Fighting Poverty in BurundiBurundi, one of the most impoverished countries in the world, is located in Central Africa below the equator. According to the U.S. Department of State, 87% of the population is living below the poverty line as of 2022. The COVID-19 pandemic also hit this country hard in 2020 as Burundi had limited medical resources and health care opportunities available.

Burundi is severely affected by chronic malnutrition related to limited access to clean water and food. Poverty in Burundi also affects many of the children in the population, with limited education and health resources available. Half of the children in Burundi suffer from stunted growth as the result of malnutrition. With the country being so vulnerable to the increase of poverty-like conditions, several charities and organizations around the world provide aid for this country in hopes of alleviating some of the struggles.

5 Organizations Fighting Poverty in Burundi

  1. CARE International: CARE International works to fight global poverty and inequality and has helped women and children, specifically in Burundi. Severe political violence in 2015 left a multitude of Burundians displaced. As early as 1994, CARE established an office within the country to help those affected by civil conflict and violence. CARE has since then increased its assistance to help refugees that fled to surrounding countries. CARE sees that the female population, both women and girls, suffer the most. They take on many household and family responsibilities and often experience violence. In 2019, CARE provided women and girls with care packages specially made for females. The organization has also helped women start businesses as a way of income.
  2. International Rescue Committee: The International Rescue Committee has been fighting poverty in Burundi since 1996. In 2017, the IRC issued a strategic action plan, which focused on the large number of displaced persons due to violence and the vulnerability of women and girls. This organization strives to improve the health, safety, economic well-being and education of those living in Burundi. The organization is also fighting for gender equality amongst women and men and boys and girls.
  3. World Food Programme: The World Food Programme works with the government of Burundi to address malnutrition, especially in children. Alongside the government in Burundi, the WFP works to combat stunting growth in children under 5. Food is provided to children as well as pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers. The organization also purchases food from local farmers, using these goods to provide school meals. Helping both the farmers and children, the program aims to cut back on malnutrition rates.
  4. UNICEF: UNICEF works in over 190 countries to fight for children’s rights and survival. The organization aims to cover all basic needs to improve living conditions and survival rates. In 2022, UNICEF acquired 22 million dollars to assist women and children suffering in Burundi. A large portion of this funding goes to water and hygiene and nutrition efforts.
  5. ActionAid: ActionAid has been working in Burundi since 1976. Their efforts strive to increase the number of children who attend school and provide food to those facing hunger. Women’s rights are a critical issue, and according to ActionAid, 1 in 5 women are married before they turn 18.

This organization also helps local farmers by supplying them with the tools and education to grow better crops. They also work to increase the number of children who attend school and help refugees find jobs.

Gender inequality is a huge issue in Burundi and ActionAid works to improve the living conditions of women and girls. They spread awareness of women’s rights and the importance of legal marriages rather than informal ones.

The Impact

These are only a few of the many organizations that work in Africa and provide humanitarian aid to Burundi directly. The country faces a multitude of issues, as it is one of the most impoverished countries in the world. Common trends of hardship that we see this country face are poverty, malnutrition, displaced persons and gender inequality.

There are so many nonprofit organizations fighting poverty in Burundi, and many of them have provided the country with great improvements. While the country still faces many hardships, there is potential for greater development thanks to all of these organizations providing assistance.

– Alesandra Cowardin
Photo: Flickr

combating HIVAIDS in MalawiAccording to UNAIDS, approximately 1 million people in Malawi were affected by HIV/AIDS in 2017, with a prevalence rate of 9.6% among individuals aged 15-49. Sex workers and gay men are particularly vulnerable, with HIV prevalence rates of 60% and 17% respectively. However, there has been progress in combating HIV/AIDS in Malawi and between 2010 and 2017, AIDS-related deaths decreased by about 50%.

Malawi aims to have 95% of people living with HIV aware of their status by 2025. Despite the reduction in AIDS-related deaths, the country still has one of the highest HIV prevalence rates among adults aged 15 to 49.

With 13 million people living below the poverty line out of a population of 21 million, STD-related health care is often unaffordable for those facing financial hardships. Moreover, disparities in health care resources contribute to the lack of a rapid HIV/AIDS response, with rural areas having limited access to treatment compared to urban areas.

Prioritizing Testing and Treatments

According to 2017 data, out of the 1 million individuals who live with HIV/AIDS in Malawi, 90% receive antiretroviral therapy. However, a 2020 study revealed that antiretroviral therapy failure and drug resistance are common among those undergoing HIV treatment.

A 2020 observational study led by the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, University of Malawi College of Medicine and the University of Cambridge found that antiretroviral therapy failure and drug resistance are common among those receiving HIV treatment.

Recent research published in the Lancet found more than 80% of patients have resistance to two or more HIV antiretroviral drugs and 95% of patients have undetectable HIV loads as of 2020. The study also revealed that patients with resistance to multiple HIV drugs were 70% more likely to experience a clinical death within two months of checking into the hospital compared to those without drug resistance.

With one-third of patients failing to receive therapy fast enough, timely diagnosis and switching patients to alternative antiretroviral therapies have contributed to better patient outcomes in Malawi.

Barriers to HIV/AIDS

Despite significant reductions in HIV infections, individuals living below the poverty line in Malawi continue to face the greatest impact. Malawi is one of the poorest countries across the globe.

As one of the poorest countries globally, Malawi’s higher HIV prevalence may be attributed to inconsistent detection rates stemming from differences in surveillance and registration centers. This marked difference may also be related to Socioeconomic factors, such as poverty and limited emphasis on screening programs and public health services such as the NHS, which contribute to health inequalities.

The unequal distribution of health care resources exacerbates the challenges in combating HIV/AIDS in Malawi. Urban areas, where individuals are more likely to afford private health care systems, have better access to resources compared to rural areas, resulting in lower treatment rates for the latter.

However, barriers to HIV-related health care extend beyond poverty and finances. Stigma and prejudice surrounding HIV deter individuals from seeking care and concerns about confidentiality at testing sites further discourage communities from accessing services.

Gay men in Malawi experience a disproportionate impact from HIV/AIDS. The Ministry of Health estimated that 35% of men in Malawi had not been tested for HIV/AIDS in 2017. Addressing this disparity requires additional support and funding for home testing initiatives.

Progression in Malawi

Awareness surrounding sexual health and faster screening techniques has improved the health of Malawians with HIV/AIDS over the last two decades. Antiretroviral therapy coverage has significantly increased, with an estimated 91% of those living with HIV receiving treatment in 2021 compared to only 43% in 2012.  There were 78,000 AIDS-related deaths in 2005 compared to 13,000 in 2020, a decline of around 83%. Overall, increased funding and implementation support has resulted in a marked improvement in HIV in Malawi from previous years.

Helping the Cause

While Malawi’s government has continued to provide treatments and support for HIV/AIDS, an organization founded in 1972 named Action Aid helps those from marginalized groups across rural and urban communities in Africa. Action Aid works alongside local communities, governments and institutions for people living with HIV/AIDS.

The organization advocates for improved access to HIV/AIDS-related health care, including antiretroviral drugs and good nutrition. Through partnerships with local communities, governments and institutions, Action Aid advocates for improved access to HIV/AIDS-related health care, including antiretroviral drugs and good nutrition. Collaborations with organizations like the Makerere Women’s Development Association (MWDA) and the Kuluhiro (Hope) support group ensure psychosocial therapy, counseling and access to antiretroviral treatments, as well as economic opportunities through farm projects.

What is Next?

An Oxford Academic report suggests that continued foreign aid is essential for widespread testing and comprehensive HIV/AIDS programs, as 99% of HIV funding comes from international financial support. Foreign aid plays a crucial role in sustaining and expanding efforts in combating HIV/AIDS in Malawi.

– Rupinder Kaur
Photo: Rawpixel

Child poverty in Liberia
Faced with two civil wars, Liberia has experienced years of poverty. With more than 80% of Liberians living in poverty, the country has been trying to revitalize its economy. Child poverty in Liberia is significant as well. Moreover, the mortality rate for children is high. In addition to this, Liberia ranks in the bottom 10 countries on the Human Development Index. The Human Development Index considers life expectancy, education and income.

Child Poverty in Liberia

According to Action Against Hunger, a stable environment for those living in Liberia has yet to emerge. Funding for healthcare facilities has significantly decreased. Liberian children often do not have proper access to education and healthcare and frequently face abuse or trafficking. As a result of this, many children live on the streets. Furthermore, 40% of children suffer from malnutrition and one in five do not receive proper nourishment. Meanwhile, about 84% of Liberians live below the international poverty line and make around $1.25 a day.

Uncertain Employment Positions

The Liberia Institute for Statistics and Geo-Information Services (LISGIS) collected the following data. The overall information reveals that over 50% live in extreme poverty. In addition to this, 51.2% of families experience food shortages. This survey also shows that unemployment stands at 3.9%, meaning that Liberia has a low unemployment rate. However, the survey characterized around 79.5% of people as having uncertain employment positions whereas 79.9% of people had an informal form of employment.

While Liberia may have a low unemployment rate, many Liberians find it difficult to provide a stable life for their children and family as women average around 5.2 children. Due to small daily wages, women cannot meet children’s financial needs, reiterating the high mortality rate and low life expectancy that Liberian children experience. Due to a parent’s inability to care for a large family, children end up working at young ages.

Organizations Helping Liberian Children

For the past two decades, Save the Children has been addressing Liberian children that the civil war affected. This organization provides aid in areas such as healthcare and protection. It also assists children by providing them tools such as education and spearheading advocacy for child rights. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) is one of many donors that helps Save the Children.

Action Aid is another organization that is assisting impoverished children in Liberia. Action Aid strives to attain social justice and equality and mitigate poverty. This group focuses on women and the younger generations to improve the quality of healthcare, education and children’s rights.

Many efforts have emerged to address the conditions in Liberia, including child poverty. The World Bank has provided $54 million International Development Association (IDA) credit to improve Liberia’s health services for women and children. The IFISH (Institutional Foundations to Improve Services for Health) project has spearheaded the expansion and operations of hospitals. An example is the Redemption Hospital located in Montserrado County. The multiple projects and initiatives should hopefully aid in the elimination of child poverty in Liberia.

– Nicole Sung
Photo: Flickr

Period Poverty in Namibia
Period poverty, a significant issue around the world, is an umbrella term that describes inadequate access to menstrual hygiene products, washing facilities, waste management and education. This lack of access impacts women and girls in Namibia, sometimes hindering their health and education. However, Eco-Sanitary Training, a local business, is stepping in to help.

Worldwide Period Poverty

Globally, there are 2.3 billion people that live without basic sanitation. About 73% live in homes without sufficient hand-washing facilities. This exacerbates period poverty, as it makes it almost impossible for women and girls to manage their periods.

In many places around the world, menstruation products are very hard to access due to high prices. Although these products are a necessity, many countries still tax them. In Hungary, the tax rate on feminine hygiene products in 2020 is 27%, followed by Sweden and Mexico with 25% and 16% respectively. Some of the countries where female sanitary items are tax-free include Ireland, Malaysia, Tanzania and Lebanon.

An example of how feminine hygiene products affect women is through the story of Suzana Frederick, a 19-year-old single mother who lives in Arusha, Tanzania. Frederick makes around 30,000 shillings ($13) monthly and spends between 1,500 and 3,000 shillings ($0.70 to $1.30) on sanitary products. The amount she spends on the products is 5% to 10% of her salary. This would be equivalent to an American woman with an average wage spending around $169 and $338 on sanitary products.

Period Poverty in Namibia

Period poverty has many consequences for women and girls in Namibia. According to Action Aid, “One in 10 girls in Africa miss school because they don’t have access to sanitary products, or because there aren’t safe, private toilets to use at school.” Many women and girls are also forced to use mattresses, clothes and newspapers every month because they cannot afford sanitary products.

A story from a girl who lives in Namibia revealed that she chose to get a contraceptive injection because her mother could not afford pads. Contraceptive injections – a birth control method of releasing hormones like progesterone to stop the release of an egg – are free in all governmental hospitals in Namibia. Unfortunately, the injections have side effects, including significant bone mineral density loss, and are not intended for regulating menstruation. Another girl, also from Namibia, mentioned that dating older men is the only option that some girls have to get the money needed to afford pads.

How a Local Business Has Helped

Eco-Sanitary Trading is a local business in Windhoek, the capital of Namibia. Around March 4, 2019, the business joined the local market to make affordable pads that are high in quality and can also be reused or discarded. The managing director of the business, Naomi Kefas, mentioned that she got the idea from the realization of the fact that many girls are missing school frequently due to their periods.

For two years, Kefas and her team did extensive research and traveled to places including South Africa, Kenya, India and China to invent a new sanitary pad. They then came up with a product called “Perfect Fit,” a locally produced sanitary pad with good quality and affordability. “Perfect Fit” is benefiting women and girls in Namibia.

Moving Forward

The work that Eco-Sanitary Trading is essential to reducing period poverty in Namibia. However, it is essential that the government and other humanitarian organizations also step in. Moving forward, other barriers to menstrual hygiene products and facilities must be reduced, including high tax rates.

Alison Choi
Photo: Flickr

Period Poverty in Nepal
Just like the rest of the world, COVID-19 is significantly impacting Nepal. With an actual existing poverty rate of 25.2% and low literacy rates of 75.1% for males and a 57.4% rate for females, the pandemic has further challenged Nepal through forced school closings and shortages of necessary household items. In particular, period poverty in Nepal has become a dilemma for many Nepalese women and girls. The lack of access to menstrual sanitary products as well as the cultural stigma of chhaupadi, an outdated tradition of isolating menstruating women and prohibiting them from touching others and communal objects, combine to make period poverty in Nepal a pressing issue for women.

The Problem: Existing Stigmas and Disparities

The Nepali government technically outlawed chhaupadi in 2005; however, 18 women died because of chhaupadi since this policy’s creation. Additionally, a 2019 study found that 77% of west-central Nepali girls had undergone menstrual exile. In the context of the pandemic, discriminatory ideals are on the rise. Many fear that contact with menstruating women increases the risk of contracting COVID-19. Traditionally, a majority of girls receive menstrual hygiene products from schools. Without access to school due to the pandemic lockdown, however, many Nepalese girls have been deprived of essential resources like tampons. These closings increased demand for sanitary products in retail stores, causing many businesses to deplete their inventories following the announcement of quarantine quickly.

This deficiency forced women to begin relying on unhygienic alternatives such as old pieces of clothes and even leaves to manage their periods. Even before the COVID-19 crisis, roughly 83% of women used alternate forms of hygiene rather than a sanitary pad, while only 15% used actual hygienic pads. Furthermore, 47% of girls admitted to missing school because of menstruation. The use of these unhygienic methods increases the risk of reproductive tract infections as well as cervical cancer. Around 77% of young girls claimed that, due to hygiene products’ lack of accessibility and affordability, they resorted to making their pads. The financial difficulties that COVID-19 has created have only exacerbated the inability to purchase sanitary pads.

Organizations Helping to Overcome Period Poverty in Nepal

Volunteer Service Overseas (VSO) is pouring its efforts into combating period poverty in Nepal by educating young girls on how to make reusable, hygienic and sanitary pads. VSO initiated a program called Sisters for Sisters that paired young Nepali girls with mentors. Before the pandemic, this mentorship program had informed 2,000 girls on how to construct their sanitary pads. These pads can last up to five years, making this solution appealing to the majority of Nepali families. The Sisters for Sisters program has also focused on debunking discriminatory menstruation ideology.

Action Aid is another organization working to combat period poverty in Nepal. This organization distributes sanitary menstrual kits following emergencies or disasters, with a commitment to helping every woman and girl manage their periods safely. The organization’s efforts to tackle period poverty include various tactics. Similar to the Sisters for Sisters campaign, Action Aid trains girls to make reusable sanitary pads. It also offers educational services better, informing girls about their periods and how to navigate menstrual cycles healthily. Finally, Action Aid aims to eliminate period shaming ideologies such as chhaupadi in Nepal.

Hope for a Better Future

Period poverty is a continual issue for many impoverished countries with preexisting discriminatory stigmas surrounding the topic, and the pandemic has only amplified these issues. With the help of organizations working to aid women and girls in their communities and eradicate period poverty in Nepal, however, there is hope for a safer and more sanitary future.

– Adelle Tippetts
Photo: Flickr

Where is the Northern Triangle?
With a long history of political and economic instability, the Northern Triangle has provided little reason for citizens to stay. Where is the Northern Triangle? This emigration haven lies in Central America and comprises of Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras.

Causes of Emigration

In short, the main emigration drivers in the NTCA involve political corruption (due to past wars and ongoing greed), economic instability (due to droughts and poor trade practices), gang violence (related to lack of educational and rehabilitation programs) and family matters (attributed to desired remittance and reunification with distant family).

The NTCA’s past, current and potential (up-for-office) political officials consistently squander the countries’ limited funds for personal advancement at the cost of its people. These authoritarian countries recently switched to democratic rule, but its leaders lack the experience and morale necessary to implement a well-running democracy. Low tax rates and lack of direction prevent subsidization of social, civil, health-related and educational programs and protection agencies vital to the NTCA’s transition to a safe, thriving region.

Since 2014, the U.S.A.’s Millenium Challenge Corporation (MCC) has collaborated with the NTCA to fund over $315 million of specialized programs improving tax administration, youth workforce and public-private markets across Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. Efforts from the MCC help the 25 percent of youth who do not work or attend school in these countries. As of 2017, nearly 60 percent of youth who do work do so informally or unregulated by the government.

Crime Management, Informal Work and Gangs

Beyond educational and vocational pitfalls, these countries possess poor crime management. NTCA homicide rates have decreased since 2014, but they remain higher than the global average. The Atlantic Council reports 75 percent of NTCA citizens as doubting their judicial systems’ ability to protect them. This primarily stems from the nearly active gang violence and 95 percent of homicides that go unsolved in these countries. According to the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition, six children flee to the U.S. per every 10 homicides in the Northern Triangle. This leads to the separation of families and greater difficulty in establishing long-lasting labor practices in these countries.

Informal work is another causal factor of emigration as people search for better financial opportunities. The U.S. is such a major destination for these emigrants, it is no wonder many U.S. Americans might ask “Where is the Northern Triangle?” In fact, in the first five months of FY2019, authorities apprehended about 26,937 Unaccompanied Alien Children (UACs) and 136,150 families at the U.S.-Mexican border, with nearly 47 percent of UACs and 49 percent of families, 25 percent of UACs and 38 percent of families and 11.5 percent of UACs and 9 percent of families coming from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, respectively. These emigrants inadvertently create financial burdens, safety threats and attention deficits in the U.S.

UACs pose a huge threat to U.S. borders because of their use by gang members. U.S. immigration legislation, like Obama’s catch-and-release policy and the Dept. of Health and Human Services’ Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008 (TVPRA), allow gangs to get around policies involving UACs. Gangs make about $1,500 per smuggled child in border regions that they control and oftentimes convert UACs into gang members once they settle in U.S. territory. In return, alien-driven crime and the U.S. opioid epidemic continue to implode. Furthermore, transnational government corruption with cartel commerce continues.

According to U.S. Representative Norma J. Torres (D-CA), the State Department gave Congress an incomplete watch-list of criminal Northern Triangle government officials as the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019 required. Thus, skepticism surrounds U.S. and NTCA political ties in criminal activity. Overall, government corruption and U.S. immigration policy loopholes remain pressing obstacles to boosting the workforce and prosperity of the Northern Triangle.

US Humanitarian Efforts

Fortunately, many U.S. humanitarian efforts positively impact life in the Northern Triangle. Notably, in the Plan Columbia (PC) of 1999, the U.S. gave Columbia $10 billion for economic and anti-narcoterrorist efforts. In return, Columbia acts as a key trader with the U.S. and a facilitator of progression tactics in NTCA. Similarly, the U.S. derived the Dominican Republic-Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR) of 2006 that supports Northern Triangle involvement in commerce and exposure to retail chains.

The U.S. also works with the Inter-American Development Bank to fund a billion-dollar improvement strategy written by the NTCA presidents. Within this strategy, called the Plan of the Alliance for Prosperity in the Northern Triangle, the three presidents provide strategic pillars and action plans to put outside funds to effective use. Additionally, the U.S. works with Mexican and Northern Triangle governments through the U.S.-Northern Triangle Enhanced Engagement Act to improve security at the NTCA-Mexico border.

Outside of government action, several international organizations aid in Central American projects that chip away at NTCA poverty and political issues. Action Aid largely focuses on anti-poverty efforts in the NTCA. Care International, CHF International and Center for International Private Enterprise assist the NTCA with crime reduction and community support, youth education and empowerment and educated civilian political involvement, respectively.

Assistance from humanitarian groups and relationships with American countries help NTCA leaders impose more effective government policies and citizen-focused programs. With expertise and financial aid from more developed countries, the new democratic leaders can grow with the young workforce to build a long-lasting, more-trusting culture in Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras.

In return, a reduction in emigration, the ongoing gang turmoil and behind-the-scenes narco relations can help lead to a more sustainable Northern Triangle. Increased focus on the source of NTCA emigration and continued assistance might alleviate the inquisitive question, “Where is the Northern Triangle?”

– Caroline Bell
Photo: Flickr

Fighting for Women's Rights in Cambodia
While Cambodia is classified as a democratic nation, the country still struggles to combat human rights violations and gender inequality. The UN has pressured the Cambodian government to eliminate corruption, especially regarding women’s rights and sex trafficking. Government officials have taken steps to move forward in this process, but human rights violations have been far from eradicated. The fight for women’s rights in Cambodia is particularly difficult and securing gender equality faces substantial barriers.

While women may have the same rights as men under the law, the implementation of those rights is entirely inadequate. Culturally, many Cambodians view women as secondary human beings, as shown by the famous saying, “men are gold; women are cloth.” This cultural norm discourages women from being public participants in economic and political processes.

Cambodian women face significant challenges in pursuing jobs outside the home. Most of the opportunities readily available to them are in dangerous or inconsistent conditions, and women are also paid significantly less than men. In high-profit markets, men comprise almost all leadership positions.

Education for women in Cambodia can also be tricky, as families are not legally required to send their children to school, and if they do not have much money the boys will typically receive an education first. Child marriage also creates problems for young girls getting an education, as they are incredibly unlikely to return to school after becoming a bride.

The imbalance of social power between men and women can quickly turn into something not only unfair, but dangerous. Violence against women is common in Cambodia, and 20 percent of women over 15 have encountered some form of physical abuse from a man. Acts of sexual violence, including rape, also plagues Cambodia. The government does a terrible job of holding perpetrators of these crimes accountable, making equal rights for women in Cambodia less tangible.

Sex trafficking, often a result of living in deep poverty, is a huge problem in Cambodia. Women and children are particularly vulnerable, and many are sold by members of their own family. Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia, is the home base of many sex trafficking rings.

While women’s rights in Cambodia are not ideal, many organizations are working towards gender equality. The government has adopted several policies that they hope will lead to a crackdown on sex trafficking. Action Aid – an organization that works to promote the lives of the oppressed – has a plan to increase female participation in politics and elevate the quality of women’s rights in Cambodia by 2018.

Women in Cambodia are living in harsh conditions and have yet to achieve gender equality in public or private spheres. While the struggle for equal rights is far from over, the spirit of change is working in the country. Through the efforts of the government and other organizations such as Action Aid, support for women’s rights in Cambodia should increase, and with it, gender equality should start to improve.

Julia Mccartney

Photo: Google