Information and stories about poverty reduction.

Poverty in South Africa
Known today as the “rainbow nation,” South Africa has a fast-paced economy with a pluralistic and diverse culture and history. However, the ramifications of the apartheid regime still continue to be an impediment to social and economic development and alleviating poverty in South Africa due to its impacts on the social structure, security nets and family life.

Poverty Statistics

Due to the apartheid legacy, income inequality remains prevalent with 1 percent of the population owning nearly 70.9 percent of the nation’s wealth. The unemployment rate currently stands at nearly 28 percent due to the recessionary conditions in the country.

According to a report by the Children’s Institute (CI) at the University of Cape Town, six million children still continue to live below the food poverty line. Despite the efforts of the organizations like Child Support grant, the administration in South Africa struggles to deal with the implementation of care arrangements for these children especially those who live in more remote and rural communities.

Failed Economic Reforms

Since the collapse of apartheid in the country, the African National Congress (ANC) party has embarked on a variety of neo-liberal and market reforms to liberalize the trade and commerce of the economy to avoid a potential poverty trap. Yet, these policies exacerbated disparities and inequalities in the economy and cast a great degree of skepticism about mainstream economics and neo-liberal policies centered around deregulation and privatization. Unregulated market approaches financial flows and capital were a breeding ground for corruption and bribery among top levels of state and private institutions in the country particularly during the era of President Jacob Zuma.

Government Actions

However, along with the continued efforts from the Child Support grant and similar outreach programs, a deeper collaboration between families and the state is being recommended as a solution to the problem. Under the policy, more than 12 million children benefit every month. Access to more information about relevant childcare arrangements and health care programs will also be effective in improving awareness among families.

Moreover, state income support is being recommended to decrease inequalities measured in Gini values from 0.69 to 0.6 and to decrease the number of people who live on a monthly income lower than $30 from 39 percent to zero. The implementation of the National Development Plan (NDP) is a government agenda that aims to address poverty in South Africa by allocating budgets and improving public services and infrastructure by 2030.

Chances for Growth

Under the administration of new President Cyril Ramaphosa, the country is stepping investments on more ambitious infrastructure projects. Foreign investment from countries like China, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates is expected to be worth a collective $100 billion.

Furthermore, education reform is vital to not only address poverty in South Africa but also to help townships progress from the apartheid-era Bantu education system, which was an aspect of the law that enforced racial segregation in schools. Yet, efforts to change the current situation is underway, with an increase in pre-school enrollment and the number of university graduates.

In 2011, the multidimensional poverty index was introduced to better analyze poverty in South Africa and recommend sustainable solutions toward remediating some of its associated issues. A combination of social indicators like education, health care and quality of life is now assessed. Fortunately, under this poverty index, there was a decline in poverty by over 13 percent between the years 2001 and 2011. The sample can be improved further by combining a series of other factors like financial, transport and other assets as well.

To conclude, even though South Africa continues to be a modern economically developing country grappling with problems from a complicated history, a strong foundation will yield good progress in the long run and help the country overcome its many economic and social challenges.

– Shivani Ekkanath

Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Madagascar
Even with the 2013 election of a new president that ended a five-year political deadlock, poverty in Madagascar was still a huge problem. Electing Hery Rajaonarimampianina brought fresh hope to the people of Madagascar. However, the National Assembly voted to impeach him after just 18 months of his presidency because they did not feel that he was following through with his campaign promises. Ultimately, they were unsuccessful, but the political situation remains unbalanced. Even though Madagascar has rich soil for crops and a wide variety of wildlife, it has been damaged by years of political turmoil, so poverty remains an ongoing issue.

Political and Economic Instability

If political stability can be restored, it could mean great things for Madagascar. John Stremlau, the vice president of peace programs at the Carter Center in the United States said after the 2013 election, “It has great resources, it has great promise, but it has been hurt by the sanctions that have been in place now for five years. The per capita income is very low, down to less than a dollar a day for 90 percent  of the people, so that this is a new beginning, an opportunity, but the hard work of building a democratic process has only just begun.”

The best way for Madagascar to reduce poverty is by utilizing economic growth. Multiple cities were hit by harsh weather in 2017, which affected agriculture in the areas. Rice crops, a popular trade food and export item, were ruined. The production of rice fell while the price of it increased. While working on repairing the damage from lost crops, the country has increased economically in other ways.

Besides rice, items like cloves, vanilla, cocoa beans and essential oils have flourished, increasing the performance of goods exported to other countries. Economic growth has increased from 4.2 percent to 5.0 percent from 2017 to 2018. With this growth, the country is more likely to achieve its goal of reducing the number of people living below the poverty line by the year 2020. The next step is to provide financial inclusion to those without access to financial services to further ensure the rise out of poverty.

Poverty and Malnutrition

Food poverty affects the children of Madagascar much more than the adults of the country. More than half of Madagascar’s children are chronically malnourished, creating an effect called “stunting”. They are half the size they should be, and some children will not even make it to secondary school, let alone adulthood. Malnutrition damages the body and mind, sometimes irreversibly.

Malnutrition is an increasing concern for parents. “They are seven, they should be much bigger,” says Rasoanandranson, a mother of five children. Her boys at eight years of age resemble five-year-old children. Families grow small quantities of crops rich in nutrients like sweet potato, avocado and maize, but the harvest only lasts two to three months tops. Unfortunately, mothers like Rasoanandranson are eventually forced to sell their food for other much-needed household items, hygiene items an school supplies.

There is still hope for these families and in the near future. In May 2017, the country set out to achieve their goal of reducing malnutrition from 47 percent to 38 percent by 2021. The goal can be achieved by building more nutrition centers and recruiting more volunteers to educate villages on proper nutrition. There is another player to this game that will help fight malnutrition, and that’s clean water and sanitation services.

Hygiene and Sanitation

Poverty in Madagascar has affected the water and sanitation systems as well. More than half of the people in Madagascar do not have sanitation systems or access to clean drinking water. There seems to be plenty of water in the capital city of Antananarivo and other nearby cities, but the water is severely contaminated. Trash lines the edges of rivers and streams, and heavy rains wash away street debris into the water supplies. Waste from households without proper sanitation systems also gets washed away into the water supply.

On top of contaminated water, the piping systems that were previously installed are defective and leak at least 40 percent of clean water. With the population rising, conditions will only worsen; however, volunteers are working improve the piping systems and to educate people about safe water practices and sanitation. They have even started facilities to wash clothing to prevent people from further polluting the river by washing their clothes in it.

Programs like USAID, WaterAid and WASH are trying to improve conditions by first educating the community about food security and environmental programs. Secondly, they plan to improve local, community-based governance of water and sanitation resources. Thirdly, they will roll out a program called Triggering Health Seeking Behavior Change to promote good hygiene at the household levels. The final process is access to credit for the people to microfinance products for clean water and sanitation systems. With all the issues from malnutrition and contaminated water, how is Madagascar’s healthcare?

The Healthcare System in Madagascar

In the capital city Antananarivo, there are public and private hospitals that provide basic medical treatments and small operations. However, for more complex surgeries, patients are transferred to a hospital in South Africa. Although Medical services are actually free to the community, people who can afford it are advised to take out private, international health insurance for situations involving being transferred to a larger hospital for more extensive surgeries.

The most common diseases in Madagascar are malaria, leprosy and tuberculosis. The healthcare system is working to combat these diseases and, going back to the lack of clean water, it is strongly advised that people boil tap water before drinking or using it to cook. Though most of the hospitals are in cities and towns, Christian missionaries run hospitals in rural areas in case some people can not make it to town, but they cannot reach all areas.

Nonprofit organizations and volunteers are currently working to improve access to proper education about nutrition, sanitation and financial stability. Madagascar is on its way to becoming a better country for its people. Hopefully, the political situation will improve, and the government will begin doing its part to end poverty in Madagascar.

– Kayla Cammarota

Photo: Flickr


Hong Kong is one of the most densely populated and financially significant regions on Earth, but it also has a massive issue with income inequality. Roughly one-fifth of Hong Kong’s residents are living in poverty as of November 2018, with monthly income for those people falling below the poverty line equaling $700 a month. The average cost of living for a 900 square foot apartment plus utilities in a normal area for two equals $3,885 a month. In the text below, the top 10 facts about poverty in Hong Kong are presented.

Top 10 Facts About Poverty in Hong Kong

  1. The population is aging. With 7.4 million residents, Hong Kong is home to many people of older generations. The combination of changing technologies and markets has impacted those who served in more blue-collar jobs in years past. This has a dramatic effect on how they are able to pay for housing, food and basic necessities when white collar jobs are taking over the city. The government has provided handouts that have helped many in poverty, but what truly needs to be done is proper job reeducation and reassignment.
  2. Cohabitating with elderly parents is becoming necessary. As many young adults seek to explore their career paths and the vast megalopolis of the Pearl River Delta, they realize they don’t have the means to expand. In order to keep parents from falling below the poverty line and to give their future children exceptional opportunities, many young couples are forced to stay with their parents. However, this is only a temporary solution to the long-term issue of how to deal with economic struggles. Thankfully, the local and national governments are considering how to reengage the elderly through the use of their accumulated knowledge.
  3. Monthly rent is 70 percent of the median household income for half of Hong Kong. With the average monthly income of those below the poverty line not reaching the 70 percent statistic to pay for livable housing, a dark housing market has appeared. Illegal housing has entered roughly one in four structures in Hong Kong. In order to combat the rise of illegal housing and unlivable structures, the government of China must provide affordable and government subsidized housing rather than solely catering to the wealthy.
  4. Wages have not risen to meet the rise in housing cost. The average unskilled worker has to work 12-hours per day to afford a 100 square foot coffin home. In order to meet the needs of its citizens, Hong Kong must increase welfare payments in the form of Comprehensive Social Security Assistance (CSSA). CSSA must become more than just a safety net for basic needs and should fully encompass the needs of those in poverty in Hong Kong through food assistance and other means.
  5. Women are disproportionately affected by poverty. China has historically undervalued women. The one-child policy preferred boys and illegal sex-selective abortions were utilized. Hong Kong’s 2017 census stated that roughly 451,700 women fell below the poverty line, where only 80,800 men did. In order to fully engage society and bring skilled workers into the workforce, education and protections must be put in place for women and young girls.
  6. The poor are unfairly stigmatized. Those in poverty in Hong Kong are seen as being lazy for the position they’ve fallen into. This attitude speaks to a larger ambivalent attitude towards meaning and wealth in Hong Kong, as status and titles have unfortunately taken over humility and humanity. In order to combat this harsh attitude, people of Hong Kong must embrace the people in their society that make them uncomfortable.
  7. Cyber cafes have become havens for the poor. Hong Kongers who fall below the poverty line and cannot afford to house have taken to spending their days and nights at cyber cafes. For a low cost of entry, cyber cafes provide shelter and internet access between jobs for the poor.
  8. Hong Kong’s bureaucracy is one of the causes of the problem. The issues the homeless face could be solved, but government division has slowed progress. Separate departments cover similar issues but have no central governing body. Experts suggest that examples from New York’s consolidated Department of Homeless Services should be followed.
  9. Nongovernmental organizations could help Hong Kong. Government leasing of properties occurs in Hong Kong but leasing from nongovernmental organizations could greatly assist those in need. Government support of organizations who control these properties would allow for the poor and homeless to be taken care of effectively by trained professionals.
  10. The wealth distribution is uneven. The top 10 percent in Hong Kong earn roughly 44 times more than the lowest 10 percent who fall far below the top monthly earnings. This income divide is further pushed by wealthy business interests who influence politicians. This directly damages the ability of the poor and homeless to receive any assistance.

While poverty is a massive issue in Hong Kong, individuals and governing bodies can no longer turn a blind eye. For the sake of those in need, the country and its politicians must take notice of the damaged parts of their society, as it is shown in these top 10 facts about poverty in Hong Kong.

– Zach Margolis

Photo: Flickr

The West Bank and Gaza
The West Bank and Gaza are considered Palestinian territories that have struggled with political power since the Six-Day War in 1967. This dispute has been between Israel and Palestine and the end result of the war has left the country in political turmoil. This devastated economic opportunities, local livelihood, sanitation conditions and household food consumption. In 2017, the 50th anniversary of Israeli occupation and the 10th anniversary of the Gaza blockade were marked. This has been affecting all job opportunities and proper food aid from entering the region. All of these factors have only made it more difficult to live in already precarious conditions and more risk for the already struggling population.

Work of USAID

The U.S. government works closely with the authorities in Palestine to address the economic and humanitarian needs of the country. To improve economic growth, USAID has donated roughly $400 billion to improve in-house situations for companies and impoverished families in West Bank and Gaza. Providing basic needs like clean sanitation systems and safe work environments is essential to maximize productivity within the company and keep the workers healthy. Many companies suffer from a lack of resources and expertise for their products, so the project Compete will help business owners learn more about their product, how to maximize value for those products and increase employment within the surrounding areas. The goal is to increase competitiveness and revitalize the private sector, bringing to the table full-time jobs, part-time jobs, seasonal jobs and paid internships.

Food Sovereignty of West Bank and Gaza

Food insecurity is a huge issue in the West Bank and Gaza territory as over 70 percent of people in this area suffer from lack of food and proper nourishment. Some of the causes for this are also a global phenomenon, environmental degradation, rising food prices and Palestinian food sovereignty. With food sovereignty, a state can control its own food resources, though that state has to have a self-sufficient food source with the help of government-controlled policies.

Since the occupation in 1967, Israel has confiscated thousands of acres of farming land and then separated it with the West Bank wall. With the separation of land, farmers are struggling to keep up the health with crops due to vandalism and destruction from settlers and the military. In Gaza, 25 percent of fertile land has been destroyed by the buffer zone, a zone that borders Israel. Patrol boats in the area only allow fishermen 15 percent of their territorial waters, further reducing the areas self-sufficient food sources. With the limitations on trade, environmental issues, confiscation of land and destruction of land, food sovereignty is unachievable. This has hindered economic growth and social conditions to reduce the levels of food insecurity.

Clean Water Access

Access to clean, potable water is limited by the wall between the West Bank and Gaza. Beaches, rivers and lakes are polluted and overcrowded refugee camps create health hazards for the sanitation systems. About 26 percent of diseases in West Bank and Gaza are related to filthy water. During the winter months, household septic tanks overflow and mix with rainwater, flooding homes and streets in the area. During the summer, the heat dries the streets from the flood and the smell coming off the streets is so bad that families keep their windows shut. Mothers refuse to let their children out to play because of the rancid smell and infected water.

Diseases continue to spread as garbage continues to pile up in refugee camps. The Anera organization is working on building proper waste management systems across Palestine, improving sanitation systems in the process. In 2014, Anera reconstructed sewage lines damaged by bombs. In refugee camps, they are taking an approach where the youth take the lead. Through campaigns designed to clean and recycle, they have developed a staff to train on proper waste management and a new sorting facility. They are creating a cleaner environment for 13,000 members of their community so far and will continue to reach out and help their people.

Health System in West Bank and Gaza

The health system in West Bank and Gaza has been shaped by years of occupation, political stalemate, violence and human rights violations. The barrier placed between the two territories limits access to East Jerusalem, the closest area that has specialized hospitals. The placement of these hospitals is scattered due to the many health care providers in the country. With the blockade in place, Gaza’s health care locations are experiencing unstable power supply and recurring power cuts.

The medical equipment has been deteriorating because of inadequate maintenance and spare parts cannot reach them. The barrier has also made it difficult to transport proper medicines to treat patients. All of these factors are crushing the health care system in West Bank and Gaza, making people seek treatment elsewhere though traveling in and out of Gaza is heavily restricted. Even with these limitations, health care in these areas still thrives. With the help of the World Health Organization, technical support will be provided to health technicians and fund projects created for diseases affecting the population.

Even with all of these issues, West Bank and Gaza still work out solutions to everyday and past problems. If these areas can continue to receive the funding from developed countries and nongovernmental organizations, they can grow back into the self-sufficient economy they once had.
– Kayla Cammarota
Photo: Flickr

investing in Zimbabwe
Zimbabwe, a landlocked country located in Southern Africa, is becoming an interesting area for foreign investments. China is planning on investing more than $3 billion in the country this year. Some of the projects include investments in the hospitality, steel, mining and manufacturing sectors. China has been a major investor in Zimbabwe, accounting for more than 70 percent out of total Foreign Direct Investment (FDI).

Current Economic Climate

Acting Chinese Ambassador Zhao Baogang, stated that China has strong confidence in Zimbabwe. After the efforts made by the Government of Zimbabwe, China believes that more investments will be attracting, the economy will go back to normal and the country will become prosperous and strong. Baogang is referring to the past government corruption under dictator Robert Mugabe and the hyperinflation that caused many inhabitants to struggle to afford food.

With a per capita GDP of $1,000, many Zimbabweans struggle, finding it hard to afford even the essentials. One such indirect solution has been provided by external companies and nations investing in Zimbabwe, creating jobs and bringing the country out from poor economic conditions. Zimbabwean politician Patrick Chinamasa stated that he believes working with China is necessary and wise because they have been able to take almost 300 million people out of poverty. Chinamasa is the Finance Minister and trusts China to help the poverty-stricken nation grow financially. He believes that more jobs and less government corruption will help renew business interests in Zimbabwe.

China’s Past Investing Success

China has had previous success with investing in Africa. This year is not the first time China has partnered with an African country in a business venture. Shoemaker Huajian Group had a huge financial success in Ethiopia thanks to Chinese investment. The shoemaker is set to expand to Zimbabwe, opening a $2 billion shoe factory in the country. It will be Huajian Group’s second-largest shoe factory, second to their largest facility built in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. If the deal is followed through, over 15,000 jobs will be created.

Future of Investing in Zimbabwe

According to Baogang, 2019 is an important year, as many international companies have discussed or already began their projects in Zimbabwe. Jinan Sinotruck Co. is a Chinese light truck maker that is collaborating with Quest Motors, a struggling vehicle manufacturer based in Mutare, to help them succeed again. More outside investors are seeing future financial prospects in steel, a basic component in building automobiles.

Investing in Zimbabwe is one opportunity external investors view as crucial for lithium mining. The Bikita and Kamatavi mines are seen as viable investments as the world turns to electric cars, which, such as the Tesla Model S and Chevy Volt, utilizes power from lithium-ion batteries. Pacemakers and other battery-utilized medical equipment make use of lithium batteries as well. With the future automobile industry appearing battery-powered, more companies are becoming interested in lithium mining. Zimbabwe’s ambassador to China Paul Chikawa has echoed Baogang’s optimistic statements, stating that Chinese investors are interested in projects involving tourism, manufacturing and mining.

Other International Investors

The outside involvement in the country’s lithium mining is good news for Zimbabwe. Various companies, such as Prospect Resources, founded in Australia and listed on the Australian Securities Exchange, invested more than $165 million in Zimbabwe’s lithium mining industry through the Arcadia Lithium Project. The company stated that $3 billion in export revenue is feasible. Baogang mentioned that two other companies are interested in lithium mining in the Kamativi mine in Matabeleland North province and that some progress has already been achieved.

According to diplomats from Australia and China, several more investors are interested in investing in Zimbabwe. They are keen on expanding to a nation with many prospects in the mining, hospitality, steel, agriculture, rail and timber industries. With many investors interested in Zimbabwe, the nation is set to create new jobs and grow financially, providing its citizens with better living conditions along the way.

– Lucas Schmidt

Photo: Flickr

Poverty in the Philippines
As of 2015, 22 million Filipinos are still living in the depths of poverty. That equates to one-fifth of the population. Poverty presents itself in a vicious cycle affecting mainly the uneducated population who tend to live in large family units. These family units usually have only one head of the household who provides income for the entire family.

The Filipino government is actively trying to speed up its poverty reduction plan. Their long-term goal is to be able to provide more economic prospects, which in turn would help many of their citizens earn a higher and more stable income. A report by the World Bank shows how this economic growth helped decline the rate of poverty. Poverty in the Philippines dropped by 26.6 percent in 2006 to 21.6 percent in 2015.

Key Programs to Help Reduce Poverty in the Philippines

Some factors that resulted in the drop in poverty are the expansion of jobs outside the agriculture sector, government transfers and getting qualified Filipinos to help through the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program. This particular program which is a government cash-handout project has helped reduce poverty by 25 percent.

Most of the Philippines are hit with massive typhoons and still have an armed conflict. These scenarios are a real struggle to the everyday worker who, even after a long day, still goes back home poor. Due to these factors, many citizens end up leaving behind farm work and go find work in manufacturing hubs in the urban areas of the country. These jobs outside the agricultural dome have accounted for two-thirds of the progress in reducing poverty in the Philippines.

One of the key strategies to help bring down poverty in the Philippines is providing birth control to the poor. In a radical move for the heavily populated Catholic country, the President made readily available birth control to nearly 6 million women who cannot afford it.

Providing birth control is a powerful tool for families who now have full control over family planning. The hope is by giving the women and family units more control, they will have fewer children. This, in turn, will mean that families can provide more responsibly.  This new policy will help the government reach its goal of reducing poverty by 13 percent by 2022.

The current Filipino population is at 104 million and continues to rise at an alarming rate of 1.7 percent each year. This new law will enable families to control how many children they want. It will also hopefully take down the population rate to 1.4 percent each year once the law is fully executed.

Government Hopeful About Achieving its Aim

Even though the Philippines have worked hard in the past to reduce their poverty and keep up with their neighbors China, Vietnam and Indonesia, they still have a long way to go. Marak K. Warwick of The World Bank believes that with a solid foundation there is a reason to be optimistic that the Philippines can achieve their goal.

The goal for the Philippine government is to create more jobs, improve productivity, invest in health and nutrition while focusing on reducing poverty. If the government is able to execute its plans successfully, it is capable of reducing poverty in the Philippines by 13 to 15 percent by 2022.

-Jennifer O’Brien
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Madagascar
Since becoming an independent nation in 1960, Madagascar has struggled to find its footing and develop in the right way. The island nation’s economy and government have both historically proven to be fragile. Most recently, a coup d’etat, illegal and overt seizure of a state, temporarily transferred political power to military authority in 2009. This societal fragility has contributed to the rate of poverty in Madagascar, that is currently among the highest in the world.

However, Madagascar’s outlook has been looking up since 2013. The country held U.N.-sanctioned elections that led to a peaceful transfer of power. The economy immediately responded with modest, but increasingly promising growth. Madagascar’s GDP was projected to grow by 5 percent in 2018.

Unfortunately, poverty rates have held relatively steady despite these economic gains. In 2017, more than three out of every four citizens of the country lived on less than $1.90 a day. With numbers of poverty being this high, raising people out of poverty has to be the main goal of Madagascar’s government and the international community.

Problems related to Poverty in Madagascar

Poverty in Madagascar is complex and entrenched. Rates of poverty are high throughout the country, but they are worst in rural areas. The country’s poor access to water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) facilities is most inconsistent in these areas, where only 35 percent of the population has improved access to clean water.

Electricity, food, and schooling are all hard to come by for the country’s poorest as well. Only 15 percent of the country’s population had access to electric power in 2015 and nearly half of Malagasy children are severely malnourished. These and other societal factors influence the low rate of children enrolled in primary education, which was under 70 percent in 2012.

Most Malagasy people work in agriculture, often producing cash crops like coffee and vanilla. These jobs are far from stable, however. Madagascar’s location off the Southern Coast of Africa leaves the country vulnerable to natural disasters. These disasters not only immediately impact the people caught in their path but contribute to the difficulties in maintaining infrastructure in rural areas.

The Beginning of Progress

Despite all these difficulties, the development in the last five years gives several real reasons for hope. The first of these reasons is related to political stability Madagascar has enjoyed since the 2013 elections. The international community was reluctant to invest aid money in Madagascar during and around the crisis of 2009, but that reluctance seems to have passed. In 2016, the World Bank and the United National Development Programme dedicated $6.4 billion for the country’s infrastructure between 2017 and 2020.

The political stability also opened access to U.S. and European markets for Madagascar. These new markets helped drive the recent economic growth. The World Bank has consistently argued that Madagascar’s government will have to intentionally include the country’s poorest in order to have a real effect on their lives. The current government has shown a willingness to take initiative to address the problems affecting these citizens.

Government’s Role in Reducing Poverty in Madagascar

The government hopes to leverage the growing economy to develop a healthy tax base. With that added funding, the focus can shift to building up infrastructure, education and disaster relief around the country. Past relief efforts have been plagued by corruption, but the government has begun passing anti-corruption laws and encouraging greater judicial oversight of these cases.

Another government role in encouraging economic growth is providing business incentives and greater access to both physical and online banking services around the country. The government hopes that these initiatives will provide new jobs to the rapidly-growing population, provide more stability and diversity to the economy in general, and provide financial flexibility that could protect people from having their entire lives overturned by disasters.

Looking Forward

Progress has been slow, but positive trends are beginning to appear. Madagascar’s economy is hardly a world powerhouse, but it is slowly climbing up the ranks of the World Bank Doing Business ranking and the United Nations Development Program Human Development Indicator. Poverty in Madagascar is also expected to drop by two percent over the next two years.

Madagascar will have to pass a few more important markers before a long-term positive trend is certain. For example, another peaceful transition of power after the 2018 election, resolved in December, will mean a lot in a  long run for ensuring the stability of the country and for achieving the ultimate goal of eradicating poverty in Madagascar. That being said, Madagascar, as one of the most impoverished nations in the world, is finally making progress despite many difficulties. That’s something that should inspire hope in the country but in the international community as well.

– Joshua Henreckson
Photo: Flickr

Reducing Poverty in India
India, one of the most populated countries in the world, is a country that has benefited from the use of programs that are utilizing technology. Several programs have been implemented in the last decade that can serve as real examples of how technology is reducing poverty in India.

Reducing Poverty in India

Data from 2012 indicate that India contains the largest number of people living in poverty, at 270 million, with 80 percent of the poor living in rural areas. Most of these people living in rural areas rely on agriculture to make a living, and because men are leaving isolated villages to try and work in urban areas, women make up almost 50 percent of India’s self-employed farmers.

In 2016, the Prime Minister of India introduced a national policy aiming to double the farmers’ income by 2022. He advocated for a three-part strategy under which one-third of the farming sector should focus on traditional crops, such as paddy and sugarcane, one-third for poultry, beekeeping and fishery and one-third for planting trees to produce timber.

Crop Insurance Scheme

The Prime Minister also implemented a Crop Insurance Scheme to help farmers. They have to pay just 2 percent of the premium for kharif crop or those harvested in the summer season, and 1.5 percent for rabi, crops harvested in the spring, and the horticulture will be fixed at 5 percent. The balance premium will be paid by both the state and central government. India derives about 17 percent of its GDP from agriculture, and because crop output can change due to weather, this crop insurance scheme gives farmers a safety net.

Nano Ganesh

Another use of the technology in reducing poverty in India is Nano Ganesh. This is a mobile-based remote controller that is used to control water pumps from a mobile phone with mobile signal connectivity at both ends. The app is used as an interface between the high voltage starters and the low voltage GSM modules, which allows for farmers to turn the water pumps on and off and to check how much power is available.

Farmers can also check the water levels in the storage tank as well. This app saves farmers from making the long trek to distant water pump sites and also saves them from waiting on site to switch the water pump off when irrigation is complete. Since the app was introduced in 2003, it has over 60,000 installations in India reaching 480,000 people living in rural areas.

National Identity Card

India’s national identity card project was established in India in 2009 and represent yet another successful step in reducing poverty in India through technology. The goal of the program is to issue an identity card to each of the country’s over 1.2 billion residents. The card contains a unique 12-digit number that is linked to each person’s fingerprint and iris scans. Eventually, the card is expected to improve India’s basic education and health systems. The card could help check attendance of students and teachers in rural schools as well as the presence of doctors in rural health centers. It is also intended to serve as the basis for building a complete health information system.

In addition, the ID card is said to be sufficient for opening a bank account. Currently, over 50 percent of India’s people currently do not have bank accounts, and 90 percent of the bank accounts that had been initiated about a decade ago under a policy of opening bank accounts for all people living in India are now either closed or unused.

India is the second most populated country in the world. Due to this reason, and the fact that a large percentage of the population lives in poverty, the country’s government must do everything it can to improve the situation and alleviate poverty. Technological improvements and their usage were out of great help in reducing poverty in India, and future steps should be also taken in this direction in order to improve the situation in the country.

Casey Geier
Photo: Flickr

The Pele Foundation and the Empowerment of the Disenfranchised Edson Arantes do Nascimento, known widely by the moniker Pelé, is arguably the most popular Brazilian football player and had led his team to trebled triumph in the World Cup. But Pelé doesn’t have a one-track mind: he has one leg in the sports pool and the other leg in the social activism pool.

Previously, Pelé worked with FIFA as an ambassador against racism as well as with UNICEF to advocate children’s rights. He has moved on to inaugurating his own organization called The Pelé Foundation to empower impoverished, disenfranchised children around the world.

The Pelé Foundation

When first announcing the launch of his foundation Pelé said, “In 2018, I am launching The Pelé Foundation, a new charitable endeavor that will benefit organizations around the world and their dedicated efforts to empower children, specifically around poverty and education.”

Having grown up poor, Pelé developed an affinity for charity work. In the past, he had supported a multitude of different organizations including 46664, ABC Trust, FC Harlem, Great Ormond Street Hospital, Prince’s Rainforests Project and The Littlest Lamb.

In the future, Pelé’s organization plans to expand and cover issues such as gender equality and will eventually birth offshoot programs, not unlike other organizations of its nature.

Partner Organizations

Pelé isn’t alone in this endeavor. During the initial announcement, Pelé blazoned that he would be partnering with both charity:water and Pencils of Promise to fulfill his goals.

Founded in October 2008, Pencils of Promise (PoP) is a nonprofit dedicated to improving the state of education for children in Nicaragua, Guatemala, Ghana and Laos. Besides improving the quality of education, PoP also constructs schools and educational facilities, trains faculty, champions scholarships and supports sanitary programs. Backed by big names such as Justin Bieber and Scooter Braun, PoP is a big name itself in the humanitarian space.

Established in 2006 and having funded 24,537 different projects, charity:water is spearheaded by Scott Harrison. charity: water gives all donations to projects working to end the current water crises. Harrison said, “We’re excited to partner with The Pelé Foundation to bring clean water to thousands of people in the years to come. Having access to clean water not only saves hours of wasted time, but it also provides safety, health and hygiene. It directly impacts the future of children, and we believe it’s the first step out of poverty for rural communities all over the world.”

– Jordan De La Fuente
Photo: Flickr

 

Drug Law Reform
Reflecting on over 50 years of the War on Drugs campaign from today’s perspective, it can be concluded that strict drug laws around the world have proven to be costly and ineffective at reducing drug use.

Most governments engage in militarized approaches that target small-scale offenders and farmers. This approach devastates local communities and deepens poverty, particularly in the global south. However, human rights-based approaches to drug law reform around the world are paving a new way forward.

UN Conventions are International Guidelines for Regulation

The U.N. has placed three conventions to regulate illicit drugs internationally. These conventions require federal governments to prosecute anybody engaging in the production, distribution, sale or purchase of illicit drugs.

However, the problem with the drug laws around the world are not the U.N. conventions. The problem is that the governments have interpreted these conventions literally and they tend to focus on the criminalization of the persons involved in drug trade rather than educating and treating the participants in the right way. 

Drug law reform can still occur in line with the U.N. conventions since the conventions do not specify that governments need to criminalize drug use itself but they leave room for governments to create treatment and rehabilitation programs for drug users.

Existing Drug Laws Deepen Poverty

The current international drug laws hurt the poor people the most, particularly those in the global south.

In these areas, drug cartel leaders and large-scale distributors generally have the resources and intel to evade law enforcement. So when the government cracks down on drugs, the poor are hit the hardest.

Prosecuting small-scale offenders only deepens poverty. Small-scale farmers grow drug crops because they have no realistic alternative. These farmers already belong to some of the most impoverished rural communities.

When their land is not fertile enough to sustain food crops, growing drug crops becomes the only option. When farmers are imprisoned, their income prospects disappear and their families and communities are only left in deeper and more desperate poverty. A vicious cycle forms.

The Balloon Effect Hurts Local Communities

Just like squeezing the bottom of a balloon pushes air to the top, experts use the term “balloon effect” to refer to the displacement of drug production.

Government enforcement does succeed in driving away drug production––but only from regulated areas. Traffickers will often move to more remote areas where they can’t be tracked. But it’s in these remote areas that the ecosystems are most fragile.

Local communities in these remote areas rely entirely on their untouched natural resources to survive. When drug producers take over their land, these local communities are driven into poverty. It’s estimated that the illicit drug trade is responsible for 10 percent of the rainforest destruction in Peru.

Bolivia Takes an Innovative Approach to Drug Law Reform

Bolivia’s indigenous population has been farming and chewing coca leaves for hundreds of years in order to increase focus and productivity. But, as it is well known, coca happens to be the main ingredient in cocaine.

So as part of its War on Drugs strategy, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) forcibly eradicated many of these indigenous farms, violently arresting farmers and deepening rural poverty.

In response to this actions, Bolivia legalized coca production in 2011. The government limits the amount of coca that farmers can grow (they are allowed to produce on approximately the size of one-third of a football field), and the legal sale of this coca allows farmers to make a sizable income. With their income, farming communities can now experiment with new food crops as well.

This cooperative, community-first approach has led to the voluntary removal of nearly 10,000 hectares of coca. Over the course of four years after the implementation of the policy, illegal coca production in Bolivia fell by 34 percent.

Western Africa’s Model for Drug Law Reform Helps Drug Users

Experts across Western Africa convened for the West Africa Commission on Drugs and crafted a “model drug law” for the region. The model was published in September 2018 and aims to guide the region’s policymakers. It focuses on removing existing barriers to health care for drug users.

Globally, the risk of contracting HIV is 23 times higher for people who inject drugs. And out of all of those who inject drugs, only 4 percent that lives with HIV have access to treatment. The criminalization of drug use prevents many from seeking treatment.

Olusegun Obasanjo, Chair of the West Africa Commission on Drugs, highlights the necessity for help over punishment: “Pushing them to the fringes of society or locking them up in ever increasing numbers will not solve the problem.”

The model for drug law reform focuses on decriminalizing drug use and increasing harm reduction services. Harm reduction services, such as clean needle-syringe programs are proven to decrease HIV infection rates.

The War on Drugs has turned rural farms and already impoverished areas into battlefields. Arresting and imprisoning small-scale offenders, such as users and rural farmers, only deepens global poverty.

However, as proven in various different situations, human-rights based approaches work. Governments and nonprofit organization around the world can use Bolivia and Western Africa as shining examples of how drug law reform can instead focus on the specific needs of different communities.

– Ivana Bozic

Photo: Flickr