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How Air Pollution Affects Poverty in EuropeAir pollution is disproportionately affecting the health and well-being of people living in poverty, according to a recent report by the European Environment Agency. The report titled “Healthy environment, healthy lives: how the environment influences health and well-being in Europe,” calls for improving air quality in Europe by decreasing emissions and adding green spaces. Many consider air pollution to be an environmental issue or a global health concern that affects us all equally. However, the report makes the case that impoverished communities face a higher burden of air pollution and other environmental stressors.

The Link Between Air Pollution and Poverty

The Borgen Project held an interview with Catherine Ganzleben, head of the air pollution and environmental health groups at the European Environment Agency (EEA). She said, “Pollution hits poorer communities harder than affluent communities because of lack of access to medical care and exposure to the byproducts of climate change.”

As the climate crisis continues to worsen so does air pollution and extreme weather, disproportionately affecting those living in poverty. “In large parts of Europe, [vulnerable communities] are more likely to live next to busy roads or industrial areas,” Ganzleben said. “[They] face higher levels of exposure to air pollution.”

Even when both affluent and impoverished people experience the same exposure, air pollution affects the health of the impoverished more. Ganzlebe continued, “People living in lower-income regions [were found] to be more susceptible to the health effects of [pollutants] than wealthier people living in polluted areas.” Additionally, families with lower socio-economic status face more significant negative effects of pollution. Several factors could contribute to the disproportionate effects of air pollution. These include access to healthcare, underlying conditions and poor housing situations.

The Struggle for Clean Air in Poland

Traffic and industrial pollution are two of the main factors contributing to air pollution in Europe. But, in some countries, like Poland, the largest contributor to air pollution is burning coal to heat single-family households.

Poland is infamous for having one of the worst levels of air pollution in the European Union, according to K. Max Zhang in his interview with The Borgen Project. Zhang is a professor of energy and the environment at Cornell University. Poland still generates electricity and heat using coal, one of the most polluting forms of energy.

Poland’s reliance on coal can mainly be attributed to its abundance of old, single-family houses built in the 1970s. In an interview with The Borgen Project, Magdalena Kozlowska claimed that these homes remain unrenovated. She is the project coordinator of Polish Smog Alert. She also added that the most impoverished populations in Poland are less able to update their energy sources.

Polish Smog Alert is an organization that is committed to cleaning Poland’s air and meeting the European air quality standards through advocacy and mobilization. It also works to inform the public and help people make their houses more energy-efficient, Kozłowska said. The organization formed in 2013 when they started working to ban the burning of solid fuels in Krakow.

This ban on burning solid fuels came to fruition in 2019, when Polish Smog Alert worked with local and national governments to enact “changes in the national law [and the] city had to cooperate and offer money to exchange the boilers and help people experiencing poverty to pay the difference in bills,” Kozlowska continued. “And still, the city is doing that.”

Goals of the European Environment Agency’s Report

The attention to air quality around the world has been increasing in recent years. However, the EEA wants to see more policy changes and tangible action from the European government, Ganzleben said. These policies should also not have the sole aim of protecting the environment. In addition to environmental efforts, these policies should protect communities that are feeling the brunt of climate change’s effects. “Policies to deliver high environmental quality should be aimed at preventing and reducing the unequal distribution of environmental health risks, ensuring fair access to environmental resources and enabling sustainable choices,” said Ganzleben.

The report also explains the benefits of green spaces, even within polluted city environments. Green spaces, like parks and lakes, can benefit people’s well-being. “Mental and physical [health] are linked,” said Michael Brauer, professor of environmental health at the University of British Columbia, in an interview with The Borgen Project.

Reports like this one from the EEA, Brauer said, are a result of a growing urgency related to air pollution. In recent years, there has been much more attention globally to the issue, “[As a] response to increasing awareness of air pollution and the problem,” Brauer continued. “There is really no evidence of a safe level of air pollution.”

Combating Air Pollution’s Disproportionate Effect on the Poor

There need to be policy changes that address the socio-economic effects of climate change. This will alleviate the burden of air pollution on those living in poverty. “At the local level, integrating environmental health concerns into welfare policies, health policies and urban planning and housing policies can help to reduce the vulnerability and exposure of the population,” the report read. “Air pollution not only hurts the environment, but it also exacerbates poverty, and worsens the living conditions for the poor.” While humanitarian organizations like the Polish Smog Alert are working to alleviate pollution in Europe, there is still much to be done to eradicate air pollution and help those disproportionately experiencing the consequences of climate change.

– Laney Pope
Photo: Flickr 

The Correlation Between Environmental Instability and Poverty in India Environmental instability in India is a nuanced and multifaceted issue in terms of multiple causes and effects that hinder the search for a solution. India has the second-highest population in the world, second only to China. This makes India particularly susceptible to poverty because there are not enough resources to sufficiently aid each citizen. In fact, roughly 68.8% of India’s population survives on under $2 per day. Notably, women and children are disproportionately affected by this poverty.

Increasing Temperatures Affecting Agriculture

Unfortunately, India also suffers from environmental instability. Poverty and the state of the environment are very closely linked. Although the two issues feel as if they are completely separate, they function in a symbiotic relationship. As the country’s environmental stability decreases, poverty increases, and vice versa. This is because environmental instability hinders local economies and those economies often utilize more affordable forms of energy which then adds to that same environmental instability.

Consequently, the effects of increased temperatures like extreme weather have severely impacted the country’s ability to produce food for itself. Agricultural communities are unable to predict weather patterns, which negatively affects crop yield and commonly puts those people in direct danger. An example being the death of 2,400 people in 2018-2019 due to floods and cyclones.

These unpredictable weather patterns disrupt agriculture and have a long-term impact on the future of farmers in India. Agriculture takes up 16% of India’s GDP and roughly 49% of those employed are within the agriculture industry. This population’s well-being is entirely contingent on environmental stability and they do not have it. Increasing temperature causes difficulty predicting average rainfall, average temperature and average dry day count. These statistics being relatively consistent is paramount to the success rate of agriculture in India. Due to their extreme fluctuation, India’s farmers could lose 15% to 25% of their income, depending on if the area is irrigated or not.

Pollution Affecting India’s Economy

With India’s dependence on the agriculture industry established, it is important to also note the effect that pollution has on this sector of the Indian economy and the poverty that results. Air pollution is something India hasn’t been able to control due to its reliance on fossil fuels and large population. As this pollution has increased, Indian crop yields have been cut in half.

As a result of the country’s reliance on fossil fuels, a buildup of ozone level 3 has occurred. Ozone level 3 is caused by the combustion of nitrogen oxides from vehicle exhaust and various air pollutants. When this ozone level increases, crops are not able to attain the necessary hours of sunlight to ensure their growth. Crops are also sensitive to the pollutants in the soil. These can arise from a variety of unsafe practices, including chemical use, poor irrigation systems and unhealthy waste management. This lack of consistent crop output puts a heavy strain on the farmers and their families, which leads to poverty in more rural areas.

Pollution generally affects impoverished areas much more than it does other areas, with 92% of pollution-related deaths occurring in poverty-ridden countries. This pollution causes illnesses that are often generational, being passed from pregnant mother to child, which in turn creates a physically weaker population that is at a disadvantage in regard to their participation in the local economy.

Additionally, children born in areas with high pollution have limited learning potential. When these children are limited due to pollutants with the capacity to make them ill, they are at an extreme detriment in terms of education and a successful transition into the workforce. As a result, they are trapped in a cycle of poverty created by a lack of education and high paying jobs. The lack of environmental stability in India has a direct impact on the quality of life of the citizens whether it be illness or subsequent poverty.

Solutions to Resolve Environmental Instability in India

While environmental instability continues to be a significant issue in India; fortunately, there are many small efforts that have taken place to relieve this issue. One such example is the compulsory education on the environment within public schooling, which stresses healthier environmental practices within the daily lives of the students. This was passed by a Supreme Court ruling in 2003 and aims to make the public more active participants in the fight for environmental stability. Another solution has been the alteration of transportation to create less harmful emissions.

In 2013, the India-California Air Pollution Mitigation Program was created by the partnership of a Californian Air Resources board and an Indian Energy and Resources Institute. This program has recommended a set of 12 possible mechanisms to reduce air pollution that focuses on the incorporation of the entire system. These mechanisms include replacing kitchen stoves with cleaner alternatives, reevaluating diesel transport to create cleaner options and restricting the burning of fossil fuels. The group predicts that if villagers were given energy-efficient stoves that air pollution would be lessened by a third.

While India’s environmental history has not been the most inspiring, the future is rife with new possibilities and people who are dedicated to fighting for stability within India’s environment.

– Stella Vallon
Photo: Flickr

Last December, children in Kosovo, a disputed territory in southeast Europe, already wore masks on their way to school. They weren’t worried about COVID-19, the deadly contagion that has since gripped the world. Instead, children wore masks to protect themselves from air pollution in Kosovo.

Power plants that run by burning coal, private residences that burn coal for heat and antiquated automobiles that run on less environmental-friendly engines contribute to air pollution in Kosovo. In particular, the Kosovo B power station, outside Pristina, Kosovo’s capital, released a massive quantity of nitrogen oxide and dust emissions until the plant’s modernization began in 2019. Modernization efforts seek to immediately improve air quality. In the long term, modernization efforts will meet the standards of the European Union’s environmental safety regulations, as well as improve Kosovo’s domestic infrastructure.

The European Union invested in two initiatives that would help Kosovo’s air pollution relief efforts. First, the European Union granted $83 million to the Kosovo B power station’s modernization. Second, the European Union invested another $7.6 million to renovate heating systems in private and public buildings throughout Kosovo, including schools and homes.

Poverty’s Impact on Methods of Heating Private Homes

Much debate surrounds the question of whether wood is an environmentally responsible source of heat energy. Many scientists fear that acknowledging wood sources as an environmentally friendly form of heat energy will give the green light to deforestation, one of the primary contributors to the environmental crisis. For many citizens of Kosovo, wood and coal are the least expensive methods to heat their homes.

Around the world, more than one and a half million people are killed each year by indoor air pollution. Indoor air pollution is caused by burning substances like coal, wood and human or animal feces in small, enclosed areas with antiquated heating systems. Along with the human toll, indoor air pollution contributes to the environmental crisis.

For example, indoor air pollution is a factor that contributes to overall air pollution in Kosovo. The bulk of the E.U.’s investment to address air pollution in Kosovo went toward modernizing the Kosovo B power station. The amount of money the E.U. invested in addressing indoor air pollution amounted to about a tenth of the money the E.U. invested in modernizing the power station. Former Environment Minister Fatmir Matoshi put the weight of the responsibility of addressing indoor air pollution on Kosovo’s citizens when he asked them to refrain from using coal and wood to heat their homes. However, low-income households would face severe challenges in obtaining an alternative heating source as stated previously, wood and coal are the least expensive methods for families to heat their homes.

Efforts to Address Poverty and Air Pollution in Kosovo

People who live in poverty have to rely on more accessible, less expensive means to heat their homes. Toxic biomass fuels, like coal and wood, are used by approximately two and a half billion people worldwide. In Kosovo, people are unable to stop using coal and wood because they lack the means to heat their homes with other, non-toxic materials.

To reduce air pollution in Kosovo, poverty must first be addressed. Fortunately, some organizations are making strides to mitigate the issue. The Ideas Partnership selects individual families from minority groups in Kosovo to support. Many such families have subsisted via “garbage picking,” the only source of income and sustenance otherwise available to them. The Ideas Partnership aims to remove families from overcrowded dwellings and provide them with food and shelter, so parents can focus on educational and well-being goals for their children.

The Kosovar Organization for Talent and Education recognizes the role education plays in preparing Kosovo’s youth for the labor force. Kosovo’s population is young; a quarter of its citizens are younger than 19 years old. In 2017, over one half of Kosovo’s youthful population was unemployed. The Kosovar Organization for Talent and Education began in 2015. Today, more than 15,000 have participated in the program as volunteers and students. Its goal is to improve the quality of education in Kosovo while preparing students to enter the workforce.

Air pollution in Kosovo is caused by a variety of factors that must be vigorously addressed. Widespread, oppressive poverty in Kosovo is at the root of this issue. Both poverty and air pollution should be addressed simultaneously to arrive at the best results for Kosovo’s future health.

—Taylor Pangman
Photo: Pixabay

Life Expectancy in Bahrain
The Kingdom of Bahrain is the island nation between Saudi Arabia and Qatar. This former British protectorate achieved its independence in 1971. Since the discovery of oil in the mid-20th century, Bahrain’s petroleum industry has been the backbone of the country’s economy and has become one of the wealthiest countries in the world. With its newfound wealth, the Bahraini government invested in public welfare, infrastructure and public sectors. This led to a steady increase in life expectancy in Bahrain.

9 Facts about Life Expectancy in Bahrain

  1. The life expectancy in Bahrain stood at 79.4 years as of 2019. The average life expectancy for women in Bahrain is 81.8 years, compared to 77.1 years for men. Bahrain ranks 52nd in terms of average life expectancy when compared to the entire world. The U.N. estimates that Bahrain’s life expectancy will increase to 81.16 years by 2050.
  2. The biggest increase in life expectancy in Bahrain occurred during the 1960s. After the country’s discovery of oil in 1931, Bahrain reported strong economic growth in the subsequent decades which positively impacted life expectancy. However, since the 1970s the rate of increase in life expectancy in Bahrain has slowed. The life expectancy in Bahrain is on par with countries such as the U.K., the U.S. and Australia.
  3. Bahrain has both universal and private health care. For Bahraini nationals, comprehensive care is provided free of charge, which contributes to the overall excellent life expectancy in Bahrain. The central government mainly finances the health care system. Still, some citizens prefer to participate in private healthcare options in order to overcome the challenge of longer wait times in public facilities.
  4. Bahrain’s immunization program largely eliminated childhood infectious diseases in the kingdom. The introduction of the measles vaccine in 1974 was the saving grace at a time when measles was the leading cause of death among children. After the introduction of the measles vaccine, the Bahraini government conducted a successful nationwide vaccination campaign. By 1999, more than 90 percent of children in Bahrain received vaccines. In 2009, the measles outbreak included only 0.27 cases per 100,000 compared to 1985 when there were 250 cases per 100,000.
  5. As of 2019, the Bahraini government passed a new law that mandates health insurance coverage for all citizens, residents and visitors. Under the new law, expatriate domestic workers, such as housemaids, drivers, gardeners and nurses, will be covered for free.
  6. The leading cause of death in Bahrain is ischemic heart disease. Ischemic heart disease, also known as coronary artery disease, refers to a heart condition where the major blood vessels to the heart become damaged or diseased. Obesity and smoking are the leading cause of ischemic heart disease. The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that, as of 2016, 27 percent of Bahrain’s population smokes tobacco. WHO also reported that 29 percent of the adults in Bahrain were obese.
  7. The Bahraini government is set to finish the construction of a $32 million long-term health care center. Funded through the Saudi Fund for Development, this 100-bed facility aims to open in 2022. The facility will be equipped to treat patients who are afflicted with ailments that require long-term care.
  8. Bahrain’s suicide rate ranks 138th in the world. Bahrain is ranked relatively low on the suicide rate ranking out of the 183 countries ranked by the WHO. The data in 2016 shows that there were 5.9 people committing suicide for every 100,000 people in Bahrain. However, in 2019, the WHO also reported that Bahrain had the 5th highest rate of suicide among Arab Nations.
  9. In 2019, Bahrain is ranked as the most air-polluted country in the Middle East. Other countries such as Bangladesh, Pakistan, India and Afghanistan were among the top 10 countries on the list. Experts stated that emissions of oil refineries, power stations and fuel-powered transportation and burning of waste in open spaces are the major contributors to pollution in Bahrain. These pollutants in the air can cause a variety of respiratory complications.

Life expectancy in Bahrain is very much related to the country’s economy. Since the discovery of oil in the 1930s, the Bahraini government used their newfound wealth to bolster the country’s infrastructure and health care for its citizens. With the help of international funds such as the Saudi Fund for Development, Bahrain is further bolstering its health care system. However, the country’s declining oil industry and the pollution that they cause does give rise to concerns about the future of life expectancy in Bahrain

– YongJin Yi
Photo: Flickr

Indoor Air Pollution in Rural CambodiaCambodia has seen a rapid decrease in poverty within the last decade. More than 45 percent of the population was impoverished in 2007 when compared to 13.5 percent in 2014. It has also sustained one of the fastest economic growth rates in the world at an average of 8 percent between 1998 and 2018. However, just because the majority of the country has achieved middle-income status does not mean that the country is without its issues. Indoor air pollution in Cambodia is a growing problem.

Rural vs. Urban Areas

Many of those who have only recently overcome poverty have just barely done so. A large part of Cambodia’s population still lives on a very small amount of money per day and is at risk of slipping back into poverty. This risk is much higher in rural provinces. Eighty percent of Cambodia’s population lives in rural areas that had a poverty level of 20.8 percent in 2012. That is three times higher than the poverty rate in urban areas.

Rural Cambodians are subject as such to the hardships that many of the world’s rural poor must face. These include dilapidated electrical and internet infrastructure as well as limited access to healthcare and sanitation resources. Indoor air pollution in Cambodia is one such aspect of health that affects the rural poor disproportionately.

Indoor Air Pollution

The typical symptoms of being regularly exposed to indoor air pollution include nasal congestion, nose bleeds, difficulty breathing, a sore throat and asthma. These symptoms seem similar to a common cold, but long-term effects can include more serious respiratory diseases like respiratory disease and cancer.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), air pollution is the greatest environmental health risk in the Western Pacific Region. In 2012, air pollution caused at least 3.2 million deaths. Indoor air pollution accounted for about 1.62 million of these deaths. Indoor air pollution is usually caused by smoking tobacco inside and by cooking with wood, coal or dung without proper indoor ventilation. Many people who are poor in rural areas with limited access to gas or electricity use these methods to cook. In rural Cambodia, the prevalence of these cooking methods reached 95 percent of households by 2013.

Biogas Stoves

The main solution to reducing indoor air pollution is to introduce efficient stoves that use clean fuel. One source of clean stove fuel would simply be electricity. However, that is an issue for rural Cambodians since the electrical infrastructure is sparse in rural areas. A better, more applicable solution would be to introduce biogas stoves with proper ventilation.

One million Cambodian households have the proper livestock to supply themselves with biogas fuel. The fuel would need to be extracted by using a biodigester that anaerobically takes methane from natural resources such as dung stored underground and siphons it to the stove. The methane would, of course, need proper ventilation to ensure the air in the household did not become poisonous just like a natural gas stove. Cambodia’s Natural Biodigester Programme (NBP) is working to distribute biodigesters to its rural population in hopes of combatting indoor air pollution. As of 2016, the state-led program has installed about 23,000 biodigesters.

The ACE 1 Stove

Using solid biomass for cooking causes much of indoor air pollution. Another alternative to solid biomass would be to use cleaner biomass stovetops that produce negligible emissions indoors. African Clean Energy (ACE) has launched the ACE 1 stove. This stove uses biomass as fuel but burns nearly all particles inside the chamber to leave barely any emissions. In addition, the stove comes with solar panels that provide LED lighting and outlet ports for mobile phones.

ACE has launched a program in northern Cambodia, the poorest Cambodian region, to try and implement the product. The ACE 1 is auctioned from a local vendor where the buyer pays a $25 downpayment. Afterward, the buyer continues to pay off the stove in small monthly increments of about $7.

Indoor air pollution in Cambodia is still rampant in rural parts despite the overall increase in income. The solutions are there, but in order to ensure economic growth that benefits everybody, Cambodia needs to focus on the implementation of these solutions in an ethical and sustainable way. This would lessen the health risks that the Cambodian poor face from simply living in their houses. It will also help facilitate more stable, lasting economic growth and development for the poor of the countryside.

Graham Gordon
Photo: Flickr

Air Pollution in Nigeria
Nigeria has the largest number of deaths due to air pollution in Africa, while the country ranks fourth for air pollution across the globe. Statistics indicate that in 2016, 150 fatalities occurred per 100,000 people as a result of this environmental issue. The State of the Global Air Report that the Health Effects Institute (HEI) published determined that Nigeria’s air quality is amidst the most lethal worldwide. Atmospheric threats such as generator fumes, automobile emissions and crop burning cause air pollution.

In 2016, The HEI indicated that industrialized countries like Russia and Germany have reported lower death rates than Nigeria with 62 and 22 per 100,000 people. Meanwhile, developing countries like Afghanistan, Pakistan and India have reported much higher rates with 406, 207 and 195 deaths per 100,000 people.

Causes of Air Pollution in Nigeria

Air pollution emits through generator fumes which produce the deadly gas carbon monoxide. Automobiles with older engines are also likely to emit unhealthy fumes into the atmosphere. In households, kerosene stoves produce flames that contribute to the poor air ventilation. The nation creates over 3 million tons of waste yearly and most Nigerians burn their waste in their neighborhoods rather than discarding it, contributing more pollution to the atmosphere. Another aspect that contributes to the air pollution crisis in Nigeria is the use of firewood and coal to cook.

Additionally, indoor air pollution in Nigeria is also a big issue, as the amount of fine particulate matter levels in many households surpass air quality guidelines by 20 times. In 2012, according to the WHO, Lagos, Nigeria experienced nearly 7 million deaths caused by indoor and outdoor air contamination.

Air contamination across the African continent kills over 700,000 people annually; more people die from air pollution than unsanitary hygiene practices and undernourishment. Casualties as a result of the air pollution crisis in Nigeria has increased by nearly 40 percent in the last 30 years. Nigeria has some of the highest rates of unhealthy air quality across the African continent. Overall, Nigerian cities contain the most unhealthy air quality with 10 urban areas being classified on a list of 30 cities in Africa with the most unhealthy air quality.

The Effects of Air Pollution in Nigeria

While developed countries have effective solutions in place to handle air pollution, underdeveloped countries are struggling to handle this environmental issue. Some countries have begun taking appropriate measures to handle it, though. As a result, the number of people exposed to air pollution has decreased from 3.5 billion in 1990 to 2.4 billion in 2016.

The report also indicated that 95 percent of the globe’s citizens are intaking polluted air. In 2016, extended subjection to air pollution contributed to roughly 6 million deaths, all resulting from diseases such as strokes, lung disease, lung cancer, bronchitis, asthma and heart attacks. Air pollution is one of the top leading causes of fatalities, particularly in underdeveloped countries, even after smoking, increased blood pressure and unhealthy diets. Exposure to air pollution also increases the risk of developing cancer.

Solutions to the Air Pollution Crisis

In order to effectively handle the air pollution crisis in Nigeria, it is important for the country to provide regular inspections of automobiles to ensure that older cars are not releasing harmful chemicals into the atmosphere. It is also integral that Nigeria removes cars from the road that are toxic to the environment.

The implementation of efficient electric energy will help decrease the need for generators, which produces unhealthy air pollution in households and work environments. However, Nigeria does have access to sustainable energy resources that are capable of providing power to its citizens. These methods are safer for the environment and the usage of them decreases the use of gasoline-powered generators, thus decreasing pollution.

Nigerians can reduce air pollution in the household by substituting fuelwood for biogas, which is a form of biofuel that is instinctively manufactured from the decay of natural waste. Biogas will provide sustainable options for preparing food and heating the household while eliminating air pollution both inside the household and the outside environment.

In terms of trash disposal, recycling methods will be helpful to make certain that people are not burning waste. Additionally, daily waste removal from households will also help to properly dispose of trash, which reduces the fragmentation of waste and prevents odors that contribute to air pollution.

Additionally, factories that are within metropolitan areas follow guidelines regarding sustainable practices in order to decrease air pollution in Nigeria. The National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency (NESREA) monitors operations to ensure that these work environments are abiding by the pollution proclamations.

In conclusion, the execution of environmentally friendly practices in Nigeria will help decrease the air pollution crisis in Nigeria that is present in households, businesses and the outside environment. In order for the elimination of air pollution to be effective, the country must pursue the regulations for all Nigerians.

Additionally, it is necessary to inform communities regarding the sources and consequences of air pollution in order for them to effectively take action in decreasing the issue. Furthermore, those that become more knowledgeable of the issue are then able to educate others and persuade the Nigerian government to continue to enforce legislation against air pollution.

Diana Dopheide
Photo: Wikipedia

Life Expectancy in Laos

The both ethnically and linguistically diverse country of Laos is a landlocked, independent republic in Southeast Asia. It is home to about 7 million people, representing just 0.9 percent of the world’s total population. The average life expectancy in Laos is currently 65.8, but the number has gone up in recent years. The information below will provide 10 facts about life expectancy in Laos and what action is being taken to improve it.

Top 10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Laos

  1. Currently, the life expectancy of the total population in Laos is 65 years. Men in Laos have a lower life expectancy than the average rate at 62.9 years, and women’s life expectancy is approximately 67 years.
  2. The maternal death rate in Laos is one of the highest in the Western Pacific Region. According to the Laos Maternal Death Review, 54 percent of maternal deaths were caused by complications from postpartum hemorrhage. In 1990, 905 women per 100,000 live births had died. Given this statistic, the primary focus of the ministry and WHO has been developing a voucher program that ensures free delivery of pre and postnatal care for women.
  3. In conjunction with WHO, the ministry is providing free health services to women and children in 83 districts in 13 provinces. As of 2015, the mortality rate has dropped to 197 deaths for every 100,000 live births. This drop can also be largely attributed to the work being done by the UNFPA, which is providing counseling on family planning and training midwives to match international standards.
  4. Assisted childbirth was almost unheard of in 2007, and death during childbirth was considered common if not likely. Since 1995, the Ministry of Health has begun to recognize the importance of having trained and skilled professionals present during birth and is working to decrease the number of home births in the country. As of 2015, the maternal mortality rate had decreased 75 percent. Only eight other countries had been able to accomplish that goal.
  5. As of 2017, heart disease and stroke accounted for 22 percent of deaths in Laos. Since 2007, the number of deaths from stroke has risen 5.6 percent, and deaths from heart disease have risen 3.3 percent. Most cardiovascular and respiratory problems stem from smoking and high rates of air pollution.
  6. In March of 2019, the Pollution Control Department reported that there had been a large number of wildfires in Laos and neighboring countries. Forest fires in Thailand had caused air pollution levels to become hazardous. Currently, air pollution levels are more than 20 times the safety limit. Residents have been advised to wear safety masks to prevent smoke inhalation, and officials are working to bring down toxicity levels by spraying water into the polluted air.
  7. Malnutrition has also been a persistent problem in Laos and can lead to cognitive difficulties, delayed development and high mortality rate. In 2015, 17 percent of the population was considered malnourished. Additionally, 45 percent of deaths of children under five are linked to undernutrition. Food security, diet diversity and water and sanitation all contribute extensively to the malnutrition issues. Fortunately, UNICEF has been able to advocate for nutritional programs and interventions with the hope of lowering the mortality rate.
  8. In September of 2018, Ministries of Planning and Investment, Agriculture, Public Works, Transport and Health teamed up with the World Bank to tackle the malnutrition problem in Laos. These organizations have developed a program that is focused on the critical development that occurs in the first 1,000 days of a child’s life. The ministries and World Bank intend to establish welfare programs, diversify food production and improve hygiene and sanitation by ensuring clean water is accessible in rural sectors of Laos.
  9. Drinking water in Laos is often contaminated with dangerous chemicals and waste, particularly in rural areas and schools. Only 66 percent of the nearly 9,000 primary schools in Laos have functional water supply systems and latrine facilities, causing widespread health complications. UNICEF has been working with the Ministry of Education and Sports to implement a program called WASH, which improves water, sanitation and hygiene in conjunction with one another. Through the program, UNICEF is implementing effective hygiene practices, providing access to safe water and ending the practice of open defecation in rural communities.
  10. Government health expenditures have gone up more than 2 percent in the last four years in an effort to provide universal health coverage by 2025. The nation continues to work towards protection from infectious disease, and while the progress has been slow, with continued government funding health coverage is likely to expand.

Many of Laos’ SDG’s are still far from being accomplished, but the 2018 country profile from the WHO suggests that improvements have been made that will eventually lead to an overall increase in life expectancy. These 10 facts about life expectancy in Laos provide insight into what steps toward improvements have already been made and what still needs to be accomplished. The hope is that Laos will continue to increase its overall life expectancy, reaching an average age of 70 by the year 2030.

Anna Lagattuta

Photo: Everystock

Water Pollution in China is the Country's Largest Environmental Issue
Half of China’s population cannot access water that is safe for human consumption and two-thirds of China’s rural population relies on tainted water. Water pollution in China is such a problem that there could be “catastrophic consequences for future generations,” according to the World Bank.

China’s water supply has been contaminated by the dumping of toxic human and industrial waste. Pollution-induced algae blooms cause the surface of China’s lakes to turn a bright green, but greater problems may lurk beneath the surface; groundwater in 90 percent of China’s cities is contaminated.

China’s coastal manufacturing belt faces the most pollution. Despite the closure of thousands of pollutant sources, a third of the waterway remains well below the government’s modest standards for water quality. Most of China’s rural areas lack a system to treat wastewater.

Water pollution in China has doubled from what the government originally predicted because the impact of agricultural waste was ignored. Farm fertilizer has largely contributed to water contamination. China’s water sources contain toxic of levels of arsenic, fluorine and sulfates, and pollution has been linked to China’s high rates of liver, stomach and esophageal cancer.

Dabo Guan, a professor at the University of East Anglia in Britain, has been studying scarcity and water pollution in China for years. He believes water pollution to be the biggest environmental issue in China, but the public may be unaware of its impact. Air pollution creates pressure from the public on the government because it is visible every day, but underground water pollution is not visible in the cities, causing it to virtually be forgotten.

Water pollution in China stems from the demand for cheap goods; multinational companies ignore their suppliers’ environmental practices. Although China’s development has lifted many out of poverty, it has also sent many others into disease.

Factories are able to freely discharge their wastewater into lakes and rivers due to poor environmental regulations, weak enforcement and local corruption. Rural villages located near factory complexes rely on the contaminated water for drinking, washing and cooking. These villages have become known as “cancer villages” because of their high rates of cancer and death.

In 2011, Greenpeace launched the Detox campaign to publicize the relationship between multinational companies, their suppliers and water pollution in China. The Detox campaign challenges multinational companies to work with their suppliers to eliminate all instances of hazardous chemicals into water sources. Although combating water pollution in China will require much more work, continued efforts from organizations like the Detox campaign provide a beacon of hope for the future of China’s people and environment.

– Carolyn Gibson

Photo: Flickr

5 Ways Climate Unequally Affects Vulnerable PopulationsMore than three billion people live in poverty today and depend on natural resources for survival. Gradual changes in average climate conditions severely impact impoverished nations; however, unforeseeable variabilities in climate are of particular concern. Climate unequally affects vulnerable populations and lessens their capacity for adaptation to particular climate factors. Their lack of technological and financial resources, as well as their dependence on agricultural resources, hinder their ability to withstand some climate factors that impact developed countries at a lesser scale. While all societies have to adapt to the multifaceted challenges posed by climate, poor countries are at a particular disadvantage, notably with respect to the following five climate factors:

1. Natural Disasters
Natural disasters stimulate poverty and prevent the alleviation of existing poverty. Poor nations are more exposed to natural disasters and are at a higher risk of losing a majority of their assets and income. It is much more difficult for impoverished nations to recover from a disaster and they typically receive much less support. Depending on the fragile infrastructure, agricultural resources, and ecosystem incomes increase a nation’s vulnerability to natural disasters.

2. Warming
Even a slight rise in temperature at a global level negatively affects water quality and hygiene, which increases a nation’s risk for various diseases including malaria, encephalitis, Lyme disease and diarrhea. Rising temperatures creates a climate that is more susceptible to vector-borne diseases, which increase the diseases’ effects, further the diseases’ reach and stimulate the diseases’ prevalence.

3. Drought
Lack of access to water deeply affects developing countries. It becomes more difficult to sustain the agricultural sector and a cycle of devastation often hits. Less water reduces crop yields, increases food prices and decreases wages. Drought also affects agriculture indirectly, through climate-dependent stressors such as pests and epidemics.

4. Rain
Although rain and access to water are necessary for successful agriculture, too much rain and flooding can completely wipe out a season’s crop yield. Poorer nations often lack the ability to predict an expected rainfall, which can turn into overwatering or drowning of crops. Any loss in crop yield affects more than just economic instability as it almost always leads to an even greater risk of undernutrition.

5. Air pollution
Food production in developing nations is directly affected by the high emissions of pollutants. While the impact varies from crop to crop and region to region, the overarching negative impacts are irrefutable. High emissions decline crop yields in and of itself, but increased pollutants also interact with fertilization and greenhouse gases. Air pollution also negatively affects health; 800,000 out of the annual two million child deaths are from respiratory infections, which are caused by indoor air pollution.

All of the above climate factors are deeply embedded with the successes and failures of impoverished people. Climate unequally affects vulnerable populations in many ways; however, the encouraging news is that economic development, poverty reduction, better infrastructure and increased access to healthcare have the potential to compensate for the effects of climate.

Jamie Enright

Photo: Flickr

On the Mark With China's Solar Power TargetChina has recently made a powerful statement in regards to its solar power use as China’s solar power target for 2020 has already been surpassed, according to research recently published by the Asia Europe Clean Energy (Solar) Advisory.

With recent solar expenditures, China’s solar power target for 2020 has already been surpassed—the goal was 105 gigawatts of installed solar capacity. China now has 112 gigawatts of solar capacity, which bypasses any of the efforts of European countries to embrace solar power. Since the beginning of 2017, a whopping 35 gigawatts have been installed to meet China’s solar power target—more than twice as much as any other country had installed in 2016.

Part of China’s 112 gigawatts includes the largest solar farm and the largest floating solar farm in the world. This is part of a move by the Chinese government to reduce greenhouse gas emissions as well as to reduce coal-fired air pollution in major cities like Shanghai and Beijing, which damages the air quality in these urban areas.

In response to China’s rapidly growing solar sector, some critics have urged European nations to step up their efforts to utilize the power of the sun. Since 2015, when China surpassed Germany as the world’s largest solar power market, the solar capacity of Germany has expanded to only 41.1 gigawatts.

The environmental implications of this are huge; however, solar energy could also play a key role in alleviating global poverty. Solar energy can be utilized to power the basic needs of those living in poverty in China—it is an effective way to offer power to those who may not have reliable access to electricity. Solar energy can pave the way to access to basic human necessities, such as lighting and drinking water.

Regardless, China still has much of its energy demand to account for. Only one percent of China’s energy demand will be able to be met by these 112 gigawatts of solar power, as coal remains the source for the majority of Chinese energy. China is still the world’s greatest carbon emitter, and this issue must be addressed. However, the remarkable nature of what China has accomplished should still be celebrated and replicated in the future.

Jennifer Faulkner

Photo: Flickr