Life Expectancy in Sweden
As one of the more progressive countries in the world, Sweden boasts multiple government agencies and nonprofit organizations actively working toward improving citizens’ health and longevity.  Sweden also possesses an efficient and well-equipped health care system. Thanks to these efforts, the country’s average life expectancy is improving. Below are 10 facts about life expectancy in Sweden, including current initiatives to continue improving the country’s average life expectancy.

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Sweden

  1. The average life expectancy in Sweden is 82.2 years with men living an average of 80.3 years and women living an average of 84.3 years. Sweden has the 16th-highest life expectancy from birth in the world. The average life expectancy in Sweden is about four years more than the United States’ average life expectancy (78.6 years). The average, including every country in the world, is a little over 79 years.
  2. In the past century, the life expectancy of Sweden improved from about 55-58 years to 82-84 years, a significant jump of about 25 years.
  3. Citizens’ longevity is due in part to Sweden’s commitment to environmental cleanliness. The water quality is satisfactory; 96 percent of those included in a poll approved of their country’s drinking water. A lack of pollutants may also contribute to Sweden’s higher-than-average life expectancy.
  4. A sense of community helps many achieve a high quality of life in Sweden. Ninety-one percent of citizens report that they know “someone they could rely on in time of need.” Along with high voter turnout, the country’s civic engagement keeps citizens socially involved, enhancing their health and well-being.
  5. Sweden’s health care system has one of the highest rankings in the world. The country’s universal health care system enables those in poverty to access important services for themselves and their families. Affordability of services is crucial for many citizens and Sweden is only improving in this regard.
  6. Life expectancy is improving thanks to efforts to curb self-harming behaviors and remedy preventable lower respiratory infections. As the country’s health care system improves, the rates of premature death from preventable causes are declining for those in poverty. Premature death from lower respiratory infections has decreased by 49 percent from 1990 to 2010.
  7. The Public Health Agency of Sweden commits to improving the lives of Swedish citizens. A recent study showed the effectiveness of vaccines for children. Since Sweden offers universal health care, children from varying socioeconomic backgrounds receive the medical treatment they need. New studies are being conducted to measure the effectiveness of treating boys for human papilloma virus (HPV), even though the virus normally afflicts girls. These studies help Sweden continue to improve life expectancy for all its citizens.
  8. Seven percent of Swedes live below the EU’s poverty threshold. This is lower than the average of people living below the poverty threshold in other EU countries (10 percent). While the poverty rate has remained relatively unchanged in recent years, efforts to reduce the poverty rate and enhance life expectancy are growing. The Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, or Sida, is a Swedish government agency that functions to eliminate global poverty. In the fight to end poverty domestically and abroad, Sida makes enhancing life expectancy a priority in its humanitarian work. The agency is public under the jurisdiction of the Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs.
  9. In Sweden, government grants and municipal taxes fund the majority of elderly care. The country’s health care system subsidizes its elderly citizens for medical care. In different municipalities throughout the country, elderly patients can request in-home caregivers or relocation to live-in facilities that provide medical services.
  10. Easy access to sanitation has also helped Swedes live longer than the world average. Just over 99 percent of the urban population has access to sanitation, while 99.6 percent of the rural population have such access. No matter where one lives in the country, Sweden offers sanitation to all citizens, improving the overall life expectancy of Sweden.

The Swedish government involves a large body of agencies dedicated to providing the best health care to its citizens. As a result, life expectancy in Sweden is one of the best in the world. Even those living below the poverty line can still access the services they need, and the life expectancy of all Swedish citizens is improving.

– Aric Hluch
Photo: Flickr

Menstrual Cups in Africa

Today, about 10 percent of African girls miss school because of menstruation-related issues and complications. As many individuals cannot afford feminine hygiene products from the store, they often have to resort to using rags, socks and even paper. To make matters worse, many of these adolescent girls also lack access to private toilets at school. However, things are looking up as multiple nonprofit organizations are collectively working to provide all female students with free menstrual cups in South Africa.

What is the Menstrual Cup?

Menstrual cups are a little known, but effective, feminine hygiene products made out of medical-grade silicone. Their shape resembles a small beaker. As the product can be washed, reused and can last up to a decade, it is a far more sustainable alternative, both financially and economically speaking, to its more conventional counterparts (sanitary napkins and tampons). The cups generally cost between $15 to $40. The price depends on factors such as brand, material and size.

Menstrual Cups in South Africa

Currently, there are multiple initiatives and partnerships in South Africa related to providing school girls with free menstrual cups. Perhaps most notable is the MINA Foundation.

Launched in 2015 by three women in Johannesburg, South Africa, the foundation has now partnered with over a hundred schools and distributed over 30,000 menstrual cups. By working with girls’ clubs at schools, the organization has also succeeded in delivering comprehensive menstrual and sexual health education to adolescent girls. A lively purple cartoon girl presents the information in educational videos and books.

Other Places

Menstrual cup campaigns have also sprung up in many other developing countries. Some countries, for example, are the Philippines, Nepal and India. Much of this progress has been led by a similar organization called Freedom Cups.  A team of three sisters founded the organization in 2015. It operates on a buy-one-give-one model and has since distributed over 3,000 cups in seven countries.

In addition, many for-profit companies also have their own projects and partnerships that work to support feminine hygiene. For instance, both Saalt Co. and the Diva Cup are currently partnering with various organizations. Their partnerships allow them to donate a portion of their profits to feminine hygiene advocacy organizations.

Challenges and Future Directions

The majority of data collected regarding the usage of menstrual cups has been anecdotal. However, various studies have made it quite apparent that many girls remain hesitant about the usage of the product. According to a survey conducted by the University of Chicago, 74 percent of South African school girls interviewed “were hesitant to use any product that had to be inserted into their vagina.” This is likely because many cultures consider topics surrounding menstruation and the female reproductive system to be taboo. Additionally, 79 percent of participants in the same study reported that they could not fully focus on their schoolwork when menstruating. This lack of concentration was due to the shame they felt about their condition.

Henceforth, an increase in the usage of menstrual cups among school girls would likely prove to be effective in providing an open discussion regarding the usage of the product. Furthermore, it could provoke increased dialogue about menstruation in general.

Conclusively, menstrual cups in South Africa have proven to be a force for good among adolescent girls. However, there is still work to be done to address the taboo surrounding these products for their potential to be fully exercised.

– Linda Yan
Photo: Flickr

10 facts about poverty in LiberiaLiberia is located in Western Africa with a population of 4.7 million people. Although there are efforts for improvement in the country, Liberia still suffers from high rates of poverty. Here are 10 facts about poverty in Liberia.

10 Facts About Poverty in Liberia

  1. Food Supply: According to the World Bank, 54 percent of Liberia’s population is living under the poverty line. In 2011, 83.7 percent of the population was living on less than $2.00 per day. The World Food Programme (WFP), which has been present in Liberia since 1968, and Liberia’s government worked together on a plan to fight poverty by providing 87,139 students with meals and 3,600 girls from poor households with take-home rations. In addition, the WFP worked with the Ministry of Health and other stakeholders to assess the status, livelihood, social protection and food security of those living with HIV and tuberculosis.
  2. Education: The education system in Liberia is a work in progress due to a 14-year civil war and the Ebola outbreak in 2014, which caused schools to close down. According to UNICEF, among most African countries, Liberia is behind in its education system and has one of the world’s highest rate of out-of-school children with 15 to 20 percent of 6- to 14-year-old kids not in school. In addition, only a third of preschoolers have access to early education learning programs, and 54 percent do not finish primary school. However, despite the statistics, in 2015 about 1.4 million children enrolled in pre-primary school, primary school and high school. According to Liberia’s Ministry of Education in 2015, 116 percent of students enrolled in early childhood education, 88 percent in primary school, 56 percent in junior high and 39 percent in senior high. The Ministry of Education, UNICEF and other organizations worked together to help repair or rebuild classrooms, train teachers, review curricula and create education policies and plans.
  3. Diseases: According to the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), after the Ebola outbreak in 2014 causing 4,200 deaths, there are improvements being made for recovery. USAID and UNICEF partnered with the Liberian government to provide schools and teachers with 7,000 infection prevention and control kits. In addition, they also trained teachers on how to prevent infections and provide psychosocial support to students and families with Ebola.
  4. Malnutrition: Liberia is one of the 21 countries with the highest stunting levels in the world. One out of three children under the age of 5 years old is stunted or too short for their age because of a lack of proper nutrition. In addition, malnourished children are at a higher risk for death from diarrhea, pneumonia and malaria. According to the World Health Organization, 45 percent of deaths among children under the age of 5 are related to malnutrition.
  5. Water: In Liberia, about 90 percent of people under the age of 5 die because of this water crisis. Access to clean water could decrease infection, disease and death. The Last Well is an organization that is dedicated to providing Liberians with clean drinking water. This organization provided clean water to 4 million Liberians and counting.
  6. Sanitation: In rural areas, due to lack of proper toilets and sanitation services, about 42 percent of people must excrete out in the open. In addition, the lack of proper sanitation services results in the spread of diseases and causes students to miss days of school. However, the government of Liberia is working on improving these conditions through a WASH program that will increase safe water supply, sanitation and hygiene practices. After the 2014 Ebola outbreak, there was a strong need for WASH services in schools to prevent illnesses. From 2015 to 2016, 55 percent of 4,460 schools in Liberia did not have access to functional water supply, 43 percent did not have basic sanitization facilities and only 18 percent had permanent handwashing facilities. The WASH program reached about 50,763 people in five remote counties in Liberia that have low access to water. The program also built two pit toilets in two clinics and three wells at one clinic and rehabilitated six wells in six communities.
  7. Youth unemployment rates: According to the United Nations, 85 percent of the youth population is unemployed. The civil wars affected Liberia’s economy resulting in the widespread youth unemployment. About 35 percent of males and 42 percent of females are unable to find jobs due to lack of skills and training. According to the International Labour Organization, the future for African youth relies on the right policies and programs that will create employment opportunities.
  8. Immunization: According to the 2017 WHO-UNICEF Estimates of Immunization Coverage, 13 percent of children in Liberia have not taken the measles vaccine. The Liberian government and UNICEF worked together on a project to raise awareness on the importance of immunization for children to help prevent diseases. Every year UNICEF sends more than 3 million doses of routine vaccines and supplies for immunization campaigns.
  9. Literacy rates: According to UNESCO, the literacy rate for Liberia’s youth is 54.5 percent with males at 64.7 percent and females at 44 percent. A nonprofit organization called Alfalit International Liberia is an organization that aims to educate, empower and provide economic freedom to marginalized, disadvantaged and distressed groups of Liberia. Alfalit not only provides literacy and basic education but also offers scholarships to the youth of Liberia. This organization partnered with the Ministry of Education and others to create teaching and learning centers for the youth. Over the course of eight years, the program educated over 65,000 people, 85 percent of which are women, and trained 800 teachers.
  10. Child Labor: In Liberia, children work in dangerous environments such as in the production of rubber and the mining of gold and diamonds. About 78.4 percent of children work in agriculture, 4.2 percent in industry and 17.4 in services. The Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection is an organization established in 2001, which assists with investigations of child labor cases and monitors child protection policies and the government’s efforts on agreements with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

These 10 facts about poverty in Liberia provide a snapshot of the current conditions in Liberia and areas that can be focused on for improvement. Despite the challenges Liberia faces due to poverty, there are efforts from various organizations to improve the country.  However, more needs to be done to tackle the issues that will require the intervention of political leaders. Surely, with an emphasis on education and policies to implement more opportunities for Liberians, poverty will decrease.

– Merna Ibrahim
Photo: Flickr

Sanitation and Hygiene in India
There is a restricted amount of water, sanitation and hygiene in India on a daily basis. Therefore, the lack of these resources leads to disease and death.

Diseases, Defecation and Lack of Sanitation Facilities

India is one of the world’s most heavily populated countries with more than half residing in suburban neighborhoods. Due to the country’s vast population growth and its limited accessibility to water, people have limited access to sanitation and hygiene in India.

  • Nearly half of Indians defecate into the environment, which pollutes water and leads to the number one cause of diarrhea-associated deaths in children. Yearly, 117,000 children younger than five pass away due to diarrhea as a result of unsanitary environments and contaminated water.
  • Research indicates that a little over half of India’s population washes their hands after defecation. Only 38 percent of people wash their hands before eating and as little as 30 percent wash their hands prior to handling food. Young children are most susceptible to diarrhoeal diseases and respiratory infections; yet, using soap to wash hands can reduce the likelihood of contracting these illnesses.
  • Nearly 600 million people do not use toilets, and as a result, their waste enters the environment which leads to a higher likelihood of water contamination and diarrhea. Children who suffer from diarrhea are more susceptible to malnutrition and other illnesses, such as pneumonia. Malnutrition afflicts nearly 50 percent of children.
  • Nearly 10 percent of countryside households discard waste properly, while people leave more than half of the waste out in the environment or put it into the trash. As little as six percent of children under the age of five use sanitation facilities.
  • For adolescent females, it is necessary to provide the essential facilities, products and education to allow for proper menstrual hygiene. Many girls are likely to not attend school due to the lack of seclusion in the sanitation facilities. Other times, females feel discomfort when there is no facility available at home.

The Water Crisis

Nearly 200,000 Indians pass away each year as a result of insufficient accessibility to consumable water, while 600 million people are water-stressed due to the limited availability of 1,700 cubic meters of water yearly.

Research published in June 2018 predicts that India will undergo an acute lack of availability to water within two decades. The report approximates that the need for water will duplicate the obtainable supply by 2030.

The Government’s Partnerships to End Open Defecation and Increase Sanitation Efforts

In 2014, India’s Prime Minister, Narenda Modi, began advocating to enhance cleanliness efforts by October 2019. Since he announced this objective, there has been significant progress in making clean water and hygiene amenities available.

In 2014, the amount of people living in agricultural areas who defecate openly has decreased from 550 million to 320 million. Overall, clean drinking water and proper sewage disposal have improved from 39 percent in October 2014 to over 90 percent in August 2018.

UNICEF Action endorses the federal and local governments in providing water, sanitation and hygiene in India. UNICEF’s Child’s Environment Programme advocates for the government’s Total Sanitation Campaign, which has the goal to enhance the availability and utilization of sanitation facilities. The National Rural Drinking Water Programme works to implement clean water to each and every family in India; the Child’s Environment program collaborates with Integrated Child Development Services to ensure that proper hygiene facilities are present in schools.

USAID collaborates with India’s government to implement healthful towns by growing access to safe water and cleanliness. Together, USAID and the Government of India assess and distinguish various models to enable consumable water and toilets, which they can put into effect for various localities.

In order to eliminate defecation by 2019, India began the five-year Swachh Bharat (Clean India) Mission to cease open defecation. USAID promotes the commission by educating others about these matters and initiating action from the people and government officials.

The overall goal of USAID is to implement techniques to have safe, clean water access that is inexpensive. The organization also collaborates with civilians to compose sanitation facilities as well as encouraging hand washing along with refraining from defecating in the environment.

In 2017, 300,000 citizens had access to water, sanitation and hygiene in their homes. As a result of the community efforts, 25,000 communities have stopped defecating in the environment, while 175,000 people are able to obtain clean, consumable water.

– Diana Dopheide

Photo: Flickr

Menstrual Hygiene in South Asia
Globally, access to clean water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) is on the rise, especially in South Asia. According to UNICEF, in India, Bangladesh, Nepal and Pakistan, the percentage of people practicing open defecation—a leading cause of child malnutrition, disease and death—fell from 65 percent to 34 percent. While these WASH initiatives have seen success, they often neglect one important aspect of hygiene that pertains to women, menstruation. The ability for women to menstruate hygienically and with dignity is vital to their empowerment. Here are five facts about menstrual hygiene in South Asia.

5 Facts About Menstrual Hygiene in South Asia

  1. There is a culture of silence around menstruation; discussing it is often treated as taboo. Females on their periods are often excluded from society because they are seen as impure. One study in Nepal found that 89 percent of respondents practiced some form of exclusion or restriction during a menstrual cycle. However, organizations such as WaterAid are working to break the silence through female-led self-help groups. When just a few women came forward to speak, it inspired others to share their experiences and start breaking the taboo.
  2. Many girls do not understand their periods. Because the topic is taboo, it is often ignored in schools. As such, 10 percent of girls in India thought menstruation was a disease, and 66 percent of girls in South Asia do not know anything about periods before their first menstruation. A study of 160 girls in West Bengal found that, though 67.5 percent knew what a period was before their first, 97.5 percent did not know where menstrual bleeding comes from. While schools often neglect to teach about reproductive health, this is beginning to change. UK Aid is creating audiobooks for girls dispelling myths and teaching them about their periods, and non-government organizations are creating extracurricular activities that teach about menstrual hygiene in South Asia.
  3. Menstrual hygiene in South Asia is vital for keeping girls in schools. According to WaterAid, a study done in South India found half the girls in school were pulled out at the time of their first period, often to be married. The girls who stayed in school beyond their first period reported poor performance due to anxiety that the boys in the class would find out they were menstruating.
  4. Access to feminine hygiene products is expensive. According to WaterAid, in a West Bengal study, only 11.25 percent of girls used disposable feminine hygiene products. The most common obstacles to obtaining them are a lack of awareness about them, the high cost, the lack of availability and the need for disposal facilities. Focus group discussions indicated that girls would prefer sanitary pads because they were more comfortable, discreet, and easier to use and carry. WaterAid is working to make low cost disposable sanitary pads as well as facilities to dispose of them. In the meantime, most women and girls rely on reusable cloth, which comes with its own problems.
  5. Maintaining menstrual hygiene in South Asia requires improved sanitation. One of the biggest obstacles to menstrual health is a lack of sanitation practices and infrastructure. Most South Asian women and girls rely on reusable cloth. To sanitize them though, they need to wash them in clean water and dry them in sunlight. However, cultural taboos around menstruation often pressure women and girls to try to dry them in dark places, potentially leading to infection. For those who might have access to disposable sanitary pads, they often lack the facilities to get rid of them. This is especially a problem for girls in schools. However, WaterAid and its partners are working on implementing WASH facilities that are lockable and gender-separated, with at least one toilet or washroom with an opening leading to an incinerator or dustbin for feminine hygiene products.

While countries in the region are making great strides in sanitation, there is still much to be done to improve menstrual hygiene in South Asia. It is vital they do so because the ability for women and girls to menstruate with privacy and dignity empowers them to pursue work, education and gives them the opportunity to have a voice in society.

– Katharine Hanifen
Photo: Flickr

Clean Water and Proper Sanitation in BurundiBurundi is a small, land-locked country in Africa that is consistently listed as one of the top ten poorest countries in the world. Despite the country’s abundance of natural water resources, such as Lake Tanganyika and the Nile River, there is still a struggle to find clean water and proper sanitation in Burundi. Overpopulation, political unrest and slow economic development have prevented Burundians from accessing basic necessities, such as clean water. As of 2016, there is a very high risk of contracting water-borne diseases, which contributes to high mortality rates.

Small-scale Solutions

In 2017, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) partnered with REGIDESO, Burundi’s water company. This was to supply 56,000 Burundians with clean and easily-accessible drinking water. Six spring-fed tap stands, sourced from the 32 surrounding natural springs, and a water tower has improved water quality. Further, they have reduced the risk of contracting waterborne diseases. It is one such effort from international organizations partnering with Burundi to help over 64 percent of residents. This is how many residents live below the poverty line. Many poor Burundians have difficulty finding clean water, and the ICRC’s water project is one step to alleviating the side effects of poverty.

Other Initiatives

Also addressing the issue of the lack of clean water and proper sanitation in Burundi are organizations and initiatives. The country relies heavily on international nonprofits and United Nations organizations in receiving aid for the water crisis in Burundi, such as through the construction of wells. UNICEF partnered with Beyonce’s charity, BeyGOOD, to solve the ongoing water crisis in Burundi. As of 2018, the partnership has resulted in more than 35 wells. Furthermore, they are set to build 80 more in the future.

Caryl Stern, President and CEO of UNICEF USA notes:

“Addressing the global water crisis is one of the defining challenges of our time, and the children of Burundi are among the most vulnerable.”

Stern referred to the main cause of death of children under the age of five to be waterborne diseases such as schistosomiasis. Many Burundians drink from unsafe sources of water. The undeveloped health care industry makes matters worse, as those with diseases are not treated properly.

In 2019, UNICEF and its partners began a strategic plan to combat the lack of clean water. Additionally, the organization aims to provide food, proper health care, child protection services and education to more than half a million Burundians. They plan to provide clean water for drinking, cooking and personal hygiene to 200,000 residents this year. The humanitarian strategy requires $10 million to alleviate the water crisis in Burundi. In 2018, over 47,000 Burundians were provided water for drinking, cooking and hygiene.

Future Initiatives

The 2015 protests involving President Pierre Nkurunziza forming a military coup has resulted in Burundians across the country still being affected. As a result, more than 100,000 Burundians have fled the country. These protests are ongoing and affect the economy. As a result, the government shut down all the universities, the telephone lines and the Internet. Despite the continued protests, UNICEF, the ICRC and various nonprofits are the foundation to future success in providing access to clean water and proper sanitation in Burundi.

– Lucas Schmidt
Photo: Flickr

Addressing Gender Equality in IndiaIt’s clear that improvements are immensely needed in order to bridge the gap in gender equality in India. The country ranked 130 out of 168 for the Gender Development Index. Fortunately, the United Nations Women Executive Director, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, attended the #WeSeeEqual summit in Mumbai on Feb. 18 to address issues of addressing gender equality in India, the Middle East and Africa as well as potential solutions.

Puberty and Hygiene

Many adolescent girls in India are not educated about how their body changes during puberty or the importance of having adequate hygienic methods. Discussing the topic of menstruation is taboo, which leads to many misconceptions. According to a report conducted by the Dasra Foundation, 71 percent of girls had no knowledge about menstruation until their first period. It was also discovered in this report that 70 percent of the mothers surveyed believed menstruation was “dirty,” which further perpetuates shame felt by young girls when puberty starts.

Young girls and women who menstruate are also treated differently, one cultural tradition that remained until recently was that women who have reached menstruation age were not allowed to visit temples. Poor sanitary facilities in schools and other public areas is also a pressing issue. However, at the #WeSeeEqual summit, U.N. Women and Procter & Gamble (P&G), an American multinational consumer goods corporation, teamed up and pledged to educate more than 23 million adolescent girls over the next three years on puberty and hygiene in India, the Middle East and Africa.

Women-Owned Businesses

Although the economy in India is impressive, it could improve even more if women were more involved in the workforce. Only about 26 percent of women in India work. There are many social and religious constraints preventing more women from working, including household chores and motherly duties, which are normally placed on women. More than 70 percent of home-makers in India stated that they would prefer at least part-time work if given the chance.

If the employment rate of women were raised to the same level of employment for men, about 240 million more women would be included in the workforce. This would also mean that the world’s biggest economy would be 27 percent richer. P&G revealed at the #WeSeeEqual summit that it would aim to spend $100 million on working with women-owned businesses and improving female education in India, Middle East and Africa over the next three years. At this summit, P&G and U.N. Women also committed to using their voices to spark conversation and motivate change.

Looking Ahead

It’s important for organizations to use their resources and power to encourage equality in areas of the world that need it the most. U.N. Women and P&G addressed gender equality in India in an impactful way by discussing important issues, such as women in the workforce and adolescent girls being educated about menstruation and proper hygienic methods. Summits like #WeSeeEqual encourage change and help address important issues and potential solutions that will hopefully improve the situation around the world.

– Maddison Hines
Photo: Flickr

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

Political and Economic Instability

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

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

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

Poverty and Malnutrition

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

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

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

Hygiene and Sanitation

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

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

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

The Healthcare System in Madagascar

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

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

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

– Kayla Cammarota

Photo: Flickr

five NGOs are petitioning the government to end the war in Yemen
The war in Yemen between Houthi rebels and the Saudi led coalition has created the world’s largest humanitarian crisis. Despite the dire situation, there is reason to hope. On November 26, five NGOs petitioned the U.S. Government to call an end to the war. Two days later, the U.S. Government announced it would add an additional $24 million to USAID’s Office of Food for Peace. On December 13, the Senate voted to end the United States support of the Saudi coalition. These are the five NGOs that are petitioning to end the war in Yemen.

Since 2015, there have been more than 16,000 civilians casualties, 22.2 million people, including 11 million children, are in need of aid and eight million are at risk of famine. The war has led to a host of other problems as well, including a cholera outbreak and a lack of access to clean water. Many organizations are trying to stop the conflict in Yemen. These are 5 nonprofit organizations working hard to protect the people of Yemen.

These are the 5 NGOs that are petitioning to end the war in Yemen

  1. International Rescue Committee (IRC): The International Rescue Committee, headed by David Miliband, a former U.K. Secretary of Foreign Affairs, is focused on humanitarian relief operations in war-affected areas. Right now it operates in more than 40 countries, and its refugee resettlement program operates in 28 U.S. cities. The IRC has been providing aid to Yemen since 2012, working to protect women and children as well as provide access to healthcare and education.
  2. Oxfam: Oxfam is a global organization working in more than 90 countries to end poverty. Led by Abby Maxman, the former Deputy Secretary General of CARE International, Oxfam believes in identifying and changing the root causes of poverty rather than just sending material aid. Through fighting and eliminating injustice, Oxfam feels that poverty can finally be eliminated. The organization has been working in Yemen since 2015 to prevent diseases by providing sanitation, hygiene assistance and clean water to those affected by the war.
  3. CARE: CARE is active in 93 countries around the globe working to combat social injustice and poverty. The organization is headed by Michelle Nunn, who previously ran the organization Points of Light and had been a candidate for the U.S. Senate. CARE current goal is to reach 200 million of the world’s most vulnerable people by 2020. CARE has been working in Yemen since 1992 and is currently providing food, water and sanitation to one million Yemenis people each month.
  4. Save the Children: Save the Children is an organization that works in the U.S. and around the world to provide for underprivileged children. It is headed by Carolyn Miles, who has been with the organization since 1998. Save the Children is active in 120 countries worldwide promoting nutrition, health and education programs. Save the Children is doing just that in Yemen by treating almost 100,000 Yemenis children for malnutrition through mobile health clinics.
  5. Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC): The Norwegian Refugee Council started its relief efforts after World War II and continues its mission to this day. The organization is active in 32 countries across the world to provide clean water, education, camp management, legal aid, food assistance and shelter to refugees. The Norwegian Refugee Council is headed by Jan Egeland, who has been with the organization since 2013 and was appointed in 2015 by the U.N. as special envoy to Syria. In 2017, the NRC has provided food for more than 300,000 Yemenis and shelter to more than 50,000.

These 5 NGOs that are petitioning to end the war in Yemen are all fighting for a better world for the world’s poor. Through their work, they were able to spur the government into action. Since the petition, millions of dollars have been added to the aid package for Yemen, and the U.S. has voted to end its military involvement in the conflict.

Peter Zimmerman
Photo: Flickr

PA Top 10 facts about living conditions in Oman
Oman is a country known for its restored forts and castles. In 2010, the country, which is twice the size of Georgia, was ranked as the most improved nation over the last 40 years. However, none of this explains what it’s like to live among the Omani culture and people. Here are the top 10 facts about living conditions in Oman.

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Oman

  1. Education: In Oman, education is free from primary school to high school; however, attendance is not mandatory, nor is it enforced. The first six years of education are very similar to that of primary schools in most western countries. The next three years are dependent on whether or not a student decides to continue their education or start working. If they have stayed in school and their grades are exemplary, they may decide to go on to secondary school, which is another three years similar to high school in western countries. Here, students can specialize in either sciences or arts. There is also a variety of vocational centers for students to choose from, lasting anywhere from one to three years.
  2. Water: The Central Intelligence Agency found that 95.5 percent of the urban population and 86.1 percent of the rural population have access to an improved drinking water source. Both urban and rural populations also have access to improved sanitation facilities: 97.3 percent for the urban population and 94.7 percent for the rural.
  3. Energy: The World Factbook also reports that there are 100,000 citizens without electricity in Oman, however, 98 percent of the total population has access to electricity. The country receives electricity from fossil fuels, nuclear fuels, hydroelectric plants and other renewable sources.
  4. Legislation: Legislation is based on Sharia law with the authority of the longest-serving ruler in the Middle East, the Sultan of Oman–Sultan Qaboos Bin Said, being an absolute monarchy. The monarchy restricts all political rights and civil liberties. The current leader was not elected through fair and free elections, and the country is not considered a free country.
  5. Internet Use: Only 69.8 percent of the population use the internet in Oman, compared to 89 percent of Americans using the Internet, according to the Pew Research study. However, there are more than 6.9 million total subscriptions to mobile cell phone companies. One state-run TV broadcaster with stations transmitting from Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Iran and Yemen via satellite TV, provides access to all television programs.
  6. Transportation: There were 132 total airports in Oman in 2013, but by 2017, only 13 of them had paved runways. There are more unpaved roadways (30,545 km) than paved (29,685 km) in the country. Generally, road conditions in cities and major highways are good; however, the condition of rural roads varies from good to poor. Traveling at night could be dangerous due to poor lighting, wandering livestock and other common factors such as pedestrians, weather conditions or driving speed.
  7. Crime: The U.S. Department of State reports that violent crime is uncommon in Oman; however, non-violent crime rates are higher in Oman than in other major cities within the United States. Crimes of opportunity and petty theft are the main types of illegal activity. There has been an increase in cybercrime due to money lending scams requiring high down payments, credit card fraud and prepayments that are solicited with the intention of future services never rendered.
  8. Labor Force: Average unemployment rate for Oman from 1991 to 2017 was 3.94 percent, with youth unemployment during that time averaging 9.51 percent. The average value of the labor force, which includes anyone older than the age of 15, rose from 0.56 million people in 1990 up to 2.68 million people in 2018.
  9. Healthcare: Oman’s universal health care system offers free primary health care to its citizens and even subsidized care for the foreign population of the country. The last 40 years has yielded an increase to the lifespan of the country’s population by about 30 years due to improved access to medical facilities and doctors, according to Oxford Business Group. This puts the current life expectancy rate for the country at 76 years.
  10. Tourism: The capital, Muscat, boasts beautiful suburbs with “golden sand,” mountains and “magnificent views over the Gulf’s turquoise waters.” In Muttrah, one can experience true Omani culture through the city’s traditional souq (marketplace) and corniche (a road on the side of a mountain). The city also houses the annual Muscat Festival, which is one of the most famous festivals in the country, attracting people internationally to witness a cultural celebration that includes folklore dances, special costumes and other performances.

Oman has been known for its castles and wonderful exhibitions of culture through the famous Muscat Festival. It is a country offering much for its population as these top 10 facts about living conditions in Oman show. Although there are still key improvements to be made, the country is continuing to progress.

Simone Edwards
Photo: Flickr