GM golden riceRice is a staple crop in Asia that provides 30-72% of the energy intake in the region. Many children in these countries rely on meager amounts of rice and almost nothing else. Enter genetically modified (GM) rice. GM golden rice is a revolutionary modified rice crop, characterized by its golden color and vitamin A fortification. This biofortified crop works to alleviate the issue of malnutrition in Asia, especially among children.

Vitamin A

In Bangladesh, China, India and elsewhere in Asia, there is a vitamin A deficiency problem. Annually, vitamin A deficiency results in the death of several million children and blindness in 250,000, according to a study done by WHO. Half of these children die within 12 months of losing their sight.

GM golden rice allows for beta-carotene (a Vitamin A precursor) synthesis in the edible portion of rice. This process may prove to be a promising remedy to this widespread vitamin deficiency. The body can actually use beta-carotene in the edible portion of rice, rather than the rice’s leaves. Not only is it usable, but it can supply 30% to 50% of a person’s daily vitamin A requirement.

Other Benefits

Besides the nutritional benefit, GM golden rice also lasts longer than its non-GM counterparts. A Purdue University researcher found that some GM foods have an increased shelf life by a week longer than it would have originally. Foods that can stay fresher longer help impoverished regions store food and aid food distribution across long periods of time.  

Furthermore, modified foods, like GM golden rice, are routinely screened for safety. Simon Barber, director of the Plant Biotechnology Unit at EuropaBio, the European biotech industry association, stated that before anything may be imported into Europe and used as animal feed or as an ingredient in food for humans, it had to travel through a security approval process.

In addition, the two genes inserted into GM golden rice, plant phytoene synthase and bacterial phytoene desaturase, are innocuous to the human body. Further, Dr. Russesll Reinke, IRR Program Lead for Healthier Rice,  stated that test trials in Australia, New Zealand and the U.S. found this rice to be safe for consumption.


As technology rapidly evolves, people will have reservations about the unfamiliar processes involved. However, GM golden rice has continued to be a proven and effective supplement for adequate nutrition. With new technological solutions, like GM golden rice, food shortages can continue to decrease.

Justin Chan
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in present-day Japan
The film titled, “Nobody Knows” or “Dare Mo Shiranai” in Japanese, shows the issues of poverty in present-day Japan — even though the film was made in 2004. The film, based on a child abandonment case, takes off when the single-mother, Keiko, leaves her boyfriend’s apartment. The oldest child, who is just 12 years old, had to care for his younger siblings (whose existence is hidden from neighbors and the landlord). The film depicts the struggle of poor children as well as a poor, single mother in a Japanese society where people are not willing to take decisive action to help others. Although Japan is one of the most developed countries in the world, 14% of children experienced poverty in 2018.

The Struggle of Single-Parent Households

About 56% of children raised by a single-parent live in poverty. In the film, the mother struggles financially. She explains that she has difficulties finding an apartment because of her status as a single parent of four kids. Finding a stable job can be difficult in current Japanese society because of the common perception that single mothers are unreliable.

Employers are hesitant to hire single-mothers because they may not be able to work when a child gets sick, for example. They end up working as irregular or part-time workers — a status that garners a lower income and less stability when compared with full-time. Irregular workers make up 40% of the workforce in Japan. Many single mothers have to work at two or more places in order to feed their children. In the film, the mother has no financial support from the fathers of her children. The reality of a single mother is often the same and due to current laws in Japan — single-mothers are often unable to obtain financial support from the fathers of their children. These factors all lead to the existence of subtle poverty in present-day Japan.

Ramifications for the Children

Although the children in the film cannot go to school, children from single-parent households who do go to school tend to struggle academically. The percentage of children who perform below average at school is higher for children who have single-parents when compared with those who have both parents. These children are more likely to be unable to attend “cram school” — where many Japanese students study for exams, after regular school. These factors regarding academic performance affect the earnings and job potential of these children’s future. In this way, the poverty of the current generation is passed on to the next generation. Furthermore, it is difficult to distinguish which children are struggling with poverty. This makes the issue of child poverty in present-day Japan even more elusive.

COVID-19’s Effects on Single Mothers and Children

Because of the current economic situation due to COVID-19, non-regular employees are at risk. The law does not protect them from getting fired and unemployment insurance may not be available for some. The request to stay home from the government has affected certain teenagers who have nowhere to go due to poverty or other family issues. Moreover, the closing of school negatively affected the children who rely on school meals.

Actions of Nonprofit Organizations

Several nonprofit organizations and volunteers have worked to help the people in need. Colabo, an organization helping girls in need, has provided food and shelter to teenage girls who have nowhere to turn — due to poverty, abusive parents or other personal reasons. Colabo reaches out to these girls in the city at night to let them know of its free service. In 2019, more than 500 girls used its bus café, where it provides free food and counseling services. Also, Colabo rents apartments at cheap prices for the girls’ use.

Kodomo Shokudo is a cafeteria that provides children with food — either for free or at a cheap price. In 2018, there were more than 2,200 locations across the country. These locations each have different programs to help children in need and many also provide a place where children can study and play. One of these locations even helps children learn how to cook. Kodomo Shokudo unfortunately cannot open presently due to the current COVID-19 pandemic. Some locations recently started delivering food to people in need and children who came to the cafeteria often. These initiatives by nonprofit organizations and their volunteers help poor children and spread awareness of child poverty in present-day Japan.

Addressing the Problem

The film “Nobody Knows” is more than 10 years old. However, the invisibility of poverty in present-day Japan and the struggle of single mothers are still prevalent in Japanese society. Raising awareness around poverty in present-day Japan is crucial to effectively address and solve the issue.

Sayaka Ojima
Photo: Pixabay

Poverty in BangladeshWith a third of the world’s poor residing in south Asia, Bangladesh considerably contributes to this number. But the past few decades have seen a decline in this trend, as the population of individuals living in poverty has decreased from 44.2 million in 1991 to 28.1 million in 2010. In order to move to the status of a developed country, the number of women in the workforce has doubled, the economy is steadily growing, and Bangladesh has set a goal to end poverty by 2030.

5 ways poverty has been reduced in Bangladesh:

1. The 1950s saw a recognition of the relationship between family and poverty. The government’s National Family Planning Association implemented a voluntary family planning program in 1953. The 21st century has grown this program, as contraception is prevalent among 42 percent of women and 4 million unwanted pregnancies were prevented in 2016. This program goes beyond population growth, as it keeps women in the workforce, therefore reducing their vulnerability to poverty.
2. Education continues to be a vessel of leaving poverty. The government of Bangladesh established the Primary Education Stipends program between 1990 and 2000. Impoverished families receive a cash stipend each month to send children to school. The program has abolished school fees and textbook fees, and has helped to train teachers. The program has also increased enrollment from 60 percent to 89 percent from 1990 to 2011.
3. UKAid’s Urban Partnership for Poverty Reduction project was created to assist aspiring entrepreneurs in poverty. A grant is awarded, and the recipient usually matches the amount. The program has awarded 55,000 grants in the past five years. The grants are used in a variety of ways, but are commonly used to help people in poverty follow their dreams of starting a business.
4. Taking an unusual approach to fighting poverty, the United Nations Development Program began to compile data about producers, traders, and other professions involved in trade. To date, the project has collected the stories of 200 individuals in poverty. The vision of the project is to raise awareness of all the workers who still live in extreme poverty, and from there find solutions to the problems of impoverished farm workers.
5. Created to facilitate poverty reduction worldwide, the Millennium Development Goals have been tailored by UNICEF to fit Bangladesh. The program aims to reduce the micronutrient deficiencies among impoverished children. In addition, the goals have been altered to include a goal of 95 percent school enrollment rate, 85 percent completion rate, and provides non-formal primary education to 200,000 working children between the ages of 10 and 14.

Bangladesh has suffered the effects of poverty for generations. These programs have worked to fix the problem and are moving Bangladesh forward. With the number of people in poverty diminishing, these 5 ways of reducing poverty in Bangladesh are doing exactly what they set out to do.

Sophie Casimes

Photo: Flickr

In Central Asia lies the Republic of Uzbekistan, a country just north of Turkmenistan and south of Kazakhstan. With a physical size only slightly larger than the state of California, Uzbekistan’s population is just under 29.5 million. Although a sovereign nation today, Uzbekistan only just gained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.

Today, the country’s economy remains largely state-run with little diversification. As of 2015, around 12.8 percent of individuals living in the country were below the poverty line. As it has now been decades since the nation gained independence from the Soviet Union, this begs the question: why is Uzbekistan poor? Below are a few reasons:

“White Gold”
Cotton, also referred to as “white gold,” currently accounts for a whopping 60 percent of Uzbekistan’s export earnings. This fact is in large part because of the actions of the Soviets in the 1940s. Because cotton is a highly water-intensive crop, the Soviet Union built various canals which would serve to divert water from the Aral Sea to the Uzbek cotton fields. Now, the Aral Sea has shrunk to 15 percent of its original volume and former ports around the Aral Sea rest as ghost towns.

The effect of this is that Uzbekistan’s economy remains undiversified. As the current government of Uzbekistan retains tight controls on most facets of the economy, farmers are highly pressured to meet cotton quotas. Therefore, as other farmers can grow so little else, “white gold” has indirectly compromised food supply.

Worse yet, governmental corruption drains farmers’ deserved income from cotton. A U.K.-based charity called The Environmental Justice Foundation has stated that the official price that farmers receive in return for their cotton represents just one-third of its real value. However, the real outlook is far bleaker. Farmers have reported that they do not even receive the official procurement price. To understand the answer to the question “why is Uzbekistan poor,” one must know that corruption has persisted in Uzbekistan long after the fall of the Soviet Union. This persistence is not merely because of social and cultural norms, but because such practices have continued to actively benefit the elites of Uzbek society, both economically and politically, for decades.

Therefore, to answer the question “why is Uzbekistan poor?” one takes into account the primary reason Uzbekistan’s economy remains stifled and undiversified–cotton–but also the reason no changes have been made–corruption. If one hopes to end poverty in the region, both issues must be addressed.

Shannon Golden

Photo: Google

Laos Poverty Rate
Poverty in Laos, formally known as the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, has been on the decline for the last decade. Despite improvements, the poverty rate in Laos rests at 23.2 percent, meaning that more than a fifth of the seven million Laotians must survive below the poverty line in poor living conditions.

Poverty in Laos tends to manifest itself in underdeveloped, mountainous areas. Those that live in these isolated areas are often left without access to electricity, schools and even roads. Many of the ethnic minorities in Laos live in these underserved, rural areas.

These minority groups are further isolated by barriers in language, customs and religion. This, combined with geographic isolation, contributes to a higher rate of poverty for those who live in rural communities.

In comparison to the rest of Southeast Asia, Laos has one of the highest poverty rates, behind only Myanmar. Malaysia and Vietnam both have significantly lower rates of poverty as well as some of the lowest in the region. There is even some indication that the poverty rate in Laos is declining at a slower rate than other countries in Southeast Asia.

This is not to say that all news regarding poverty in Laos is bad—there are many positive signs that indicate Laos will continue to move away from poverty as it has in the past decade. While the poverty rate in Laos is now at 23.2 percent, nearly a decade ago it was at a staggeringly high 33.5 percent. This shift is due largely in part to economic growth that is expected to continue in the future.

Laos has one of the fastest-growing economies—not only in the East Asia and Pacific region but also in the world. This growth can be attributed to the fact that Laos is home to a bounty of natural resources that include water, minerals and forests. Additionally, construction and services have expanded and contributed to an increase in tourism and foreign investment.

By capitalizing on this economic growth, much can be done to improve living conditions in this country. Focusing on educational attainment and teaching skills to workers—especially in rural areas—can have a drastic impact on the lives of many in Laos.

Jennifer Faulkner

Photo: Flickr

Asian H7N9Mainland China is in the midst of yet another outbreak of the Asian Lineage Avian Influenza A Virus, or Asian H7N9, and both the Chinese national government and several international organizations are scrambling to take a hold of the situation.

This is the fifth epidemic outbreak of Asian H7N9 since the first case of the virus was reported in March 2013. The present epidemic cycle is its largest epidemic to date: the World Health Organization (WHO) reveals that, as of July 19, 2017, 756 human infections from Asian H7N9 have been reported since the epidemic’s onset in March. The most recent report brings the total number of confirmed Asian H7N9 infections to 1,554, where at least 40 percent of afflicted persons died due to consequent health complications.

While both local and international health authorities refute the idea of an Asian H7N9 pandemic and cite that there is no strong evidence that would constitute a global outbreak, it is wise for citizens to be aware of the evolving situation regarding the virus. Here are ten things to know about the virus:

  1. Most human infections from avian influenza viruses (including Asian H7N9) have occurred after close contact with infected birds, whether alive or dead, and/or exposure to environments that have been contaminated by the virus (e.g. live poultry markets).
  2. A person can most commonly contract the virus from touching their eyes, nose or mouth after coming into contact with the feces or mucus of infected birds. Poultry infected with the H7N9 virus typically do not show nor experience any signs or symptoms that demonstrate illness.
  3. On the onset, symptoms of infection start with a high fever and cough. Within a matter of days, several health complications may start to surface. Most cases of death due to Asian H7N9 progressed to very serious illnesses such as severe pneumonia, acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), septic shock and multi-organ failure, leading to death.
  4. To date, there is no strong evidence for person-to-person spread of the virus. Cases that were reported where the virus appeared to have been transferred from person to person occurred in small clusters (around seven percent of cases). Such cases were also classified as likely limited, non-sustained person-to-person infection, meaning that the virus was only passed down from the animal host to a caretaker and a close contact of that person.
  5. Victims of Asian H7N9 stretch from all age groups and genders, but most cases confirmed by the National Health and Family Planning Commission of China (NHFPC) involve middle-aged men from the ages of 45 to 50.
  6. Almost all infections occurred because of contact or exposure to the virus, with the exception of a 33-year-old female from Wenshan, Yunnan province in China, who local authorities said had no apparent exposure or had no close contact with infected poultry.
  7. Most cases were said to have transpired in Eastern China, but cases have also been reported in Northwestern China, as well as in other countries such as Taiwan, Malaysia and Canada. The majority of cases reported in countries outside of China occurred among people who had traveled to mainland China before becoming ill.
  8. At the moment, Asian H7N9 has not been detected in the United States. However, in March 2017, federal animal health officials confirmed that a highly pathogenic H7N9 avian flu outbreak struck two farms in Lincoln County, Tennessee. The outbreak occurred at two commercial breeder flocks within three kilometers away from each other, one of them containing around 55,000 birds. However, the H7N9 virus that afflicted this American livestock was not related to Asian H7N9, as all gene segments from genetic tests conducted related the former to North American wild bird lineages.
  9. The current risk to public health is low; however, the pandemic potential of the virus is alarming, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Additionally, the Influenza Risk Assessment Tool (IRAT) rated Asian H7N9 as having the greatest potential to cause a pandemic and potentially posing the greatest risk to severely impact public health.
  10. There is currently no publicly available vaccine to protect against the H7N9 virus. However, there are medicines available to treat illnesses associated with the virus. The CDC recommends oral oseltamivir (Tamiflu), inhaled zanamivir (Relenza) and intravenous peramivir (Rapivab) for treatment of H7N9 virus infection.

The WHO advises travelers to countries with known outbreaks of avian influenza to avoid poultry farms, contact with animals in live poultry markets and to refrain from entering areas where poultry is slaughtered whenever possible. It also reminds tourists in these areas to constantly wash their hands with soap and water and to follow good food and hygiene practices.

Bella Suansing

Photo: Google

Causes of Poverty in UzbekistanIn Central Asia lies the Republic of Uzbekistan, a country just north of Turkmenistan and south of Kazakhstan. With a physical size only slightly larger than California, Uzbekistan’s population is just lower than 29.5 million. Although a sovereign nation today, Uzbekistan only just gained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. Today, the nation’s economy remains largely state-run with little diversification. As of 2015, around 12.8 percent of individuals living in the country were below the poverty line. Roughly 75 percent of these individuals lived in rural areas. Here is one of the major causes of poverty in Uzbekistan:

“White gold,” also known as cotton, currently accounts for a whopping 60 percent of Uzbekistan’s export earnings. This resulted from the actions of the Soviet government during the 1940s. Because cotton is a highly water intensive crop, the Soviet Union built canals to divert water from the Aral Sea to Uzbekistan’s cotton fields. Now, the Aral Sea has shrunk to 15 percent of its original volume and former ports around the Aral Sea rest as ghost towns. The loss of these ports has been another cause of poverty in Uzbekistan.

This has also meant that Uzbekistan’s economy remains undiversified. As the current government of Uzbekistan retains tight controls on most facets of the economy, farmers are pressured to meet cotton quotas, and other farmers can grow little else. This has compromised the country’s food supply.

What makes matters worse is that governmental corruption drains farmers’ deserved income from yielding cotton. A U.K. charity called The Environmental Justice Foundation has stated, “the official price that farmers receive in return for their cotton represents just one third of its true value. But the real outlook is far more bleak. Farmers have reported that they don’t even receive the official procurement price.”

Therefore, the conquest for “white gold” or cotton has been one of the major causes of poverty in Uzbekistan. If dreams for a more thriving economy are to be realized, the economy must expand to include more than cotton.

Shannon Golden

Photo: Google

Hunger in Turkmenistan

The Central Asian country of Turkmenistan, once a vital stop on the renowned silk roads, has made significant progress over the years in regards to alleviating hunger. The dictatorship has achieved this by having an abundance of natural resources, a high education rate, and political alliances with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

Considering that Turkmenistan is the fifth-largest gas reserve in the world, the country has been endowed with plenty of natural resources, making rapid economic growth inevitable. In 2016 alone, the GDP rose by 6.2 percent. The influx of capital from exports allows for the country to be more liberal in their spending to assuage problems such as hunger, malnutrition and lack of education.

The improving economic condition coincides with the improvement in Turkmenistan’s hunger problem, as the undernourishment rate is merely 2.5 percent. An increase in agricultural production due to economic growth was the vital factor in bringing the malnutrition percentage down. Furthermore, Turkmenistan now falls into the moderate category with a score of only 12.3 on the Global Hunger Index – 4.8 points less than in 2008. This places Turkmenistan not far behind countries such as the United States and Canada.

Hunger in Turkmenistan is further combated through an active enforcement of education. With almost a 100 percent literacy rate, residents of Turkmenistan have a wider array of career choices, leading to more opportunities to increase their income. Access to additional income per capita allows for families to purchase more food, which leads to lower malnutrition rates.

The United Nations have duly noted the progress that Turkmenistan has made in regards to hunger. Not only has it attained the Millennium Development Goal of halving the number of hungry individuals, but also it has succeeded in being one of the noteworthy countries to reach the World Food Summit’s goal of reducing the absolute number of undernourished people by one-half.

Although Turkmenistan has made notable progress when it comes to hunger, they still are not perfect. Affluent people often have a monopoly over the natural resource industry, and therefore don’t leave quite enough for the ordinary person. Honing in on this problem could make further strides to improve hunger in Turkmenistan.

Tanvi Wattal

Photo: Flickr

Poverty Rate Of CambodiaCambodia is a country in Southeast Asia with a population of just over 15 million people. The country has numerous ethnicities including people from Vietnam, China and over 30 hill tribes. Although the economy in Cambodia has been improving ever since the dawn of the 21st century, the poverty rate in Cambodia is still relatively high.

The poverty line in Cambodia is defined as living while only using $0.93 or less each day. As indicated by a study done by the Ministry of Planning in 2009, about 22.9 percent of the Cambodian population currently lives under the poverty line. This percentage means that these people do not have enough resources to meet their daily needs.

This poverty rate has only been exacerbated by the history of conflict in the region. The start of this economic crisis lasted from 1980 to 1989 and was spurred by the reign of the communist regime, Khmer Rouge. Socialist policies, the suppression of the Cambodian population and government corruption under this regime continued to stunt the growth of the Cambodian economy. It was only in 1989 when the Cambodian people gained independence from Khmer Rouge that its economy began to grow again.

Freedom from Khmer Rouge brought the free market to the region. Some key factors that allowed the Cambodian government to grow so quickly include expansion of construction, tourism, and the growth of the agricultural sector.

The population of Cambodians still living in the countryside still struggle with poverty. The Asian Development Bank conducted a study in 2012, attempting to determine the poverty rate in this region. They found that 18.9 percent of the Cambodian population lived in poverty and many of them living in rural areas.

The reason for the higher rate in the rural regions of Cambodia stems from their lack of access to the skills and tools needed to escape poverty. Rural citizens have little access to primary education, health care and public services due to the lack of government support. This lack of infrastructure all stems from the country’s newfound freedom from Khmer Rouge.

Even though Cambodia has recently gained freedom from Khmer Rouge, corruption in the government continues to hold back progress in the region. An indication of this was that, in 2010, Cambodia ranked 154th out of 178 countries in the Corruption Perceptions Index, making it one of the most corrupt countries in the world. This amount of corruption acts as a deterrent for foreign investors, further contributing to its high poverty rate.

However, there is hope for reducing the poverty rate in Cambodia. As the GDP increases in the country, foreign investors will continue to consider Cambodia as a place to invest. On top of this, the United Nations tasked Cambodia to meet the Millennium Development targets by 2015.

These goals included reducing corruption in the government, increasing the GDP, and improving infrastructure within the country. Cambodia managed to reach these goals, and the U.N. stated that the country was “an early achiever” and it praised the country for the work it had been doing to alleviate poverty.

The future of Cambodia is still uncertain, but if the nation continues to work alongside the U.N. and continues to meet the goals created by the Millennium Development program, the poverty rate in Cambodia can only go down, and the quality of life in the nation can only go up.

Nicholas Beauchamp

Photo: Flickr

Thailand Poverty RateIn recent years, Thailand has made tremendous strides in pulling itself out of poverty. In 2011, Thailand became classified as an upper middle-income economy as the Thailand poverty rate has been steadily falling since the 1980s.

In 2015, according to the World Bank, the Thailand poverty rate was 7.2 percent, a tremendous change from 67 percent in 1986. While the Asian Development Bank reported a slightly higher poverty rate of 10.5 percent, the decrease in poverty in Thailand is undeniable. In comparison to the rest of Southeast Asia, Thailand boasts the third-lowest poverty rate right behind Malaysia and Vietnam.

However, poverty in Thailand tends to concentrate in two main groups: those living in rural areas and the elderly. Of the roughly 7-10 percent that live in poverty, a majority of those live outside of metropolitan areas. As of 2014, more than 80 percent of those living below the poverty line resided in rural towns.

The poverty rate in Thailand is also high among those over the age of 60. Thailand’s population has peaked and is expected to begin decreasing by 2030, which means that the number of working-age people is decreasing. Poverty affects those over the age of 60 at a higher rate than the national average at 10.9 percent.

Many point to significant economic growth as a catalyst to Thailand’s falling poverty rate. Thailand’s economy has been steadily growing since the 1960s, creating jobs that have helped millions escape from poverty. Although growth has slowed down slightly, the World Bank expects it to pick up once again in 2017.

As a result of economic growth, many have experienced improvements in welfare. Many Thai children have had their quality of life improved. Literacy rates have increased while the rate of childhood death and disease have decreased. Most people are covered by health insurance and social security has increased as well.

This is not to say that poverty is no longer an issue within Thailand. Many still live without access to basic social services and the poor continue to be more vulnerable to illness and unemployment. However, it is important to understand the Thailand poverty rate — and how it has fallen dramatically — in order for the country to continue its trend away from poverty.

Jennifer Faulkner

Photo: Flickr