage, mudslide debris and other contaminants.

Due to these conditions, 70% of all diagnosed diseases are directly linked to unclean water and poor sanitation and hygiene methods. These diseases include hepatitis, typhoid, cholera, diarrhea and dysentery. Unfortunately, these diseases kill 3.4 million people each year, 43% of whom are children younger than five. In Uganda, these illnesses force 25% of children to stop attending school each year. 

Poverty and pollution are directly related through water pollution. On a global scale, the world loses $18 billion when people are to sick with waterborne illnesses to work. Additionally, the time many people must spend finding water results in missed economic opportunities valued at over $24 billion worldwide. 

The Fight Against Pollution

Thankfully, many organizations are addressing these pressing connections between poverty and pollution. The Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL), based at M.I.T., received a $25 million gift from King Philanthropies to combat many issues that both poverty and pollution create. It plans to do so by launching the King Climate Action Initiative (K-CAI). The K-CAI focuses explicitly on helping those who live in extreme poverty. Its aims include reducing carbon emissions, reducing pollution, acclimating to the climate change and transitioning toward cleaner energy.

The K-CAI plans to accomplish these goals by creating and evaluating many smaller projects. Once the K-CAI determines which projects are the most impactful, it will implement them in impoverished countries on a large scale. Thus far, J-PAL has focused on improving the production of food, education, policy and healthcare in impoverished countries. K-CAI is using J-PAL’s successes to help determine the most efficient ways to achieve these goals 

The correlation between poverty and pollution is clear and direct. As such, pollution can make the fight to end global poverty more challenging. However, with promising initiatives such as the K-CAI, the global battle against pollution and poverty seem like a much easier feat. Defeating pollution will give the world a much-needed advantage in ending global poverty once and for all. 

Amanda Kuras
Photo: Flickr

plastic bottles solve homelessnessOverconsumption of plastic, especially by Americans, is a recurring problem for the environment. ReuseThisBag.com, a supplier of wholesale reusable and recycled eco-friendly promotional bags, reports that Americans use 2.5 million plastic bottles every hour. In addition, a 2010 report by the National Oceanic Atmospheric Association (NOAA) states that plastic waste makes up roughly 80% of the world’s ocean pollution. With an overabundance of plastic bottles drifting both in water and on land, can recovered plastic bottles solve homelessness?

Plastic Bottles Solve Homelessness with Affordable and Durable Homes

Constructing homes using plastic bottles is not a new concept, but it’s gained traction in recent years in Africa, Central and South America, and Eastern Europe. The approach is solving two problems in one. By recovering plastic waste, particularly bottles, from areas where they contribute to pollution and compromise wildlife habitats, this concept helps the environment. Additionally, this project uses plastic bottles to solve homelessness by providing long-term shelter for individuals facing housing insecurity.

Nigeria provides an example of both benefits of this approach. The eco-based website Treehugger wrote, “In Nigeria, millions of plastic bottles are dumped into waterways and landfill[s] each year causing pollution, erosion, irrigation blockages, and health problems.” In addition, there are roughly 24.4 million homeless people in Nigeria. About 70% of people in the nation’s capital, Lagos, reside in informal and unstable housing. As many as 300,000 Lagosians struggle with housing insecurity and homelessness due to the government’s attempt to curb urban population growth. It’s estimated that Nigeria will need 16 million new homes to eliminate its housing crisis.

The Development Association for Renewable Energies (DARE), a Nigerian nonprofit organization, is stepping in to construct eco-friendly homes created from plastic bottles. The homes not only provide environmental protection and durability, but they are also fireproof, earthquake-proof and bulletproof.

The bottle wall technique was developed by German firm Ecotec Environmental Solutions (Ecotec Soluciones Ambientales). Other countries using this approach include Algeria, Honduras, Brazil and Argentina. Ecotec Environmental Solutions trains residents to collect water bottles before filling them with sand. They then stack the bottles side-by-side, layering them to create a wall. With each layer, mud or cement mix binds the bottles to create a solid structure that is 20 times stronger than a brick-based house. Each home requires about 14,000 plastic bottles.

Enough Plastic Bottles to Solve Global Homelessness

Plastic water bottles account for 1.5 million tons of plastic waste per year, with about 80% of bottles being discarded like garbage and not recycled or upcycled. Scientists predict that if the world’s citizens continue to pollute the Earth with plastic at the current rate, eventually humans will be over-consumed by plastic. This calls for immediate action to make use of the material that is not biodegradable and cannot be composted. With about 46,000 pieces of plastic floating per every square mile in the world’s oceans, can plastic bottles provide permanent housing for the 1 billion people facing homelessness globally while helping lessen humanity’s plastic problem?

Environmental consultant and founder of Ecotec Environmental Solutions, Andres Froese, sees a future in plastic bottle homes for people in developing nations that aren’t addressing housing crises quickly enough. Froese has so far used 300,000 plastic bottles for 50 home construction projects throughout the world. If this work carries on, we may see a world where plastic bottles solve homelessness.

– Vicki Colbert
Photo: Flickr

Plastic Waste in IndiaIndia produces 15 million tonnes of plastic waste annually, and most cities and towns in the country do not have the means to manage this. The lack of integrated solid waste management systems leads to numerous health and ecological crises. The burden of this issue falls on the Safai Saathis, or waste pickers, who collect and sort through waste daily. The job is dangerous and has little reward. Stepping in to tackle this issue is the United Nations Development Program’s Plastic Waste Management Programme. This project improves upon existing waste management systems to mitigate the dangerous effects of plastic waste in India. Before delving into the project, it is important to understand why plastics are so harmful in the first place.

Why Are Plastics so Harmful?

First, there is enough plastic waste on this planet to cover it four times over. Plastic waste can be found from the deepest depths of the ocean all the way to the clouds in the form of air pollution. There are even microplastics in people that come from food and water. Plastic waste build-up clogs sewage systems, thereby polluting rivers, groundwater resources and the air.

There are numerous implications of plastic waste in India. The waste harms animals who ingest or entangle themselves in it. The carcinogenic chemicals found in plastic can cause severe issues for human health, such as hormonal or genetic disorders, interference with the endocrine system and damage to reproductive health. Land pollution is yet another consequence of plastic waste. The plastics leach hazardous chemicals into the land, which destroys its capacity to support life.

More than this, plastic waste never actually goes away, and 95% of that waste does not get recycled. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, almost every piece of plastic ever made is still on Earth today. This is why it is mandatory to have waste management systems that can recycle old plastic and manufacture new things out of it. In other words, plastic waste is the ideal candidate for a circular economy.

UNDP Plastic Waste Management Programme

The work of this project can greatly aid in the fight against plastic waste in India. The main objective of the project is to establish a sustainable, community-led approach to efficient recycling. The initiative operates in 20 cities throughout India with 22 Swachhta Kendras (material recovery centers). It is designed to lower the devastating impacts on environmental and human health through the enhancement of sustainable plastic waste management practices.

According to the UNDP, the four main components of this project are to:

  1. “Create a socio-technical model for taking plastic waste management from informal to formal economy.
  2. Establish Material Recovery Centres for sustained practices in waste management.
  3. Institutionalize Swachhta Kendras within governance framework structures and improved socioeconomic conditions of waste pickers.
  4. Develop technology-supported knowledge management: Promote Cloud-based traceability, accountability and digital governance along waste value chain through our technical partner Mindtree through field implementing partners.”

According to a source from UNDP India, the greatest challenges to this program lie within the general lack of awareness by citizens of the threats related to handling plastic waste in India. For example, better waste management programs and access to education can prevent deadly practices like burning plastic waste and open dumping in channels and gutters. This project enhances methods of material recovery, separation and recycling. In addition, it also creates jobs, addresses better social security measures and positively impacts the livelihoods of waste pickers.

Safai Saathis

One of the most profound outcomes of this ongoing project is the initiative to improve the standards of living of Safai Saathis. Before the UNDP stepped in, waste pickers worked without the use of any safety equipment. Exposure to so much waste puts their health at risk. Because of the UNDP Waste Management Programme, the lives of many Safai Saathis strengthen in safety and social security.

Safai Saathis are deprived of social benefits and stuck in an abusive system. A great emphasis of the UNDP’s work is to ensure their dignity and social inclusion, as well as to increase their access to health care and self-help groups. As a result of the help of the UNDP, many have seen an increase in income. The workers also experience social upliftment from opening bank accounts and improved working conditions.

The fight against plastic waste in India is multifaceted and constantly progressing. Circular innovations like this Waste Management Programme turn unfathomable amounts of waste into new and useful materials, empowers communities and protect the health and safety of everyone in India.

Rochelle Gluzman
Photo: Flickr

boat made of plastic
More than 12 million metric tons of plastic are dumped into the oceans annually, and it costs at least $8 billion in damage to the marine life and environment.  Single-use plastic items like grocery bags, drinking bottles, straws and foam takeaway containers comprise the majority of waste. In developing countries, between 400,000 and 1,000,000 people die every year from diseases  related to mismanaged plastic waste. Kenya has taken a radical step in eradicating plastic pollutants and helping its citizens understand the danger of polythene bags. The country is also home to The Flipflopi. The Flipflopi, a large boat made of plastic, serves as a pledge to end the single-use plastic crisis and is a symbol for a brighter and more sustainable future.

The Plastic Problem

Because Southeast Asian countries mismanage 75% of their plastic waste, 60% of marine pollutants come directly from just six different countries. Of this litter, 80% is made of plastic, and it forms large gyres in different oceans around the world. There is an alarming trend of whales dying from ingesting fatal amounts of plastic. Other marine animals suffocate and get entangled in plastic debris and are poisoned by the toxic plastic particulates. Less than 10% of the total amount of plastic ever produced – almost 10 billion tons – has been recycled.

In August 2017, the Kenyan government banned plastic and imposed strict laws against plastic bags. At the time, Judi Wakhungu served as the Cabinet Secretary for Environment and Regional Development Authorities in Kenya. With Wakhungu’s help, Kenya embarked on the long-overdue journey of reducing plastic pollution. Now, the imposed punishments for single-use plastic ranges from four years in prison to fines up to $40,000.

In 2015, travel and tourism generated 59% of Kenyan GDP, and the GDP is expected to reach $4.2 billion by 2026. However, Nairobi’s coastlines, the heart of Kenya’s capital and a famous tourist destination, are starting to become polluted with plastic waste. They must be protected at all costs to maintain tourism and GDP growth. Because plastic blocks waterways and ends up in drains, it serves as a direct cause of flooding in developing countries that have poor sanitation facilities. Two billion people live in areas with trash buildup due to the lack of waste removal systems. The trash gets trapped in waterways, causing severe pollution, illness and even death.

The Flipflopi boat made of plastic tackled exactly this issue. It created a system of converting plastic into something valuable. In fact, it is on a mission to reuse all generated plastic creatively until there is a worldwide consensus on stopping its usage.

The Flipflopi Project

In 2016, Ben Morison, Ali Skanda and numerous volunteers began building a nine-meter sailing dhow, all made out of more than 10 metric tons of plastic waste and 30,000 pairs of recycled flip-flops collected on beach cleanups in Lamu. A dhow, which is a traditional vessel with one or two masts, has always been the icon of the Kenyan coast and has sailed the Indian Ocean for more than 2,000 years. The Flipflopi is the first entirely plastic sailing dhow that was launched on September 15, 2018. Coincidentally, its launch fell on International World Cleanup Day.

Morison, who is a tour operator in Lamu, Kenya, understood that plastic pollution is not only damaging marine life but also to Kenya’s tourism. Because more than three billion people wear flip-flops, Morison wanted to make a call to action. In 2016, he reached out to the master craftsman, Ali Skanda, and recruited a team of volunteers to make a change. Two years later, the project came to life, and Flipflopi sailed from Lamu to Zanzibar. Its 650 km voyage marked Kenya’s fight against plastic waste and Flipflopi’s partnership with the United Nations Environment Program’s Clean Seas campaign.

In only 14 days of sailing, the Flipflopi stopped in 12 different communities and hosted seven events ranging from beach cleanups to recycling workshops. Children also attended these initiatives and were taught how to create useful objects out of empty plastic bottles. In the majority of Flipflopi’s port stops, local governments announced their commitment to reducing plastic waste and expanding recycling practices. Kibarani pledged to revive the city of Mombasa, shut down its landfill dump and plant trees in its territory. The Flipflopi was also able to secure partnerships with 22 hotels and 29 businesses in Kenya to minimize their plastic waste usage.

Purpose and Awareness

The Flipflopi bears the symbol of loving, appreciating and taking care of the environment. The boat made of plastic was built with no technological interventions. Because of this, it took two and a half years to complete instead of the typical five months. However, the project’s longevity demonstrates that any person can repurpose and convert single-use plastic into something as grand as a sea vessel. The boat was not built for the sake of building a boat. Instead, it serves as a symbol of commitment to make a change and give plastic a second life. The project was meant to teach the world a lesson on how plastic affects marine ecosystems, the human environment and Earth, as well as what people can and must do about it.

The Flipflopi is only getting started. Its co-founders and volunteers plan to construct a 20-meter plastic dhow and sail it to Cape Town, South Africa, not only to advocate for new worldwide policies but also to continue the legacy of traditional and sustainable dhows.

This boat made of plastic is a symbol of change and serves as a light at the end of the long plastic tunnel. It is a promise that future generations will treat the planet lovingly and kindly.

– Anna Sharudenko
Photo: Abdalla Barghash

The country of Jordan is the fifth most water-scarce country in the world, following Iran, and is labeled at an “extremely high” risk level. With water scarcity comes multiple risk factors, including water-borne illnesses caused by unsafe drinking water, diseases from a lack of sanitation and death by dehydration. In addition, water scarcity contributes to an increase in sexual exploitation and rape, as children, especially young girls, need to physically travel miles every day through deserts and dangerous terrain to retrieve water for their families. This then contributes to a decrease in education among girls and perpetuates the cycle of poverty in areas in Jordan and globally. Here are 10 facts about sanitation in Jordan.

10 Facts About Sanitation in Jordan

  1. Climate change affects sanitation in Jordan. In most areas of the country, populations are not located near major water sources and water must be transported from distances up to 325 kilometers away. With the rise of climate change causing flash floods, unpredictable and extreme weather patterns and increased temperatures, Jordan faces difficulties accessing necessary sanitation services.
  2. Jordan faces severe water scarcity. According to UNICEF, “Jordan’s annual renewable water resources are less than 100m3 [meters cubed] per person.” This is 400 meters cubed below the threshold of 500 meters cubed, which defines water scarcity.

  3. As a result of an increase in population and industrial and agricultural capacity, Jordan is dealing with severe aquifer depletion. All 12 of Jordan’s main aquifers are declining at rates exceeding 20 meters per year, well beyond their rechargeable volumes. This is especially alarming as 60% of Jordan’s water comes from the ground.

  4. Those in vulnerable and rural areas lack sanitation resources. Proper hygiene norms, such as handwashing and showering, are taught and practiced in households. However, those in more vulnerable and rural areas often lack soap and body wash to stay clean and healthy.

  5. A large percentage of the population in Jordan don’t have access to water. Only 58% of households have direct access to a sewer connection. In comparison to the nearly half of the population in Jordan, only 0.46% of the United States population does not have access to proper plumbing services. This is an especially prevalent issue in rural areas in Jordan, where only 6% of households have a sewer connection.

  6. The Syrian refugee crisis has greatly increased the population in Jordan. As Jordan borders Syria, it has become a safe haven for more than 670,000 refugees of the Syrian civil war. Having accepted the second-highest amount of refugees in the world compared to its population in 2018, this sudden increase in population means added pressure on resources and infrastructure, as well as an increase in air pollution and waste production.

  7. The water network in Jordan has inadequate infrastructure, needing major rehabilitation. Pumps and sewer lines are old and aging. Unfortunately, Jordan’s already scarce water supply is paying the price, with up to 70% of water transported from aquifers through old pumps being lost in the northern areas of Jordan due to water leakage.
  8. The increase in population, agriculture and industry in Jordan has led to an increase in pollution and toxicity in Jordan’s water supply. Upstream abstractions of groundwater have led to an increase in salinity. Unregulated pesticides and fertilizers used for farming have exposed the water supply to dangerous nitrates and phosphorus through runoff. In addition, it is reported that about 70% of Jordan’s spring water is biologically contaminated.

  9. Foreign aid plays a positive role in improving sanitation in Jordan. To mitigate the aforementioned effects threatening Jordan’s water supply and working towards achieving the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goal 6, USAID works in conjunction with the government of Jordan to build sustainable water and wastewater infrastructure, train hundreds of water experts in Jordan, promote water conservation and strengthen water governance.

  10. Profound progress is seen in the increase in access to water, hygiene services and sanitation in Jordan. From 2000 to 2015, 2,595,670 people gained access to safely managed water services and 2,212,419 people gained access to safely managed sanitation services. In addition, homelessness in Jordan is very rare, meaning open defecation and the illnesses associated with homelessness are less prevalent.

Despite Jordan’s desert climate, clean water and efficient sanitation are achievable and make up the groundwork of global prosperity. Sanitation in Jordan is of the utmost priority in ensuring that Jordan can become a durable consumer and competitor of leading nations.

 Sharon Shenderovskiy
Photo: Flickr

Facts About Sanitation in Costa Rica
Costa Rica is a truly unique place; it contains 5 percent of the world’s biodiversity and people categorize it as one of the happiest countries in the world. Its economy is stable, showing a little more than a 3 percent yearly growth rate. Costa Rica has had some challenges with sanitation but is working to improve it throughout the country. Below are 10 facts about sanitation in Costa Rica.

10 Facts About Sanitation in Costa Rica

  1. Around 99 percent of the population has access to a water source, but only 82 percent have continued access to a reliable water drinking source. This number has improved since 2015 when only 92.4 percent of people had access to a clean water source. Moreover, clean water access is continuing to improve with community and public-based programs such as Acueductos y Alcantarillados (AyA), an organization that works to raise funding to expedite current projects to provide nationwide access to water.
  2. Costa Rica’s unpredictable climate and susceptibility to natural disasters are its biggest hurdles to developing better infrastructure for water sanitation. For example, a drought in Costa Rica from 2014 to 2016 caused by El Niño drastically hindered the construction of new infrastructure to expand water access in the country. A study by the Inter-American Development Bank predicts that Costa Rica’s water supply will reduce by half by 2050, despite increasing demand.
  3. The Integrated Water Supply Programme for Guanacaste (PIAAG) works with other organizations to implement fixed and long-lasting solutions to water sanitation. Proposed solutions to improving water sanitation include irrigation, drainage and drinking water projects. More institutions developed a plan from 2018-2030 to maintain ecosystems while improving water sanitation and access.
  4. Pollution of water sources, mainly through human activity and inefficient land usage, also drastically affects the availability of water to citizens. In order to fix the problem of water pollution, Costa Rica provides incentives to clean up water sources. The National Water Laboratory monitors the use of agricultural pesticides and their runoff.
  5. Costa Rica currently treats only 14 percent of wastewater before releasing it to the public, but Costa Rica is trying to fix this problem. The National Wastewater Sanitation Plan emerged in 2017, and it hopes to safely manage all wastewater by the year 2045. The organization allocated $3.6 million to expand access to water in urban areas and $2.5 million to increase water access and quality in rural areas. The National Wastewater Sanitation Plan became public policy in 2017.
  6. Across the country, several projects to clean sewage are taking place, including eight projects in tourist areas and 10 to improve the conditions of existing sewage plants. For example, the Administrations Associations of the Systems of the Aqueducts and Communal Sewers (ASADAS) works to build, monitor, operate and maintain rural water aqueducts. Water sanitation projects in Costa Rica receive funding from inside the country and from foreign countries, like Germany, which funded eight coastal projects.
  7. The fast population growth and desire of citizens to live in urban areas of the country, rather than rural areas, has further complicated the sewage problem. This, in some cases, leaves inadequate sewage in the overcrowded cities. In the most populated cities, only 19.4 percent of sewage receives treatment. Many regulations in Costa Rica, such as “Ley General de Salud” (General Health Law), have emerged to establish basic requirements for water sewage in Costa Rica.
  8. Costa Rica’s Ministry of Health is an important organization that works to provide people improved access to sanitation. For example, the Ministry of Health controls the National Observatory of Human Resources in Health. It establishes academic and research institutions to study the causes and effects of poor sanitation, along with social government organizations that advocate for government action through public policy.
  9. During Hurricane Otto in 2016, waterborne viruses such as Zika and dengue spread among the population, and the Ministry of Health sent workers to help control the outbreak. Soon after, President Luis Guillermo Solís stated that the government would build more toilets, showers and water fountains for residents. The Ministry of Health also sends garbage trucks to pick up trash around especially populated urban areas.
  10. The last of the 10 facts about sanitation in Costa Rica discusses child mortality in Costa Rica, which has decreased greatly over the past few decades, going from 68 per 1,000 live births in 1970 to about 8.8 per 1,000 live births in 2018. One can attribute the decrease to an extension of health care programs to rural and communal areas.

While Costa Rica still has far to go in improving its sanitation, the overall sanitation of the country has improved greatly over the past few decades. These 10 facts about sanitation in Costa Rica demonstrate Costa Rica’s planned pathway to improving sanitation, and overall, Costa Rica’s future is looking bright.

– Shveta Shah
Photo: Flickr

Life expectancy in Bosnia and Herzegovina
Bosnia and Herzegovina is a country located in the Balkan region of Eastern Europe. The country has been one of the center points of the Yugoslavian Wars that tore across the area in the 1990s. It was the location of countless atrocities, such as the massacre at Srebrenica in 1995. The impact of these events still exists across the country today, despite 25 years of improvements and advancements. Part of this impact was the reduction in life expectancy in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Bosnia and Herzegovina

  1. Life Expectancy: Life expectancy in Bosnia and Herzegovina is around 77 years. This is more than most of the other countries in the Balkans, surpassed only by Greece, Montenegro and Croatia. However, in the European Union, life expectancy is the average of 81 or the Balkan average of 77. All of the Balkan countries are above the world average of 72 years despite genocide and war afflicting them.
  2. Instability: The country’s average life expectancy was on a linear growth before the wars and peaked at 71.6 in 1987. However, the loss of life and general prosperity from the instability of late Yugoslavia followed by the violence of the wars and genocide caused a massive dip in this figure. In fact, its life expectancy did not return to prewar figures until 1995.
  3. Reduced Life Expectancy: Before the war, the population peaked at 4.5 million people in 1989. In contrast, up to an estimated 300,000 fatalities massively dented this figure. By 1996, a quarter of the pre-war population displaced while around 1.2 million fled the country in a mass migration. Additionally, high-income families generally have a higher life expectancy which links to the reason behind the life expectancy loss.
  4. Life Expectancy Growth: Life expectancy in Bosnia and Herzegovina has grown by 6.6 percent from 1996 until 2017. This is slower than the world growth of 8.7 percent in the same time frame. This is likely due to poor economic growth and countless health issues.
  5. Air Pollution: Large amounts of air pollution result in many premature deaths. It also reduces general life expectancy in Bosnia and Herzegovina by at least 1.1 years overall. Poor control over energy generation pollution output has cost the people of the country 130,000 years of life overall in the last 10 years. This is due to poorer respiratory health and increased incidences of lung cancers. To combat this, cities and decisionmakers within the country are coordinating with an organization like the U.N. Environment. They will switch energy production from polluting sources such as old coal generators to renewables. For example, the project District Heating in Cities Initiative is attempting to replace the heating oil system of the city Banja Luka to biomass generators. This will cut emissions by 90 percent.
  6. Life Expectancy Disparities Between Genders: The differences in life expectancy between genders are significant. As men live an average of 74.6 years, while women live five years more on average at 79.5 years. This is likely caused by various social conditions such as the expectation for men to take on more dangerous jobs. In addition, suicide rates are disparately high in men compared to women.
  7. Death Rate: Bosnia has a very high death rate. It is the 39th highest in the world at 10 deaths for every 1,000 people. This is due to air pollution, destroyed infrastructure from the war and water shortages. Also, many areas of the country have poorly rebuilt electric networks and poor train lines or road systems. Due to this, reactive health care has suffered in many areas, making it impossible for people to get to hospitals. However, with investments and concentrated efforts, this has been changing for the better. As the country rebuilds train lines and improves roads, motorway fatalities have gone from dozens a year to simply two in 2014.
  8. The Poverty Rate: The poverty rate in the country is 2.2 percent, but lack of health does not contribute greatly to its poverty rate. This means many of those in poverty do not struggle with health care issues. This is due to the fact that the government provides health insurance to even the unemployed, reducing out-of-pocket costs for the country’s poor on these issues.
  9. Health Care Spending: The majority of health care spending in the country is government spending. Around 71 percent of all health care spending is public funding. Of the 29 percent private expenditures, nearly all of it is purchases of household health materials such as bandages and medicine. Meanwhile, the country spends 1 percent on other expenses, indicating that these private expenses are less likely to be costly affairs that may serve to hurt the financial stature of citizens.
  10. Preventative Care: Preventative care is minimal in the country as programs like education and advising programs, immunization programs, epidemiological monitoring and disease risk control and disaster response programs only make up 1.8 percent of total health care funding. This likely plays a large part in the death rate as preventative care is extremely important in ensuring long lifespans. However, the government of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the European Union have been working in tandem with NGO projects to boost immunizations in the country including World TB Day, Immunization Week, Anti-TB Week and World AIDS Day. Additionally, the aim is to build trust in vaccines amongst the general populace.

These 10 facts show how damaging the war has been on the general health and lifespan of the population. While the years since have seen improvements, they have not been enough to bring Bosnia and Herzegovina to par with the rest of the world. Damaged public infrastructure, lack of focus on preventative care and deteriorating environmental conditions are some of the primary reasons behind the slow increase of the country’s life expectancy.

– Neil Singh
Photo: Flickr

 

Life Expectancy in Bahrain
The Kingdom of Bahrain is the island nation between Saudi Arabia and Qatar. This former British protectorate achieved its independence in 1971. Since the discovery of oil in the mid-20th century, Bahrain’s petroleum industry has been the backbone of the country’s economy and has become one of the wealthiest countries in the world. With its newfound wealth, the Bahraini government invested in public welfare, infrastructure and public sectors. This led to a steady increase in life expectancy in Bahrain.

9 Facts about Life Expectancy in Bahrain

  1. The life expectancy in Bahrain stood at 79.4 years as of 2019. The average life expectancy for women in Bahrain is 81.8 years, compared to 77.1 years for men. Bahrain ranks 52nd in terms of average life expectancy when compared to the entire world. The U.N. estimates that Bahrain’s life expectancy will increase to 81.16 years by 2050.
  2. The biggest increase in life expectancy in Bahrain occurred during the 1960s. After the country’s discovery of oil in 1931, Bahrain reported strong economic growth in the subsequent decades which positively impacted life expectancy. However, since the 1970s the rate of increase in life expectancy in Bahrain has slowed. The life expectancy in Bahrain is on par with countries such as the U.K., the U.S. and Australia.
  3. Bahrain has both universal and private health care. For Bahraini nationals, comprehensive care is provided free of charge, which contributes to the overall excellent life expectancy in Bahrain. The central government mainly finances the health care system. Still, some citizens prefer to participate in private healthcare options in order to overcome the challenge of longer wait times in public facilities.
  4. Bahrain’s immunization program largely eliminated childhood infectious diseases in the kingdom. The introduction of the measles vaccine in 1974 was the saving grace at a time when measles was the leading cause of death among children. After the introduction of the measles vaccine, the Bahraini government conducted a successful nationwide vaccination campaign. By 1999, more than 90 percent of children in Bahrain received vaccines. In 2009, the measles outbreak included only 0.27 cases per 100,000 compared to 1985 when there were 250 cases per 100,000.
  5. As of 2019, the Bahraini government passed a new law that mandates health insurance coverage for all citizens, residents and visitors. Under the new law, expatriate domestic workers, such as housemaids, drivers, gardeners and nurses, will be covered for free.
  6. The leading cause of death in Bahrain is ischemic heart disease. Ischemic heart disease, also known as coronary artery disease, refers to a heart condition where the major blood vessels to the heart become damaged or diseased. Obesity and smoking are the leading cause of ischemic heart disease. The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that, as of 2016, 27 percent of Bahrain’s population smokes tobacco. WHO also reported that 29 percent of the adults in Bahrain were obese.
  7. The Bahraini government is set to finish the construction of a $32 million long-term health care center. Funded through the Saudi Fund for Development, this 100-bed facility aims to open in 2022. The facility will be equipped to treat patients who are afflicted with ailments that require long-term care.
  8. Bahrain’s suicide rate ranks 138th in the world. Bahrain is ranked relatively low on the suicide rate ranking out of the 183 countries ranked by the WHO. The data in 2016 shows that there were 5.9 people committing suicide for every 100,000 people in Bahrain. However, in 2019, the WHO also reported that Bahrain had the 5th highest rate of suicide among Arab Nations.
  9. In 2019, Bahrain is ranked as the most air-polluted country in the Middle East. Other countries such as Bangladesh, Pakistan, India and Afghanistan were among the top 10 countries on the list. Experts stated that emissions of oil refineries, power stations and fuel-powered transportation and burning of waste in open spaces are the major contributors to pollution in Bahrain. These pollutants in the air can cause a variety of respiratory complications.

Life expectancy in Bahrain is very much related to the country’s economy. Since the discovery of oil in the 1930s, the Bahraini government used their newfound wealth to bolster the country’s infrastructure and health care for its citizens. With the help of international funds such as the Saudi Fund for Development, Bahrain is further bolstering its health care system. However, the country’s declining oil industry and the pollution that they cause does give rise to concerns about the future of life expectancy in Bahrain

– YongJin Yi
Photo: Flickr

Plastic Waste Action and Poverty in IndiaWithin the last year, more information has come out about the consumption of plastics and their mismanagement. The information has spread awareness of the dangers of single-use plastics and encouraged using paper or reusable straws along with a number of other initiatives. Few, however, have been as transformative as one undertaken in India by the NGO Sarthak Samudayik Vikas Avan Jan Kalyan Sanstha (SSVAJKS). SSVAJKS has spearheaded a streamlined process of plastic waste collection and sell to recyclers. Though SSVAJKS may be the only organization connecting plastic waste action and poverty in India, others are joining the efforts to mitigate the problem.

Large Scale Support

At least 16.5 million tons of plastics are consumed annually, 43 percent of which are single-use, packaging material. Around 80 percent of these plastics are discarded. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Clean India Drive promises to address pollution in India. In March 2019, India banned imports of plastic waste. By September, it banned single-use and disposable plastic products. Headlined by Modi’s speech on August 15 calling for the elimination of such items by October 2, the Indian government aims to reduce disposable plastics to zero by 2022.

In alignment with this initiative, Amazon India and Walmart’s Flipkart announced actions to remove single-use plastics from their packaging. They will instead opt for entirely paper cushions and recycled plastic consumption by March 2021. In June 2018, PepsiCo India vowed to replace its plastic Lays and Kurkure bag with “100 percent compostable, plant-based” ones. This was countered by Coca-Cola’s goal to recycle one can or bottle for every one sold by 2030.

Sarthak Samudayik Vikas Avan Jan Kalyan Sanstha

While governments and corporations have addressed the future of plastic consumption, they neglect the areas where SSVAJKS helps the most. SSVAKLS is dealing with the existing plastic that has already been produced. SSVAKLS has the support of the Global Environment Facility’s Small Grants Program under the advisement and jurisdiction of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP). These efforts have connected the campaigns against plastic overconsumption and mismanagement with SSVAJKS’ recycling initiative.

The NGO began linking plastic waste action and poverty in India in the city of Bhopal in 2008. It developed a sustainable integrated waste management system for the city’s five wards, a model that expanded to the state level in 2011. Replicated across India in all of its states, this model relies on ‘ragpickers’ to sift through the waste and pick out plastics returned to municipal collection centers. These collectors come from highly vulnerable, socially marginalized castes and are predominantly poor, illiterate women.

Since partaking in this initiative, the incomes of the ‘ragpickers’ have vastly improved, doubling in many cases. The plastic they collect and submit to the collection centers is recycled into roads and co-processing in cement kilns, benefitting upwards of two million people. The overwhelming success of the NGO led to another SGP grant that enlisted “2,000 unorganized waste pickers” across the Bhopal Municipal Corporation’s 70 wards.

The Endgame

SGP hopes to build a sustainable plastic waste management system and ensure the co-processing of plastic waste. It will also increase the standards of living for 2,000 ragpicker families. New initiatives are introducing vermicomposting along with paper bag and cotton making units. The results are phenomenal. Ragpickers have collected 4,200 megatons of plastic, saving plastic from burning and emitting 12,000 megatons of carbon. Additionally, the ragpickers themselves are able to open bank accounts to accumulate their savings, lifting them slowly but surely out of abject poverty. The success of the SSVAJKS in combining efforts to address plastic waste action and poverty in India demonstrates the NGO’s capacity to tackle multiple issues at once and incentivize the solving of one through the other.

Alex Myers
Photo: Flickr

Indoor Air Pollution in Rural CambodiaCambodia has seen a rapid decrease in poverty within the last decade. More than 45 percent of the population was impoverished in 2007 when compared to 13.5 percent in 2014. It has also sustained one of the fastest economic growth rates in the world at an average of 8 percent between 1998 and 2018. However, just because the majority of the country has achieved middle-income status does not mean that the country is without its issues. Indoor air pollution in Cambodia is a growing problem.

Rural vs. Urban Areas

Many of those who have only recently overcome poverty have just barely done so. A large part of Cambodia’s population still lives on a very small amount of money per day and is at risk of slipping back into poverty. This risk is much higher in rural provinces. Eighty percent of Cambodia’s population lives in rural areas that had a poverty level of 20.8 percent in 2012. That is three times higher than the poverty rate in urban areas.

Rural Cambodians are subject as such to the hardships that many of the world’s rural poor must face. These include dilapidated electrical and internet infrastructure as well as limited access to healthcare and sanitation resources. Indoor air pollution in Cambodia is one such aspect of health that affects the rural poor disproportionately.

Indoor Air Pollution

The typical symptoms of being regularly exposed to indoor air pollution include nasal congestion, nose bleeds, difficulty breathing, a sore throat and asthma. These symptoms seem similar to a common cold, but long-term effects can include more serious respiratory diseases like respiratory disease and cancer.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), air pollution is the greatest environmental health risk in the Western Pacific Region. In 2012, air pollution caused at least 3.2 million deaths. Indoor air pollution accounted for about 1.62 million of these deaths. Indoor air pollution is usually caused by smoking tobacco inside and by cooking with wood, coal or dung without proper indoor ventilation. Many people who are poor in rural areas with limited access to gas or electricity use these methods to cook. In rural Cambodia, the prevalence of these cooking methods reached 95 percent of households by 2013.

Biogas Stoves

The main solution to reducing indoor air pollution is to introduce efficient stoves that use clean fuel. One source of clean stove fuel would simply be electricity. However, that is an issue for rural Cambodians since the electrical infrastructure is sparse in rural areas. A better, more applicable solution would be to introduce biogas stoves with proper ventilation.

One million Cambodian households have the proper livestock to supply themselves with biogas fuel. The fuel would need to be extracted by using a biodigester that anaerobically takes methane from natural resources such as dung stored underground and siphons it to the stove. The methane would, of course, need proper ventilation to ensure the air in the household did not become poisonous just like a natural gas stove. Cambodia’s Natural Biodigester Programme (NBP) is working to distribute biodigesters to its rural population in hopes of combatting indoor air pollution. As of 2016, the state-led program has installed about 23,000 biodigesters.

The ACE 1 Stove

Using solid biomass for cooking causes much of indoor air pollution. Another alternative to solid biomass would be to use cleaner biomass stovetops that produce negligible emissions indoors. African Clean Energy (ACE) has launched the ACE 1 stove. This stove uses biomass as fuel but burns nearly all particles inside the chamber to leave barely any emissions. In addition, the stove comes with solar panels that provide LED lighting and outlet ports for mobile phones.

ACE has launched a program in northern Cambodia, the poorest Cambodian region, to try and implement the product. The ACE 1 is auctioned from a local vendor where the buyer pays a $25 downpayment. Afterward, the buyer continues to pay off the stove in small monthly increments of about $7.

Indoor air pollution in Cambodia is still rampant in rural parts despite the overall increase in income. The solutions are there, but in order to ensure economic growth that benefits everybody, Cambodia needs to focus on the implementation of these solutions in an ethical and sustainable way. This would lessen the health risks that the Cambodian poor face from simply living in their houses. It will also help facilitate more stable, lasting economic growth and development for the poor of the countryside.

Graham Gordon
Photo: Flickr