Resource TrapLogic follows that the wealthier a country becomes, the more financial resources it should have to combat poverty. The European Union countries and the United States have many programs to address domestic and global poverty, administered by both non-governmental (NGO) and governmental organizations. Taking the logical argument further yields that countries with vast natural resources should be equally capable of fighting poverty. By monetizing their vast natural resources, they should have plenty to provide for their citizens. The reality though is starkly different due to the resource trap.

Resource Trap

While rich countries are capable of enacting change, the manner by which their wealth was accumulated affects how their governments appropriate funds. The resource trap, or resource curse, as called by the Natural Resource Governance Institute (NRGI), posits that resource-rich countries tend to have higher rates of conflict and authoritarianism combined with lower rates of economic stability and economic growth. Along with the NRGI, Bloomberg finds that countries with vast natural resources have high degrees of conflict, corruption and poverty.

One of the many examples of this conundrum in the world today is Iran. According to the CIA’s World Factbook, Iran’s economy has a large industrial sector which makes up 35.3 percent of the country’s GDP. Iran’s large oil reserves gave rise to its top three industries: petroleum, petrochemicals and gas production. These three are resources commonly cited in reports regarding resource traps.

Even though Iran is rich with natural resources, it has an Aggregate Freedom Score of 18/100, which categories the country as “Not Free”. In their report on Iran, Freedom House cites antigovernment protests over the worsening economy and corruption as a factor in Iran’s low score. These dynamics have rendered the country prey to the resource trap. Resource traps like those found in oil-rich countries are especially troublesome because their governments are beneficiaries of vast amounts of income that would otherwise come from taxation. Since the government does not depend on tax revenues to remain in power, the will of the people tends to be ignored, which leads to unchecked corruption.

Economic Monitoring

NGOs combating corruption in oil-rich countries work to address how petroleum-based revenues are used to suppress its people. According to Radio Farda, Iran has a record of marginalizing NGOs that attempt to address the exploitation of its citizens. Solving the riddle of resource-trapped countries is a hard task and involves a multitude of tactics. Most of the work done by NGOs in Iran is done through the World Bank’s Economic Monitor program. Monitoring efforts like these where selected topics of interest to Iran and the international community are published provide data useful in liberating countries from their resource traps.

– Spencer Julian
Photo: Flickr

Infrastructure Development in Micronesia

The Federated States of Micronesia relies heavily on foreign aid, yet under its Infrastructure Development Plan 2016-2025, it plans to gain self-reliance and growth in six main areas. In addition, the Sustainable Energy Development and Access Project and the Maritime Investment Project, funded by the World Bank, are two major projects that are already underway. The developments are in key areas, such as fishing and island connectivity, which many Micronesians rely on for their livelihood.

Federal States of Micronesia Infrastructure Development Plan 2016-2025

As part of Micronesia’s Infrastructure Development Plan, economic growth and self-reliance are two areas of improvement. Micronesia is a remote region containing more than 600 islands northeast of Papua New Guinea, 74 of which are inhabited. Due to its remoteness, tourism and investment in the main regions of Micronesia are sparse. The Infrastructure Development Plan is focused on six main areas: macroeconomic stability, good governance, developing a private sector-led economy, health and education services, infrastructure improvement and long-term environmental sustainability.

Under this umbrella, Micronesia already has a number of accomplishments under its belt. Specifically, the School Facility Repair and Construction Master Plan came to fruition in 2013. Likewise, the Airport Master Plan was completed in 2012 and involves safety and security in air transportation. There are four international airports, and development in air transportation is another step to attracting tourism to Micronesia, and therefore, income to those employed in the tourism industry. Although infrastructure development in Micronesia covers many areas, positive economic growth and progress in becoming self-reliant are two important goals for developing its economy.

Sustainable Energy Development and Access Project

The World Bank donated $30 million to Micronesia’s Sustainable Energy Development and Access Project in December 2018. The project aims to increase electricity access and quality and to reduce the reliance on fossil fuels. The four main states of Micronesia, Pohnpei, Kosrae, Chuuk and Yap rely on fossil fuels like diesel. About 96 percent of electricity use in Micronesia comes from fossil fuels, and about 75 percent of the total population has access to electricity.

The project’s goals are the following: increase electricity status in the state of Chuuk, increase renewable energy generation in the states of Chuuk, Kosrae and Yap, improve performance of the Pohnpei Utility Cooperation and provide technical assistance relating to governance, accountability and financial performance of the energy sector. Electricity access varies on the islands. Only 27 percent of the population in Chuuk has access to electricity, yet Pohnpei has a 95 percent electrification rate. The project aims to provide access to renewable energy to the islands for long-term use.

Federated States of Micronesia Maritime Investment Project

The Maritime Investment Project is another source of infrastructure development in Micronesia that was approved on May 9. At a cost of over $38 million, its focus is to increase efficiency, safety, security and climate resilience of maritime infrastructure and operations in Micronesia, including upgrades or repairs to terminal structures at Kosrae, Pohnpei, Chuuk and Yap ports. The project will also improve the connection between the islands with regards to access to food, water and emergency response services.

More than 90 percent of exports are fish. The project benefits not only for infrastructure development in the major ports but also for Micronesians that work in the strong fishing industry. The project ends on August 1, 2024. Sihna Lawrence, Microneisa’s Secretary of the Ministry of Finance, said, “Guided by our Infrastructure Development Plan, we look forward to working with the World Bank to improve our maritime transport and develop stronger connectivity across the archipelago.”

Ongoing Infrastructure Developments

Micronesia’s goal of self-reliance is given through the development plan and projects. Infrastructure development in Micronesia is a major move toward reducing the 41 percent poverty rate and improving health, education and the overall wellbeing of Micronesians.

– Lucas Schmidt
Photo: Flickr

Garbage CommunitiesGarbage: the word brings to mind unpleasant smells, flies and filth. But to some, it is home. Garbage communities consist of individuals making a living from and living within the confines of literal garbage dumps. For some people living in extreme poverty, the scrap cash that recycling garbage brings and the free space for building simple homes is the only option. And it isn’t an isolated, rare way of life. Nearly 15 million people across the globe live and “work” in garbage communities.

Making a Living

Members of garbage communities spend each day rummaging through the trash, hoping to find something decent enough to recycle. Once they find something — say a can or bottle — they collect these pieces and bring them to a middleman called an “agent”. The agent, (oftentimes a gang leader or crime lord) then sells the goods for much more, sucking up a large portion of the collector’s wage. This method brings in somewhere around $2.50 a day, not nearly enough for a decent living in most countries. Getting rid of the middleman is not an option, as violence and coercion are commonly used methods of silencing the garbage workers if they attempt to sell the items directly to the recycler.

Breeding Grounds of Disease

Living in waste — whether human, animal or artificial — brings with it a host of health problems. Contact with feces can cause intestinal worms, which can lead to stunted cognitive and physical growth in children. Pneumonia, spread by poor hygiene, is rampant in these communities, as are many other infectious diseases. This is likely because each gram of feces in which people in these conditions come into contact holds 10 million viruses. As a result, the average lifespan of people raised in these communities is about 35 years old.

But along with the physical burden is a huge mental and emotional weight. Garbage pickers are often stigmatized in their communities and referred to as “local rats”. Even if they are able to attend school or enter society looking for a job, they are seen as less than because of their occupation. Infections, illness, injuries from sharp objects, trauma and mental illness, spontaneous combustion from a buildup of methane gas, the list of dangers is endless. And yet, for the world’s most vulnerable, this is what it costs to live.

Promise for a Better Future

Several organizations are committed to bringing change to garbage communities and offering them a shot at a better life. ActionAid is an organization that specifically works with women and children in impoverished regions to help them stand up to sexual abuse and violence. ActionAid also helps children living in landfills get into school by pairing them with sponsors throughout the world. International Samaritan does similar work, providing promising young people in the dumps with scholarships so that they can escape the dump. This organization also funds entrepreneurs to start up their own businesses outside of the landfills.

By reaching the next generation, these programs bring promising hope for the future. Yet, many people still live under the burden of collecting and sorting the world’s waste. Although insufficient, an improvement would be providing a living wage, clean environment and benefits for garbage communities. Even by following correct rather than cheap landfill protocol, governments could greatly improve the quality of life for these communities by reducing the number of toxic waste individuals come into contact with.

Hannah Stewart
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Afghanistan
Afghanistan continues to be a major focus of U.S. foreign policy. Yet while there are hundreds of news articles about the country’s politics, there is less information about the country’s people. Below are 15 facts about poverty in Afghanistan to provide insight into problems Afghanistan’s poorest citizens face every day.

15 Facts About Poverty in Afghanistan

  1. About 90 percent of Afghans struggle to live on current income: Over the past decade, poverty in Afghanistan has risen to record-breaking heights. From 2008 to 2018, the number of Afghans reporting that their current income was insufficient to support their family grew from 60 percent to 90 percent. Keep this number in mind when reading the other 15 facts about poverty in Afghanistan. These facts apply to 90 percent of the country’s citizens.
  2. Well-being is at global record lows: Poverty not only affects people economically or physically – there is an emotional toll as well. According to a 2018 Gallup poll, only 36 percent of Afghans said that they smiled or laughed the previous day. When asked to rate their lives on a scale of 0 (worst) to 10 (best), Afghan citizen responses averaged 2.7. Most recently, in 2016, Afghan citizen responses on the same question averaged 4.2.
  3. Education has become a luxury for children: A 2018 U.N. report noted that more than 2 million children aged 6-14 worked to support their families. With an average of 58 percent of Afghan families unable to afford food, full-time work becomes a higher priority than education. In February 2019, UNICEF, the U.N. and the government of Afghanistan launched a long-term education response program projected to help half a million children in the country. The program hopes to raise an additional $35 million within the next year to help support education infrastructure and secure teachers, supplies and similar needs for schools across the entire country.
  4. Undereducated Afghan citizens are the most vulnerable: Undereducated citizens suffer the most during economic downturns in Afghanistan, with an unemployment rate of 8 percent and underemployment (employed, but unable to cover living costs) of 41 percent. With the difficulty of getting an education, the cycle of poverty continues for many families.
  5. Armed conflict is the top reason for poverty: Poverty in Afghanistan is directly linked to increases and decreases in Taliban control in the country. When the Taliban increased influence in Afghanistan between 2012 and 2017, the number of citizens living in poverty increased from 38 percent to 55 percent. The World Bank believes that political settlement with the Taliban would be an important step forward to attract the return of capital and skilled workers from overseas.
  6. Youth migration is a problem: Since 2015, about 146,000 young Afghan workers moved to Europe per year in hopes of starting a better life. The government still struggles to keep young people in the country and implemented a 2015 initiative to help the 700,000 entrants into the Afghan workforce find jobs. However, the program was unsuccessful in generating enough funding to make an impact.
  7. And so is displacement: In 2018 more than 550,000 new Afghan citizens were displaced by conflict and drought. Between displacement and a dwindling young professional population, it is difficult for Afghanistan to keep skilled workers to further its economy.
  8. Government corruption fuels the fire: The economy in Afghanistan grew only 2 percent in 2018. The World Bank reports that the sluggish economy is a direct result of government corruption. This means aid to struggling areas is often delayed or never arrives and economic growth benefits only the country’s highest elite (and former warlords).
  9. Iran affects Afghanistan’s poverty: Approximately 2.5 to 3 million Afghans left home to pursue better economic opportunities in Iran. These migrants have been a vital part of the economy as they send their Iranian wages home to their families. Unfortunately, as the Iranian economy has crashed, so have the available wages. The rial lost approximately 70 percent of its value, drastically decreasing the ability of workers to support their families back home.
  10. Programs struggle with a lack of information: Due to conflicts and a lack of resources, it has been 40 years since the Afghan government has been able to conduct a proper census or any similar survey of the population. This makes planning and poverty initiatives difficult, as there is no data available to support decisions on where to invest aid.
  11. Afghanistan ran on an “artificial” economy: From 2011 to 2014 Afghanistan had an artificial economy, meaning that economic growth and development were wholly reliant on external foreign aid with little to no internal input. With foreign aid and troops dropping after 2014, the country has struggled to reignite its economy.
  12. Research gives hope: The World Bank implemented a test-program in 2015 to help improve economic outcomes for poor citizens. The program provided households in the Balkh province with a temporary stipend and financial coaching. The results showed a 20 percent decrease in the number of households below the national poverty line, a 30 percent increase in consumption, a 17 percent decrease in depression among women and a 53 percent reduction in debt. The World Bank published these findings in 2019, providing the first-ever evidence of similar targeted programs for poor areas in conflict regions.
  13. Trends predict further growth: Based on current trends, the World Bank believes there is hope for further economic growth in Afghanistan. The 2019 World Bank assessment of Afghanistan confirmed prospects are looking positive for Afghanistan, with a projected 2.5 percent growth in 2019 and up to 3.5 percent growth in 2021.
  14. Continued aid is critical: As of 2019, grants support more than 75 percent of Afghanistan’s public expenditures. The U.N. humanitarian workers warn that the withdrawal of aid to Afghanistan could derail the slow but steady growth the country has experienced since 2001.
  15. The 2020 aid package is under congressional review right now: The Department of State and USAID have requested approximately $532.8 million in aid for the financial year 2020. At the time of writing, this request has not yet been approved.

There are tangible issues that fuel poverty, and these 15 facts about poverty in Afghanistan represent only a part of the complex issues the country’s economy faces. Remember that a country is more than just its politics – it is made up of people. We can help people through our actions and reduce the suffering of millions of Afghan citizens.

Melanie Rasmussen
Photo: Flickr

Technological consumer base in West AfricaThe whole of Africa is known for being an incredibly poor continent. While improvements have been made in certain aspects of life that have provided citizens with better and easier lives in some regions, Africa is still in need of advances that work towards lessening poverty throughout this vast nation. The growing technological consumer base in West Africa, particularly the digital economy and mobile outreach, is becoming a very big deal.

When it comes to technological advances in smaller countries or regions of countries, some nations are way ahead of others. This is largely due to the fact that certain countries have more money than others to invest in these advancements. Even though money may be limited, some areas have found ways to achieve technological improvements.

The technological consumer base in West Africa has experienced a major increase in users in only a decade. Subscribers for the mobile economy of West Africa have reached 47 percent, up from 27 percent ten years ago. These advancements have created new opportunities for government, various industries, start-up businesses, and more. A conference held in April 2018 addressing West Africa’s digital revolution in the last ten years revealed two major factors that contributed to this new digital age: people and technology. People are the ones who rely on, create, and consume technology in increasing numbers while technology and technological advancements continue to broaden their impact the more they are improved upon. The conference was devoted to these two factors in an attempt to bring continued support for integrating mobile and digital technology into society in these regions and bolstering the new growing base of users.

An example of the impact of the increasing technological consumer base in West Africa occurred in 2017. To begin, 85 percent of the world’s population lives in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Large companies such as Google realize that what works for citizens in western culture may not work in the most heavily populated regions of the world. When 1GB of data can cost a consumer almost 10 percent of monthly income, better user options must be considered to grow the consumer base. Recognizing this, Google broadened the YouTube Go app to Nigeria. This app is data-friendly and allows viewers to save and watch videos offline. Google also created an app called Datally for Android which helps users conserve data. As an internet conglomerate, Google realizes that areas like West Africa are the future of the world’s growth. It focuses on ways to enable these areas to grow in a technological age and improve life for its citizens.

Organizations, such as the World Bank Group, have been promoting a digital economy in all parts of Africa. A digital economy will connect Africa’s citizens to various industries, services, information, and each other. In addition, it will provide people with a digital ID to validate their identity and help them connect to necessary government services. Citizens will also gain easier access to formal financial services including mobile money, such as e-commerce and online markets. West Africa’s most recent technological developments and increasing consumer base provide proof that these advancements are possible, they work in these regions, and they make life better for its citizens. This can influence other regions of Africa to continue developing a digital economy.

West Africa’s growing technological consumer base is a possible stepping stone to a better future for Africa as a continent. This growth of the digital economy in Africa that will give citizens much-needed resources, provide more economic opportunities, and create a better way of life.

– Haley Saffren
Photo: Flickr

Best Ways to Reduce Global Poverty

The World Bank and the Asian Development Bank’s partnership established the Global Poverty Reduction and Inclusive Growth Portal (GPIG) on May 6, 2016. The portal specializes in “policy research, data analysis, country profiles and news on poverty reduction and inclusive growth.” It does this through online and offline events that aim for the increase of international cooperation in collaboration with China’s International Poverty Reduction Center (PRC). This article demonstrates the best ways to reduce global poverty according to GPIG.

The GPIG Portal

GPIG’s area of studies falls under the aim of successfully achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Specifically, SDG1 aims for the elimination of poverty, SDG2 aims for zero hunger, SDG10 aims for reduced inequalities and SDG17 aims for partnerships in achieving these goals. Along with the SDGs, GPIG’s ultimate goal is to support China’s efforts to end poverty by 2020. It would do so through its exhaustive research and analysis on ways to reduce poverty.

The Portal emphasizes the importance of international exchange and cooperation to reduce poverty as well as the need for aid towards China’s efforts to achieve the aimed reduction. GPIG supports the idea of using the Outline for Development-Oriented Poverty Reduction for China’s Rural Areas (2011-2020) as a guideline for international cooperation.

The document focuses on supporting the reduction of domestic poverty by introducing international resources, spreading China’s poverty reduction methods and promoting relations between China and other countries to strengthen the “experience-sharing” in poverty reduction. Within this document, GPIG recommends focusing on applying newer innovations on such mechanisms to expand the platform and better enhance economic and social development.

How should we reduce global poverty?

The best ways to reduce global poverty, according to GPIG, involve the inclusion of the whole society. GPIG believes poverty reduction methods are ineffective if the entire society does not participate. Inclusion of the whole society brings several advantages such as mobilizing strengths to reduce poverty. It also diversifies poverty reduction and its development strategies by combining the efforts of different parties such as domestic offices, government departments, private businesses and NGOs. More importantly, it ensures the sustainability of the poverty reduction achieved since it seems to be the fastest and most consistent method.

GPIG suggests developing projects that create an encouraging environment that keeps the focus of the government’s social organization on poverty reduction. To achieve the most effective project on reduction, GPIG suggests research and interviews on the PRC and on international experiences in social organization’s service contracting, PRC’s roles and motivations in poverty reduction and previous ways the social organization has achieved poverty reduction. Finally, GPIG suggests using such analysis to develop effective and efficient recommendations that focus on expanding the social organization to involve a national rural poverty reduction program.

More about GPIG

GPIG research methods and recommendations are co-managed by the International Poverty Reduction Center in China and the China Internet Information Center. To ensure its best possible functioning and the provision of the most effective recommendations for poverty reduction, UNDP also contributed to the Portal’s establishment along with WB and ADB. The three parties allowed the creation of a clear mission: to create an international platform that will provide the best ways to reduce global poverty by focusing on areas such as research, exchange, training and cooperation.

– Njoud Mamoun Mazhar Mashouka
Photo: Flickr

Agricultural Development in Lesotho

Lesotho is a small mountainous country in South Africa with a population of around 1,962,461. The expanding population puts pressure of settlement on many areas which results in “overgrazing, severe soil erosion and soil exhaustion; desertification; Highlands Water Project controls, stores, and redirects water to South Africa.” Agriculture used to be a major component of Lesotho’s GDP, but its contribution decreased in the 1990s due to drought.

Currently, only one-tenth of the country is fertile. Despite this fact, a large part of Lesotho’s rural population practices subsistence agriculture. The most common crops are corn (maize), sorghum, wheat and beans. Unfortunately, due to drought, it has become necessary to import foodstuffs.

Agricultural projects such as the World Bank’s Lesotho Smallholder Agriculture Development Project (SADP) are working to improve agricultural development in Lesotho.

Smallholder Agriculture Development Project

On November 11, 2011, the first SADP was approved in order to promote and improve agricultural development in Lesotho. The dates for the implementation of the project were from 2011 to 2018, however, it was extended to 2020. The World Bank and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) partnered to direct a support mission for the SADP. The SADP project is meant to “support smallholder farmers to exploit opportunities to increase their productivity and diversify into market-oriented agriculture.” The project area covers four out of the 10 districts in Lesotho and focuses on: “increasing agricultural market opportunities, increasing market-oriented smallholder production, identifying commercially viable activities that can be replicated and successfully scaled up and project management”

The first SADP is ongoing, however, on May 30, 2019, the World Bank approved the Lesotho Smallholder Agriculture Development Project-II. The second SADP leans toward the technological side as it was implemented to “support increased adoption of climate-smart agricultural (CSA) technologies in Lesotho’s agriculture, enhanced commercialization, and improved dietary diversity among targeted beneficiaries.”

The SADPs will improve agricultural development in Lesotho by minimizing the possible effects of climate change on produce. The project will promote and support the increase of climate-smart agricultural technologies as well as enhance commercialization and improve dietary diversity. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO-UN) defines climate-smart agriculture based on “three pillars: increasing productivity and incomes, enhancing resilience of livelihoods and ecosystems and reducing and removing greenhouse gas emissions from the atmosphere.”

Incentives for Farmers

Farmers and agro-processors who finance investments will receive matching grants for increasing productivity and post-harvest infrastructure and management. Paul Noumba Um, World Bank Country Director for seven South African countries, stated that the project will help the Government of Lesotho “improve the country’s food security, employment opportunities, rural livelihoods and nutrition and increased commercialization through mainstreaming climate and environment considerations into agriculture to enhance climate resilience.”

Since the 1990s, Lesotho has been experiencing droughts and population pressure that put constraints on its agricultural production. Agriculture used to play a large part in the country’s GDP, but its role has been steadily decreasing. Efforts to improve agricultural development in Lesotho have been made through projects such as the SADPs. By increasing the rate and quality of agricultural production, there are hopes that food security, employment opportunities, rural livelihoods and nutrition will increase throughout the country as well.

– Jade Thompson
Photo: Wikimedia

Facts About Education in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka has shocked the world with its success in its system of education. Within less than forty years of independence, the number of schools has increased by 50 percent. In fact, the number of students has increased by 300 percent. Such substantial growth is exemplified in the following eight facts about education in Sri Lanka.

  1. Education is a government priority – The government has invested 14.5 percent of all expenditures in education. Provincial councils oversee provincial schools throughout Sri Lanka. Each has their own Ministry of Education and a Minister to who regulates education policies in the province. For example, Minister Akila Viraj Kariyawasam recently released a statement about the standard of primary and secondary school education. He stated that it must be monitored by a committee to ensure the standards of education are being maintained. Additionally, he stressed monitoring the higher-level teaching of future teachers to ensure their caliber is of a high enough quality.
  2. It has a free education policy  This policy was ratified October 1, 1945, in Sri Lanka’s constitution. The policy states that every child from the age of five to sixteen has the right to free education. This has allowed Sri Lanka’s literacy rate has reached 92 percent. This policy’s success is further demonstrated in the enrollment rates for boys and girls, with 96 percent of girls and 97 percent of boys enrolled in primary school, 95 percent for both genders in secondary school.
  3. Child mortality is reduced – Education prioritization has resulted in the reduction of Sri Lanka’s child mortality rate. For instance, the country went from 74.3 deaths per 1000 live births in 1968 to 8.8 deaths per 1000 live births in 2017. This is the result of an increase in health interventions. Additionally, the prioritization of education has helped more students learn about health risks and the prevention of harmful diseases than before.
  4. Bilingual teaching – Another piece in the list of facts about education in Sri Lanka pertains to teaching. Many schools are introducing bilingual teaching strategies. These strategies have resulted in stronger educational performances. The official languages in Sri Lanka are Sinhala and Tamil. However, schools teach English as a language from grade three onward, to increase international opportunities for students after finishing their education. Furthermore, they can also retain their local cultural concepts and mother tongue. The Deputy Director of Education of the Bilingual Unit of the Ministry of Education, Priyatha Nanayakkara, even stated that the ultimate goal is to provide bilingual education to all students in Sri Lanka. This is to better equip them for the globalized world. Consequently, Ordinary Level (O/L) examination results have increased from a 50 percent pass rate to a 90 percent pass rate. Even more impactful has been the minimization of a social gap between those who are able to speak English and those who are not able.
  5. They are investing in the future – Since 2011, Sri Lanka has sought out overseas investors to be able to welcome more international students into its system of higher education. In 2017, Sri Lanka received a $100 million World Bank loan to expand their STEM enrollment and research opportunities in their higher education level, as well as improve the quality of related degree programs. The government’s goal is to open up its higher education system to international students by 2020.
  6. Reduction of gender disparities – The Free Education system has fostered the notion of equal opportunity. In fact, in higher levels of education, women are more likely to complete their education than men. For example, 60 percent of those enrolled in higher education were women in 2015. Of the graduating students, 68.5 percent were female. However, while the education system seems to be promoting gender equality, the political environment of Sri Lanka is still sparse in terms of women, a disparity when compared to their educational success that must be addressed to continue their progress.
  7. Parental concerns – Next in the list of facts about education in Sri Lanka is parental concerns. A poll between the Business Times and Colombo-based Research Consultancy Bureau recorded the responses of 800 people. The poll revealed the anxieties of students, parents and teachers surrounding the prioritized education system in Sri Lanka. When the respondents were asked if students were being given too much work leading up to examinations, about 70 percent responded yes. Parents argued that the high school system is especially flawed and are urging for a concrete educational plan for future students.
  8. Disparities Between Urban and Rural Schools Many rural schools, such as the Sri Bodhi school, do not have access to the internet. This is a huge drawback in teaching methods when compared to urban schools. While education is required for all children to a certain age, attendance in rural classes is significantly less than that of urban school classrooms as well. Flora Thin, a University of St. Andrews student, traveled to Sri Lanka with the organization Plan My Gap Year and visited a school in Ambalangoda. Thin recounted the school she attended was a house with three classrooms with few resources. Yet, many considered it fortunate in comparison to surrounding institutions. This is due to the fact that the school received support from the Gap Year program, while others do not.

Progress in Education

These eight facts about education in Sri Lanka illustrate its tremendous progress since achieving independence. But, it is clear there is still much to do before Sri Lanka has ironed out their education strategy. However, these eight facts about education in Sri Lanka depict the substantial progress made in the past few years as proof that the country is on the path to providing its children with the education necessary to succeed in the world today.

– Adya Khosla
Photo: Flickr

Rwanda is Growing Its Knowledge-Based EconomyRwanda is growing its knowledge-based economy. The country has produced substantial developmental gains since the genocide and civil war in 1994. It has reduced its poverty by about 12 percent, achieved food security and produced more results towards its goal of becoming a knowledge-based economy. Rwanda’s Government focus has been on developing the economy and reform in the financial and business sectors. Foreign aid focus, from groups such as the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the World Bank, has been in improving trade, productivity and investments in their agriculture sector.

The World Bank Programs

Currently, there is a lot of on-the-ground investment in irrigation in Rwanda. Agriculture accounts for 33 percent for Rwanda’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), represents almost 80 percent its labor force and generates almost half of its export revenues. However, according to the World Bank, the population density, hilly terrain and soil erosion have inhibited progress in this pillar of its economy. The Rural Sector Support Project (RSSP) and the Land Husbandry, Water Harvesting and Hillside Irrigation Project (LWH) have allowed the World Bank to increase the productivity and commercialization of hillside agriculture.

The RSSP project will consist of a 14-year period that will unfold in three phases. The phases mainly consist of strengthening Rwanda’s institutional, technical, local, agricultural research and infrastructure capacities. The LWH uses a reformed watershed approach that works to improve soil health. Rwanda’s uneven rainfall puts limitations on its agricultural productivity, so the project will also develop new water-harvesting infrastructure, such as valley dams and reservoirs among other benefits for more effective crop production.

The World Bank has also been the leading financier for initiatives to expand Rwanda’s electricity and energy sectors. The World Bank has been actively supporting the government with these initiatives through the Rwanda Energy Sector Development Project (ESDP). It has provided Rwanda with $125 million and $95 million for the Rwanda Electricity Sector Strengthening Project (RESSP). A few overarching goals of these projects are containing fiscal impact within the electricity sector and the overall improvement of electricity service.

USAID Programs

USAID works closely with the Government of Rwanda to increase and promote its trade through several programs. Through the East Africa Trade Investment Hub (EATIH) programs, Rwanda has been building its trade capacity, improving the private sector and creating better market access and opportunities for trade facilitation.

In 2016, USAID was able to create the Rwanda African Growth Opportunity Act (AGOA). The AGOA has emphasized regional and bilateral efforts to strengthen Africa’s economic competitiveness and aid countries to leverage trade opportunities.

All of these benefits support the ways that Rwanda is growing its knowledge-based economy. These program strategies, initiatives and results represent the “small steps” of turning a country around from poverty. The interdependency between Rwanda’s government and foreign aid shows the relentless efforts being made to downsize global poverty. It has also formed a strategic collaboration that is breeding progressive results.

Niya Monè
Photo: Flickr

African Programme for Onchocerciasis Control’s Tremendous Success in Eliminating River Blindness in Senegal
Onchocerciasis, more commonly known as river blindness, is a skin and eye disease transmitted to people by infected blackflies. The infection is classified as a Neglected Tropical Disease (NTD) due to its prevalence and intensity. The World Health Organization reports that river blindness is the “world’s second leading infectious cause of blindness.” This process prevents adults and children from participating fully in everyday life, thus perpetuating the cycle of poverty. Fortunately, the African Programme for Onchocerciasis Control has shown tremendous success in eliminating river blindness in Senegal.

Of all the people infected, 90 percent live in African Regions, particularly around fertile river valleys. In these areas around 50 percent of men over the age of 40 have been blinded because of the disease. There have been around 37 million people affected by onchocerciasis. Although the numbers remain high, they illustrate a tremendous improvement in reducing river blindness. Some countries have even been able to eliminate the disease.

Senegal

World Food Programme reports Senegal as having “persistently high poverty rates” typically around 75 percent of people living in chronic poverty. Additionally, 17 percent of people living in rural areas are food insecure. With high poverty rates often comes vulnerability to disease often due to a lack of resources and access to healthcare facilities.

In 2009, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported that river blindness in Senegal showed a drastic disappearance after just 15-17 years of annual treatments. By 2016, 7.2 million people had received treatment for various NTDs. For river blindness alone, the overall treatment coverage had increased from 51 percent to 69 percent that year. This means around 629,000 people received treatment in 2016 while 915,000 were pending treatment in Senegal.

African Programme for Onchocerciasis Control (APOC)

Much of the success in eliminating river blindness in Senegal is accredited to the African Programme for Onchocerciasis Control. In 1995, the African Programme for Onchocerciasis Control (APOC) was launched to control onchocerciasis outbreaks throughout endemic countries in Africa. With funding from the World Bank’s Trust Fund mechanism, APOC was able to allocate money in accordance with each country’s unique needs. As of 2007, APOC had spent $112 million over 12 years of operations, which is relatively low.

In 2010, a total of 75.8 million people of APOC participating countries had received treatment. Projections show that by 2020, APOC will have eliminated river blindness in 12 countries. The program is unique in that it establishes a platform for community involvement. Rural communities feel a sense of empowerment at being able to take control of the situations and help the people in their community.

Community-Directed Treatment of Invermectin (CDTI)

The African Programme for Onchocerciasis Control uses resources readily available in the participating communities, particularly citizen volunteers who conduct most of the local healthcare. Getting to rural areas is incredibly difficult due to terrain, so the implementation of mobile units was found to be ineffective. Often higher risk communities needed a response quicker than what the mobile units could execute, which is where having local volunteers is so vital.

Volunteers are locally elected and trained by professionals in APOC. Their main goals are to collect and administer the ivermectin tablets, the main medicine for treating river blindness. WHO advises a yearly dose for around 10-15 years.  Within their communities, they track and detect signs of infections. In cases were treatments require more care, volunteers are expected to help their patients get to the nearest health facility. In this process, the communities gain a sense of empowerment and engagement by being involved in solving their own health and development.

Successes

By 2006, 11 years after the program’s initial launch, APOC was able to treat 46.2 million people. By 2015, the number more than doubled to 114 million people. World Health Organization reports that in 2014, more than 112 million people were treated for onchocerciasis within 22 countries in Africa- representing 65 percent of global coverage.

World Health Organization has made plans to model the efforts of APOC. The involvement of the community in the process of medicinal distribution proved revolutionary in eliminating the presence of river blindness in Senegal. Additionally, to meet the Millennium Development Goal number one, poverty alleviation, WHO’s Strategic and Technical Advisory Group for Neglected Tropical Diseases has created a guide for further eliminating river blindness throughout Africa. Most of these goals will be reviewed in 2020.

Progress is happening. APOC was able to accomplish the seemingly impossible task of almost eliminating the presence of river blindness in Senegal. Projects will continue to be successful if they use techniques like monthly treatments and the incorporation of the people in local communities to continue in the fight against neglected tropical diseases.

Taylor Jennings
Photo: Flickr