Women's Rights in Ghana
People have explored the topic of gender rights for many decades as women’s conventional role in modern society drastically changed. This evolution changed how genders interacted with one another and challenged the conventional norms of patriarchy that went unchecked for centuries. Women’s rights in Ghana is important socially and economically. Although ahead of its neighboring counterparts economically, politically and developmentally, there is still a wide gender gap that needs bridging.

Beginning of Women’s Independence

Ghana is a West African country located on the Gulf of Guinea and enjoys a tropical climate. Ghana gained independence from British colonial rule in 1957. There is no denying the role of Ghanaian women’s benefaction to the outcome of this freedom, as it segued into the establishment of the National Council of Ghana Women in 1960. The council’s intent was to empower and benefit women’s rights in Ghana by developing vocational training centers and daycare facilities.

Efforts to propel women to the forefront of the country’s progression were lacking. The numbers show how far behind women were in comparison to their male counterparts. Ghana is “in the bottom 25% worldwide for women in parliament, healthy life expectancy, enrolment in tertiary education, literacy rate, and women in the professional and technical workforce.”

Enrollment in Tertiary Education

Tertiary education illustrated the gender gap in Ghana best. Looking at the reasons separating women from pursuing higher learning exposes the patriarchal ideology woven into society. In general, keeping girls in education raises a country’s GDP. According to a report by Water.org, increasing accessibility for children in Ghana “on a global scale, for every year a girl stays in school, her income can increase by 15-25%.”

Impact of Literacy Rates

The impact of literacy is as severe as reducing a country’s GDP. However, with such devastating numbers related to the gender gap in Ghana, the sinking literacy rates had to be addressed. Women in Ghana do not necessarily obtain the ability to read and write from receiving a formal education due to the consequences of the quick development of schools in low-income countries such as Ghana. There is a current disruption in educating students due to the exponential growth within education systems, which impacts the school’s full potential. However, the literacy rate for women in Ghana has made significant progress over the years. According to the World Bank’s data report in 2018, the literacy rate for females aged 15 or older is 74.47%. While the literacy rate for females aged 15 to 24 years old is 92.2%, increasing young girls’ independence.

Women’s Employment and Labor Force

Currently, 46.5% of the labor force in Ghana is female. However, these women participate in domestic labor, such as in the agricultural field, without any pay, which limits their independence. Despite the rights Ghanaian women have gained since the 1960s, the country has recognized that economic growth does not necessarily reduce gender-based employment and wage gaps.

Contrary to the women who receive no pay, women who earn a subsistence wage through agriculture are at risk of significant health issues due to the physically demanding nature. Ghana is a traditional-based society explaining gender-based roles. However, one nongovernmental organization defending women’s rights in Ghana is Womankind. The organization emerged in 1991 with the goal of ending violence against all women in Ghana. This can help increase their social rights and political power within the government. Over 600 women in Ghana received recognition for their professional training experience to construct their own political decisions within the last five years. The secondary school leadership roles consist of 30 young girls who studied management within the organization. As a result, this increases the chances of independence and rights for women in Ghana.

Developing Women’s Rights in Ghana

Women and men are legally equal in Ghana, and women’s rights in Ghana have made significant progress. However, multiple aspects of traditional society affect gender equality, impacting their rights as women. With educational empowerment and recognizing that economic growth does not necessarily mean women are receiving the same job opportunities as men, gender equality will be more promising in Ghana.

Montana Moore
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in CongoThe Republic of the Congo is a country located in central Africa, right next door to the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The Congo River separates the capital, Brazzaville, from the neighboring country’s capital, Kinshasa. Both cities were formerly one capital under French Equatorial territory. After the Republic of the Congo gained independence in 1960, a series of coup d’états and successive rulers from 1963-1997 lead to political and economic instability throughout the country, eventually culminating in a civil war in 1997 and ending in 2001. The inefficient political rule that followed the war exacerbated the economic devastation of the country. A dictatorial leadership under Denis Sassou Nguesso began when he became president in peace agreements formulated in 2001. The political instability in the Republic of the Congo is necessary for understanding the economic disarray throughout the population. It is also important for understanding why poverty in Congo remains rife despite international aid interventions.

What Poverty Looks Like in the Republic of the Congo

Poverty in Congo is vast and covers all areas of the country. This is mostly because the civil war displaced over one-third of the population. The return of natives to a weakened Congo led to many facing poverty and disease from poor infrastructure and government.

Rural areas are affected most out of the country, as there are many people who do not have efficient access to clean water sources or sanitation. Artesian wells or unclarified water sources account for over 20% of all water access throughout the entire country. In addition, there is little improvement in urban areas. Much of the population, almost 1.5 million, live in unplanned settlements with little sanitation procedure or adequate housing throughout the two largest cities of the country, Brazzaville and Pointe-Noire. This creates a difficult atmosphere to combat preventable diseases like malaria and various respiratory or parasitic diseases.

Another problem facing is the country is the lack of, and lack of access to, education. Over a third of the population never enrolled or completed primary school. Higher education has even less attendance, with only about 3% completing. This is mostly because there is a severe lack of access to basic educational materials. Also, many girls have little to no encouragement to get an education. This leaves half of the population out of school. This impacts the Republic of Congo’s human capital, which makes it harder for people to find jobs domestically or internationally. Therefore, this leads to a higher unemployment rate across the country. Lack of education leads to a lack of opportunity.

The Good News

The Republic of the Congo has been making great strides in trying to counteract its issues since 2001. It created The Future Path project with the aim of modernizing society as a whole. The plan also aims to industrialize the economy to help the Congo gain international footing. Increasing jobs and economic performance through large-scale building projects and international cooperation are the goals of the government.

The World Bank is currently assisting the Republic of the Congo with economics and societal development projects with 10 current national projects worth $451 million. The new Country Partnership Framework will help improve the Congo’s economic management, help create “economic diversification and strengthen its human capital and basic service provision, particularly in the areas of health, education and social protection.” Improvement of water sources and better sanitation is a priority of the government and also many initiatives funded by the World Bank. The World Bank is also financing $61.31 million in emergency COVID-19 funding to help combat the pandemic in the country. The current levels of poverty in Congo and the level of disease exposed to people exacerbate the issue of COVID-19.

What Needs to be Done

The overall gross national income of the country has improved by 50% since 2011. In addition, improvements in education account for 14% of poverty reduction as a direct result of improved standards of living. Educational skill gains and an uptick in the enrollment of girls in urban areas also attributed to lowering unemployment levels. This subsequently increased educational enrollment levels across the country. However, rural education slightly deteriorated. This is because the rural population with only primary or no educational achievement increased from 46% to 53%. This highlights how the government needs to focus the fight on poverty in Congo in rural areas. The government needs to focus on encouraging more students into education past the primary level. They must also reduce gender disparities in school to create a more holistic student body and future workforce.

Overall, the Republic of the Congo has been making great strides toward leveling its poverty numbers. While the current situation is not perfect, the reduction of poverty in Congo and the improved standards of living are miles away from what the country experienced in 2001.

– Avery Benton
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

poverty relief in haitiPlagued by historical political oppression and a series of recent natural disasters, Haiti is among the poorest nations in the Western Hemisphere today. An estimated 8.5 million Haitians live below the poverty line, 2.5 million of whom survive on $1.12 a day. Thus, it is not surprising to see an influx of immigrants from the country. According to the activist organization RAICES, Haitian immigrants make up nearly half of families detained in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) facilities. Immigration policy must consider the origin countries of migrant families and why they chose to migrate in the first place. Though the U.S. has prioritized harsh security measures at the border, investing poverty relief in Haiti may improve the situation.

Haiti’s History of Poverty

Haiti’s ongoing economic crisis stems from a long history of political unrest. From national corruption to human rights violations and the damaging effects of colonialism, Haiti’s economy has never fully recovered. After regaining independence from France, the small country owed 150 million francs to the European nation. Haiti finally finished paying off this debt in 1922.

A World Bank report estimated that 6.3 million Haitian citizens could not afford certain consumer goods in 2012, while another 2.5 million struggled just to buy food. Additionally, despite some poverty relief in Haiti, about half of the population cannot access public services. From 2001 to 2012, Haiti saw improvements in tap water, energy and sanitation accessibility, but coverage rates remain well below 50%. Furthermore, recent statistics from the World Bank claim that Haiti’s GDP per capita was only $756 in 2019. This poverty, along with a particular susceptibility to natural disasters, creates incentives for mass migration from Haiti.

The Price of Immigration Enforcement

When it comes to immigration enforcement, the U.S. spares no expense. The American Immigration Council found that, since 2003, the federal government has spent approximately $381 billion on immigration control. The U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and ICE  have grown, with nearly triple their original budgets today. In 2020, federal spending was $8.4 billion for ICE and $16.9 billion for CBP.

Despite the generous contributions to these enforcement agencies, immigration issues have not necessarily disappeared. Instead, this tough approach at the border has created a new set of problems. Claims of trafficking, abuse of power by enforcement officials and poor conditions in holding facilities have surrounded the departments. Specifically, RAICES found that Haitian and other Black immigrants face discrimination and mistreatment while under ICE custody.

With an estimated 40,000 Haitians making up a large portion of border detainees, some government officials are proposing investing in poverty relief in Haiti. Politicians, such as Rep. Frederica S. Wilson (D-FL), are fighting to restore stability in Haiti during the pandemic. Wilson and some of her colleagues believe that this will have a slowing effect on migration.

Poverty Relief in Haiti Shows Promise

The World Bank has demonstrated the benefits of investing in poverty relief in Haiti. From 2000 to 2012, extreme poverty decreased by 7.4% largely due to economic progress in Haiti’s big cities. Similarly, poverty rates in rural areas reached 74.9%, while the country’s capital, Port-au-Prince, only had a rate of 29.2%. By increasing and distributing aid, the rest of the country can achieve poverty reduction rates similar to those in urban regions.

The same report details how, with the help of the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries Initiative, Haiti eliminated a large part of its public debt. This in turn increased the economy by 2.3% annually from 2005 to 2009. The financial help also “contributed to the generation of optimism in the country and among the country’s partners.”

Researchers urge U.S. policymakers to begin looking at remittances as having investment returns. For example, temporary work visas significantly bolster Haiti’s economy and raise the quality of life for Haitian households. This lessens the need for migration. If the U.S. changes its perspective on immigration, it could begin developing a mutually beneficial relationship with Haiti while decreasing emigration.

Lizt Garcia
Photo: Flickr

Vaccines in Developing CountriesHow much can the world really rely on vaccines as a cure to disease? For many impoverished communities, the jury is still out; many recent studies show that vaccines in developing countries are more ineffective than those in developed, high-income nations.

However, developing countries are at greater risk for all infectious diseases than developed countries. The World Health Organization (WHO) documented that the “total number of healthy life years lost per capita was 15-times higher in developing countries than in developed countries.” In addition to this imbalance, vaccines in developing countries also threaten these nations with ineffective treatment. Due to the many factors that impact disease, it is difficult to pinpoint specific causes behind vaccine acceptance or denial. However, the health effects of poverty contribute to the reasons why vaccines in developing countries are often ineffective.

How Poverty Increases Sickness

Poverty is a health epidemic. In 2008, PBS aired an original docu-series called “Unnatural Causes” that outlined the ways diseases disproportionately affect poor and marginalized groups. The show posed one overarching, famous question: “Is inequality making us sick?” In the assessment of vaccine effectiveness in rich versus poor countries, the creators of “Unnatural Causes” say the answer is yes.

A functioning immune system is largely responsible for an individual’s ability to make antibodies, the infection-fighting proteins developed via vaccines. Impoverished people often do not have high-functioning immune systems. This means that they cannot produce antibodies as well as their developed-nation counterparts.

Multiple factors contribute to the prevalence of ineffective immune systems in developing countries. The overpopulation and crowding common in low socioeconomic areas increase the risk of disease exposure. Pre-existing health conditions, resulting from vitamin deficiency and little clean water or sanitation, increase individual susceptibility to sickness. Further, unreliable health care places systemic, structural constraints on impoverished communities. In this way, poverty and disease continually reinforce each others’ negative effects.

Comparison Studies: Developed Nations vs. Developing Nations

Water-borne diseases, malaria, tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS continually afflict developing countries. They may be responsible for damaging people’s natural immunity, thus decreasing the likelihood of vaccine acceptance. Indeed, one study found that these diseases “may damage lymph node structures that are crucial to developing immunity after a vaccine.”

This study from the University of Minnesota compared Americans to Ugandans. Researchers discovered all the Ugandans had “significantly higher levels of inflammation in their bodies and a depleted supply of protective T cells.” In addition, the Ugandan’s lymph nodes (which help filter infections and respond to vaccines) were inflamed and scarred. None of the American participants had these issues. After administering a yellow fever vaccine to the Ugandan test subjects, researchers discovered a positive correlation. The more damaged their lymph nodes, the less likely it was for antibodies to form.

Another series of studies in Dhaka, Bangladesh discovered that a poor response to vaccines in developing countries could be correlated to the small intestinal bacteria endemic to low-income countries. Petri’s team surmised that “inflammation [in the intestine] could prevent vaccines from lingering in the gut and could keep the immune system from reacting to them.” The team also identified a similar issue with rotavirus vaccine response. In contrast, 98% of children in the developed world do not have complications after vaccination.

The Future of Vaccines

According to the World Bank, “nearly half of the world lives on less than $5.50 a day.” In addition, only 59 of the 195 countries in the world possess a Human Development Index (HDI) at or above 0.8, making them developed countries. This means that ineffective vaccination responses affect the majority of the world’s nations. Thus, the world needs a systemic change in public health to fix this issue. Studies in Bangladesh and Africa “are testing whether sanitation interventions such as installing hand-washing stations in rural homes” can relieve the gut inflammation thought to be causing poor responses to vaccination.

However, even though vaccines in developing countries are sometimes ineffective, routine vaccination for infants and children may help. Young children are less likely to have the long-term health effects responsible for ineffective responses to vaccines, with the exception of illnesses inherited from a mother’s womb. WHO estimates that approximately 70% of the 9 million deaths from children under five “could be prevented or treated with access to simple, affordable interventions,” including vaccines.

Vaccinating Children in Developing Countries

Still, the complicated relationship to vaccines in the developing world is palpable. One study in India found that there is only a 55% rotavirus vaccine efficacy rate in young children. However, India’s plan to make the rotavirus vaccination routine may “save 27,000 of the 78,000 young lives that infections claim every year.”

Thus, expanding coverage of vaccines in developing countries has proven successful in many cases. Various programs work to extend this success. Since 1990, WHO’s Expanded Programme on Immunization has helped decrease mortality rates among infants and children via vaccination. The Global Vaccine Alliance has also “vaccinated more than half a billion additional children since its founding in 2000,” often in developing countries. While routine vaccination is not a panacea, it helps prevent disease before long-term health issues develop.

Improving World Health

Obviously, this is a hefty challenge. Changing human response to vaccines will take years of improving sanitation and living conditions. In addition, developed countries often receive vaccines first and in larger quantities due to having more money. In the meantime, scientists and doctors are experimenting with speedier methods to the vaccine problem. Take mesalazine, a drug that treats the bowel inflammation preventing antibody response to vaccines. This drug could possibly treat unreliable oral vaccines for stomach illnesses. Recognizing the issue of vaccines in developing countries is the first steps in improving global health.

Grace Ganz
Photo: Flickr

Limited access to healthcare is a challenge that millions of people face globally. According to data collected by the World Bank and W.H.O., roughly half of the global population had no way to access necessary health services in December 2017. The high costs of getting healthcare forced nearly 100 million people into poverty that year. For hundreds of millions of people across the world, even basic healthcare is economically out of reach. Unfortunately, COVID-19 has put additional strain on healthcare systems around the globe. The pandemic has disrupted medicine supply chains in many parts of the world, preventing vital medical supplies from reaching hospitals in a timely manner. This is particularly dangerous for developing countries with healthcare systems that were already struggling to meet their countries’ needs. However, recent technological innovations like BraineHealth are seeking to revolutionize healthcare to overcome these issues.

How BraineHealth Can Help

This problem may seem insurmountable, but not to BraineHealth. The Swedish company is hoping to use artificial intelligence and robotics to make healthcare more accessible for people throughout the world. BraineHealth’s healthcare innovations can apply many areas of healthcare, such as primary healthcare, senior healthcare and mental health services. In all these areas, BraineHealth hopes to connect doctors and other medical professionals with their patients in a way that is easy, affordable and safe.

With BraineHealth’s system, patients could potentially receive diagnoses and expert medical consultations without having to leave their homes. This would reduce medical costs and travel expenses for patients, and it would provide a safer alternative to in-person appointments. Here are four BraineHealth programs that seek to revolutionize healthcare.

4 BraineHealth Programs Revolutionizing Healthcare

  1. Artificial Intelligence: BraineHealth is developing an AI program that will allow for quicker and more efficient remote diagnoses. This program receives information about a patient’s symptoms provided by the patient and analyzes this report. By examining it against a database of thousands of documented diagnoses, the algorithm can provide as accurate a diagnosis as possible.
  2. Diabetio: This program combines social robotics and artificial intelligence to assist diabetic patients with managing their diabetes. The Diabetio robot will help manage the patient’s carbohydrate intake, and it will keep the patient informed about whether they are at risk of developing diabetes. To help the patient most efficiently, this program will retain and process information about the patient’s daily activities.
  3. Medipacker: BraineHealth is also looking to revolutionize healthcare by expanding access to medical information and education through its Medipacker education program. This program aims to give backpackers the opportunity to become qualified first-aid providers at little to no cost. By removing economic barriers to first-aid education, BraineHealth hopes to encourage more people around the world to learn about emergency medicine.
  4. InEmpathy: Recently, BraineHealth has partnered with the charity InEmpathy. InEmpathy’s work focuses on building better systems of healthcare in developing countries. Crucially, this organization is now helping to bring BraineHealth’s technological innovations to communities in need. BraineHealth will therefore be able to adapt its technologies to best fit the needs of their destination countries.

Looking to the Future

Millions worldwide lack adequate access to healthcare. Even in areas that have hospitals, the costs of health services are often too high for poor communities. Using technological innovation, BraineHealth is working to revolutionize healthcare so that the people in these communities can have access to healthcare that would otherwise be out of reach.

Marshall Kirk
Photo: Flickr

SDG 1 in the United Republic of TanzaniaAs of July 1, 2020, the World Bank reclassified the United Republic of Tanzania from a “low-income” nation to a “lower-middle-income” nation. This new status results from a variety of indicators that inform the nation’s Gross National Income (GNI) per capita, such as economic growth, exchange rates and more. While GNI per capita is not a direct measurement of poverty reduction, it does indicate that Tanzania’s economy is progressing in the right direction to meet the U.N.’s first Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) to eradicate poverty globally by 2030. Updates on SDG Goal 1 in the United Republic of Tanzania make it clear that while the country has not met the goal yet, it has overseen a significant reduction in extreme poverty in the last few decades. Here are some updates on SDG Goal 1 in the United Republic of Tanzania.

Updates on SDG Goal 1 in the United Republic of Tanzania

The World Bank’s 2019 Mainland Poverty Assessment found that extreme poverty in the United Republic of Tanzania fell from 11.7% in 2007 to 8.0% in 2018. This significant improvement comes with the finding that the severity of poverty has also declined during this period, meaning that Tanzanians living under the poverty line have become less poor on average.

However, while a smaller proportion of the Tanzanian population lives in extreme poverty today, many remain vulnerable. For every four people who can move out of poverty in Tanzania, three individuals fall into poverty. This demonstrates the constant financial instability that many non-poor Tanzanians face. It also illustrates the importance of effective social welfare programs in reducing vulnerability.

The Importance of Investing in the Rural Economy

One of the initiatives that has contributed to these updates on SDG Goal 1 in the United Republic of Tanzania is a project funded by the African Development Bank. The program, which rolled out in stages between 2012 and 2017, developed market infrastructure and improved the financial security of rural Tanzanians. Its $56.8 million budget allowed it to reach 6.1 million Tanzanians spanning 32 districts. The multifaceted program had a significant impact on the livelihoods of its recipients. Approximately 78% reported an increase in their income after participating in the program. Indeed, the program raised beneficiaries’ average income from $41 in 2012 to $133 in 2017.

In the last few decades, most poverty reduction in Tanzania occurred in rural areas. This is significant because of the persistent disparity in living standards and wealth between rural and urban areas. Although rural households still lag behind urban ones on most indicators of wealth, poverty reduction programs in rural Tanzania helped to narrow this gap. The African Development Bank’s program, for example, refurbished roads and created warehouses in rural areas. This reduced transportation costs for Tanzanian farmers and led to a drop in “post-harvest losses.”

Reforming the Private Sector for Poverty Reduction

The majority of Tanzanians work in the informal sector. Unfortunately, this lack of access to formal finance limits small business owners’ ability rise out of poverty. In order to continue making progress on eliminating extreme poverty in Tanzania, the government and external actors must remain focused on this issue.

Recently, the African Development Bank announced that it will focus its efforts on economic growth in Tanzania’s private sector. In December 2019, the Bank approved a $55 million facility support to the government in implementing regulatory reforms in the private sector. The Bank believes this is a necessary step toward creating an inclusive business landscape in the nation. Additionally, this effort should help Tanzania progress toward SDG Goal 1 by creating more equal and plentiful employment opportunities for Tanzanians.

COVID-19 and Updates on SDG Goal 1 in the United Republic of Tanzania

Due to its focus on economic growth, the Tanzanian government has enacted a relatively lax response to COVID-19 compared to neighboring countries. However, tourism made up 11.7% of Tanzania’s GDP in 2019. Because the pandemic has hit the tourism industry hard, Tanzania’s economy has suffered. In addition, a reduction in agricultural exports has greatly affected the Tanzanian economy. The combination of these factors will inevitably impact the nation’s poor. A study by the International Growth Centre shows that the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent social distancing and lockdown measures have put approximately 9.1% of sub-Saharan Africa back into extreme poverty. As such, the pandemic has certainly hindered Tanzania’s progress on SDG Goal 1.

Looking forward, Tanzania will need a collaborative effort to lift Tanzanians out of extreme poverty once the pandemic is over. The Tanzanian government as well as international actors must work together to recoup Tanzania’s progress toward achieving SDG Goal 1. Though the pandemic has caused some setbacks, Tanzania must continue to focus on poverty eradication in order to meet this goal.

Leina Gabra
Photo: Flickr

innovations in poverty eradication in zimbabweLocated in southern Africa, Zimbabwe is characterized by impressive landscapes and diverse wildlife. Currently, Zimbabwe is suffering from immense poverty. In 2019, extreme poverty was at 34% in Zimbabwe, an increase from 29% in 2018. Furthermore, this represents a change from 4.7 million to 5.7 million people living in poverty. The cause of this swift increase was an economic contraction of around 8%. The World Bank expects a continued increase in extreme poverty in Zimbabwe in 2020. Fortunately, many organizations are working on innovations in poverty eradication in Zimbabwe to combat this problem.

Hyperinflation and Drought

In addition to a general economic downturn, several droughts across Zimbabwe have caused the prices for food and other essential goods to rise. These same droughts slumped agricultural production, especially in rural communities, where people were hit the hardest by this downturn.

The African nation has also been struggling with hyperinflation for more than a decade. This problem results from economic mismanagement by the nation’s previous president, Robert Mugabe. The Zimbabwean dollar lost 85% of its value against the American dollar between February and December of 2019. According to Trading Economics, Zimbabwe’s inflation rate was 737.3% in June 2020, growing to 837.5% by July 2020. As such, Zimbabwe faces severe hyperinflation, which does not help with its fight against widespread poverty. Here are two innovations in poverty eradication in Zimbabwe that are aiming to solve this problem.

Children in the Wilderness

One of these innovations in poverty eradication in Zimbabwe is a project by Children in the Wilderness (CITW), which started in February 2020. The project’s goal is to generate income within rural regions by creating businesses for women to operate. In northern Matabeleland, poverty levels are high due to a lack of diverse income-generating fields. Previously, this land relied on farming to produce income; however, unreliable rainfall and poor soil have made this method ineffective. Families now rely on an average monthly income of $9. This makes it a challenge to survive and prohibits many families from sending their children to school, which could help lift them out of poverty.

In response, CITW hosted classes that educated women on business and budgeting. The women who participated learned how to apply their innovative ideas, make money from their crafting skills and sell their work. CITW’s teachings have also promoted sustainability and self-management amongst the community. For example, the project provided a way to recycle unwanted waste by having women use it in basket weaving. To help women sell these goods, CITW pitches the crafts to businesses around Hwange National Park and Victoria Falls. As these businesses grow, poverty in northern Matabeleland will decrease. Importantly, CITW’s project has not only worked to eradicate poverty but has also brought women together and built pride in their local culture.

The Shoe That Grows

In 2020, CITW arrived in Tsholotsho, an area heavily affected by poverty, to act on a donation made by Melissa Cabrera Wilson. Wilson aims to ease the effects of poverty on children by providing them with another of many innovations in poverty eradication in Zimbabwe. The Shoe That Grows brand has provided children in Tsholotsho with something that most of them will never receive: new shoes. Without this donation, children would have to use shoes that have been passed down to them or nothing at all. So far, CITW has donated more than 45 shoes. The shoes can adjust from sizes one to four, allowing them to be used as the children grow. This innovation has given children relief from the harsh terrain they must walk miles on to get to school every day.

Hit by poverty and hyperinflation, Zimbabwe’s citizens are struggling. With these innovations in poverty eradication in Zimbabwe, they are beginning to overcome poverty step by step. The income-generating groups in northern Matabeleland will have a lasting effect on citizens, as a reliable and creative source of income is game-changing. Additionally, the shoes given to children in Zimbabwe and all over the world have also softened the harsh results of poverty on kids. In all, these innovations in poverty eradication in Zimbabwe have made life more tolerable for many of those affected.

Emma Green
Photo: Flickr

Sub-Saharan African SlumsSub-Saharan Africa is experiencing a housing crisis. While around one billion people live in slums around the globe, 200 million of those live in sub-Saharan African slums. This number represents “61.7% of the region’s urban population,” making sub-Saharan Africa the highest in the world for urban poverty.

Sub-Saharan African Slums and Urban Poverty

Singumbe Muyeba, assistant professor of African Studies at the University of Denver, spoke with The Borgen Project about development intervention and sub-Saharan African slums. Muyeba’s expertise in these areas stems from his academic work but also from his work for the United Nations’ High Commission for Refugees and Development Program.

According to Muyeba, sub-Saharan African slums began when African countries gained independence from colonialist rule from the 1960s through the ‘80s. Since colonialists always reserved major cities for themselves, Africans everywhere migrated from rural to urban areas after independence. However, that meant infant governments had to keep up with increasing urban populations. They were unable to do so due to the skyrocketing rates of urbanization.

With housing rapidly diminishing as Africans moved into cities, they began settling onto common land, eventually creating the sprawling slums that still exist today. Even now, the sub-Saharan African urban population is annually growing at 4%. A projection from the U.N. reveals that “the world’s 10 fastest growing cities, between 2018 and 2035, will all be in Africa.” In addition, there is a backlog of 51 million housing units in Africa. The region’s supply of housing is “about nine years behind current demand,” according to Muyeba.

Slum Upgrading Programs

The World Bank has funded slum upgrading programs to combat rising urban poverty in sub-Saharan Africa. These programs assigned property rights and provided access to services in hopes to empower slum residents with their own land. However, as Muyeba explained, these programs were largely “self-help” models. The World Bank simply gave impoverished individuals property rights and no means to build their own housing.

Since “about 97% to 99% of people in sub-Saharan Africa do not have access to formal financing” that allows them to build or buy a home, people haphazardly build their own informal housing or remain in slums. Formal and sustainable housing only accounts for 10% of all urban African housing. While handing out free titles and property rights looks good on paper, this “slum upgrading” has not improved slums.

Ongoing Problems in Slums

While sub-Saharan Africa housing conditions improved by 11% from 2000-2015,  this improvement was “twice as likely in the wealthiest households” and “80% more likely among more educated households.” The reality is that 80-90% of Africans work in the informal sector, and the majority of people living in sub-Saharan African cities live in slums. Therefore, this housing improvement did not occur in the slums, which many people cannot escape.

George Compound, a slum in Lusaka, Zambia, serves as a perfect example of a poorly executed upgrade program. It is a major slum with 400,000 inhabitants, but it does not have adequate running water. The water it does have from makeshift wells is contaminated with nearby ground toilets.

In Muyeba’s opinion, government involvement is necessary to fix the African housing crisis. While he is not against privatization, he believes the neoliberal model is not working to improve sub-Saharan African slums.

Can Governments Fix the Housing Crisis?

However, even if African governments want to get involved in building housing, they cannot. This is because of the World Bank’s international economic rulings on aid and upgrade programs. “The system is set up in such a way that the World Bank advocates for less involvement of the government following the Structural Adjustment Programs implemented in the 80s and 90s,” stated Muyeba.

In order to receive aid through the World Bank’s structural adjustment programs, governments often have to delegate building to the private sector. However, the private sector cannot make a real profit from low-income housing because so many Africans and slum-dwellers are part of the informal sector. People in poverty cannot get mortgages because they lack access to credit or insurance. This prevents the private sector from serving poor Africans.

Muyeba firmly believes “there are wins everywhere” if governments (with the help of communities and the private sector) build housing. The construction sector can benefit from large-scale projects, while infrastructure creates jobs. Individuals in slums can focus their attention on making income rather than worrying about basic housing needs.

Muyeba offered Kenya as an example of combined state, private and community partnerships to combat urban poverty. Currently, the country has implemented its own kind of slum upgrading program in which the government builds housing and guarantees mortgages.

Organizations Helping People in Sub-Saharan African Slums

Outside organizations and NGOs are actively working to help housing poverty in sub-Saharan African slums. Habitat for Humanity completed a six-year program in 2018 called “Building Assets, Unlocking Access.” This program worked in Uganda and Kenya to offer technical help and “develop housing microfinance products and services.” Habitat for Humanity’s approach allowed Africans to progressively build their own housing, access small-scale loans and set up small payments.

More than 42,000 individuals accessed microfinance loans through the program, which impacted more than 210,000 people in total. In addition, 32.9% of loan recipients built entire houses for themselves and their families.

A report from the project found that recipients also upgraded their housing with improved roofing, walls, sanitation and electricity. Additionally, the program caused trickle-down effects in health. Fewer people reported common ailments like “sore throats, shortness of breath, itchy eyes, blocked noses, vomiting and rashes” due to healthier housing. The most improved group was children under six.

Hopefully, all African cities struggling with urban poverty can create domestic housing projects or find new, inventive ways to help the housing crisis. All in all, the solution to sub-Saharan African slums is housing. According to Muyeba, “It’s a no brainer.”

Grace Ganz
Photo: Flickr

HelpAge InternationalThe World Bank estimates that the number of people living below the global poverty line, or those who live on less than $1.90 a day, has decreased by nearly 40% since 1990. This is largely due to the efforts of the United Nations and other global partnerships. Although these organizations are making outstanding progress, one demographic remains in seemingly inexorable poverty: the elderly. Fortunately, organizations like HelpAge International focus on helping elderly people around the world overcome poverty.

Many elderly people have little ability to provide for themselves. A lack of income, support and resources, may keep them in poverty. This is particularly prevalent in low-income countries. Especially during COVID-19, elderly people need more help than ever as they are at greater risk for infection and death. While more organizations are recognizing challenges facing older populations worldwide, their assistance is not enough to give the elderly the stability they need to lead healthier lives. This is where HelpAge International steps in.

Aging in Poverty

According to the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs Program on Ageing (UNDESA), the average poverty level for populations over 75 years old in OECD countries, or members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, is 14.7%. This represents a 3.5% increase in poverty compared to those who are between 66 and 75, an astonishing rate for the world’s most prosperous nations in terms of world trade and investment. Statistics are unclear regarding elderly poverty rates in developing countries due to a lack of consistent data collection.

However, UNDESA explains that the “absence of social protection systems [in low-income countries] … are usually not sufficient to guarantee adequate income security.” Social protection systems are vital for the elderly who reduce their work hours as they age or stop working entirely due to dementia or other health conditions. Without those systems, they are left alone in inescapable poverty. What is more concerning is that the number of people across the world who are 80 years old or more is surging. An estimated 434 million people will reach this age group by 2050, two-thirds of whom will reside in underdeveloped nations. Therefore, poverty rates among elderly populations will not only become more severe, but they will also become more widespread, creating an even greater need for assistance programs.

HelpAge International

After witnessing older refugee abandonment during the Somalia and Ethiopia wars, Sir Lesley Kirkley, Chair of Help the Aged’s Overseas Committee, and Chris Beer, the organization’s future CEO, formed HelpAge International in 1983 with the goal of creating a solid global support system.

The project initially began in Canada, Colombia, Kenya, India and the United Kingdom but has since spread to include 80 countries. Eye and community care were the initial priorities, but HelpAge International’s mission has evolved into delivering all necessary resources to help elderly men and women overcome poverty. The organization aims to create an inclusive, non-discriminatory environment for all older adults. Here are some of HelpAge International’s contributions and accolades.

  1. In 1999, HelpAge International distributed recommendations that specifically addressed elderly care during emergency response situations.
  2. In 2002, HelpAge aided in the formation of the United Nations Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing, a plan focusing exclusively on elderly development, health and prosperity progress. The plan also aims to create sensitive and sympathetic environments for older adults.
  3. Also in 2002, HelpAge International launched an education initiative intended to teach the elderly about their rights, social pensions, access to healthcare and lobbying opportunities.
  4. In 2007, HelpAge participated in Age Demands Action, a global initiative to mobilize the elderly to express their policy and issue concerns to their governments.
  5. In 2012, HelpAge received the Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize, recognizing the organization for its efforts in reducing global human suffering.
  6. Since 1980, HelpAge International has performed more than 45,000 surgeries in India alone aimed at restoring sight to the elderly.

COVID-19 Response

Elderly people have suffered the most from COVID-19, with more than 50% of deaths occurring in people aged 65 years or older since mid-April 2020. Underlying health conditions and lack of access to care and information cause many COVID-19 deaths in Venezuela and Jordan. HelpAge Venezuela is focusing its efforts in La Guajira, an underdeveloped and overpopulated area that rarely receives humanitarian aid. In partnership with Humanity and Inclusion and Pastoral Social, HelpAge is providing psychosocial support and COVID-19 awareness classes to the elderly via radio in order to reach remote populations.

The organization coordinated a more detailed and widespread response in Jordan by implementing several preventive and protective measures. HelpAge is serving elderly Jordanians by monitoring food and medicine deliveries across communities, delivering hygiene kits, providing financial assistance and conducting weekly remote outreach programs. All together, these actions affect more than 5,000 people. For its outstanding impact, the government of Jordan recognized HelpAge International as a crucial COVID-19 first responder and acknowledged its unique dedication to solely serving the elderly.

Impact

In its nearly 40-year existence, HelpAge International has changed thousands of lives worldwide, focusing on those neglected by other aid organizations. Seventy-three-year-old Salem Thyab Al Salaimeh of La Guajira, Venezuela expressed his gratitude to HelpAge for finally providing him and his family with protection, safety and comfort. Neither he, his 110-year-old mother nor his fellow elderly siblings had ever been helped by any organization until HelpAge began operations in Venezuela. Hopefully, as HelpAge International grows, more elderly people like Salaimeh and his family will receive the proper care, support and attention they deserve in order to escape poverty. By overcoming the poverty-induced challenges that hinder their ability to survive, the elderly will have greater potential to remain healthy and thrive.

Natalie Clark
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Power Production
Development programs often emphasize distributing a needed resource to as many people as possible. Once a program or company finishes with an area, it moves onto the next one. However, that strategy risks leaving people in poor, especially rural areas with infrastructure they may not know how to keep up. One such infrastructure is power production.

Electric Supply in Nigeria

Take the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) as an example. It was owned by the government, was the only centralized electric company there and contributed to less than 1% of the country’s GDP. In the U.S., electricity production and movement accounts for five times that GDP percentage. As the country with the second-most total economic activity in Africa, PHCN is a significant player and has the potential to be a leader for the rest of the continent. The inefficiency of power production and the deterioration of existing lines and plants, however, seriously hurt growth. Most Nigerians, if they have power at all, can only use it erratically. If they want a steadier supply, they must rely on fossil fuel generators, which is simply unattainable for many low-income families and groups.

Proposed Solutions for Reliable Electricity

The lack of consistency in power production hurts far more than it may initially seem. If the industry cannot produce with regularity, other countries will outcompete Nigerians in most cases, compounding the issue of growth already present. Even when the industry does get power, it is more expensive because so much of it is lost – the system is currently working at 1/3 capacity, producing less than 3,900 MW for the whole country. With all these issues, it’s obvious that there needs to be a change. Some solutions that the government and other groups proposed are:

  1. Privatization: In theory, letting in investors should allow people to run the power sector of Nigeria with much more efficiency. Additionally, it can reduce the amount of corruption by separating power production from a not-so democratically elected government. This happened in 2012 when control passed to many oligarchs in the Nigerian GENCO group. However, privatization may widen the income gap between the rich and poor, where the top 1% already have 82% of the country’s wealth.
  2. Grants: Many organizations can give money to improve the general infrastructure directly. The World Bank gave Nigeria one such grant in 2018 of around $500 million. This money focuses on increasing access to and stabilizing the already existing power grid that supports 50% of the population. Although $500 million may seem like a lot of money, it’s an investment that can pay off for American and other developed countries’ businesses, as Nigerians can make more wealth and spend it in other parts of the world.
  3. Rethinking the System: The limited amount of energy-producing plants creates an opportunity for alternative energy solutions. Nigeria could invest in greener energy solutions, such as solar panels and wind turbines that produce power locally. Since long-distance power lines lose 7% of their energy, localizing production could save hundreds of megawatts, increasing stability and accessibility. This could also reduce environmental challenges due to greenhouse gases.

Improving access to electricity in developing countries like Nigeria is no easy feat. However, teaching proper maintenance techniques is essential no matter what path the country decides to take. That’s how power will get to the last 50% of Nigerians and be stable for everyone in the nation.

Michael Straus
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