Healthcare in Paraguai
Healthcare in Paraguay has improved tremendously over the past decades. The life expectancy of both males and females has increased by about 10 years since 1990. In the same period of time, the mortality rate of children under 5 years old decreased from 34.6 deaths to 14 deaths per 1,000 live births. Still, many communities remain underserved and face the repercussions of limited access to healthcare.

The Rural-Urban Divide

The improvements in Paraguay’s healthcare system have occurred mostly in urban areas. This makes sense considering that more than 60% of Paraguay’s population lives in the urban perimeters of Asunción and Ciudad del Este. In fact, about 70% of healthcare workers operate within the Greater Asunción area.

In contrast, rural populations do not receive the same access to healthcare. While the more rural regions located to the West of Asunción represent 61% of the national territory, only about 31% of the national paved road network reaches these regions. As a result, transportation from isolated rural communities to urban areas with better access to healthcare is not an easy feat.

The Family Health Units and Coverage

In 2008, the Ministry of Public Health and Social Welfare created family health teams to carry out healthcare in a coordinated, comprehensive and continuous manner. Each team is organized in Family Health Units (USF in the Spanish acronym) and serves the populations to which they are assigned. These teams must provide consultation, home care and ongoing medical evaluation to their communities.

While USFs have successfully improved the health of urban populations, they have largely left behind those who live outside of urban centers. For example, only about 50% of the Alto Paraguay residents have USF coverage.

The following reasons help explain this disparity in USF coverage between city and country areas:

  • Rural areas generally have low population density and exist between small towns. Therefore, providing USF coverage to many rural communities can be inefficient and challenging.
  • Many healthcare workers who are originally from rural areas often decide to either move to urban areas or leave Paraguay completely due to the poor working conditions and precarious employment contracts.
  • There are few incentives for healthcare workers to practice in rural areas.

As a result, rural areas, where poverty rates are the highest, are also most susceptible to experiencing USF shortages.

The maternal mortality rates (MMRs) by region reflects the disparity in USF coverage. In 2015, the rural areas of Boquerón, Amambay and Canindeyú recorded MMRs of 347, 190 and 167 per 100,000 live births, respectively. This data stands in stark contrast to the average MMR of the entire nation which is 132 per 100,000 live births. Clearly a significant imbalance in healthcare access exists between geographic locations in Paraguay.

Addressing MMR in Rural Communities

Several initiatives emerged to address this problem, although some deemed some of them unsuccessful. The Maternal Health and Child Development Project, which operated from 1996 to 2004, aimed to improve the health of mothers and their children in underserved areas. As the World Bank notes, the outcomes of this project were unsatisfactory.

A joint project between the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and the World Health Organization (WHO) is currently in effect with the goal of strengthening the care of mothers and children and improving responses to obstetric emergencies. PAHO and the WHO implemented this project in 19 municipalities across Bolivia, Argentina and Paraguay, reaching approximately 400,000 people. It is too early to discern the impact of this project as it only emerged in 2017. Nevertheless, since it only serves a few municipalities in Paraguay, many rural, underserved Paraguayan communities have not received the assistance necessary to improve their MMR.

The COVID-19 Pandemic

In spite of the challenges Paraguay faces in terms of its healthcare system, the country has kept COVID-19 under control in rural and urban communities alike. As of July 19, 2020, there have been confirmations of 3,721 cases and 31 deaths in a country with over 7 million people. One can attribute this successful containment of the virus to the government’s quick and effective response. The first COVID-19 case in Paraguay received confirmation on March 7, 2020, and the country went into full lockdown on March 20, 2020. While the country is not in the clear yet, Paraguay is among the most healthy South American countries with regards to COVID-19.

Bringing Healthcare to Rural Areas

The situation for rural regions, however, is not hopeless. Since urban areas observed significant successes in healthcare through the implementation of the USFs, one could reasonably apply similar tactics to rural areas. Having said that, the biggest hurdle in bringing healthcare access to rural areas will be providing incentives for healthcare workers to settle in areas with low population density.

Luckily, in 2010 the Ministry of Public Health and Social Welfare launched a rural internship program that incentivizes doctors to work in rural areas. As a result, the concentration of healthcare workers in rural areas should increase as more doctors graduate from medical school.

Nevertheless, the Ministry must continue to pay special attention to rural areas, especially those where impoverished and indigenous people reside. The healthcare system has historically underserved these communities while urban, wealthier communities continue to experience improvements in healthcare. In order to provide healthcare for all residents of Paraguay in an equitable manner, the government must ensure that all Paraguayans can receive the same basic healthcare regardless of geographic location.

There are certain challenges that should receive special attention as Paraguay continues to improve its healthcare system for residents. Many regions still struggle with maternal mortality, especially in rural areas. In addition, viruses that mosquitoes transmit, such as Zika, chikungunya and dengue, cause intermittent regional epidemics. Lastly, about 18,000 people in Paraguay live with HIV or AIDS. However, given the government’s swift and effective response to COVID-19 as well as the success of USFs across the country, these challenges certainly are not insurmountable. If USFs expand significantly into underserved areas, Paraguay should be better able to effectively handle these health challenges.

– Alanna Jaffee
Photo: Flickr

poverty in TajikistanNestled in between Afghanistan, China, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan, Tajikistan sits in Central Asia among its sprawling mountain range. In the past decade, major oil and natural gas reserves have been found in Tajikistan which has kindled the hope of stimulating the nation’s struggling economy and of shifting their economic power back to them. As of 2018, around 27.4% of the population in Tajikistan lived below the national poverty line. Here are 10 facts about poverty in Tajikistan:

10 facts about poverty in Tajikistan

  1. Not all regions of the country are grappling with poverty to the same extent. In the northwest region of Sugd, the poverty rate was 17.5% in 2018. In the region just below, the Districts of Republican Subordination, that rate was almost doubled at 33.2%.
  2. Poverty seems to affect rural areas of Tajikistan more severely than urban areas. Farming cotton, one of Tajikistan’s main cash crops, has been shown to do very little for mitigating poverty levels or maneuvering individuals out of poverty. Those with non-agricultural jobs, however, in urban areas like the capital, Dushanbe, can go to Russia to find work. This is a common occurrence. As of 2018, the poverty rate in urban Tajikistan stood at about 21.5%, whereas the rate for rural Tajikistan was at 30.2%.
  3. The rate of poverty reduction in Tajikistan has decreased. From 2000 to 2015, the rate of poverty dropped from 83% to 31%. Since 2014, the national poverty rate has slowed to dropping by 1% each year.
  4. This slowing rate of poverty reduction can be attributed to a lack of job creation and stagnating wage growth. With a lack of new and improved jobs to stimulate the economy, much of the workforce turns to employment in Russia; this does little to stimulate Tajikistan’s own economy.
  5. A reported 75% of households have concerns about meeting their family’s basic necessities over the next year. Tajikistan is the poorest and most distant of the independent former Soviet Union states. In the first nationally conducted survey since the war ceased and Tajikistan gained its independence, studies found that more than 95% of households failed to meet the minimum amount of food consumption to be considered appropriately sustained.
  6. Tajikistan has a prevalence of child malnutrition and stunting; this has been attributed to inconsistent access to clean water and food. Many households spend more than they can truly afford to obtain drinking water. For the 64% of people in Tajikistan living below the national poverty line, this means incurring extra expenses while already making under $2 a day.
  7. For every 1000 inhabitants, there are only 163 places to live. Tajikistan has the lowest housing stock in the Europe and Central Asia regions at 1.23 million units. This can largely be attributed to the government no longer being able to provide public housing, while private owners have no extra money to invest in or maintain the upkeep of properties.
  8. 35% of Tajikistan’s population is under the age of 15. In the world’s wealthier nations, this number hovers at about 17%. A disproportionate amount of youth in the population means more problems for the burgeoning workforce as they struggle to earn an income: especially in a place where the economy may not be ready to respond. This could further the stagnation of Tajikistan’s economy, with frustrated young workers leaving to find work in other nations, as many are already doing.
  9. As many as 40% of Tajiks in Russia may be working illegally. Tajikistan relies on remittances from Russia. This is paired with Russia’s increasingly strict administrative processes for foreigners seeking work. Due to these two conditions, The Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs’ reported number of one million Tajiks working in Russia per year is questionably low. Between 30% and 40% of households in Tajikistan have at least one member of the family working abroad.
  10. The literacy rate in Tajikistan is 99.8% as of 2015. Primary education is compulsory and literacy is high, though the skill level in youths has been decreasing. This is due to economic needs calling the younger population away from their education in search of an income to help meet their daily needs.

Tajikistan has been climbing its way out of poverty since it has gained its independence in 1991. However, the nation’s over-reliance on remittances has allowed for its own economy to stagnate. This has resulted in a hungry workforce and few jobs to supply them. Groups like Gurdofarid work to try and empower the Tajik workforce; they teach women vocational skills that are needed for them to become employed in their own country.

-Catherine Lin
Photo: Flickr

Education in Suriname
In the South American nation of Suriname, a crisis is festering in public education. Socio-economic disparities concerning wealth, geography and ethnicity are leaving thousands of Surinamese school children behind. While nine out of 10 Surinamese children begin primary school, less than four out of 1,000 finish upper secondary education in Suriname.

How Wealth Disparity Affects Education

At every educational level in Suriname, wealth plays an outsized role in a student’s success or failure. Roughly 85 percent of students complete the primary education level, which is free and compulsory for children ages 5 to 12.

However, when one breaks the percentages down, the influence of wealth in the Surinamese education system becomes apparent. Ninety-eight percent of the richest students complete primary education compared to only 62 percent of the poorest. At the next education level, lower secondary, the completion disparity grows to 77 percent for the richest and 23 percent for the poorest. Growing even more pronounced, one can see the gap at the upper secondary level in the fact that 52 percent of the richest complete education while only 6 percent of the poorest complete upper secondary education in Suriname.

Geography’s Role in the Completion of School

Completion of education in Suriname’s rural areas is lower than the national average. The Sipaliwini, Coronie and Brokopondo regions lack upper secondary schools altogether, and as a result, lack citizens aged 21-23 that have completed upper-secondary level education. In addition to a lack of schools, Suriname has a persistent lack of qualified teachers in rural areas. Educational issues throughout the rural areas present massive obstacles to the children.

Gender and Ethnicity

Dissimilar to the standard gender assumption throughout the world, males maintain lower completion rates as opposed to female counterparts. Sixty-six percent of boys do not complete primary school; the percentage of incompletion among males remains higher than females throughout every level.

Additionally, the Maroon population also exhibits lower completion rates. Fifty-six percent of the Maroon ethnicity does not complete primary education in Suriname. This value is substantially higher than the runner up in lower completion rates – 14 percent of the Creole population does not complete primary education. Similar to Surinamese men, the Maroon ethnicity has the highest incompletion rate amongst ethnicities at every education level.

Solution

In order to improve the Surinamese education system, it will require superior teacher training. This will also allow each student to have a tailored experience with education so they can thrive in the environment. In rural areas, there is often no training for aspiring teachers, leaving these people unprepared for the profession.

The nonprofit VVOB aims to improve the teacher’s ability to instill adequate knowledge in Suriname by working with the Ministry of Education and Community Development (MINOV). The Departments of Inspection and Guidance also work with MINOV to establish training centers, increase professionalism and strengthen the curriculum.

In addition to better training, the Surinamese government should invest in higher wages for teachers. Increased wages will improve educator morale and incentivize young people to pursue careers in education. Additionally, a pre-teaching exam, as well as frequent evaluations, will help ensure teacher quality. These measures will certainly improve education in Suriname.

– Angus Gracey
Photo: Flickr

Countries With Child Labor 
There are an estimated 218 million children as young as 5-years-old employed and exploited around the world. Countries with child labor often force and coerce children to work for free and many cases go undocumented due to child homelessness in impoverished areas. The International Labor Organization defines child labor as work that deprives children of their childhood, potential and dignity, and harms them physically and mentally.

Where Child Labor is Most Prevalent

Some of the worst cases of widespread child labor are Africa and Southern and Western Asia. A huge factor in child labor is poverty. These areas often poorly develop their educational systems and many children who work do not enroll in school at all.

In Nigeria, over 15 million children under the age of 14 are child laborers. Girls often start earlier than boys in domestic help positions, but both work in agriculture, fishing, mining and construction. Often, child labor is essential to the income of the households these children live in. Children work in similar positions in India where 33 million children ages 5 and older work manufacturing jobs.

This is not the worst form of child labor, however. In Somalia, people often force children into the armed forces. In 2018, military forces —both state and non-state—recruited 1,800 children. People also force many girls into sexual servitude and multiple clan militias in other countries use child soldiers. Afghanistan has been using children in war since the 1980s and with the continuing violence, there have been reports of 3,179 cases of children suffering killing or maiming because of conflict violence.

The Harm it Causes

Child labor, forced or voluntarily, exponentially stunts a child’s growth. Childhood is an important part of development, and putting children in dangerous and mentally-straining environments causes emotional damage and even kills some children. Countries with child labor put children to work in places where they are in danger of suffocation, drowning, amputation or even heavy equipment crushing them. Child labor is responsible for 2.78 million deaths and 374 million illnesses. Children who work at young ages often do not have the resources or opportunities as an adult to work; this leads to generational poverty.

Who is Helping

Action Against Child Exploitation (ACE) is an NGO that focuses on ending child labor. Founded in 1987, its project areas are Japan, India and Ghana. It has saved over 1,000 children from child labor, as well as supported education for 13,000 children. It works to stop child labor in cotton and cocoa production since 70 percent of child workers are in agriculture.

The Global March Against Child Labor is an organization of trade unions, teachers and civil societies that work to eliminate all forms of child labor and slavery and provide and ensure education. The movement started out as an 80,000 KM cross-country march against child labor in 1998. Today, the organization works toward the development of countries, education children, elimination of sex-trafficking and research on laws and policies in countries with child labor.

What People Can Do

Despite years of work against child labor, it is still a problem in many countries. Due to the lack of educational facilities, economic failure and extreme poverty, there is not a simple fix to the problem. What people can do is conduct research, raise awareness and reach out to their Congress members. There have been laws to protect children from others forcing them into work or military, but people are still doing little to enforce those laws. It will take many more years of effort, economic growth and child labor reformation to eradicate the continuing issue of child labor.

– Taylor Pittman
Photo: Flickr

Rural Poverty in Burundi

Two civil wars and genocides in the 1970s and 1990s destroyed Burundi’s economy and increased poverty from 33 percent in 1993 to 67 percent in 2000. Burundi’s poverty rate remains at 65 percent today. At $700 in 2017, its GDP per capita is the lowest in the world. The agricultural industry, which makes up about 80 percent of the workforce, weakened during the civil wars. The most affected people are those in rural areas, where about 1.77 million are food insecure. The Burundi government, International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and NGOs are working together to address rural poverty in Burundi. The goal of these efforts is to bring the economy back to its pre-war state.

IFAD’s Programs

IFAD — which has worked in the country since 1980 — has funded nine projects in Burundi totaling $141 million. Rural and agricultural development, as well as food security, are two main areas the IFAD focuses on. Almost 500,000 households directly benefit from these projects. Many of the initiatives began around 2009, several years after Burundi’s economic reconstruction gained traction.

Value Chain Development Program

The Value Chain Development Program began in 2010 and ends in 2019. The program benefits more than 77,000 households and costs $73 million. The main focus areas include reduced poverty and increased food security through agricultural value chain development and increased income for rural farmers. To date, 5,761 people have been trained on value chain development, seed multiplication and better animal husbandry techniques. Also, more than 6,400 acres of anti-erosion ditches have been dug.

Agricultural Intensification and Value-enhancing Support Project

Another program that addressed rural poverty in Burundi is the Agricultural Intensification and Value-Enhancing Support Project. This program began in 2009 and ends in 2019. It has helped more than 30,000 households in six provinces in the north and east of the capital city, Bujumbura.

After 450,000 refugees returned after political instability and violence lessened, the need for jobs increased. Rapid population growth, small land allotments and soil degradation made it difficult to sustain an income for rural farmers. Some of the results of the project include constructing 1,210 modern sheds for livestock, building 32 miles of roads to rehabilitated marshlands, providing more than 1,290 goats to poor households, planting more than 6 million trees and constructing 11,567 acres of anti-erosion ditches. The project also reduced the number of households living in extreme poverty by 7 percent and direct beneficiaries have enjoyed a 64 percent increase in income.

Vision 2025

Although rural poverty in Burundi is still a major issue, the government created Vision 2025 to set goals on addressing its high poverty rate. The government’s objectives are to reduce the poverty rate to 33 percent by 2025 and increase its GDP per capita. While the country’s dependence on agriculture and its heavy reliance on financial assistance pose threats to sustainable growth, with the help of the IFAD, NGOs and other organizations, Burundi could reach the goal of cutting its poverty rate in half by 2025.

Lucas Schmidt
Photo: Flickr

helping farmers in povertyAbout 78 percent of the world’s poorest people live in rural areas and rely heavily on agriculture. They had to turn to farm, livestock, aquaculture and other agricultural methods to place food on their plate. For millions, agriculture is the starting point to get out of poverty. But, out of the 78 percent of people who rely on agriculture, only a mere 4 percent receives official development assistance. And, for those who do manage to get out of poverty, they will face a competing market for organic goods.

Farmers Struggle to Meet the Rising Rates of Consumption

With the rising rates of consumption to an ever-growing world, farmers are struggling. In order to meet the increasing demand and multiply production, farms have to increase the efficiency and productivity of the existing farmland. WWOOF shares in the same philosophy and helps farmers in poverty by providing workers to those existing farms.

Since 1971, WWOOF has been connecting sustainable farmers and growers with visitors through an exchange of education and culture for a hands-on experience to help create food and other agricultural products—a key part of how WWOOF is helping farmers in poverty. The visitor picks the country they would like to be working in and WWOOF connects them to an available farm that will provide them with room and board. The guests can stay in the country while learning about its culture.

Working on the Farms with WWOOF

As for working on the farm, visitors normally stay from two to three weeks but farms are open to shorter or longer stays. Usually, they work from four to six hours a day and have afternoons and evenings free. Currently, WWOOF has farms in 95 countries all around the world. The organization proposes that the search for authenticity and local food, such as items from a farm shop, has the potential to enhance the visitor experience by connecting consumers to the region and its perceived culture and heritage.

Organic Farming

WWOOF focuses on organic farming, an agricultural method that involves not using pesticides, antibiotics and growth hormones. It helps by reducing the level of pollution and human and animal health hazards by reducing the number of residues in the product. Organic farming keeps agricultural production at a higher level. But, it is more labor intensive. Although organic farmers love the independence and the hard day-to-day work, most find themselves overloaded. Organic systems require 15 percent more labor but the increase of labor may range from seven percent to 75 percent. The WWOOF program offers a satisfying experience to the visitors whilst addressing the additional labor burden on the farming family.

The WWOOF program realized that organic farming has a vital role in helping farmers in poverty. As the years pass, organic farms will earn a higher income than those of the conventional farms due to the increasing awareness of pesticides and the ability to charge higher premiums. Not only that, organic farms have the potential to improve local food and nutritional security because of diversified production and resistance to weather variables. Because of the diversified production, organic farmers live a healthier lifestyle when using their own crops for food. The organization gives a small part that makes a big difference for those organic farms.

– Andrea Viera
Photo: Flickr

Ecological Approach to Diminish Poverty in ChinaUnder the leadership of President Xi Jinping, many successful efforts have been made in recent years to diminish poverty in China, such as taking an ecological approach. One such effort is the approach of creating jobs for impoverished citizens through the implementation of land protection programs. Poverty in China and environmental sustainability issues are being treated simultaneously. As designated by the Chinese government, impoverished people are those earning approximately $1.10 per day. Comparatively, the International Poverty line, established by the World Bank in 2015, rests at earning $1.90 per day.

This ecological approach to reduce poverty in China resulted in a decline since 1978 by more than 800 million people who were previously living below the national poverty threshold. In the year 2018, President Xi Jinping and his administration enabled 13.86 million people to rise out of poverty. In 1990, China rose from a 0.502 human development index value of 0.752 in 2017.

Rural Poverty in China

For Chinese citizens living in rural and remote areas, poverty mitigation has become much slower. Currently, 16.6 million rural citizens continue to live in poverty.

President Xi Jinping and his administration are combining the impending issues of rural poverty with another pressing matter, environmental decline. The Chinese government was among the first to incorporate the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals in a national action plan. One of the United Nations’ goals is to completely eradicate poverty by 2030.

Grasslands Protection as a Solution for Poverty

A significant part of China’s sustainable development plans is the protection and development of grasslands within the nation. Grasslands comprise 63 percent of China’s green vegetation but 70 percent of these areas are moderate to severely degraded. The decline of Chinese grasslands is attributed to erosion by both wind and water as well as the changing environmental conditions. Additional damage is done by the uncontrolled grazing of livestock. The deteriorating grasslands largely overlap with impoverished rural communities within the same region of western China.

In Qumalai, a county in China’s western Qinghai province, the grazing of cattle and sheep, which constitute the region’s largest industry, is being constrained as a side effect of grassland protection efforts. In response, the Qinghai Forestry and Grassland Bureau has assisted in creating jobs in the form of grassland guardians for approximately 49,000 registered impoverished people within Qumalai. Each member of this workforce has the potential to earn around $260 per month. A more permanent solution with a larger potential comes in the form of establishing a Chinese herb plantation in Qumalai’s Maduro township.

In 2005, the restoration of grasslands in China’s Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region improved grass coverage to 100 percent, which enables the survival of animals on lands designated for grazing. For locals in the region, subsequent animal products added the addition of 300 yuan to the average annual income per person. The region is additionally able to replenish the local economy with more than four million yuan annually through the harvest of dried hay.

Since 2016, China has been working with its 13th Five-Year Plan to address poverty alleviation and environmental sustainability. Present efforts focus heavily on the impoverished rural fraction of Chinese citizens. Between 2018 and 2020, about 31 billion dollars are set to be used for remedying poverty in China.

– Bhavya Girotra
Photo: Flickr

Education Development in Tajikistan

Education development in Tajikistan has increased in recent years through the assistance of UNICEF, the European Training Foundation (ETF) and other organizations. The Ministry of Education and Science of the Republic of Tajikistan (MoES) introduced key reforms, such as the National Strategy on Education Development 2020, to improve its lacking education system. The reasoning behind efforts in education development in Tajikistan is to attain useful skills so that citizens may gain employment and a steady income. As a result, the declining but high poverty rate of 31.5 percent in Tajikistan can be reduced.

Education in Regions of Rural Poverty

The European Training Foundation found that 600,000 Tajikistanis are labor workers that work in Russia. About 57 percent of these workers are unskilled, poorly paid and work in hazardous conditions.

Since 73 percent of the country lives in rural areas, the main focus of the ETF, UN agencies and nonprofit organizations are regions such as Khatlon and Soghd. Over 70 percent of the poor live in the Khatlon and Soghd Regions. Both regions are emphasized to reduce poverty in Tajikistan and improve the quality of education.

The government’s goal is to double its GDP and reduce poverty in Tajikistan to 20 percent by 2020. To achieve this, the European Union and the ETF have identified three priorities: Health and vocational education, training and rural development.

These priorities have a total cost of around $275 million. The ETF is providing support in the following areas: contributing to international donor cooperation active in professional training, providing thematic expertise to support EU projects, articulating policy dialogue methods and practices and involving key national stakeholders in initiatives.

The World Bank’s Progress

The World Bank financed the $16 million Fourth Global Partnership for Education Fund Grant. The grant was created to improve Tajikistan’s preschool and general education. Additionally, it was meant to strengthen the system’s ability to withstand continued reforms in the education sector.

Marsha Olive, World Bank Country Manager, signed the act in 2013 and said, “This comprehensive project aims to ensure that the children of Tajikistan, especially the most marginalized including girls, ethnic minorities, rural children, and children with disabilities, are afforded the opportunity to achieve their education goals for future development and success.” The fund built off of the success of previous projects that began in 2006 from the Global Partnership for Education Fund.

The grant ended in 2017. It resulted in 18,978 students benefiting from infrastructure improvements against a target of 7,900 students. The grant also trained 5,395 primary teachers. Furthermore, it provided supplementary books to all schools. About 160,000 primary students are enrolled in schools with upgraded learning conditions, against a target of 100,000.

Looking to The Future

With the help of organizations such as the World Bank, UNICEF and other nonprofit organizations, education development in Tajikistan will continue to progress. Consequently, the poverty rate will decline. Although the government’s goal to reduce poverty in Tajikistan is slow, progress is being made through coordinated efforts. Progress in the education sector shows that positive change is occurring in the country.

– Lucas Schmidt
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Rural Poverty in ChinaSince the 1980s, China has experienced rapid economic growth and increased average income, a far cry from rural poverty. After opening up to international trade and foreign direct investment, the East Asian nation has grown to become one of the world’s largest economic superpowers with a nominal gross domestic product of $12.01 trillion, second only to the United States.

Though China’s rapid development has benefited its citizens who live in highly industrialized urban centers along the eastern coast, it has simultaneously left many rural and agricultural communities behind. These rural communities have little food, limited access to clean water and insufficient means to dig themselves out of poverty. However, rural poverty in China is something that the Chinese government is actively working to combat.

Hannah Adkins, a university student who recently studied abroad in China, commented on the poverty disparity between its rural and urban communities. “Though ecotourism, for example, is a growing industry in China due to the country’s natural beauty and expansive landscape, rural communities have a difficult time jumping on those opportunities. They simply do not have enough expendable money to put toward money-making industries like ecotourism, meaning that they must receive help from the government or NGOs. Otherwise, these poor rural people will be stuck in cyclical rural poverty,” Adkins told The Borgen Project.

When most people think of China, they undoubtedly think of the nation’s rise to economic prowess and its many industrial centers. However, China is an enormous country geographically, consisting of 3.7 million square miles of land area. Many, though, are unaware of its impoverished rural people who live in its expansive central and western provinces. Here are 10 facts about rural poverty in China.

10 Facts About Rural Poverty in China

  1. China’s rural population makes up roughly 42 percent of the nation’s total population, meaning more than 580 million Chinese citizens live in rural areas.
  2. According to the CIA World Factbook, approximately 3.3 percent of China’s population lives below the poverty line.
  3. Based on a report by the Wall Street Journal, upward of 90 to 99 percent of China’s impoverished population either lives in or comes from rural areas, such as the nation’s mountainous villages and arid landscapes.
  4. Only 63.7 percent of China’s rural population has regular access to improved sanitation facilities, compared to 86.6 percent of its urban population. This is just one example of the rural-urban disparity that results in rural poverty in China.
  5. The combined income of households in China’s eastern coastal regions, where a large majority of the country’s urban centers are located, is more than 2.5 times that of inland regions’ households. This disparity is another contributing factor to the issue of rural poverty in China.
  6. In an effort to improve its rural and long-distance infrastructure, China introduced a 2014 plan called the Pledged Supplementary Lending program. The program works with the Agricultural Development Bank of China “to better support rural infrastructure and development projects in funding to improve residents’ living conditions in rural areas.”
  7. Much of China’s rural population relies on agriculture as a source of sustenance, as well as income. However, approximately 40 percent of land in China has fallen victim to land degradation in the form of salinization, desertification or soil erosion. This makes it so that farmers and landowners do not have nearly as much access to fertile and farmable land, thus contributing to the rural poverty in China.
  8. On top of China’s land degradation, the country has about 19 percent polluted land. As a result, the contamination of food and water has become increasingly common due to the excessive use of pesticides and fertilizers, as well as other pollutants.
  9. The International Fund for Agricultural Development’s projections estimate more than 12 million rural Chinese citizens will move to urban centers annually over the course of the next 10 years. Though this continued urbanization will decrease the amount of crop production in agricultural communities, it will also place poor families in urban centers with more job opportunities and more sufficient living conditions, thus potentially aiding the issue of rural poverty in China.
  10. Though rural poverty in China is still a problematic issue, the Chinese government has put forth a plan to eliminate all poverty in China by 2020. President Xi Jinping’s 13th Five-Year Plan aims to identify, register and assist every impoverished Chinese citizen, especially those in rural areas, in order to guide them out of poverty and lower the overall poverty rate. This is just one of the ways by which China plans to decrease its poverty issue in the coming years.

While rural poverty in China is a paramount issue, there are movements to make improvements. China’s Pledged Supplementary Lending program and President Xi Jinping’s 13th Five-Year Plan will be sure to improve rural living conditions and help Chinese people in need.

– Ethan Marchetti
Photo: Flickr

Urban and Rural Poverty in Egypt

While the North African nation of Egypt has experienced substantial economic growth in recent years, it still grapples with the issue of poverty. With an overall poverty rate of approximately 28 percent, Egypt still struggles with more than a quarter of its population living in poverty. However, like many other developing countries, there is a poverty divide in Egypt between rural and urban people that is highly problematic for the nation. Specifically, reports completed by the World Bank indicate that the highest share of the nation’s poor population lives in upper rural Egypt. The inequality and poverty divide in Egypt between wealthier urban families and poorer rural families are issues that the North African nation must look to correct if its goal is a more stable and evenly-distributed domestic economy.

Urban vs. Rural Poverty in Egypt

There are some explanations for the poverty divide in Egypt. Like many other countries, those living in rural communities tend to rely more heavily on industries such as agriculture and livestock as a means for sustenance. Agriculture accounts for approximately 27 percent of the total Egyptian workforce and 55 percent of employment opportunities in rural upper Egypt are related to agriculture. This means that as Egypt continues to modernize its economy in its urban centers, those in more rural, agriculturally-focused regions such as upper Egypt and the Nile River valley will inherently be forced to find more reliable and modern sources of employment in urban centers. Agriculture constitutes too small a percentage of Egypt’s economy (11.7 percent of the total GDP as of 2017) for the government to significantly invest in such an industry and, as a continuously urbanizing nation, it seems as though this trend will continue. There are simply more opportunities for employment and financial prosperity in bustling urban centers like Cairo than in secluded rural villages throughout poorer regions.

However, several factors may be quietly contributing to the poverty divide in Egypt, one of which involves the illiteracy rate. As of 2017, of Egyptians aged 15 years and older, about 28 percent of that population is still illiterate. Many of these illiterate people live in rural areas where education is much less accessible. In fact, a 2017 report by the Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics (CAPMAS) found that the rural illiteracy rate in Egypt stands at about 32 percent, while the urban illiteracy rate is approximately 17.7 percent.

Hannah Adkins, a university student who visits family in Egypt, commented on the issue of illiteracy in Egypt. “Illiteracy is definitely higher in rural areas because they simply have more limited access to schools and teachers,” Adkins told The Borgen Project. “Urban areas have a large concentration of wealth so that people with more privilege can afford to send their kids to private or international schools.”

According to statistics reported by the Education Policy and Data Center, 25.5 percent of rural Egyptian children do not receive secondary education, compared to 14.5 percent of Egyptian children in urban areas. The lack of wealth distribution between rural and urban areas has led to a steep poverty divide in Egypt. As a result, many Egyptians find themselves stuck in a cyclical process of poverty and illiteracy with little opportunity to emerge.

Though the poverty divide in Egypt has been accentuated by many factors like illiteracy, there are still groups and organizations focused on resolving such issues. In fact, Egyptian agencies like CAPMAS have set goals to eradicate the poverty rate by half by 2020 and fully by 2030. CAPMAS plans to do so by implementing different programs aimed at benefiting poorer families, especially in rural areas and villages throughout Egypt. In fact, a 2015 program called Takaful and Karama (Solidarity and Dignity in English) in an effort to provide poor families and elderly Egyptians with income support, education and healthcare assistance. This program was launched with the support of a $400 million World Bank program. Egypt’s government has made it clear that eradicating its crippling poverty divide is a top priority, and as long as the nation can keep up with its plans in the coming years, impoverished Egyptians will hopefully be able to dig themselves out of their desperate situations.

– Ethan Marcetti
Photo: Flickr