SDG 1 in Pakistan
Pakistan has reached a 56.2% completion rate for the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Although Pakistan ranks 134th out of 193 countries, recent years have seen several developments toward achieving SDG 1 in Pakistan. For instance, planned initiatives and anti-poverty legislation are creating a substantial and meaningful impact.

Poverty in Pakistan

According to the Sustainable Development Report, which is a global measure of countries’ progress toward the SDGs, the main indicators for SDG 1 are poverty headcount ratios of $1.90 per day and $3.20 per day. As of 2020, less than 1% of the population in Pakistan lives under the $1.90 per day poverty threshold. This figure not only places the country on track for the achievement of SDG 1 but it also represents distinct progress since 2011. During that year [2011] 9% of the population lived in extreme poverty.

Reaching the threshold of $3.20 per day remains a goal for the country. Approximately 20.7% of the current population lives under these poverty conditions. This, in turn, poses major challenges to the achievement of SDG 1 in Pakistan. Large portions of the country’s population remain vulnerable to the conditions of poverty. Notably, though, poverty rates in Pakistan have consistently declined throughout the past decade.

Recent Updates

Since the creation of the SDGs, Pakistan has taken key measures to achieve them. The country submitted its Voluntary National Review (VNR) in 2019. In this same vein, the country made the fulfillment of the SDGs by 2030 a national priority. There are now specific budget allocations, national monitoring of 46 indicators and stakeholder engagements in the country. All of these factors are clear indicators of SDG progress in Pakistan, even beyond SDG 1.

The current Pakistani government has created multiple pieces of legislation that align with SDG 1. The Balochistan Senior Citizens Act of 2017 made provisions for the well-being of senior citizens in Balochistan. Furthermore, the act implemented other financial and social measures to account for the aging population in Pakistan. The government also took steps to register and regulate charity funding through The Punjab Charities Act of 2018. These are just two examples of laws designed to help mitigate and eradicate poverty within the country. Parliamentary Task Forces have also been created to fill legislative gaps for each goal and keep track of SDG fulfillment.

Looking Ahead

The government of Pakistan has pledged to reduce poverty by 6% between now and 2023. Moreover, the government pledges to further develop social protection policies that align with SDG 1 and create a database that will “ensure better targeting of poverty reduction measures.” It also committed to increasing poverty alleviation expenditures and ensuring that vulnerable groups such as women, children and people with disabilities receive needed aid. As an example, the government currently fulfills this promise through the Ehsaas Emergency Program. This program enables organizations to deliver aid to people experiencing economic hardship due to COVID-19. With key stakeholders in the country now becoming champions of poverty eradication and committing to achieving SDG 1 in Pakistan, an end to unjust living conditions is now possible for many. While there is still much work remaining, the multi-dimensional efforts to reach this goal are promising.

Rachel Moloney
Photo: Flickr

Healthcare in Montenegro
Montenegro rests on the Balkan coast, bordering four Southeastern European countries: Bosnia, Albania, Serbia and Croatia. Though small, with a population of 622,359, Montenegro caught the attention of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). The UNDP critiqued the country’s high employment rate and its “lack of citizen participation in social processes.” To “combat poverty and social exclusion,” the UNDP suggested Montenegro’s government “effective[ly] and adequate[ly] target health, employment and social services.” In 2019, the conversation shifted toward healthcare in Montenegro and potential reform.

3 Factors Affecting Healthcare in Montenegro

  1. Deficient Government Budgeting and Spending: According to Pacific Prime Insurance, Montenegro has “the most backward health system in Europe.” While this statement might seem hyperbolic, the UNDP highlighted issues within Montenegro’s central government. A closer look at its Ministry of Health’s policies reveals deficient government budgeting and spending. In 2019, China-CEE Institute found that Montenegrins readily critique their government for inadequately spending 9% of the state’s budget on healthcare. That is more than 4% of the country’s total GDP, making the cost of its healthcare system relatively high. Yet, medical and insurance programs continue to suffer. China-CEE Institute argued that the country needs a new model for financing healthcare, one that can provide fair insurance policies, quality hospitals and ample medical equipment.
  2. Poor Quality of Care: Inadequate budgeting affects the implementation of quality healthcare in Montenegro. China-CEE Institute registered hospitals’ critiques and discovered that their personnel lacks the means to systematically control the spread of diseases. Montenegrin hospitals do not monitor proper hand-washing procedures or maintain hygienic policies. As a result, they also claimed that “[in] Montenegrin health institutions, 265 hospital infections were registered for the first six months of 2019, while only 28 were recorded in 2014.” Without proper sanitation practices, people cannot prevent or suppress diseases, so healthcare in Montenegro continues to suffer.
  3. Lack of Medical Professionals: Improper sanitation might stem from a shortage of medical personnel in Montenegrin hospitals and pharmacies. One study discovered a significant “outflow of human resources” from Montenegro as doctors often leave to work in other countries. This suggests that doctors might have some frustrations with Montenegro’s healthcare system. In 2018, Pacific Prime Insurance found 2,061 doctors working in the Montenegrin healthcare system. That is about 3.3 doctors per 1,000 people, which is slightly lower than the European average at 3.4. Pacific Prime Insurance also found Montenegro has the “lowest proportion of pharmacists per head in Europe – 17 per 100,000.” Due to insufficient budgeting, Montenegrin hospitals and pharmacies require effective healthcare teams.

While these statistics appear pessimistic at first glance, Montenegro’s government strives to amend its healthcare system. The Ministry of Health took its citizens’ considerations to heart by holding a discussion panel in 2019. Alongside the Association of Professional Journalists in Montenegro, the Challenges of Public Consumption: How Much Does Health Cost discussion panel sought to reform the country’s health financing.

To maintain their human resources, the Ministry of Health will provide better training for doctors and specialists. This will increase the number of medical professionals in hospitals and hopefully improve sanitation practices. While the UNDP awaits the results of these decisions, it is clear that healthcare in Montenegro is taking a step in the right direction.

Kyler Juarez
Photo: Pixabay

Plastic Waste in IndiaIndia produces 15 million tonnes of plastic waste annually, and most cities and towns in the country do not have the means to manage this. The lack of integrated solid waste management systems leads to numerous health and ecological crises. The burden of this issue falls on the Safai Saathis, or waste pickers, who collect and sort through waste daily. The job is dangerous and has little reward. Stepping in to tackle this issue is the United Nations Development Program’s Plastic Waste Management Programme. This project improves upon existing waste management systems to mitigate the dangerous effects of plastic waste in India. Before delving into the project, it is important to understand why plastics are so harmful in the first place.

Why Are Plastics so Harmful?

First, there is enough plastic waste on this planet to cover it four times over. Plastic waste can be found from the deepest depths of the ocean all the way to the clouds in the form of air pollution. There are even microplastics in people that come from food and water. Plastic waste build-up clogs sewage systems, thereby polluting rivers, groundwater resources and the air.

There are numerous implications of plastic waste in India. The waste harms animals who ingest or entangle themselves in it. The carcinogenic chemicals found in plastic can cause severe issues for human health, such as hormonal or genetic disorders, interference with the endocrine system and damage to reproductive health. Land pollution is yet another consequence of plastic waste. The plastics leach hazardous chemicals into the land, which destroys its capacity to support life.

More than this, plastic waste never actually goes away, and 95% of that waste does not get recycled. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, almost every piece of plastic ever made is still on Earth today. This is why it is mandatory to have waste management systems that can recycle old plastic and manufacture new things out of it. In other words, plastic waste is the ideal candidate for a circular economy.

UNDP Plastic Waste Management Programme

The work of this project can greatly aid in the fight against plastic waste in India. The main objective of the project is to establish a sustainable, community-led approach to efficient recycling. The initiative operates in 20 cities throughout India with 22 Swachhta Kendras (material recovery centers). It is designed to lower the devastating impacts on environmental and human health through the enhancement of sustainable plastic waste management practices.

According to the UNDP, the four main components of this project are to:

  1. “Create a socio-technical model for taking plastic waste management from informal to formal economy.
  2. Establish Material Recovery Centres for sustained practices in waste management.
  3. Institutionalize Swachhta Kendras within governance framework structures and improved socioeconomic conditions of waste pickers.
  4. Develop technology-supported knowledge management: Promote Cloud-based traceability, accountability and digital governance along waste value chain through our technical partner Mindtree through field implementing partners.”

According to a source from UNDP India, the greatest challenges to this program lie within the general lack of awareness by citizens of the threats related to handling plastic waste in India. For example, better waste management programs and access to education can prevent deadly practices like burning plastic waste and open dumping in channels and gutters. This project enhances methods of material recovery, separation and recycling. In addition, it also creates jobs, addresses better social security measures and positively impacts the livelihoods of waste pickers.

Safai Saathis

One of the most profound outcomes of this ongoing project is the initiative to improve the standards of living of Safai Saathis. Before the UNDP stepped in, waste pickers worked without the use of any safety equipment. Exposure to so much waste puts their health at risk. Because of the UNDP Waste Management Programme, the lives of many Safai Saathis strengthen in safety and social security.

Safai Saathis are deprived of social benefits and stuck in an abusive system. A great emphasis of the UNDP’s work is to ensure their dignity and social inclusion, as well as to increase their access to health care and self-help groups. As a result of the help of the UNDP, many have seen an increase in income. The workers also experience social upliftment from opening bank accounts and improved working conditions.

The fight against plastic waste in India is multifaceted and constantly progressing. Circular innovations like this Waste Management Programme turn unfathomable amounts of waste into new and useful materials, empowers communities and protect the health and safety of everyone in India.

Rochelle Gluzman
Photo: Flickr

Healthcare in Somalia
Many challenges come with being one of the poorest countries in the world. In Somalia, a country located on the Horn of Africa, garnering a quality healthcare system for everyone is a major struggle. With a population of over 12 million, the people of Somalia have one of the lowest life expectancies in the world. Grappling through years of civil war and natural disasters, it has been difficult to overcome widespread disease, malnutrition and an overall lack of healthcare resources. Thankfully, organizations have noticed the absence of a healthcare system and many efforts are going towards improving healthcare in Somalia.

United Nations Development Program

According to the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), 58% of Somalis are without healthcare. Recognizing this issue, the UNDP set the goal to have complete universal healthcare in Somalia by 2030. Since the COVID-19 global pandemic, the UNDP has realized how destructive a pandemic can be in all facets of life in a developing nation. In addition to the goals for universal healthcare, it aims to set up structures to strengthen resilience to any future disasters. The UNDP created a blueprint proposing a multi-step initiative to improve healthcare and ensure that it does not leave anyone behind. The program would provide basic healthcare consisting of two tiers of costs and services to choose from. However, the core service will involve the implementation of telemedicine. This will be an immense advancement, considering that most Somalis have to walk miles to get to their nearest healthcare facility.

The UNDP has also been addressing HIV/AIDS issues in the country since 2004. It has implemented investment programs totaling $5.4 million between 2005 and 2009. Its work includes creating knowledge and awareness programs, increasing testing for Somalis and lobbying for HIV/AIDS legislation. The impact of the program’s efforts is notable. As of 2019, there were approximately 11,000 children and adults living with HIV in Somalia in comparison to the approximate 22,810 in 2008.

For immediate attention to the fight against COVID-19, the UNDP is supporting an emergency call center that the Somali government runs. The UNDP contributed by offering transport to volunteers, office equipment and staff. Anyone needing advice on COVID-19 or feeling ill can simply call the center and find assistance from volunteers comprising of medical students, doctors and other health professionals. Additionally, if a patient has severe symptoms or is sick with underlying health conditions, an ambulance can transport them to their local hospital. The center helps roughly 8,000 people a day.

The World Health Organization (WHO)

The World Health Organization (WHO) pledged to assist health authorities in Somalia in increasing the number of healthcare workers and stabilizing primary healthcare services in the country. In September 2019, the organization assisted in launching the plans for universal health coverage (UHC) for the time period of 2019-2023. The WHO understands the importance of improving health systems in the country and hopes to develop powerful health systems to prevent future epidemics. Thus, the UHC initiative aims to give all Somali people improved protection from healthcare emergencies.

The WHO has declared maternal health one of its priorities and advocates for maternal health as a human right. About one in 20 women die during labor due to an overall lack of health resources, which gives Somalia one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world. The WHO is bolstering investments in the issue, mobilizing health resources and strengthing healthcare systems to decrease maternal mortality rates.

UNICEF

UNICEF is also fighting to improve healthcare in Somalia. One focus has been to develop safe motherhood and child healthcare programs. The organization worked with Somali health authorities to provide the Essential Package of Health Services (EPHS). Predictions determine that these packages will aid 4.2 million Somalis. The EPHS structure is an extensive range of free health services that will help establish a medical standard for the country. The goal is to provide essential medicines, supplies and equipment as well as train and expand human resources. The program includes aid for neonatal and reproductive health, child immunizations and treatment of widespread diseases like HIV.

Somalia has one of the highest child mortality rates in the world. Due to the lack of sanitation, medical resources and vaccinations, one in seven children will not make it past age 5. Since 1990, deaths among children under 5 have reduced by half. Deaths have decreased thanks to the vaccine initiative that UNICEF and WHO launched in 2013. The program consisted of 1.3 million doses of an innovative “five-in-one” vaccine for the prevention of the top fatal childhood illnesses along with a parental awareness campaign.

The Integrated Community Case Management (ICCM) that UNICEF and WHO organized has also improved healthcare systems. This community-based approach brings experienced and supervised health professionals to the area to help decrease the common childhood illnesses contributing to the high child mortality rate. The system plans to continue developing a solid staff of health leaders and administrators to manage future health disasters.

Moving Forward

Some organizations are making great progress in improving healthcare in Somalia. Since the efforts to create an overall healthcare infrastructure, the country has seen improvements in how it controls widespread diseases. In 2004, the average life expectancy was 50, but as of 2018, it was 55. Life expectancy should increase as chronic malnutrition, infant mortality rates and the spread of preventable diseases decrease with improved healthcare systems. Thanks to these resolutions, overall health and wellbeing in Somalia should be on the horizon.

Tara Hudson
Photo: Pixabay

Poverty in Laos
The Lao People’s Democratic Republic, or Laos, is a landlocked country in Southeast Asia. One of the fastest-growing economies in the world, the country has halved its poverty rate in the past 20 years. This is an impressive feat for the import-heavy country given that less than 5% of its land is suitable for agriculture. Poverty in Laos, however, remains a formidable issue. Laos faces a significant wealth gap between its capital Vientiane and poorer rural areas. Foreign aid and international efforts strive to reduce poverty in Laos.

The World Bank and the Poverty Reduction Fund

Created in 2002, the Poverty Reduction Fund (PRF) linked Laos to the international community through the World Bank, aiming to reduce poverty in Laos. The goals of the PRF have progressed over time, reducing poverty at a grassroots level and helping the Laotian poor achieve self-sustainability.

PRF has positively impacted more than 10,000 Laotian women and their families – self-help groups in different villages provide microloans, monthly household income has increased exponentially over the years and nutrition centers, roads and schools are constantly improving and serving Laotian villagers.

In December 2019, the World Bank approved additional funding of $22.5 million as a soft loan to Laos. This loan supports the Laotian government’s National Nutrition Strategy, which seeks to improve rural conditions by developing agricultural infrastructure.

The Asian Development Bank

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) grants loans, technical assistance and equity investments to promote development in Asian countries. The ADB has assisted poverty-reduction operations in Laos since 1968 and still finances assistance to the country. As of 2019, it has provided Laos with a total of $2.91 billion.

The ADB generally focuses on sustainable development in Laos but also funds education to achieve social and economic development. Because of its early involvement in Laos, the ADB’s efforts have yielded impressive results, having connected more than 20,000 households to electricity and water and providing education facilities to more than 100,000 Laotian students.

The United Nations Development Program’s Brand Laos Initiative

The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) fights global poverty, seeking sustainable development and global equality. The UNDP has several ongoing projects in Laos supporting gender parity and government transparency. One notable initiative is a project it calls Brand Laos – a mission fighting for a unique Laotian brand and niche.

Brand Laos researches Laotian economic niches in order to create a unique marketable perspective for the country, finding viable products for farmers, producers and service providers. This economically benefits Laos, raising income for agricultural workers and producers. A Laotian niche could reduce poverty while bringing spurring development.

In particular, these types of projects seek high-quality products for international markets where consumers pay extra for ethically produced foreign products. Brand Laos has looked into products and services such as tea, silk-based clothing and ecotourism.

Conditions in rural Laotian households have improved drastically in recent decades, thanks to these international efforts. The Laotian national poverty rate was 46% in 1992 and fell to 23% in 2015. Additionally, households have greater access to electricity, water and even extraneous symbols of development like smartphones. With continued work, the poverty rate in Laos should continue to go down.

Maggie Sun
Photo: Flickr

COVID-19 in RwandaRwanda is now using five anti-epidemic robots to help combat COVID-19. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), an organization working to end global poverty using sustainable practices, donated the robots. The robots’ names are Akazuba, Ikizere, Mwiza, Ngabo and Urumuri. The country received the robots on May 19, 2020, at its Kanyinya Treatment Centre located in the capital city of Kigali, which has taken the brunt of cases of COVID-19 in Rwanda.

About Anti-Epidemic Robots

The robots have the capacity to take temperatures of patients and screen up to 150 people every minute for symptoms. They can also store medical records and capture visual and auditory data for later use by medical personnel. According to Minister of Health Daniel Ngamije, the robots can detect when someone is not wearing a mask. They can then notify staff so the issue can be swiftly and safely resolved. Additionally, the robots can deliver food and medicine to both COVID-19 patients and healthcare workers. They are also able to communicate accurate information about the virus.

Since the outbreak, more than 90,000 healthcare workers around the world have contracted COVID-19 as a result of contact with patients. By utilizing anti-epidemic robots, the Rwandan Ministry of Health hopes to keep medical personnel safe by reducing contact with patients. The robots can also get people the help they need faster and can partially make up for low physician density. As of 2017, Rwanda has only 0.13 physicians per 1,000 people. According to the World Health Organization, anything less than 2.3 physicians per 1,000 of the population is insufficient.

Impact of COVID-19 Globally

COVID-19 has rapidly spread across the globe in a matter of months. Although the outbreak impacts many lives, the lives and futures of vulnerable populations have been particularly affected. The UNDP predicts human development—health, education and standard of living—will decline in all regions of the world. This would be the first decrease in the 30 years the measure has been in use. The World Bank says people living in extreme poverty could increase by 40 to 60 million this year. At this rate, up to 50% of people could lose their jobs and the economy could potentially lose $10 trillion. In addition, more than 250 million people worldwide could face hunger. Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia are projected to take the biggest blows.

Rwanda, in particular, is quite vulnerable in these aspects. As of 2015, 39.1% of the population lives below the poverty line. In addition, 23.9% do not have access to an improved water source and 38.4% of the population does not have access to improved sanitation facilities. These issues, on top of the high population density, mean COVID-19 has the potential to spread faster and more easily. COVID-19 in Rwanda has the potential to push these vulnerable populations deeper into poverty.

Despite these issues, Rwanda’s introduction of anti-epidemic robots is a step in the right direction. The country has the potential of both slowing the spread of COVID-19 and improving the quality of medical care. Reducing poverty in Rwanda will take time and a coordinated effort. As of right now, battling the effects of COVID-19 is of the utmost importance.

– Elizabeth Davis
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Yemen
Yemen has become increasingly war-torn since 2014, and as a result, poverty in Yemen has significantly increased. In 2014, poverty in Yemen was at 45 percent. The percentage should reach 75 by the end of 2019.

This war-torn region has not yet recovered from political instability. Because of this, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) estimates that it has lost 21 years of development.

The UNDP published a report, Assessing the Impact of War in Yemen on Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, on September 26, 2019, which is the result of five years of research on how war has impacted Yemen’s social and economic structure and how the international community can successfully invest in Yemen.

Poverty in Yemen

The UNDP report found that the instability in Yemen has had disastrous effects on the Yemenese people. It reports that 11.7 million individuals have become impoverished as a result of the war. In addition, 4.9 million are malnourished. Of this number, 600,000 are children under the age of 5. The report also found that the war reduced economic growth in Yemen by $88.8 billion. This resulted in Yemen’s status as the world’s second least equal country in the world in terms of income. Without any change in the status quo, Yemen will become the world’s most impoverished country by 2022.

Yemen is largely reliant on food and imports for economic stability. Because of this, the economy has been unable to recover quickly without international intervention. The public sector employed 30 percent of the Yemenese population. However, a crash in the availability of assets left those individuals unemployed and unable to contribute to a jumpstart in the economy that would feed, clothe and put money in the hands of the impoverished.

The report concludes that the international response to the extreme poverty, economic crises and inequality in Yemen must be holistic and address both the root of the problem and the result of the issue.

Potential Investment in Yemen

The report examined four criteria: poverty, work and economic growth, hunger and inequality. Increasing international aid and investment can help with all four criteria. The article outlines a method of aid for addressing each area. A combination of efforts would resolve each criterion and address the issue of poverty overall. Increasing household consumption to pre-war levels which reflect “the spirit (though not the magnitude) of current cash-transfer programmes operating in Yemen,” can also combat hunger according to the report. This, combined with the distribution of food that would provide sufficient caloric intake and support Yemenese food exports, would alone prevent 73,600 death by 2030. A focus on improving access to clean water via changes to food prices through sanctions and providing sanitation implementation would save 255,000 lives by 2030.

Direct foreign investment into the Yemenese economy would significantly improve the everyday living conditions of Yemenese citizens. Without increased aid, Yemen will continue to stay on track to become the world’s most impoverished country by 2022. Direct aid programs and an increased amount of liquid capital poured into the economy would decrease poverty in Yemen, jumpstart the economy and improve the overall standard of living.

– Denise Sprimont
Photo: Flickr

Sustainable Development in Uzbekistan

Doubly landlocked by its neighbors, Uzbekistan is rich in a variety of resources, such as cotton, gold, uranium and zinc. However, since becoming an independent country, the people of Uzbekistan have suffered from high rates of poverty, coupled with a lack of access to a reliable source of clean drinking water and subpar health care. In order to fight poverty in Uzbekistan and improve the quality of life, the government has embraced the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and worked to establish a variety of reforms within its framework. As of 2018, the Asian Development Bank lists the poverty rate for Uzbekistan at 11.4 percent.

Supporting the UN Sustainable Development Goals

In October 2018, the government of Uzbekistan adopted a resolution titled “On Measures to Implement the National Goals and Targets in the Field of Sustainable Development for the Period Until 2030.” This resolution reaffirmed Uzbekistan’s dedication to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The resolution also set 16 national sustainable development goals for Uzbekistan that focused on environmental, economic and social issues in the country.

The country’s environmental goals include considerably reducing waste production and significantly increasing renewable energy generation by 2030. Economical goals include reducing youth unemployment, increasing Uzbekistan’s per capita GDP and significantly reducing the poverty rates by 2030.

Electricity, Clean Water and Sanitation

As of 2016, 100 percent of the population of Uzbekistan has access to electricity. However, only 3.2 percent of Uzbekistan’s total energy comes from renewable sources. As part of Uzbekistan’s national sustainable development goals, it hopes to significantly increase renewable energy production by 2030. In addition, it plans to reduce waste production by promoting prevention, reduction and recycling.

Uzbekistan has made major strides in improving its sanitation services and water supply throughout the years. However, despite these efforts, less than half of the population has access to a piped water supply. Only 17 percent of city households receive water for the entire day. The situation is much worse in smaller towns and rural communities.

The situation is particularly poor in the Syrdarya region where low-income families must either rely on small storage tanks that are refilled every month at a high price or spend hours of their day walking to a public tap outlet to fill containers with water. The World Bank has launched the Syrdarya Water Supply Project to help provide clean drinking water to the region of nearly 280,000 inhabitants.

Gender Equality

The Uzbekistan government and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) have worked to empower women and support gender equality in the country. They have established laws that support women in the legal system and in government, such as laws against sexual harassment and gender discrimination. The UNDP has also supported initiatives that economically empower Uzbek women. Financial decision-makers are working closely with the Women’s Committee of Uzbekistan in order to ensure that these initiatives receive proper funding. The UNDP has also aided women-run businesses to grow and achieve success domestically and internationally.

The government has worked with the UNDP to ensure that women receive the same help and benefits as men, including the protection against and treatment of HIV infections. With the support of the UNDP, 5,995 women are currently receiving continuous ARV treatment for HIV. Women also make up 38 percent of participants in HIV prevention programs in the country.

Health Care Reforms

The maternal mortality rate in Uzbekistan has significantly decreased from 33.1 per 1,000 live births in 2000 to 20 per 1,000 live births by 2013. In addition, the government of Uzbekistan is currently working with international partners in developing new and effective health care programs. By 2030, they aim to decrease the child mortality rate by 50 percent, the maternal mortality rate by 30 percent and reduce the number of deaths from noncommunicable diseases by 30 percent.

People often suffer from subpar health care, particularly in rural regions. The government began implementing major health care reforms in 2017, particularly focusing on training health care professionals and fighting tuberculosis. They have also worked to improve the quality of health care in rural hospitals and clinics by requiring all graduates of publicly-funded medical schools to work in rural areas for three years. Uzbekistan already offers free health care; however, the cost of medical supplies is often high. In order to make health care more affordable, the government has instituted reforms to lower the costs of medical devices and fight against corruption.

Economic Liberalization

The Uzbek government implemented vital reforms to liberalize its economy. In 2017, the government commissioned 161 major industrial facilities. As a result of these reforms, the economy grew by 5.5 percent in 2017 and exports grew by 15 percent. The som, the national currency of Uzbekistan, was unpegged from the U.S. dollar and allowed to float freely. This increased currency trading and provided more revenue for the government. A dozen new free economic zones were created alongside 45 industrial zones to spur the economy. The government also created national development programs to promote innovation and investment in the economy.

In cooperation with international organizations including the UNDP, the government of Uzbekistan has worked to distribute income more equitably and create new jobs, particularly in rural areas. It has put a particular effort into helping the most vulnerable communities. The government has proven its dedication to the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals by promoting sustainable development throughout the country, supporting women’s empowerment, economic reform, health care reform, clean energy and more. As a result of this dedication, the government of Uzbekistan has successfully reduced poverty and improved the quality of life for its citizens.

Nicholas Bykov
Photo: Pixabay

UNDP GoalsIn 2018, the United Nations Development Programme implemented a new strategic plan to help developing countries achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. The plan included fast-tracking towards Agenda 2030 by alleviating poverty, accelerating structural modifications and building resilience to crises. For example, in Fiji, one of the UNDP’s goals included alleviating poverty, which can be achieved by a surge of innovation that allows the locals to connect to services. This allowed the locals to shape the governance of the future. Many other similar goals succeded in 2018.

Here are the five UNDP goals reached in 2018.

5 UNDP Goals Reached in 2018

  1. Poverty: The UNDP succeeded at helping half of the countries in the world prioritize poverty reduction by aligning it with national and local interests. The global development network also helped 4 million people affected by poverty or crises to attain employment and improve their livelihoods. Of note, 20 million more people can now make use of financial services.
  2. Governance: The UNDP supported 56 counties to carry out fair electoral processes through digital means. The aim was to fight corruption and increase the likelihood of civic engagement. In fact, in 2018, 21 million people across the globe became newly registered to vote and 89 countries partnered with UNDP to reform discriminatory laws. For example, to tackle corruption in the Philippines, the UNDP and Google together created “DevelopmentLIVE” to give citizens the chance to livestream the monitoring activities for infrastructure projects that relate to the Sustainable Development Goals.
  3. Resilience: Conflict and crises often worsen poverty and inequality — this is why the UNDP invested more than $1 billion to improve resilience to shocks and crises in 2018. Thanks to this commitment 3 million people living in 12 different countries resumed accessing basic needs such as housing and energy. In 2018, the UNDP also partnered with the local municipalities in Turkey, funded by the EU Facility Projects, to be able to respond quickly and efficiently to shocks, such as the wave of Syrian refugees. This partnership launched the “UNDP Turkey Resilience Project in response to the Syria Crisis (TRP)” that prioritizes livelihoods through economic and social resilience.
  4. Environment: Oftentimes, the ones who are most affected by environmental disasters are those living in extreme poverty. Thus, UNDP goals included helping countries to protect the most vulnerable communities. Of note, 256 million tons of carbon emissions have been cut thanks to UNDP efforts. In addition, in 2018, the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency and the UNDP worked together to encourage governments to incorporate the environment aspect into the framework of human rights for the mining sector.
  5. Energy: UNDP goals redirected countries from using fossil fuels towards renewable and affordable sources of energy. The organization provided around $1 billion in grants to 110 countries towards progressing this goal by increasing the percentage of clean energy usage in each countries’ national energy mix. For instance, Indonesian farmers worked on the Biochar project with the UNDP to develop bio-charcoal. This enabled female farmers to develop bio-charcoal home industries to boost their incomes and improve their living standards.

The UNDP aims to complete its agenda and reach the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030, which is why it has built labs in more than 60 countries to accelerate the process.

– Nergis Sefer
Photo: Flickr

Environmental Justice
When thinking about reducing poverty, environmental protection may not come to mind as something to be put in the same category. However, environmental protection and poverty reduction go hand in hand and achieving environmental justice is a vital step in fully ending global poverty.

Preserving the environment means protecting air quality and water sanitation, as well as land to produce food. Additionally, it means preserving the health of both humans and animals. Yet according to DAC Guidelines on Poverty Reduction, the poorest countries and people in the world are the most vulnerable to the effects of environmental degradation. DAC Guidelines say that the key to reducing poverty is integrating “sustainable development, including environmental concerns, into strategic frameworks for reducing poverty.” Therefore, protecting the environment can reduce poverty if people take the correct steps.

Countries Taking a Stand

According to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), around 20 percent of the total loss of life expectancy in developing countries is due to environmental causes, compared to only 4 percent in advanced countries. In addition, 99 percent of deaths related to using unsafe water or having limited access to clean water occurs in developing countries.

Countries around the world are aware of the impact that environmental degradation has on poor communities specifically, and programs and leaders are taking action in order to protect the environment and make safe living spaces for the poor. Specifically, researchers in Costa Rica are working to show exactly how protecting the environment can reduce poverty in poorer countries and communities.

Costa Rica’s researchers’ ultimate goal was to show the effect that environmental issues have on poor communities and how environmental protection can reduce poverty. Two professors, Paul J. Ferraro and Merlin M. Hanauer, found that Costa Rican poverty reduced by 16 percent by protecting natural areas and that around  “two-thirds of the poverty reduction associated with the establishment of Costa Rican protected areas is causally attributed to opportunities afforded by tourism.”

In turn, Ferraro’s and Hanauer’s findings have demonstrated that improved conservation programs and policies are necessary to reduce poverty in poor communities even further. The goal of conserving wild areas for the purpose of ecotourism could potentially lead to more job creation, a growing economy, the reduction of deforestation and a refuge for wildlife in poor areas and developing countries. Costa Rica is taking the initiative to clean up the environment and create a healthier living space for citizens, yet most countries still face day-to-day environmental justice. For this reason, the world must take further steps to allow every person to have environmental justice.

The Truth About Environmental Justice

The EPA defines environmental justice as “the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income, with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies.” The EPA emphasizes that the goal of environmental justice will only be met once every person around the world has both the same accessibility to protection from natural disasters and environmental/health hazards and the equal right to partake in community and country decision-making about environmental health.

While environmental justice is a goal of a lot of different communities, countries and organizations, environmental injustice is very prevalent around the world. The result is that the most vulnerable and financially unstable people on earth feel the global impact of environmental degradation the most severely. Although developed nations like the United States and those of Europe emit larger quantities of greenhouse gases per capita, developing nations often experience the worst effects of environmental degradation and air pollutants. This is because people living in developing countries often do not have the financial support to be able to move to less polluted areas, and usually have inadequate housing and limited resources, which makes it nearly impossible to adapt to environmental disasters.

Ways to Support Environmental Justice for All Humans

Protecting the environment can reduce poverty, but poverty reduction is also just as important in order to protect the environment. UNICEF states that girls in poor communities often do not go to school because they have to fetch water for their families. As a result, they often do not know the importance of conserving the environment and natural resources because they have not had the opportunity to learn about it.

According to 1 Million Women, 70 percent of the world’s people that live below the poverty line depend solely on natural resources for survival. Yet without clean water or proper waste and garbage disposal systems, escaping pollution is almost impossible. Therefore, supporting and donating to nonprofit organizations that help to provide resources for the world’s poorest and aim to stop environmental degradation is vital. In addition, taking small steps like eating more a plant-based diet, buying sustainable products, volunteering for community cleanups and educating others can make an enormous difference in protecting the environment, and in turn, reducing poverty.

These steps are crucial in supporting not only the environment but also the communities and developing nations around the world that battle environmental justice every day of their lives. In addition to small changes that every person can make to help the most vulnerable against environmental degradation and health hazards, organizations and federal agencies are also helping drastically. Specifically, the EPA started EJSCREEN in 2015, which creates data that shows the environmental demographics across the country and also assists federal agencies in allowing the public to view the impacts of environmental injustice in every area open to new development. By opening up this information to the public, people may be more cautious before blindly living in an area in which they may feel the effects of environmental injustice. With more and more companies and organizations supporting sustainability and environmental justice every day, these trends could increase and start to make an even bigger difference.

Change Starts with Individuals

The link between environmental protection and poverty reduction is clear, and it is imperative that nations and communities continuously work towards a healthier environment in order to secure the well-being of future generations. Protecting the environment can reduce poverty while the smallest changes to one’s life can make a huge difference to the globe.

Paige Regan
Photo: Flickr