According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about “93% of cervical cancers are preventable.” Unfortunately, however, the rates for cervical cancer, as well as the number of deaths from it, continue to remain high in many of the poorest areas of the world. This is especially the case in sub-Saharan Africa, most notably in East Africa. In order to reduce incidences of cervical cancer in sub-Saharan Africa, targeted human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine rollouts are necessary.

Cervical Cancer Rates in Sub-Saharan Africa

Sub-Saharan Africa notes a significant number of cervical cancer cases. In East Africa specifically, cervical cancer is “the leading cause of cancer-related morbidity and mortality, with one of the incidence rates above 40 cases per 100,000 of the population,” according to a study based on surveys conducted between 2014 and 2017. The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that, in 2018, Africa accounted for 19 of the 20 countries with the highest rates of cervical cancer.

A study published in 2020 by Elima Jedy-Agba and others says cervical cancer is also “the most common cancer in half (23/46) of the countries of sub-Saharan Africa,” with women in these countries noting the highest cervical cancer incidences and mortality rates globally. The cervical cancer survival rate is also very low in sub-Saharan Africa as only about 33% of those with this form of cancer survive five years after diagnosis. Additionally, cervical cancer was responsible for 21.7% of all cancer deaths in women in sub-Saharan Africa in 2018, “making it the most common cause of cancer death in the region.”

Cervical Cancer Risk Factors

Cervical cancer rates are high in sub-Saharan Africa primarily due to a prevalence of various risk factors, many of which tend to be associated with poverty. University of Cape Town gynecology professor Lynette Denny asserts that the increased risk of cervical cancer in sub-Saharan Africa has “a very strong connection with poverty, with high numbers of people living in unsatisfactory conditions, as well as fragile health care systems that tend to focus on curative rather than preventative interventions…”

Denny also cites women’s lack of access to health care and successful screening programs in Africa as other potential causes. This lack of access contributes to 90% of deaths from the illness.

Lower levels of education, which ties to poverty, also play a role. In a study published in July 2021, Abila and others found that among a group of participants from Uganda, Burundi, Rwanda, Kenya and Tanzania, “having a complete secondary education was associated with the lowest number of risk factors for cervical cancer compared with women with no education” in each country.

Furthermore, most of the respondents in the study “started sexual intercourse at 17 years or younger with the highest proportion among women from Uganda (72.38%) and the lowest among women from Burundi (52.3%).” The women also first gave birth at tender ages, with the mean ages ranging from 18.67 in Uganda to 21.71 in Rwanda.

HIV and HPV Risk Factors

Such trends are common in poor regions as various studies in Africa reveal that “poverty is a risk factor for early sexual debut.” For instance, sub-Saharan African countries typically note higher rates of transactional sex (exchanging sexual acts for basic necessities such as food and money) among young women due to economic insecurity.

Although these young women can meet certain short-term needs by engaging in transaction sex, this practice typically involves multiple sexual partners, which increases the risk of contracting HPV and/or HIV, both of which cause a bulk of cervical cancer cases globally. This shows how poverty in sub-Saharan Africa can directly result in higher rates of cervical cancer.

Treatment Options/HPV Vaccinations

Expanding access to HPV vaccinations is a solution that could greatly reduce the incidence of cervical cancer in sub-Saharan Africa. According to a research article by Christine Muthoni Karanja-Chege, “HPV vaccination provides protection against HPV types 16 and 18 which are responsible for approximately 70% of cervical cancer cases.”  Karanja-Chege also notes that the best age for vaccination is during the early adolescent years before an individual’s first sexual encounter as children in developing countries are more prone to becoming sexually active at an early age.

Karanja-Chege cites Australia as an example of a country in which widespread HPV vaccination has succeeded. As of 2019, 80% of Australian females eligible for the HPV vaccine have received it, which has greatly reduced HPV infection in the country. Furthermore, this increase in HPV vaccination rates is expected to reduce the cervical cancer rate in the country in the near future. The example of Australia demonstrates that nations can achieve considerable success in preventing a major risk factor associated with cervical cancer, which is what African nations such as Kenya hope to do.

HPV Vaccination Rollout in Kenya

Kenya has also attempted to deter cervical cancer through HPV vaccination. In 2019, Kenya’s Ministry of Health rolled out a “routine HPV vaccination” program for 10-year-old girls in the country. With the support of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, public health organization John Snow, Inc. (JSI) helped introduce the vaccine in Kenya.

Despite these efforts, vaccine misinformation spread throughout the country, discouraging many parents from bringing their daughters for vaccinations. Furthermore, the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted health care services in the country and forced the government to delay many immunization campaigns, including the HPV immunization campaign.

Nevertheless, the introduction of the HPV vaccine in Kenya has seen some success. The 2019 program also provides valuable lessons that health ministries in Africa can take into account to ensure greater success in future programs. JSI notes that “HPV vaccine introduction requires tailored approaches to reach preadolescent/adolescent girls. Countries that are introducing HPV vaccine are learning that these lessons also offer an innovative blueprint for future life-course vaccinations.”

– Adam Cvik

Photo: Flickr

Retinoblastoma in Sub-Saharan AfricaRetinoblastoma is a childhood cancer affecting the eye. In sub-Saharan Africa, its incidence is high and survival is low. The VISION 2020 LINKS program aims to address this issue by forming partnerships between U.K. and African eye health care departments.

What is Retinoblastoma?

Retinoblastoma is a childhood cancer of the light-sensitive cells at the back of the eye (the retina). Symptoms of retinoblastoma can include vision problems, irregular eye movements and inflammation of the eye. Treatment options usually include surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy, freezing therapy and laser therapy.

What is the Incidence of Retinoblastoma in Sub-Saharan Africa?

It is estimated that there are over 1,950 cases of retinoblastoma in Africa per year. The symptoms in children in sub-Saharan Africa are found late and they become more troublesome and severe. Unfortunately, this means children have lower chances of survival. Overall, the survival rates for retinoblastoma in sub-Saharan Africa are as low as 26.6%, compared to 99% in the U.K.

What are the Barriers to Proper Management of Retinoblastoma in Sub-Saharan Africa?

  1. Shortage of Ophthalmologists: The World Health Organization recommends a minimum of one ophthalmologist per 250,000 people. However, in many places in Africa this falls as low as one ophthalmologist per 1,000,000 people.
  2. Inaccessibility of specialist eye health care: Two-thirds of these ophthalmologists are located within major cities, despite the majority of the population of sub-Saharan Africa living in rural areas. Lack of transport and large traveling distances make proper eye care inaccessible and/or costly. This means that most children receive eye care from local primary health care workers or traditional healers. However, neither is adequately trained to competently identify and manage complex ophthalmic conditions such as retinoblastoma.
  3. Unaffordable cost of treatment: A study in 2018 found the average cost of treatment for retinoblastoma in sub-Saharan Africa amounted to $1,954. With an estimated 40% of the population living below $1.90 a day, the cost of life-saving health care is unachievable for many.

What is the VISION 2020 LINKS Program and its Efforts to Curb Retinoblastoma?

The VISION 2020 LINKS program was established to correct the disparities in ophthalmic care in low-resource settings, such as Africa, with the goal of preventing and managing avoidable blindness.

The VISION 2020 LINKS program was founded by the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine’s International Centre for Eye Health in 2004. The aim of the program is to build long-term partnerships between eye health care workers in the U.K. and low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). These partnerships aid the development of skills and knowledge of eye care workers in LMICs and U.K. eye care workers. Through skills and knowledge training, the VISION 2020 LINKS program is addressing the lack of adequate ophthalmic care in LMICs.

Currently, 30 partnerships exist between the U.K. and LMICs, predominantly in Africa. VISION 2020 LINKS has 16 partnerships working to improve pediatric eye health care and establish retinoblastoma as a priority within this.

Though retinoblastoma is viewed as curable in high-income countries, the consequences in sub-Saharan Africa can be devastating. The VISION 2020 LINKS program aims to minimize the disparities in ophthalmic care, with retinoblastoma as a key focus of many of their partnerships.

– Jess Steward
Photo: Flickr

African Social Enterprises
All over sub-Saharan Africa, many initiatives are seeking to address poverty and improve people’s lives amid fears of escalating hunger and extreme poverty. The World Bank reported that sub-Saharan Africa would note a decrease in economic growth from 4.1% in 2021 to 3.3% in 2022 due to sluggish global economic growth, the war in Ukraine and extreme weather conditions. Social enterprises keep hope alive by stepping up to address the effects of poverty on the most vulnerable and disadvantaged people. A social enterprise is a business with social objectives. While these businesses do seek to make profits, the enterprises maximize benefits to society and the environment by bringing relief to the most vulnerable sections of the communities. In particular, several African social enterprises look to address poverty in the region.

Pad-Up Creations

Olivia Onyemaobi founded Pad-Up Creations in May 2016 in Minna in Niger State of Nigeria. This Nigerian social enterprise aims to address period poverty in Nigeria. Period poverty refers to girls’ and women’s lack of access to menstrual products and hygiene facilities to properly manage menstruation. Onyemaobi launched a campaign in 2015 to provide female victims of sexual abuse with counseling and rehabilitation. Onyemaobi also noted a link between period poverty and sexual abuse.

Out of the 1,500 girls who received counseling, 68% had infections from using unsanitary alternatives to manage their menstruation and 79% typically did not attend school when menstruating due to a lack of access to menstrual supplies. Furthermore, 70% regret being female due to their menstruation and 95% reported engaging in sexual encounters to enable them to buy menstrual products.

Pad-Up Creations manufactures affordable washable and reusable sanitary pads that last up to a year, saving females from the monthly costs of menstrual supplies and ensuring girls stay in school. According to Onyemaobi, Pad-Up Creations reached more than 100,000 girls in Nigeria by 2017 but now has outlets in 18 African countries reaching millions of women and girls. Aside from reducing poverty, the social enterprise is also empowering other women economically. More than 300 females work in the factory in Minna while others are distributors of the products earning minimal profits.

Solar Sister

Solar Sister is another one of the African social enterprises empowering and helping women across sub-Saharan Africa. It invests in women and “clean energy businesses in off-grid Africa.” It is a movement of women, men, allies and partners with a mission to eradicate energy poverty by “empowering women with economic opportunity.”

Solar Sister initially came about in 2010 through the efforts of two women, a Ugandan banker, Katherine Lucey, and an Indian energy economist, Neha Misra, whose visits to remote areas in their different localities inspired them to build social enterprises around women, focusing on affordable clean energy. Three other women, Evelyn Namara of Uganda, Fatma Muzo of Tanzania and Olasimbo Sojinrin of Nigeria, boosted these efforts by launching operations in their respective countries.

According to the World Bank, just 48% of people in sub-Saharan Africa had access to electricity in 2020. Furthermore, just 18% of people in this region had “access to clean fuels and technologies for cooking” in the same year. The detrimental effects of household air pollution led to about 500,000 premature deaths in sub-Saharan Africa in 2018.

Against this backdrop, Solar Sister produces and provides clean stoves for cooking and solar solutions for lighting and charging batteries. So far, across three African countries, Solar Sister has reached more than 3.5 million people and has sold more than 700,000 clean energy products. Furthermore, the enterprise has helped 8,500 people become entrepreneurs by selling its solar products, 87% of whom are women.

Farm On Wheels

Farm On Wheels is a Nigerian social enterprise whose vision is to help smallholder farmers in hard-to-reach locations in Niger State, Nigeria. Its mission is to take knowledge, skills, improved seeds and agrochemicals to farmers in remote locations in order to assist them in increasing their yields and accessing markets for their products, making them gainfully employed and financially empowered. Jocelyne Agbo founded the enterprise in 2017 as an alumnus of the Tony Elumelu Foundation.

Because smallholder farmers in Nigeria live and work in remote locations with little knowledge of or access to advancements, they tend to stick to traditional agricultural practices at the subsistence level. Farm On Wheels brings advancements to rural farmers in leaps by helping to increase their yields and giving them access to bigger markets, making their farming endeavors more economically viable.

Between May 2021 to April 2022, Farm On Wheels partnered with the Feed the Future Nigeria Agribusiness Investment Activity, a USAID-funded activity implemented by Cultivating New Frontiers in Agriculture (CNFA). To improve yields and production, Farm on Wheels distributed “input loans” totaling 24 million nairas ($58,151 USD) to 500 farmers, including 100 youth farmers in Niger State.

These three African social enterprises fill the gap between government action and the hard-to-reach, vulnerable people living in sub-Saharan Africa, thereby, lifting many out of poverty.

– Friday Okai
Photo: Flickr

Electricity Access in Sub-Saharan Africa
The Africa Minigrids Program is an effort that the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) led to improve electricity access in sub-Saharan Africa. Using solar mini-grids, the program will work with 21 African countries up until 2027 to solve the energy crisis through renewable energy.

Energy Access and Poverty in sub-Saharan Africa

According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), sub-Saharan African nations have some of the world’s lowest energy access rates. In fact, the agency notes that “Sub-Saharan Africa’s share of the global population without access to electricity rose to 77% from 74% before the pandemic.” The most recently available IEA data states that less than half of the region’s population, some 48.5%, have access to electricity as of 2019.

That being said, the lack of access to electricity intertwines with poverty in the region. According to the Global Multidimensional Poverty Index 2022, sub-Saharan Africa not only has the lowest electricity access rates but also holds the highest concentration of impoverished people.

Additionally, a 2018 Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) report says that policy solutions in 2018 did not “recognize the transformative potential of solar off-grid and mini-grid solutions to deliver clean energy access.” This is set to change with UNDP’s Africa Minigrids Program, which plans on using these methods to improve electricity access in sub-Saharan Africa.

How the Program Works

According to the Africa Minigrids Program’s website, the initiative will help improve electricity access across 21 sub-Saharan partner countries by “increasing the financial viability of, and promoting scaled-up investment in renewable energy minigrids in Africa, with a focus on cost-reduction levers and innovative business models.” By doing this, the program would also impact socio-economic development in the region since industries such as agriculture, health care and education require stable and consistent electricity access to see successful outcomes.

The UNDP is not alone in affecting change in electricity access in sub-Saharan Africa. The Global Environment Facility (GEF) financially supports the project with funding that will help the UNDP and its program partners, the Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) and the African Development Bank (ADB), implement the program, starting with an initial phase of supporting 11 out of 21 partner countries.

According to the program brochure, the first phase began in 2022, with the subsequent two phases expected to begin in 2023. Combined, the 21 countries are home to “more than two-thirds of the total unelectrified population of Africa,” with a total combined population of 396 million individuals without electricity. The program estimates that more than 200,000 schools and clinics will gain access to electricity as a result of the program along with upward of 900,000 businesses.

Benefits of the Program

Without a doubt, the electricity that the Africa Minigrids Project provides will have a significant impact on the impoverished populations of the 21 AMP countries. According to the World Bank, improving access to electricity is “key to boosting economic activity and contributes to improving human capital, which, in turn, is an investment in a country’s potential.”

Electricity in the region would help power schools, medical facilities and businesses, allowing millions a chance to improve their lives and move one step closer to living a life free of poverty. The Africa Minigrids Program presents a transformative approach to improving electricity access in sub-Saharan Africa, one that will positively affect millions of people currently living in poverty.

– Mohammad Samhouri
Photo: Wikipedia Commons

Period Poverty in Sub-Saharan Africa
Period poverty is defined as a “lack of access to menstrual products, education, hygiene facilities [and/or] waste management.” The World Bank says that each day, more than 300 million females menstruate and about 500 million menstruating females experience period poverty. In impoverished areas such as sub-Saharan Africa, the issue is more pronounced. The impacts of period poverty in sub-Saharan Africa are far-reaching.

3 Facts About Period Poverty in sub-Saharan Africa

  1. Inaccessible Menstrual Products. The prices of menstrual products like sanitary pads range between $0.96 in Ghana and $2 in Zimbabwe. These high costs mean basic menstrual essentials are unaffordable for impoverished girls and women. As such menstruating females sometimes resort to using unhygienic alternatives such as newspapers, rags, cow dung and leaves, which increases the risk of infections.
  2. Menstrual Stigma and Misinformation. Due to a lack of information and misconceptions, in sub-Saharan Africa, menstrual stigma is common and worsens cases of period poverty in sub-Saharan Africa as girls who are period-poor hesitate to reach out for help due to embarrassment. Also, because of stigma, taboos and myths, girls are usually isolated and sometimes restricted from activities during their menstrual cycle. For example, in Asembo, Kenya, many people believe “menstruating girls should not sleep in their mother’s house” because menstruation is considered an “unclean” process.
  3. Period Poverty Affects Education. According to UNESCO in 2014, because of period poverty in sub-Saharan Africa, 10% of girls miss out on education while menstruating. This equates to losing about 20% of a school year. Girls without menstrual supplies to properly manage their periods fear embarrassment or humiliation at school. When a girl completes school, she has higher job prospects, learns more about her health and helps her family, community and country at large. Period poverty raises the chances of dropping out of school entirely, which makes girls more vulnerable to poverty.

FemConnect by Asonele Kotu

Asonele Kotu is a South African entrepreneur who founded FemConnect. In alignment with SDG 3 (Good Health and Well-Being) and SDG 5 (Gender Equality), FemConnect is a startup focusing on developing technological solutions to address period poverty in sub-Saharan Africa.

The BBC explained that the “platform allows users to access sexual and reproductive telemedicine with no stigma or discrimination as well as feminine hygiene products and contraceptives.” The focus is on underserved, marginalized girls. Girls can reach the website privately for assistance and advice pertaining to their menstrual health.

With the #WegotuGirl campaign to end period poverty in Africa, Kotu also advocates and garners support for the distribution of menstrual products like pads, menstrual cups and tampons to less privileged women and girls living in rural communities. “Collaborating with schools and local organizations to uplift women, Kotu has expanded her initiative to Nigeria,” Sowetan Live reports.

With platforms such as FemConnect, girls in sub-Saharan Africa can now seek menstrual guidance and easily access menstrual products, which helps to reduce the number of girls missing school during their menstruation. By addressing period poverty, poverty as a whole reduces because more girls gain an education.

– Oluwagbohunmi Bajela
Photo: Flickr

Board Games
Historically, many board game ideas come from an idea about social or moral issues. For example, Monopoly was designed to teach people about financial difficulties such as finding affordable rent and paying taxes. Board games also help people develop real-work skills such as creativity, the ability to plan and prepare and empathy. Board games can even teach social activism. By overcoming adversity in board games such as Peacemaker, players grab hold of newfound mental tools that help them achieve success for their own causes. One truly noteworthy cause that some board games focus on is global poverty.

Across the World

Poverty is defined as living on less than $1.90 a day. The United States falls in the lower quarter of countries in terms of its poverty level. Most of the countries in the top quarter having the highest poverty levels have percentages in poverty that are more than 50%. South Sudan has the highest poverty level of 82.3% with Equatorial Guinea following close behind.

The highest poverty levels are located in Africa. For example, sub-Saharan Africa is the poorest region in the world. Of the 430 million people living there, 40% are recorded as living in extreme poverty as of 2018. Countries with the resources to help others have come together to form organizations such as the United Nations, World Bank and the European Nations to help these people in need.

Playing a board game helps people develop the skills and empathetic mindset to support organizations that are already addressing these issues. There are several examples of board games that even go as far as to address global poverty and social inequality specifically.

Development Monopoly

Multiple versions of Monopoly have undergone development. Development Monopoly is one version that focuses on raising awareness of poverty levels and inequality in developing countries. The board game revolves around the idea that not all individuals are born with the same privileges and opportunities. Players must negotiate and compromise depending upon their socio-economic group.

In original studies at universities in Belgium, students from different nationalities such as European, Asian and Latin American had the assignment of developing rules for Monopoly based on developing countries. Each time a new game began, the rules changed. In the second game, the players designed the rules around wealthier countries. The diversity of the nationalities involved forced the students to learn more about their fellow players and the poverty issues facing their homelands.

Players received salaries as a percentage. For example, a rich player may receive an 80% higher salary than a poor player. The advantages given to the rich and middle class allowed them to dominate and control the poor. The board game revealed that the rich players did not seem to mind taking advantage of the poor. After the games were completed, students were then asked how the rules of the game could be made to be pro-poor.

The Perspectivity Challenge

The Perspectivity Collective has also launched multiple poverty-related games. Notably, the Perspectivity Collective is a partnership of a dozen professionals who have lived and worked in areas such as Europe, the Middle East, Africa and more with polarized groups. The Collective’s goal is to foster social innovation and teach people how to navigate the difficulties and complexities of life.

One solution it developed is called the Perspectivity Challenge. The players play on one board that represents the world and navigate the game based on various challenges. These challenges focus on issues related to climate, food, human security, decision-making and more. The Food Challenge focuses on malnutrition and food availability and affordability, which are poverty related to the issue of global poverty. The goal of The Food Challenge is to develop and manage a country that can feed an entire population. Each player represents a different country and all must work together in order to prevent starvation.

This board game addresses the poverty issues of starvation, malnutrition and being able to feed one’s family. Players learn about the importance of world collaboration. It takes every country being invested in ending world hunger to be successful. This game is offered in multiple languages and has been played all around the world in countries such as the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, the United States, China, Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand, India, Singapore and Manila. People at the World Bank in Washington even played it to help leaders learn collaboration and planning skills.

Ending Global Poverty

While amidst a continuing fear of the recent pandemic and a newfound necessity to find fun ways to entertain at home, a board game is a great way to educate people about the issue of poverty. Board games will always appeal to large masses of all kinds of people across the globe and can be used to reignite empathy for those around us who are struggling.

– Tara Boehringer
Photo: Unsplash

Drones in sub-Saharan Africa
On May 19, 2022, German delivery drone company Wingcopter and Ghana-based drone company Continental Drones announced a partnership plan to deploy 12,000 supply drones across 49 sub-Saharan African countries. to establish a delivery network. According to Wingcopter’s website, “these networks will dramatically improve the reliability and efficiency of existing supply chains but also help create completely new ones.” The drones will also be deployed to improve the lives of African people “through the on-demand delivery of medicines, vaccines, or laboratory samples but also essential goods for daily use.” Drones in sub-Saharan Africa offer the opportunity to reduce the current poverty rate in sub-Saharan Africa, which stood at roughly 41% as of 2018.

The Impact of the Russia-Ukraine War

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine exacerbates hunger and food insecurity in Africa because several nations rely on Ukraine and Russia for wheat, oil and fertilizer, however, “the war disrupts global commodity markets and trade flows to Africa, increasing already high food prices in the region.”

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) indicates that its Food Price Index, “a measure of the monthly change in international prices of a basket of food commodities,” rose by 12.6% from February 2022 to March 2022 as a consequence of the war. This percentage is the highest since the creation of the index in the 1990s.

Africa Renewal stated that, in 2020, about 282 million people in Africa endured hunger, a figure which the Russia-Ukraine war will only heighten.

Necessary Supplies and Economic Impact

Drones offer faster access to “vaccines, medicines, lab samples and other key medical supplies” along with food sources. Wingcopter has already established partnerships with hospitals in Malawi to ensure more efficient delivery of resources.

Along with providing life-saving supplies using drones in sub-Saharan Africa, this partnership will boost economic growth in sub-Saharan Africa through the creation of new job opportunities necessary to operate the drone network.

Wingcopter 198 Drone Capabilities

The partnership between Wingcopter and Continental drones will involve the use of the Wingcopter 198, “the world’s most advanced delivery drone.” Unlike a typical drone, Wingcopter 198 drones can fly in strong winds and rain to deliver supplies. A single Wingcopter 198 drone can carry around six kilograms of cargo during flight and has a range of up to 110 kilometers at full capacity.

Speed is most important when it comes to life-saving supplies. These drones have a default cruise speed of 100 kilometers per hour, which means the droners are able to deliver in a timely manner and emit lower emissions than other forms of delivery.

Apart from the ability to deliver supplies quickly, the Wingcopter 198 is cost-effective due to its innovative features such as “a triple-drop system, unique control station software for efficient mission planning and advanced maintenance technology.”

The Use of Drones in Malawi

Malawi is home to the African Drone and Data Academy (ADDA). UNICEF founded ADDA in January 2020, with the aim of providing locals with the skills and knowledge necessary to utilize drone technology and advance drone systems “for more effective humanitarian and development response.”

UNICEF and partners have utilized drones in Malawi for several purposes. For example, in 2016, UNICEF began using drones to minimize “waiting times for HIV testing of infants” by sending dried blood spot samples from isolated areas in Malawi to laboratories via drone.

In 2017, UNICEF created the world’s “first humanitarian drone corridor” with the aim of supplying an ideal environment for organizations and entities to discover and experiment with drones for humanitarian purposes in developing countries like Malawi.

With the support of international aid and the Malawi government, Wingcopter and Continental Drones provide a solution to the rising food insecurity and health decline caused by Africa’s extreme weather patterns and the Russian invasion.

– Sara Sweitzer
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The Significance of USADF
Congress established the United States African Development Foundation (USADF), which is an independent U.S. government agency. Its mission is very simple; to fund grassroots groups and entrepreneurs, as well as small and medium-sized businesses throughout Africa. The organization began in 1980 and has helped 7 million people since its origins. Here is some information about the significance of USADF.


The significance of USADF is that it focuses on the impoverished while prioritizing people with specific needs such as troubled youth, disabled people and others from different minority groups, such as women. For every $10,000, 79 more people obtain access to electricity, and 25 more people more workers gain jobs. In the last five years, USADF has been a key factor of The Global Food Security Act by contributing $61 million that helped 3.4 million people in 20 African countries.

USADF aids community enterprises by providing grants of up to $250,000. This allows underserved people to participate in Africa’s development story.

USADF also works with communities to understand problems at the root in order to determine the most effective solution. Some of the problems USADF is attempting to deal with are food insecurity and unemployment.

The Significance of USADF in Sub-Saharan Africa

Sub-Saharan Africa has the world’s lowest energy access rates, with only around half of its population having access to electricity. Approximately 600 million people do not have electricity while 890 million people must utilize traditional fuels so they can cook. USADF’s off-grid energy grants promote market-based solutions that connect people and businesses to electricity. Since 2014, more than 130 off-grid energy projects have received more than $11 million in order to provide people with energy access.

While USADF funds energy projects, it also invests in agriculture. Close to 57% of Africa’s off-grid population works in agriculture. As a result, USADF has worked with businesses in agriculture, in order to provide them with support and reduce food insecurity. For example, through its partnership with the Feed the Future initiative, USADF has implemented projects in six African countries.

Looking Ahead

On June 24, 2021, Rep. Dean Phillips (D-MN) introduced a bipartisan resolution for the continued support of USADF. Since he came to Congress in 2018, Phillips has prioritized sustainable development and peacebuilding as a member of the Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, and Global Human Rights, as well as the Caucus for Effective Foreign Assistance. Now, he is demonstrating his active support of USADF.

“By focusing on grassroots projects and meeting real needs of people at the community level, the U.S. African Development Foundation has pioneered a successful model for development, garnering broad bipartisan support,” said Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), a Ranking Member of the Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa who is co-leading this initiative.

This bill is crucial as it will dictate the future of a foundation that has helped millions of people. Fortunately, the future of USADF looks bright.

– Noya Stessel
Photo: Flickr

women in sub-Saharan AfricaEducation has long been an uphill battle for women in sub-Saharan Africa who disproportionately lack the opportunity to go to school. The U.N.’s Education Plus Initiative aims to empower adolescent girls and young women, particularly in regard to HIV/AIDS prevention, through secondary education. A recent UNAIDS study suggests a correlation between HIV education and completing school, which also leads to a better socioeconomic future.

Education and Disease Among Young Women

Sub-Saharan Africa has become a hot spot of population growth. With more than 60% of the region’s population aged 25 and younger, a new generation of African citizens waits to meet the world on a global scale. But, educational attainment has long presented a hurdle for many sub-Saharan countries.

Relatively few African children receive higher education, with young women being the least likely. According to a recent study from the United Nations, more than 80% of the world’s women (aged 15-24) with HIV/AIDS are located in sub-Saharan Africa. Such health issues create a barrier to pursuing further education. A 2014 Millennium Development Goals Report shows a strong correlation between disease and missed educational opportunities, reporting that more than 33 million children in sub-Saharan Africa are out of school, with 56% being girls.

The Millennium Declaration, a set of goals adopted by world leaders to reignite education and fight disease, says that incorporating education into young women’s lives in sub-Saharan Africa promotes poverty reduction, improves mental health and decreases rates of HIV/AIDS.

AIDS and HIV in Africa

The HIV/AIDS epidemic has ravaged entire countries in sub-Saharan Africa. More than 50 girls die from AIDS-related women’s illnesses every day worldwide and more than 90% of adolescent HIV/AIDS deaths happen in sub-Saharan Africa. According to a 2019 study from UNAIDS, young women in Africa generally lack sufficient sex education. Thus, young women in sub-Saharan Africa face disproportionate exposure to many diseases. This includes two of the most threatening in terms of both education and life expectancy: HIV and AIDS.

HIV/AIDS has become prevalent in sub-Saharan Africa because of arranged child marriages and early pregnancies. A recent study from UNESCO found that nearly 52% of Sudanese girls older than 18 were already married, numbers that are mirrored throughout sub-Saharan Africa. Empowerment at the legal level decreases women’s chances of forced marriages and pregnancies, thus reducing rates of HIV and AIDS.

Michel Sidibé, the executive director of UNAIDS, stated, “When girls can’t uphold their human rights — especially their sexual and reproductive health and rights — efforts to get to zero exclusion, zero discrimination, zero violence and zero stigma are undermined.”

More than 79% of new HIV infections occur among girls aged 10-19, according to a 2019 UNAIDS research study. Young women and girls in sub-Saharan Africa need educational and health support. Fortunately, several organizations are working to empower them.

The Education Plus Initiative

UNICEF, in collaboration with UNAIDS, UNESCO, UNFPA and U.N. Women, has created a new initiative in sub-Saharan Africa called Education Plus. Education Plus focuses on empowering young women and girls and achieving gender equality through secondary education. According to UNAIDS, sexual education has helped empower tens of millions of young women throughout sub-Saharan Africa.

Education Plus aims to revolutionize policies related to women’s sexual education in order to improve their quality of life. Education Plus will begin in 2021 and run through 2025. It plans to create policies that add sexual education to young women’s school lessons, launch tech-based publicity programs to promote women’s rights and expand upon HIV and AIDS prevention, treatment and recovery, among other initiatives.

A UNICEF study revealed just how important education is to empower young women in sub-Saharan Africa. When young girls finish secondary school, they are six times less likely to marry young. The study also found that if a child’s mother can read, the child has a 50% better chance of survival.

Moving Forward

Education Plus is set to run for five years to help women and girls achieve social, educational and economic success. UNICEF, UNAIDS and several other organizations have come together to make supporting young women in Africa a priority.

Moving forward, empowering young women in sub-Saharan Africa, one of the world’s highest poverty areas, requires an array of solutions. Organizations like UNAIDS hope the area can one day flourish as an oasis for young women and girls, who will, in turn, have the educational and social resources to create a more stable Africa.

Mario Perales
Photo: Flickr

Environmental Solutions to PovertyChanging ecosystems from economic development have increased the risk of poverty and food insecurity around the world. Informal sectors, which mostly exist in lower-income countries, sidestep environmental regulations. This further degrades the environment and puts more people at risk of poverty. However, these high-risk environments also provide an opportunity to implement environmental solutions to poverty and lower the risk of environmental destruction.

Demi-Lune Agriculture to Stop Desertification

In the past century, deserts have expanded rapidly due to industrialization and rising global populations. This threatens millions of people living on the periphery of deserts who farm for a living, people who may see their crops dry up in coming years. Environmental solutions to poverty often focus on stopping the expansion of deserts.

For example, farmers on the periphery of the Sahara Desert have adopted a new style of farming to adapt to the desertification of their farmland: half-moon agriculture. This environmental solution to poverty, introduced in the 1980s, has many benefits.

Half-moons retain water much more efficiently than traditional agricultural techniques, an important feature in water-scarce climates. Farmers can easily understand and execute the process, which only requires basic tools, increasing its usability in communities with poor education and literacy.

In West Africa, half-moon agriculture has led to an incredible transformation of the landscape, with formerly arid land now covered in grass, trees or crops. Binta Cheffou, a farmer in Niger, planted half-moons in the 1990s when her community’s land was bare and unproductive.

Now, according to Cheffou, “Many people are no longer hungry” due to increased livestock yields and more agriculture. Communities using this environmental solution to poverty have witnessed a large increase in biodiversity as well, a useful safeguard against ecological disasters.

Planting Trees to Reduce Landslides

Natural disasters pose a large barrier in the fight against poverty, causing $210 billion in damage in 2020, according to major insurers. Landslides, a common disaster in developing countries, kill nearly 4,500 people each year, according to earth scientist Dave Petley. There are several environmental solutions to poverty and natural disasters, including a simple one: planting trees.

Landslides largely occur in environments where erosion is widespread and the ground can no longer hold its weight. These conditions often emerge just after deforestation and unregulated mining, where people extracting resources leave hillsides barren and organic structures rotten.

The lack of organic structure holding the slopes together leads to these tragic natural disasters. Reverting the hillside to its natural state with biodiverse trees can provide the structure necessary to prevent landslides while also providing revenue to those caring for the trees.

This strategy, popularized worldwide in the past few years, has seen major success in preventing landslides and reducing poverty. In Ethiopia, studies in communities with tree-planting initiatives noted a dramatic increase in community income and food supply. In Indonesia, research confirmed a decrease in landslides where trees were present. The study found that coffee trees prevent landslides especially well with the added benefit of providing coffee beans for communities to harvest and sell. This would decrease the motivation for unregulated logging and mining, further reducing landslide risk.

Cleaning Rivers for Clean Water

Rivers serve as key assets for countries to fuel their development. Rivers can provide power, food, drinking water and trade routes. Furthermore, recreational activities on rivers provide economic stimulation. However, many of the world’s key rivers, especially in developing countries, are experiencing a crisis of pollution and wastewater. This pollution costs countries billions of dollars. As such, key environmental solutions to poverty should focus on cleaning rivers and ensuring proper wastewater systems to prevent pollution.

In Indonesia, where riverway pollution costs $6.3 billion each year, or 2.3% of GDP, the government aims to make river water drinkable by 2025. Indonesia is implementing several strategies to address river pollution and protect the environment, including tree planting to combat erosion and regulations to ensure water factories produce drinkable water from rivers. Indonesia also focuses on environmental education as many people discard domestic trash in rivers without considering the consequences.

India also suffers from polluted rivers. The Ganga River, sacred to Hindus, serves almost 400 million people, providing water for drinking, irrigation and industry. It also deposits significant amounts of plastic into the Bay of Bengal and is filled with damaging pollutants which cause waterborne diseases that kill 1.5 million children per year.

The Indian government is focusing on the tributaries to the Ganga, ensuring clean water flows into the major river for a long-term cleaning strategy. So far, the government has spent $3 billion on cleanup initiatives since 2015 and has doubled sewage capacity.

The Future

These environmental solutions to poverty can increase both wealth and living standards. Studies show that access to a green and clean environment can boost mental health and life expectancy. Clean rivers, green hillsides and re-purposed desert land can provide access to these benefits worldwide. Going forward, governments should focus on innovative solutions to both improve the environment and reduce poverty.

– Justin Morgan
Photo: Flickr