American ExportsThroughout the past several decades, nations in Southeast Asia have seen significant declines in extreme poverty rates. As poverty has fallen and these nations have developed economically, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations has become the United States’ fourth-largest trading partner. While the United States does rely heavily on this region for imports, trade with ASEAN also supports American exports and bolsters nearly 346,000 American jobs. The following five countries in Southeast Asia are critical trading partners and demonstrate the economic benefits that can coincide with a decrease in extreme poverty:

1. Malaysia

Malaysia has been extremely successful in reducing poverty throughout the past several decades. According to the United Nations, “… in 1970, 49.3% of Malaysian households were below the poverty line.” As of 2015, the figure had fallen to 0.4%. As poverty has fallen, Malaysia has also grown economically, developing profitable manufacturing, petroleum and natural gas industries.

As the country has reduced poverty and developed economically, it has become an important trading partner to the United States. The United States imports electrical machinery, tropical oils and rubber from Malaysia. It also exports soybeans, cotton and aircraft to the nation. In total, the trade between the two nations totals around $57.8 billion each year and supports nearly 73,000 American jobs.

2. Thailand

Thailand is another country that has seen impressive levels of poverty reduction in recent decades. According to The World Bank, poverty rates fell from around 65% in 1988 to under 10% in 2018. The nation has also evolved economically, developing large automotive and tourism industries as poverty rates have fallen.

Trade between the United States and Thailand has steadily grown, totaling $48.9 billion in 2018. When analyzing imports, the United States relied on Thailand for machinery, rice and precious metals. In terms of exports, the United States provided the nation with electrical machinery, mineral fuels and soybeans. In total, the exports to the nation supported nearly 72,000 American jobs. Additionally, exports to Thailand have been increasing in recent years, growing nearly 14.5% from 2017 to 2018.

3. Vietnam

Vietnam is perhaps one of the most astounding examples of poverty reduction and economic development. The World Bank reports that “the poverty headcount in Vietnam fell from nearly 60% to 20.7% in the past 20 years.” As it has done so, the nation developed one of the most rapidly growing middle classes in Southeast Asia, became a center for foreign investment and developed key industries in electronics, footwear and textiles.

While the United States has come to heavily rely on Vietnamese imports, Vietnam is also a rapidly growing market for American exports. In fact, American exports of goods to Vietnam increased by 246.9%, and American exports of services to the nation increased 110% since 2008. According to the Office of the United States Trade Representative, “U.S. exports of Goods and Services to Vietnam supported an estimated 54,000 American jobs in 2015.”

4. Indonesia

Though the nation still has significant progress to make, Indonesia is another nation that has seen a reduction in extreme poverty rates. Since 1990, the nation has managed to half its poverty rate and make significant economic advancements. Currently the largest economy in Southeast Asia, the nation has developed notable industries in petroleum, natural gas, textiles and mining.

Trade with the nation totaled around $32.9 billion in 2019. While the United States imported apparel and footwear from the nation, it also exported soybeans, aircraft and fuels to Indonesia. In total, American exports to Indonesia are growing, increasing 19.1% from 2017 to 2018 and supporting nearly 56,000 American jobs.

5. Philippines

While poverty is still an issue in the Philippines, it has seen significant declines in recent years. According to the World Bank, poverty fell from 26.6% to 21.6% from 2006 to 2015. The nation has also made significant improvements in developing industries outside of agriculture. While agriculture composed nearly one-third of the nation’s GDP in the 1970s, it currently represents 9.3%, split between an emerging industrial and service sector.

Trade with the nation currently provides $29.6 billion each year, and exports to the Philippines grew 3% from 2017 to 2018. Mainly, the Philippines relies on American exports for electrical machinery, soybean meal, and wheat. Overall, exports to the Philippines support an estimated 58,000 American jobs.

Affecting nearly one in five American jobs, international trade is a critical part of the American economy. As demonstrated by Southeast Asia, a reduction in global poverty rates not only contributes to global economic development but also supports the export industry and American jobs.

– Michael Messina
Photo: Pexels

HIV in ThailandHIV is a leading cause of death for people under the age of 50 in Thailand. Of those with HIV in Asia and the Pacific, 9% live in Thailand. In 2019, about 470,000 people were living with HIV in Thailand. Sex workers, men who have sex with men, transgender individuals and people who inject drugs are most affected by the epidemic. Thailand has made progress in combating the disease, especially in regard to mother-to-child transmissions, which the country eliminated. However, HIV stigma is a factor both preventing people from seeking treatment and causing discrimination in healthcare. The stigma surrounding HIV can also lead to mental health issues such as depression.

HIV-Related Stigma

HIV stigma includes negative attitudes and judgments toward people living with HIV. Discrimination can occur when a healthcare professional refuses to provide services for people living with HIV. It can also occur when someone receives a lack of social support due to being HIV positive. The stigma and discrimination resulting from living with HIV can lead to internalized stigma. This stigma is when people living with HIV develop a negative self-image impacting their mental health. As a result, higher rates of loneliness and depression have been reported among people living with HIV.

HIV Research in Thailand

The National Institute of Nursing Research conducted a study in Thailand in 2007 which revealed information about the impact of HIV-related stigma on mental health. The researchers interviewed people living with HIV in northern and northeastern Thailand to collect data. Data was collected by measuring stigma on a scale of “Internalized Shame” and “Perceived Stigma.” They concluded that there is an association between depression and internalized shame, as well as between depression and perceived stigma.

Additionally, the study’s conclusion included strategies to improve the mental health of people living with HIV through treatment programs. The researchers emphasized the importance of boosting self-esteem and creating a sense of belonging to a community. Doing this would combat the effects of isolation often felt as a result of stigma. Furthermore, addressing HIV stigma in Thailand in addition to providing social support could positively impact the overall health of people with HIV.

Responses to the Impact of HIV on Mental Health

TREAT Asia (Therapeutics Research, Education and AIDS Training in Asia) is an organization working toward increasing access to psychiatric care. It also works toward improving mental health services for those living with HIV in Thailand. The organization is conducting a study on depression and anxiety among Thai adolescents with HIV. By evaluating participants, the study team aims to improve the health of Thai adolescents living with HIV. It does this through developing a better understanding of how to address mental health in the treatment process.

Service Workers in Groups (SWING), a Thai organization, provides HIV services and supports sex workers. COVID-19 left about 145,000 sex workers in Thailand without an income source. As a result, they are in greater need of support to cover basic necessities such as food and housing. Barriers preventing access to HIV treatment have only strengthened due to the coronavirus crisis. Sex workers are at a disadvantage in terms of social protection. SWING has made efforts to confront the new challenges due to COVID-19. It continues to provide HIV healthcare, including mental health services, for sex workers amid the pandemic

By 2030, the Ministry of Public Health of Thailand plans to reduce HIV discrimination in healthcare settings by 90%. While Thailand has enacted policies and laws to protect people living with HIV, they continue to endure the negative effects of HIV stigma. This prevents them from receiving efficient treatment. Greater efforts and more research are necessary to break the cycle of mental health issues created by HIV stigma to improve the quality of life for those living with HIV in Thailand.

Zoë Nichols
Photo: Flickr

asian development bankThe Asian Development Bank (ADB), which was established in 1966, attempts to alleviate poverty in Asia by funding numerous welfare projects in the region. Many Asian countries are members of ADB, which provides them with loans and monetary assistance, as well as providing general technical help with different projects. ADB aims to achieve “a prosperous, inclusive, resilient, and sustainable Asia and the Pacific.” Here are four countries that ADB has benefited positively.

4 Countries the Asian Development Bank Has Helped

  1. China: The People’s Republic of China is a country that has experienced uneven development in the past century. Major cities are urbanized, while rural areas remain in extreme poverty. ADB has funded and overseen numerous projects to attempt to lift these areas out of poverty and improve the standard of living in the country. One project in Yunnan, for example, pays and trains women to maintain around 5,000 kilometers of rural roads. This offers economic opportunities to rural women while facilitating more transportation between rural towns. Another project funded the purchase of 1,860 clean buses to combat China’s pollution problem.
  2. Cambodia: While Cambodia has undergone positive development in recent years, poverty still exists in the country, and many of its residents live in adverse conditions. In 2017, for example, 21% of the Cambodian population did not have access to clean water. The Asian Development Bank has encouraged sustainable development in Cambodia through many large-scale projects. In 2003, the bank allotted $15.6 million to Cambodia as part of a project to attract tourists and benefit local economies. More recently, ADB approved a loan of $250 million to support Cambodia’s economy through the COVID-19 pandemic.
  3. Thailand: In recent years, poverty has unfortunately increased in Thailand, with the poverty rate growing from 7.8% in 2015 to 9.8% in 2018. According to the World Bank, this has been due to several “economic and environmental challenges,” particularly because individual Thai households are highly susceptible to variable economic conditions. Projects by ADB attempt to combat this—one 2017 program introduced around 500 farmers to the organic farming market. This connected them to a greater, more profitable market in order to attain a self-sufficient income. In 2012, a solar power plant funded by ADB was also completed, which generated enough power to provide clean electricity to 70,000 households. The plant also helps to keep greenhouse gases from being released into the atmosphere.
  4. Sri Lanka: Sri Lanka is a relatively small country, with a population of around 22 million. In 2016, 4.1% of the population was below the national poverty line. ADB has mainly funded rural development projects in Sri Lanka but has also focused on social justice and creating better living conditions for Sri Lankan residents. From 2000 to 2018, ADB helped connect more than 200,000 households to electricity and built or upgraded just under 4,000 kilometers of roads. The Asian Development Bank has also funded support for around one million residents affected by the Sri Lankan Civil War, which lasted from 1983 to 2009.

Since its conception, ADB has made incredible progress in fighting poverty and assisting development in Asia. In 2019 alone, ADB committed $21.64 billion in loans, grants and other investments to various countries and provided $237 million in technical assistance. Still, much poverty remains to be fought—while Asian countries have experienced massive development in the 21st century, many rural areas have been left behind. Poverty remains a pervasive issue in Asia. The Asian Development Bank has changed the lives of many Asian residents, but much remains to be done.

– Maggie Sun
Photo: Flickr

Facts About Poverty in Thailand
With the second-largest economy in Southeast Asia, Thailand is a relatively wealthy country. Its vibrant culture, delicious food and beautiful scenery attract millions of visitors a year, greatly contributing to its economy. On top of the tourism industry, Thailand exports many commodities like rice, rubber and coconuts. The country also produces goods like textiles, cement and plastics. Though Thailand’s poverty rate has decreased by 65% since 1988, impoverished living conditions are still a pressing issue in the country. The poverty rate fluctuates and currently, it is on the uprise. Here are five facts about poverty in Thailand.

5 Facts About Poverty in Thailand

  1. Poverty is on the rise in Thailand. In 2015, the poverty rate was just 7.2%. This figure has risen to almost 10%. That amounts to 2 million more people living beneath the poverty line, a substantial increase in only a few years. The rise in poverty does not occur in only a few of the country’s regions. Since 61 out of 77 provinces have seen a rise in poverty, one cannot attribute the current situation regarding poverty in Thailand to one specific community or circumstance. It is a widespread problem with profound implications for the livelihood of all Thai people.
  2. The rise in poverty is mainly due to economic reasons. Honing a 4.1% GDP growth rate in 2018 (one of the lowest in the region), the lack of economic progression in Thailand greatly affects its citizens. Additionally, Thailand has the fourth highest wealth inequality rates in the world at 90.2%, meaning there is a huge disparity between the richest and poorest people in the country. Without economic development and wealth equality, cycles of impoverishment will continue to trap the people of the nation.
  3. Environmental disasters have pushed more Thai people into poverty. Agriculturists (who make up 31.8% of the workforce) are already a poor group in the country, but the recent droughts in the past year have impoverished them even more. This combination of economic and environmental factors pushes farmers into even more poverty. Droughts are not the only natural disaster devastating the country. The floods and tsunamis that hit the country throughout the 2000s perpetuated even more poverty in Thailand. These natural disasters are inevitable, yet the lack of safety nets in the country is damaging the livelihoods of farmers.
  4. One of the demographics that poverty affects the most in Thailand is children. As of 2012, 7% of children weighed in as underweight and 16% experience stunting (impaired physical or psychological development due to a lack of nourishment during adolescence). The severe lack of resources could greatly impair future generations in the country. UNICEF is quite active in Thailand, working to alleviate child mortality and malnourishment. Due to its work, the child mortality rate has decreased four-fold; yet, there is still more the country requires.
  5. A solution to the poverty crisis in the country is an increase in social safety nets. Considering that environmental disasters and economic factors contribute to the rise in poverty, government-sanctioned programs to protect the Thai people are one of the easiest solutions to this problem. If Thailand can pinpoint which demographics are most susceptible to poverty, the government can create specific jobs and policies to protect its most vulnerable people.

Despite these five facts about poverty in Thailand, there are still many success stories for the country in terms of poverty alleviation. According to the Asian Development Bank, nobody in Thailand lives in extreme poverty (under $1.90 a day). Everyone in the country has access to electricity, water sanitation is excellent and education rates are high. However, to ensure every single citizen of Thailand is free from poverty, the government must continue to invest in economic development and produce innovative jobs for vulnerable populations. Only then can all be free from the insufferable conditions that poverty produces.

Photo: Pixabay

Children with Developmental Disabilities
Across all countries, 20.4 percent of children have at least one developmental disability. In developed countries like the U.S., many schools have resources for children with developmental disabilities, but in countries where a solid implementation of an education system is struggling to find a foothold, people with learning disabilities often face an additional, invisible hurdle.

Medical professionals conducted a study that screened populations for developmental disabilities throughout the world. A developmental disability is a type of disability that occurs before adulthood. Some of these are learning disabilities, but all of them impact a child during the prime educational years. The study first sorted countries based on HDI (Human Development Index) a score the U.N. gives to countries according to life expectancy, education and gross domestic product (GDP). In general, this means that countries with higher HDI are more developed, and those with lower HDI are less developed.

Out of a pool of 16 countries, this study included 101,250 children averaging 5 years of age. The countries with the highest number of children with developmental disabilities include Thailand, Bangladesh and Iraq.

Thailand has an HDI of 0.755, Bangladesh has one of 0.608 and Iraq has one of 0.685. For scale, Norway has the highest HDI at 0.953. Thailand ranks 83rd in the world for high human development (though still developing), whereas Bangladesh and Iraq lay in the “medium developed” range.

Thailand 

The study concluded that Thailand had 12,911 children with a developmental disability. In Thailand, communities, professional groups and other social institutions provide education and learning centers, which serve as Thailand’s primary agents of education. Thailand has separate schools available for children with developmental disabilities. Thailand gives other resources, like communicative devices, to children with disabilities to aid in education. Thailand has different classifications of disabilities, like intellectual disabilities, learning disabilities and behavioral disorders, and different sorts of schooling options available to accommodate these different groups. The parents and the children can choose which system they would like to use, and it is available as a lifelong educational resource for them.

The Education for Development Foundation (EDF), founded in 1987, started a scholarship in 2003 with the intention of making education more accessible to children with developmental disabilities. This scholarship aims to support the physical, social and emotional development of Thai youth. To qualify, candidates must already demonstrate a certain level of communicative and learning ability.

Bangladesh 

The study also found that in Bangladesh, there were 36,987 children with developmental disabilities. It also determined that the rate of enrollment for a primary school in Bangladesh was 97 percent, but only 11 percent of disabled children received any sort of education.

Approaching education with respect to disabilities, methodical diagnosing and treating physical ailments is not possible. A child’s environment has a larger role in deciding how a disability might appear. As such, many early childhood education specialists recommend an approach that relies more on the stage of development the child is in to see what children with disabilities are capable of learning. Similar to how Thailand’s education system handles children with disabilities, Bangladesh has different types of schools to choose from. Unfortunately, that sort of data is not readily available or consistent.

Many international efforts to improve educational and social infrastructure have aimed to support the needs of children with developmental disabilities in impoverished countries. As a result of the UNESCO Declaration on Education for All (1990), the Dakar Framework (2000) and the Salamanca Declaration on Inclusive Education (1994), Bangladesh is working to offer children with developmental disabilities an inclusive education alongside able-bodied children.

While this sentiment does bring the needs of children with developmental disabilities to light, it is not sufficient in clearing various obstacles that arise. One study surveyed educators on the barriers of educating children with disabilities. The results were that 11 out of 15 respondents answered ‘yes’ to a lack of the proper instruments and learning materials.

Iraq

The study showed that Iraq had 11,163 children with developmental disabilities. Malnutrition, an issue in many developing countries, can inhibit cognitive development, leading to learning disabilities and difficulties.

Further, one in three children suffers from an iodine deficiency in the Iraq and Afghanistan areas. This deficiency can result in a slew of health issues including goiter, learning difficulties and severe mental impairment in the worst cases. Statistics have shown that this environmental factor contributes to the rate of mentally disabled individuals. This adds pressure on Iraq to determine adequate educational accommodations for children with developmental disabilities.

Although, since the Iraqi society is advancing technologically, there are diverse ways to deliver education to children. This means that a wider range of people can receive education, including children with developmental disabilities. The United Nations Children’s Fund launched a series of e-projects in an attempt to standardize accessible, inclusive learning. These projects were available to all students – disabled or otherwise. About 4,000 schools had access to these e-projects, not only making education accessible to all but also providing equity to education.

Solutions

Disabled Peoples’ International (DPI), established in 1981, works on behalf of all disabled individuals to give them a proper place in education, the workforce and society alongside able-bodied counterparts. DPI is active in 139 countries and seven regions, including Africa, Asia and the Middle East. DPI also develops educational materials, promotes the rights of disabled people and collects data on disability issues.

In working with MPhasiS F1 Foundation, the organization is creating a Global Youth with Disabilities Network. This network will advocate for the representation of children with developmental disabilities throughout all levels of decision-making. The organization plans to ensure these youths have access to public transportation, health care, education and employment opportunities.

Catherine Lin
Photo: Flickr

Hunger in Thailand
Many nations in the Global South face famine and hunger, prohibiting much of the population from meeting appropriate nutritional needs. In addition to the ongoing crisis of COVID-19, many food security reports are seeing increased malnourishment. Major inequalities have compromised proper access to food—of the 815 million people around the world who suffer from poverty, 6.5 million of those are from Thailand. Despite being a major food exporter that meets both global and domestic demands, hunger in Thailand is prevalent and there is still a worrying amount of households facing abject poverty.

Thailand’s Malnourished Population

Compared to other poorer nations such as Myanmar and Malaysia, Thailand’s malnourished population is considerably high. With ample food production in the country, much of the country’s problems reside in the food being readily available to its people. An estimated 17 percent of Thailand’s population suffers from malnourishment. This could be a direct result of a number of social inequalities, ultimately increasing the people who experience hunger in Thailand. While experts often cite frequent natural disasters and wars as reasons for high food insecurity, there are many other underlying factors, including economic instability and disproportionate ratios of distribution.

Rice in Thailand

Rice, which is the staple export in Thailand, has increased in demand and production over the years, especially during the COVID-19 spread. Thailand had maintained a level of self-sufficiency through its hefty supply of various meats (i.e. beef and pork) and the large scale production of grains. The domestic demand for rice production has increased at a rapid rate that has fueled much of the country’s economy. The number of rice exports increased from 1.3 million tons in 1971-1975 to just about 8.14 million tons in 2006 and 2007. With this in mind, however, a majority of people experience hunger in Thailand, making the nation unable to meet its own nutritional needs.

Battling Hunger in Thailand

In 2017, the government instituted preventative measures to combat food insecurity and hunger in Thailand. The nation announced a social assistance program that would serve as a safety net for poor families. This move aims to improve Thailand’s food insecurity to land amongst the ranks of middle-income countries. The program provides cash allowances and other subsidies for an estimated 12 million low-income families.

To be eligible, families must meet five criteria: being at least 18 years of age; a Thai citizen; unemployed or having an annual income below $3,055; no financial assets worth more than 100,000 Bahts; and no real estate. Once families meet these qualifications, they receive welfare cards that they can use to purchase goods at registered shops and transportation systems, costing approximately $1.4 million. There have been many faults since the program’s implementation; for example, the program does not count some people eligible despite meeting the five criteria.

The social systems in the nation are shifting consistently, meaning that the struggle of hunger in Thailand is evolving rapidly. The economic state that COVID-19 has caused is likely to impact Thailand’s ongoing battle with hunger. There is no certain answer to the issues that will arise among the ongoing crisis. Hunger in Thailand, as well as many other nations, is a lengthy battle.

Brittany Adames
Photo: Flickr

Hydropower Dams
A once thriving area for fishing and agriculture, the Mekong River Delta sports a dramatically different look than it did just a century ago. The river, historically wide and abundant, is characterized by large jigsaw puzzles of cracked earth where water has dried up and emptied villages where fishermen once thrived. The place has recently seen a mass exodus, with a million people resettling from southwestern Vietnam alone in the last decade.

Harmful Effects of Hydropower Dams

The region has long been one of the world’s largest inland fisheries, supporting 60 million Cambodians, Vietnamese, Thai and Laotians. It provides Vietnam with 50 percent of its food and 23 percent of its GDP, and Cambodia with 80 percent of its protein intake and 12 percent of its GDP. However, over the last couple of decades, hydropower dams have emerged along the river, threatening local communities and ecosystems while creating large amounts of renewable energy.

According to a UNESCO report, dams on the upper Mekong have resulted in a 70 percent reduction in sediment in the delta. By 2040, estimates determine that these and future dams will block 97 percent of the sediment that moves down the river. This sediment is critical for both rice production and fish life in the Mekong. The loss has been devastating.

Hydropower Dams are Detrimental to the Environment

Even with the detriment to rice production and fishing in the area, the lower Mekong region may still see more hydropower dams. Several countries have created plans to use the area for power, and not without reason. Estimates have determined that dams in the region should be able to produce 30,000 megawatts of electricity, which would be a massive boost to the power capacity of the lower Mekong.

Dams are also an opportunity for foreign investment and could be a huge boost to the GDP of these countries. In fact, the Mekong River Commission’s initial studies estimated that countries in the region could gain $30 billion from dam development, though more recent studies suggest that the area could lose as much as $7 billion from this construction. Despite this, the Mekong River Commission has advised a postponement on the building of these dams until it can further evaluate the risks, and because of the inequitable effects of building the dams, which would likely benefit urban elites while hurting rural farmers and fishermen.

Are there Positive Effects?

Some argue that the presence of these dams may have positive effects on fishing and rice production in the area due to an increased flow of water during dry seasons as dams release water, combatting the effects of drought. Whether this makes up for the loss of nutrient-rich silt and fish life is debatable. However, farmers have recently resorted to using chemical fertilizers and pesticides, which can be potentially harmful in the long-run, to boost their crop production.

Though it is unclear whether or not countries in the Lower Mekong Region will continue their plans to build hydropower dams, it is certain that farmers and fishermen will continue to suffer as long as the delta is victim to the already present dams in China and the effects of climate change. However, on a lighter note, there has been a recent increase in international aid and development to the Lower Mekong Region, as well as an effort to maintain biodiversity and create sanctuaries for fish and new fish reserves. Hopefully, these countries will manage to balance the poverty-alleviating industrialization that comes with hydropower, and a shift to industrialized agriculture with the interests of rural farmers, fishermen and biodiversity in the region in mind.

– Ronin Berzins
Photo: Flickr

Malaria in ThailandThailand is home to nearly 70 million people. The Asian country is known for tropical beaches, opulent palaces and lush elephant rainforests. This extravagant subtropical climate is perfect for tourism but also serves as a breeding ground for mosquito-borne diseases such as malaria. Symptoms of malaria range from fever, seizures and even death. 

5 Facts About Malaria in Thailand

  1. Around 45 percent of the population is at risk of contracting malaria. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 32 million people are at risk of being infected with malaria in Thailand. The country is filled with more than 46 million acres of thick jungle and rainforest. Many citizens live in these dense ecosystems, along with several species of mosquito. The most dangerous areas of transmission are border regions, like the borders with Myanmar and Cambodia. These regions have an abundant population of highly infectious female Anopheles mosquitoes.
  2. The wet season poses the highest risk. The highest risk of malaria in Thailand lies during the rainy season when mosquitoes are most active. The wet season typically occurs from mid-May to mid-October. During this period the presence of the mosquitoes that carry malaria parasites is much higher than other seasons. Of note, the rural areas of Thailand tend to be more affected while larger cities such as Bangkok, Chiang Mai and Pattaya do not experience a high risk of malaria even during the wet season.
  3. Malaria control mechanisms greatly reduce the risk of spreading the disease. Mass free distribution of materials such as insecticide-treated nets (ITNs), long-lasting insecticidal nets (LLIN) and the practice of indoor residual spraying (IRS) reduce the risk of contracting malaria substantially. By eliminating the transmitters, these insecticides are simultaneously eliminating the parasite. The WHO attributes Thailand’s advancement in preventing the spread of the disease to these materials and methods that have proven to provide powerful results.
  4. The Global Fund and UNICEF are helping. In 2010, Thailand’s funding for malaria control exceeded 7 million dollars. Funding has gradually increased year by year, mainly financed by the Global Fund and UNICEF. Thailand, a still-developing country, relies heavily on external aid to support health initiatives. Organizations like Global Fund and UNICEF are saving lives from preventable diseases like malaria through continuous aid.
  5. Cases and deaths of malaria in Thailand are declining. New malaria cases have declined since 2000 and continue to do so rapidly. There are less than 70 annual deaths of malaria in Thailand, which is almost a 90 percent reduction from 20 years ago. The nation’s successes in reducing malaria mortality are attributed to the increased funding for malaria control mechanisms, such as ITNs, LLINs, IRS and other forms of insecticidal materials.

These five facts about malaria in Thailand indicate a positive turn for the developing nation. Although, in rural areas, the disease persists with severity. With continued support from humanitarian aid organizations, Thailand can achieve minimal malaria cases with various control mechanisms.

– Hadley West
Photo: Pixabay

Drought in Thailand
Thailand is currently facing a drought so severe that experts say that it is the worst drought in the previous 40 years. The low-lying water level of the Chao Phraya River, which is the main source of water for Thailand’s capital city Bangkok, has exasperated the current drought in Thailand. The issue is becoming so troublesome that people in and around Bangkok are experiencing water shortages. In addition, the decline in the water level of the Chao Phraya River has resulted in seawater entering the public water source, and many reported tasting salty water dispensed from their water tabs. Water salination not only puts drinking water in jeopardy, but it also affects water-reliant industries such as agriculture and various manufacturing plants.

Key questions that people should consider are: What is the source of the current drought in Thailand? Who does this drought primarily affect? Is this drought a new problem, or a recurrent one?

Climate in Thailand

Thailand’s climate is tropical and typically supplies ample amounts of precipitation throughout the year. From mid-May to September, Thailand actually experiences a rainy monsoon season. On average, the Bangkok region experiences over 150 mm of rainfall during monsoon season. However, from November to mid-March, the country experiences a dry season, thus providing ample opportunity for drought.

The Unpredictability of the Weather in Thailand

Irregular weather patterns in Thailand began as early as 1986 when reports indicated that droughts occurred as a result of El Nino. Experts believe that continued abnormal weather patterns correlate with climate change throughout the last few decades. These irregularities in rainfall have caused great difficulties for the nation’s citizens. Between 1990 and 1993, the rainfall dipped below typical levels. However, between 1994 and 1995, intense rainfall caused one of the worst floods in Thailand’s history.

Agricultural Impact of Weather Patterns

The unpredictable precipitation in Thailand is a major problem, specifically for Thailand’s agricultural sector. Until recently, Thailand was the largest exporter of rice in Asia. Nicknamed the “rice bowl of Asia,” Thailand exported $5.6 billion worth of rice in 2018 or 22.7 percent of the world’s rice export. This sector experienced a great impact from the drought as Thailand’s agricultural sector utilizes 70 percent of Thailand’s total water supply. Another industry facing a huge impact is Thailand’s sugar industry, bringing the Thai sugar output to a nine-year low of 10.5 million tons.

These kinds of severe droughts might raise agricultural prices, making food less affordable to many. The scarcity of agricultural goods will inevitably hurt farmers if they cannot produce, especially those 40 percent living under the poverty line, potentially causing them to face perpetual poverty. The continuous decline in agricultural production might even negatively impact Thailand’s economy.

Thai Government’s Measures to Combat Drought

Drought in Thailand has previously initiated governmental measures. The Thai Constitution of October 1997 established a national push to both conserve the country’s natural resources and use them in a sustainable way.

As a result, the Thai government has promoted projects and campaigns which encouraged water conservation. Thailand has implemented dams and reservoirs to play a major part in relieving drought in the country. Thailand initiated the majority of the construction of its major dams and reservoirs, such as the Chao Phraya Division Dam, the Bhumibol and Sirikit Dams and the Greater Chao Phraya Irrigation, after the Second World War.

In 2019, for example, the Royal Irrigation Department of the Thai government designed two rice planting areas in the central plains to double as water catchment areas. Currently, the government is planning to build 421 water storage facilities to support farmers who are suffering from the current drought. Due to the intensity of the current drought in Thailand, the Thai Irrigation Department is raising slight concerns about the efficacy of these dams and reservoirs. 

Drought in Thailand has been a long occurring issue that affects numerous aspects of Thai society. Specifically, the negative impact on the agricultural sector not only affects the farmers but fluctuating food costs also affect Thai consumers. The irregular precipitation rate, that the climate change of the last decades caused, is further worsening the drought in Thailand, thus creating a cyclic decline of the economy and water sanitation and access.

The Thai government is taking active measures to deal with these issues where the aim is to provide continuous dedication to improving water conservation. The governments’ intention is that eventually, droughts in Thailand will become stories of the past.

– YongJin Yi
Photo: Flickr

Muay Thai for Children
In Thailand, children as young as 13 years old have died competing in kickboxing matches known as Muay Thai. Many children take part in this demanding sport because this is often the only way their families can climb out of poverty. Kickboxing matches in Thailand occur in rural areas and competitors usually do not wear protective gear. However, the deaths and life-long injuries that the sport has inflicted on competing children have inspired a debate on the dangers of kickboxing for children in Thailand. Here is some information that contextualizes Thailand’s debate on Muay Thai for children.

The Current Situation

Currently, the debate over Muay Thai for children has led legislators in Thailand to consider proposals that may raise the age or facilitate using more protective gear for fighters. A major risk for competitors is brain damage or death. On the other hand, families in rural areas oppose this proposal because it could jeopardize their ability to put food on the table. Child kickboxers in Thailand can win up to $150 SDG in one match, the equivalent of about $111 USD if they are professional fighters or are competing in a prestigious competition. For small bouts, in which most Thai children compete, the pay is far less, with the maximum being the equivalent of $60.

Although $60 may seem like a trivial amount, for some families, this sum makes a significant difference in their lives. These winnings are equivalent to almost half of one month’s salary in rural and impoverished areas. Hence, many of the child fighters in Thailand find themselves in matches to ensure they make enough money. Another avenue is to start competing at a very young age so that by the time they are teenagers, they may be able to generate enough income as a professional fighter in Muay Thai.

The Price They Pay

Alongside the newly earned money from Muay Thai competitions, there are still prices the families and children of Thailand have to pay. The competitors and their families must face the constant reality of death and brain damage. According to a study by Thailand’s Mahidol University, permitting children under 15 to box could result in various types of brain damage, such as brain hemorrhages, which could lead to stroke-like symptoms or death if the fighters succumb to the injuries. No matter their age, the lack of protective gear for the fighters prevails as the major cause of injuries during competitions.

The Government’s Response

In response to the recent deaths and the brain damage that has taken place among the youth of Thailand, legislators have found themselves drafting bills that will bar children from participating in Muay Thai kickboxing matches if they are 12 or under.

Currently, the only measure in place to offer safety towards children who kickbox is that boxers must be 15 or older to compete. However, younger fighters are still able to engage as long as there is parental permission, which is why many young children are losing their lives to the sport as there are no enforced restrictions.

What Must Change

A solution to ensure that child fighters remain safe while making a steady income for their families may be for fighters aged 15 or younger to use headgear. Through the debate regarding Muay Thai for children in Thailand, it may be valuable for kickboxing enthusiasts to understand that while including headgear may not provide the same entertaining result, it is vital so that children may win the money necessary from their competitions while also being protected from trauma to their still-developing brains.

Gowri Abhinanda
Photo: Flickr