Poverty in the Central African Republic
The Central African Republic (CAR) is a landlocked country in Africa, neighboring Chad, Sudan, Cameroon and more. Although CAR has an abundance of natural resources, including gold, diamonds, uranium and oil, it is one of the poorest nations in the world. Following violence and political turmoil in 2013, the country is still recovering. Here are five important facts about poverty in the Central African Republic.

5 Facts About Poverty in the Central African Republic

  1. The Numbers: Approximately 71% of the Central African Republic’s population lives below the international poverty line. Additionally, due to violence and conflict, there are around 613,114 refugees from the Central African Republic and 641,292 internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the country. Health is also a major concern, with a maternal mortality rate of 890 per 100,000 live births.
  2. History of Poverty and Conflict: There are many reasons why the Central African Republic has such high poverty rates. The main reason lies in the history of the nation. After CAR gained independence from France in 1960, it had religious rivalries, a variety of ethnic groups and multiple political ideologies. Conflict between different religious and social groups as well as competition over resources caused widespread instability throughout the country. This culminated in a more recent outbreak of violence in 2013, which has left more than 2.5 million people in need of humanitarian assistance.
  3. Major Health Conditions: The leading causes of deaths in the Central African Republic include tuberculosis, diarrheal diseases, HIV/AIDS and malaria. In 2018, malaria, a mosquito-borne disease, was reported at a rate of 347.3 cases per 100,000 people. This represents a significant decrease from previous years, as there were approximately 434.5 cases per 100,000 people in 2010. Additionally, there are approximately 100,000 people living with HIV in CAR.
  4. Life Expectancy: Life expectancy in the Central African Republic is among the lowest in the world. As of 2020, it is only 53.35 years. This is a 0.64% increase since 2019, when the life expectancy was 53.01 years. Life expectancy is low in the CAR due to widespread violence and displacement as well as the aforementioned health concerns. In addition to malaria and HIV, 41% of the population suffers from chronic malnutrition. On a positive note, the life expectancy of the CAR has been steadily improving since 2002; in 2002, the life expectancy in the CAR was only 44.29 years.
  5. Education and Literacy: The literacy rate in the Central African Republic is also one of the lowest in the world, at 37.4%. The CAR is struggling to provide high-quality education for its children, particularly girls. Many girls find themselves dropping out of school because of the societal pressures to marry and have children. Only 65% of girls enter the first year of primary school and only 23% of them finish the 6 years of primary school.

Currently, organizations like the World Food Program, USAID and the International Rescue Committee are working to alleviate poverty in the Central African Republic and address the humanitarian crisis. Efforts include distributing food to internally displaced people, providing specialized nutrition packages for pregnant women, rebuilding educational infrastructure and recovering clean water sources. Moving forward, it is essential that these humanitarian organizations and others continue to provide aid and support to the nation.

Alison Choi
Photo: Flickr

Philanthropy in South KoreaThe Republic of South Korea carries one of the most uplifting stories of increased education and economic improvement. South Korea faces poverty among the elderly and an education gap between the rich and poor. Despite that, the country has launched effective policies for poverty reduction. These efforts expand beyond the scope of just South Korea. This article will cover advancements in national poverty reduction. It will focus on South Korea’s global poverty reduction and philanthropy efforts through organizations such as World Friends Korea and the Korean International Cooperation Agency.

Poverty in South Korea

South Korea has evolved tremendously in terms of poverty reduction and economic improvement. In 1945, around the end of the Japanese colonization, South Korea was one of the poorest countries in the world. In the 1950s, after the Korean war, 80% of the urban population was below the poverty line. Today, South Korea’s literacy rate is 96% and its poverty rate is close to 14%. This decrease in poverty and illiteracy is largely due to extensive education policies and NGOs within Korea.

The Beautiful Foundation

In the late 1980s, democracy consolidated in South Korea. Various NGOs promoted humanitarian principles and rights, create a flow of social-political interactions and offer a voice to citizens. In 2002, estimates determined that there were 60,000 nonprofits in South Korea. While many international NGOs such as UNICEF, the Red Cross, UNDP and Planned Parenthood have had chapters and projects in South Korea, there are plenty of organizations in the nonprofit sector native to Korea. Established in 1999, Beautiful Foundation is one of the largest Korean nonprofits.

The Beautiful Foundation dedicates itself to creating an impartial society where people practice sharing by spreading wealth across society. The organization has had a great influence on philanthropy in South Korea. The 1% Sharing initiative, for example, encourages all Koreans to contribute 1% of their salary or income to any campaign or cause they believe in. These contributions are even open to individuals that do not live in Korea. The Beautiful Foundation has used these donations for disaster relief, child hunger and even social issues.

Philanthropy within Corporate Korea

South Korean corporations represent almost 40% of Korean philanthropy while the remaining 60% comes from individuals’ charity. Korean corporations such as Samsung have used social media to promote and inspire others to give through online sites. Samsung has also launched campaigns such as Samsung Hope for Children which helps children access education and medical treatment through donations of products and financial assistance.

Hyundai, another large corporation in South Korea, has launched campaigns such as the Hope on Wheels program, which helps children with cancer. Since it began its philanthropic efforts, Hyundai has given $72 million to pediatric research.

Government Role in NGOs and Philanthropy

Although these organizations are non-governmental, the government still plays a significant role. Most NGOs receive government grants. Additionally, certain government factions or ministries, such as the Korean Department of Health and Welfare, host annual conferences to bring organization leaders, government officials, corporate workers and academic scholars to discuss further development and new philanthropic strategies and ideas.

Many NGOs are also policy-oriented and must meet with government officials to achieve their goals. NGOs can campaign for a range of socio-economic issues such as income disparity and economic inequality. For instance, the Citizens’ Coalition for Economic Justice (CCEJ), which is the oldest NGO in Korean history to address social welfare issues, persuaded the Korean administration in the 1990s to change housing eviction policies. It also lobbied for the construction of more homes which the government agreed to.

South Korea Gives Back to the World

South Korea has evolved from a country receiving international aid, to a flourishing economy ready to give back. The country is the world’s 12th largest economy and began its international philanthropy in the 1990s. The Korean International Cooperation Agency (KOICA), established in 1991, distributes aid to promote economic and social development in poorer countries. Worlds Friends Korea, which is similar to the U.S. Peace Corps, has worked with KOICA to reduce poverty and provide opportunities for growth. Since 1990, World Friends Korea has sent around 50,000 volunteers and has been active in 96 countries.

South Korea has also been involved in security and reconstruction efforts in developing countries such as Afghanistan. In 2010, the Korean Province Reconstruction Team (PRT) worked to strengthen local governments, administrative competence and productivity, as well as provide support for agriculture, education and medical services in the Parwan Province.

South Korea pulled itself out of poverty through strict education policies, massive technological and economic advancements and an abundance of support from NGOs. After seeing poverty worldwide, the people of Korea honed in on the values of sharing and the long tradition of giving. South Korean philanthropy was born out of “self-actualization” and the desire to accept and help others. From giving to its own people to giving worldwide, from corporate philanthropy and NGOs to government-oriented organizations, South Korea has truly encompassed philanthropy.

– Nada Abuasi
Photo: Unsplash

Hunger in MexicoMexico struggles with multiple food-related health issues that range from malnutrition to obesity. Many families do not have access to the proper nutrients that their bodies need. However, this is not because of a lack of resources but rather because they cannot afford the food that is available. Approximately 7% of Mexico’s population survives on less than $2 a day, making it difficult to afford nutritious food. This makes hunger in Mexico a huge problem for the country since many simply cannot afford to meet their basic needs.

National Crusade Against Hunger

In January 2013, President Peña Nieto created the National Crusade Against Hunger (CNCH). President Nieto designed the program to not only fight poverty and hunger in Mexico but completely eradicate it. He centered the program around five main objectives. The five objectives were to achieve zero hunger through adequate food provisions, improve child nutrition rates, increase monetary income and food production for rural farmers, minimize food loss during transportation and promote internal community awareness. The CNCH allowed Mexicans in local communities to choose what objectives they wanted to focus on. The hope was for the program to address the diverse needs of varying regions.

The Struggle Remains

Unfortunately, Mexico continues to struggle with poverty and hunger. Of the 126 million inhabitants, over 20 million Mexican citizens still do not have access to food. Two years after the CNCH began, Mexico’s National Council for the Evaluation of Social Development Policy observed that CNCH made no substantial progress towards the five listed goals. Additionally, the Federal Auditor’s Office found that the program only covered approximately 60% of the population. Moreover, those that the program did cover failed to report adequate data on the aid received. After advising that the program be shut down in 2018, the Federal Auditor’s Office labeled CNCH a failure.

Other Solutions

What has been done to improve poverty rates and hunger in Mexico since then? The Hunger Project (THP) has been a long-time supporter of the cause, having worked with the people of Mexico for over 30 years. By providing training, education and monetary support, THP aims to teach communities how to take care of themselves long-term.

In addition, food banks in the Mexican cities of Monterrey and Torreon also received grants from The Global FoodBanking Network in 2017. With this money, the Monterrey Food Bank was able to afford new equipment to store, process and sort fresh produce. Similarly, the Torreon Food Bank was able to purchase a large refrigerated truck, allowing for the transportation and protection of perishable food. Both food banks have since partnered with several companies and universities in order to help expand programs in order to assist more people.

The failure of a program such as CNCH can be disheartening. Even so, there are still many people and organizations that are actively working to make a difference. Hunger in Mexico is still a large problem but Mexico has immense potential to improve the situation. With the help of foreign aid, NGOs and a commitment from the Mexican government, hunger in Mexico can be alleviated.

Nicolette Schneiderman
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in PakistanPakistan, a country in South Asia, is part of the Indian subcontinent bordering India on the east side and Afghanistan on the west. Although Pakistan’s economy is growing at an exceptional rate, its population has not reaped much of the benefits of this economic growth. There are many factors to this uneven wealth distribution and high poverty rate. In order to understand the wealth gap and poverty situation, here are six facts about poverty in Pakistan.

6 Facts About Poverty in Pakistan

  1. The percentage of people under poverty in Pakistan in 2018 is 31.3%. According to the Business Recorder, the percentage of people under poverty in Pakistan is predicted to jump to 40%. By numerical standards, the poverty population will increase from 69 million to 87 million by the end of 2020. A value of 87 million is quite high in proportion to the country’s population of 212.2 million.
  2. In 2018, Pakistan suffered a macroeconomic crisis. The government had accrued a budget deficit of $18 billion by the end of 2018. As a result, this forced the government to limit its spending. The economic growth slowed significantly. The recent COVID-19 pandemic has further brought the economy to an almost standstill. This has forced the government of Pakistan to cut down on its spending. When a country’s economy shrinks, the government stops funding many welfare programs. Consequently, the people at the margins of poverty suffer, further increasing poverty in Pakistan.
  3. The COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately affected the poverty-stricken citizens in Pakistan. These people consist of women, children, the elderly and people with disabilities. They are far more likely to suffer from malnutrition and their health may be weak. Thus, the virus tends to spread in poverty-stricken communities faster. The U.N. has recommended that Pakistan should increase its essential health services to people in poverty because of their weaker health status. In order to improve the economy, the U.N. also recommended that Pakistan should pass fiscal and financial stimuli. This can alleviate the debt and help many people in Pakistan financially. As a result, it may prevent the poverty rate from increasing or at least slow down the growth rate.
  4. The United Nations Development Programme has established a COVID-19 secretariat at Pakistan’s planning commission. Their mission is to help stabilize the economic crisis occurring in Pakistan. The planning commission will also provide social programs to help the citizens affected by COVID-19. However, their main focus is on providing social programs to residents living in poverty. The planning commission has succeeded in assisting Pakistan in its crisis management amid this pandemic.
  5. Many children in Pakistan take up low paying jobs in order to provide for themselves and their families. Many of these jobs are hazardous and dangerous. However, the children have no choice but to do them in order to receive any form of payment to feed themselves and their families. By 2018, Pakistan has made efforts to limit child labor and indentured servitude. Many of these laws are still ignored and dismissed by the citizens, mainly due to children who willingly work in order to alleviate their families from poverty and hunger. However, Pakistan has made moderate advancements in diminishing and banning hazardous forms of child labor for children.
  6. There is some good news in Pakistan’s fight against poverty. In 2015 Pakistan’s then prime minister Nawaz Sharif launched a healthcare scheme for the poor. The scheme has largely been a success since it has expanded. In 2019, the current prime minister of Pakistan Imran Khan has stated that he envisions a future for Pakistan where it can be a welfare state similar to the Scandinavian countries. So far, his administration is working on furthering this vision by raising income taxes on the wealthy and instigating more welfare programs. In addition, the government is doing its best to continue fighting poverty and provide social programs and healthcare to the poor amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The government will provide financial stimulus checks to its citizens ($70, or 11,717.89 Rupees). This program is called the “Ehsass Programme.” So far this modest social welfare program has helped many Pakistani families financially. Additionally, the government is planning more programs in order to help its citizens amid the pandemic.

Pakistan’s poverty rate has decreased in recent years. However, the country’s current economic crisis, mixed with its fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, has put many Pakistani citizens out of jobs. This has further increased the poverty rate. The government of Pakistan is doing its best to fight both the COVID-19 pandemic and poverty in Pakistan. So far the government has provided many social welfare programs at a scale that they have never done in history until now. There is much more to do in order for the country to defeat poverty.

Sadat Tashin

Photo: Flickr

Childhood BlindnessFounded by West Virginian Doctor VK Raju, the Eye Foundation of America responds to the ubiquity of childhood blindness. Though less common in industrialized nations, blindness affects many societies throughout the world. Globally, 2.2 billion people cope with cases of vision impairment or blindness, 12 million of which are preventable. According to the foundation, combating childhood blindness may be the most cost-effective health intervention.

Eye Foundation of America

Most instances of vision impairment result from eye conditions. When eye conditions obstruct the visual system and one or more of its functions, if not treated quickly and effectively, vision impairment leads to permanent blindness.

Dr. Raju, the creator of Eye Foundation of America (EFA), grew up in Rajahmundry, Andhra Pradesh, India. His medical career in ophthalmology brought him to his current residence of Morgantown, West Virginia. Following his journey from east to west, Dr. Raju strengthened his ties to India and other developing countries through EFA.

Childhood vision impairments have an impact on education as learning is done 80% through vision. Therefore, EFA revolves around a singular mission: eradicating childhood blindness. The principles of service, teaching and research, underscore operations of the foundation. EFA sets up medical clinics across the world focused on training staff on ophthalmological procedures, screening local populations for eye conditions and maintaining a functional vision for the youth.

In four decades, EFA made notable strides in combating childhood blindness and overall blindness. In 30 countries across the world, EFA trained and educated more than 700 doctors and medical staff, conducted three million vision screenings and saved the vision of more than 350,000 people through essential procedures.

Early Intervention Prevents Blindness

In an interview with The Borgen Project, Dr. Raju affirms the importance of proper sight for children, without which “the child becomes a problem to themselves, a problem to the family and a problem to society.”

Reducing childhood blindness requires early intervention. If health care personnel identify eye conditions in a child’s first two years of life, the visual cortex still has time to develop and function properly. Conversely, if doctors neglect vision problems during this critical period of growth, the brain cells may never learn to see.

Disparities Between Access and Affordability

Dr. Raju traces the pervasiveness of childhood blindness to accessibility and affordability rather than incidence. He offers his home state of West Virginia as an example. In 2018, the U.S. Census Bureau documented the West Virginia poverty rate at 17.8%, which is 6% above the national rate of 11.8%. Despite relative poverty, Dr. Raju asserts that West Virginia residents enjoy excellent health care and ophthalmological treatment, regardless of whether they have insurance.

Two-thirds of the 1.4 million cases of childhood blindness occur in developing countries where Dr. Raju sets up the majority of EFA’s clinics. Accordingly, The World Health Organization (WHO) reports, “The burden of visual impairments and eye conditions tends to be greater in low and middle-income countries and underserved populations, such as women, migrants, indigenous peoples, persons with certain kinds of disability and rural communities.”

Vision Impacts Global Poverty

Mahatma Gandhi once famously declared, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” For Dr. Raju, the change is to see. Though often taken for granted, vision enables children to read, write and learn through seeing. Vision impacts education and education impacts poverty. Dr. Raju’s foundation addresses overall global poverty by addressing childhood blindness.

Maya Gonzales
Photo: Flickr

Hunger in maldivesThe Maldives, a series of islands bordering both India and Sri Lanka, has faced increased obstacles with food security and hunger. With a population of 515,696 citizens, it is estimated that over 10.3% are battling with hunger. However, increased efforts have been made to combat this rise in hunger in the Maldives.

Problem in Numbers

With various scattered islands in the Maldives, it must be noted that a majority of citizens live in urban areas. However, despite this setting, 17.3% of children in the Maldives are underweight while 10.6% are wasted — a condition where a child’s muscle and fat tissues dissolve away to the bone.

It is also estimated that 36% of babies are not exclusively breastfed in their first six months of life, leading many to not receive the necessary nutrients to develop. This heavily contributes to serious health problems in the future.

In addition to the youth being affected by malnutrition, it must be noted that the adult population is also facing a malnutrition burden, with 42.6% of women of reproductive age having anemia.

Causes of Hunger and Poverty

Food insecurity in the Maldives points towards a variety of factors. A recent cause is resultant poverty caused by a lack of tourists. It is estimated that tourism accounts for two-thirds of the nation’s GDP. However, recent border closures due to COVID-19 have severely impacted citizens on a national scale. With one-third of adult males and a quarter of females engaged in tourism-related occupations, thousands have lost their jobs, making it harder for people to provide food and other basic necessities for their families.

Climate change, environmental degradation and declining ocean health severely threaten food security in the Maldives. Rapid changes in temperatures, flooding and drought, impact agricultural yields, reducing the ability to locally produce food.

Another factor that contributes to hardships is the decline of exports in the fish sector. With fishery accounting for another large portion of the nation’s GDP, many families who depend on fisheries as their main source of income have experienced serious financial impacts.

Road to Change

Despite the increased rates of hunger among the Maldivian population, organizations have stepped up to aid the needy. A prominent organization is the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), which has dedicated itself to developing both fisheries and agriculture in the Maldives.

The main course of action for the FAO was to reassess the situation in the Maldives and open opportunities to grow the fishery and agriculture sector. Through promoting a stable framework, the organization enabled thousands to enter new jobs in the agriculture industry while accelerating demand for certain goods.

Another course of action was teaching sustainable practices to hundreds of Maldivian farmers. By helping with smaller-scale farms, FAO was able to heavily accelerate growth, boosting production in underprivileged communities. The FAO also helped equip farmers to thrive during climate change. The organization provided farmers with knowledge and methods to increase the productivity of their crops, livestock and fisheries in the face of adverse climatic conditions.

Despite great aid from the FAO, the Maldives continues to face problems in feeding the entirety of its population. Organizations like the FAO can help in the short-term but the Maldives needs government assistance to see long-term change. For the Maldives to see a reduced hunger rate, the government must act alongside nonprofit organizations to increase food security in the country. With the help of NGOs and the Maldivian government, the overall hunger rate in the Maldives can be reduced.

Aditya Padmaraj
Photo: UNDP

Poverty in the Southern Philippines: How the UN is Working to Support Citizens in BangsamoroBangsamoro is an autonomous region in the southern Philippines that has dealt with decades of conflict, natural disasters and poverty. Its majority Muslim population has little support from the government, leaving many vulnerable to the financial impacts of COVID-19. Its infrastructure is still developing as it only gained greater autonomy in 2019. With help from the U.N., the government is focusing on creating long term solutions. The government hopes to better respond to crises and provide essential aid to the citizens of Bangsamoro.

The History of Bangsamoro

The Philippines has experienced long periods of conflict concentrated mainly in Mindanao, an island that makes up a large portion of Bangsamoro. Clashes between Muslim separatist groups and the government have been fueled by the desire for wider self-rule and autonomy in the region. While little outreach towards Muslim communities has made it difficult to know the true numbers of Muslims in the Philippines, they remain a minority with various studies estimating that they make up anywhere from 6 to 11% of the population.

Moreover, after several decades of conflict between insurgent groups and the government, the Bangsamoro Organic Law was signed by the president in 2018 to provide a path to autonomy. In addition, an election in the Bangsamoro region ratified the law and the territory became autonomous in January 2019. The Philippine government gradually transferred power to prominent separatist groups like the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) which agreed to aid in the transition.

Poverty, Displacement and COVID-19 in Bangsamoro

One-third of the Philippines’ poor population lives in Mindanao. The World Bank identifies that economic advancement in the region is key to reduce poverty in the entire country. A major factor affecting the financial stability of individuals (specifically in Mindanao) is displacement. The Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) cites conflict and natural disasters as the main perpetrators of displacement. The Philippines lies in the Pacific Ring of Fire meaning it experiences a high risk of floods, storms and earthquakes. Typhoon Kammuri, which hit the Philippines in December 2019, displaced over 1.4 million people. In terms of conflict-related displacement, violence between smaller rebel groups fighting for the full independence of Bangsamoro and the military still occurs. This conflict mainly focused on Mindanao displaced 183,000 people in 2019.

The Philippines has the highest number of COVID-19 cases of any country in Southeast Asia. Coupled with little government support or social protections, the economic effects of COVID-19 have left a lot of families in vulnerable situations. With government measures being largely viewed as uncoordinated, case counts continued to rise despite the several lockdowns that were put in place. For low-income households, taking preventative measures against COVID-19 is difficult, especially for those who have large families to support.

U.N. Aid to Bangsamoro

The U.N.’s main focus in Bangsamoro is supporting vulnerable children and families. The organization cites that 74.3% of families were considered poor in 2018. More than two-thirds of children in Bangsamoro were in poverty. This is one of the highest child poverty rates in all of the Philippines. These individuals face more financial risks due to the effects of conflict and natural disasters on the region. To bridge the gap between the high poverty rates and the lack of government aid, the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization and Children’s Fund recently partnered with the government. The U.N.’s work will focus on building long-term structures for social aid, collecting data on poverty and strengthening emergency responses in the region.

Due to a history of instability, Bangsamoro is still a struggling region. The threat of COVID-19 has hindered development and caused a lot of financial devastation. As a result, this contributes to poverty in the Southern Philippines. The Philippines’ government has taken major steps towards progress by granting the region more autonomy. The government partners with the U.N. to provide essential and long term aid to vulnerable populations. With a sustained push for long-lasting solutions, the region will be able to progress both politically and financially.

Ann Marie Vanderveen

Photo: Flickr

3 Factors Impacting Poverty in PalauPalau is an independent island group in the Pacific located just southeast of the Philippines. In July 2020, Palau recorded a population of 21,685 people. The latest data from 2006 shows that 24.9% of people were living below the national poverty line. Despite this figure, the quality of living in Palau is actually among the highest in the Pacific. There are three factors that impact poverty in Palau; tourism, geographic location and non-communicable disease.

A number of factors make it difficult for Palau to maintain a healthy and growing economy. Palau’s economy relies mainly on the tourism industry, with trade-in fishing and agriculture as secondary industries. Because of its reliance on tourism and its remote location, Palau is vulnerable to external economic shocks or other global events. Since gaining independence in 1994, Palau has come a long way with achievements like universal access to healthcare, quality education and the formation of valuable regional and global partnerships. It has also moved towards a gradual reduction in poverty but still struggles with this issue.

In the 2019 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Palau identified the eradication of poverty in all its forms as its primary goal. To achieve this goal, Palau currently focuses primarily on supporting its economy, strengthening its agriculture industries and improving health services.

Tourism

Because Palau’s economy heavily relies on tourism, the small island nation is particularly susceptible to global factors that affect tourism rates. In 2019, Palau reported a GDP growth rate of -1.8%, showing a declining economy which was expected to continue declining in 2020 to 9.5% following a slump in tourism. The COVID-19 crisis is especially damaging to Palau’s economy as it has caused tourism to fall to an unprecedented low. Palau’s reliance on tourism poses a risk to its overall economic stability and vulnerability to poverty. High tourism rates are highly variable and dependent on global events.

In order to best take advantage of its tourism industry, Palau developed the Palau Responsible Tourism Policy Framework in 2015. This aims to pursue a more sustainable and lucrative tourism industry by moving from a high-volume industry to one focused more on low-volume tourism but with a high-value experience. These goals will be achieved through coordinated management between the public and private sector, community awareness and a focus on attracting high-value consumers with new marketing strategies. This shift will help make revenue from tourism in Palau less volatile. Therefore, it will contribute to a more stable economy and promote sustainable growth.

Geographic Location

As a small group of islands in the Pacific, Palau’s geographic location and topography make it susceptible to factors that can exacerbate poverty. Pacific islands are often vulnerable to cyclones, violent storms, tidal surges, drought and other natural disasters. As a result, it can wreak havoc on infrastructure and natural resources. Additionally, Palau’s topography is mountainous, and only about 2.2% of its land is arable. Because of its minimal arable terrain, Palau is currently unable to satisfy food demand with domestic production. Consequently, Palau is highly dependent on foreign food imports. This accounts for roughly 86% of Palau’s food expenditures being used for imported foods. This dependence on imported foods can be dangerous because even short disruptions in food shipments can result in the depletion of food stocks.

To address this issue, Palau creates a Policy to Strengthen Resilience in Agriculture and Aquaculture. It sets a target to meet 50% of food requirements with local production by 2020. New practices in pursuit of this goal include switching to more resilient crops. As a result, it can withstand natural disasters and saltwater intrusion, increase the number of farms and better manage farmland. Between 2015 and 2017, land used for agriculture increased from 306 hectares to 503. The number of commercial farms rose from 16 to 19. In addition, more students enrolled in agriculture at Palau Community College.

Non-Communicable Diseases

As part of its third 2019 Sustainable Development Goal, Palau indicates that non-communicable diseases are a factor causing people to fall into poverty. The report reveals that the main non-communicable diseases in Palau include cardiovascular diseases, cancer, diabetes, lung diseases and mental health disorders. These diseases are at extremely high levels in Palau. It accounts for more than 80% of deaths and lowering life expectancy. In 2011, the government declared a state of emergency in regards to non-communicable diseases. Additionally, the government addresses the issue through the promotion of healthy choices in schools and workplaces. It focuses on beginning preventative education in early childhood. To combat the proliferation of disease overall, Palau is vowing to strengthen its health systems. The country will provide accessible and quality hospital and primary and preventative services.

While Palau generally experiences a higher standard of living than some of its neighbors, economic instability, geographic factors and non-communicable diseases contribute to poverty. However, measures are being taken to strengthen and improve each of these sectors. Through these efforts, Palau is optimistic that it can become more resilient and achieve its goal to eradicate poverty.

Angelica Smyrnios

Photo: Flickr

Ending the Cycle of Poverty and Obesity
The McDonald’s Big Mac, one of the most famous burgers around the world, has a fair list of tempting qualities. It comes with two pure beef patties, the special Big Mac sauce, lettuce, onions, pickles and melted American cheese, sandwiched between two sesame seed buns. Its taste is well-known and for many, a tempting meal choice. But, perhaps the most tempting quality of the Big Mac is its price. All 550 calories of the Big Mac come to a total of about $5.70 in the U.S. That price is even lower around the world. In fact, the Big Mac can cost as low as $1.86 in South Africa. That stands in stark contrast to the price of more healthy food options. For example, a gallon of organic whole milk costs $6.98 at Walmart, about 22% more than an entire Big Mac. Price differences in healthy versus processed foods lead to a difficult decision for the consumer, especially if they are from a low-income household. The healthy choice becomes hard. Does their economic position sentence them to Big Macs and processed food? It is time to end the cycle of poverty and obesity.

Why is Eating Healthy is Hard?

According to most recent estimates, about 734 million people live on less than $1.90 a day. Additionally, about four out of five Americans will experience poverty or economic hardship at some point in their lives. Hundreds of millions of people are struggling every day to make ends meet and the all too common casualty of their struggle is their health.

According to the Harvard School of Public Health, eating healthy food costs about $1.50 more per day than eating a heavily processed diet. This number may seem small at first glance but adds up to an extra $2,200 per year for a family of four. They must choose between organic or conventional chicken, which can be a price difference of at least 50%. People living in poverty are simply unable to afford healthy food, resulting in a lack of nutrients, a diet lacking in energy-dense foods and even higher obesity rates.

The Link Between Poverty and Fitness

Food and exercise go hand in hand when it comes to overall physical health. Unfortunately, there is also a relationship between poverty and a lack of exercise. Nationwide studies have found that sedentary lifestyles are more prevalent in the poorest counties in the U.S. The correlation between inactivity and poverty is due to a myriad of reasons. For one, finances limit non-essential expenses like gym memberships, sports participation or paying for exercise equipment. Parks and sports facilities are also more regularly in affluent, not poor neighborhoods. One must even take safety into account because poor neighborhoods may have higher crime rates. The possibility of crime discourages parents from allowing their kids to play outside, discourages joggers and forces people to stay inside. Healthy food and sufficient exercise is a luxury. Many cannot afford such an expense to the detriment of their well-being.

The Cycle

Poverty can lead to obesity. Obesity can lead to poverty. The cycle of poverty and obesity together is a dangerous trap that imprisons many. For example, poverty leads to no access to healthy food and exercise, eventually leading to obesity. Obesity leads to further health complications and illnesses which may leave a person saddled with expensive medical bills. Lack of health, in general, leads to lower energy levels and even worsening mental health so that a person is unequipped with the energy and confidence to change their economic standing. Thus, obesity perpetuates poverty. The question is, how can society help break this dangerous cycle? Thankfully, some organizations are coming up with answers.

Unilever

Unilever is an organization that both identified the problem and produced solutions. Its recognition of the cyclical relationship between obesity and poverty encouraged the organization to release meal plans and brands affordable to all types of incomes around the world. Unilever has dedicated itself to making food that is nutritious and delicious so that making a healthy choice is easy. Unilever’s brands include Knorr, Hellmann’s, Lipton and more. Its options are sustainable and affordable with prices below the market average. Unilever also sells food through discount channels and donates to food banks to expand healthy meals to all populations.

Low-income communities often do not receive the chance to be healthy. The lack of gyms and affordable food traps them in the cycle of poverty and obesity. Thankfully, other food brands, gyms and organizations reaching out to low-income communities have joined Unilever. They are expanding health to all demographics, pointing people away from poverty and towards health.

Abigail Gray
Photo: Flickr

hunger in fijiFiji, a country bordering both Tonga and Futana, has faced increased obstacles with food security. It is estimated that amongst the population of 926,276 citizens, over 250,000 individuals are battling poverty and hunger. However, increased efforts have been made to combat this rise in hunger in Fiji.

Problem in Numbers

It is estimated that over 35% of Fiji’s population is below the national poverty line. With the income of households drastically declining, thousands of families do not have the proper resources to thrive.

Fiji children are also heavily impacted, further contributing to the increased rate of hunger in Fiji. It has been recently estimated that over 40% of Fiji’s children are malnourished. A majority of children in Fiji suffer from “protein-energy malnutrition”, meaning that they do not consume enough vital and nutritious foods for their bodies.

The Causes

The lack of food distribution in Fiji points towards a variety of factors. A primary cause is due to Fiji’s political instability and corruption. Additionally, with tourism making up a majority of Fiji’s GDP, the COVID-19 pandemic has led to decreased budgets and widespread unemployment.

Climate change has also affected hunger in Fiji. Cyclones have led to massive agricultural losses, resulting in widespread losses of income and the destruction of food that would be derived from the agricultural crops.

Another cause contributing to the hunger in Fiji is the increased dropout rates among children. With the majority of Fiji’s population battling poverty, children are often instructed to leave school in search of work. From grueling street work to harsh agricultural labor, children earn very little over the years.

In 2016 it was estimated that over 55% of children at primary school age were not attending school. This low schooling rate leaves many children uneducated, unskilled and closed off to stable job opportunities which in turn leaves them unable to afford basic necessities as adults.

The Road to Change

However, despite the increased rates of hunger among the Fiji population, organizations have stepped up to aid the needy. A prominent organization is Moms Against Hunger, which has dedicated itself to providing food for the individuals battling poverty. Moms Against Hunger has recruited numerous volunteers and has delivered over 250,000 food packages to families in need. Under the COVID-19 pandemic, hundreds of families received enough food to last several months.

Another impactful organization is HELP International, which looks to empower and educate individuals in need. HELP International focused its efforts in the nutrition sector, teaching individuals nutritional guidelines, financial literacy and the importance of schooling. Through these efforts, thousands of families can learn to manage a budget, eat well and pursue higher education.

Additionally, Aggie Global seeks to educate farmers on sustainable practices. Under a team of various volunteers, Aggie Global hosted workshops to teach farmers about crop control, production tricks and sustainable solutions. After conducting these workshops, hundreds of farmers were able to boost production, increasing the amount of food distributed to the public.

The Future

Despite organizations looking to aid those in need, Fiji continues to face problems in feeding the entirety of its population. The efforts from nonprofit organizations provide short-term relief but Fiji is in great need of government assistance to see great and lasting change.

For Fiji to see an immense reduction in its hunger rate, the government must act alongside nonprofit organizations to provide for families. In addition, the Fiji government must prioritize the youth and support and encourage the pursuit of higher education. With increased positive influence and support from Fiji’s government, poverty-stricken families all over Fiji would benefit, lowering the overall hunger rate.

Aditya Padmaraj
Photo: Flickr