peru
Poverty rates in Peru have dropped significantly over the past four years. Specifically, extreme poverty rates among those with non-social assistance-based income have dropped from 32.8 percent to 24.1 percent in the poorest, most rural parts of the country. While Peru has faced its fair share of challenges, progress is being made.

Ana Revenga, the Senior Director of the Poverty Reduction Unit of the World Bank, recently stated that Peru’s economic growth and poverty reduction is one of the best in the region. Revenga explained, “The significant and sustained growth of the Peruvian GDP benefited the poorest, which resulted in a decrease in inequality.”

These impressive economic improvements throughout the country have come as a result of a major collective effort. In particular, a variety of social initiatives have proven to be key in combating extreme poverty and inequality.

Programs like the National Strategy for Development and Social Inclusion — or “Incluir para Crecer” — are working to close gaps in available public services. Perhaps even more importantly, this type of social program works to expand exclusive economic growth that neglects to help those suffering most severely.

As the country strives to continue moving forward, additional programs like Juntos and Pension 65 will be offering support to Peru’s poorest population. These programs will be working to ensure the longevity of recent improvements in the economic and living conditions of the extremely poor.

The Juntos program has directly contributed to the reduction in child malnutrition under the country’s current government. Within the framework of the program, conditional transfers of state subsidy guarantee good health and growth for unborn and young children alike.

Amongst Peru’s rural population, child chronic malnutrition has declined from 37 percent to 28.8 percent. At the national level, it has dropped from 19.5 percent from just four years ago to 14 percent in 2015. This number is encouragingly close to the 10 percent target set for the end of the current administration period.

The country’s Minister of Development and Social Inclusion, Paola Bustamante recently stated that since 2012, there has been over $1 billion invested in these types of social programs.

She explained that all social programs are implemented under a performance-based budgeting framework, which prevents funds from being used for other purposes besides social programs.

However, despite the above mentioned critical steps in the right direction, Peru is still facing its fair share of structural challenges. In early July 2015,  the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development requested that Peru review and reorganize its denomination of rural and urban regions.

Such obstacles have not significantly curtailed the rates of improvement in poverty reduction and inequality, however. In fact, Bustamante Suarez, another government official, has assured the public that current social inclusion policy will most definitely be continued by subsequent administrations.

Strategically targeted social initiatives will continue to level the economic playing field. As explained by Suarez, these programs will continuously work to close basic services gaps, thus improving the living conditions of the poor population. Peru still has a long road ahead, but leaders are confident that it will come out on top.

– Sarah Bernard

Sources: Andina, Peru This Week
Photo: Peace and Hope International

lights_in_the_darkness
“There is a light in this world… more powerful than any darkness we may encounter…. [This] spirit will emerge through the lives of ordinary people who hear a call and answer in extraordinary ways.”

Mother Teresa, who would not be considered an “ordinary” person, said this once, and there are people who are proving her point every day, serving as lights in the darkness. Even in the midst of devastating circumstances, there are individuals who shine like beacons of light with the efforts they make to make their little corner of the world better. In the fight against global poverty, resources like resilience and joy are all too often underestimated.

For example, 67-year-old Gangadhara Katnam has been filling potholes in Hyderabad, the Indian city where he lives. His effort to tidy up the streets does not only keep clothes from getting ruined–it can save lives. People in cars, on bicycles and on foot all have been seriously injured due to driving or falling into these massive potholes. Katnam says that if he and his peers wanted such problems to get better, they would have to step up and do it themselves. And so he took the initiative to make his sphere of the world a better place and help those around him.

Another one of the lights in the darkness is McArthur Krishna, a volunteer for the Krishna Kumar Charitable Foundation (KKCF). She works to provide employment opportunities and education for young women, which is no small task to take on in the Indian culture of dowries and strict gender roles. As Krishna states plainly, “these girls have one option. They are going to get married to someone, and what they bring to that marriage will determine how the rest of their life goes.” The opportunity for women to take on responsibilities expands their horizons as they find personal fulfillment and their communities watch them succeed. The opportunity to contribute increases self-worth and the way young women are valued by others.

In Ban Naphia, a village in Laos, a man called Phet Napia melts down metal that he collects from ammunition shells and unexploded bombs that litter the countryside and then molds them into key rings and eating utensils. Laos is climbing out of poverty—it was ravaged by bombings during the Vietnam War, which is why this scrap metal is so plentiful. Phet Napia is a testament to the resilience of the country’s population, making something useful and beautiful out of something that was originally harmful and ugly.

It is simple, but all too often forgotten: there is so much good being done in the world. Sometimes the goodness comes in massive strides, as in the successful implementation of the Millennium Development Goals. Sometimes it comes in inspiring milestones, as on July 24, 2015, which marked one year of Nigeria being polio-free. And sometimes, the most influential acts of goodness shine through in a retiree filling potholes or a young woman being given a sense of purpose or in a villager’s resourceful spoon engineering. And for a pedestrian who avoided a pothole, a young woman who finally feels valued or a man making lemonade out of lemons, perhaps this is the sort of goodness that has the biggest impact.

– Emily Dieckman

Sources: Gates Foundation, GB Tribune, KKCF, National Geographic, NPR, UN
Photo: Scoop Whoop

Tanzania-Child-Survival-GoalMillennium Development Goal 4: “Reduce by two thirds, between 1990 and 2015, the under-five mortality rate.”

Tanzania is one of the only African countries that has achieved this goal. There is much to celebrate with the country’s accomplishment; however, we must not ignore other critical areas of work that need prioritization. A thorough analysis of the efforts in Tanzania is important to understand what strategies have been effective in the region.

Successes in Tanzania

  • Reduction in child deaths after first month of life
  • 12,500 lives saved thanks to vaccines
  • 9,300 lives saved from malaria programs
  • 5,800 lives saved from HIV/AIDS programs

Areas for Improvement

  • Maternal and newborn survival can be improved
  • Reduction of stillbirths needed
  • Low contraceptive use in Western and Lake Zones
  • Rural poor lack access to health services
  • Shortage of health workers

The achievement of MDG4 is significant in Tanzania. Child deaths after one month of life have decreased at a rate of 8 percent per year during the last decade. This is 50 percent faster than in the 1990s.

Most lives have been saved from programs that increase access to vaccines, address malaria and work to decrease the spread of HIV/AIDS. These types of programs have received the most funding, and therefore these results should be expected.

In Tanzania, 40 percent of national child deaths are newborns. This indicates a need to improve health services in the critical time surrounding childbirth.

Rural women are twice as likely to deliver their children in private homes versus health facilities. Estimates indicate that Tanzania needs 23 health workers per 10,000 people, but Tanzania currently only has five health workers per 10,000 people.

It is evident that portions of the population have not benefitted from some of the improvements Tanzania has experienced as a country. The identification of these categories of people is critical in order to further decrease mortality rates in the country.

High mortality rates slow the rate of development of entire communities and prevent poverty-stricken families from obtaining enough resources to support themselves.

The good news is that this case study of Tanzania estimates that “60,000 lives could be saved each year with intensified efforts to achieve universal access to essential health services.”

Iliana Lang

Sources: WHO, The Lancet, UNDP
Photo: Global Post

On July 10th, a consortium of development banks—the Asian Development Bank, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the African Development Bank, European Investment Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank, the World Bank Group and the International Monetary Fund—released a statement laying out plans to “extend more than $400 billion in financing over the next three years.” They are also committing to working “more closely with private and public sector partners to help mobilize the resources needed to meet the historic challenge of achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).”

$400 billion over the next three years averages out to slightly more than $133 billion per year, not significantly more than the $127 billion in available financing for 2015. The World Bank recognizes that much more is needed. Infrastructure investment alone is estimated at $1.5 trillion per year for developing economies.

One strategy that the multilateral development banks, or MDBs, will employ for bridging the investment gap is capacity building: working with developing nations on devising smarter tax systems and improving government procurement processes. These will make better use of existing money, and open up new sources of national revenue.

It may seem counterintuitive to tax poor nations to fund development, but the high levels of informal sector employment and low tax collection by developing nations, relative to developed ones, suggest otherwise. A study that looked at a sample of 31 low-income and 32 high-income countries put informal sector employment 20% higher in the low-income group. The low-income sample posted government revenue as a percent of GDP at 18%, while the high-income countries averaged 33%.

Although the negative correlation between tax collection and informal sector employment seems to work both ways, development economists agree that boosting national tax revenues in developing countries, if done correctly, will provide a source of necessary development financing and reduce poverty.

These development banks are also increasingly looking toward the private sector to raise the level of financing. Five of the seven heads of the banks spoke about the role that the private sector needs to play, and how they plan on engaging with it.

The proposals include investing more in private enterprises, connecting private investors with opportunities and helping countries make investments more attractive, effectively opening the tap for foreign capital flows.

More than a feel good story of throwing money at the SDGs to help them meet their laudable goals, the statement released by the MDBs hints at a more systemic change to how the SDGs will be financed. More technical assistance for capacity building and a greater inclusion of the private sector will change the landscape of development financing and the field of development itself.

These new changes are coming just in time for rigorous debate at the set of international conferences taking place this year, and their potential to reduce poverty and help meet the SDGs is hopeful.

John Wachter

Sources: Chatham House, World Bank
Photo: KAREN BLEIER/AFP/Getty Images

Peruvian_Organizations_Fighting_Poverty

There are various organizations and associations in Peru that fight for the eradication of poverty and the betterment of the country by providing the citizens with opportunities and help.

According to an article published by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), or Programa de las Naciones Unidas para el Desarrollo (PNUD in Spanish), in 2009 the national average incidence of extreme poverty in Peru was 11.5%.

Different organizations such as Solaris Perú, Traperos de Emaus San Agustin, APRODE PERÚ, Cáritas del Perú and the American organization CARE, with their Peruvian location, fight to address poverty in their communities with different approaches, depending on the organization.

5 Peruvian Organizations Fighting Poverty

1) Solaris Perú

This is a nonprofit organization based in Peru that has the mission to end poverty. Solaris Perú focuses on the creation of programs that create better the community, such as the implementation of educational models that create positive change for children.

This organization collaborates on political, social and technical dimensions in order to have an efficient use of the resources that will provide positive results to Peruvian communities.

2) Traperos de Emaus San Agustin

This is a Peruvian organization that gives a function to objects that are no longer in use or thrown away. The purpose of this organization is to give these functional objects to people that are in need in order for them to have improvements in their life.

The recovery of these disused but still functional objects creates sustenance in the community and improves the development of their social activities. The organization accepts donations that help to provide assistance and support to people that are living in extreme poverty conditions.

3) APRODE PERÚ

This organization works toward improving and developing the country. They fight to eradicate poverty and provide assistance to the ones in most need.

They create programs and projects that contribute with the social, cultural, and economical development of the communities that are living poor areas. They create encounters with the Peruvian government in order to promote their causes and raise awareness of the conditions that poor people live in.

4) Cáritas del Perú

This is a Peruvian Catholic organization that promotes and encourages the creation of programs that favor poor communities in Peru in order to provide them with opportunities and better development.

Their mission is to support these poor communities by providing charity and solidarity service that, with compromise, leads to the transformation of the society by implementing christian principles.

5) CARE Peru

The Peruvian location of this American organization creates programs that serve to empower poor communities in Peru to exercise their rights. These programs work to empower women, indigenous groups and rural populations.

This organization helps to increase household income, reduce malnutrition, bring educational improvements, and improve access to water and sanitation, among others.

According to the UNDP, eight out of 10 people living in extreme poverty conditions in Peru live in rural areas. These Peruvian organizations use different approaches in order to eradicate poverty in both urban and rural areas.

– Diana Fernanda Leon

Sources: PNUD, Caritas del Peru, Aprode Peru, Traperos De Emaus San Agustin, Solaris Peru, Care
Photo: Flickr

early_childhood_development
The United Nations Messenger of Peace, Lang Lang, recently spent all day at a school in Beijing playing with kindergarten children. There, he shot a public service announcement with Cookie Monster from Sesame Street. All of this activity arose out of Lang Lang’s commitment to UNICEF’s early childhood development campaign.

UNICEF is advocating for worldwide early childhood development to be prioritized in the post-2015 international development agenda. Early childhood development is a key area of focus that could help bring improvements to countless other sectors.

Lang Lang is also a renowned pianist. By spending time with the children, Lang Lang was able to see firsthand how this Chinese model has used a combination of music, as well as creative art and play, to teach children ages 6 to 10.

Lang Lang compared the earliest years of a child’s life to early morning piano practice. It is easiest to remember a piano score first thing in the morning, with a fresh brain. In the same way, for young children, the early years are when learning first begins taking place. With time, the child’s worldview begins to take shape.

An estimated one in three children under the age of five in low- and middle-income countries are not reaching their full development. Evidence has shown that the quality of one’s early childhood is critical in shaping one’s lifetime development and happiness.

There are long-term consequences of early childhood development or the lack thereof. Chen Xuefeng, UNICEF China’s Early Childhood Development Specialist, points out that focusing on early childhood developmental improvements could help to break the cycle of poverty and build a more stable society.

The estimated returns on investment in early childhood care and education for disadvantaged children can be as high as 1:17. These numbers show that concentrated effort in this particular area is one of the most cost-effective strategies for reducing economic disparity.

China recently participated in a global meeting in South Korea called the World Education Forum. At this international meeting, the Declaration on Education 2030 was adopted, symbolizing the country’s commitment to make education a major focus in the 2015 agenda.

As September gets closer and the new Sustainable Development Goals must be set, the agenda focuses on areas that should be brought to the head of the discussion table. In order to successfully tackle the bigger issue of poverty, problems in areas like education, health and governance must first be solved.

International cooperation will be absolutely necessary in order to achieve the ultimate anti-poverty goal. Even more importantly, it is through action alone that change can be made. While pledges to purge the world of poverty are noble and not without impact, actions undoubtedly always speak louder than words.

– Sarah Bernard

Sources: Look to the Stars, UNICEF
Photo: BBC News

vietnam_education
Vietnam has been making strides in its development over the past few decades; the country has seen a reduction in poverty and an increase in the standard of living. The Vietnamese government has invested heavily in its reformed education system, especially when it comes to literacy. Ninety percent of the working-age population is now literate and 98% of primary-school-age children are enrolled in school. The gender gap in education that plagues many other countries is nearly nonexistent in Vietnam, as the enrollment rates are comparable for boys and girls. Furthermore, 25% of college-age adults are enrolled in tertiary education.

These numbers are the product of many years of change in the Vietnamese education system. In the 19th and 20th centuries, the French colonized Vietnam, and very few citizens were able to attend school. With French considered the dominant language of the country at the time, nearly the entire population was illiterate. After Vietnam gained independence in 1945, the government began focusing on improving literacy rates and reforming the education system. Violent conflicts and economic crises made this difficult for many years, but the most recent decade has seen steady progress.

Vietnam first entered the PISA test in 2012. This test measured how 500,000 students from schools in 65 countries answered written and multiple-choice questions. Vietnam ranked 17th in math, eighth in science, and 19th in reading, thus outranking some developed countries such as the United States and the United Kingdom. These results were a positive surprise worldwide.

There has been much discussion about the reasons behind Vietnam’s recent success. The government has been focused on investing in the education system — 21% of all government expenditure is devoted to education. Furthermore, teachers have been traditionally highly respected in Vietnamese culture and they are expected to meet high standards and stay committed to professional development. However, there is concern that strong PISA performance does not tell the whole story.

While the enrollment rates are high for primary school, only 65% of secondary school-age students attend school. Poor or disadvantaged students often drop out, and their scholastic abilities (or lack thereof) were not reflected in the PISA scores. While more privileged students scored high, students who may have lowered the scores were left out of the picture entirely.

Some Vietnamese schools have the resources to focus on creativity and critical problem solving, but most encourage rote learning and memorization. These methods can result in impressive test scores, but do not serve students well once they are out of school. Sadly, corruption is also an issue in Vietnamese schools, particularly elite schools, which sometimes sell students places for extremely high prices.

Although the Vietnamese education system has a long way to go, the recent PISA scores are positive signs of things to come. In the long process of recovering from years of conflict, these reforms in the school system have brought about progress and a more educated populace. As Vietnam develops, schools can continue to improve and effectively serve students of all economic backgrounds.

– Jane Harkness

Sources: BBC, The Economist, World Education News and Reviews, World Bank
Photo: Global Playground

Photonic_fence
A laser defense system from the scientists at Intellectual Ventures may prove to be an effective weapon against malaria-spreading mosquitoes.

The device is known as a “photonic fence” and works by monitoring a virtual field for disturbances caused by insects. Once an intruder is properly identified as a mosquito, it is targeted with a deadly laser. Within a fraction of a second, the device shears off the bug’s wing, leaving it dead or incapacitated.

Bees, butterflies and humans need not worry, however; the software powering the photonic fence is precise. It can determine not only the type of insect but also its gender and species. This accuracy is needed because only mosquitoes of the genus Anopheles carry malaria and only females bite people. The software analyzes insect size, wing movement pattern, airspeed and other characteristics to discern friend from foe.

Naturally, the idea is not without its skeptics. One concern is that rural areas often have unreliable power grids. The scientists at Intellectual Ventures hope to solve this problem with the use of solar cells. The laser itself doesn’t require much energy, as it targets the wings of a mosquito rather than its tough exoskeleton.

Intellectual Ventures sees the device as supplementing, rather than replacing current measures of control. These include habitat destruction, nets for homes and beds, as well as pesticides. Nonlethal uses of the photonic fence are also possible, such as monitoring mosquitoes or agricultural pests so that they can be treated with more traditional methods.

The company is currently field testing the device in a partnership with Lighting Science Group. Models are not yet for sale and the so-called mosquito laser will need to be produced cheaply in order to be effective.

The device couldn’t come at a better time. Over three billion people—more than half the world’s population—are at risk of malaria worldwide. An estimated 584,000 people died of malaria in 2013, out of 198 million cases. Although the disease is present in the Middle East, Asia and Latin America, most deaths due to malaria occur in Sub-Saharan Africa. Young children are particularly vulnerable to the disease; it is estimated a child dies of malaria every minute.

Its widespread economic effects worsen malaria’s human devastation. Several studies have demonstrated a relationship between malaria and poverty, and many of the world’s poorest countries have high rates of the disease. Refugees and transient people are at heightened risk of malarial infection, as they may not have developed any immunity.

– Kevin Mclaughlin

Sources: Intellectual Ventures, NCBI, WHO
Photo: Intellectual Ventures Lab

Near-East-Refugees
Syria has seen a rise in violence and conflict; moreover, not just Syrians are the victims. Syria is home to 560,000 Palestinian refugees in 12 camps relying on aid. They have been living there up to four years or longer. After escaping violence in Palestine, these refugees find themselves in danger once again. Even the camps they thought would provide security are attacked. Aid can’t enter. Conditions can worsen. This can create preventable health problems: unsanitary conditions, starvation and disease. Many surrounding countries like Jordan and Lebanon have closed their borders to Palestinian refugees, making it difficult for them to flee the violence and worsening conditions.

Although it becomes difficult for aid workers assisting the refugees to provide the adequate care needed, aid continues to reach the refugees. The United Nations Relief and Work Agency for Palestine Refugees, or UNWRA in the Near East reaches more than three million people in 128 Primary Health Centers in the Middle East. In Syria alone there are 23 centers; however, only 19 are currently open because of violence. Yet, these centers reach about 80 percent of the Palestine population in Syria. Goals for 2015 indicate that 100 percent of the refugee population will be reached.

The services that UNRWA provides work to ensure a healthy lifestyle and environment. The Family Health Teams were developed to provide comprehensive care to visitors. There is preventive and curative care, outpatient, pharmacies and maternal offices. No longer does UNRWA just focus on the particular issue that brings someone to the clinics, but on the entirety of the health of the patient—this approach to aid is known as the Life Cycle Approach. The goal is to provide long-term medical aid to each person that enters. Doctors are able to treat all medical conditions from pregnancy complications to cancer, from the time a person is born to the time they die. By taking care of person through all stages of life, the hope is that this will lead to a healthier Palestinian community.

The Family Health Teams are made up of several teams that include a doctor, several nurses and a clerk. Each team has the same number of families to treat. The teams form personal relations with the patients, learning about their medical history. Check-ups after the initial visit allow preventable complications to be fixed before they become fatal; this enables the doctors to provide more adequate aid and proper monitoring to everyone. The new focus has seen a reduction in maternal deaths. About 99 percent of the population is immunized, and outbreaks of preventable diseases are near zero.

While conditions appear to be worsening for Palestinian refugees, new programs developed to provide aid for them are showing positive signs. Refugees have access to efficiently run health care providers that provide aid for any problem at any stage of life. The aid has gone beyond just temporary refugee camp health care to a permanent health care system. The doctors and nurses are able to not only combat health problems that are common in refugee populations like maternal death and the spread of communicable diseases, but also create a healthier Palestinian community by treating diabetes and lowering obesity levels.

– Katherine Hewitt

Sources: UNRWA 1, UN News, CNN, UNRWA 2, UNRWA 3
Photo: UNHCR

presidents
Although President Obama has only 20 months left of his presidency, he can still do a lot of good once outside the Oval Office. Here are four ways former presidents made a difference for the world’s poor:

George Bush: The former Republican president is well known for his AIDs relief work in Africa. While in office, President Bush signed the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief. The program significantly increased access to antiretroviral drugs on the African continent, saving millions of lives. That effort set the stage for his post-presidential humanitarian work with First Lady Laura Bush through the George W. Bush Institute. Located at the Bush Center in Dallas, the organization promotes global health and human rights through a variety of programs. Through the Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon initiative, for instance, the president and first lady are working to reduce deaths associated with cervical and breast cancer in the developing world.

Bill Clinton: Following his presidency, Mr. Clinton sought to address humanitarian issues worldwide. The Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation has quickly become a cornerstone in the fight for improved global health, economic development, gender equality and environmental protection. Founded in 2001, the Foundation includes a wide range of humanitarian endeavors. The Clinton Health Access Initiative, for example, works to improve healthcare infrastructure, while the Clinton Development Initiative stimulates economic growth by increasing access to financial services for entrepreneurs in the developing world. The Foundation also has a strong track record in promoting the well being of women and girls across the globe.

George H. W. Bush: At 90-years-old, George Bush Sr. is the oldest president on this list, besting fellow nonagenarian Jimmy Carter by a few months. The elder Bush shows no signs of slowing down though; he’s gone skydiving on his 80th, 85th and 90th birthdays, and leads an active life. The president has been just as active in promoting public service through his Points of Light organization, which encourages volunteerism worldwide. The network boasts 250,000 service projects every year across 30 countries. That adds up to 30 million hours of volunteer service each year.

Jimmy Carter: President Carter has had many roles in his life: peanut farmer, Governor of Georgia, President of the United States—but he has perhaps found his great success as an international humanitarian. He is one of four presidents to receive a Nobel Peace Prize, but the only one to do so after leaving office. Most of his efforts have involved The Carter Center, which was founded in 1982 and takes “Waging Peace, Eradicating Disease, Building Hope” as its motto. The Center has targeted a wide range of diseases, including guinea worm, river blindness, trachoma and lymphatic filariasis. Thanks to the president’s efforts, the prevalence of guinea worm disease has been reduced by 99.99 percent since 1986.

– Kevin McLaughlin

Sources: The Clinton Foundation, The George W. Bush Institute, Points of Light
Photo: Flickr