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On the surface, China has been a powerhouse in diminishing global poverty. Measured by individuals living with less than $6.85 a day, China’s poverty rate decreased from 63% in 2010 to 25% in 2019. Based on the country’s official poverty line, the World Bank states that, as of 2020, China’s national poverty rate is 0%. Martin Raiser, the World Bank’s representative in China, claims that China’s work accounts for roughly 70% of the world’s absolute poverty reduction. However, the People’s Republic of China maintains ingrained inequities due to how its hukou system restricts mobility.

What is the Hukou system?

The hukou system is the administrative tool used for population management and registration. The hukou system classifies individuals into urban and rural categories, assigning certain services to each classification, such as access to hospitals and schools. This policy dictates where individuals can live, work and own land in China. This restricts population movement by reserving government services like social security and public education only to citizens with proper hukou for the area in which they live. Changing one’s hukou is often expensive and almost impossible, depending on where the individual wants to live. Due to these policies, the PRC directly shapes available opportunities for urban and rural residents, contributing to stark disparities between its civilians.

China’s hukou system controls internal migration, manages social protection and preserves social stability. By restricting the legal right to live and work in cities without proper hukou, China achieved its goal of limiting the growth of megacities. This process helped mitigate the uncontrolled growth of urban slums, but many rural residents ignored hukou restrictions in search of better economic opportunities in cities.

Hukou Controls Mobility in China

Being born in a rural area causes those Chinese citizens to lose access to the job market in prosperous cities. Thus, they are often confined to living in the same region for most of their lives. Citizens need a temporary residence permit to spend more than three days outside their city or town, preventing free mobility like in other countries such as the U.S.

Some people born with rural hukou endure a complex and costly process to change their status, but many others lack the resources to go through this legal avenue. As a result, many rural residents migrate to cities without the allowed hukou, losing access to beneficial government services and often resorting to poor housing conditions.

Larger cities often limit new hukou to wealthy households, thus, leaving poorer urban residents with worse living conditions. Smaller cities usually accept rural migrants, making it easier for them to receive their desired hukou. While this process deters migrants from moving to larger cities like Shanghai and Beijing, it also puts millions of Chinese migrants in threatening conditions.

Ingrained Inequities in the Hukou System

The hukou system exists in tandem with growing income inequality. China’s Gini coefficient reveals high-income inequality: measuring inequality on a scale from 0 (low) to 1 (high), China’s is approximately 0.47 compared to 0.41 in the U.S.

While moving to urban areas increases access to higher-paying jobs, rural-to-urban migrants face significant penalties if they do not have an urban hukou. These workers lose access to health insurance, retirement allowances, unemployment insurance, maternity benefits, work insurance, employment and education. With more than half of China’s population living in cities, only 35% of urbanites have a city hukou. This disparity means more than 250 million migrant workers do not receive social security benefits.

The hukou system disadvantages rural residents more than city-designated dwellers by limiting their opportunities. On average, a farmer’s annual income equals about one-sixth of the average salary of an urban citizen. This steep income disparity is exacerbated by how farmers pay a tax rate three times the amount urban residents pay, presenting a great challenge for upward social mobility.

The Borgen Project spoke with Lauren He, a former resident of Shanghai, about the hukou system’s inequities. He stated, “Because of my urban hukou status, I have evaded many barriers migrants face when moving to cities like Shanghai.”

“My grandparents did not grow up with the hukou system, so they were able to move to Shanghai from the countryside with fewer complications than what migrants face today. This system deeply disadvantages those who cannot get the necessary hukou,” said He.

Consumption Poverty Rates Show Inequity

Despite persisting inequity due in part to the hukou system, studies have shown that rural-to-urban migration reduces poverty. Migrant workers move to increase their salaries, with many sending money back to their families in less prosperous rural areas, expanding economic growth and lowering the risk of poverty.

However, the hukou system has widened inequities in many ways. Many migrants work jobs more susceptible to market change, indicating a higher risk of impoverishment. In addition, while migrants may have lower income poverty, they still face the challenges of high consumption poverty rates. Migrant workers with urban hukous consume up to 30% more than their counterparts without the proper hukou status, revealing a disparity linked to the hukou system.

The Future of Poverty Reduction in China

While reforms continue in the hukou system, other programs in China are working to counter poverty through more direct action. In 1989, the China Foundation for Poverty Alleviation began its mission to combat poverty by organizing projects ranging from health care and education to economic development through infrastructure construction. Headquartered in Beijing, the CFPA targets domestic and global poverty, aiding the mission to end poverty for all.

With the work of organizations like CFPA and liberalizing restrictions on hukou, change may come to help eliminate disparities between urban and rural citizens in China.

– Michael Cardamone
Photo: Flickr

Yemen uses rainwater harvestingThe ongoing water scarcity crisis in Yemen continues to grow. Currently, the country stands as one of the most water-scarce regions in the world. With conflict and climate change making it increasingly harder to obtain fresh water sources, access to safe drinking water is a major concern for people living in Yemen. The World Bank and its partners started a promising project where Yemen uses rainwater harvesting techniques to provide accessible and clean drinking water to local people.

Yemen’s Water Crisis

Yemen is a water-stressed region, and the ongoing conflict has significantly exacerbated the crisis. A rapidly depleting store of groundwater resources in Yemen is negatively impacting the country’s economy, which mainly relies on irrigated agriculture. The International Committee of the Red Cross reports that Yemen’s groundwater overdraft is twice the recharge rate, resulting in declining and unsustainable water reserves. Moreover, the Yemeni Civil War has significantly disrupted crucial infrastructure. The displacement of 4.2 million people in Yemen and extreme water mismanagement have worsened the water crisis.

The United States Agency for International Development states that about 20.7 million people in Yemen lack clean water and essential health services, leading to several dangerous diseases such as cholera. Outbreaks of cholera and acute watery diarrhea have been major health problems in Yemeni communities since the outbreaks began in October 2016. According to the Red Cross, approximately 2.5 million cases have been reported, with more than 4,000 deaths in the Yemen cholera outbreak.

Rainwater Harvesting Solution

With 60% of Yemenis living in rural areas, the country’s biggest infrastructural challenge is providing water access to remote communities. According to the World Bank, people in Yemen undergo hardship in gathering water for daily use by traveling to far-off wells.  The World Bank and its partners collaborated with Yemeni communities to build rainwater harvesting systems.

Rainwater harvesting is not a complex process. Cisterns are built, usually from stones or other materials easily accessible in Yemeni villages, and placed on roofs to collect rainwater. The collaborative effort constructed numerous cisterns in three towns: Al-Adn, Al-Anin and Hawf. The project resulted in the villages being able to store large quantities of water that was free of contaminants.

Benefits of Rainwater Harvesting

Rainwater harvesting cisterns have provided safe drinking water and resulted in employment opportunities for locals. The World Bank offered cash-for-work programs in villages, allowing locals to build cisterns and gain valuable work experience. Cisterns have also eased the burden on the women and children in the villages. Haliya Al-Jahal, one of the women the World Bank interviewed, said, “We no longer have to go through the struggle of fetching water from remote areas.” The cisterns, as Al-Jahal states, have “put an end to [their] misery.”

The Future of the Program

The Yemen Emergency Crisis Response Project (YECRP) has supported the construction of about 1,279 public and 30,686 household harvesting cisterns across Yemen. This has resulted in providing 900,000 cubic meters of clean water to communities. YECRP has shown more promising results where Yemen uses rainwater harvesting to improve areas such as public health, agricultural production and economic gains.

– Umaima Munir
Photo: Flickr

food banks in AfricaAccording to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, approximately 702 to 828 million people worldwide suffered from hunger in 2021, and more than 30% of them were on the African continent. While there are many hunger relief efforts on the continent, food banks are the least prominent or known. There are many reasons for this, including bureaucracy in local governments, lack of funding, poor geographical location and poor infrastructure. Nevertheless, food banks in Africa are increasing in number despite the challenges and are making a significant impact on reducing food insecurity. Some things to know about food banks in Africa include:

Food banks are relatively new to Africa.

While there may be many hunger relief initiatives in Africa with long histories, food banks, especially those formed by local initiatives, did not form before the beginning of the 21st century. The earliest African food banks include the Egyptian Food Bank, founded in 2006, and FoodForward South Africa, founded in 2009.

Food is sourced directly from farmers and processing companies.

Most food waste in Africa comes from post-harvest and food processing levels of food distribution. This is unlike established food banking systems in the U.S. and Europe, which mainly source food waste from restaurants, supermarkets, grocery stores and other similar places. Other differences between these established systems and emerging ones in Africa and other parts of the world are challenging what is understood about food banking. As a result, food banking is being reevaluated on its impact on food insecurity.

Food banks expanded during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In 2020, the number of people in Africa suffering from hunger increased by 46 million; by 2021, 278 million people on the continent faced hunger. New food banks in Africa stepped up to cope with the increase and served 906,026 people, increasing their reach by 169% compared to their impact in 2019. Through the Africa Food Bank Incubator Conference held annually since 2019, African food banks came together virtually during the COVID-19 pandemic to share advice and strategies contributing to their exponential growth.

In 2019, African food banks joined the Global Food Banking Network for the first time.

The Global Food Banking Network is a nonprofit organization supporting food banks worldwide. Except for its partnership with FoodForward South Africa, the organization had no presence in the African continent. In 2019, the organization partnered with 40 food banks in Kenya, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Ghana, Madagascar and Botswana to form the Africa Incubator Program.

Food banks are helping food insecurity.

Food banking systems as a means to combat food insecurity and food waste in Africa will continue to mature as the continent continues to develop alongside the refinement of international interdependence. The present challenges to food banking in Africa can therefore be considered an opportunity to test innovative solutions in the fight against food poverty.

– Kena Irungu
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Far outnumbering the global cocaine market, the “industry” of international human trafficking sees about $99 billion as of 2022. The connection between poverty and human trafficking manifests in how the crime tends to concentrate in lower-income countries such as Cambodia, Pakistan, Romania and Belarus. While authorities continue to work to eradicate the crime, Freekind and STOP THE TRAFFIK (STT) are two organizations combating human trafficking.

What is Human Trafficking?

Human trafficking is a crime that trades and exploits people for profit. According to the United Nations, three important elements define trafficking: the act, the means and the purpose. The act refers to the recruitment or transportation of victims. The means include the violence and deception that traffickers use to traffic victims. Lastly, the purpose is the exploitation of victims.

Different Types of Human Trafficking

There are two main types of human trafficking: sexual and forced labor. Sexual labor is the most common form of human trafficking. Research on sex trafficking shows that, on average, 4.8 million are sexually exploited at any given time. Among these victims, 99% of the sex trafficked are women and girls, according to the U.N. International Labour Office. The same report states that about 25 million were in forced labor in 2017. Of this group, 42% were male, and 19% were children.

Poverty and Human Trafficking

While human trafficking is a global crisis, lower-income countries often have the highest cases of trafficking due to a lack of resources. Lack of employment opportunities is highest in places with extreme poverty. Consequently, traffickers exploit this vulnerability by falsely offering jobs or training. Job seekers in lower-income areas frequently migrate for work. These migrant workers, particularly young people and children, become vulnerable targets. Sociocultural structures in other regions lacking equal rights for females also see more child and forced marriages.

Freekind and STOP THE TRAFFIK

Two organizations are combating human trafficking by using education and technology.

Freekind focuses on rebuilding lives and raising awareness. To meet these objectives, Freekind designed the Prevention Project curriculum in 2012.  This award-winning program was produced by human trafficking survivors, educators and advocates, rooted in the belief that “if change is going to happen, it must begin with the young generation.” The curriculum is designed for secondary school students and youth service providers. Through interactive sessions, many students have become aware of the seriousness of human trafficking and have become committed to combating the crime.

STOP THE TRAFFIK uses technology to fight human trafficking. Like Freekind, STT believes in uniting people across the globe through information, inspiration and mobilization to understand human trafficking better. In addition, STT also trains people to report trafficking with the STOP APP, a smartphone app that people can use globally to report suspicious activities of human trafficking securely and anonymously.

STT analyzes the app’s data to provide information on global human trafficking hot spots and trends. According to STT’s Final Impact Report of 2020, data from the STOP APP progressed 11 human trafficking cases to authorities.

Human trafficking is an issue that requires more attention from authorities. In areas with extreme poverty, individuals are at a greater risk of becoming targets of traffickers. Organizations such as Freekind and STT have dedicated themselves to combating human trafficking. Through prevention education and technology, both organizations address the seriousness of human trafficking and aim to bring people together to prevent trafficking from taking place.

– Mimosa Ngai
Photo: Pexels

Women's Rights in the PhilippinesSeveral policies focus on advancing women’s rights in the Philippines to increase women’s empowerment and gender equality. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought to light gender disparities that make women’s rights progressions as urgent as ever.

Barriers for Women in the Workplace

Women’s rights in the Philippines, particularly in the workforce, are progressing. According to the 2021 Global Gender Gap report, the Philippines ranks 17th globally in gender equality, having closed 78.4% of its gender gap. A major role player in the Philippines’ gender equality advancements is the Philippine Magna Carta for Women, a comprehensive human rights law enacted in 2009 to abolish discrimination against Filipino women.

Despite this progression, female participation in the workforce is low, standing at just 49%—one of the lowest rates in the East Asia and Pacific region (EAP) compared to the regional average of 59%. According to the World Bank, progression in female workforce participation rates has seen minimal improvement since 1990. Since 2015, this gap has reduced by just 0.3%.

The lack of participation of women in the labor force hinders opportunities for the nation’s overall economic growth.  The World Bank says, “An increase of women’s labor supply by a mere 0.5 percentage points per year would increase gross domestic product (GDP) per capita by about 6% by 2040 and almost 10% by 2050.”

Barriers to Workforce Participation

A 2021 World Bank report on women’s economic empowerment explores the barriers to women’s participation in the Philippines’ labor force, including societal norms and beliefs.

The report’s survey on women’s work and childcare reveals that about 75% of Filipino males and 80% of Filipino women believe that men should be the breadwinners and women should bear the responsibility of caretaking and household chores. Further, more than 70% of men and 76% of women believe that a mother’s employment negatively impacts “the emotional and psychosocial development skills of a preschool child.” The World Bank has made policy recommendations to increase women’s participation in the labor force. This includes implementing “alternatives to child-care in the home” programs and promoting flexible work structures, such as remote work and e-commerce platforms.

The Magna Carta of Women

The Magna Carta of Women aims to abolish gender discrimination and protect women’s rights in the Philippines through a comprehensive definition of what constitutes gender discrimination. The law sets out extensive protections for women ranging from protection against violence to representation in male-dominated work sectors.

The Magna Carta of Women protects women from “all forms of violence” and ensures compulsory training on gender sensitivity for government staff  who work in sectors “involved in the protection and defense of women against gender-based violence.”

The law calls for more women representation in male-dominated fields, such as the police and military sectors. Women must also have equal rights regarding “marriage and family relations,” among many other rights such as equal opportunities to participate in sports.

Women’s Empowerment in the Workforce

In March 2022, at The Manila Times Online Business Forum called “Empowered Women Powering Changes,” chairperson and CEO of P&A Grant Thornton, Marivic Españo said the Philippines boasts a high percentage of females in leadership roles.

According to Españo, in 2021, about 48% of Filipino women worked in senior leadership roles; however, this rate declined in 2022 to 39%. Despite the decrease, the Philippines still ranks fourth-highest in the world for rates of women in senior leadership roles.

Abigail Tina del Rosario, Maybank Philippines president and CEO, says women in the Philippines fare better than women in other countries in terms of academics, the professional arena, the political sphere and the legislative sphere.

The Philippines has resources in place to protect women’s rights in the workplace, like the Expanded Maternity Leave Law, the Safe Streets and Public Spaces Law and the Telecommuting Law that allows females to work from home.

Looking Ahead

Despite the challenges women in the Philippines face, policies and laws are in place to advance women’s rights in the country to empower women and eliminate gender inequality.

– Jacara Watkins
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Struggles of RefugeesFact or fiction, books are a great way to create empathy and understanding of the real-life experiences of other people. An experience that is not uncommon yet unique to each individual who has lived it, is the global refugee struggle. There are many books that tell the stories of refugees and contemporary fiction books are only one example of a genre that can raise awareness through storytelling. Raising awareness about the struggles of refugees through books and literature helps encourage more humanitarian efforts directed at helping refugees.

Kiss the Dust

Published in 1994, this historical fiction book by Elizabeth Laird takes place in 1991. Tara is a 12-year-old Kurdish girl living in Iraq during a time when conflict was high between Saddam Hussein and the Iraqi Kurds. After her father’s involvement with the Kurdish resistance movement, Tara and her family are forced to flee to Britain, where her whole world changes completely. Though “Kiss the Dust” is more about Tara and her family’s struggles as refugees living in London, there is also a lot of focus on the Kurdish resistance movement in 1991 and the trauma that many experienced because of it. There is also an emphasis on overall trauma from war-ridden areas, something that has lasting effects on refugees.

The Red Pencil

“The Red Pencil” was written by Andrea Davis Pinkney and published in 2014. Inspired by a true story, it revolves around 12-year-old Amina living in Darfur, Sudan, in 2003. She nearly loses everything when her village is attacked, and after, she and her family are forced to find a refugee camp on foot. This book describes the struggles of her journey to the refugee camp in Kamal as well as her struggles while living in the camp. Due to the trauma, Amina stops speaking. Eventually, one of the relief workers gives her a red pencil which she uses to begin her journey of recovery. While describing Amina’s journey, the book also highlights Sudan and its prolonged conflicts and wars, showing how many Sudanese people have been forced to flee their homes throughout the years, making Amina and her family only one of many Sudanese refugees.

The Bone Sparrow

Written by Zana Fraillons and published in 2016, “The Bone Sparrow” follows a young boy named Subhi who was born in an immigration detention center in Australia. His mother and sister were part of the flood of Rohingya refugees who escaped their homeland due to the genocide of their people. Because he spent his entire life behind fences, Subhi struggles to curb his curiosity about the outside world. His only access is through his mother’s stories and his imagination. Eventually, he meets a girl on the other side of the fence who contributes to his journey of freedom, imagination and knowledge about the world. Through Subhi’s struggles, the author illustrates the refugee struggle of not having a place to truly call home. The story also shines a light on the Rohingya genocide and the number of refugees created as a result, a conflict still going on today.

In the Sea There Are Crocodiles

Enaiatollah Akbari was 10 years old when his mother sent him to Pakistan from Afghanistan, to protect him from the Taliban, portraying the many years the Taliban have been creating conflict in areas around Pakistan and Afghanistan. Published in 2010, the novel by Fabio Gada revolves around Akbari’s five-year journey as he travels through Iran, Turkey and Greece, eventually ending up in Italy at the age of 15. Throughout his journey, he encounters many hardships. This story highlights a refugee’s journey of loss and rebuilding.

The Good Braider

Published in 2012 by Terry Farish, this book is about a Sudanese family escaping war in their homeland and eventually ending up in Portland, Maine, a place with a lot of other Sudanese immigrants. The community of Sudanese refugees in the United States portrayed in this book shows the impact of the current and previous conflicts in South Sudan. The main character, Viola, struggles to balance the differences between her Sudanese heritage and the culture of the United States. By portraying Viola’s struggles within a Sudanese immigrant community, this book highlights the communal struggles of refugees and immigrants living in the United States.

The Unique Struggles of Refugees

Though the characters are fictional, all of these stories are based on real-life events that forced thousands of people to flee their homes. From war to genocide, each book highlights a unique yet similar set of events that the characters experience, based on their history, setting and context. These different perspectives not only allow people to empathize with victims of history but also bring more of an understanding about the lives of refugees and encourage more humanitarian efforts to address this global issue.

– Maryam Tori
Photo: Flickr

a new kind of bindiWhether wealthy or poor, the women of India are proud of their heritage and embrace their unique culture. One of the most noticeable components of Indian women’s culture is the bindi. While the rest of the world views it as a simple accessory, this tiny dot that sits in the middle of the woman’s forehead is a key element of reflecting Hinduism. Today the bindi is capable of being more than a religious adornment. The Life Saving Dot is a new kind of bindi that provides its wearer with a daily dose of iodine.

Iodine Deficiency in India

Iodine Deficiency Disorder, or IDD, is especially common in India due to the lack of iodized soil and nutrition. The Life Saving Dot has not only directly improved women’s health, but has also brought attention to the importance of including iodine in the everyday diet.

IDD is common especially in India for a number of reasons. The soil in India is famous for its lack of iodization, leaving crops with an insufficient amount of iodine. A majority of Indians favor a vegetarian diet and rarely eat seafood, which is another important source of iodine. A lack of iodized nutrition and a simple lack of awareness are the main contributors to IDD in India.

Iodine deficiency leads to a number of health issues. It is the largest contributor to brain damage which is often permanent. IDD is especially common among women as it affects pregnancy and can lead to breast cancer. Although IDD can have severe consequences, the disorder itself is easily preventable with a sufficient daily dose of iodine.

The Life Saving Dot: How it Works

The technology of the Life Saving Dot is comparable to that of a nicotine patch. The wearer absorbs the nutrients through her skin while wearing the patch. The Life Saving Dot provides the wearer with 150 to 200 micrograms of iodine when worn for at least four hours. While most women wearing the Life Saving Dot report beneficial results, the effectiveness of the dot will depend on certain factors such as skin thickness and even weather. The precipitation level of the current climate has the potential to affect the effectiveness of the dot.

This small dot has had a tremendous impact on the overall health of Indian women. Women wearing this bindi have reported a decrease in headaches, a common side effect of iodine deficiency. Costing only 10 rupees (equivalent to 16 cents in USD) for a pack of 30 dots, it is easily accessible to women of all income levels in India.

Impact of the Life Saving Dot

While the Life Saving Dot has a clearly direct impact on women’s health, perhaps the most important success of the dot is the awareness it created. The greatest contributor to IDD in India is a simple lack of awareness of the importance of iodine. An easy and effective way to combat iodine deficiency is by cooking with iodized salt. However, a significant number of Indian households were unaware of its importance.

India has made great progress in the search for IDD alleviation. According to a recent survey conducted from October 2018 to March 2019, awareness of iodized salt benefits is at 62.2% in urban areas and 50.5% in rural areas. Out of the 21,406 households included in the survey, 76.3% now have iodized salt in the home.

Awareness of iodine necessity increased due to media and the efforts of the Life Saving Dot. This new kind of bindi allows women to represent their proud culture while protecting their health. The direct health benefits of the Life Saving Dot are awe-inspiring and the awareness it presents is life-saving. By improving the awareness of the importance of incorporating iodine into one’s diet, families are protected from goiter, pregnancy complications and even brain disorders. Thanks to a small dot on the forehead, Indian women and their families are protected from IDD and the potential health risks it brings.

– Brittany Carter 
Photo: Flickr

help Guatemala
Currently, in Guatemala, 200 people are missing, 110 people are deceased and more than 1.7 million people have been impacted by the eruption of the Fuego volcano that began on June 3. It was the nation’s most severe volcanic eruption in 45 years and the size of this disaster has compelled many around the world to act.

Images of the volcano’s victims and its devastating impact are easily accessible on social media, as are advocacy and volunteer opportunities. Keep reading for a few examples of how to help Guatemala’s Fuego victims and bring awareness to the crisis.

Advocacy on Social Media

Social media has made advocacy from home possible and is one of the easiest ways to get involved in a cause. Several hashtags have popped up on social media platforms since the eruption began as a way to raise awareness along with fundraising and donation opportunities. With a simple search on Instagram or Twitter for any of the hashtags mentioned below, users can see pictures and updates on life in Guatemala after the volcano.

Examples of popular hashtags include:

  • #PrayForGuatemala
  • #GuatemalaEstoyContigo
  • #TodosPorGuate
  • #VolcanDeFuego
  • #FuerzaGuatemala

Finding Volunteers on Facebook

Another social media site that has offered ways to help Guatemala is Facebook. Beyond matching donations, the Crisis Response page on Facebook for the volcanic eruption has become a way for locals to find and give help. Facebook users can post to the page and list what they are offering or need, their location and how to get in contact with them.

Scrolling through the page shows people offering food, shelter or supplies, requesting help and asking for volunteers in specific locations. What is even more impressive is the number of posts that have already been completed or closed. This is yet another example of a relatively easy and effective way to help victims of Fuego’s eruption.

Red Cross Volunteers Working Hard

The Red Cross, led by the CruzRojaGT or Guatemalan arm of the organization, has been working tirelessly to provide rescue operations and support to Guatemalans. This organization has no intention of leaving soon and is putting long-term plans into place in order to keep helping survivors of this crisis.

The organization administered an emergency appeal to maintain programs in Guatemala to support 6,000 vulnerable people for at least a year. More than two weeks after the initial eruption, there are still 1,600 volunteers helping families evacuated during the eruption.

The American Red Cross is offering help as well, with programs set up to help people find loved ones they may have lost contact with in Guatemala. Beyond donating to the cause, sharing this information and keeping up to date on the current conditions are great ways to get involved with the Red Cross efforts.

Donations Flow In to Help Guatemala

In horrible times of crisis, sometimes the only positives are outpourings of support from the global community. There are many organizations and nonprofits accepting donations to provide help to burn victims, shelters, supplies and future rebuilding. GoFundMe set up a page with verified campaigns aiming to raise money to help Guatemala. Many of these funds were started by Guatemalans or people with ties to the country and some have already raised over $100,000.

This is partially made possible by the thousands of social media users who have used hashtags and posts to bring awareness to these causes and the ongoing impacts of the eruption. After the dust settles in Guatemala, it is important to keep sharing and being advocates for the millions of people impacted by Fuego’s eruption and to bring awareness to this crisis.

– Alexandra Eppenauer
Photo: Flickr

Gates Foundation

On February 22, The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation published its eighth annual letter, detailing global concerns and presenting goals for the foundation.

Energy and Time

Letters from previous years have included a variety of specific goals in the organization’s mission statement, ranging from disease prevention, economic improvement and resource distribution in developing countries. This year, the philanthropic duo is tackling two particularly salient topics: energy and time.

The annual letter’s structure is hinged on a conversation that took place at a high school in Kentucky. The students asked the co-founders: if you could have one superpower, what would it be?

Bill’s answer, “more energy,” falls in line with his decades-long work on climate change and clean energy solutions. In addition to elaborating upon his climate talk-spurred partnership, Breakthrough Energy Coalition, Bill highlights flaws and misconceptions about the world’s current carbon output data and the need for a zero greenhouse gas emissions by the end of the century.

He follows a blunt equation—Population (P) x Services (S) x Energy (E) x Carbon Dioxide (C) = CO2 (a necessary net zero)—with the solemn remark, “We need an energy miracle.”

Call for Youth Involvement

Piggybacking on a year of climate talks, international partnerships and private investments from big donors, the call falls upon open ears. The call is also directed towards the world’s youth.

His More Energy portion of the annual letter pleads for a multi-generational solution, rightfully acknowledging that the gears continue turning well into future years. He aligns with The Power Dialogue, a student-to-state forum held between student representatives and national leaders.

The event, which is sponsored by the Bard Center for Environmental Policy, took place on April 4, 2016, under the implementation of President Obama’s Clean Power Plan.

Women’s Rights and Global Poverty

Likewise, Melinda’s superpower, More Time, raises awareness around another turbulent issue: women’s rights residing at the core of global poverty.

She evaluates the theory of opportunity cost and underscores the issue of extreme gender inequality within poorer countries. “[What are] the other things women could be doing if they didn’t spend so much time on mundane tasks[?]” she speculates.

Her letter also foreshadows the focus of pop-culture front runners who, on March 7, signed an open letter to world leaders calling for the right to education, health and equal opportunity for women around the world.

Over 80 signatures, including comedians Tina Fey and Amy Poehler and prominent figures such as Sir Elton John and Oprah Winfrey, underline Melinda’s scrutiny of women’s participation in unpaid work, and the extreme gender gaps at home and abroad. “Once we see a norm,” she writes, “we can replace them with something better.”

The Gates’ Philanthropic Way

Bill and Melinda Gates, through the work of their foundation, governmental and private partnerships, continue to push the conversation forward toward a generation of world improvers. And their annual letter proves: you don’t need a super suit to do it.

Nora Harless

Photo: Wikipedia

antibiotic
Antibiotic resistance poses one of the greatest threats to global health and so-called “superbug” infections continue to grow. The latest World Health Organization (WHO) survey shows widespread confusion surrounding antibiotic resistance in developing countries.

The WHO reveals that those most affected by and at risk for antibiotic-resistant infections are confused about them. This poses a challenge to the treatment and eradication of antibiotic-resistant infections, which are propagating all over the world.

“Antibiotic resistance is occurring everywhere in the world, compromising the treatment of infectious diseases and undermining many other advances in health and medicine,” says the WHO.

According to the Alliance for the Prudent Use of Antibiotics, bacteria become resistant either by a genetic mutation or by acquiring resistance from another bacterium.

The survey, carried out in September and October 2015, covered 12 countries including Barbados, China, Egypt and India. The statistics cover the countries’ use of antibiotics and knowledge of antibiotics and antibiotic resistance.

The results were below expectations. Although respondents acknowledged that antibiotic resistance is a threat to them and their families, they did not fully understand how it affects them or what they can do to protect themselves.

According to the findings, “64 percent of respondents believe antibiotics can be used to treat colds and flu, despite the fact that antibiotics have no impact on viruses.”

Almost one-third of respondents believe they should stop taking antibiotics when they feel better, rather than for the full course of the prescription, which is also incorrect.

This uncertainty is occurring at a time when the threat of antibiotic resistance is reaching a peak. Deaths caused by antibiotic-resistant infections, known as “superbugs,” are growing faster than we are able to respond to them. The death rate for patients with infections caused by common but resistant bacteria treated in hospitals can be about twice that of patients with infections caused by the same non-resistant bacteria, says the WHO.

With results as pronounced as these, the WHO has started a new campaign to increase global awareness and improve understanding of the problem of antibiotic resistance.

Ashley Tressel

Sources: WHO 1, WHO 2, WHO 3, TUFTS
Photo: Joint Programming Initiative on Antimicrobial Resistance