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

Education in Peru

Education in Peru is an area in need of improvement, especially for children living in the most vulnerable parts of the country. In 2017, the Peruvian government spent only 3.92 percent of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) on education. While this represents an improvement from 10 years prior, with only 2.63 percent of its GDP spent on school improvement, there is a significant disparity between private and public education.

Private schools have a reputation for offering the highest quality education in the country, but only families with deep pockets can afford the high fees. For instance, the Markam College, one of the top bilingual schools in Lima, costs $12,500 for middle school and $8,500 for high school and the International Baccalaureate (IB) Program.

Most middle and lower class Peruvians cannot afford such high school fees. The situation is even worse in the Peruvian Andes and Rainforest regions, where indifference and tremendous cultural and linguistic barriers often hinder children from receiving an education at all. To solve these problems, UNICEF Peru started the Multicultural Bilingual Schools Initiative or “Friendly Schooling” in 2017 to tackle the three main obstacles that Andean and Rainforest students face: isolation, gender inequality and language barriers.

Education in Peru: Isolation

When referring to isolation, in many cases, children have to walk for hours to school. Others may discontinue their education altogether due to family pressures or gender discrimination. That is why Peru’s “Friendly Schooling” works closely with community leaders and parents, keeping them informed of the academic progress of their children. Parents and the rest of the population participate in the children’s education, even taking time to educate new teachers on their culture. “Friendly Schooling” also emphasizes that for the community to develop, education must be a priority.

Education in Peru: Gender Inequality

The 2015 documentary “The School of Silence” shows the desperate situation of girls in Andean schools and the reality that the main role of females in the school environment is to do chores and serve as assistants to their male counterparts. Girls were rarely seen taking on leadership roles and in general, female participation in the classroom was almost nonexistent.

“Friendly Schooling” aims to destigmatize this cultural bias. In this new school environment, both girls and boys equally participate in keeping the classroom clean. However, the most significant contribution is that girls now have the possibility of participating in class elections. Now, thanks to cooperation between teachers and parents to uplift female students, girls are taught that they are equal to their male counterparts.

Education in Peru: Language Barriers

The biggest obstacle to overcome is the language barrier that exists not only between the authorities and the community but also between students and teachers. When the “Friendly Schooling” initiative first started, several schools were selected from three provinces where native languages such as Quechua and Aymara are primarily spoken rather than Spanish. Learning in a language they barely understood caused many female students to forgo continuing their studies. In fact, according to Brookings, “along Peru’s northern Pacific coast, where the Afro-Peruvian population is most heavily concentrated, only 26.9 percent of those girls access education, compared with an average of 42.3 percent for all girls in the same geographic area.”

The point of this bilingual education initiative is not only to teach children in their native tongue but also to ensure adequate training for teachers and the provision of quality materials for students. The program also leverages the use of ICTs in delivering instruction in Spanish and the given native language of children.

Implementation Worldwide

Peru’s “Friendly Schooling” Program can serve as an example for many countries whose native populations are suffering from a lack of educational opportunities. Indigenous communities can become empowered if their culture is formally recognized in their studies.

– Adriana Ruiz and Kim Thelwell
Photo: Flickr

Oral Health and Poverty
Dental health is a topic that people often forget in discussions of global poverty as other health issues can overshadow it. However, oral health and poverty have a link. Maintaining proper dental health is essential for individuals to stay healthy and out of poverty. Listed below are four ways in which improving individuals’ oral health can help fight global poverty.

4 Connections Between Oral Health and Poverty

  1. There is a close link between poor oral health and malnutrition. This is largely because people who have inadequate nutrition may also have weaker teeth, which are then more prone to decay. The pain of tooth decay and inadequate chewing is often enough to keep many individuals from consuming an adequate amount of food. Individuals who have fewer than three functional molars have even more difficulty consuming food. These individuals have shown a 40 percent reduction in masticatory performance or the ability to chew.
  2. People with chronic dental pain struggle with productivity. As most anyone who has had a toothache can attest to, dental pain can affect one’s ability to focus. In addition to this, the FDI World Dental Federation claims that people miss millions of work or school days each year due to oral afflictions. Untreated dental pain prevents people from being able to learn and earn successfully. This is another way that oral health and poverty connect.
  3. Uncontrolled oral bacteria can cause larger health issues. Without regular oral hygiene measures like brushing and flossing, the mouth, and especially the gums, can build up bacteria that does not just cause tooth decay but is also harmful to the rest of the body. This bacteria can cause endocarditis and pneumonia, as well as pregnancy complications. In short, good oral hygiene can prevent other health conditions from occurring.
  4. Focusing on oral health requires habits that benefit overall wellness. The primary example of this is the reduction of tobacco use. Smoking and chewing tobacco have a number of negative side effects, including crippling tooth decay, gum disease and cancer. In addition to this, most experts estimate that smoking kills more than 8 million individuals annually across the globe. There are also economic consequences to smoking, as evidenced by the staggering economic damage that people can incur as a result of smoking. One can calculate the economic damage by adding up both medical costs and the loss of productivity that smoking causes. The World Bank estimates that this figure is more than $1.4 trillion annually. Everything said, maintaining good oral health can help individuals stay healthy and productive.

Efforts by NGOs to Improve Oral Health

Fortunately, many groups have already begun to respond to this pressing issue. Dental care-centered mission trips and humanitarian outreach programs have long been in effect. Now, other larger organizations are increasingly involving themselves in oral health. For example, the organization Shoulder to Shoulder conducted a 17-year-long effort to craft an oral health program that produced many benefits for the people of Honduras. The program helped many individuals improve their dental health and people considered it to be a great success. UNICEF implemented a similar program that focused on tooth-brushing in the Philippines. This program reached countless schoolchildren in the country.

All of the above reasons demonstrate why improving oral health is crucial for fighting poverty. All said, there is a lot of good work that NGOs are currently doing to help promote oral health education and practices. Oral health is essential to ensure individuals’ overall health as well as their financial security. It is important that the connection between oral health and poverty remains at the forefront of discussions surrounding global health care going forward.

– Molly Power
Photo: Flickr

Facts About Poverty In Eritrea

Eritrea is a small northeastern country in Africa, surrounded by the larger Somalia, Ethiopia and Sudan. It is home to nearly 5.4 million individuals, of which, about 65 percent live in poverty. Eritrea’s harsh history coupled with its low rates of development has contributed to the poor economic conditions that oppress so many. This article will provide nine facts about poverty in Eritrea which will give reason to the concerns raised by international organizations.

9 Facts About Poverty in Eritrea

  1. A tumultuous history with Ethiopia: After a 30-year war with Ethiopia, Eritrea finally gained independence in 1991. It was not until 1993, however, that this separation was legitimized. Eritrean citizens were historically neglected under Ethiopian rule. Many were deprived of their nation’s resources and abandoned on the pathway to development.
  2. Cultural superstitions prevent sanitary practices: According to UNICEF, persistent cultural beliefs hinder many Eritreans from collecting clean water, washing their hands and disposing of animal products properly. Many believe that evil spirits are attached to certain animal parts while other customs prohibit the use of latrines during certain hours of the day.
  3. Limited access to clean water for rural Eritreans: Very few villages in rural Eritrea have access to clean water. In fact, as of 2015, only 48.6 percent of the rural population had access to improved water sources compared to 93.1 percent in urban areas. As a result, many drink from the same water source as animals. In addition, many communities do not have a local latrine due to a lack of financial resources. Sewage systems also contaminate water sources that would otherwise be feasible options. These issues can lead to numerous diseases such as schitosmiasis, giardriasis and diarrhea.
  4. Challenges in agriculture: While nearly 80 percent of the Eritrean population works in agriculture, this sector only makes up about 13 percent of the nation’s GDP. Landscapes in Eritrea are naturally rocky and dry. This makes farming a difficult task even in the best weather conditions. During the most fruitful periods, domestic agriculture production still only feeds 60 to 70 percent of the population.
  5. Susceptibility to drought: When drought does strike northeast Africa, Eritrea is one of the countries that experiences the greatest blow. Months can pass in the Horn of Africa without rainfall and these episodes are frequent and recurrent. This results in food shortages and increased rates of malnourishment among children. Statistics show that malnutrition has been increasing throughout Eritrea as nearly 22,700 children under the age of 5 suffer from the condition. Plans have already been crafted as an acknowledgment of the crisis, one being the African Development Bank’s Drought Resilience and Sustainable Livelihood Programme for 2015-2021. For this, the Eritrean government has agreed to reserve $17 million to administer solutions for drought effects in rural communities.
  6. Many children are out of school: Public education in Eritrea is inconsistent across the nation. Children living in rural areas or with nomadic families do not have access to quality education like those living in urban regions. Overall, 27.7 percent of Eritrean children do not attend school.
  7. Low HDI: Recently, GDP in Eritrea has been growing. This can be attributed to the recent cultivation of the Bisha mine, which has contributed a considerable amount of zinc, gold and copper to the international economy. Even so, Eritrea’s Human Development Index is only at 0.351. The country is far behind other sub-Saharan nations, whose average is calculated at 0.475.
  8. Violence at the southern border: The central government has created large holes in the federal deficit in its preoccupation with Ethiopia. While the countries officially separated in 1993, discontent with the line of demarcation has left them in a state of “no war, no peace.” The Eritrean government sees the stalemate with Ethiopia as a primary concern, and the military forces needed to guard their territory has occupied most of the nation’s resources.
  9. High rates of migration: These realities listed above have encouraged much of the Eritrean population to flee the country. Eritrea is the African country with the highest number of migrants. Furthermore, the journey to Europe is a dangerous one, as the pathway through the central Mediterranean is highly laborious.

Annie O’Connell
Photo: Flickr

 

 

Life Expectancy in Niger

Life expectancy rates measure the overall mortality of a country in a given year, a statistic affected by countries’ poverty rates. There is a correlation between poor health and poverty that implies those in better socioeconomic classes will live longer, healthier lives than those in lower classes. With a poverty rate of approximately 44.1 percent in 2017, Niger, a landlocked country in Africa also has one of the lowest life expectancy rates in the world. Below are 10 facts about life expectancy in Niger, which explain the challenges the government faces to improve quality of life and the efforts being taken to prevent premature deaths.

10 Facts about Life Expectancy in Niger

  1. In 2016, the global life expectancy rate was 72.0 years old and on average, women were expected to live to 74.2 years old while the rate for men was slightly lower at 69.8 years old. A 2018 estimate by the CIA estimates the average life expectancy rate in Niger was 56.3 years old. The rate for women was 57.7 years while men on average lived until 55.0 years old.
  2. One of the biggest factors affecting Niger’s stagnant poverty rates is their increasingly growing population rate. With a 3.16 percent growth rate, Niger has the seventh fastest-growing population in the world. The people of Niger lack adequate resources to feed and shelter the constantly increasing population only exacerbating the mortality rate.
  3. In 2017, the UN ranked Niger as the second least developed country in the world due to their reliance on agriculture. The majority of the population, 87 percent, depends on agriculture including subsidized farming and domestic livestock as their primary means of income. Nearly half of the population of Niger falls below the poverty line a consequence of the limited job opportunities and lack of industry.
  4. In 2017, Niger ranked 189th out of 189 countries on the United Nations Human Development Index (HDI), a scale that ranks countries based on three factors: health, knowledge and quality of life. The health factor is determined by the life expectancy at birth while knowledge is determined by the average rate of schooling for citizens and quality of life is measured by the gross national income. Although this index does not account for poverty levels, socioeconomic inequality or human security, Niger’s low ranking depicts a country struggling with healthcare, education and economic prosperity.
  5. The top three leading causes of death in Niger in 2017 were malaria, diarrheal diseases and lower respiratory infections. Comparatively, in the United States, the leading causes of death are heart disease, cancer and accidents. The leading causes of death in the United States are noncontagious and in the case of accidentals, unavoidable. However, both malaria and diarrheal diseases are treatable and communicable conditions that could be prevented with proper healthcare.
  6. Located between three deserts, Niger is one of the hottest countries in the world with a very dry climate. This extreme climate creates inconsistent rainfall patterns, which leads to long periods of drought and widespread famine. Groundwater, the only option for clean water, is often contaminated in wells or kilometers away. As a result, only 56 percent of the population has access to drinking water while 13 percent of the population uses proper sanitation practices.
  7. The people of Niger lack education about proper health practices with 71 percent of people practicing open defecation while 17 million people do not have a proper toilet. The lack of proper disposal for fecal matter affects access to clean drinking water by contaminating hand-dug wells meant to provide clean water to entire villages. This improper sanitation, contaminated water and insufficient hygiene contribute to diarrhea-associated deaths in Niger.
  8. In partnership with European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO), UNICEF Niger successfully advocated for the expansion of the national seasonal malaria chemoprevention campaign and the inclusion of malnutrition screening in the country. In 2016, the malaria chemoprevention campaign helped 2.23 million children between three and 59 months suffering from malaria. Also, the incorporation of malnutrition screening contributed to an 11 percent decrease in the number of children with severe acute malnutrition in 2016.
  9. Doctors Without Borders has recognized the need for malaria and malnutrition care in Niger, especially during peak drought seasons. In 2018, Doctors Without Borders treated 173,200 patients for malaria, placed 42,300 people into feeding treatment centers and admitted 86,300 people to hospitals for malaria and malnutrition treatment.
  10. A UNICEF funded branch of the water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) program is active in Niger and fighting to increase access to clean water and sanitation facilities to combat open defecation and poor hygiene. Currently, UNICEF is modeling a WASH-approach in 14 municipalities within three regions of Niger with the intent of opening new facilities, strengthening water pipe systems and managing water supply networks.

These 10 facts about life expectancy in Niger depict a country attempting to improve the quality of life for its people despite social and environmental challenges. Slowly, with help from humanitarian organizations and nonprofits, the life expectancy in Niger will continue to improve.

Hayley Jellison
Photo: Flickr

 

The U.S. Foreign Aid Freeze
On August 3, 2019, the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) ordered two federal agencies to temporarily freeze billions of foreign aid funding. This decision ordered the State Department and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to provide accounts for all unobligated resources of foreign aid. Rachel Semmel, a spokeswoman for the Budget Office, said the order aims to ensure accountability. According to the Associated Press (AP), the letter lists 10 areas that the U.S. foreign aid freeze targets, including development assistance, global health programs and United Nations peacekeeping. In total, the freeze puts $2 billion to $4 billion of congressionally-approved funding on hold.

Subsequent Response

The U.S. foreign aid freeze has met with bipartisan criticism. Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Rep. Eliot Engel said that the Trump administration has amounted to contempt and emphasized that congressionally-approved foreign aid is law and backed by the Constitution. Sen. Lindsey Graham’s criticism was harsher, labeling the freeze insane. In a letter to the OMB, lawmakers from both parties agreed that cutting foreign aid and development spending would not be in the interest of national security.

Critics of the OMB’s decision point to the fact that foreign aid spending makes up less than one-tenth of 1 percent of the federal budget. Before the freeze, the U.S. spent $30 billion annually on programs to reduce global poverty. Liz Schrayer, the chief executive of the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition, claims the OMB is cutting one of the smallest portions of the federal budget, but one that could have catastrophic impacts on U.S. economic and national security interests.

Impacted Countries

The U.S. foreign aid freeze will directly affect Malawi, one of the world’s least developed countries. The nation consistently ranks very low in various health indicators, such as life expectancy, infant mortality rate and maternal mortality rate. In addition, an estimated one million people or 9.2 percent of adults in Malawi live with HIV/AIDS with an estimated 13,000 deaths annually. In Malawi, USAID works to improve the quality of life by supporting development, education and health programs, especially those that prevent and treat malaria, tuberculosis and HIV. Due to the Trump administration’s order, Malawi may not have aid for the remainder of this financial year. According to documents that Foreign Policy obtained, the freeze could also affect foreign aid to countries in Africa, Asia and the Middle East.

Funding for UNICEF projects to protect children account for a large portion of the U.S. foreign aid freeze. One of these programs involves early childhood education and development in Uzbekistan. According to UNICEF, only 30 percent of Uzbek children attend preschool while 70 percent are unable to achieve their full potential due to a lack of early education. UNICEF is rolling its program out across six regions in Uzbekistan and it has designed it to increase access to quality education for children. Regional instructors have trained 2,159 preschool teachers in child-centered learning and model schools, which have increased enrollment by 2,841 children. The U.S. foreign aid freeze will have a direct impact on similar programs across the globe.

Bipartisan Solution

On August 15, 2019, the OMB sent an official rescission request to the State Department to cut foreign aid funding by more than $4 billion, yet canceled the request a few days later. Since taking office in 2017, the Trump administration has made numerous attempts to cut foreign aid funding, and in some cases by as much as 30 percent. Members of both parties in Congress firmly rejected all attempts. Daniel Runde, former director of the Global Development Alliance (GDA) in the Bush administration, says development, diplomacy and defense experts are in full agreement that the Trump administration should work collaboratively with Congress to create a more robust and sustainable approach to foreign aid and development.

– Adam Bentz
Photo: Flickr

Selena Gomez and UNICEFAfter starting her career at age seven starring in “Barney and Friends,” Selena Gomez rose to fame in her most well-known role as Alex Russo on Disney Channel’s “Wizards of Waverly Place.” Whether she is starring in shows on television or speaking out about the dangers of social media, Gomez often finds herself in front of the camera.  More recently, Selena Gomez and UNICEF have been working together to aid children in need.

In 2009, Gomez added UNICEF ambassador to her already decorated resume. She previously acted as a spokesperson for the organization for a year. At the age of 16, Gomez became the youngest UNICEF brand ambassador at that time. Together, Selena Gomez and UNICEF advocate for the world’s most vulnerable children by participating in campaigns, events and initiatives. “Every day, 25,000 children die from preventable causes. I stand with UNICEF in the belief that we can change that number from 25,000 to zero,” said Gomez.

Gomez in Ghana and Chile

In October 2009, one month after partnering with UNICEF, Gomez took a week-long trip to Ghana on behalf of the organization. This was an opportunity for the new ambassador to get a firsthand look at what the organization is all about. “My trip to Ghana was life-changing. I couldn’t believe the things I saw. They were so loving, compassionate and strong. Watching these kids fight for what they want was so inspirational,” said Gomez.

In 2016, when compared to adults, children were 40 percent more likely to live in poverty in Ghana. This number has increased significantly from the 1990s when it was only 15 percent. Over the past few years, Ghana’s economy has shown steady, positive growth and transformation, but clearly more needs to be addressed in regards to childhood poverty.

In February 2011, Gomez performed at a sold-out concert in the coastal city of Valparaiso in Chile. While there, Gomez met with some of the poorest Chilean women. Eighteen percent of children live in poverty in Chile; therefore, some children must work. Street children pose a large issue, especially indigenous children because they do not retain the same rights as other Chilean children.

Selena Gomez Turns to Fans for Support

In 2010, Gomez became the Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF spokesperson. The Kids Helping Kids Ⓡ event raised nearly $177 million as of 2018. In August 2011, Gomez joined more than 70 musicians for the George Harrison Fund as part of UNICEF’s Month of Giving.

Gomez took to social media to share a personally recorded message with her fans encouraging them to support the effort. In total, the efforts raised $1.2 million for children in the Horn of Africa affected by famine and droughts. Gomez closed out 2011 by participating in 12 Days of UNICEF, an annual tradition in which individuals are able to purchase a life-saving gift in remembrance of a loved one for children in need.

Gomez has performed three charity concerts for UNICEF with all proceeds benefiting the U.S. fund for UNICEF. Her concerts have raised more than $200,000 for UNICEF. She teamed up with Rihanna, Robin Williams, Taylor Swift, Dwight Howard and Adrian Grenier to participate in UNICEF’s Tap Project Celebrity Tap campaign by bottling tap from her home and taking part in PSA’s on behalf of UNICEF’s clean water programs.

Gomez in the Sahel Region and Nepal

In April 2012, Gomez traveled to the Sahel region of West and Central Africa to advocate for the millions of children facing malnutrition. Furthermore, she took to the media and created a public service announcement encouraging donations for the Sahel. She also used her Twitter following to promote #SahelNOW to initiate conversation and prompt awareness. The United Nations recognized a 50 percent increase in hungry children in the Sahel region as more than 1.3 million children faced acute malnutrition in 2018.

While in Nepal in 2014, Gomez visited with children at the Satbariya Rapti Secondary School, female health volunteers in Gangaparaspur Village, female mediators in the Hapur village and watched a skit about sanitation in Gangaparaspur Village. Nearly half of the Nepalese population lives below the poverty line with children fighting for their lives each as their fundamental needs go unfulfilled.

“Nothing is more important than helping children in need around the globe. I’m thankful that I can use my voice to bring awareness and much-needed funds to UNICEF, so they can continue their critical work. Together, with my fans, we can save lives,” said Gomez. Thanks to Selena Gomez’s work, conditions are slowing improving for children around the world.

– Gwen Schemm
Photo: Flickr

terminating child marriage
Child marriage and its confining consequences affect 650 million women across the world and violate human rights. Some of these are access to health care and economic opportunity. While UNICEF databases indicate that the prevalence of child marriage has considerably decreased by at least 6 percent since 1995, child marriage rates remain urgent and concerning; 12 million girls under 18 enter a marriage or early union globally each year.

The persistence of child marriage in a globalized age remains a barrier that obstructs the world from achieving international social justice. Aims to discover the key to terminating child marriage is only a modern development, as child marriage had been the norm virtually everywhere up until the 20th century. In the 21st century, the practice conflicts with a number of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) set by the U.N. in 2015, such as gender equality, no poverty and decent work and economic growth.

The U.N. Sustainable Development Goals

  1. Gender equality: Women make up the vast majority of child marriage victims, largely lacking the necessary empowerment from their communities to escape such conditions. Often feeling as though they lack any other choice, they enter the immobilizing hands of long-held social norms and thus continuing gender inequalities. Subsequently, they are unable to escape their impoverished conditions.
  2. No poverty: Just as poverty is a consequence of child marriage, it too serves as a driving cause. In rural regions where large family sizes and poverty commonly go hand in hand, families send off young daughters in arranged marriages as an attempt to reduce their financial burden. The attempt largely fails, however, and the cycle of poverty for these families and girls continues.
  3. Decent work and economic growth: Barred from freedom and choice in major life decisions, it is no surprise that these 15 million child victims entering marriage each year lack economic independence. Not only do these conditions mean the disabling of girls from unlocking their potential, but according to Economic Impacts of Child Marriage research, it also restrains countries, where child marriage is most prominent, from achieving significant and otherwise attainable economic growth.

Other SDGs that clash with child marriage include quality education and reduced inequalities. Given the prevalence and urgency of this human rights issue, to make true progress within the variety of goals, the U.N. set Target 5.3 of the SDGs to “eliminate all harmful practices, such as child, early and forced marriage and female genital mutilation.”

The UN’s Inter-Agency Program

Latin America and the Caribbean are regions with the highest prevalence of child marriage, following Southern Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. As such, the U.N. made it a priority to target this region to accomplish SDG target 5.3. Specifically, it intended to accomplish this with an inter-agency program covering five countries.

  1. The Dominican Republic, where 36 percent of girls married before 18 in 2017.
  2. Guatemala, where 30 percent of girls married before 18.
  3. Colombia, where 23 percent of girls married before 18.
  4. El Salvador, where 26 percent of girls married before 18.
  5. Mexico, where 26 percent of girls married before 18.

This program involved the uniting of the UNPF, UNICEF and U.N. Women in October 2017 to discuss their shared experiences alongside Latin American inter-institutional actors. Moreover, it was “to identify common challenges and strategies and develop national and regional roadmaps to contribute to compliance with the SDGs” according to UNICEF’s official file.

Those involved included members of civil society and international organizations, government officials and even adolescent girls serving as the program’s youth network representatives. The U.N. uses the power of diversity to effectively analyze, evaluate and prescribe for the pressing matter at hand.

Four Main Program Outcomes

The program ultimately proved that communication and cooperation among these diverse parties are key to terminating child marriage. The first step to progress is to discover and discuss the root causes of the critical issue. Through mutual respect for one another and collective discussion, key causes that participants agreed upon during the program included poverty and inequalities, as well as gender-based violence. With their first-hand experiences, the adolescent representatives disclosed the majority of the drivers discussed. Key causes they shared included school dropout, social harassment and the lack of resources available for pregnant and/or married girls.

Four main outcomes came out of the program, agreed upon by all involved parties as key to terminating child marriage. They were as follows:

  1. Create legal reforms to raise the legal age of marriage in all countries with no exceptions. Participants thoroughly discussed challenges in doing so and in promoting awareness of such legal changes. Since the program, a legislation change that occurred was the Mexico Senate’s approval of a total ban on underage marriage.
  2. Promote policies and services in the areas of health, education and gender equality, among others, and make them far more accessible in all regions. Involved parties agreed that a key means of doing so would require working at the community level and from among civil society, such as teaching males the good of gender equality.
  3. Empower girls in all Latin American and Caribbean countries. This would be accomplished by teaching adolescent girls their sexual rights as well as using social networks to reach and further educate them. This method would be particularly effective since there is a rising amount of internet usage in Latin America.
  4. Create a multilateral platform to maximize efficiency in the fight against child marriage within Latin America and beyond. The collaboration innate to this program would optimistically enter the future with cooperative methods such as pooling resources and advocating for girls’ rights internationally.

Countries should consider each of the four outcomes when implementing future national and international developments and projects meant to end underage marriage. The evident prioritizing of international cooperation is key to terminating child marriage. While the battle in doing so is far from over, the future appears bright as endeavors for correspondence and correlating declines in child marriage rates represent the necessary effort— and potential— for change.

– Breana Stanski
Photo: Flickr