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efforts to mitigate food insecurityAccording to the Council on Foreign Relations, about 135 million people experienced severe food insecurity before the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic has worsened this crisis with less access to quality food and prices skyrocketing. COVID-19 has already destroyed decades-worth of work made toward reducing global hunger. There are already predictions that millions of children will suffer more from malnutrition, obesity and stunting. Global hunger is an impediment to international development, increasing tensions within developing countries.

How Food Insecurity Worsened During COVID-19

The U.N.’s World Food Programme (WFP) states that millions of citizens across 43 developing countries face an “emergency phase of food insecurity in 2021.” The majority of those experiencing food insecurity in those countries are either refugees or anyone forced to migrate.

The Center for Strategic and International Studies reported that 272 million people are food insecure one year into the pandemic. Many believe that higher food insecurity rates worldwide occurred due to the shortages from panic buying and stockpiling. However, the U.N. Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) determined that agricultural production reached its highest level. In 2020, the world produced 2.7 billion tons of the most commonly grown crops. The reality is that disruptions within the supply chain are the root cause of this worsening issue.

Actions of the World Bank

As part of its efforts to mitigate food insecurity during COVID-19, the World Bank increased funding for more effective agricultural systems in Guatemala to reduce disruptions in the supply chain. Its assistance also aimed to help alleviate the food insecurity caused by economic challenges and droughts. The World Bank helped Liberia by incorporating a Contingency Emergency Response Component that allows the government to respond to the needs of those at a higher risk of food insecurity. The component also helps increase crop production and helps normalize the supply chain there.

How to Overcome Economic Challenges

The pandemic also worsened the economic situation in developing countries. People received fewer remittances preventing them from accessing essential goods. Latin America has been most impacted by reduced remittances. However, food prices in other regions facing conflict became higher than many people’s daily salaries, making the situation difficult to overcome.

Haiti is a country with the highest food insecurity rates and faced severe impacts from the reduced remittances. The pandemic and reduced remittances hurt farmers the most. The World Bank assisted by providing programs with enough funding for farmers to produce enough crops for a two-year time frame. The programs will also help farmers incorporate safety precautions into their practices during the pandemic.

Other Efforts to Mitigate Food Insecurity

The World Bank’s other efforts to mitigate food insecurity included issuing a transfer of funds to families with food insecure infants and toddlers in Tajikistan to alleviate malnutrition. It sent food for 437,000 citizens in Chad facing food insecurity. The organization also provided additional funding that went toward addressing the concerns that the pandemic caused in Rwanda.

Accomplishments Occurring with the World Bank’s Help

The World Bank also provided more certified seeds to local communities in Afghanistan and helped farmers produce more yields than before. The U.S. sent $87.8 million to help provide more equipment for dairy and poultry farmers in Bangladesh. The World Bank’s programs in India resulted in further women’s empowerment with the establishment of women’s self-help groups that work with hygiene, food administration and storage. As of 2021, there are 62 million women that participate in these groups.

The World Bank also reports that farmers in developing countries face food insecurity and works to alleviate their distress. The organization helped Cambodia incorporate new agricultural practices that led to farmers receiving higher incomes with increased productivity. The World Bank also taught farmers in the Kyrgyz Republic the proper practices to grow more crops while conserving water. Eventually, more than 5,000 farmers gained an income that allowed them to buy essential goods.

The World Bank’s efforts to mitigate food insecurity in developing countries are effective so far. These international programs brought more farmers out of poverty and further combat global hunger. Many of these countries made commendable progress with this support, which is a significant step toward future development.

– Cristina Velaz
Photo: Flickr

Improving education in CambodiaCambodia has come a long way in eliminating poverty. From 2007 to 2014, Cambodia’s poverty rate decreased by about 30% and it is now a middle-income country. However, one pressing issue that continues to trouble the country is access to education, particularly for those living in extreme poverty and rural areas. The good news is that several organizations are improving education in Cambodia by increasing access and tackling obstacles head-on.

Cambodian Children’s Fund

The Cambodian Children’s Fund (CCF) works in Phnom Penh, Cambodia’s Stung Meanchey district. Though the organization’s focus is on improving education in Cambodia, CCF starts by providing basic needs to the families living in the highly impoverished area that was once a dumping ground. This meant building suitable shelters and homes for families living in makeshift tents.

Once CCF helped provide essentials, the focus turned toward providing stable education for children, while their parents scavenged the junkyard to earn whatever income they could. Children that started in extreme poverty were now attending primary school through high school due to CCF. In 15 years, CCF provided education for more than 3000 children, and of those that started early in the program, nearly 70% were attending college.

Pour un Sourire d’Enfant (PSE)

French expatriates Christian and Marie-France des Pallières, created PSE when the couple traveled to Cambodia and noticed the number of children experiencing extreme poverty. The couple spent two decades advocating for children living in poverty in Cambodia, commuting between there and Europe.

Initially starting in Phnom Penh, PSE now has more than 6000 students benefitting from the organization’s projects throughout Cambodia, including more rural areas near Siem Reap and Sihanoukville. PSE provides everything from food to healthcare and enrolls children in state or corrective schools depending on their needs. Cambodia’s Ministry of Education has noticed success in PSE’s remedial schools. The PSE approach, now utilized by the government, will be improving education in Cambodia for 6000 children per annum.

Khmer NGO for Education (KHEN)

In 2014, KHEN changed direction from being a health education organization to highlight children’s rights. Now, KHEN is a large-scale NGO focused on improving education in Cambodia’s rural Battambang province for traditionally unprotected children, including those with disabilities, girls, minorities and children living in extreme poverty.

KHEN operates in more than 100 schools, most of which were built by the group, and serves more than 10,000 children. It has a long-term focus on education while also protecting children from human trafficking and poor health. Facing the COVID-19 pandemic, KHEN acted swiftly to modify its schools to be open-air and socially distanced, with sanitation stations. Teachers and volunteers received education on preventing the spread of COVID-19 and home-learning tactics changed as well.

Cambodian Community Dream Organization

The Cambodian Community Dream Organization (CCDO) was founded by U.S citizen, Jenni Lipa, who exclusively worked on building water wells in the rural areas around Siem Reap. Now, CCDO improves lives by providing sanitary services, health programs and extensive education systems. CCDO keeps costs low by using local and international volunteers and local paid staff.

There are three schools CCDO operates in, centered on English learning. CCDO offers a schooling experience like most developed countries, with physical education, libraries, playgrounds, arts and crafts and computer workshops. Children enrolled in the programs are particularly fond of the library. CCDO also provides early childhood education programs and gives students who excel in their classes opportunities for high school and university scholarships.

People Improvement Organization

Since 2002, the People Improvement Organization (PIO) has operated in poverty-stricken areas of Phnom Penh. Phymean Noun, a native Cambodian, believed the children scrounging through junk piles to make a living deserved a chance to achieve their dreams. The decision she made was to improve education in Cambodia in order to end child poverty.

PIO believes in providing high-quality education to all children in need. All students attend PIO schools voluntarily, but PIO provides clothes, food, clean water, full social care and health services. Many children who scavenged through junkyards to survive have been pulled out of poverty and are now attending PIO high schools and even university.

NGOs have helped reduce child poverty in Cambodia through better access and improvements in education. The low costs in Cambodia allow new organizations to form rapidly and successfully. Through similar philanthropic efforts toward improving education in Cambodia, child poverty can be successfully combated.

– Zachary Kunze
Photo: Flickr

Southeast Asia has been reducing its poverty level as a whole for the past decade. However, the rise of automation has now put the population back at risk. One of the largest industries in terms of employment in Southeast Asia is the production and manufacturing industry. The most common type of work found in this region is in small factories. These jobs are some of the most vulnerable to the effects of automation in Southeast Asia.

Affected Industries

Automation is the process by which labor or a job that is performed by a human switches to being done by a machine. In many cases, a robot is able to work faster and more efficiently than a person with the added bonus of not having a salary and never needing time off. Thus, the prospect of a workforce full of machines is very appealing to those looking to lower their labor costs.

Automation in Southeast Asia stands to put a large number of laborers out of work. The International Labor Organization reported that 73% of Thailand’s manufacturing workforce are at high risk of having their jobs automated. On a whole, the ASEAN-5 (Cambodia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam) faces a 56% risk for employment being automated in the next two decades. The majority of workers affected will be those with both lower wages and lower levels of education. These are the types of jobs easiest to automate, which renders these workers as the most severely impacted demographic.

Further, the types of jobs created through automation, like machine operation and maintenance, require skills the lesser educated workers replaced by automation lack. In Vietnam, those with only a primary school education are three times more likely to have their job automated than someone with a secondary degree.

The Transition

These countries face an interesting problem. Through automation, they stand to gain much in the way of foreign investments and business. Southeast Asia has become a hub of global production, which provides many economic benefits. On the other hand, automation puts the lives of the working-class people in these countries in serious danger. Several countries in Southeast Asia have proposed new ideas to try and navigate through this transition.

The Indonesian Minister of Finance has proposed the implementation of a universal basic income. This has the possibility of alleviating the stress caused by job loss. The Government of Thailand has approved a tax incentive to boost automation within the country. The proposition aims to bring in foreign investors that would train Thai workers and create employment opportunities.

Conclusion

A smooth transition to automation will be crucial in keeping much of the population of Southeast Asia above the poverty line. It is fundamental to support workers in the age of automation in Southeast Asia. Most importantly, they need access to higher levels of education. Hopefully this issue will encourage these governments to provide more opportunities and training to their citizens. People can continue to work in meaningful ways in the age of automation through adequate aid.

Jackson Bramhall
Photo: Flickr

floods in southeast asiaTraditionally, the people of Southeast Asia benefitted from small floods that enriched the soil and prevented bigger floods. However, human interference with the rivers has disrupted their natural ecological processes and increased long-term damage. The disruption of crops, destruction of land and the displacement of people due to flooding increases poverty, especially during Southeast Asia’s current economic crisis. Mitigating steps are necessary to prevent the harmful effects of floods in Southeast Asia.

Destructive Floods in Vietnam

In October 2020, heavy rains in Vietnam caused massive flooding that destroyed homes, land and agriculture. A massive 178,000 homes were destroyed and nearly 700,000 livestock fell victim to the floodwaters.

Described by the president of the Vietnam Red Cross Society as “some of the worst we’ve seen in decades”, the floods in Vietnam have affected around five million Vietnamese people, which will push more people toward poverty.

Urban Flooding in Cambodia

In Cambodia, cities such as Phnom Penh suffer from the effects of urban flooding. Urban flooding is unpredictable and has wide-ranging consequences, from the disruption of everyday life to the spreading of waterborne diseases. As is commonly associated with climate change, the poor are hurt the most by urban flooding, for their ability to prepare and recover from damages is significantly weaker than other classes.

Roughly 250,000 people living in Phnom Penh are living in informal settlements and deal with inadequate waste management and infrastructure. Stagnant bacteria-ridden water from floods can linger for eight months after floods, spreading a host of waterborne diseases to those in proximity. Furthermore, as the economy is projected to decrease by 4% in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, poor people are increasingly likely to be trapped in cyclical poverty.

COVID-19 Stalls Decades of Growth

Despite decades of deadly civil war, Cambodia has made consistent progress towards reducing poverty before COVID-19. Over the past two decades, life expectancy has increased 10 years, poverty has been reduced from 47% to 13%, and growth in the country averaged out to 8%.  Additionally, the country lowered infant mortality rates from 10% to 2%.

While Cambodia’s COVID-19 cases are very low, with zero deaths thus far, the contraction of the global economic market has led to financial struggles for its citizens. The poverty rate is expected to balloon back up to 20% as a result of the economic crisis. The sectors hit hardest include the tourism and garment industries, where demand from its Western consumer base has drastically fallen.

Measures Against Floods in Southeast Asia

Although the nature of monsoons is unpredictable, the extent of the damage and destruction of floods can be mitigated. One recommendation is for Southeast Asian nations to commit to curbing emissions in order to combat climate change, which can increase the volatility of weather. Climate change reduces the ability for scientists to estimate long-term trends and build dams to control flood levels.

Additionally, the concept of leaving room for the river has become popular. This concept essentially promotes soft engineering, or removing human technology from rivers and allowing their ecological processes to be carried out naturally. Furthermore, allowing and managing small floods can benefit the land and those cultivating it while preventing big floods.

Though natural disasters cannot be controlled, efforts from organizations and governments may help the country’s resilience in the aftermath of floods in Southeast Asia. Such efforts can provide instant relief to affected people and may also help to alleviate overall poverty in the countries.

– Adrian Rufo
Photo: Flickr

GoliathonGoliathon is a nonprofit organization located in New Jersey, that uses obstacle courses to raise money for another organization, charity: water, which is based in New York. These two organizations jointly work to bring clean and safe drinking water to people in developing countries.

Water: A Universal Human Right

In 2017, 2.2 billion people worldwide did not have access to clean water, which is roughly one in 10 people. The lack of access to clean water is due to the contamination of water as well as the location of water. With 144 million people sourcing their drinking water from untreated lakes, ponds and streams, disease is a massive concern. Unsafe and untreated water is responsible for the transmission of diseases like cholera and dysentery. Diarrhea alone claims almost 485,000 lives a year. The matter of location is equally vital. Efforts to create safe water sources mean little if they are not easily accessible for those in need. More than 200 million people must walk more than half an hour to reach a safe water source.

The U.N. recognizes access to water as a universal human right. In the effort to solve this crisis, the General Assembly argues that water must be safe, acceptable and affordable and has to be within 1,000 meters of the home. The value of water is a key reason why Goliathon has chosen to work with charity:water.

charity: water

Founded in 2006, charity: water is committed to providing clean drinking water to developing nations. The majority of its work has been centralized in Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa, with a few projects located in Central America. These projects include well construction, water purification systems and rainwater harvesting.

Founder and CEO, Scott Harrison, recognizes the opportunities offered by technological advancements. He sees the solution to the water crisis as a possibility. He believes “It’s just a matter of getting the right resources to the right people.”

Charity: water prides itself on transparency, promising that 100% of proceeds go toward hands-on development of the projects.

Goliathon

Goliathon was founded by a group of friends who value athleticism and altruism. Their mission statement is “It’s not a race. It’s a mission.” This mission statement reflects that the water crisis is not one problem to fix but a collective mission to undertake. Goliathon’s fundraising for charity: water has resulted in several completed water projects in Bangladesh, Nepal, Ethiopia, Cambodia and Malawi. Three more water projects have been funded and are currently under construction.

By signing up to take part in Goliathon obstacle courses, participants raise money for charity: water efforts. The courses are not a competition but a challenge that encourages everyone to be an advocate for global issues like water access.

The obstacle courses are open to all and vary in difficulty to appeal to both beginners and the more experienced. The Goliathon team has created several different obstacles for participants to overcome, each unique in design and requiring equally clever solutions. A particularly notable challenge in the course is the water carry challenge, which has participants cart jerrycans full of water as a way of connecting to those in developing nations who must do the same.

Impact of Goliathon and charity:water

Goliathon’s October 2017 event resulted in $50,000 raised for charity: water efforts in Ethiopia. Completed in September 2019, the project oversaw water spring protection and the creation of safe pipe systems. Over 1,600 people in Ethiopian communities were helped.

The most recent Goliathon event held in October 2019 had $34,000 raised for BioSand Filters in Cambodia. These BioSand Filters offer a simple and low-cost solution as a form of filtration. Their effectiveness is amplified by charity: water committing to educating the families that use them, ensuring a healthy cycle.

COVID-19 has prevented Goliathon from hosting any events in 2020. However, the Goliathon team is optimistic and is planning for a possible event in June 2021, with protocols in place if necessary.

– Kelli Hughes
Photo: Flickr

Lotus flowers are used to make lotus face masks in Cambodia to address PPE waste and a high face mask demand. Several activists and actors have raised alarm over the potentially devastating effects that personal protective equipment (PPE) can have in terms of increasing pollution around the world. There have been reports of PPE waste collecting on coasts around the world. Plastic pollution negatively impacts ocean health and, for maritime nations, this could translate to economic losses and the loss of livelihoods for those working within the ocean economy. One study by Plastics Hub found that if every person living in the UK utilized a single-use face mask for every day of 2020, it would contribute an additional 66,000 tons of plastic waste. It is unclear how much of this waste could end up in marine environments, but with 150 million tonnes already circulating the earth’s water, there is a pressing urgency to address the unsustainability of single-use face masks to fight the spread of COVID-19. As a result, an eco-friendly designer in Cambodia created lotus face masks to address this PPE waste.

Is There a Way to Combat PPE Pollution?

Cambodia is not exempt from the negative impacts that pollution can have on marine environments. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) identifies Cambodia as being highly dependent on its aquatic resources for both food security and the livelihoods of the Cambodian people.  In 2013, Cambodia averaged 700,000 tons of fishing and aquaculture production.  At a conference on maritime issues in Cambodia in 2015, hosted by the National University of Management in Phnom Penh, speakers highlighted the risk pollution poses to the economic livelihoods of those who depend on the marine economy.  The FAO has also spoken about the degradation of the marine habitat in the country due to pollution. Photographer Niamh Peren described one scene of coastal pollution in Sihanouk, Cambodia as “mountains and mountains of plastic.”

Pollution in the marine environment is a global problem. Due to the nature of the ocean’s currents, marine plastic pollution does not respect national boundaries and one country’s actions will not be enough to address the problem alone. However, Awen Delaval, an eco-friendly fashion designer, is implementing an innovative solution to tackling plastic pollution, while simultaneously diversifying the economy in Cambodia and alleviating poverty rates in the country.

Turning Unwanted Lotus Stems into Organic Fabric

Delaval’s lotus face masks are made utilizing ancestral techniques of producing lotus fiber from lotus stems, which are commonly regarded as waste within the country. The entire process of creating sustainable lotus face masks is entirely eco-friendly, as well as biodegradable.  The fabric produced using lotus fibers is remarkably efficient at filtration and, according to Delaval, is a superior fabric due to its light texture and breathability. The eco-textile company Samatoa, which Delaval manages, produces lotus masks that meet the standards of both the United States’ CDC and France’s Association Francaise de Normalization, making them an effective alternative to plastic single-use face masks.

Samatoa also values the tenets of fair trade and has made a positive impact on the livelihoods of poor Cambodians in the Battambang province. The company has provided employment that empowered thirty Cambodia women to be financially independent and provide for their families. According to Samatoa, the wages earned by company workers are twice what they would receive from other textile work in the country. Additionally, the company ensures that workers have access to a number of benefits, including trade union rights, paid leave and health insurance.

Impact of Lotus Face Masks

Delaval’s innovative solution to plastic pollution produced from single-use face masks gained international attention. The company he manages, Samatoa, is striving to increase production and capacity to improve the lives of an additional 500 women. Samatoa also provides educational opportunities to lotus farmers on sustainable farming practices, further improving the lives of the Cambodian people. Deval’s lotus face masks provide a sustainable solution to the problem of PPE waste while simultaneously providing economic development to rural communities in Cambodia.

– Leah Bordlee
Photo: Pixabay

Apps that aid in healthcare in developing countries It can sometimes be difficult for people in developing countries to access healthcare, specifically those living in poverty. In order to address this problem, healthcare apps are being used to provide greater access. Here are 10 healthcare aid apps that are impacting access in developing countries.

10 Apps That Aid Healthcare in Developing Countries

  1. Peek has its sights set on helping people with vision impairment issues and blindness, a problem exacerbated in developing countries by a lack of resources. Peek can identify people with vision problems. The app then works with healthcare providers to pinpoint an economically feasible way to supply the treatment they need, before allocating the appropriate resources. Currently, Peek is being used by the International Centre for Eye Health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, which is administering a population-based survey of blindness and visual impairments in Cambodia.
  2. SASAdoctor focuses on making healthcare consultations more accessible in Kenya. In the country, only 12% of people are insured. About 8 million are reliant on the National Hospital Insurance Fund, leaving 35 million Kenyans uninsured. Available to all Kenyans with an Android smartphone or tablet (65% of Kenyans have one), SASAdoctor decreases the cost of an in-person consultation for the uninsured and makes it free for those with insurance. Patients will have their medical history, list of medications and other such medical notes in their ‘file’ on the app, so that whoever tele-consults with them will have the information they need to create an informed medical opinion. SASAdoctor can decrease the cost of uninsured visits with a doctor to Kes 495 (the equivalent of $4.66) for a projected 80% of Kenyans who are predicted to have smartphones in the next few years.
  3. iWander allows people to keep track of Alzheimer’s patients. Set with tracking technology that can be discretely worn by the patient, it offers whoever uses the app several options on how to deal with situations involving the patient. Solutions can range from a group calling session to making an emergency medical call or summoning a caregiver. iWander gives families more control over the care of a loved one, which can have a positive impact in countries where healthcare may be less accessible. In the US, the average cost of care for a single person is $174,000 annually. About 7 out of 10 individuals with dementia remain at home to receive care, where 75% of the costs fall to the family to pay. In helping families be proactive instead of reactive to crises, iWander can help in cutting these costs, especially in poorer countries, where many families are struggling to keep up with the high costs of at-home care.
  4. Kenek O2 allows the user to monitor their oxygen and heart rate while they sleep. Kenek O2, built for the iPhone, also requires a pulse oximeter which connects to the phone and retrieves the data to be stored in the app. Together, the cost for these two items is around $100, compared to the price of a regular hospital oximeter and other similar products, which could easily cost more than $500. Having effectively been used in North America, South America, Asia and Africa, Kenek O2 is currently working on developing a special COVID-19 device to watch for early signs of hypoxia, or the deficiency of oxygen reaching tissues.
  5. First Derm is an app that requires a smartphone-connected device, called a dermatoscope. This allows detailed pictures to be taken of skin conditions and lesions to better allow for remote, teleconsultations. In places where doctors are few and far between, and public transport is less reliable, this can make getting a second medical opinion much easier. So far, First Derm has helped in more than 15,000 cases from Sweden, Chile, China, Australia and Ghana, ranging from ages of just 3 days old to 98 years. Of these cases, 70% could be treated without a doctor, most often by over-the-counter treatments available at local pharmacies.
  6. Ada takes user-input symptoms and provides appropriate measures to take as a result, like a personal health assistant. It’s intended to assist those who don’t have the means to seek an in-person consultation right away. The app has been released in several languages, which makes it more accessible. Currently, 10 million people around the world are using Ada for symptom evaluation.
  7. Babylon is intended to mitigate the obstacle of going to see a doctor in person by allowing users to input symptoms or solve common health problems via teleconsultation with a doctor. Babylon specializes in non-emergent medicine, allowing patients to skip a trip to the doctor’s office entirely if their condition allows it. This is beneficial in places where doctors are sparse, or the patient lacks the financial means or a method of transportation in getting to the hospital. Babylon caters to users across the U.S., U.K., Canada, Rwanda and several countries across Asia-Pacific and the Middle East. The app aims to expand to more countries in the upcoming years.
  8. MobiSante, through its ultrasound device, allows versatility in diagnostic imaging by bringing the ultrasound to the patient. This allows quality, diagnostic imaging to be done outside the confines of a hospital or clinic. As a result, it provides more holistic and informed treatment where people may need it most but have previously struggled in accessing a healthcare center with the necessary technology. While having a computer at home with a desk is much less common in developing countries, the world’s increasing reliance on the internet is shifting the status of internet technology from a luxury to a basic necessity. This means that technology such as smartphones are becoming somewhat of a necessity in impoverished countries, making an app like MobiSante effective in using smartphones to make diagnostic imaging more accessible.
  9. Go.Data is a tool released by the WHO. It is specifically for collecting data during global health emergencies. During the Ebola outbreak in Africa, Go.Data was praised for tracing points of contact. The app also tracked infection trends and helped in arranging post-contact follow up.
  10. Mobile Midwife is a digital charting app that stores information in a cloud so that healthcare workers have access to all pertinent patient information. It works even in cases of power outages, or home births where internet connection may be less reliable. This app can help in areas where mother and infant mortality is higher, ensuring that healthcare providers can efficiently access patient information to ensure the best care. It can also cut the extra time it takes to find records that could otherwise make procedures more dangerous for both mother and child.

Bridging healthcare accessibility with smartphone apps isn’t a perfect solution, as it comes with accessibility issues of its own. However, these healthcare aid apps can help people without insurance, or who are physically unable to visit a physician, access health consultations. As a result, more people are provided access to healthcare, empowering a healthier (and more health-conscious) population.

– Catherine Lin
Photo: Flickr

Cambodian garment industryThe Cambodian economy is heavily reliant on the garment industry, and the global garment industry is heavily reliant on Cambodia. The nation accounts for 45% of employed garment manufacturers worldwide. As of 2011, the industry was responsible for 80% of Cambodia’s total exports. However, Cambodia is also infamous for its poor treatment of factory workers, particularly in the garment industry. Here are six facts to understand labor rights violations in the Cambodian garment industry. 

Facts About Labor Rights Violations in the Cambodian Garment Industry

  1. Fixed duration contracts lead to worker insecurity. Employers in the Cambodian garment industry have largely shifted from undetermined duration, or long-term, contracts to fixed-duration, or short-term, contracts. The employers said the shift was in the interest of competitive, flexible business. In reality, fixed-duration contracts have resulted in increased job insecurity, reduced enforcement of international labor laws, industrial relation breakdowns and massive strikes. 
  2. Production targets create high-pressure work environments. To meet quotas, workers are often either forced to work overtime or enticed to do so with a small bonus that is usually never paid. In addition, some workers are often too intimidated to take breaks, even to use the bathroom or drink water.   
  3. Gender discrimination is common. More than 90% of workers in the Cambodian garment industry are women, mostly from rural areas with only a primary school education. One example of gender discrimination is pregnancy-based discrimination, which is abundant in the industry. Employers are known to refuse employment to pregnant women, refuse to renew the contracts of women who become pregnant or even fire pregnant women as their due dates approach. Even if pregnant women remain employed, they receive no workplace accommodations and often have to quit due to fatigue.
  4. Factories frequently violate child labor laws. Though the minimum age requirement for employment in Cambodia is 15, many factories employ children between the ages of 12 and 14. Employers often require children to work long past their eight-hour workday maximum and pay them below minimum wage. To hide this violation, some employers tell the children to hide when visitors come to the factory.
  5. The government often busts unions. There were concentrated efforts to bust unions in at least 35 factories from 2012 to 2015. In December 2013, the Cambodian Minister of Labor introduced obstacles to union formation. The challenges included delaying union certification and giving factory management time to retaliate against union members. Similarly, poor government inspection of factories and labor law enforcement makes it nearly impossible for small unions to assert their rights. 
  6. The Cambodian Ministry of Labor is making significant changes. In January of 2019, the Ministry of Labor introduced several labor law reforms. Among these was the introduction of bimonthly salary payments and seniority payments: compulsory, periodic payments made to employees with long term contracts. The government also introduced severance payments, which require employers to pay fixed-term contract employees at the end of a contract. 

Many people in the Cambodian garment industry face labor rights violations due to a lack of enforcement of labor laws. However, the Cambodian government and international fashion retailers are taking measures to improve working conditions. These measures are the first step to creating better environments and living wages for Cambodian garment workers.

– Caroline Warrick-Schkolnik
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

McCartney's Humanitarian Work
Sir James Paul McCartney, known professionally as Paul McCartney, is a singer, songwriter, poet, bass player and animal rights activist. He is best known for his work with the English rock band The Beatles. During his 63-year-long ongoing career that revolutionized the world of music, McCartney has amassed a fortune of over $1 billion. This drove him to begin making significant charitable donations to organizations. McCartney’s humanitarian work emphasizes spreading awareness about causes for which he advocates.

5 Facts About Paul McCartney’s Humanitarian Work

  1. As of June 2020, Paul McCartney has supported 45 charities. Throughout his life, he has donated millions to several charities and has participated in many benefit concerts, such as Live 8 and Change Begins Within. Change Begins Within was a 2009 benefit concert in Manhattan, New York, hosted by the David Lynch Foundation. It helped raise money and awareness for at-risk youth and encouraged the use of meditation to combat stress and achieve success. Other significant charities and organizations that McCartney has supported include Adopt-A-Minefield, Cruelty Free International, Everyone Matters, Greenpeace, PETA, Red Cross and the St. Francis Food Pantries and Shelters. McCartney is a patron for Adopt-A-Minefield, an organization dedicated to raising awareness about the problems of landmines, raising funds to help survivors of landmine accidents and helping clear landmines. From 2001 to 2005, McCartney performed in five benefit galas for the organization. In total, he helped raise $17 million for the now-inoperative charity.
  2. Paul McCartney is a huge advocate for providing aid for childhood diseases. McCartney has four biological children, Mary, Stella, James and Beatrice, and an adopted daughter, Heather, who is the biological daughter of the late Linda McCartney. McCartney also has eight grandchildren and used them as inspiration for his children’s book “Hey, Grandude!”, which was published in September 2019. His devotion to his own children and grandchildren is evident, but it is also apparent that he cares a great deal for the welfare of children around the world. McCartney’s humanitarian work has included donations to the Barbara Davis Center for Childhood Diabetes, Keep a Child Alive, Children with Leukemia and Teenage Cancer Trust. These are organizations dedicated to focusing on the needs of children affected by significant diseases or disorders. Additionally, in 2012, McCartney performed at the Royal Albert Hall in London for the Teenage Cancer Trust, helping raise over $382 million.
  3. Paul McCartney’s humanitarian work dates back over 40 years. In 1979, McCartney was one of the lead organizers of the Concerts for the People of Kampuchea, a series of concerts that ran from December 26-29, 1979 and took place at the Hammersmith Odeon in London. The concerts raised awareness and donations for the victims of war-torn Cambodia (then known as Kampuchea) at the start of the Cambodian-Vietnamese War. The proceeds went directly toward United Nations agencies’ emergency relief work in Cambodia. In addition, in 1989, McCartney participated in a charity version of the song “Ferry Cross the Mersey.” The proceeds made from the single were used to aid victims of the Hillsborough disaster, a human crush that occurred at a soccer match in the Hillsborough Stadium in South Yorkshire, England, killing nearly 100 people. The song held the number one spot on the U.K. chart for three weeks after its release.
  4. Paul McCartney supports the eradication of poverty. McCartney’s humanitarian work also includes dedicating time and money toward helping those who are socioeconomically disadvantaged. His most notable involvement with an organization dedicated to ending poverty was when he performed at a Live 8 concert in 2005. Live 8 was a series of benefit concerts organized in support of the U.K.’s Make Poverty History coalition and the international Global Call to Action Against Poverty campaign. The goal of the concerts was to raise $50 billion in aid toward impoverished African countries by 2010 (the concerts raised about $30 billion). McCartney has also supported the Worldwide Orphans Foundation, Aid Still Required and the Prince’s Trust. These organizations assist people in underdeveloped countries and unfavorable socioeconomic situations.
  5. In April 2020, Paul McCartney performed in the One World: Together at Home benefit concert. The current international COVID-19 outbreak has affected people worldwide. Global Citizen, a worldwide movement dedicated to ending poverty by 2030, hosted a charity special in the form of a virtual benefit concert starring many famed musicians. The concert was titled One World: Together at Home. It raised $127 million for the COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund and for charities providing food, shelter and healthcare to those in need. McCartney sang a solo rendition of the Beatles’ song “Lady Madonna” while playing the piano.

Paul McCartney’s humanitarian work proves his unwavering dedication toward improving the welfare of humans and animals alike. His aid has made him one of the celebrities best known for generous donations. His championship for nearly 50 charities and organizations proves how one can use their wealth to better the state of the world.

Kia Wallace
Photo: Flickr

Tuberculosis In Cambodia To the nearly 17 million people living in Cambodia, tuberculosis is no stranger. In 2007, it was the seventh leading cause of death in the country. In 2012, it caused nearly 8.6 million Cambodians to fall ill. Today, despite the ongoing threat of tuberculosis in Cambodia, eradication efforts continue to prove that solutions to complex health problems can oftentimes start with the simplest of interventions—take, perhaps, a new washing machine.

A Clean, New Discovery

For the staff at the Khmer Soviet Friendship Hospital in Cambodia’s capital, such a realization came around because of Nhib Chhom. Nhib Chhom, the Deputy Infection Control Coordinator, asked nurse educator Kareeen Dunlop to test the bacterial residue of hospital linens. She discovered an extremely minor reduction in the amount of bacteria on washed laundry. This was a surprising finding no doubt, but to the hospital’s many employees, less than so.

“Staff have been pleading with me in regards to their laundering,” describes Dunlop in a 2019 report. “Nhib Chhom again said how the washing was coming back from the laundry dirtier than it went.”

Seeing as the hospital specializes in the treatment of infectious diseases, the nurses’ frustration is particularly understandable. Without the proper means to sanitize linens, curbing disease transmission is made unnecessarily more difficult. Furthermore, the lack of sanitization unnecessarily ignites yet another outbreak of tuberculosis in Cambodia.

What to Know About Tuberculosis in Cambodia

Globally, the WHO approximates that 1.8 billion people have TB. Cambodia in particular is still home to one of the largest TB infection rates in the world. Cambodia has approximately 13,000 TB-related deaths per year. Cases of tuberculosis in Cambodia have decreased by 45% between 2002 and 2011. Despite this decrease, however, Cambodia continues to remain among the world’s 22 high-burden tuberculosis countries. The Pasteur Institute in Cambodia estimates a TB prevalence of 36,000 cases out of a population of 16 million in 2015 alone. Coupled with an estimated 40% TB under-diagnosis rate according to research at the National University in Singapore, the TB threat in Cambodia is certainly far from passed.

Thankfully, however, such staggering numbers have not gone unchecked. In fact, together the national TB program and international partners have achieved an 85% TB treatment success rate. They continue to address eradication efforts. In the case of the Khmer Soviet Friendship Hospital’s laundry problem, the officials involved were Michael and Jodie Flowers. Michael and Jodie Flowers, managers of Commercial Laundry Solutions LTD., who volunteered to install four washing machines and donate a drier to the hospital. Aided by $6,000 worth of spare parts from Electrolux, the Flowers spent three weeks refurbishing their washing appliances. They ultimately granted nurses the ability to deliver sparkling clean laundry for the first time.

How the Cambodian Health Committee is Combatting Tuberculosis in Cambodia

Many others works to empower healthcare providers with the materials necessary to deter global health threats. A nonprofit NGO, the Cambodian Health Committee (CHC), has also been working long hours to eradicate tuberculosis in Cambodia. Additionally, they also strive to eradicate HIV/AIDS from Svay Rieng, Kompot and Kandal, three of Cambodia’s poorest and most war-affected provinces.

Founded by research immunologist Dr. Anne Goldfeld, in collaboration with healthcare professional Dr. Sok Thim, the CHC has treated more than 32,000 people with tuberculosis in Cambodia since its founding in 1994. The CHC has also screened over 2,000 people for drug-resistant TB infection. With an integrated emphasis on healthcare, clinical research and education, the CHC implements a community-based healthcare model to provide direct TB care, in addition to investigating the effectiveness of new innovations.

For example, the CHC designed a research study regarding the effects of treatment timing in outcomes for TB and HIV-infected patients. The study, CAMELIA, found that beginning TB drug therapy two weeks prior to administering AIDS medications decreases mortality by 34%.

The Borgen Project recently spoke with Dr. Sarin Chan, a clinical investigator for CAMELIA. According to Dr. Chan, the study has since progressed out of the experimental phase and into the clinical one. The study is involved with early ARV treatment for co TB and HIV-infected patients now recognized in the national guidelines for clinical care of HIV patients. The National Center for Tuberculosis and Leprosy Control’s development of a TB prevention strategy is similarly a promising step forward in the fight against tuberculosis in Cambodia, says Chan.

Looking Ahead

At the end of the washing cycle, much good can be said about the progress against tuberculosis in Cambodia. Despite the country’s high TB infection rate, increased access to community-based healthcare as provided by the CHC and improvement of hospital sanitation practices all point towards a brighter future.

– Petra Dujmic 
Photo: Flickr