Violence in Uzbekistan

The former Soviet Republic of Uzbekistan contains approximately 33 million people and is the largest nation in Central Asia. Despite its surveillance apparatus, Uzbekistan struggles with various forms of violence that contribute to its high poverty rate of 12.8 percent. Terrorism and drug trafficking associated with the Afghanistan border spur fear and international concerns. Widespread domestic violence in the poor countryside hinders women’s rights and blocks economic productivity. However, important international partnerships with the U.N., U.S. and non-governmental organizations are working to create more responsible governance and halt violence in Uzbekistan.

Violent Triad

Uzbekistan’s unrest centers on three main areas:

1. Drug Trafficking: Uzbekistan is a thoroughfare for opiates originating in Afghanistan. Authorities routinely capture narcotics en route to Europe and have burned 54 tons of drugs since 1994. Addiction is a major problem that is at least 10 times as prevalent as official statistics display, according to the Overseas Security Advisory Council. Narcotics trafficking often involves organized crime, which spawns corruption and human trafficking as well.

2. Terrorism: Terrorism used to be quite severe in Uzbekistan. Suicide bombings killed 50 people in the cities of Tashkent and Bukhara in 2004. Attacks within the nation have lessened in recent years, but the radical Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan still resides on the Afghan border. A larger problem is the amount of Uzbek terrorists committing attacks on other countries. A 2017 State Department report showed multiple instances of this, the most severe being when an Uzbek man massacred 39 people in an Istanbul nightclub.

3. Domestic Violence: The most prevalent type of violence in Uzbekistan is spousal abuse. An extensive 2001 Human Rights Watch report displayed domestic violence was viewed as a private matter by village council, or mahalla, officials. Even in a case where beatings caused one woman to have four miscarriages, nothing was done. In 2019, Uzbekistan still lacks domestic violence legislation and abuse is culturally acceptable to 41 percent of women. An Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development report showed that 61 percent of women distrusted the justice system, particularly because mahallas focus on lowering divorce statistics rather than protecting women.

UNODC Partnership

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime has worked in Uzbekistan since 1993 to fight illegal narcotics. Today, Uzbekistan is the headquarters of UNODC’s Central Asia Program, a $70 million initiative that hopes to increase anti-drug regional cooperation over five years. UNODC also stops the related crime of human trafficking across the Afghanistan border and administers antiretroviral treatment to those infected with HIV from drug needles. The U.N. helped 12,000 Uzbeks receive ARVs in 2015.

The Paris Pact Initiative is another program run by UNODC. It combines the efforts of 80 countries and organizations to combat the flow of opiates from Afghanistan. Uzbekistan is one of 11 nations hosting Paris Pact Research and Liaison personnel, who conduct narcotics research in the field. The success of the program’s first three phases garnered it a $6.7 million budget between 2013 and 2017.

U.S.-Uzbekistan Military Partnership

Stronger ties between the American and Uzbek militaries will counteract terrorism while promoting government reforms in the country. President Trump met with President Shavkat Miromonovich Mirziyoyev of Uzbekistan on May 16, 2018 to commit to a bilateral relationship that would ensure security in the region. Both leaders agreed to the first ever “Five-Year Plan of Military Cooperation” and condemned terrorism in Afghanistan. Trump encouraged Mirziyoyev to pursue more human rights reforms for his people as the American military became involved.

The Department of Defense highlighted the progress of the Five-Year Plan in early July 2019, when Uzbekistan’s Defense Minister, Bakhodir Kurbanov, visited America. Kurbanov witnessed the effectiveness of officer exchange programs and American training curriculum in fighting violence in Uzbekistan. One Uzbek pilot will be training with Americans in Columbus Air Base’s Aviation Leadership Program in 2020.

International-Local NGO Partnerships

International NGOs focus on empowering Uzbek organizations to combat domestic violence. ACTED is one of the most influential NGOs providing support in the country, and its social media campaign dispels domestic violence myths among youth. It funds and trains local women’s NGOs in a society where they are traditionally blocked from operating. The Oydin Nur Center is one successful project supported by ACTED. Since 2000, the center has counseled 5,155 abused women and assisted 9,000 women over a hotline.

The Marta Resource Center for Women is another international NGO educating groups on violence in Uzbekistan. Originally fighting domestic abuse in Latvia, Marta expanded to Uzbekistan in 2009 to address similar problems. It specifically targets the mahallas and teaches them the importance of stopping domestic violence. Marta also recognizes the stifled economic potential of abused women. In an interview, Marta’s founder Iluta Lāce discussed how a partnership with the Italian Chamber of Commerce, Craft and Agriculture helps women discover independence by founding small businesses.

Much work remains in the fight against violence in Uzbekistan. Legislation against abuse is still nonexistent, and conflict resonates throughout the region. There is a long road ahead. However, the above international partnerships display that Uzbekistan does not travel that road alone.

– Sean Galli
Photo: Wikimedia

Top 10 Facts About Poverty in South America
The poverty that affects so much of South America comes from a history of colonialism, which has left the region with extractive institutions including weak states, violence and poor public services. In order to combat these issues, it is vital to understand these top 10 facts about poverty in South America.

Top 10 Facts About Poverty in South America

  1. Dependence Theory: According to the Council of the Americas, the South American economy is suffering from the U.S.-China trade war, a drop in crude oil prices and generally worsening economic conditions throughout the region. This poor economic performance has been present in the region for a long time. NYU Professor Pablo Querubín noted in a lecture that this is largely due to Dependence Theory. This theory argues that poorer countries and regions will have to specialize in raw materials and agriculture due to the comparative advantage other countries and regions have in producing industrialized products such as computers, advanced technology and services. Therefore, because Latin America has a comparative advantage in producing agricultural products and oil, it will have much greater difficulty moving into the industrial sector.
  2. The Reversal of Fortune Theory: The South American economy has also had such a difficult time growing because of the history of colonialism and extractive institutions. Professor Pablo Querubín also referenced the Reversal of Fortune Theory which explains how the pre-Columbian region of South America was so much more wealthy than pre-Columbian North America, yet those roles have reversed in the modern era. The reason is that South America put extractive institutions into place to send wealth back to Spain rather than “promote hard work or to incentivize investment, human capital, accumulation, etc.” Yet, in areas with low population levels, such as pre-Columbian North America, settlers had to establish inclusive institutions “designed to promote investment, effort, innovation, etc.”
  3. Political Instability: Political consistency has been rare in the history of South America. New leaders would often change the constitution when they entered office to better suit their political wishes. In fact, while the U.S. has only ever had one constitution with 27 amendments over the course of about 200 years, Ecuador had 11 separate constitutions within the first 70 years of its history. In Bolivia, there were 12 within the first 60 years. This instability and very quick political turnover have been detrimental to the steady growth of the economy and confidence in the government. Understanding the effects of this issue and the other top 10 facts about poverty in South America are integral to fighting poverty in the region.
  4. Inequality: Inequality is incredibly high in South America. As a result, the incredibly wealthy can afford to use private goods in place of public ones. For example, the rich use private schools, private health insurance, private hospitals and even private security forces instead of relying on the police. Therefore, there is very little incentive for the wealthy to advocate for higher taxes to improve public goods such as public education, police or public health initiatives. As a result, the public services available to the poor in Latin America are extremely lacking.
  5. Education: Education in South America is full of inequality both in terms of income and gender. According to the Programme for International Student Assessment, an institution which evaluates teenagers on their educational performance in key subject areas, most countries in South America perform below average. In one evaluation it determined that the highest-scoring country in South America, Chile, was still 10 percent below average. Furthermore, poor educational performance highly correlates with income inequality.
  6. Indigenous Women and Education: In addition, indigenous women are far less likely than any other group to attend school in South America. According to UNESCO, in Guatemala, 70 percent of indigenous women ages 20 to 24 have no education. The issue of unequal education spreads further to affect women’s livelihoods and presence in the South American workforce. According to the International Monetary Fund, about 50 percent of women in Latin America and the Caribbean do not work directly in the labor force. However, the International Monetary Fund also noted that “countries in LAC [Latin America and the Caribbean] have made momentous strides in increasing female LFP [labor force participation], especially in South America.”
  7. Teenage Pregnancy: One major driver of the cycle of poverty in South America is the persistence of teenage pregnancies which lead to impoverished young mothers dropping out of school and passing on a difficult life of poverty to their children. The World Bank reported that Latin America is the second highest region in terms of young women giving birth between the ages of 15 and 19 years old. Furthermore, a study called Adolescent Pregnancy and Opportunities in Latin America and the Caribbean interviewed several South American teen mothers including one who noted that sexual education was not the problem: “We knew everything about contraceptive methods,” she said, “but I was ashamed to go and buy.” Thus, the study advised that in addition to preventative methods for pregnancy such as education and the distribution of contraceptives, there needs to be action to “fight against sexual stereotypes.” Fortunately, there are activist campaigns such as Child Pregnancy is Torture which advocates for raising awareness about the issue of child pregnancy in South America and encourages the government to take steps such as increased sex education, access to contraception and the reduction of the sexualization of girls in the media.
  8. Food Insecurity: Hunger is a growing issue related to poverty in South America. According to the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations, 39.3 million people in South America are undernourished, which represents an increase by 400,000 people since 2016. Food insecurity in the region as increased from 7.6 percent in 2016 to 9.8 percent in 2017. However, the issue is improving with malnutrition in children decreasing to 1.3 percent. Additionally, there are many NGOs such as the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO), Action Against Hunger and Pan American Health Organization of the World Health Organization (PAHO) that are implementing vital programs throughout the continent to fight hunger.
  9. Migration: The economic instability and rising poverty in South America have caused many people to migrate out of the region. Globally, 38 million people migrated out of their countries last year with 85 percent of that 38 million coming from Latin America and the Caribbean. Dr. Manuel Orozco from the Inter-American Dialogue think tank stated that “The structural determinant is poor economic performance, while demand for labour in the United States and the presence of family there encourages movement.”
  10. Violence: The high level of violence in South America exacerbates the cycle of poverty in South America. Fourteen of the 20 most violent countries in the world are in South America and although the region only contains eight percent of the world’s population, it is where one-third of all murders take place. Dr. Orozco went on to say that “There’s a strong correlation between migration and homicide. With the potential exception of Costa Rica, states are unwilling or unable to protect citizens.”

Fighting poverty in South America is dependent upon an understanding of the history and realities of the region. Hopefully, these top 10 facts about poverty in South America can shed light upon the cycle of poverty in the region and how to best combat it in the future.

– Alina Patrick
Photo: Flickr

People Fleeing Central America
Many know Central America for its flourishing biodiversity and near-constant geological activity. This region is comprised of seven countries including Belize, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Panama. Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador are three countries that form the Northern Triangle of Central America (NTCA). Recently, the world is paying attention to the number of people fleeing Central America to surrounding areas like the U.S.

Every year, an estimated 500,000 people flee to Mexico to escape the NTCA. As involuntary witnesses to intense violence and economic instability, hundreds of thousands of citizens of El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala choose to make the perilous journey north in hopes of finding safer, more peaceful living conditions. Immigration through the U.S.-Mexico border is not a recent or new development. Migration levels are increasing rapidly each year. Many asylum seekers are women and children searching for a life without senseless violence.

The three countries of the NTCA are extremely dangerous, and all rank within the top 10 for homicide rates and dangerous gang activity. In 2015, El Salvador became the world’s most violent country, rampant with gang-related violence and extortion. Though El Salvador no longer holds this title, high levels of poverty and violence continue to cause a rise in people fleeing Central America.

Poverty in Central America

The NTCA includes three countries that are among the poorest in the western hemisphere. Though Latin America has seen improvement in the distribution of wealth among its citizens, many still face the devastating effects of economic inequality that plagues the region. In 2014, 10 percent of citizens in Latin America held 71 percent of the region’s wealth. As a result, one in four people live in poverty, concentrated in rural areas. The most oppressed of this population tend to be women and indigenous peoples.

Economic migration has long been a factor surrounding discussions on immigration. People often choose to live and work in places with more prosperous economic opportunity. In rural areas of the NTCA, the need for more economic opportunity leads to people fleeing Central America. Sixty percent of people living in rural regions of the NTCA is impoverished.

Unprecedented Levels of Violence

Violence within the NTCA remains a leading cause of migration to the Mexican border. Because of the high poverty level across this region, governments do not have enough funds and are rampant with corruption. Many flee from senseless, violent crimes, including gang activity, kidnapping and brutal homicides, which law enforcement does not always punish.

Gang activity within the NTCA also causes citizens to flee. Women and children are at the highest risk for rape and kidnappings. People commit gender-based violence in El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala to coerce or intimidate others. Many children make the trek to Mexico alone because they are desperate for asylum to avoid gang recruitment.

Providing Aid to the NTCA

As witnesses to the traumatic violence raging throughout the NTCA, many people fleeing Central America are in dire need of medical and mental attention. Since 2013, Doctors Without Borders has provided more than 33,000 health consultations to those fleeing from the NTCA. Care includes treatment for victims of sexual abuse and diseases caught along the way.

Additionally, Doctors Without Borders, the International Crisis Group and the U.N. Refugee Agency have made strides urging host countries, like the U.S., to provide protection rather than detaining asylum seekers and sending them back. This strategy would reduce illegal entry and allow host countries to manage the influx of asylum seekers.

– Anna Giffels
Photo: UN

Immigration and US Gun Policy
Thousands on the migrant caravan were outside Arriaga, Chiapas. To avoid some of the heat of the day they began walking at 2 am. Negotiations began in the dark, and shortly after dawn, the caravan continued towards Juchitan, Oaxaca. As the U.S. tightens its immigration policy at the border, civilians throughout Central America are struggling to cope with the bloodshed largely brought about by smuggled, American-made guns. Here is some information explaining the influence of immigration and U.S. gun policy on Mexico and various other Central American countries.

Variations in Gun Laws

Mexico and the United States have different gun laws. Although the constitutions of both countries protect a citizen’s rights to bear arms, Mexico’s licensing process is more rigorous. In Mexico, only one establishment, the Secretariat of National Defense (SEDENA), can produce and sell firearms. Anyone who purchases a gun in Mexico must register the weapon with this defense department. Even after proving employment, military service, proof of residence, picture identification, a Unique Population Registry Code and no criminal record, the country still bans some styles of AR and AK assault rifles from civilian purchase. Gun policy in the U.S. is far more relaxed giving further incentives to smugglers and those who hope to profit by obtaining guns illegally.

Smuggling Firearms has Increased

The illicit presence of U.S. guns has increased across Central America. Between 2011 and 2016, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) found that a licensed gun dealer in the U.S. purchased 70 percent of 106,001 guns that Mexican law enforcement recovered. Forty-nine percent, 45 percent and 29 percent of guns recovered from El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala, respectively, were of U.S. origin. Between 2014 and 2016, El-Salvador had more U.S. sourced guns used for a crime than 20 states combined.

This type of activity, where someone purchases a gun legally only to give that firearm to someone who cannot purchase a gun legally, is a straw purchase. According to Gifford’s Law Center, U.S. law does not currently regulate or prohibit this act enough for change to occur.

Violent Crime

People use the majority of these smuggled weapons for violent crimes. The U.S. Government Accountability Office concluded in 2016 that just around half of the guns that the U.S. manufactured or purchased in Mexico at the time were either semi-automatic, AK or AR rifles. Mexican government officials are concerned because these firearm models can easily become automatic in style and have become the choice weapon of gang members for that reason.

Violent gun crime has grown substantially in recent years in this part of the world. The current rate of homicide in Mexico is 20.5 per 100,000 people. The percentage of fatal shooting homicides increased from 15 percent in 1997 to 66 percent in 2017. Firearm usage also grew from 58 percent to 68 percent in Mexican robberies between 2005 and 2017.

Many cite the overall increase in violence as a major reason for the increased northbound movement of Central American refugees and asylum seekers. Known as the migrant caravan, groups of up to 10,000 will join together on their trek towards a less violent and less corrupt life. They are unlikely to find a solution to this type of life until their countries address their serious political problems.

The profits from gun sales in the Central American States fuel the violence and corruption still present in those countries. Weaponry will continue to pour into these countries for profit. As of February 2019, the Trump administration solidified a new approach to international arms deals allowing for little to no congressional oversight on large sales. This process is to go to the Department of Commerce instead of the State Department.

Paths Towards Improvement

Though immigration and U.S. gun policy have a close relationship as of now, there are legitimate solutions all individuals can participate in. Three possible paths to follow towards improvement include to:

  1. Encourage U.S. congressional leaders to support universal background checks in upcoming legislative sessions. Some have attempted these efforts but have not promoted them enough. A 2017 effort “to stop the flow of arms to Mexico” by one California representative and two New York representatives in the U.S. House stalled. Policymakers allow for individuals that cannot purchase guns to resort to even more opaque transactions, because they have not yet instituted background checks for all gun sales and purchases in the U.S. If it is true that people who desire weaponry will find a way to obtain it, the best option moving forward is to at least ensure every step possible is taken to keep guns out of the wrong.
  2. Support moves that would make straw purchasing and gun trafficking a federal crime. In the status quo, the only crime a straw purchaser or gun trafficker can receive charges for is paperwork violation. Any introduction of law specifically targeting those willingly involved in these acts is in the U.S. and Central America’s best interest.
  3. Increase access to data regarding specific details of recovered firearms. Being able to know the types and calibers of certain firearms could be very helpful in identifying which are the most widespread and may need increased supervision. Also, ATF reports cross-referencing types with U.S. states of origin could be very useful for local and state legislative bodies to know whether or not their direct action is necessary.

The presence of U.S. guns has become something of an epidemic for Central Americans. People in the United States and across Central America can benefit from changing the narrative surrounding immigration and U.S. gun policy.

– Fatemeh Zahra Yarali
Photo: Flickr

 

Children in India
Conditions in India are constantly improving and the country has one of the highest rates of poverty reduction. Between the years 2005-06 and 2015-16, India transformed into a lower-middle-income economy by decreasing the number of poor people from 630 million to 360 million. By improving the standard of living, bettering nutrition and increasing public expenditure, India became home to the largest number of people coming out of poverty. While this improvement has greatly boosted India’s economy, children have also undergone positive changes that improved their lives in many aspects.

There are multiple issues children in India face, and although the challenges continue today, many children live a better life than they did 10 years ago. Here are some of the main problems children in India face and the ways in which the conditions have improved.

Education

Due to poverty, overcrowding and the lack of teachers, less than 50 percent of children receive a proper education. However, in the past two decades, the government has worked toward putting more children into schools. For example, India’s Education For All program has helped educate 200 million children, making it one of the biggest elementary education programs in the world. Additionally, this program has put around 20 million children into primary school since 2001. The government hopes to enroll all children in school regardless if they live in urban or rural areas. Ideally, students would complete school up until grade eight. Hundreds of millions of children would be uneducated and not have the opportunities they have now without the help of the government and the program.

Health Issues

Health has always been a serious issue in India, especially up until the 21st century. The gap between the rich and poor caused the poor to have little medical support which, in turn, increased the spreading of diseases. Private sectors, as well as the government, have set out to reduce the spreading of diseases and, so far, it has eliminated yaws, leprosy, Guinea worm and polio. Infant mortality rate, another serious health problem, has been steadily declining over the past decade. The National Family Health Survey taken in 2015-16 indicated that since the previous survey (2005-06), 57 children out of 1,000 died before reaching the age of one. Now, the number has decreased to 41 deaths out of 1,000. The improvements in underweight children younger than five years have also decreased from 42.5 percent in 2005-06 to 35.7 percent in 2015-16. These health improvements are continuing to help the lives of many children and families.

Violence

Inequality between males and females has caused violence to emerge toward women and girls alike. Violence, abuse and exploitation are all serious struggles faced by many, and UNICEF, along with many other programs and organizations, has been acting to prevent such brutality. The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO) has begun to standardize the response to sexual violence. The government has also recently launched the Integrated Child Protection Scheme (ICPS) which protects all children in the country.

A lack of education, health issues and violence continue to threaten the wellbeing of children in India, but through government legislation and the work of NGOs, these conditions have been improving. If all goes well, they will continue to improve.

– Veronica Bodenstein
Photo: Flickr

Ebola in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

In August of 2018 the Democratic Republic of Congo declared an Ebola outbreak. The first case of the virus erupted in the city of Goma, located on the border of Rwanda. As the tenth Ebola outbreak in Congo within 40 years, the virus became a public health concern for the over 1 million people that call Goma home. Goma also acts as a popular transit hub for many people crossing the border into Rwanda putting the population at a heightened risk for the disease to spread. The International Health Regulations Emergency Committee has met four times following this initial Ebola case.

  1. A Widespread Disease: Congo’s ongoing Ebola outbreak is now the world’s second-largest. According to The World Health Organization (WHO), the virus has infected 2,512 people and killed 1,676. The largest Ebola outbreak on record took place in West Africa killing more than 11,300 people. WHO continues its efforts to stop the spread of the disease in Congo with its team of medical specialists. In the worst cases, death and uncontrollable bleeding have resulted from the viral hemorrhagic fevers of the disease.
  2. A Global Issue: On July 17, 2019 the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the Ebola outbreak in Congo a global health emergency. Following the first case of Ebola, intensive training for the prevention and control of the virus heightened for more than six months. News of a female traveller from Beni that contracted the virus, and then visited Uganda sparked growing concern in Uganda and Congo. Between June and July of 2019 an estimated 245 confirmed cases of Ebola were reported in the North Kivu and Ituri provinces of Congo. WHO makes the continuous effort to monitor the cases of those infected, as well as travel and trade measures in relation to the virus.
  3. Dangerous Territory: The Ebola response teams in the Democratic Republic of Congo face violent attacks. David Gressley, the United Nations’ secretary-general, became the deputy of the U.N. missions in Congo and witnessed it firsthand. Gressley requested a force of peacekeepers along with the health officials to assist him amid the attacks. The violent attacks often hinder the Ebola responders from treating people with the virus, and still no one knows the reasoning or people behind the attacks. The U.N. estimates that due to the attacks about 1,200 have been shot or slashed to death with machetes. One popular theory points to Congolese politicians orchestrating the attacks in order to undermine political rivals. On the other hand, the Congolese government blames the Mai Mai militia. Rumors continue to swirl that the U.N. responders fail to treat Ebola patients, and intentionally spread the virus which makes them even more susceptible to these attacks.
  4. Catching Ebola: Common diseases such as measles and malaria share initial symptoms of Ebola. Many medical specialists in Congo believe that to put a stop to this epidemic they first must isolate the disease. Most Ebola patients receive a diagnosis too late, and go through multiple health facilities before getting treatment. Response teams understand that controlling the transmission of Ebola, and catching the disease in its early stages has the potential to save an entire community.
  5. The Ebola Vaccination: More than 111,000 people have received the Ebola vaccination. Developed by Canadian scientists, the Ebola vaccine (also known as the rVSV-ZEBOV vaccine) consists of an animal virus that can wear a non-lethal Ebola virus protein, which results in the human immune system developing a pre-emotive defense to the disease. Health care professionals, and family members of Ebola patients are the majority of those vaccinated. Health care responders in Congo ensure that all the contacts of Ebola patients receive a vaccine to stop the epidemic. Reports show no deaths from individuals that developed Ebola symptoms more than 10 days after receiving the vaccination.
  6. Promoting a Disease-Free Environment: Medecins Sans Frontieres/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) promotes healthcare and community engagement in Congo. This organization sends teams to determine and assist the medical needs of populations in crisis with exclusion from healthcare. Among the Ebola outbreak in Congo, MSF continues to provide free healthcare for non-Ebola needs, such as malaria and urinary tract infections. First starting in the city Goma, the MSF has now shifted aid to the Ituri province to limit infections with sanitation activities, and provide access to clean water.

These six facts about the Ebola outbreak in Congo demonstrate global organization’s enthusiasm to assemble in times of crisis. Countless organizations continue to lend support to the Democratic Republic of Congo, and in due time the country will be at its best with a healthy population.

– Nia Coleman
Photo: Flickr

Gang Violence in Honduas

Honduras is one of the most impoverished nations in Central America. In 2016, figures showed that over 66 percent of its population lived in extreme poverty. These figures also reveal an estimated one out of five rural Hondurans is trying to survive on less than a mere $1.90 per day. Since poverty and criminal activity seem to have a close correlational relationship, it is no surprise that Honduras has held consistently high crime rates along with high poverty rates. What many may not know is that much of Honduras’s crime is due to gang violence. Below are seven facts about gangs in Honduras.

Seven Facts About Gangs in Honduras

  1. The two largest gangs in Honduras are the MS 13 and the Barrio 18. MS 13 is expanding internationally. Its scope and influence on crime in Honduras are hard to verify. In fact, since gang activity is so common in Honduras, it is hard for government officials to discern how much violence in the country is strictly due to gang-related activity.
  2. One gang runs several legal businesses. Recent investigations into the massive MS 13 gang activities in El Salvador uncovered a multimillion-dollar structure of legitimate businesses owned by the gang. MS 13 is a violent and massive gang that operates primarily in Honduras but also in El Salvador. Additionally, the gang has close ties with Mexican drug cartels.
  3. Honduras is attempting to rid its law enforcement of corruption. Since 2016, the nation of Honduras has dismissed around 4,455 police officers. This purge was an attempt to cleanse its law-enforcement from corrupted officials. These were officials who dabbled with organized crime and carried out extra-judicial killings. The country is also trying to create a new police training curriculum that centers on human rights.
  4. Ex-cops are being recruited into gangs. Despite good intentions, many of the released ex-police officers are now being hired by the vicious MS 13 gang as bodyguards and trainers for gang-related activities. MS 13 reportedly pays ex-officers 2.5 times the amount they made inside the police force. This allows the gang to become better-trained to conduct violent business.
  5. Families are leaving their homes to escape gang violence. Between 2016 and 2017, over 1,900 people fled their homes and communities because of gang-related death threats or extortions. It can be insidiously dangerous for residents of Honduras to live unaware of gang turf. Many may accidentally cross those invisible lines and put themselves in harm’s way.
  6. Homicide rates are decreasing, but Honduras still has one of the highest. Honduran homicide rates in 2018 are half of what they were in 2012. In 2012, Honduras experienced 86 murders per 100,000 citizens. In 2018, this number decreased to 42 murders per 100,000 citizens. Although making progress, Honduras still has one of the highest homicide rates in the world.
  7. Honduras has increased the budget for protection from gangs. The budget for Honduran security and justice institutions has increased by over 50 percent in the last five years. In the last couple of years, the El Pozo and La Tolva maximum-security prisons were built. Some of the nation’s criminal and gang leaders are now incarcerated there. Security officials say this has limited their abilities to operate within the prison system.

These key facts about gangs in Honduras indicate that Honduras is trying to lessen the violence that plagues its streets. This is in tandem with foreign partners such as the United States. Overall, global attention and innovative thinking are necessary to provide solutions to the gang epidemic.

– Haley Hiday
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Violence in the Northern Triangle
The Northern Triangle is a region in Central America comprised of three countries: El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala. The title originally described a series of trade agreements but the area is now one of the world’s most violent regions. Listed below are 10 facts about violence in the Northern Triangle.

10 Facts About Violence in the Northern Triangle

1. Asylum Seekers – In 2015, the number of asylum seekers fleeing from the Northern Triangle region reached 110,000, an increase of five times higher than reports from 2012.

2. High Homicide Rates – All three countries have homicide rates which have consistently ranked as some of the highest globally, even given that each has witnessed a recent decline in their respective rates. In 2018, InSight Crime reported that El Salvador’s homicide rate was 51 per 100,000 individuals, a drop from 81.2 in 2017; the report estimated Honduras’ rate at 40, a drop from 42.8; Guatemala’s was 22.4, a drop from 26.1. These high rates of homicide translate to the Northern Triangle’s low rankings on the 2019 Global Peace Index (GPI), which measures nations based on levels of peacefulness, where El Salvador ranked 113th, Guatemala 114th and Honduras 123rd out of 163 countries.

3. Domestic Violence – Many asylum seekers fleeing the region are women and children. This can be credited to female homicide rates that are some of the highest in the world. In Guatemala, only two percent of the over 50,000 cases of violence against women in 2013 saw the perpetrator convicted. The majority of these cases, and those elsewhere in Honduras and El Salvador, involved domestic abuse.

4. Gang Violence – Those living in the region are under a constant threat of violence from gangs, the largest being Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) and the Eighteenth Street Gang (M-18). The combined membership for both gangs is an estimated 85,000.

5. Drug Trafficking – The Northern Triangle region of Central America has become a major shipping route for illicit drugs coming into the U.S. In 2015, an estimated 90 percent of cocaine seized in the U.S. was of Columbian origin and had traveled through routes in Central America. Despite this high rate of cocaine shipments into the U.S., the region has much lower numbers of other illicit drugs traveling along the same routes, such as heroin, methamphetamine and fentanyl.

6. Extortion – In 2015, estimates indicated that Salvadorans paid $390 million, Hondurans paid $200 million and Guatemalans paid $61 million in extortion fees. The primary victims of these extortionists were public transportation operators, small businesses and residents of poor neighborhoods.

7. Corruption – High levels of corruption at the state level have hindered progress in the region. According to a 2016 index of corruption perceptions by Transparency International, all three countries ranked on the bottom half of the scale.

8. Unemployment – There is a remarkably high number of young people in the region who are out of school and without a job, over one million in total. In El Salvador, this correlates to 24 percent of the youth population, 25.1 percent of Guatemalan youth and 27.5 percent of Honduran youth. This is another factor of economic in-opportunity which leads many to flee or become involved with local gangs.

9. Poverty – Poverty in the Northern Triangle and the lack of economic opportunity play a large role in the proliferation of violence and mass migration. An estimated 60 percent of people who live in rural areas in the region are living in poverty.

10. High Impunity Rates – For all of the recorded violence and homicide covered in these 10 facts about violence in the Northern Triangle, the rate of impunity for crimes is 95 percent or higher. This acts as an incentive to criminals and a further deterrent to public confidence in law enforcement.

While these 10 facts about violence in the Northern Triangle continue to paint an alarming picture of living conditions in the region, it is important to recognize the small steps toward improvement. The Borgen Project is currently working to gain support for the United States-Northern Triangle Enhanced Engagement Act (H.R.2615), which aims to address the root causes of the migration from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.

– Alexandra Schulman
Photo: Flickr

Ten Facts About Life Expectancy in the Central African Republic
The Central African Republic is home to around 4.8 million people. Due to its civil unrest, this country also has one of the lowest life expectancies in the world and is in a state of crisis. Here are the top 10 facts about the life expectancy in the Central African Republic that reflect the current quality of life, as well as the steps set for future improvement.

Ten Facts About Life Expectancy in the Central African Republic

1. As of 2018, the average life expectancy in the Central African Republic is 53 years, which gives it a ranking of 217 out of 224 countries. The average male life expectancy is 51.7 years, while the average female life expectancy female is slightly higher at 54.4 years.

2. After winning independence from France in 1960, the Central African Republic suffered decades of political instability. In early 2018, more than 18,000 citizens of the Central African Republic fled fighting in their homeland to take refuge in neighboring Chad. The violence and displacement of these people are some of the main causes of the low life expectancy. As of 2016, more than half of the population was in need of food and the violence had killed thousands. The fighting also forced Muslims to flee their homes in the Christian-majority country.

3. Although the average life expectancy seems despairingly low, the Central African Republic has made improvements in its overall health over the past few years. After the persistent military crisis, the country’s overall life expectancy dropped to a low of 43 years in 2007. Luckily, after President Francois Bozize signed peace pacts with two rebel groups, the Central African Republic was able to tackle more of its own political, economic and social conditions, contributing to a dramatic rise in life expectancy.

4. The leading causes of death in the Central African Republic include HIV/AIDS, influenza, pneumonia and diarrheal diseases. According to the World Health Organization, HIV/AIDS deaths in the Central African Republic account for 13 percent of total deaths in the country. Influenza and pneumonia deaths make up 11 percent of deaths while diarrheal diseases account for around eight percent of deaths.

5. The life expectancy does not account for the fact that an estimated 14.4 percent of the average life is spent in poor health. While diseases account for a high proportion of deaths, poor nutrition is one of the main causes of early decline. Years of conflict have reduced the mobility of populations, which in turn has hindered people’s ability to grow crops, buy food and access health care. “Most of the people live on less than $1 a day. There is little food. Even cassava, the most basic foodstuff in the local diet, is often scarce”, said Dr. Deus Bazira from the World Health Organization. Pregnant women and children are often the most vulnerable individuals and are most susceptible to malnutrition.

6. Throughout the country, there is currently an extreme water and hygiene crisis. Sixty-eight percent of the rural population lacks access to clean and safe water, which increases the risk of diarrheal diseases and otherwise preventable water-borne diseases.

7. Areas outside of Bangui, the capital of the Central African Republic, have limited health care. Much of the population faces poorly equipped and understaffed clinics in the countryside. Bangui itself has only one major hospital, which is limited in care. The distribution of medicine is also difficult due to the lack of transportation.

8. Since 2016, the country is working to improve its overall health with a new trajectory under the leadership of the government. The Central African Republic plans to improve the nutritional status of vulnerable groups, such as those with disabilities, children, pregnant women and malnourished patients. “This new commitment to improving the health and nutrition of the poorest and most vulnerable will help ease the poverty that stymies the Central African Republic’s growth and unlock its economic potential,” said Mariam Claeson, Director of the Global Financing Facility.

9. On January 7, 2019, the U.N. worked with the Central African Republic to launch the 2019 Humanitarian Response Plan. This operation requested around $430 million to provide humanitarian assistance to 1.7 million people this year, a major step in improving health conditions throughout the country.

10. Although providing humanitarian aid is difficult due to security and logistical constraints, international operations and organizations are assisting the Central African Republic through its current crisis. The International Rescue Committee and The European Union’s Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations department (ECHO) are examples of major strides to offer medical care, water and sanitation services and protection for people in high-risk areas.

These 10 facts about life expectancy in the Central African Republic provide insight into the progress made and steps needed to improve the quality of life in the country. Although the state of health remains unstable, with relief agencies working to assist conflict-affected populations, the Central African Republic will hopefully continue to increase its life expectancy over the next few years.

– Malini Nayak
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10 facts about violence in honduras
In Honduras, the homicide rate is currently 43.6 per 100,000, meaning for every 100,000 of Honduras’ inhabitants, about 44 people will be murdered every year. With this statistic alone, it is easy to see Honduras has one of the highest homicide rates in the world. However, by evaluating the implemented solutions working to combat violence, homicides in Honduras appear to be dropping; raising the possibility of losing its position as the murder capital of the world. Here are 10 facts about violence in Honduras.

10 Facts About Violence in Honduras

  1. Murder – In 2011 Honduras experienced a peak in murder rates making Honduras the holder of the highest homicide rate in the world. Between 2011 and 2015, the murder rate in Honduras decreased by 30 percent. Homicides went down from 88.5 per 100,000 residents to 60.0 per 100,000 and have remained constant or decreased slowly depending on the year. However, in Honduras, only 4 percent of reported homicide cases result in arrest showing there is still lots of room for improvement.
  2. Lack of Trust – Police and judicial systems in Honduras suffer from corruption, lack of training and a list of cases so long that even honest, well-equipped officials struggle to keep up. As a result, members of the most vulnerable Honduran communities often do not trust the police, public prosecutors or judges to do their jobs. Fearing retaliation from violent perpetrators, they often refuse to provide witness testimony necessary to bring about a conviction. This causes Honduran judicial officials to lose trust in victims. This lack of trust and support fuels a vicious cycle of violence and impunity that has contributed to Honduras’ status as one of the most violent countries in the world. The Special Commission to Purge and Reform the Honduran Police is working to rid the force of corrupt leaders, strengthen public and police relations and reorganize their internal and external goals. Today, the Special Commission to Purge and Reform the Honduran Police has put in nearly 15 months of work and suspended or removed 5,000 police from the force.
  3. Poverty – Poverty and violence are directly related, and they work together to generate difficult living conditions in Honduras. As of 2017, 64 percent of Honduras’ population lives in poverty. Further, Honduras has the second smallest middle class in Latin America, at only 10.9 percent of the population. A larger middle class would result in stronger public institutions, stronger economic growth and greater societal stability. Therefore, Honduras would see lower levels of violence because of stronger societal relations. Working to stem both violence and increase economic opportunities is the key to sustainable development.
  4. Illegal Drug Trade – Central America serves as a transit point for at least 80 percent of all cocaine shipments between the Andean region and North America. Criminal groups in Honduras are very aware of this and profit primarily from drug trade and extortion as well as kidnapping for ransom and human trafficking. In February 2019, authorities in Honduras arrested four Colombian citizens caught in an attempt to smuggle over 100 kilograms of cocaine into the United States through a remote region of the country’s eastern coast. This is one example of thousands.
  5. Gangs – Gang presence in Honduras is common in poor urban areas and where territory is controlled by members of rival gangs, the most powerful being the Mara Salvatrucha and the Barrio 18. The most common age for Honduran gang members is between 12 and 30. Gangs constitute a real but often misunderstood feature of these 10 facts about violence in Honduras. While there is little doubt that they are involved in significant levels of violence, gangs are highly diverse and linked more to localized insecurity rather than the transnational danger ascribed to them by the media and certain policymakers. It is understood that 40 percent of gang members claim to be involved in gangs to ‘hang out,’ 21 percent because they had gang member friends and 21 percent to evade family problems. There is also a correlation between youth unemployment and gang membership: only 17 percent of gang members were employed and 66 percent actively characterized themselves as unemployed.
  6. Domestic Violence – One woman is murdered every 16 hours in Honduras, and the country has the highest femicide rate in the world. Shocking numbers of rape, assault and domestic violence cases are reported. However, 95 percent of cases of sexual violence and femicide in Honduras were never investigated in the year 2014. As mentioned above, widespread underreporting is likely to be linked to the lack of trust in governmental figures such as police and judicial systems. Rape is widespread and is employed to discipline girls, women and their family members for failure to comply with demands. In Honduras, there is a 95 percent impunity rate for sexual violence and femicide crimes and the lack of accountability for violations of human rights of women is the norm rather than the exception.
  7. Honduras Youth – The expansion of gangs and the increase in violence is linked to the lack of opportunities for the youth of the country. Many young Hondurans turn to gangs for their welfare protection and identity construction because they see no other way. Gangs emerge in this context as an option that is often desired for the marginal youth as it provides a form of transition from adolescence to adulthood. About 2 percent of females go completely uneducated, compared to 3 percent of males. Likewise, secondary school lasts between two to three years between the ages of 13 and 16, and 38 percent of females drop out compared to 33 percent of males.
  8. The Public and Prevention – In areas with low levels of violence, residents have taken incidents of crime and made an effort to minimize conditions that might allow violence to thrive. Kindernotheilfe has partnered with the community-formed group Sociedad más Justa (ASJ). They are dedicated to improving the living conditions of children and young people in Tegucigalpa and protecting them from violent abuse. Since 2004, parents, children, young people, teachers, churches, justice officials, city administrations and other NGOs have gotten involved. Some of their help include psychological and legal counseling, neighborhood patrolling and organized children’s clubs and activities.
  9. USAID and Honduras Citizen Security – On Sept. 30, 2016, the U.S. Agency for International Development programs for Honduras invested in a $34.17 million project lasting until Feb. 13, 2021. They are working to support the Government of Honduras’ efforts to improve the service delivery of justice institutions; increase the capacity of police to work with targeted communities; and incorporate respect for human rights to help reduce violence, decrease impunity and implement human rights standards within government institutions. During the third quarter of year one, they achieved key targets, including launching five city events, holding an international conference, instituting a Supreme Court Innovation Committee, connecting with the LGBTQI committee and collaborating with other donor programs.
  10. The Peace and Justice Project – The Peace and Justice Project provides investigative, legal and psychological support for people with few resources who have been victims of violent crimes and push for structural change in Honduras’ security and justice systems. The project has a 95 percent conviction rate, almost 24 times the national average. This has reduced the impunity rate in key communities from 4 percent convictions to 60 percent convictions for violent crimes, while also reducing the overall homicide rate drastically. Over the last 10 years, 600 lives have been saved through interventions in these violent communities.

These 10 facts about violence in Honduras prove that while strides have been made, violence in Honduras is still a major global concern. Communities and citizens of Honduras should continue to make a difference by demanding higher standards and continuing prevention actions. Furthermore, other nations should continue to support by becoming involved in helping strengthen institutional, governmental and police and judicial systems to see long term change.

Grace Arnold
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