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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

Poverty in China
Poverty in China may soon be a reality of the past. Last year, China relocated 2.49 million people from poverty-stricken areas to developed communities. By the end of this year, leaders plan to relocate 3.4 million.

This goal comes on the heels of China’s ambitious strategy to eradicate poverty in the nation by 2020. At first glance, this plan appears impossible: today, there are still around 45 million in China who live below the poverty line, where they are often left without clean water, power or roads. In regards to the population as a whole, this tallies up to one in 10 persons. There is also significant inequality between genders and regions, which places further hurdles for the government to tackle poverty.

However, if any country can face the odds and overcome, China has the best track record.

China has brought more citizens out of poverty than any other country. Between 1990 and 2010, the government increased the per capita income by tenfold, from $200 to $5,000, which brought China into the category of middle-income countries. This accomplishment stands as the reason why the number of people affected by global poverty decreased by more than three-quarters. Presently, the Chinese government has nearly eradicated urban poverty by paying subsidies to its citizens within cities and increasing the minimum income by $700. By the end of 2016, relocation projects occurred in 22 provinces, for which authorities are seeking out employment and social security for those impacted.

Apart from relocation, another aspect China may need to consider while making these significant changes is their fight against air pollution. Currently, poor air quality is killing around 4,000 people each day. While taking the citizens out of poverty in China, equitable growth must be sustained in a manner that cuts back on air pollution, rather than maintain or increase it.

Regardless, after last year’s mass relocation and China’s assertion to end poverty, it would be hard to doubt the success of their relocating 3.4 million people into better living conditions.

Brenna Yowell

Photo: Flickr

empathy video games
Recently, an increasing number of indie video game developers have been producing games, interactive media and virtual realities that aim to teach people about pressing social issues.

These broadly termed “empathy video games” commonly seek to evoke compassion in the player by creating an experience that provides a detailed look into the trials and tribulations the game’s characters undergo.

These games have covered a broad range of topics such as cancer, gender dysphoria and child abuse, according to The Telegraph.

Lately, a number of empathy video games have sought to raise awareness and understanding for issues related to global issues such as poverty and the refugee crisis. Here are a few examples of empathy video games:

North

North, by Outland Games, aims to demonstrate the difficulties refugees face when attempting to migrate and integrate into new places. You play as a refugee seeking asylum in a strange city, finding yourself disoriented and confused as you attempt to decipher the customs and codes of those who govern.

“In terms of its design…we worked on a web documentary about European migration policies with a few other journalists from across Europe. We also worked in refugee centers and saw all these people getting lost in endless paperwork and absurd procedures. So we had all this background knowledge and personal attachment to the refugee situation that we wanted to come across in the game,” said Gabriel Helfenstein, one half of the duo that comprises Outlands Games.

The game does not attempt to realistically emulate any of the world’s ongoing refugee crises; rather, it highlights the universal emotions of horror, grief, confusion, frustration and guilt that accompany all refugee situations. This is reflected in its design, which takes on a dark, surreal form.

Project Syria

Project Syria is a virtual reality project that places the user in two separate scenarios: in the midst of a bomb explosion on a busy street in Aleppo and in a refugee camp. The team behind Project Syria conducted extensive research to depict the situations as accurately as possible.

“…we managed to find two handicam videos of the explosion and traced the location to find out exactly where and when it happened,” Vangelis Lympouridis, co-producer of the project, told Motherboard.

“We pulled still frames from the videos, created panoramic shots, and used those to build the Aleppo neighborhood hit by the blast. For the refugee camp, we sent a team to the camp to record the situation. The audio is all real, which really creates a sense of presence.”

Project Syria has been billed as “immersive journalism” for its capacity to put people inside the story. Its creator, Nonny de la Peña, has previously created several other immersive environments to help ordinary people understand the plights of those affected by pressing social problems.

“I want to tell important stories,” de la Peña told The Telegraph. “And I want to do that in a way that brings them to life as much as possible and helps the audience find out about, or better understand, or feel more strongly about, a particular situation. Virtual reality has the unique ability to make you feel present on scene and that in turn generates a very powerful feeling of empathy.”

Cross Dakar City

Cross Dakar City focuses on the issue of child beggars (enfants talibés) in Senegal. The game follows Mamadou, a child beggar who is trying to cross the streets of Dakar in order to find his parents and return home. Mamadou has to avoid fast-moving vehicles, trains, bombs and rivers during the six levels of the game.

This is a widespread problem in Senegal — there were an estimated 50,000 child beggars in the country in 2010, according to Human Rights Watch. The problem arises when poor parents send their male children to Islamic schools to secure a better future for them.

At the schools, Muslim religious leaders sometimes send the young children out to beg on the streets. Though the practice was outlawed in 2005, critics, including the game’s creator, Ousseynou Khadim Bèye, say that the government has done little to enforce the new rules.

In a phone interview with Motherboard, Bèye explained the rationale behind his making of the game. “I wanted to make something that had a positive impact on Senegal and to reach the widest public as possible with this game and highlight the issue of child begging in Senegal. Players have to ensure that Mamadou crosses the streets of Dakar with their iconic local taxis safely. Many child beggars, who are as young as seven, become accident victims; they are also subject to kidnappings and sexual abuse,” he said.

“They also live in terrible conditions, lack access to electricity or water and have very little food,” said Bèye.

Since its release in May 2015, Cross Dakar City has been downloaded 50,000 times. Bèye has plans to make more socially-charged games in the future. “Ultimately, I want to partner with non-profit organizations and make more games on themes like solar energy and deforestation that make people more aware of how these issues are affecting communities in Africa,” he said.

Hazy Days

Mike Ren’s “Hazy Days” is a breathing simulator game that seeks to demonstrate the struggles that China’s high levels of air pollution inflict on its citizens, particularly children.

The player controls Xiao Feng, a little girl about to visit her grandmother for Chinese New Year. The game seeks to replicate her day-to-day experience in a polluted environment.

The player controls her breathing, trying to inhale oxygen molecules and avoid air pollution particles on her walk to school. The goal is to make it through a week without getting sick, so Xiao can visit her grandmother for Chinese New Year.

As the week progresses, more and more air pollution particles build up in Feng’s lungs, illustrating the build-up effect that pollution has. Though it is possible to make it through the week without getting sick, it is a very challenging endeavor.

China’s air pollution problem continues to get worse, despite the widespread media coverage. Air pollution is harmful to everyone, especially children, whose lungs are still developing. Common health problems that develop include asthma, chronic bronchitis, weakening of the immune system and higher rates of cancer. Hundreds of thousands of premature deaths have been linked to air pollution levels.

The emergence of these “empathy video games” points to the expanding efforts to make global issues such as poverty and the refugee crises more well-known in the minds of the general public.

Anton Li

New Wheels in Cairo: The Benefits of Egypt's Scrapping and Recycling
At 7 a.m. every Friday and Saturday, members of the Cairo Runners Club wake up and prepare to hit the soon-to-be crowded streets of Egypt’s capital. Yet these intrepid urban runners are not trying to exercise before work—the weekend actually has already begun (an Egyptian weekend lasts from Friday to Saturday).

Their early waking is rather a matter of health and safety than of discipline. By rising with the sun, they can avoid the noxious air pollution and congested streets that perpetually plague Egypt’s capital.

In fact, according to environmental data from the World Health Organization (WHO), Cairo is more polluted than even Beijing, Bangkok and Mexico City. It has a level of fine particulate that is seven times the WHO standards. These extreme levels of pollution often can lead to heart disease and cancer.

In order to curb air pollution, the Egyptian government has turned to a variety of strategies, including banning the burning of waste and spending more on public transportation. One program that is showing promising results is an initiative supported by the World Bank, which aims to replace old and inefficient mass-transit vehicles in the city.

The program, named Egypt Vehicle Scrapping and Recycling Program, provides cash incentives of up to 5,000 Egyptian Pounds, roughly 640 U.S. dollars, to taxi owners to relinquish and recycle their aging vehicles.

The Egypt recycling program also uses operating licenses to leverage compliance. Mass transit vehicles older than 20 years can no longer receive new operating licenses. Before the program, the age of the average taxi in Cairo was a whopping 32 years. Vehicles this old suffer from poor safety ratings, bad reliability and lack the catalytic converters that filter out pollutants from an engine’s exhaust.

Although the program is reinvigorating the transit fleet in Cairo, its effectiveness does not necessarily extend beyond the metropolitan area. In fact, since the program does not prescribe the method for disposing of these aging vehicles, owners can sell parts to private parties where the law is not in effect.

The Egyptian Environmental Affairs Agency also outlined a variety of challenges this program must face in order to succeed. First of all the program requires the complete motivation and organization of the vehicle owners, traffic department and the Ministry of the Interior.

The first project of its kind worldwide, the program also was entering uncharted waters and therefore only a small number could provide the required services. The complexities of Egyptian bureaucracy were also noted as hindrances to the program and would require attentiveness in order to coordinate affairs.

Nonetheless, since the program has been initiated in 2010, the World Bank has reported noticeable improvements. It estimates that during 2013 and in 2014, the program prevented over 130,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions. The program also has exchanged an impressive total of 40,689 old taxis with new taxis in Cairo alone.

Many of the old taxis were in excess of 50 years old, well above the already high average of 32 years. As Cairo replaces more of its aging taxis it can expect cleaner skies and perhaps even more runners.

Andrew Logan

Sources: The World Bank 1, The World Bank 2, United Nations Environment Program, Egyptian Environmental Affairs Agency, USA Today
Photo: Flickr