In Benin, 36.2 percent of the population lives on less than $1.25 per day. Although the country is a stable democracy, corruption and a lack of economic development prevent Benin from raising more of its population above the poverty line.
USAID supports Benin’s development in food security, human rights, gender equality and health. The best way to help people in Benin is to show support for USAID so that Congress will continue to allocate funds to this agency.
So, how to help people in Benin? Call local congressmen and urge them to protect the International Affairs budget. Proposed budget cuts will decrease funding for USAID and the State Department by 31 percent.
Benin has a Global Food Security Index score of 40.2 out of 100. USAID supports agriculture and food security by working to increase private investment in Benin’s agriculture and by encouraging sustainable agricultural productivity.
Benin scores well on measures of effective governance compared to the rest of sub-Saharan Africa, with a political corruption rating that is about half of the average for the surrounding region (a higher score indicates more corruption). Democracy and respect for human rights are encouraged by USAID’s two anti-corruption initiatives.
A civil society support program works with communities in Benin by educating people about high-level corruption and supporting legislation that reduces the likelihood of future corruption. The National Anti-Corruption Agency, directly supported by USAID, ensures that corruption cases are seen by the Ministry of Justice and are dealt with using appropriate judicial processes.
For measures of gender equality, Benin ranks lower than the average of the surrounding region, with only 7.2 percent of seats in national parliament occupied by women. USAID bolsters the ability of service organizations to provide support to victims of gender-based violence and educates local women leaders to spread awareness about gender-based violence laws.
Benin ranks well compared to its neighbors in health measures, but still has an average life expectancy of 59 years, which is significantly shorter than that of developed nations. USAID focuses on improving access to reproductive health services, fighting malaria and HIV/AIDS and training health workers to allow people in remote communities to access basic health care.
Part of USAID’s efforts within health in Benin is dedicated to obstetric fistula repair and prevention. Every year, 1,300 women in Benin do not survive childbirth, and 26,000 suffer from postpartum complications including obstetric fistula.
This condition is characterized by a hole in the birth canal due to prolonged labor without sufficient medical attention. The condition causes leaking of feces and urine, which often results in these women being shamed and ostracized from their communities.
USAID provides funding to the Integrated Family Health Project, which partners with local NGOs to combat fistula. The program focuses on treating existing fistulas, prevention, community education and helping recovered women resume their life.
One woman in Benin developed fistula at 34 years old after a prolonged childbirth. All of her friends and family abandoned her due to the smell of leaking urine and waste.
She learned of an opportunity for fistula repair through the radio, and she was transported to a hospital and given the surgery she needed for free thanks to USAID. She thanks the program for giving her back her life.
To help people in Benin in several influential ways, give local congressmen a quick phone call to support the International Affairs budget.
– Kristen Nixon