Tech Industry in South AsiaAs recently as a few decades ago, the pursuit of worldly education and career in Western countries was a badge of fame for South Asians. India, Pakistan and other South Asian nations could not offer the same level of job opportunity as the West. Therefore, many people in the educated class chose to emigrate in hopes of a wealthier lifestyle. Two factors contributed to this trend – the lack of opportunities at home and the increased quality of life abroad. At one point, over 80% of the graduates from India’s most prestigious university, IIT, used to pursue opportunities abroad.

As a result, the tech industry in South Asia fell to a baseline, sustaining itself without thriving. However, a phenomenon is occurring that has been dubbed a ‘reverse exodus’. Many of the South Asian professionals that emigrated to the West have returned to their mother country. This mass-return of individuals to their home countries is causing a boom in the industries that traditionally experienced what is known as ‘brain-drain’ (the loss of skilled professionals to emigration).

These five factors are integral to understanding the resurgence of the tech industry in South Asia.

5 Factors Causing The Resurging Tech Industry in South Asia

1. One of the major reasons behind the reverse exodus is for family. Parents that had once wanted their children to grow up in Western nations are returning to South Asia after a strong development in the education sector. Allowing children to grow up alongside a larger, more connected family creates a stronger bond than when oceans separate families. In addition, the parents of these emigrated high-skilled tech professionals are aging. The choice is to “bring them there or return home.” Oftentimes, the family will choose to return to their mother country to care for their aging parents.

2. The rapid development of South Asian opportunities pulls professionals back home. Rich with a younger population well-versed in global technology and a large market for labor, South Asia’s economy is on the cusp of a boom. This is recognized not only on the global economic scale but by the individuals choosing to return as well. In an interview conducted with a returnee, Ram, he notes that “there were opportunities in India – India is growing”. Ram already has a family and was advancing in his career steadily. However, the economic opportunity offered to him if he returned home was a stronger pull than anything in the West.

3. Industry specific zones are springing up, allowing clusters of innovation and clusters of returnees from the West. One example of this cluster effect is the Andhra Pradesh MedTech Zone in India, where medicinal technology is being innovated and discovered at a rapid rate. Medical and technology professionals from the West that returned to this sector find themselves surrounded by a silicon-valley type industry cluster. They also find clusters of similar-minded people. Returnee Ram meets people from Chicago and other US cities: “in the community of people (…) it’s like a mini-US”.

4. Capital for businesses is now readily available in South Asia. After the economy surged forward, jobs became widely available. Funding was plentiful for those that wished to start their own businesses. The IT industry hosts a yearly gathering in California for individuals who might want to return to South Asia. Companies like Intel, Amazon and Yahoo have started to attend the job fair. These potential opportunities for job growth pull many of the interested population back home. The job market and capital is potentially more accessible than in the West.

5. Government support is present for those that want to return and pursue a higher standard of living. Ram noted that entrepreneurial activities are “open to everyone”, fully accessible to anyone that wants to try their hand. The government streamlines the process so that “if you come and expect that you’re going to open your own company in a few weeks,” it’ll happen. Though there may be a more established support system in the West, the clear government support for individual development in South Asia is one of the strongest factors causing many to return.

Though the South Asian region continues its development as a result of the high-skilled professionals returning home, there is still substantial work to be done to retain the talent. Government support, economic opportunity, and familial support are all strong initial pulls. However, the issue of brain-drain won’t be fully resolved until there is sustained regional development. Focusing on industry development must be a mainstay for countries in the region in order to retain their talent and continue the growth of the tech industry in South Asia. Hopefully, through a region-wide commitment to development, South Asia will fully recover from the past losses of brain drain and develop into a hub for the global technology industry.

Pratik Samir Koppikar
Photo: Flickr

healthcare in kashmirFor months, people in Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir have struggled during a debilitating security lockdown. With phone lines cut and internet access heavily limited, the lockdown in Kashmir is the longest in recorded history. While the lockdown has heavily impacted all aspects of society, healthcare in Kashmir has taken a particularly significant hit.

The Conflict in Kashmir

Located at the intersection of some of the highest mountain ranges in the world, Kashmir is a region unlike any other. Often termed as “paradise on Earth,” the region’s picturesque landscapes and critical geopolitical location have made it a coveted jewel for powers vying in the region. For the past 80 years, India, Pakistan and China have clashed over the region, with each side claiming different swaths of the territory. With a majority-Muslim population, Kashmir has witnessed a popular resistance movement since 1989, which aims to achieve independence or unification with Pakistan.

However, in 2019, India announced a new approach toward Kashmir, implementing a set of draconian laws and procedures in the Indian-administered portion of the region. Under these laws, the territory lost its constitutional “special status.” The Indian government also reorganized its administrative divisions.

Critically, the territory is now in a crippling lockdown, including a stringent curfew, restrictions on movement and a blackout of all communications. The Indian government has arrested thousands of civilians and local politicians and shut out foreign media from the region. Indian-administered Kashmir, with a population of more than 12 million people, has struggled to deal with the effects of this clampdown.

Healthcare in Kashmir Under Lockdown

The lockdown has particularly affected healthcare in Kashmir. Less than three weeks after the start of the lockdown, pharmacies in the region began to report dire shortages of essential drugs. With stocks running low on anti-diabetics, anti-depressants and cardio-vascular medications, Kashmiris must travel miles in search of these essential medicines. Drugstores in the capital city of Srinagar have only filled half of all requested prescriptions.

Much of the problem arises from the communications blackout. With phone lines cut, stores cannot effectively communicate with dealers and medication suppliers. This makes their stocks vulnerable and the Kashmiris reliant on these medications even more so.

However, the problem with healthcare in Kashmir under lockdown exceeds medicine shortages. In 2019, the Lancet, a leading medical journal, declared that the lockdown puts patients at serious medical risk. With public transport halted and vehicles restricted, people in need of medical attention too often cannot obtain the care they need.

The lockdown has not spared mental health services in the region either. Doctors Without Borders (MSF) had maintained counseling centers in Kashmir since 2001, but closed their facilities with the start of the lockdown. Given the decades of traumatic conflict that have afflicted Kashmir, residents in the region rely on these mental health services.

As the world reels from COVID-19, Kashmir has also felt its effects. In the early months of 2020, the region saw the easing of several restrictions, including access to 2G internet. However, following Kashmir’s first case of COVID-19 in March 2020, restrictions returned with full force. In the following months, newspapers operating in the region have reported a shortage of hospital beds and dwindling supplies of oxygen and ventilators. Given the already fragile state of healthcare in Kashmir, COVID-19 has only aggravated conditions in the region.

Improvements in Healthcare in Kashmir

Although healthcare conditions in Kashmir remain heavily impacted by the ongoing lockdown, local and international actors have made several improvements. One development is medical treatment and consultations through phone calls and mobile applications. The novel approach hopes to provide a degree of healthcare access to Kashmiris while adhering to the lockdown guidelines. An estimated 630,000 families are eligible for the program.

In August 2020, a year after the start of the lockdown, the Indian government laid forth 10 fields of focus for Kashmir. This included the growth of the health sector as a top priority. In the same report, officials also declared progress in implementing the Swachh Bharat Mission in Kashmir, part of a national campaign to end open defecation and improve sanitation practices. The government also claimed to have distributed 1.2 million health cards to school-aged children in the region, providing access to much-needed health services. The cards come with up-to-date vaccination records as well as required biannual checkups.

While the military lockdown continues to exact a harsh toll on the people of Kashmir and its fragile healthcare system, the steps above have helped improve access and treatment in the region. If all goes well, India’s lockdown of Kashmir may soon end. With it would come an increase in the health and welfare of the Kashmiri people.

– Shayaan Subzwari
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

colorism in IndiaImagine, for a moment, that you’re a five-year-old girl growing up in India. All around you, the standards for beauty are pretty, light-skinned Indians: they’re in all of the movies, splashed across billboards and magazines, on promoted ads and videos. Every drug store sells multiple brands of skin-lightening creams, and your favorite actors all endorse skin-lightening products. Your family members tell you not to spend too much time in the sun, just so you won’t get too tan. That’s what colorism in India was like for Rajitha Pulivarthy, now 20 years old and living in the United States.

“I don’t know if I’ve ever experienced [colorism] myself, because I’m more on the lighter-skinned side, but I definitely adopted a colorist attitude when I was younger,” she said, recalling her experiences with colorism. “I wanted myself to look lighter or not get tanned in the summer.” Even with supportive parents who rarely mentioned colorism and told her to stay away from skin-lightening products, colorism still shaped Pulivarthy’s worldview growing up and even after moving to America. Sadly, Pulivarthy’s story is just one of millions. For many women growing up in India, this is the norm.

What is Colorism?

Colorism occurs when some people are discriminated against more than others of the same race, simply due to the shade of their skin. It is very prevalent in India, and it’s a gendered phenomenon, affecting Indian women more than men. Sometimes, colorism is obvious, but often it manifests in more subtle ways, like in everyday behavior. Something like commenting on how someone is “beautiful and fair-skinned” is commonplace in India. While those comments don’t necessarily insult those who have darker skin, they do show society’s preference for those with lighter skin.

Colorism in India

Colorism is so ingrained in everyday life and society, in fact, that skin-lightening products make up a multi-billion dollar industry in India. Bollywood, India’s movie industry, casts predominately light-skinned actors, which perpetuates beauty as light-skinned. Many Bollywood actors also endorse skin-lightening creams.

While the media plays a large role in these notions of lighter skin aligning with beauty, colorism in India can trace its roots all the way back to British colonization. The British ruled many South Asian countries, including India, for over 200 years. Their colonization embedded the idea that fair skin people were the ruling class, and darker-skinned people were the subjects. British rulers treated lighter-skinned Indians more favorably than their dark-skinned counterparts. They gave light-skinned Indians access to government jobs, while constantly demeaning dark-skinned Indians. This discrimination also bled into India’s caste system, where people perceived higher castes as fairer and superior and lower castes as darker and inferior. As such, these lasting colonial legacies mean that skin color still affects the socioeconomic status of Indians today.

How Colorism Affects Poverty

Poverty and colorism in India go hand-in-hand. Because the caste system still affects socioeconomic status, people with darker skin tend to be lower in socioeconomic status as well. Colorism makes social mobility harder for Indians in general. There is systemic discrimination against dark-skinned people in education systems and the labor market. Educators and employers still prefer light-skinned Indians over dark-skinned Indians, which plays greatly into the opportunities for social mobility that darker-skinned Indians do and do not have.

A basic link between poverty and colorism in India is that impoverished people are not able to take care of their appearance and diet. Though they don’t have access to skin-lightening products, they are seen as “dirty” and “dark.” Over time, these connotations begin to blur, and socioeconomic status and skin tone become connected to social and financial status.

One of the most unique effects of colorism in India is how arranged marriages, common in India, discriminate against dark-skinned people. Marriage ads allow people to filter out women on every condition under the sun, including skin color. A study done at the University of New Delhi, India found that dark-skinned men and women were consistently rated lower on marriage ads. This demonstrates yet another way that colorism in India inhibits social mobility, which makes it harder for impoverished people to change their circumstances.

Combatting Colorism in India

Anti-blackness and anti-darkness together ultimately create discriminatory systems that disenfranchise dark-skinned people in India and across South Asia. However, protests over summer of 2020 in the U.S. have prompted calls for equity and justice around the world, especially in India. In particular, there has been a new wave of conversations surrounding colorism in India and how to fight it.

Many Indians are asking themselves and their family members how they can continue to support “Black Lives Matter” while also perpetuating harmful colorism within their own communities. Some people are starting the fight against colorism by talking to their friends, families and community members about colorism. Others are using social media to create movements, like #UnfairAndLovely, which takes the name of a popular lightening cream and uses it to brand positivity posts for dark-skinned Indians. Still others are calling for accountability from notable Indian celebrities like Priyanka Chopra, who has promoted skin-lightening products in the past.

No matter the level of activism, combatting colorism in India needs the work of all of society to make India equitable for all Indians, regardless of skin color. Fighting colorism in India also helps fight poverty, and vice versa. Ultimately, colorism in India shows us that the fight for poverty is not just a fight for living wages, but a fight for global human rights.

Hannah Daniel
Photo: Flickr

GVCs Progress Developing Economies
In the past, companies primarily produced goods in one country as that was the most efficient way at the time. However, as technology gets more sophisticated, companies are finding that global value chains (GVCs) are the most effective and cost-efficient means of manufacturing goods. This article will explore how GVCs progress developing economies.

What are GVCs?

GVCs are the means behind fragmenting the production process so that different steps can occur in different countries. For example, to make a smartphone, a GVC would call for labor and supplies from multiple suppliers in different countries. Making a smartphone would also require assemblage in another country and selling in other target places. These complex production orders, spanning across multiple countries, have transformed trade as many know it. Both the economic and diplomatic implications of these chains are far-reaching.

The Importance of GVCs

GVCs are robust drivers of productivity and job growth, and they push for improved living standards. The way that a country engages with a GVC determines how that country benefits. According to the Global Value Chain Development Report that the World Bank, World Trade Organization and other partners published, nations that embrace these production chains grow more quickly than normal. They import and export not only manufactured goods but skills, information and technology.

For developing countries, this is an ideal opportunity to vary exports and reinforce the global economy. Under GVC operations, developing countries can grow by embedding more technology and expertise in their production lines. This higher value in labor and production also increases the value of labor and technological tasks, which helps boost the economies of developing countries when exporting products.

Countries that have Grown Under GVCs

Bangladesh, a country in South Asia, uses a GVC model for a variety of sectors, including the garment and apparel sector, which is especially prominent overseas. Garment sector job growth is a catalyst for Bangladesh’s poverty reduction and has had significant positive social impacts.

To elucidate, this GVC model led to the creation of over three million jobs beginning in the early 2000s, with women capturing approximately 70% of those jobs. Not only did this contribute to the growth of Bangladesh’s economy but it also contributed to a 10% rise in female labor force participation in the earlier 2000s.

Another example of how GVCs progress developing economies is in the global technology sector. For example, television designs come from Japan. Input pieces like semiconductors and processors come from South Korea or China. Meanwhile, the entire televisions receive assembly in China. They are exported throughout the world and the participating countries in a chain profit.

The Impact of GVCs

GVCs are evidently important and effective drivers of socio-economic growth for all countries, especially developing countries. They empower people by providing them with jobs and ways to service their abilities. They also allow for nations to take a strong stance in the global economy, encouraging diplomatic relations between countries.

These chains are a means for global growth, shared prosperity and allyship. There is always room for improvement, like finding a balance between importation and exportation. However, nations have already accomplished a lot already. As time passes, countries will hopefully see value in strengthening ties with the surrounding world through GVCs.

Sarah Uddin
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka is an island country that has 21.7 million inhabitants. However, that number sharply increases throughout the months of December to March as tourists flock to the island to visit its alluring beaches and mountainous terrain. The island nation resembles a tropical paradise, but poverty in Sri Lanka remains a critical concern as the country is still recovering from the tumultuous 30-year civil war which occurred from 1983 until 2009. Over the past decade, Sri Lanka has focused on reconstructing its economy and restructuring the distribution of wealth. The nation has made significant improvements but many serious issues remain in regard to poverty and the reconstruction process. Here are five facts about poverty in Sri Lanka.

5 Facts About Poverty in Sri Lanka

  1. Economic Growth and Living Standards: The poverty rate of Sri Lanka (excluding the Northern and Eastern provinces) decreased from 22.7% in 2002 to 6.1% in 2013. Unfortunately, the nation’s living standards do not reflect the same improvement. In 2013, approximately 45% of the population survived on less than $5 per day. However, the Sri Lankan economy has grown at an average of 5.6% over the past 10 years. This significant growth rate is expanding the middle class, improving purchasing power and increasing the disposable income of Sri Lankan citizens. Consequently, experts expect that living standards in Sri Lanka will improve in the years to come.
  2. Rural Versus Urban Regions: Sri Lanka has a large rural sector which causes an unequal spatial distribution of wealth. In 2013, 75% of Sri Lanka’s total population and more than 85% of Sri Lanka’s poor population lived in rural areas. The country’s wealth largely concentrates in urban centers, limiting poor, rural citizens’ access to resources and establishing a correlated pattern of economic inequality. After the Sri Lankan Civil War ended in 2009, the nation began rebuilding its economy with a focus on manufacturing and important services. This focus encourages the expansion of an urban-based economy which will help to spread resources and balance the apparent economic inequality.
  3. The Agriculture Industry: Almost 30% of Sri Lanka’s workforce and about 50% of the employed poor work in the agriculture industry. The agriculture industry typically has lower wages and fewer opportunities to advance compared to jobs in other sectors. Therefore, it is difficult for poor Sri Lankans in the agriculture sector to increase their annual income and improve their social standing, further perpetuating the rural pockets of poverty in Sri Lanka. Urbanization helps to counteract this phenomenon as it enables rural inhabitants to experience the resources and opportunities that once concentrated in Sri Lanka’s crowded cities. This structural transformation provides a wider array of choices in terms of employment and leisure, and it encourages poorer citizens working in the agriculture sector to engage in more productive industries which resultantly challenges the cycle of poverty in Sri Lanka.
  4. Key Development Indicators: Other socioeconomic issues, such as malnutrition and climate change, directly affect Sri Lanka’s poverty rate. According to the World Food Programme, 22% of Sri Lankans are undernourished or malnourished which signifies that many citizens lack necessary vitamins and minerals. Climate change also negatively affects the poverty rate in Sri Lanka as severe floods and droughts threaten food security and limit access to clean water. To combat these issues, the Sri Lankan government partnered with the World Food Programme to provide “technical and policy support to build national capacity to ensure access to food, end malnutrition and improve the productivity and incomes of smallholder farmers.” Additionally, the Sri Lankan government has made significant advances in reducing maternal mortality and increasing access to primary education. The percentage of skilled practitioners attending births in Sri Lanka has dramatically increased in recent years. Resultantly, Sri Lanka’s maternal mortality ratio has decreased from 500-600 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births to 60 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births in 2020. Education is a primary focus for the Sri Lankan government, as education is one of the most salient factors in alleviating poverty. Today, 99.08% of children ages 5 to 14 years old attend primary school in Sri Lanka.
  5. COVID-19: Predictions determine that Sri Lanka will experience a 25% (or $750 million) decrease in exports due to COVID-19. The global pandemic has dramatically reduced Sri Lanka’s export earnings, consumption and investment. As a result, top export industries (apparel, tea and rubber) have had to deliver devastating job and earning cuts. Social distancing requirements continue to restrict job performance and tourism, thereby threatening the stability of the economy and the national poverty rate. While the country braces for the economic impact, the government has focused on efforts to contain the spread of the virus. In April 2020, the Sri Lankan government issued a 24-hour curfew, closed all international flights and increased coronavirus testing to slow its spread. These measures made identifying cases of coronavirus quicker and easier which prevented thousands of more deaths from occurring, and which limited the damage to the national economy and poverty rate.

While these five facts about poverty in Sri Lanka show the country’s challenges, it has made significant strides to reduce its poverty rate. Through its continued work independently and with NGOs like the World Food Programme, the country should be able to continue alleviating its poverty rate.

Ashley Bond
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Poverty in Pakistan
Founded during the partition of India and located in South Asia, the Islamic Republic of Pakistan is the fifth most populous country in the world, with a population of more than 210 million. Cornerstones of Pakistani culture include incredible cuisine, iconic architecture and the popular game of cricket. However, like so many nations across the globe, Pakistani citizens are forced to confront the harsh reality of extreme poverty. Here are ten facts about poverty in Pakistan.

10 Facts About Poverty in Pakistan

  1. As of 2015, approximately 24% of Pakistani citizens lived below the national poverty line. This is more than twice the global percentage of people living in extreme poverty and amounts to more than 50 million people in Pakistan living in poverty.
  2. Nearly 4% of Pakistan lives below $1.90 a day. As a result, nearly 9 million Pakistani citizens live in extreme poverty. This puts them below the Purchasing Power Parity (PPP) outlined in the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals.
  3. As of 2018, almost 7% of babies died before their fifth birthday. Life in poverty makes it extremely difficult to have access to proper housing, nutrition and medication.
  4. The adult illiteracy rate in Pakistan is around 35%. Unequal access to proper and requisite education is inseparable from the reality of poverty.
  5. Pakistan also faces a severe overpopulation problem. While the nation has the fifth-highest population in the world, it takes up less than a percent of this planet’s surface. Overpopulation and unequal access to education amplify problems caused by poverty.
  6. Pakistan has a Human Development Index (HDI) of 0.560. The nation ranks 152nd out of 189 countries and territories. In the last three decades, Pakistan’s HDI has increased by nearly 40%.
  7. Appproximately 38% of Pakistani citizens are living in multidimensional poverty. Another 13% are vulnerable to this status. From 2004 to 2015, the multidimensional poverty rate has dropped from 55% to its current rate at 38%.
  8. Poverty levels in Pakistan fluctuate throughout regions. In urban areas, poverty rates are around 9%, while in rural areas poverty rates rise all the way to 55%. This disparity can be seen among provinces in the Republic as well.
  9. About 25 million Pakistani families rely on wage workers. They have unfortunately become vulnerable due to the current COVID-19 pandemic. The Prime Minister has said that the pandemic is harder to deal with in countries facing the challenges of poverty.
  10. The Pakistani government hopes to receive $5 billion in financial aid. This would come from outside sources and countries, along with the $1.3 billion they have already received from the IMF.

With continued efforts, poverty in Pakistan will hopefully decrease. The Citizens Foundation is one of many non-profits that have been working to improve the quality of life for underprivileged Pakistani citizens. In 25 years, the Citizens Foundation has created 1,652 schools, providing a proper education to over 266,000 children who would not have had it otherwise. These schools also combat gender inequality in Pakistan, as they have all-female faculty and a 50% student gender ratio.

However, there is still work to be done. In Pakistan, gender disparities compound the unjust realities of poverty. Poverty rates in rural areas are more than five times higher than those in urban areas. Yet, similar to global trends, the amount of people living in poverty in Pakistan has clearly been decreasing in recent years. This is in large part due to individuals and organizations dedicating themselves to the cause of ending poverty. These continued efforts will help fight and eventually end poverty in Pakistan, and in turn will make the Republic a more just and equal country for all those who call it home.

Ehran Hodes
Photo: Flickr

childrens health in Pakistan
Pakistan is a country that has had many years of strife regarding affordable and accessible health care, particularly for families. Many organizations seek to change this so that the country can improve the well-being of its children, the most vulnerable group. Below are seven facts about children’s health in Pakistan.

7 Facts About Children’s Health in Pakistan

  1. Immunizations: UNICEF has been supporting the Pakistani government in ensuring that children have access to routine immunizations. The Expanded Programme on Immunization (EPI) in Pakistan works to provide vaccinations to children in both urban and rural communities. In 2018, 75 percent of infants received a third dose of the Diptheria-Tetanus-Pertussis (DTaP) vaccine, compared to only 59 percent in 2000. Similarly, in 2018, 67 percent of children received a second dose of the measles vaccine, compared to only 30 percent in 2009.
  2. Pneumonia: Pneumonia is the number one cause of death among children in the world as well as in Pakistan. About 91,000 Pakistani children die from pneumonia each year. However, in 2012, Pakistan was the first nation in South Asia to introduce a pneumonia vaccine to children. Though the vaccine is expensive, international organizations such as the World Health Organization (WHO), Global Alliance for Vaccines Initiative (GAVI) and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation have begun to include this vaccine in the free immunization program for children.
  3. Child Health and Sanitation Week: Twice a year, Pakistan holds Child Health and Sanitation Week. UNICEF and the Government of Pakistan hold events and marches to raise awareness about children’s health. They provide free immunizations and deworming, and hold information sessions on breastfeeding and hydration. Children and families also learn about the importance of good hygiene and how to prevent certain diseases.
  4. Diarrhea: About 53,000 children die from diarrhea in Pakistan every year. Though diarrhea is another leading cause of death, UNICEF Pakistan supports the Global Action Plan for Pneumonia and Diarrhea (GAPPD). The GAPPD trains health care workers, researches causes of illness and provides supplies to help treat and prevent both conditions.
  5. Neonatal Deaths: The government of Pakistan Provides programs on EPI, family planning, maternal/neonatal and child health and primary health care and nutrition for women and children living in rural and remote areas of Pakistan. According to the National Institute of Health, these sorts of programs have the potential to prevent 20 percent of neonatal deaths, between 29 to 40 percent of deaths in children below the age of 5.
  6. Government Projects: The Government of Pakistan has initiated a wide variety of programs aimed specifically towards protecting the health of children and their mothers including the Maternal and Child Health Programme, National Program for Family Planning and Primary Health Care, National EPI Programme, Nutrition Project, Acute Respiratory Infections Control Project and the Integrated Management of Childhood Illnesses Strategy. These projects are able to assist areas of Pakistan that need treatment and prevention supplies for various illnesses in children.
  7. HIV: UNICEF is assisting the Government of Pakistan in preventing HIV cases in children. Though the amount of pediatric HIV cases has increased in Pakistan throughout the last few years, the Prevention of Parent to Child Transmission has been researching ways to change this and strengthen the care that infected children receive. The initiative is also working to educate adolescents on HIV prevention.

Pakistan has struggled with providing its families with accessible and affordable health care. However, with many new initiatives, specifically with immunizations, its children will be able to thrive. As the Government of Pakistan has shown, children’s health in Pakistan will continue to be among its priorities.

Alyson Kaufman
Photo: Wikimedia

South Asian Food and Security Initiative
The South Asian Food and Security Initiative (SAFANSI) launched in 2010 to fight malnutrition in South Asia. The program has already had two full successful phases and is in the process of planning more. Since 2010, SAFANSI has contributed a great deal to several projects that help decrease malnutrition in South Asia. This article will outline how SAFANSI identified the problem and created 27 solutions. It will also express SAFANSI’s future plans.

Identifying the Problem

The South Asian Food and Security Initiative set out to combat the Asian Enigma, a problem for people in South Asian countries such as India, Nepal and Afghanistan who suffer from malnutrition and stunted growth at levels comparable to poorer countries. Food security is part of this problem. Despite the populace having the means to purchase food, it did not meet its nutritional needs. Furthermore, SAFANSI found that a major issue was that people did not know how to eat a healthy diet. This caused SAFASNI to identify the need for further innovations benefitting food security. These issues caused people from countries with comparatively low poverty rates to suffer from malnutrition.

Creating a Solution

In order to fix the discrepancy in the Asian Enigma, the South Asian Food and Security Initiative funded projects that fit its mission using money from the World Bank and foreign governments, including England and Australia. These projects range from sponsoring studies that investigate causes and solutions to communicating proper nutrition practices. In its 2018 report, SAFANSI listed some significant accomplishments, including sponsorship of 17 published peer-reviewed studies on food security on a household level (cited 75 times).

SAFANSI had also informed seven policies for countries including Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Nepal. These policies support community-based nutrition programs that empower communities to take control of their own nutritional habits. Appealing to the populace, the organization has reached almost 5 million people through news articles and social media posts with information on food education. Another project provided $16 million in aid to pregnant mothers, children under 2 years of age and rural farmers. SAFANSI conducted these innovative projects with an initial investment of only $4.2 million. To continue to address the need for food products with increased nutritional value, SAFANSI funded a project in India to fortify milk with vitamins that provided milk to over 55 million people. These 27 projects that SAFANSI funded over the last three years are by no means, the extent of its efforts.

Continued Efforts

Despite the tremendous efforts over the past nine years, SAFANSI intends to do more. Since SAFANSI’s second phase is coming to an end, planning for a third phase will commence soon. In this third phase, SAFANSI aims to further investigate methods for stunting and waste, as well as beginning to work more with the private sector on projects. SAFANSI wishes to build on its success by continuing to bring together experts to create innovative ideas regarding clean water, agriculture, sanitation and public administration.

Josh Fritzjunker
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

The Development of South Asia Through Integration
South Asia is considered one of the least integrated regions across the globe; yet in recent years, international organizations, such as the World Bank, are implementing strategies to unite the nations economically.

Understanding South Asia

South Asian countries consist of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. South Asia is considered one of the fasting growing regions within the world today, and the region is home to two very fast-growing economies.

According to the World Bank, the development of South Asia is projected to increase from 6.9 percent to 7.1 percent in the upcoming year.

Bhutan, alone, is currently the fastest growing economy — the nation reports that it will grow at a staggering annual rate of 11.1 percent. India is also one of the fastest growing economies as well, with a growth rate at about 7.73 percent from 2017-2019.

The World Bank emphasizes the importance of cooperation and trade among South Asia, and they believe that the growth rate is predicted to increase if these nations work together in harmony.

Path to Progress

Regional, economic entwinement is the way in which development of South Asia progresses — the World Bank recognizes such measures and has initiated plans in order to unify this region.

As one of the first steps, the World Bank brought approximately 100 students together at the Fourteenth South Asia Economics Students’ Meet (SAESM). Economic undergraduates discussed their academic and experimental research about regional integration and its advantages.

They also explained how to attain economic prosperity through cooperation and trade, and students developed long-lasting friendships that should unequivocally encourage future relations among South Asian countries.

‘One South Asia’

Not only has the World Bank encouraged millennials, but they also have a twofold program called “One South Asia,” which directly forms connections among South Asian countries. The first objective is technical assistance, which will offer economic opportunities to strengthen trade connections. The second goal is to increase conversation about regional integration and local investments.

They are also trying to work with both the public and private sectors. The development of South Asia begins at the engagement of all levels of the economy.

There has been many obstacles to achieve “One South Asia,” yet the World Bank is determined to merge these nations together so they are successful economically, politically and socially. The development of South Asia as a whole will be difficult, yet it is possible and can occur if the region continues on this trajectory.

The World Bank’s Influence and Steps to Development

The World Bank has many projects within South Asian nations — particularly Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Pakistan — to improve their economies individually. Most of these initiatives create jobs and opportunities for their citizens.

Regional integration is also crucial to the development of South Asia. The only way to reach prosperity is for countries to form a union — if South Asia mirrored the European Union, the opportunities for growth within each nation are endless.

This is a challenge, yet if international organizations, governments and the citizens of South Asia work tirelessly, they will surely reach their Sustainable Development Goals.

– Diana Hallisey
Photo: Flickr