Turkish Educational InequalityWith the COVID-19 pandemic creating economic distress in Turkey, the need for NGOs, nonprofits and organizational aid is bigger than ever. One NGO, the Darüşşafaka Society, is providing much-needed support for one of Turkey’s most vulnerable populations: children. As Turkey’s oldest non-governmental organization in the field of education, the Darüşşafaka Society has served as a model for combating Turkish educational inequality and remains one of the most prominent NGOs in Turkey today.

Low Enrollment Rates in Turkish Schools

In comparison to the majority of EU countries, Turkey has a larger issue with educational enrollment. In 2016, Turkey hit a peak in terms of the percentages of out-of-school adolescents since 2012. The UNESCO Institute of Statistics found that approximately 523,363 Turkish adolescents were unenrolled, surpassing the previous year by almost 100,000 youths.

While this number has declined in recent years, 2019 data from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) found that the percentage of Turkish 15-to-19-year-olds who were unemployed and out of school was 17% still far above the average 6.6% for OECD countries.

Academic and Socioeconomic Inequality in Turkey

A contributing factor to these numbers is Turkish educational inequality, which impacts technological access, enrollment rates and academic performance overall.

In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated the issue of Turkish educational inequality. Reports indicate the true severity of the situation, stating that 20% of Turkish students had internet connection issues in 2020, limiting online learning accessibility and resources for students across the country. Additionally, the financial stress of the pandemic put many families in a tight spot, unable to afford necessary tools like school supplies, computers and technological resources. Households were also unable to pay for data and the internet to connect to online classes.

The History of Darüşşafaka Society

For many needy children and families, relief has come in the form of the Darüşşafaka Society. Darüşşafaka Society is the oldest Turkish NGO in the field of education, originally founded in 1863 as a part of Cemiyet-i Tedrisiyye-i İslamiye or the Islamic Education Society. High-standing intellectuals in Turkey founded Darüşşafaka Society in order to establish formal education channels for needy children and orphans, teaching basic skills like reading, writing and math when governmental efforts fell short.

In more than 100 years since its founding, Darüşşafaka Society has become an integral part of the fight against Turkish educational inequality, providing educational and financial support to needy and orphaned students and expanding on its original mission by constructing a physical campus in Istanbul. The Society offers full scholarships to students as well as complete coverage of all healthcare, living and academic expenses. These costs are covered through donations made to The Society. The initiative also strives for scholarship support to its students during their tertiary studies.

Success Stories

The Society’s impact on Turkish educational inequality can be seen through the stories of students, faculty and alumni. One such story is that of Dr. Nahit Çakar, a professor of anesthesiology at Istanbul University who was admitted to Darüşşafaka after struggling to pay for education. Çakar, while not an orphan, was a student with significant financial hardships that prevented accessibility to prestigious schools.

Çakar says, “We learned about friendship, camaraderie. We were a group of people coming from the same deprivation and poverty.” After graduating from Darüşşafaka, Çakar went on to become a doctor and professor, aiming to pay forward the gift of education.

Funding for Darüşşafaka Society comes primarily from local community donors, but The Society has also found itself in the sights of international corporations in recent years. A 2011 interview with Saffet Karpat, chairman of the Procter & Gamble Turkey Board of Directors, highlighted the “Dream to Reality” flagship project with the Darüşşafaka Society as part of the company’s social responsibility campaign in Turkey. The program has helped more than 10,000 students with projects in the fields of science, photography and music, throughout the course of one year.

Darüşşafaka Society Today

According to Darüşşafaka’s website, the current student cohort amounts to a little less than 1,000 students, many of whom were previously learning in disadvantaged classrooms with up to 60 other students. The success of Darüşşafaka’s students is in part due to the improved learning environments that it provides. For instance, as a result of its rigorous focus on science, Darüşşafaka’s robotics team has become a significant contender in the FIRST Robotics Competition, an annual international STEM and robotics championship held in the U.S.

Comprised entirely of orphaned and disadvantaged students, the team has won championship-division awards since its start in 2009 and was most recently presented with awards in both the Long Island and Houston championships in 2019.

Breaking the Cycle of Poverty

According to the Global Partnership for Education, an equal chance at education for students of all backgrounds could reduce international economic disparities by 39%. With the continued efforts of organizations like Darüşşafaka Society, youth in need, disadvantaged and orphaned students will continue to be provided with opportunities to rise out of poverty through education.

Madeleine Youngblood
Photo: Flickr

SDG 6The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development was established in 2015 and contains seventeen goals. These goals, known as SDGs, were developed to improve global health and well-being. Bhutan was one of the many nations to adopt this agenda. Although they have been specifically focusing on SDG 1 (no poverty), SDG 13 (climate action) and SDG 15 (life on land), this South Asian country is also heavily focusing on SDG 6. SDG goal 6 primarily focuses on water sanitation and management being universally accessible. In fact, billions of people currently do not have access to safe drinking water or sanitation. As of 2017, only 58% of Central and South Asian countries had the ability to use soap and water to wash their hands at home. However, Bhutan has been making positive progress in their SDG goal 6.

Government Initiatives for SDG Goal 6

In 2018, Bhutan’s government launched its 12th National Five Year Plan. The agenda contains many SDGs in order to reduce poverty levels. Within the plan, the government has also developed National Key Result Areas (NKRA) to maintain accountability for its initiatives. There are three NKRAs that center on safe drinking water. NKRA 17 specifically targets sustainable water by focusing on maintaining proper irrigation and sanitation for quality water. The agenda plans to create at least six new programs dedicated to this goal, including a flagship program that will prioritize this issue.

While the Bhutan government has increased its focus on SDG 6, there is still room for improvement. According to the Annual Health Bulletin 2017, 4.1% of its citizens experience open defecation due to no access to hygienic toilets and proper water sanitation. Inequalities within this country also result in unequal access to clean water, especially in rural areas. However, more than 90% of rural homes in the country have improved water quality.

Global Partnerships

Bhutan works with many global organizations to improve clean water within their country. The organization Sanitation and Water for All is a multi-national partnership that focuses on achieving universal access to water sanitation by working to implement the SDGs. Bhutan joined this organization in 2017 and is currently upgrading older toilets and developing a map for accessible safe water.

Bhutan also partners with the SNV Netherlands Development Organization (SNV), a nonprofit organization that focuses on the SDGs and global poverty. SNV, Bhutan’s Public Health Engineering Division and Ministry of Health developed the Rural Sustainable Sanitation and Hygiene Programme (RSAHP). Their mission is to develop more water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) protocols in the Bhutan government. This program has increased sanitation to almost 99% in certain districts.

The Water for Women initiative is a program by the Australian government that works with Bhutan. The program also partners with SNV. Both organizations developed Beyond the Finish Line – Sustainable Sanitation and Hygiene for All to improve rural water sanitation in Bhutan. This project focuses on the impact quality sanitation can have on many factors, including decreasing poverty levels and increasing gender equality.

Bhutan is making headway in its work to achieve the SDG 6. Although there is always room for improvement, Bhutan’s governmental policies, programs and its global partnerships will further aid their positive progress toward more accessible water sanitation. The drive can be heard in statements made by the King of Bhutan, Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, who said, “Where we live must be clean, safe, organized, and beautiful, for national integrity, national pride, and for our bright future. This too is nation-building.”

– Mia Banuelos
Photo: Pixabay

Somalia's Poverty Crisis
Once ancient Egypt’s “Garden of Eden,” Somalia is facing extreme poverty amidst a civil war and growing corruption. With a growing number of pirates and terrorists, the country’s youth are at extreme risk. This article lists five facts about Somalia’s poverty crisis, how these forces are plaguing the nation and what some are doing to improve conditions.

5 Facts About Somalia’s Poverty Crisis

  1. Piracy: According to Gale General, Somalia is a haven for pirates. This is because there is no national army or police force to prevent piracy; rather, crooked regional and local warlords are happy to receive tribute and grant franchises. This factors into why national crises and famines occur in Somalia. Unfortunately, there are few options for shipping companies trying to avoid or dispel pirate attacks. There are, however, options to end Somalia’s pirate problem. The hiring of private security for vessels would prevent attacks but is costly and the International Maritime Bureau discourages it. Another option is to avoid the Gulf of Aden completely, however, this is also expensive as it would make transportation 20 to 30 days longer. The last option is the most possible: for shipping companies to operate an insurance-laden vessel.
  2. Poverty Among Youth: According to UNDP statistics, Somalia has a poverty rate of 73%, with 70% of the population being under the age of 30. Meanwhile, 67% of Somalian youth do not have employment. Save the Children reports this rate is among the highest globally. These statistics do not come without good news. Nearly 69,000 young Somalians converted to social transfers to increase their purchasing power. This translates to nearly 10,000 households, 3,000 of which include children under the age of 5. Forty thousand Somalians received asset protection, better food security and general life improvements. Translating to about 6,000 households, they are now able to promote sustainable, strong and peaceful livelihoods. All of this occurred in 2015 alone.
  3. Education: Among the struggles many Somalians face is difficulty accessing education. Somalian children usually begin their education later, though this is due to cultural influence rather than poverty. However, the number of schools is so sparse that the distance alone is a major obstacle. Although, in 2015, 3,000 youths received free education and employment promotion activities, which has indirectly helped 20,000 individuals. From the first half of the year, 65.8% of youths who have graduated from Technical & Vocational Education Training centers found good jobs that met their new expertise.
  4. Health: Life expectancy in the country is horrifically low, averaging about 52 years from birth. Civil warfare and instability have made it difficult for humanitarian aid to reach people in need. Groups have experienced limitations in providing health care and other basic needs due to excessive looting, threats by Al-Shabab directed to aid workers and a lack of security. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) and Parasitic Control and Transmission, 3 million children require regular treatment for intestinal worms and 300,000 more for schistosomiasis. By the time Médecins Sans Frontières International left Somalia, nearly 2,000 staff members provided free primary health care, malnutrition treatment, epidemic response and immunization campaigns. In 2012 alone, 59,000 Somalians received vaccinations. Currently, the World Health Organization (WHO) has a commitment to expanding coverage for vaccine-preventable diseases, reducing HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis cases and strengthening healthcare programs.
  5. Civil Unrest: Al-Shabab is a terrorist organization fighting to enforce its distorted view of a fundamentalist Islamic state. The group has been one of the main causes of warfare and unrest in Somalia. When famine plagued the nation between 2010 and 2012, the group worsened conditions by putting pressure on humanitarian aid such as MSF. This resulted in 260,000 Somalians dead, half of which were under the age of 25. With the help of the African Union Mission, the Somalian government has since decreased Al-Shabab-controlled regions but roadblocks and checkpoints are still full of armed terrorists.

Looking Ahead

Despite the growth of terrorist organizations and attacks against humanitarian aid, many organizations have a commitment to providing foreign aid and helping during Somalia’s poverty crisis. WHO has dedicated its efforts to expanding coverage for vaccine-preventable diseases, building capacity for reductions in diseases and strengthening programs concerning health for women and children. It is also working on strengthening the health system and preparing for any outbreak and crisis responses. Save the Children also has three core areas for aid including sensitive social protection, sensitive livelihoods and transitions to work. To the dismay of Al-Shabab, these brave volunteers are too stubborn to abandon Somalia. One day, hopefully, the country will become the “Garden of Eden” once again.

– Marcella Teresi
Photo: Flickr

Plastic Waste in IndonesiaPlastic waste in Indonesia is a significant problem but the government and other actors are now taking action to address it. Indonesia’s plastic waste problem causes multiple environmental and economic issues, which exacerbates poverty. New measures and efforts could help get the country on the right track and improve the prospects of many.

The Plastic Waste Crisis

Indonesia is currently dealing with a waste crisis both on land and in the oceans surrounding the country’s islands. Indonesia is the second-largest contributor to the abundance of plastic waste in the ocean. This waste has harmful economic consequences for the country and its people.

Indonesia currently produces 6.8 million tons of plastic waste per year, with only about 10% of it ending up in recycling centers. About 625,000 tons of annual plastic waste ends up in the oceans. Landfills are typically in very close proximity to communities, leading to toxic wastewater seeping into nearby farmland and hindering the growth of crops.

This also flows into rivers, impacting the livelihoods of those who depend on the river’s water. The fishing industry also suffers from the impact of plastic pollution in the oceans as marine life is affected. Viral videos of trash-choked beaches in tourist destinations like Bali also alarm the tourist industry, a huge boon for Indonesia’s economy. There is concern about the potential impact of this excessive pollution on tourism. Fortunately, the issue has received acknowledgment and there are plans to address the problem of plastic waste in Indonesia.

Individual and Community Action

Individuals, groups and the government are stepping up to end and mitigate the plastic waste crisis in Indonesia. Awareness of the problem is the first step. Local Indonesians have played a significant role in starting movements and increasing awareness.

For example, Melati and Isabel Wijsen established the environmental nonprofit Bye Bye Plastic Bags when they were just 12 and 10 years old. Bye Bye Plastic Bags has become one of the largest environmental nonprofits in Bali and is helping to educate children on the environmental harm of plastics.

Another individual, Mohamad Bijaksana Junerosano, founded the social enterprise Waste4Change. It educates the populace on sorting and sustainably managing waste.

Community cleanup initiatives have also become popular recently. Beach cleanups are simple and effective ways to get people involved. In August 2018, more than 20,000 people mobilized in 76 locations across Indonesia for a one-day beach cleanup that also raised awareness of the waste crisis.

Government Action

Both local and national levels of government have taken the most important steps to end the crisis of plastic waste in Indonesia. The island of Bali banned all single-use plastics at the end of 2018. The capital of Jakarta also banned single-use plastic bags in its shopping centers and street markets in 2020.

Indonesia’s national government has rolled out a very ambitious plan to end the plastic waste problem. It aims to minimize marine plastic waste by 70% by 2025 and be entirely rid of plastic pollution by 2040. Indonesia created five action points to make it easier to meet these overall goals:

  • Reduce or replace plastic use by avoiding single-use plastic packaging
  • Rethink the designs of plastic products and packaging to allow for multiple-use and recycling
  • Double the current plastic waste collection of 39% to 80% by 2025
  • Double current recycling capacity by investing in infrastructure capable of processing an additional 975,000 tons of plastic annually
  • Develop or expand on proper waste disposal infrastructure that can process an additional 3.3 million tons of plastic waste annually

Though reducing plastic waste in Indonesia and its oceans is a challenge, ordinary people and the government of Indonesia are taking proactive steps. These efforts will have a positive impact on livelihoods, the economy and the health of people. The future looks bright for a cleaner Indonesia.

Clay Hallee
Photo: Flickr

Corruption in Russia and Its Effects on Poverty
In 2018, the Russian government set the goal of halving poverty levels in the country by 2024. However, recent revelations of corruption among Russian officials threaten progress towards such a goal. One is the case of President Vladimir Putin’s usage of ₽100 billion, about $1 billion, of stolen taxpayer money to build his extravagant palace. Here is an explanation of corruption in Russia and its effects on poverty.

“Comrade Capitalism”

Corruption in Russia is primarily based on the merging of public services and private interests. In 2005, President Putin created a $1 billion program to improve the country’s healthcare system, as average life expectancy declined significantly after the fall of the Soviet Union. According to a 2014 Reuters investigation titled “Comrade Capitalism,” this program helped to fund the construction of President Putin’s palace on the Black Sea and enrich two of his closest associates, Dmitry Gorelov and Nikolai Shamalov.

Shamalov was involved in the construction and preparation of new hospitals. Gorelov and Shamalov used multiple intermediaries to increase their profits while providing medical equipment to the Russian government. One of those intermediaries was a company based in Washington, D.C., that received approximately $50 million for providing construction materials for President Putin’s palace.

Poverty in Russia During COVID-19

Although the Reuters investigation is 7 years old, its revelations of Russian corruption are particularly timely during the COVID-19 pandemic. Working-class cities in Russia have experienced the most impact. A report from The Moscow Times covers Ivanovo, Russia, a city located four hours away from Moscow that was once the center of Russia’s textile industry but has struggled during the pandemic. High unemployment rates and low monthly salaries contribute to a broader trend of doctors leaving the city seeking employment elsewhere. Since many of the available jobs in the city are in construction, security and shop work, most residents are unable to shelter in place to control the spread of COVID-19. As a result, all hospitals in the city are almost at full capacity. Moreover, the city’s healthcare chief is looking to purchase more refrigerators because the morgues are full.

Expanded Social Welfare in Russia

In response to the increased poverty rates that the pandemic caused, the Russian government has expanded social welfare programs. The most successful and widely used type of social assistance is cash transfers. The integration of cash transfers with employment support and social inclusion services was highly successful in the Republic of Tatarstan. The Republic of Tatarstan created a program called the Tatarstan Social Assistance System Development Project in collaboration with the World Bank. Since the establishment of this program, an increase in opportunities and financial support has occurred for people in Tatarstan. Thankfully, experts expect this trend to continue.

“Palace for Putin” Hits a Nerve

Alexei Navalny, President Putin’s most public political rival, wrote a documentary in January 2021 called “Palace for Putin.” It covered President Putin’s rise to power, the extent of his estate on the Black Sea and the people in his immediate circle that enrich themselves at the expense of the Russian people. Navalny’s team enlisted the help of an outraged palace contractor to provide an insider view of the secretive estate. Leaked floor plans of the palace reveal countless swimming pools, halls and extra bedrooms for entertaining guests. The property also has a hockey rink and amphitheater, in addition to other lavish accommodations.

For many Russians experiencing a decreased standard of living and increased inequality, this documentary was the last straw. On January 23, 2021, protests broke out as a result of Navalny’s recent arrest and corruption in Russia. While other protests of Russia’s recent history took place exclusively in big cities, these are quite different. Not only are the protests spread across the country, but younger generations are leading them. Hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets, some in temperatures far below freezing, to express their frustrations.

Although the protests were mostly peaceful, police forcefully dispersed protests, citing COVID-19 concerns, and detained thousands of protesters, violating the freedom of assembly outlined in the Russian constitution. Navalny’s February 2, 2021 trial and sentencing for violating parole further attracted protesters, hundreds of whom authorities arrested outside of the Moscow court where the hearing took place.

Response from the United States

On September 23, 2020, Representative James P. McGovern [D-MA-2] introduced a resolution condemning Russian authorities for the suspicious poisoning of Alexei Navalny and calling for an investigation of the poisoning as use of chemical weapons, which is a violation of international law. The resolution passed in the House of Representatives on November 18, 2020.

One week after taking office, President Biden had his first phone call with President Vladimir Putin, in which they agreed to extend New START, the U.S.-Russia arms control deal. President Biden also confronted him about the recent SolarWinds hack and the arrest of Alexei Navalny. The U.S. president’s tone with President Putin was less sympathetic than that of his predecessor. Additionally, the Biden administration has taken interest in the recent protests in Russia. This is because they reveal weaknesses in Russian domestic politics that tarnish Putin’s image as a leader with complete control. The renewed desire for honesty and accountability among the Russian people presents an opportunity for the United States to engage with Russian society.

Moving Forward

Corruption in Russia is extremely frustrating to the average citizen. With corruption among top national officials, Navalny’s arrest and pandemic-induced decreased living standards, it is clear to see why. In order for average Russian lives to improve, the social safety net must undergo expansion. If Russia continues following the example of the Republic of Tatarstan and the Biden administration continues to invest in the well-being of Russian citizens, corruption in Russia and its effects on poverty should slowly but surely improve.

– Sydney Thiroux
Photo: Unsplash

Healthcare in Montserrat
Montserrat is a territory of the United Kingdom residing in the eastern Caribbean. According to the United Nations, about 5,375 people live in Montserrat. Poverty plagues the territory. Thus, the need for adequate healthcare in Montserrat is more evident than ever.

Poverty in Montserrat

According to the Country Poverty Assessment, about 36% of Montserrat’s population falls below the poverty line. Additionally, a third of those living in poverty are under 15 years of age. Henceforth, children in Montserrat fall victim to the harshest reality of poverty. Moreover, about 10% of Montserrat citizens living in poverty are above 30 years of age. Montserrat’s National Sustainable Development Plan of 2008-2020 is the key to advancing the development within the territory. This development has enriched the economy and improved living conditions for citizens.

The Necessity of Universal Healthcare

In October 2020, the need to implement universal healthcare was evident. John Allen spoke at a Financial Informational Month Symposium. He implored that universal healthcare is key to maintaining every citizen’s health. Poverty consumes the majority of the population. Thus, the high price tag on healthcare services limits people’s ability to seek help.

Illnesses accounted for the top three leading causes of death for children ages 5 and younger in 2010. There were 601 cases of acute respiratory infections, 132 cases of influenza and 94 cases of gastroenteritis. Furthermore, a large portion of children is at risk of being underweight, overweight and obese. About 28.4% of adolescents suffered from anemia as well. In addition, about 12.5% of all childbirths were from adolescent pregnancies from 2006 to 2010. Adults are hospitalized primarily due to obstetrics delivery, urinary tract infections, influenza, diabetes, gastroenteritis and hypertension. The elderly population particularly suffers from hypertension and diabetes. Although communicable diseases have received effective treatment, diseases such as HIV/AIDS are still prevalent. On the other hand, chronic diseases such as malignant neoplasms, diabetes and hypertension continue to be a major concern for Montserratians.

Sustainable Development Plan 2008-2020

About 9.4% of Montserrat’s general revenue goes into the Ministry of Health and Social Services. The Sustainable Development Plan also contributes to accelerating Montserrat’s economic development. This plan aims to implement short-term goals every five years. The framework of these policies includes at least one of the following: economic management, human development, environmental management and disaster mitigation, governance and population.

Today, Montserrat is focusing on the Medium Term Economic Policy for 2017-2021. The Medium Term Economic Policy’s mission statement is to foster sustainable growth with benefits for all. The goal of this policy is to reduce Montserrat’s dependence on the United Kingdom by building upon its local economy. Utilizing these economic growth strategies helps the economy recover from disasters such as volcanic eruptions.

While Montserrat’s current primary healthcare system is effective, individuals who seek secondary care struggle to locate such services. Unfortunately, only one hospital in Montserrat offers secondary and tertiary healthcare services. The Ministry of Health and Social Services set a goal to lower the cost of secondary and tertiary healthcare services by 2020. Additionally, full-time university students, senior citizens, children under 16 years of age, multifarious public servants and prisoners receive protection the 2002 Public Health Act. Thus, they are exempt from paying healthcare bills. Also, the Civil Service Association Health Insurance plan covers families of public servants.

Developing New Hospitals

In February 2020, the government signed a contract joining Article 25, an international architectural organization that is based in the United Kingdom. Montserrat has set architectural advancements in motion to improve hospitals. Furthermore, the government stated that Montserrat has become globally competitive in the market of medical technology and supplies. The Ministry of Health and Social Services oversees new designs for hospitals based on health facility architecture portfolios located within Article 25.

The New National Hospital Project of Montserrat began construction in late 2020. New healthcare initiatives are bringing the hope of better health and economic growth to those living in poverty. As a result of government action and organizations’ outreach, healthcare in Montserrat is improving steadily.

– Lauren Tabor
Photo: Flickr

Alcohol consumption in Sri Lanka
The Center for Disease Control of the United States (CDC) recognizes 54 different severe, persistent diseases or medical conditions that are directly caused by alcohol consumption. Globally 3,3 million people succumb to alcohol-related diseases, accidents or incidents, making alcohol responsible for 5.3% of all deaths. Alcohol consumption in Sri Lanka has significantly increased in recent years creating social and economic burdens for the developing nation.

Costs of Alcohol Consumption

In 2015, the costs resulting from alcohol-caused conditions in Sri Lanka were nearly $886 million constituting 1.07% of the nation’s gross domestic product. A study that a Norwegian researcher, Bergljot Baklien, and Sri Lankan Professor, Diyanath Samarasinghe, conducted showed that 10% of male participants were spending more on alcohol than they earned in wages. Furthermore, another study found that families from the two lowest income brackets spent 40% of their total income on alcohol, showing the troubling spending habits in impoverished households and the importance Sri Lankans place on alcohol.

The cost of alcohol consumption in Sri Lanka consistently prevents individuals from lifting themselves out of poverty. Consuming alcohol is most common among low-income workers and farmers who earn their wages daily. Alcohol workers often miss work resulting in a loss of wages or jobs and loss of productivity for the country. Many drinkers become indebted to loan sharks for the rest of their life or have to pawn valuables to get cash for liquor.

The Alcohol Culture in Sri Lanka

Major events, parties and celebrations are all presumed to have alcohol present as a social expectation or requirement. A social norm has arisen in which people, mostly men, behave inappropriately at such events without consequences. High rates of alcohol consumption in Sri Lanka have led to frequent incidents of domestic violence, road accidents, violent crimes, self-harm and its most persistent consequence: poverty.

Alcohol can be a sign of financial comfort; often used to celebrate economic success and create a sense of social solidarity. While creating solidarity in a community can be positive, in Sri Lanka, the intertwined, impoverished communities tend to pull each other down rather than help to lift each other up. The accepted culture of daily alcohol consumption in disadvantaged communities has allowed toxic social dynamics to develop.

Furthermore, the consumption of alcohol undergoes underreporting in Sri Lanka. This can be a major obstacle and makes it difficult to find proper interventions and government policies. The underreporting can stem from shame, guilt, denial or a simple misunderstanding regarding the money that Sri Lankans spend on alcohol. Additionally, the most practiced religion in Sri Lanka, Buddhism, strengthens the above-explained problem since the consumption of the substance contradicts Buddhist beliefs.

Possible Cures and Solutions

The Sri Lankan government is aware of the costs of high alcohol consumption rates not only for the financial welfare of the nation but also for the safety of all of its citizens. Therefore, the government has implemented bans on alcohol advertisements and look for new methods to reduce consumption.

In order to effectively lower alcohol consumption in Sri Lanka, the government is seeking to take further steps. One is increasing the alcohol tax to reduce the affordability for the poor community. The hope is to wipe out the drinking culture in disadvantaged areas. Additionally, the government must fund research to collect accurate data on consumption rates to create evidence-based policies and drive down alcohol consumption in Sri Lanka.

– Veronica Booth
Photo: Flickr

Elderly in BangladeshThe world currently has approximately 720 million people over the age of 65. By 2050, about 22% (36 million) of Bangladesh’s people are projected to be in this age category. With this in mind, it is important that this growing demographic is taken care of. In particular, the poverty affecting the elderly in Bangladesh is a concern that should be attended to.

Elderly Poverty in Bangladesh

Bangladesh is one of the most impoverished countries and the effects of poverty are felt hardest by vulnerable populations like the elderly. The Global AgeWatch Index ranks countries by how well their older populations are faring socially and economically. Bangladesh is considered a distinctly tough country for older people as HelpAge International ranked Bangladesh 67th out of 96 countries on the 2015 Global AgeWatch Index.

The organization notes that a considerable amount of the hardship inflicted upon older people in Bangladesh is due to natural disasters and extreme weather. Cyclones, floods, and heatwaves destroy the homes and livelihoods of elderly people. Additionally, HelpAge notes that elderly people in Bangladesh are often refused healthcare due to ageism within the country’s public health system.

Elderly people in Bangladesh also struggle to maintain a dependable income since finding employment is harder with age, especially with common and physically demanding jobs like rickshaw pulling or soil digging.  As in many other lower-income countries, elderly people in Bangladesh have to look for employment in old age due to inadequate livelihood support and insufficient social security measures.

While by no means exclusive to Bangladesh, another problem that the elderly face in Bangladesh is stigma, as pointed out by Dr. Atiqur Rahman. The stigma described is one that views the elderly as unproductive, unhealthy and needing intensive and constant care. Dr. Rahman describes the idea of the elderly being a burden as both morally and economically incorrect.

Old Age Allowance Program

The Old Age Allowance (OAA) program is a government social pension scheme that assists the elderly in Bangladesh. Originally implemented in 1997, the program provides welfare payments to qualifying elders in order to help them get by. The overall size of the program was rather small at its inception, supporting about 400,000 people. Since then, the OAA has come to cover 4.4 million elderly in Bangladesh and the size of the payments increased from 100 to 500 Bangladeshi takas (around $6). Granted the growth is a step in the right direction, the program is not yet at a point where it can help in the broad sense. Elderly poverty has still increased since it started. The OAA program accounts for a minuscule portion of Bangladesh’s budget (0.53%) and covers only 2.25 million elderly people.

Additionally, much of the fund is going to the wrong people. A study by the University of Dhaka’s Bureau of Economic Research and HelpAge International discovered that elderly people who are not impoverished are getting 50% of the total benefits and about 33% of the fund is going to those who are younger than the eligible age. Another study found that local governments lack the knowledge and interest to properly target relevant beneficiaries most in need.

Organizations Supporting the Elderly in Bangladesh

HelpAge International provides early warning systems for potential natural disasters. In times of these disasters, the organization ensures the elderly have shelter, food and access to services. For long-term relief, HelpAge restores livelihoods by supporting small business enterprises with low-cost community loans. The organization also provides training for healthcare workers to treat conditions affecting the elderly and works on improving healthcare infrastructure and referral systems for the elderly.

The Care First Foundation is an organization that offers the elderly in Bangladesh risk monitoring, referrals, counseling, medicine and medical support, home care and activities. Its goal is to expand its initiatives to alleviate elderly suffering through proper community support and services.

With more support from organizations and improvements to the social support system provided by the government, the elderly in Bangladesh can thrive and not just simply survive.

Sean Kenney
Photo: Flickr

Elderly Poverty in Colombia
Many often ignore the marginalization of the elderly in benighted areas of the world in favor of other more current events. This is a phenomenon affecting almost every developing nation. The increase in life expectancy around the world does not necessarily mean that people are living better quality lives, especially in countries without sufficient resources to care for their elderly population. Below is some information about elderly poverty in Colombia.

The Current Situation

Colombia is a country of roughly 50 million people and a growing elderly population. However, it only has 80 geriatric centers to attend to its senior demographic. Furthermore, only 28% of the total senior population in Colombia can access a center specializing in their medical needs. According to the Medical Department of La Sabana University, the remaining 72% of elders cannot access proper medical attention or a trained caregiver. Most of this demographic inhabits isolated rural areas where access to specialized centers is quite distant. Elderly poverty is an underlying issue in Colombia, and very few organizations have committed themselves to the improvement of this situation.

Impact on Income

Poverty not only impacts Colombia’s senior population medically but also financially. In fact, around 59% of people over 60 rely solely on the pension system and have no stable income source. The elderly poverty rate in Colombia has reached the second-highest in the region, behind Paraguay, almost doubling the Latin American average. Currently, it is the nation with the third-largest elderly population without an income. Furthermore, social and familial networks are not strong enough to care for their elderly, as the aging citizenry becomes a burden for their families and immediate circle. Because only 4% of citizens over 60 years old have a pension and their own source of income, most of them rely on their descendants to care for them. However, given that 9.8% of seniors live by themselves, some do not have familial ties that support them.

Even though the alarming data on elderly poverty is bleak, it informs governments on where to address the issue. They must attempt to invigorate the quality of senior life and provide easy access to pensions. In addition, the government must work to strengthen the geriatric medical sector’s training and outreach. When trying to solve this structural issue, families and communities must also enter into consideration. They are essential to providing elderly support, ultimately decreasing the chance that anyone over 60 feels burdensome

Colombia’s Actions

Colombia is following the example of Spain and Mexico in including its aging population in socio-economic life. It has employed and trained seniors to perform tasks and activities in sectors such as tourism, culture and entertainment, granting them a stable income and bettering living standards. Additionally, it is also increasing seniors’ quality of life as they stop feeling obsolete. Responsible government spending regarding the elderly and the civilian population’s inclusivity towards its aging citizens must accompany this “longevity revolution.” For example, Bogotá City Council created the Municipal Elderly Council back in 2015, a community-based organization focused on advising the Mayor’s office matters impacting seniors. The council represents the elderly; it has been a successful platform in promoting dialogue and advocacy for senior civil society.

Foundational Efforts to Combat Elderly Poverty Issues

Currently, two prominent organizations working to diminish elderly poverty in Colombia are the British NGO HelpAge and the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (AECID). They are joining efforts to provide the elderly living in rural areas with humanitarian aid and psychosocial help from gerontology professionals. Both organizations have a commitment to working on-site in Colombia, in regions like Nariño and Valle, where armed conflict displaced over 400 seniors. HelpAge and AECID also provide legal aid to elders seeking to be indemnified because of their displacement.

Both foundations work hand-in-hand with Paz y Bien (Peace & Righteousness), a Colombian NGO in charge of aiding displaced elderly populations in precarious situations. Together, they discovered that householder mothers were willing to earn extra income by taking care of their communities’ elderly. Thus the foundations provided women proper training to care for seniors, not only to grant them basic medical attention but also to keep them company in a new community. This model benefits both parties, as they are able to form new societal ties. So far, this joint project has yielded excellent results over the last six years.

Many often ignore elderly poverty in Colombia to prioritize other issues, such as ending the six-year ongoing armed conflict. With the pension system’s flaws, it is crucial for civil society to keep taking action. With efforts to attend to elderly poverty in Colombia, the future is promising, as emerging projects create a more dignified life for seniors.

– Araí Yegros
Photo: Flickr

Living Conditions in LiberiaLiberia is located along the western coast of Africa’s rough and diverse terrain. The country experienced peace and stability until 1989 when a rebellion ensued. The Civil War in Liberia then persisted until 2003. As a result, high poverty rates and unstable living conditions became too common in Liberia.

Living Conditions in Liberia

According to the World Bank, approximately 54% of Liberia’s population lived below the poverty line in 2014. More than 2.1 million Liberians were unable to obtain basic necessities between January and August 2014. Today, 20% of the population lives in extreme poverty.

The number of those living in extreme poverty within urban and rural areas is the same, which is unusual. According to the report, the primary reason why urban areas have such high levels of poverty is that homeowners are unable to afford basic necessities such as food and electricity.

Furthermore, Liberia faces disheartening statistics common in impoverished countries. The nation has one of the highest infant mortality rates in the world, along with many children at risk of death from preventable illnesses like malaria.  Life expectancy, education and income are ranked extremely low on a worldwide scale. The nation also has the world’s third-highest unemployment rate.

ChildFund

The ChildFund organization is one working to help improve living conditions in Liberia. Through the support of donors, the organization distributed mosquito nets to more than 477,000 people across the nation. Years of war forced children to forfeit education and serve Liberia. However, ChildFund offers these former child soldiers educational opportunities. The Community Education and Investment Project aims to provide children the opportunity to enroll in schools. Thus far, ChildFund has supplied more than 75,000 books to 110 schools across Liberia.

ChildFund works to empower Liberians and provide them with resources to rebuild their lives. The organization has constructed early childhood development centers, community healthcare facilities and centers for women. Though living conditions in Liberia are less than favorable, ChildFund’s efforts are making a substantial difference.

Liberian Agriculture Project

According to the World Bank’s Country Economist Daniel K. Boakye, improving agriculture will help bring Liberia out of poverty. Increased food growth and therefore increased sales will stimulate the rural communities while providing urban areas with much-needed agricultural products. One organization tackling agriculture in Liberia is the Liberian Agriculture Project.

The Liberian Agriculture Project works to support small-scale farmers of fruit crops such as pineapples and bananas in Liberia. The organization is involved in the growing and handling of sales for rural farmers. Currently, the project is working toward getting specialty products into the seven main food markets in the capital of Monrovia, Liberia. Additionally, making the transition from subsistence farming to commercialized agriculture is another goal.

Although the Civil War ended years ago, living conditions in Liberia continue to be affected by ongoing conflict and tensions. The stress of high unemployment rates, food shortages and limited access to healthcare still affect the average Liberian family. However, efforts put forth by nonprofit organizations and charities like ChildFund and the Liberian Agricultural Project are taking the right steps to help bring Liberia out of poverty.

– Aditya Daita
Photo: Flickr