Sanitation in Niger
Niger is the largest country in West Africa. It is officially named the Republic of the Niger after the famous Niger River. While rates like school enrollment, global economic prospects and life expectancy at birth are estimated to increase in the coming years, it still remains one of the most underdeveloped and poorest countries in the world. Access to proper sanitation still remains one of the largest issues affecting the nation. Here are 10 facts about sanitation in Niger.

10 Facts About Sanitation in Niger

  1. In 2016, an estimated 70.8% of deaths were caused by a lack of safe drinking water or proper sanitation. Other leading causes of death include influenza and pneumonia accounting for 27,892 deaths, diarrheal diseases accounting for 16,180 deaths and tuberculosis accounting for 3,842 deaths, all in 2017.
  2. Because of Niger’s quickly increasing population, any progress being made in the sanitation infrastructure and development has been slowed down by the number of people being born. In 2000, the population was around 11.4 million. By 2018, the population had grown to 22.5 million. Niger also has the highest birth rate in the world: in 2011, the birth rate was 7.6 births per woman per year .
  3. The droughts that Niger experienced in the past, from 1950 to around 1980, contributed to sanitation access issues and disease. This also led to lower crop yields, resulting in malnutrition.
  4. In Niger, there are 10 million people who cannot reach clean water. This is in part due to the fact that most of the people in Niger live in rural areas, not urbanized ones. In 2014, approximately 8.2 million people lived in the rural areas of the country that lacked proper sanitation infrastructure.
  5. In 2008, only 39% of the people living in rural areas had access to water, while 96% of the population in urban areas did. Also in 2008, only 4% of people living in rural areas had access to sanitation, while 34% had access to sanitation in urban areas.
  6. There are 18 million people without access to a toilet in the country. This issue of sanitation in Niger leads to open defecation, which also poses health issues. In 2017, 68% of people were practicing open defecation in the country.
  7. Lack of clean water results in 9,800 childhood deaths from diarrhea each year. In 2018, there were 83.7 childhood deaths per 1,000 children.
  8. Part of the reason many people lack access to sanitation in Niger is due to the country’s Water Access Sanitation and Hygiene Program (WASH), which needs to be improved. This is in part due to the rapidly growing population. The goals of WASH cannot keep up with the growth. The drastic differences in living conditions between the urban and rural populations also create complications.
  9. Although wells are dug for water, there are problems accessing them and with contamination. Some wells do not have proper liners, and therefore become contaminated and unusable for drinking. In other cases, women and children have to walk hundreds of miles just to access the water wells.
  10. Niger’s people face problems with diseases from water, especially cholera. The conditions of sanitation in Niger result in water contamination, which resulted in a cholera outbreak in the area from the years 1970 to 2006. In 2004, another outbreak led to 2,178 cases of cholera, resulting in 57 deaths. In 2006, Niger had yet another outbreak, leading to 1,121 cases and 79 deaths being reported.

The Good News

UNICEF is one of the main groups helping the government of Niger with the sanitation issues in the country. The group aims to help provide safer drinking water and better access to sanitation. Another group called Water Aid aims to provide clean water to those in need, along with access to toilets and hygiene. The nonprofit Wells Bring Hope focuses on drilling wells in the rural areas of Niger in order to supply clean drinking water. They also are promoting drip-farming in order to help farmers grow their crops.

While Niger is far from reaching its Millennium Development Goal (MDG) and sanitation concerns are rampant throughout the country, especially in rural areas, there are groups making strides for the nation’s future. With these continued efforts, hopefully sanitation in Niger will improve.

– Marlee Septak
Photo: Flickr

Life Expectancy in Timor-Leste
Timor-Leste, also known as East Timor, is a nation that occupies the eastern half of the island of Timor in Southeast Asia. With a population of 1.26 million people, Timor-Leste is one of the least populated countries in Asia. The Portuguese originally colonized the country in 1520. After declaring independence in 1975, Indonesia invaded the nation, which occupies the western half of the island. The Indonesian invasion brought violence, famine and disease to Timor-Leste, resulting in a large loss in population. After a majority of the Timorese population voted to become independent in 1999, Indonesia relinquished control and Timor-Leste moved under the supervision of the United Nations. The nation officially became independent in 2002, making it one of the newest nations in the world. These 10 facts about life expectancy in Timor-Leste outline the rapid improvement the country has made since Indonesian occupation and the issues it still needs to overcome.

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Timor-Leste

  1. Life expectancy in Timor-Leste increased from 32.6 years in 1978 to 69.26 years in 2018, matching that of South Asia. The consistent improvement in life expectancy in the past decade is primarily due to the Ministry of Health’s public health interventions. Such interventions include the reconstruction of health facilities, expansion of community-based health programs and an increase in medical graduates in the workforce.
  2. Life expectancy in Timor-Leste increased despite a drop in GDP, which decreased from $6.67 billion in 2012 to $2.6 billion in 2018. However, Timor-Leste’s GDP rose by 2.8% from 2017 to 2018. Continued improvement in GDP and economic progress in the nation will only serve to increase life expectancy by providing more opportunities for employment, education and improved quality of life.
  3. Tuberculosis was the highest cause of death in 2014, causing 14.68% of deaths. In 2014, estimates determined that Timor-Leste had the highest prevalence of tuberculosis in Southeast Asia, and 46% of people with tuberculosis did not receive a diagnosis in 2017. Maluk Timor, an Australian and Timorese nonprofit committed to advancing primary health care, provides a service through which team members visit Timorese households to locate undiagnosed patients and raise awareness about the severity of tuberculosis in the community. The organization collaborates with the National TB Program and aims to eliminate suffering and deaths in Timor-Leste due to diseases that Australia, which is only one hour away, had already eliminated.
  4. Communicable diseases caused 60% of deaths in 2006 but decreased to causing 45.6% of deaths in 2016. While diseases such as tuberculosis and dengue fever remain a public health challenge, the incidence of malaria drastically declined from over 200,000 cases in 2006 to no cases in 2018 due to early diagnoses, quality surveillance, funding from The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and support from the World Health Organization.
  5. The adult mortality rate decreased from 672.2 deaths per 1,000 people in 1977 to 168.9 deaths per 1,000 people in 2018. Additionally, the infant mortality rate decreased from 56.6 infant deaths per 1,000 live births in 2008 to 39.3 infant deaths per 1,000 live births in 2018. While public health interventions and disease prevention contributed to the decrease in the adult mortality rate, Timor-Leste needs to expand access to maternal health services in rural areas to continue to improve the infant mortality rate.
  6. Maternal mortality decreased from 796 deaths per 100,000 live births in 1998 to 142 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2017. The leading cause of the high maternal mortality rate is poor access to reproductive health services, as only 43% of women had access to prenatal care in 2006. While the Ministry of Health continues to expand access to maternal health care through mobile health clinics that reach over 400 rural villages, only 30% of Timorese women gave birth with a health attendant present in 2013. Even as access increases, challenges such as family planning services, immunization, treatment for pneumonia and vitamin A supplementation remain for mothers in rural communities.
  7. The violent crisis for independence in 1999 destroyed more than 80% of health facilities. Despite rehabilitation efforts to rebuild the health system, many facilities at the district level either have limited or no access to water. However, the number of physicians per 1,000 people improved from 0.1 in 2004 to 0.7 in 2017. The capacity of the health care system is also improving, as UNICEF supports the Ministry of Health in providing increased training for health care workers in maternal and newborn issues and in striving to improve evidence-based public health interventions.
  8. Timor-Leste has one of the highest malnutrition rates in the world. At least 50% of children suffered from malnutrition in 2013. Additionally, in 2018, 27% of the population experienced food deprivation. USAID activated both the Reinforce Basic Health Services Activity and Avansa Agrikultura Project from 2015-2020 to address the capacity of health workers to provide reproductive health care and the productivity of horticulture chains to stimulate economic growth in poor rural areas. Both projects aim to combat malnutrition by addressing prenatal health and encouraging a plant-based lifestyle that fuels the economy.
  9. Motherhood at young ages and education levels are key contributors to malnutrition, as 18% of women began bearing children by the age of 19 in 2017. Teenage girls are far more likely to experience malnourishment than older women in Timor-Leste, contributing to malnutrition in the child and therefore lowering life expectancy for both mother and child. As a result of malnutrition, 58% of children under 5 suffered from stunting in 2018. Additionally, findings determined that stunting levels depended on the wealth and education level of mothers. In fact, 63% of children whose mothers did not receive any formal education experienced stunting, while the number dropped to 53% in children whose mothers received a formal education.
  10. Education enrollment rates are increasing, as the net enrollment rate in secondary education increased from 40.5% in 2010 to 62.7% in 2018. Completion of secondary education links to higher life expectancy, especially in rural areas. Since 2010, Timor-Leste has increased spending on education. Additionally, local nonprofit Ba Futuru is working to train teachers to promote quality learning environments in high-need schools. After Ba Futuru worked with schools for nine months, students reported less physical punishment and an increase in innovative and engaging teaching methods in their classrooms. The organization serves over 10,000 students and provides scholarships for school supplies for hundreds of students. With more programs dedicated to increasing enrollment and the classroom environment, students are more likely to complete secondary education and increase both their quality of life and life expectancy.

These 10 facts about life expectancy in Timor-Leste indicate an optimistic trend. Although malnutrition, disease and adequate access to health care remain prevalent issues in Timor-Leste, the nation’s life expectancy has rapidly increased since Indonesian occupation and has steadily improved its education and health care systems since its founding in 2002. To continue to improve life expectancy, Timor-Leste should continue to focus its efforts on improving public health access and community awareness in poor rural areas, and particularly to emphasize maternal health services to reduce both maternal and infant mortality rates. Despite being one of the newest nations in the world, Timor-Leste shows promise and progress.

Melina Stavropoulos
Photo: Flickr

Sanitation in Venezuela
Venezuela was one of the wealthiest countries in the world, with its main exporter being oil. However, the country has suffered a water and sanitation crisis, as only 18% of the population had access to clean drinking water in 2018. Around 30% of the population that has unimproved sanitation live in rural areas, while 2.5% are in urban areas. While climate change has significantly impacted Latin America’s resources, Venezuela’s water/sanitation status has affected the lives of Venezuelan citizens. Here are 10 facts about sanitation in Venezuela.

10 Facts About Sanitation in Venezuela

  1. Blackouts and the lack of electricity pose a threat to Venezuela’s access to water. The electricity generates throughout the country’s water plants and sewage pipes. These outdated infrastructures have dealt with terrible maintenance. As a result, when these blackouts happen, the electricity and water from pipes or faucets stop, disrupting the flow of the water. Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has promised to put back-up water tanks on rooftops to relieve the problem.
  2. Venezuela’s water supply is sparse throughout the country. Around 80% of the population lives in the northern region of the country; however, not even 10% of water resources are available in that region. The inconsistency of the access to water provides frustration for many citizens, as they have to travel to other areas outside of their homes to find a decent supply of water. Urban areas are near the northern region, while rural areas are near the southern region. In the country’s first-year rehabilitation plan, it stresses that efforts will focus on the northern region, to identify who needs urgent assistance.
  3. UNICEF provided access to drinking water for over 2.8 million people in 2019. The organization has worked on supplying safe drinking water through sources like water trucking and system repairs. Using these methods will be beneficial in fixing the main spots for water distribution like schools and hospitals, and cleaning main water sources to improve safe use. In 2019, UNICEF provided water and hygiene services to at least 18,300 people in the health centers and learning spaces.
  4. Multiple laws are in place for better water access. Laws like the Organic Law on the Environment protect river basins, preserving their natural soils and guarding the availability of water to sustain the water cycle. While these laws establish some framework into the conservation of water and sanitation, they have not been fully effective because they do not address the lack of maintenance in infrastructures that affects the distribution of water.
  5. The Venezuelan government is finding new means to upgrade water treatment facilities. Over the years, Venezuela’s infrastructure to transport and contain water has been aging and lacking any type of improvement. In 2013, the government asked for Electrotécnica SAQUI’s help to rebuild and restructure the water plants, removing harmful material that seeps into the water. Adding fiberglass blades to the water plants to remove large amounts of sludge helps keep the plants cleaner, which improves the water quality.
  6. The Guaire River in Caracas is Venezuela’s biggest water source. Many citizens make long travels to the Guaire River, as it is the main body of water they have access to. However, wastewater has contaminated the river. The Guaire River is near the city of Caracus, which has three water plants: La Mariposa, Caujarito and La Guaira. The plants sanitize the water, removing sludge so that it does not settle in the tanks.
  7. The average cost for a bottle of water matches the country’s minimum wage. In a Caracus supermarket, 5 liters of water is $2. Unfortunately, that makes up almost half of Venezuela’s minimum wage or approximately $6 a month.
  8. The lack of access to water and sanitation has impacted education. Because of the lack of decent water service for drinking and sanitation, multiple educational institutions have had to shut down. Around 28% of students could not attend school because of the shortage of water. Venezuela’s emergency plan’s response in its first 6 months involved an effort to provide clean water and sanitation, especially in schools, to eliminate the rate of diseases like malaria.
  9. The water supply has had a significant impact on food security. Production of Venezuela’s main crops — like rice and coffee — has fallen to 60% within the last 20 years. This dramatic decrease has caused a surge in weight loss and malnourishment for many citizens and children. To better help Venezuela’s agriculture production, USAID is using its funding to provide hot meals to food kitchens and schools and increase access to livestock and tools.
  10. Venezuela needs approximately $400 million to initiate a first-year rehabilitation plan. Damage to the water supply has been detrimental to the point that this amount of funding is necessary for effective rehabilitation and restoration of water and sanitation resources. USAID has provided more than $56 million of humanitarian aid to Venezuela for assistance in sanitation, hygiene, medicine and health care.

Venezuela still has a long way to go in improving its water and sanitation services. Still, looking at these 10 facts about sanitation in Venezuela, the country is steadily working on the necessary progress it needs to increase clean water accessibility. By reevaluating infrastructure and establishing several laws surrounding water and sanitation access, sanitation in Venezuala should continue to improve.

– Loreal Nix
Photo: Flickr

Fighting Malnutrition in Kenya
In Africa, about 257 million people do not know where their next meal will come from. This means that approximately 20 percent of the population is experiencing severe hunger as a result of the continent’s economic crisis and extremely dry conditions. Food prices soar in response to poor harvests and crop failures, leaving many to starve if action is not taken. Fortunately, humanitarian aid organizations like UNICEF reduce the impact of hunger in impoverished countries across Africa by stepping in with malnutrition prevention and treatment strategies that continue to save lives. This is how UNICEF is fighting malnutrition in Kenya.

The State of Malnutrition in Kenya

Kenya’s food insecurity issue is a direct byproduct of the country’s low agricultural productivity that is caused by a lack of rainfall. About 80 percent of the East African country’s land is arid.  These dry, drought-like conditions only exacerbate the dilemma of low crop and livestock production. This leads to a shortage of food, and the available food is often sold at an inflated, unaffordable price.

More than 3.4 million Kenyans are facing severe food insecurity and around 400,000 children under the age of 5 are malnourished. Approximately 26 percent of children 5 and under are stunted, while another 4 percent are chronically emaciated or “wasting.” With malnutrition being the leading cause of death in children, it is vital that something is done to prevent this hunger.

Taking Action

Luckily, UNICEF is taking action. Founded in 1946, UNICEF is fighting malnutrition in Kenya from the inside by providing millions of people with resources, medical treatment and even counseling. The organization’s Vitamin A Supplementation Policy helped more than 3 million children to receive Vitamin A, a nutrient that is crucial for the human body to develop properly. This supplementation program has helped children fight malnutrition by allowing them to build strong immune systems and reduce dehydration. According to UNICEF, Vitamin A supplements can increase a child’s chance of survival by as much as 24 percent.

In 2017, UNICEF provided malnutrition screenings to over 450,000 impoverished children through outreach services. This program was in response to Kenya’s national drought emergency that was declared in April of that year, which was projected to cause a rapid spike in food shortages. These screenings were able to provide life-saving treatments for children that were suffering from the effects of malnutrition.

Iron Folic Acid (IFA) prevents low iron levels in the body while also promoting proper growth and development. UNICEF recently donated Iron Folic Acid supplements to over 2.5 million women of reproductive age through the Girls’ Iron-Folate Tablet Supplementation (GIFTS) Programme, allowing adolescent girls and women to decrease their susceptibility to anemia. Since IFA is often used as a prenatal supplement, UNICEF is fighting child malnutrition in Kenya before it even starts.

In addition to increasing a child’s chance of survival, feeding practices like breastfeeding can promote optimal growth and development. Through the Community Health System, UNICEF counseled more than 1.7 million new mothers on safe and proper breastfeeding. By teaching mothers about the benefits of breastfeeding, UNICEF has saved even more children from experiencing malnutrition at an early age.

Moving Forward

Kenya has made significant progress in reducing malnutrition rates. By promoting good nutrition and providing resources and outreach services, UNICEF has improved the lives of millions of families. As far as 2022, UNICEF plans on continuing to integrate nutrition-specific strategies to help fight malnutrition in Kenya.

– Hadley West
Photo: Flickr

Facts about Sanitation in Nepal
Clean water and a clean environment are the foundations of a healthy life. Polluted water and poor sanitation can make anyone sick, regardless of nationality or geographic location. That is why it is so important to place global attention on the issues of water quality, hygiene and sanitation. Nepal has emerged as an example of how attention can lead to improved sanitation. Though challenges still exist, including drinking water functionality and regional disparities in development, Nepal has made significant progress. Here are 10 facts about sanitation in Nepal.

10 Facts About Sanitation in Nepal

  1. Water supply and sanitation have been a government priority since 1981. The International Water Supply and Sanitation Decade (1981-90) saw increased investment in improving Nepal’s sanitation. For example, UNICEF and UNDP funded developments in water quality, hygiene and sanitation. The Nepalese government also expanded policies and programs in the sector. Among other initiatives, the Department of Water Supply and Sewerage developed a rural water supply project and a commission formed to evaluate water supply and sanitation practices.
  2. Nepal has made significant progress in water supply, sanitation and hygiene practices. In the last 25 years, a significant portion of the population—2.6 billion people—has gained access to clean drinking water and sanitation facilities. In 1990, estimates determined that only 36 percent of the population had access to a water supply facility. As of 2016, 95 percent of households were using improved drinking water.
  3. Nepal is open defecation free. As of September 2019, all 77 districts announced the elimination of open defecation. A 2009 cholera epidemic caused a public health disaster and prompted a new wave of efforts to improve national sanitation practices. The government collaborated with NGOs and local leaders to execute a plan to create an open defecation free nation. This included adopting a no-subsidy arrangement as the basis for sanitation implementation and the construction of improved sanitation facilities.
  4. Drinking water quality is now the primary concern. Estimates show that access to safely managed drinking water is only 27 percent. Bacterial contamination and water pollution are highly prevalent and exacerbate the risk of illness. Many consider poor drinking water quality to be a leading cause of disease outbreaks, such as cholera. To address this issue, UNICEF is partnering with Nepal’s Ministry of Water Supply and Sanitation to implement water safety plans and increase community awareness on household-level water treatment.
  5. Drinking water functionality poses problems. Of Nepal’s water supply systems, only 25 percent consistently function properly. Thirty-six percent require minor repairs and 39 percent require either major repair, rehabilitation or reconstruction. Poorly functioning systems result in an unreliable, insufficient or unsafe water supply. UNICEF’s New Country Programme is aiding Nepal in tackling this challenge and has emphasized improving water functionality as a priority.
  6. Regional disparities persist in access to water supply facilities and sanitation coverage. Terai, a low-land region characterized by steams, springs and wetlands, has higher coverage of improved drinking water sources compared with the mountain and hill belts. However, the mountain and hill belts have greater access to sanitation facilities compared with the Terai region. Geographic heterogeneity links to differences in capital, technology and environmental resources.
  7. Poor people are more likely to use unimproved water sources and sanitation facilities. Households from lower quintiles are less likely to be able to afford a piped water connection. Therefore, inequity persists in the use of improved water sources and sanitation facilities among socioeconomic groups. In these 10 facts about sanitation in Nepal, it is important to note the wide influence of the distribution of resources across different economic levels on access to sanitation.
  8. Issues with water quality related to contamination are more often chemical than bacterial. According to The Water Project, a nonprofit primarily based on clean water access in Sub-Saharan Africa, the largest contaminants in the Kathmandu valley and Terai regions are lead and arsenic. This influx of chemicals comes mainly from industrial practices but the regions’ sedimentary layers of gravel deposits interlocked with flood plains magnifies it.
  9. Nepal aims to ensure clean water and sanitation for all by 2030. The government’s specific targets are basic water supply coverage for 99 percent of households, piped water supply to 90 percent of households and the elimination of open defecation. Achievements in water, sanitation and hygiene will contribute to a number of other goals, including those in public health, nutrition and poverty.
  10. UNICEF is working in collaboration with Nepal to achieve these goals. UNICEF, in collaboration with the Nepal government and other non-governmental organizations, has set forth strategies for Nepal to expand access to drinking water quality and improved sanitation facilities. These strategies include expanding water quality monitoring, increasing education about best sanitation practices and engaging with the private sector for the construction of affordable, low-cost toilets in households and institutions.

These 10 facts about sanitation in Nepal showcase the progress that Nepal has made since the International Water Supply and Sanitation Decade. With continued attention, Nepal should be able to continue its improvements into the future.

Kayleigh Rubin
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Girls’ Education in Yemen

Yemen is located in the southwest corner of the Arabian Peninsula between Oman and Saudi Arabia. Getting access to education has been one of the major challenges children in Yemen face in recent years, especially girls. Here are eight facts about girls’ education in Yemen.

8 facts about girls’ education in Yemen

  1. In Yemen, about 32 percent of girls are married before the age of 18 with 9 percent being married before turning 15. Due to poverty, girls in Yemen are being married off as a source of income. Marriage will reduce the cost of looking after girls and is believed to offer girls the safety a husband can provide. However, Girls Not Brides is an organization dedicated to ending child marriage. This organization aims to raise awareness of the negative impact of child marriages through open discussions with communities. It mobilizes policy to bring child marriages to an end and works to empower girls and offer them a support network.
  2. According to UNICEF, there is a significant gender gap in education in Yemen’s youth with males enrolled in primary school at 79 percent and females at 66 percent. However, UNICEF is working with the government of Yemen on decreasing this gap and improving the quality of education. The goal is to increase the number of girls enrolled in school. It is also working with other organizations to improve conditions for teachers in Yemen, which will increase access to education overall.
  3. The goal of the Secondary Education Development and Girls Access Project is to improve gender equity and quality of secondary education with a specific focus on girls in rural areas. This project works on improving and furnishing school facilities, providing learning equipment and resources and offering schools community grants. The project also aims to improve teaching and learning practices in classrooms and increasing girls’ participation. The project helped increase enrollment from 0.43 to 0.63 and increased the retention rate of 10 to 12-year-old girls to 85 percent from 78 percent.
  4. In Yemen, public schools are co-ed until grade four though girls and boys are usually seated apart from each other. Due to cultural and traditional beliefs, co-ed classrooms are not acceptable. Some families decide not to enroll their daughters in school because of the lack of separate classrooms.
  5. In Yemen, about 70 percent of the population lives in rural areas. In rural areas, school accessibility is a challenge. Some students must walk for more than an hour to get to the nearest school. The distance becomes longer in higher grade levels because some schools do not offer both primary and secondary education. For girls, schools must be at a culturally acceptable distance and location in order to attend classes.
  6. Due to violence and closed schools that began in 2015, more than 350,000 children couldn’t go to school that first year. A total of about 2.2 million children have been left out of school. However, in 2016, UNICEF was able to provide about 575,000 children with educational resources and psychological encouragement.
  7. Save the Children is an organization that protects children’s rights. It has programs such as education, protection, health and more. Save the Children was the first worldwide aid group in Yemen. This organization has set up temporary learning spaces for children, trained teachers and provided equipment. It runs learning programs for children who did not attend school to help them catch up. In addition, the organization runs educational programs for displaced children in camps.
  8. USAID is working with the government of Yemen to improve school attendance by make schools cleaner and safer. USAID is working to rebuild schools, improve curriculum and provide “safe and equitable access to education” through Yemen’s Transition Education Plan. USAID is dedicating $36 million to education in Yemen.

Education for girls still remains an unsettled issue today. However, through the efforts and determination of the government of Yemen and organizations such as USAID and Save the children, there is hope that all girls may get an education in the near future.

Merna Ibrahim
Photo: Flickr

Breaking the Poverty Cycle by Early Childhood Development

Insufficient early childhood development is an epidemic in the developing world. It is the engine that propels the cycle of poverty. According to the World Bank, 250 million children around the globe are at risk of not reaching their full potential due to poverty as well as physical and cognitive stunting. Of note, only half of all 3-to-6-year-olds around the world have access to primary school. The Global Partnership for Education reports that there are over 175 million children not enrolled in pre-primary education worldwide. When it comes to breaking the poverty cycle, early childhood development cannot be ignored.

According to a Wyoming Scholars Repository report, childhood poverty can change the structure of a developing brain, potentially impacting the frontal lobe, the temporal lobe, the prefrontal cortex, the amygdala, the hippocampus and neurotransmitter. This means that a child’s attention, inhibition, emotional regulation, motivation, planning and decision-making skills are all at risk of not reaching their full potential. The same report found that low socioeconomic status is responsible for around 20 percent of the variance in childhood IQ.

Furthermore, according to the Childhood Poverty Policy and Research Centre, approximately 1 billion children will be growing up with stunted mental development by 2020. This is why early childhood development is the key to breaking the poverty cycle.

Two Components of Early Childhood Development

There are two main components of early childhood development that many impoverished children lack which are essential to brain development. The first is education and stimulation. According to UNICEF, early childhood education builds cognitive and language skills, increases social competence and supports emotional development. Early childhood stimulation and care boost the brain’s capacity to function by sparking neural connections across multiple regions of the brain. According to the World Bank, a 20-year study of children in Jamaica showed that early stimulation interventions for infants and toddlers increased their future earnings by 25 percent. In addition, a World Bank Group analysis in 12 countries found that children involved in early education are more likely to be employed in high-skill jobs as adults.

The second component is health and nutrition. Sufficient early childhood health begins with prenatal care. The Wyoming Scholars Repository reports that deficiencies in nutrients such as folate, choline, B12, zinc, omega-3 fatty acids, iodine and iron are commonly noted in pregnant women living in poverty. These deficiencies can increase the risk of defects such as oral-facial clefts, spina bifida and stunting in eye and brain development.

According to the Childhood Poverty Policy and Research Centre, childhood malnutrition and nutrient deficiencies also increase a child’s vulnerability to diseases both in childhood and adulthood, which greatly decreases the likelihood of breaking the poverty cycle. Some gains can be made in adulthood to combat the consequences of insufficient early childhood development, but many effects, especially those related to cognitive development, are irreversible. Mitigating the stunting of children in poverty is crucial to reducing global poverty. According to the World Bank, children in a long-term study in Guatemala who suffered from stunting were much more likely to break the poverty cycle and earned up to 50 percent higher wages in adulthood.

Economic Benefits of Early Childhood Development

Research shows that investing in early childhood development has economic benefits at an individual and societal level. A RAND Corporation analysis found that targeted early interventions like education, health services, parent skill training and child abuse recognition create positive economic and societal outcomes such as:

  • Improvements in educational process and outcomes for the child
  • Increased economic self-sufficiency, initially for the parent and later for the child, through greater labor force participation, higher income and lower welfare usage
  • Reduced criminal activity
  • Improvements in health-related indicators, such as child abuse, maternal reproductive health and maternal substance abuse

Early childhood development proves to be a cost-efficient investment. According to the World Bank, for every $1 invested, there is a return of between $6 and $17. A report conducted by the Copenhagen Consensus and the Indian Consensus Prioritization Project found that implementing cash incentives to increase enrollment in pre-school education and passing policies to improve the quality of pre-school both show positive benefit-to-cost ratios.

Liberia is a good example of a country that has taken notice of the value of the investment in early childhood development.

In 2010, Liberia’s Ministry of Education implemented the Education Sector Plan for 2010-2020 with a grant from the Global Partnership for Education. The plan committed to cross-sectoral efforts around early childhood development and the expansion of access to pre-primary education. In 2011 the government established the Bureau for Early Childhood Education and approved its National Inter-Sectoral Policy on Early Childhood Development.

However, according to the Bernard van Leer Foundation, the Early Childhood Development Community Education and Awareness Programme (ECDCEAP) passed in 2012 has been the most effective in raising awareness about the importance of early childhood development. The program trains mental health professionals, pre-school teachers on childhood development knowledge and health workers and midwives to provide proper support to pregnant women and new mothers. There has yet to be a formal analysis of the ECDCEAP. However, the Bernard van Leer Foundation states that anecdotal evidence suggests an improvement in the comprehension and action surrounding early childhood development.

The Global Partnership for Education (GPE) is a non-governmental organization that focuses on bringing education and early childhood development to the developing world. The organization has invested $270 million in early childhood education in 35 countries and two-thirds of the organization’s grants in 2018 included support for early childhood care and education. According to a GPE report, enrollment in pre-primary education doubled from 2002 to 2016 in the countries partnering with the organization.

Early childhood development is the key to breaking the poverty cycle. It gets the root cause of poverty’s cyclical behavior. Although organizations like The Global Partnership for Education are making large strides, early childhood development is not as recognized as it should be for reducing poverty. According to the same GPE report, 40 percent of countries with data allocate less than 2 percent of their education budget to early childhood education and less than one percent of global aid is invested in pre-primary education. To end the cycle of poverty, early childhood development needs to move up the hierarchy of foreign aid, government expenditure and international focus.

Zach Brown
Photo: Flickr

 

HIV/AIDS in Egypt
Egypt is a country located in the northernmost corner of Africa. A rather religious country, people often push issues surrounding HIV/AIDS under the rug and view the disease as a non-issue. The reasons for this are not hard to understand considering that the estimated population of people suffering from HIV/AIDS in Egypt in 2018 was a relatively small 22,000 people out of its 97.5 million inhabitants. Egypt has long been a low HIV-prevalent country with only specific groups of people being susceptible to the disease. These groups include prisoners, migrants and street children. Although there have been no studies conducted to prove this, professionals have hypothesized these are the most susceptible groups.

An Increase in HIV/AIDS

Despite the low prevalence of HIV/AIDS in Egypt, the country has seen an increase in the disease in the past years. In fact, Egypt has the fastest-growing rate of HIV/AIDS in the Middle East and North Africa. There was a 76 percent increase in the number of cases between 2010 and 2016 alone. There has also been an increase in the number of confirmed cases of HIV/AIDS in Egypt. In fact, the numbers have increased by up to 30 percent every year. While the number of people with HIV/AIDS was 11,000 in 2016, the number doubled in only two years.

The issue must be addressed soon, not only because of the observed increase but also because of several factors within Egyptian society that leaves the country at risk for developing more cases of HIV/AIDS and the threat of an epidemic. Besides the previously mentioned groups, others susceptible to the disease include sex workers, homosexual males and drug users. Because of their hidden nature in a culturally conservative country and the stigma surrounding them, they perform unsafe behaviors and are unwilling to talk about their issues.

Talking About and Treating HIV/AIDS

Despite the cultural stigma, people are coming out with their stories and advocating in and out of the country. Magid is one example. After finding out that he had been living with HIV/AIDS through military testing, he decided to become a voice for other people in the country facing the same problem but too ashamed to speak out in fear of societal repercussions. Magid joined the organization Friends for Life which aims to help people with HIV/AIDS in Egypt. Magid also addressed a session of the U.N. General Assembly in New York and became the first Arabic person to speak publicly about their life with HIV/AIDS.

Along with locals making an effort, UNICEF is working toward recognizing and stopping any further growth of HIV/AIDS in Egypt. One outcome resulting from the work of UNICEF and its partner organizations is in its support of the procurement and supply management of anti-retroviral treatments. Through its efforts, 4,000 people living with HIV/AIDS are able to receive high-quality medicines and treatment on a monthly basis. These people include pregnant women, infants and adolescents. It also treats people of refugee status in addition to those of Egyptian nationality.

While Egypt might be a low HIV/AIDS-prevalent country now, there have been recent trends showing that there needs to be some change. Organizations and people are coming out and working toward recognizing the issue of the growing number of people with HIV/AIDS in Egypt. Through this, there is already an increasing amount of attention and funding going toward the issue.

– Samira Darwich
Photo: Pixabay

Human Trafficking in Mexico

Human trafficking is defined as the recruitment, transportation, or transfer of humans using any form of threat for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation could mean prostitution, forced labor or practices similar to slavery and servitude. In 2018, it was determined that the government of Mexico was not meeting the minimum standards for eliminating human trafficking. While Mexico is making strides in the number of prosecutions made and the amount of support given to victims, in 2018 the government obtained fewer convictions than in previous years, identified fewer victims, provided more limited services to victims and maintained a disproportionately low amount of shelters compared to its magnitude of the human trafficking industry. The following 10 facts about human trafficking in Mexico provide further insight into its expansive presence in the country.

10 Facts About Human Trafficking in Mexico

  1. Mexico has the largest number of victims of modern slavery than any other country in the Americas. Mexico, along with the Philippines and the United States, was ranked one of the world’s worst places in terms of human trafficking in 2018. Mexico is also thought to be the largest source country for trafficking across international borders. According to the Global Slavery Index, there are approximately 341,000 victims of modern slavery in Mexico.
  2. Those most at risk are women, children, indigenous people, people with mental or physical disabilities, migrants and LGBTQ individuals. The United States estimated about 70 percent of human trafficking victims in the US come from Mexico, with 50 percent of those individuals being minors. Women and children are often used for prostitution and sex trafficking, while many Mexican men are coerced into forced labor, often for use by drug cartels. Additionally, individuals traveling or migrating alone are at a higher risk for trafficking.
  3. One major reason for the presence of human trafficking in Mexico is the social and economic disparity. Many victims are also victims of poverty, and they become trapped in trafficking after being lured from poorer regions with a promise of employment and income. In 2016, 43.6 percent of Mexican citizens were living below the poverty line. UNICEF reports that traffickers specifically seek out individuals who are financially vulnerable, as they are more likely to accept illegitimate job offers due to desperate circumstances. Solo migrants traveling without family or any other individuals are often the most vulnerable victims due to their isolation.
  4. Out of 150,000 children living on the streets in Mexico, it is estimated that 50 percent are victims of trafficking for sexual purposes. Many traffickers use Mexico as a route to smuggle children into the United States and Canada. Often, these children stay and become victims in Mexico, and the numbers of exploited children in Mexico continue to rise.
  5. In June of 2019, the Mexican government announced an end to funding for human trafficking non-government organizations (NGO’s). President Andrés Manuel López Obrador justified the cut with reasons of corruption, believing that the funding for these NGO’s would end up in the wrong hands. Instead, the new plan is to open government-funded and government-run shelters for victims of human trafficking. Many people question the ability of the government to run shelters and provide victims with the care and support needed. George Mason University professor Guadalupe Correa-Cabrera, who has studied the connection between organized crime and trafficking, explains: “Any mention of the topic is really very general… it doesn’t seem to be a priority.”
  6. Victims of human trafficking are at very high risk for repeated trafficking due to Mexico’s policies of prioritizing arrests of illegal immigrants and individuals engaging in prostitution. As a result, victims often have very little chance of social services or legal aid, and instead, are put at a higher risk for re-victimization and repeated trafficking. Opportunities for help and support were mostly offered by NGO’s in Mexico, and without proper funding for these organizations, the Mexican government assigns a low priority to services for victims.
  7. Mexican trafficking victims are even more vulnerable to sex trafficking due to issues of forced migration. An overwhelmingly high number of victims come from unstable countries in Latin America. In 2017, 14,596 people applied for asylum in Mexico. Due to government instability, violence due to the presence of drug cartels, and conflict within the country, migrant victims are at higher risk for vulnerability in a new country, and therefore, at a higher risk for becoming a victim of human trafficking in Mexico.
  8. In March of 2019, the Mexican government released statements announcing their goal to probe into the current “failing” anti-human trafficking policies in place. The technical secretary of the Inter-Ministerial Commission Against Human Trafficking, Felix Santana, publicly recognized the shortcomings of previous policies. With more emphasis and government dedication to supporting victims and survivors, solutions are becoming more promising for ending human trafficking in Mexico.
  9. Another step in the direction of ending human trafficking is the raising of awareness and visibility of the issue, specifically for Mexican youths. For example, the Pan American Development Foundation facilitated a partnership between MTV Americas and the U.S. Department of State’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons to create a mass media campaign, including a documentary focusing on real examples of trafficked youth.
  10. In the meantime, there are many organizations in Mexico dedicated to ending human trafficking and assisting and supporting victims. For example, El Pozo de Vida provides a safe-house for victims and offers food, water, shelter, education, clothing and counseling. The creation of more organizations to assist in the rehabilitation of victims is crucial in alleviating the extreme damage done by human trafficking in Mexico.

It is believed that the number of victims of human trafficking in Mexico would decrease with strengthened law enforcement, acknowledgment of the expansivity of the problem and additional training for victim identification.

– Orly Golub
Photo: Flickr

7 Facts About Poverty in Yemen
Yemen demonstrates extremely poor standards of life expectancy, education and overall living. Yemen’s ongoing political unrest has been a major cause of the country’s poverty. Regardless of the cause, poverty in Yemen is frightening. Here are seven facts about poverty in Yemen.

7 Facts About Poverty in Yemen

  1. Even prior to its political instability, Yemen was already the poorest country in the region spanning the Middle East to North Africa. It exhibits the lowest rank on the Human Development Index (HDI) among Arab states. Yemen also ranks 178 out of 189 countries on the HDI.
  2. The U.N. estimates that approximately 80 percent of Yemenis are vulnerable to hunger. About 14.3 million are in need of medical assistance to combat malnutrition along with other issues. Starvation, cholera, measles and dengue fever are some of the main culprits. Roughly two million children in Yemen are in immediate need of medical help because of acute malnutrition.
  3. Poverty in Yemen contributes to its remarkably high infant mortality rate of 55.4 deaths under age 5 per 1,000 births. To compare, the United States has a healthier infant mortality rate of 5.8 deaths per 1,000 births. Malnutrition contributes in large part to this statistic.
  4. Almost 18 million Yemeni citizens simply have no access to clean water. UNICEF reports that only around 30 percent of the population uses piped drinking water services. Contaminated water results in many infant deaths. UNICEF does its best to keep this issue to a minimum in Yemen. It maintains the operational water supply systems in Yemen. It also monitors and disinfects the water supply in urban areas and provides WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene) humanitarian aid to displaced Yemeni citizens.
  5. Consistent waves in currency depreciation continue to chip away at Yemen’s economy. As a result, inflation threatens and terrorizes the economy and its consumers. It also exacerbates this humanitarian crisis. The Yemeni rial, the official currency of Yemen, lost 75 percent of its value in the past four years. With a GDP of around $27 billion, Yemen must rely on humanitarian aid.
  6. As poverty in Yemen continues to worsen, about two million children remain out of school. Unfortunately, this is due to a lack of teachers and schooling facilities. Without an educated population, Yemen will continue its impoverished conditions. Thankfully, UNICEF secured approximately $70 million for cash incentives for teachers in Yemen. In its efforts, UNICEF also provided access to education for more than 200,000 Yemeni children through the reconstruction of 18 schools and 218 school latrines.
  7. Such a blow to the economy devastated Yemeni citizens on an individual level as well. The World Bank reports that more than 40 percent of households lost their main source of income, placing people under the poverty line. The country is struggling to lift its people out of impoverished conditions. However, the World Bank has several large- scale emergency grants dedicated to Yemen during its crisis. These grants will work with health and nutrition as well as electricity and agriculture.
Poverty in Yemen stems from a range of unfortunate events, primarily its state of political instability under Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi. Such instability affects sanitation, infrastructure, economy and medical assistance. These seven facts about poverty in Yemen demonstrate areas of weakness where humanitarian aid can effectively assist. Organizations like UNICEF and the U.N. are already doing their part in the pursuit of aiding and providing for not only Yemen but many countries in similar situations. With UNICEF and the U.N.’s help, Yemen has a better chance of sustaining itself.

Colin Crawford
Photo: Flickr