Disability in Palestine
Palestine has one of the highest poverty rates in the world. The country has endured decades of political and violent conflict with Israel. Palestinians must also battle increasing unemployment as well as a lack of resources. These factors are particularly detrimental for Palestinians with disabilities. Disability in Palestine is an ongoing issue, and poverty influences it further.

The Challenge of Disability

Over 15% of the world’s population suffers from some form of disability. These range from impairment in vision, hearing, and mobility to trouble with memory and communication. However, developing countries are more vulnerable to disabilities due to their limited access to health care, education, water, sanitation, and electricity.

The World Health Organization estimates that one billion people worldwide live with disability or impairment. About 130,000 of these individuals live in Palestine. Of the 5.4 million Palestine refugees registered with UNRWA within Palestine, Lebanon, and Syria, 795,000 of them have a disability. In Occupied Palestine, 31.2% of elderly Palestinian have one or more kinds of disability. Additionally, more males suffer from disabilities than females, and about 20% of individuals with a disability in Palestine are under 18 years old.

Much of the disability in Palestine is a result of limited resources and an increase in violence. Insufficient prenatal and postnatal care, malnutrition, and inadequate medical services all contribute to prolonged disability and impairment. This lack of proper and adequate services is a result of the Israeli blockade and occupation, which prevents Palestinians from accessing goods and services.

The increase in violence also has a direct effect on the number of disabled individuals. There have been recent waves of violence and aggression in Palestine in 2009, 2012, and 2014. As a result, large numbers of Palestinians have been serious injuries. Out of the 11,231 Palestinians affected by these outbursts of violence, 10% experienced injuries that resulted in life-long disabilities.

The Effects of Disability

Disability can dramatically affect the livelihood of afflicted individuals. The education and health care systems are largely operated by UNRWA and USAID related programs through humanitarian assistance and funds. UNRWA has developed Disability Inclusion Programs, but very few of these initiatives focus on individuals with disabilities or increasing access to necessary services. In 2011, 42.2% of Palestinians with disabilities in Gaza and 35.5% in the West Bank never enrolled in school. Further, 27.1% of Palestinians with disabilities dropped out of school and 56.3% were illiterate.

Acquiring access to health care and rehabilitation is very difficult, especially in Gaza due to restricted movement and blockades. The same is true for access to medicine, supplies, and staffing. Having a disability, without the proper resources to acquire treatment, education, or income, can greatly increase the risk of poverty for an individual and their family. If an individual with a disability is already below the poverty line, their chances of escaping poverty are greatly reduced.

Having a disability in Palestine also hinders employment. The poverty rate in Palestine is 25%, and unemployment reached about 29% across the board. Over 90% of individuals with disabilities in Gaza don’t have employment. This is mostly because of the lack of accessible infrastructure, transport, toilets, and assistive devices and services in these workplaces. The presence of disability, especially an insufficiently treated disability, prevents individuals from completing education and finding employment, which lends itself to poverty.

Wrap Up

Disability is a challenge in every country. Palestine in particular is not unfamiliar with the hurdles facing individuals with disabilities. From the lack of adequate health care services to the lack of education and employment accessibility, individuals with a disability in Palestine are continuously vulnerable. Employers, educators, governmental organizations. and NGOs should work together to create a much more inclusive environment. There needs to be improvements in infrastructure and providing more resources and accessibility for Palestinians with disabilities.

Nada Abuasi
Photo: Flickr

In 2012, the Emergency Infrastructure Renewal Project was approved in Cote d’Ivoire. The project’s goal is to create easier access to infrastructure in Cote d’Ivoire in the rural and urban areas. The project is set to run until 2020 and will create new all-weather roads through many rural areas as well as other advancements to help further Cote d’Ivoire’s economy. The bulk of the project, around 30 percent, will focus on urban transport.

In the last five years since the Emergency Infrastructure Renewal Project began, many Ivoirians have already begun to reap the benefits of the project, especially those in the rural and impoverished areas. The following are five positive consequences that have directly resulted from the project.

  1. Access to Electricity: By 2017, over 9,000 people in urban areas were granted access to electricity by household connections.
  2. Potable Water: The project has helped bring healthy drinking water to more citizens of Cote d’Ivoire. In 2017, 3,735,000 people had access to improved drinking water, versus only three million in 2012.
  3. Access to Primary Education: The new infrastructure in Cote d’Ivoire has also increased access to primary education in the rural areas to over 18,000 people in 2017.
  4. Better Health Care Centers: Thanks to the advancements made by the Emergency Infrastructure Renewal Project, 1,400,000 people now have access to adequate health care centers in the rural and impoverished urban areas.
  5. Increased Employment: The new infrastructure in Cote d’Ivoire has increased employment opportunities across the country and lowered the unemployment rate to 9.32 percent in 2016.

Unfortunately, despite these advancements in infrastructure in Cote d’Ivoire, the country has still had many setbacks. In 2015, statistics showed that nearly 46 percent of Cote d’Ivoire’s population lived below the poverty line. Many of these people live in rural areas where the advancements from the project have not yet reached.

Ultimately, the infrastructure in Cote d’Ivoire is slowly helping advance the country’s economy. Most of the major benefits will take years to come into full effect. The maturity limit on the Emergency Infrastructure Renewal Project is set for about 40 years, giving Ivoirians plenty of time to help contribute to the project and start harvesting their benefits.

– Courtney Wallace

Photo: Flickr

One in nine people worldwide have little access to clean water, and, in developing countries, 80 percent of illnesses stem from unclean water and lack of sanitation. Water is the most integral component required to sustain human life, and in 2010, the United Nations General Assembly recognized clean drinking water and sanitation as an essential human right. Here are five innovative new ways organizations and people are working on the problem of how to provide access to clean water throughout the world:

The OmniProcessor

Invented by Peter Janicki and his team at Janicki BioEnergy, the OmniProcessor is a machine that can convert 14 tons of sewage into water and electricity. The OmniProcessor can have an enormous impact on the two billion people on the planet who cannot properly dispose of waste. This waste eventually makes its way into water sources, which contaminates it and can spread diseases such as cholera and dysentery. The OmniProcessor solves both problems with one machine. Bill Gates, whose foundation gave Janicki a grant to research the OmniProcessor once stated, “If you can get thousands of these things out there, then you have ensured the people will grow up healthily.”

The SaTo Pan

This innovative toilet, supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, is an alternative to open defecation, and a game-changer when looking at the problem of how to provide access to clean water. The toilet is made of plastic and thus is much more affordable that other restroom alternatives.  The toilet works by closing off the pit latrine from the open air and reducing the amount of water needed to flush waste. This simple but inventive SaTo pan (the name is derived from “Safe Toilet”) prevents water from being contaminated by waste left behind by open defecation and is a sure step in the journey to provide clean water access to all.


SODIS (Solar Water Disinfection) is a method ideal for purifying water in developing countries. All one has to do is take a clear plastic bottle, fill it with clear water and set it out in the sun for six hours or more. The UV rays in the sunlight hitting the bottles will kill viruses, bacteria and parasites that may contaminate the water, making it clean and safe to drink. SODIS is an easy, safe and inexpensive method which makes it ideal for the world’s poor.


Another solution for the problem of how to provide access to clean water is to empower the people searching for access. Microloans are a way of doing just this, providing small loans to people who otherwise would not be approved for loans at all. According to a study done by A. M. Muazam Husain, “microcredit loans provided to women in Bangladesh increased the presence of latrines in their households from nine to 26 percent over three years.” When given the opportunity, people without clean water and proper sanitation, especially women in families with children to look after, actively seek it out.  This kind of change is sustainable because it teaches individuals to solve their problems without the help of outsiders.

The Water Project

The Water Project is an innovative non-profit that does on-the-ground work in sub-Saharan Africa to build wells, dams and systems to catch rainwater. They collaborate with in-country teams to ensure that the services they are providing are needed and sustainable.  They also regularly check in on projects they have sponsored to ensure they are going well. Anyone can contribute to the water project simply by raising awareness, fundraising or sponsoring an entire project. These sorts of organizations are an integral part of broadening access to clean water in the developing world.

In the past ten years, the world has made leaps and bounds in how to provide access to safe drinking water and sanitation. Moreover, with more investment in research, an increase in aid to nonprofit organizations and a continued commitment to finding innovative solutions to the lack of water, access to clean water is sure to become a certainty for every single person in the world.

Adesuwa Agbonile

Photo: Flickr

Access to Clean Water and Sanitation Services in Burundi

In 2015, Burundi’s gross domestic product (GDP) per capita was the lowest in the world at 276 U.S. dollars, and its population density was one of the highest at 435 people per square kilometer of land area, according to The World Bank. As a result, everyday things such as access to clean water and sanitation services in Burundi can be a struggle for the people who live there.

Burundi is located in the Great Lakes Region of East Africa and has been called “the Heart of Africa” because of its geographic shape and location. Although landlocked, the country’s freshwater sources are plentiful. Nearly the entire western border of Burundi lies on the shores of Lake Tanganyika, and most of its northern side is bordered by the Kanyaru River. Other bodies of water there include the Malagarasi, Rusize and Ruvubu Rivers; and Cohaha and Rwero Lakes.

A 2010 Water and Sanitation Profile on Burundi from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) reported that their renewable internal freshwater availability was equal to just under 330,000 gallons per person every year. With a number as large as this, how is it possible that access to clean water and sanitation services in Burundi is a struggle?

The Problems Facing Access to Clean Water and Sanitation Services in Burundi

Since 1962, four wars have taken place in Burundi, the results of which have directly impacted their water sector infrastructure. “Burundi’s water supply and sanitation (WSS), sector endured years of destruction brought on by sabotage and neglect during the civil war and its aftermath […] several kilometers of water pipes, connections and 80% of installed meters were destroyed,” according to USAID. This caused many people to use untreated water, which led to waterborne diseases, triggering higher mortality rates.

In 2000, world leaders adopted the U.N. Millennium Declaration along with seven goals, known as the Millennium Development Goals (MDG), which had targets for addressing extreme poverty. Goal number 7, target 10, was to “halve, by 2015, the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe water and basic sanitation.” USAID reported that in 2008, 72% of urban and rural populations in Burundi had access to drinking water, and 46% had access to sanitation services. There was significant improvement seen in the availability of sanitation services, with 1.2 million people gaining access since 1990.

Although Burundi was likely to meet the MDG, targeting sustainable access to drinking water, it was not expected to reach the “water and sanitation services in Burundi” target. However, the Government of Burundi was working to improve their WSS sector by creating new policies to increase coverage throughout the country, according to the USAID. Past and current donors contributing to the WSS sector include the African Development Bank (AfDB), the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) and The World Bank.

Kristin Westad

Photo: Flickr

Remote learning, or the process of acquiring knowledge and skills through a program accessible through mobile or computer technologies, has the ability to expand access to education throughout the developing world.

Provided in the form of online lectures, quizzes and projects, online course material may allow large numbers of students worldwide to gain access to a world-class education that would otherwise be unavailable to them.

The number of students not enrolled in school has been rising in recent years, often due to poverty, conflict or financial issues. According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), 124 million children between the ages of six and 15 were not enrolled in school as of 2013, up from 122 million in 2011. One out of every 11 primary-school-age children continues to be denied the right to education across the globe.

According to the Gates Foundation’s 2015 annual letter, remote learning will revolutionize education for people around the world by 2030 by giving citizens in impoverished areas educational opportunities that were previously inaccessible.

“Before a child even starts primary school, she will be able to use her mom’s smartphone to learn her numbers and letters, giving her a big head start,” Bill Gates said in the letter. “She will collaborate with teachers and other students in a much richer way. If she is learning a new language, she’ll be able to speak out loud and the software will give her feedback on her pronunciation.”

Educational access has always been a significant issue in developing and poverty-stricken areas. Students are limited when it comes to the classes and materials offered at the schools in their own communities. Digital education gives students within these developing or conflict-marred regions the ability to access educational materials.

In areas without significant funding for building heavy infrastructure, children would still be able to access education without traveling hours to schools in nearby communities. A shift to digital materials for use in learning courses also saves a significant amount of money for communities that may be struggling to provide educational materials such as textbooks.

Due to the lowering cost of mobile phones and tablets with online connectivity, technology is connecting students with teachers like never before. While many areas still lack service, Internet access and communications technologies have rapidly been emerging and expanding in developing nations over the last several years. Google Inc. is currently planning to spend more than $1 billion to bring service to these communities and expand Internet access to unwired regions of the globe via small, high-capacity satellites orbiting the earth, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The challenge of keeping children in school after primary school is tremendous, as the costs associated with secondary schooling are much higher, which is often difficult for families with lower income levels to afford. Also, secondary schooling facilities are often located farther away from rural communities, making transportation a challenge. Though online classes will never be able to replace a teacher, the technology may give children the ability to continue their education after primary school, while also pursuing other commitments.

Online education also has the ability to impart literacy skills and market-worthy training to adults who missed out on formal schooling opportunities when they were younger. It allows these individuals to pursue their education in their spare time by fitting in learning after they work a day job, provide for their families or while they are in between jobs or unemployed.

One organization,, an online education site providing e-learning platforms to more than two million subscribers worldwide, currently provides access to over 80,000 instructional videos relating to job skills in areas such as retail, construction and graphic design.

Many concerns remain about the challenges mobile education may pose. The cost of electricity in developing areas, the cost of network use, and the constant risk of theft or damage to the devices the children use are all threats to the sustainability of remote learning. Though these challenges in the current implementation of online education in these communities persist, technological advancement in the field continues to progress.

Lauren Lewis

Sources: Business Insider, CNBC, CNN, Gates Notes, The Verge, The Wall Street Journal, UNESCO 1, UNESCO 2
Photo: Google Images

Autumn has once again flown by. Snow queens and snow elements have descended upon New York City, which can only mean one thing: the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show.

The Super Bowl of fashion shows will be broadcast on December 10 and promises more bedazzled bosoms than ever.

Monica Mitro, executive vice president of communications and events for Victoria’s Secret, ensures that this year “will be the most elaborate show with the most elaborate costumes.”

Swarovski provided millions of crystals to frost over twenty pieces of luxurious lingerie, some of which were created with cutting edge 3D printed technology that crafted designs based off of digital scans of the models’ bodies. This development (another Swarovski contribution) yields fabric literally made of crystals, a must given the seasonal wintry theme (one of six) headlined by a Snow Queen and other Victoria’s Secret Angels. A team of experienced artisans and hair and makeup stylists work their magic to complement the work of costume creators; since the models can’t be left to strut their stuff alone, celebrity guests Taylor Swift, Fall Out Boy, and a Great Big World will provide entertainment.

Behind the scenes of it all? Money – and lots of it.

Since the first runway show in 1995, Victoria’s Secret executives have amped up funding 100-fold, increasing the show’s operating budget from a mere $120,000 to over $12 million, not including the show’s most iconic piece of lingerie.  2013’s “Royal Fantasy Bra” alone is worth an estimated $10 million (including the $2 million belt.) Adorned with 4,200 gems and a 52-karat ruby, this bra redefines extravagance.

Ultimately, the $12-plus million is a small price to pay for the brand’s largest promotional opportunity. CBS shelled out a cool $1 million for rights to broadcast the spectacle to a drooling audience of over 12 million.

If the millions budgeted for the 2013 show were allocated away from glorified undergarments and toward the fight for clean water, many more than 12 million lives would be permanently changed.

According to UNICEF, over 768 million people worldwide are without access to clean water and at high risk of contracting dangerous waterborne communicable diseases. An estimated 1,600 children die each day due to poor sanitation, hygiene, or water quality, all of which are preventable with simple solutions like hand pumps, water purification tablets, and Oral Rehydration Salts.

The UNICEF Tap Project is a nationwide initiative focused entirely on providing effective, economical life-saving measures to at-risk communities. Small sums yield significant change: $25 cleans almost 17,000 liters of contaminated water with purification tablets; $50 provides over 600 sachets of rehydration salts to combat dehydration; and $500 provides a hand pump to supply clean water to an entire town.

Were Victoria’s Secret executives to put the show on hold for just one year and siphon funds to UNICEF, the Tap Project could provide:

  • 24,000 hand pumps to communities in need of long-term access to clean water,
  • 144 million sachets of rehydration salts to combat dehydration (affecting nearly one-fifth of the entire population without clean water access) and
  • 8.1 billion liters of purified, safe and drinkable water.

On December 10, Victoria’s Secret’s head honchos will see green as the svelte snow angels strut their stuff. The next day, rather than undertaking plans to out-crystal this year’s show in 2014, perhaps they will pause and consider how they themselves could be angels in the fight for clean water.

Casey Ernstes

Sources: The New York Post, The World Bank, UNICEF USA, UNICEF USA, Women’s Wear Daily, Women’s Wear Daily
Photo: Eat Drink SetX

Political Crisis in Mali Affects Education
How does a political crisis or violent fighting within a country affect education?

For Mali, a political crisis has meant the displacement of over 700,000 students and teachers, the destruction and closing of at least 115 schools, and a large psychological impact on students from exposure to violence that must be addressed.

The political crisis in Mali began over a year ago. It puts the Mali government against Tuareg rebels and has resulted in the uprooting of a large number of residents from northern Mali and has pushed them southward, out of harms way. This uprooting has forced many children to find new schools to attend. It has also pushed teachers into finding new schools to teach in. While 500,000 out of the original 700,000 students have found new schools to attend since being displaced, there is still “an urgent need to rebuild schools, train teachers and provide learning supplies,” according to a statement made by UNICEF.  This is because many of these news schools were already facing issues with overcrowding are now operating beyond their capacities, and finding themselves unable to cope with the displayed northerners.

Malian educational authorities are working with UNICEF officials to quickly open up more schools in northern Mali. Over 1,100 Malian teachers have been trained to provide psychological support to students, as well as mine-risk education, since December. This is a big necessity because, as put by UNICEF Representative Françoise Ackermans, “when a teacher is afraid to teach and when a student is afraid to go to school, the whole education is at risk.”

Yet, education will continue to be negatively affected as long as violence progresses in the area. As of today, Mali is still highly volatile, making even walking to school dangerous. Political crises and violent fighting between two groups within a country have very serious effects on its citizens, creating far-reaching consequences. Ensuring children have access to schools ensures these children have access to knowledge, an important asset to all.

– Angela Hooks

Source: UN News Centre
Photo: Care