Poverty in Sierra Leone
Poverty in Sierra Leone is alive and well. Freetown, the capital and largest city in Sierra Leone, was founded in 1787. It was known as the “Province of Freedom” because it was a British crown colony and the principal base for the suppression of the slave trade. The Maroons were the original settlers, consisting of 1,200 newly freed slaves from Nova Scotia. In 1800, a rebellion of Jamaican slaves escaped and moved to Freetown.

The British Empire’s abolition of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade was mostly due to the efforts of William Wilberforce, Thomas Clarkson, Granville Sharpe and Lord Mansfield. They founded a naval base in Freetown in order to patrol against the illegal slave ships that still existed, fining every British ship found with a slave onboard.

Sierra Leone was officially named a crown colony in 1808. In 1833 British Parliament passed the Emancipation Act, which abolished slavery. As a result, over 50,000 freed slaves settled in Freetown by 1855. Their descendants, known as the Krios, now live in a multi-ethnic country. Krio is a widely spoken language throughout the country that some ethnic groups speak, though English is the official language.

Since Sierra Leone gained independence from the British in 1961, the country has experienced many economic, political and social challenges. A rebel group called the Revolutionary United Front plotted to overthrow the Joseph Momoh Government, causing a devastating civil war from 1991 to 2002.

The extreme brutality of this conflict caused over two million people to be displaced and resulted in more than 50,000 casualties. The war ended as a result of a U.N. peacekeeping and British military intervention. The country has made tremendous advancements in establishing a good government and keeping peace and security since the war ended.

Three years after the war ended, Sierra Leone was considered the poorest country in the world. Today, it is ranked at 177 out of 184 countries on the Human Development Index. This minor improvement is partly due to the assistance of international donors. Officials say Sierra Leone is on its way toward securing macroeconomic stability through democratization and stabilization, but large populations of youth who are former combatants are still unemployed, threatening the peace and stability of the country.

More than 60 percent of Sierra Leone’s population presently lives in poverty. Many people are living under the poverty line at less than $1.25 per day. The literacy rate is only 41 percent and 70 percent of young people in Sierra Leone are unemployed or underemployed as a result. The poorest people live in the Northern and Southern provinces of the country and consist mostly of landless people, particularly women in rural households.

The civil war and social unrest of previous years caused a severe economic decline that virtually destroyed the physical and social infrastructure of the country, leading to widespread poverty.  Sierra Leone’s development depends on consolidating peace, democracy and increasing its economic growth.

– Kenneth W. Kliesner

Sources: Global Finance, UNDP, Rural Poverty Portal
Photo: Justinsandefur.org

Vertical Farms
As developing countries slowly modernize, a whole new set of challenges await them. One of those challenges is increased urbanization.

Urbanization is a symptom of modernity that is usually accompanied by a decrease in overall poverty.

As countries implement 21st century medical care and sanitation systems, populations have increased in well-being and life span, which can result in overpopulated cities. As cities become more and more populated, resources will become more scarce. This is especially true for food availability.

Luckily, a new brand of farming is coming to fruition that will help address the problems associated with increased urban populations; it’s called vertical farming.

Vertical farming removes the farms from traditional fields and places them in warehouses several stories high. This allows producers to place farms directly in the cities and away from the drought and disease that normally threatens reliable crop yields. Utilizing hydroponic water systems and LED lighting, the farms provide the ideal environment for plant growth. The LED lights further allow the farmers to dial in the specific spectrum of light ideal to that plant. Fluorescent lights were initially used but proved to be too inefficient.

As LED lights have become more cost effective, they have created the ideal environment for vertical farms. Farmers are even able to program the light to change throughout the day, mimicking the movement and intensity of the actual sun.

The efficiency of LED lights is not where it could be, however. Many farms currently use lights that operate at about 28% efficiency though engineers are developing LEDs that operate at 68% efficiency.

For example, in the Netherlands, engineers at Phillips have successfully created an LED that operates at 150% efficiency.

The beauty of vertical farms is their ability to be greener, more cost efficient and sustainable. Imagine a world where India has vast swaths of its cities dedicated to vertical farming; the amount of relief that could provide to impoverished individuals is staggering.

An example of vertical farming’s potential can be found in Scranton Pennsylvania. Soon, it will have the world’s largest vertical farm composed of a single story building with racks consisting of six levels. The farm will be able to house 17 million plants.

When one considers the challenges urbanization will bring to developing nations, vertical farming presents itself as a panacea.

The U.N. predicts that by the year 2050, there will be 6.25 billion people living in cities. As such, food production will have to increase 70% globally to sustain 2.3 billion people.

The U.N. also predicts that reliance on traditional, “resource-intensive” agricultural products will continue to grow, consisting mainly of livestock and dairy products.

Vertical farms present an opportunity for the world community to truly address hunger. With billions of people expected to occupy world cities in the coming decades, the demand for food will only increase. Vertical farms growing food locally, in a sustainable environment has a chance to provide food for millions who otherwise would go hungry.

– Zachary Lindberg

Sources: BBC, New Scientist, World Bank
Photo: Amazon

By 2028, India’s population will rise to about 1.45 billion people, overtaking China as the worlds most populated country. Currently, 69 percent of India’s 1.2 billion people live on less than $2 per day. This means families are struggling to provide basic human needs, often living on the streets or creating entire slum villages out of scrap material.

India’s expansive population and unequal distribution of economic opportunity has led to alarming levels of hunger and malnutrition.

The Global Hunger Index 2013, developed by the International Food Policy Research Institute along with Wealthungerhilfe, Institute of Development Studies and Concern Worldwide, ranks India 105 out of 120 countries.  This ranking is based on indicators of undernourishment, children under five underweight and child mortality of which India reported 17.5 percent, 40.2 percent and 6.1 percent, respectively.

Due to widespread poverty, hunger and perhaps, political gamesmanship, India has enacted the National Food Security Act (NFSA.)  This ambitious and controversial piece of legislation aims to supply nearly 800 million people with monthly food grains.  This includes 75 percent of the rural population and 50 percent of the urban population.

The monthly allotment is 5 kilograms of a combination of wheat, rice and coarse grains at approximately $.05, $.03 and $.02 per kilogram, respectively.  Those deemed extreme cases, about 24 million people, would receive up to 35 kilograms of food grains per month.  To coincide with these additional welfare distributions, the new law also designates that pregnant women will also receive one free meal daily until 6 months after childbirth.

Women will also receive a maternity benefit of Rupees 6,000 ($98.)

Under the law, children up to the age of fourteen will receive a free meal.  It also requires the State Government identify children who suffer from malnutrition and provide them with free meals.

Critics of the new law raise the question of whether the NFSA is the proper response the India’s hunger problem. Spending even more money on welfare during a period where the rupee has depreciated could be detrimental to the nation’s economy.

Another critical issue that the central government must address is the current food delivery system.  Although the new law calls for reforms of the Public Distribution System, the government must ensure that a majority of the food will reach the intended beneficiaries.  Difficulties in identifying the most needy as well as rampant corruption contributed to only 40 percent of distributed food grains reaching their target destination in 2005.

This historic effort to combat hunger within one of the poorest nations in the world should serve as an inspiration to other countries.  Despite the vast amount of obstacles and the sheer number of impoverished people, India has decided access to food is a right not a privilege.

Sunny Bhatt

Sources: Time, International Food Policy Research Institute, USDA Foreign Agricultural Service, India Code

Photo: News.com.au


overpopulation public health
There is much debate whether overpopulation poses public health risks. Some believe it is the cause of hunger and poverty throughout the world while others feel that it has never been a problem.  It is important to shed light on this fear of overpopulation as its consequences are said to be evident in all developing countries.

Several reports about Africa’s growing population has been connected to the starvation of millions of people. Every year 32.5 percent of children in developing countries suffer from malnutrition. Sustainable population advocates have pointed to the approximate 200 million hunger-related deaths in the past twenty years. Deterioration in global biodiversity has also been linked to overpopulation. Substantial data of species loss has been presented by countries such as China, Brazil and Mexico. Human settlements that are gradually increasing according to the rate of population is said to ruin the benefits of nature and destroy habitats. The consequences of overpopulation is also suggested in access to education, primarily in Africa. In African classrooms, children are unable to learn due to overcrowding.  Access to water, medical care and housing are all diminished when there are more people that require aid. Data from the United Nations further suggests that by 2050, 10 percent to 15 percent of land that is farmed today will not be available. This could potentially lead to a food crisis as the current population increases at a faster rate.

Those supporting a sustainable population see hope in public policies being employed in countries such as Bangladesh, Iran and Thailand. Results from securing social services to women and families indicate a large decrease in undernourished people in Asia, from 23.7 percent to 13.9 percent. This downward trend from simply giving access to birth control and adopting policies that give aid to small families suggests that overpopulation is an issue that can be solved.  Policies that provide family planning to those in remote, rural areas in Asia has led to stability in undernourishment over time. By merely shifting the focus on public policy these countries quickly witnessed better health standards, quality of education and housing availability, all of which offer hope to the remaining developing nations.

– Maybelline Martez

Sources: Scientific American, Huffington Post, World Hunger

Kenya in recent decades has become a place of refuge for people from all countries in Africa. Nonetheless, this past week, Asman Kamama, the Chairman of the Kenyan Administration and National Security Committee, stated that Kenya would attempt to close all its refugee camps within the next two years. This goal, however, depends upon the stability and improvements made within the countries where the refugees are coming from, particularly Somalia. Of Kenya’s 592, 219 refugees, 476,635 (80%) of these refugees are Somalis.

Groups from Ethiopia, Sudan, Congo, Rwanda, Eritrea, Burundi, South Sudan and Uganda also compromise the population of Kenyan refugee camps. As a result of the mass amount of refugees, the populations in refugee camps have swollen and strained the resources available. For example, Dadaab refugee camp, located in Kenya, is ranked the largest refugee camp in the world.

However, the United Nations has denied that an effort has been made to close the Somali refugee camps in Kenya. Kitty McKinsey, a spokeswoman for the U.N. Refugee Agency, stated that the United Nations does not believe “that there is any order for the refugee camps in Kenya to be closed.” McKinsey added, “The Kenyan government and the Kenyan people have been very generous to the refugees over the years, and we certainly have every reason to expect that will continue to be the case.”

The fate of refugees in Kenya is yet to be seen. If Kenya does close the refugee camps, Kamama explained that the return of these refugees will be peaceful and smooth.

Lienna Feleke-Eshete

Sources: VOA News, All Africa

Photo: Womens News Network

Led by the University of Southampton, a team of researches have launched an online project, WorldPop, to map detailed population information of countries all over the globe.

With funding coming from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the website aims to provide open access to global demographic data which can be used to help combat challenges such as poverty, public health, food security and sustainable urban development. It combines country-specific data from national statistic services to construct detailed population distribution maps. Satellite imagery is also used to provide information on density, land cover and transportation networks.

“Our maps and data are helping charities, policy-makers, governments and researchers to make decisions which affect the quality of people’s lives. These could be as diverse as predicting the spread of infectious diseases, planning the development of transport systems or distributing vital aid to disaster zones,” said geographer at Southampton Dr. Andy Tatem, leader of the project.  “For example, in the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan, which struck the Philippines with devastating effect, international organizations were able to download information about population density from our website to help with estimating impact and delivering aid efforts.”

Each country possesses its own summary page that users can view high resolution maps showing population numbers, age distributions, births, pregnancies, rates of poverty and urban growth.. Currently, WorldPop provides free data for Africa, Asia and Central and South America. Researches now plan to expand the project to cover all continents of the world and stress that datasets are regularly updated as necessary.

“The global human population is growing by over 80 million a year, and is projected to reach the 10 billion mark within 50 years. The vast majority of this growth is expected to be concentrated in low income countries, and primarily in urban areas. The effects of such rapid growth are well documented, with the economies, environment and health of nations all undergoing significant change,” said Tatem.

– Sonia Aviv

Sources: Health Canal, Geospatial World, University of Southampton
Photo: WorldPop

Recent studies show that people with Asian descent are 1) living longer but 2) having fewer babies. Why have the birthrates dropped?

It seems that although the “perfect number” of children hasn’t dropped in the past decades – it’s at two kids – the actual feeling that having children “is necessary” has definitely declined. Parents tend to think twice these days before deciding to continue their legacy; inability to provide for the kids and personal goals with which childbearing would interfere seem to be the backbone of people’s reasoning.

The Korean government, for one, has noticed this statistical decline, and attempted to affect it by offering improved maternity leave and other similar privileges. However, these seem to be only weak incentives for couples merely considering postponing childrearing. Speculatively, more long-term measures – such as guaranteed education for the children’s future – may be needed instead.

If it remains unchanged, the birth rate decline may cause Japan’s population to decline at 38% every 30 years. Growing up during high levels of economic growth, prospective parents today are more apprehensive of having children as the economy is now worse off.

In an attempt to alleviate the danger of this sharp decline, governments worldwide have funded and employed new strategies. In Singapore, for example, eleven new dating agencies were endorsed by the government. Marriage coordinators, speed dating events, and matchmaking agencies are on the rise now precisely for that reason; leaders are attempting everything within their reach to solve the growing issue.

Private companies and governmental agents alike are working hard to sway the statistics of declining birthrates in Asia. When faced with overpopulation, this does not sound like an issue at all. However if things remain unchanged, twenty or so years down the road the real issue will become that much more apparent. There will be a smaller youth population, creating discrepancies in the economy and in social strata alike.

– Natalia Isaeva

Sources: East West Center, CNBC
Photo: Telegraph