Human Rights in Bosnia and Herzegovina
Bosnia and Herzegovina is a country located on the southern peninsula of Europe. Having gained its independence in 1992 following a war with Yugoslavia, Bosnia and Herzegovina is a relatively young country. The 1992-1995 war brought forth conflict between Bosniak, Croatian and Serbian individuals who wished to gain control of the territory. Thirty years later, tension continues to be prominent, challenging human rights in Bosnia and Herzegovina.


In March 1992, Bosnia and Herzegovina declared its independence from Yugoslavia. Bosnian Serb minority disagreed with the sovereignty of Bosnia and Herzegovina which led to conflict between ethnic and religious affinities and ultimately led to war as the country abandoned Yugoslavia. The war for independence ultimately caused great disagreement between Croats, Serbs and Bosniaks. During the war, the Bosnian Serb military campaign launched ethnic cleansing operations in an attempt to eliminate the number of Bosniak civilians. The war concluded in 1995 with an estimated 100,000 casualties.

The Borgen Project spoke with Velemir Jankovic, an individual born and raised in Bosnia and Herzegovina before the 1992 war and now lives in the U.S. Velemir describes that war’s impact on his village resulted in “his house being destroyed and him losing everything but hope.” Like Velemir, many refugees sought to escape the casualties of war. With physical destruction and political tension, many citizens still find themselves struggling to settle. While many suffered monetary loss, such as Velemir’s home, others lost family members, leading to great resentment among those the violence of war impacted. These differences have impacted the Bosnian population for the last 30 years.


In 2020, the unemployment rate in Bosnia and Herzegovina stood at 27%. Corruption and slow economic development contribute to low job availability in the area. Not to mention, ethnic conflicts enabled a divide in the country. Prejudice against certain ethnicities continues to be prominent after the war, therefore making it difficult for individuals to work harmoniously alongside one another.

There has been a progressive decrease in the unemployment rate in recent years. In 2014, 57% of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s youth were unemployed. That number has decreased to 14.9% in 2021.

While the country is still figuring out a strong economic structure, financial aid funds infrastructure and facilities for citizens. What may be contributing to the improvement of unemployment is the 2021 Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance (IPA), a €73 million investment for regional development, social protection, as well as employment and public transportation. One can see IPA’s impact on the labor market through the development of wage settings as well as the establishment of unions.

Poverty and the Economy

While unemployment is one of the leading factors in the stagnation of the economy, Bosnia and Herzegovina has not seen an impact on the poverty levels. The poverty rate has steadily remained at 15% between the years 2008 and 2020, according to the World Bank.

While aid enables the country to survive financially, the economy in Bosnia and Herzegovina is depleting. The COVID-19 pandemic caused a significant decrease in consumption in 2020, therefore slipping Bosnia and Herzegovina into “its worst recession in 25 years.”

Not to mention, inflation has increased by 16.7% in 2022. These circumstances create a difficult economic environment for citizens. With low employment rates and high consumer costs, it is very difficult for Bosnians to overcome the poverty rate.

Human Rights

Aside from low infrastructure in the economy, abuse of human rights in Bosnia and Herzegovina continues to occur three decades after the turmoil of the 1992 war. In 2021, there were significant reports of torture or inhumane treatment of civilians by law enforcement. Abuse of power by police also harms individuals such as journalists. It is common for journalists to face violent threats to erase content, prohibiting them from their right to press.

There has also been an increase in gender-based discrimination, in which women are targeted violently and mistreated in the workplace. The tension between ethnic groups continues to be present as well, with Bosnians often planning anti-refugee platforms, using hostility and threats to harm migrant communities, according to the U.S. Department of State.

Organizations Working to Improve the Situation

CARE, a nonprofit that began helping marginalized groups in the area in 1993, has been able to provide aid to many citizens in Bosnia and Herzegovina. It focuses on integrating minority group members into society through supporting local programs such as the Young Men’s Initiative II (YMI II), which it founded in 2006.

The YMI II ultimately joins young men in Bosnia and Herzegovina, teaching them the importance of gender equality. The goal of the program is to educate the younger generation on the importance of unity in efforts to make an impact on the years of tension and discrimination in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

There is an evident issue of human rights in Bosnia and Herzegovina following the 1992 war. Its independence from Yugoslavia enabled prejudice and discrimination among differing ethnicities. Through foreign aid and a steady increase in the employment rate, there is hope that this struggling country improves its social welfare.

– Micaela Carrillo
Photo: Flickr

Programs in Afghanistan
Three NGOs resumed programs in Afghanistan after an order from Taliban authorities on December 24, 2022, prevented women from working in non-governmental organizations (NGOs). Organizations like Save the Children, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) and CARE have now restarted work across the country.

The order for both foreign and local NGOs to suspend female staff came after the Taliban claimed that female aid workers were not adhering to the strict dress code currently enforced in Afghanistan. As Taliban rules dictate that men must not deliver assistance to women, the ban has made it extremely difficult for NGOs to work, as they can only effectively support half the population. As a result, most NGOs have now suspended operations in Afghanistan.

Humanitarian Programs Resume

However, three weeks after the Taliban announced the orders, Save the Children, the IRC and CARE resumed their health and nutrition services after receiving assurances from the Ministry of Public Health that it would be safe for their female staff to return to work. Save the Children has also confirmed that it is restarting some education programs, while the IRC is working with provincial authorities to discuss the possibility of female staff returning to work in other sectors.

This week, the U.N.’s Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Martin Griffiths, also confirmed that Taliban ministers were in the process of drawing up new guidelines to allow some humanitarian organizations to employ Afghani women. Mr. Griffiths told the BBC that he thought the Taliban were “listening” and had received “encouraging responses” after numerous meetings with Taliban leaders to discuss the ban on female NGO workers.

Restrictions on Women’s Rights and the Humanitarian Crisis

The Taliban’s ban on female NGO workers is just one of the numerous restrictions placed on women in the country since they came into power in 2021. Driven by an oppressive and patriarchal interpretation of Islam, the Jihadist group has undone much of the previous efforts to liberalize the country in years before their takeover. Women in Afghanistan are currently subject to strict dress codes, unable to attend schools or universities and cannot enter certain public spaces such as gyms or parks.

Women are witnessing the loss of their liberties and autonomy amid an unprecedented humanitarian emergency. With 18.9 million people experiencing food insecurity, an extraordinary amount of people are set to suffer from malnutrition, starvation and preventable diseases this year. In light of this, the need for NGOs to provide aid and address inequalities is more prevalent than ever.

NGOs Helping

As NGOs resume programs in Afghanistan, services from Save the Children, the IRC and CARE in Afghanistan will hopefully provide some relief during this humanitarian crisis. Since the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan, Save the Children has provided more than 3.3 million people (1.8 million of those being children) with nutritional, educational and mental health services, as well as essential aid such as blankets, materials to build shelters and hygiene products.

The IRC has also provided aid to thousands of villages across nine provinces in Afghanistan. It is currently supporting more than 100 health centers, helping locals with community development projects and improving access to education, particularly in rural areas. The organization is also leading the fight to protect and empower women and girls in the country by providing them with education opportunities, giving advice on women’s health and teaching them advocacy skills in its Afghan Women and Girls Program.

CARE runs three programs in Afghanistan. Its Resilience Program works to protect women’s social and political rights and seeks to promote female engagement in business, for instance through agricultural production. Its Education Program also provides children with access to education through a community-based approach, whilst its Health Equity and Rights Program provides health care to vulnerable adults and children.

While some of these services are still under suspension due to the ban, the resumption of programs in Afghanistan in the health and nutrition sector is bringing some hope and optimism to a struggling country. With continuing negotiations between the U.N. and the Taliban to try and reverse the decrees restricting women’s rights, it is vital that people continue to support NGOs in the hope that more humanitarian sectors will start to open up for women to work in.

– Priya Thakkar
Photo: Flickr

Elderly Poverty in UkraineAmid the destruction that Russian troops have wreaked on Ukraine lies a forgotten demographic that has been forced to bear the brunt of Russian aggression: the elderly. As Russia continues to target healthcare facilities, apartment complexes and power plants, access to food, shelter and electricity is now elusive. Poverty among the elderly is more pernicious than it has ever been. Today, senior citizens represent one-third of all Ukrainians in need of dire assistance: 91% of elderly Ukrainians require aid to get food and are suffering from extreme cold while 75% need basic hygiene items and 34% need urgent medication for chronic illness.

A Legacy of Poverty

Elderly poverty in Ukraine is not a novel issue. Although Ukrainian citizens aged 65 and over represent 17% of the nation’s population, their plight has been largely overlooked. The collapse of the Soviet Union left in its wake a pension system that hinged on contributions from the steadily declining working class, which condemns 80% of pensioners to live below the poverty line as Ukraine’s population dropped every year.

The inaccessibility of essential services, pharmacies, hospitals and grocery stores as a direct result of the war has only exacerbated the struggle of the elders who have already been denied access to these basic necessities. Disabilities and chronic illness obstruct them from evacuating to safety, and for many the fear of burdening their families has compelled them to remain in a war zone with little to no companionship or support network as their loved ones flee the country.

Organizations Aiding Ukrainian Elders

Global initiatives are rising to the challenge. HelpAge International is a network of organizations that advocate for senior citizens around the world. The network has continued to support elderly Ukrainians in eastern Ukraine since the dawn of the war in Donbas in 2014, supplying almost 5,000 older community members with peer-to-peer support, assistive devices, hygiene kids and home-based care.

In partnership with People in Need, CARE is a global organization with a commitment to “fight global poverty and world hunger by working alongside women and girls”. The partnership resulted in the founding of the Ukraine Crisis Fund which aims to provide at least four million vulnerable civilians affected by the Russo-Ukrainian War with emergency assistance. This includes food, water and hygiene supplies, as well as cash support and psychosocial aid. The U.N. Refugee Agency (UNHCR) is helping elders recover shelter by helping to mend homes shelled by Russian airstrikes. Finally, the Armed Forces of Ukraine are working tirelessly to protect elderly citizens and all of Ukraine’s people. Their official fundraising account proves an effective way to improve Ukraine’s defense capability even from overseas.

Although war continues to rage, not all hope is lost. According to information services company Candid, which tracks funding data in real time, more than $1.3 billion has been donated to Ukraine through non-profits. Though it will take years for life to return to normal and even more years for elderly poverty in Ukraine to be remedied, the aid of the international community demonstrates that such change is indeed possible.

A Look Ahead

While recent airstrikes in Dnipro and Mykolaiv suggest that the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine is far from over, new defense systems supplied by Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom have already boosted Ukraine’s ability to disrupt Russian missiles. Thanks to the new developments, the elderly can be better taken care of as their homeland becomes better fortified. Though poverty among the elderly continues to plague Ukraine, recent improvements to Ukraine’s national security as well as the work of NGOs and nonprofits make a future where this issue is no longer a death sentence.

– Stefania Bielkina
Photo: Flickr

Health Care in LiberiaLiberia has had a long relationship with poverty, with 50.9% of the population living below the national poverty line in 2016. This figure was predicted to increase in 2021 by The World Bank. Due to the heavy burden of poverty, many children deal with malnutrition. The civil war in Liberia during the 1990s, as well as the Ebola outbreak in 2014, have had significant impacts on overall life, including health care in Liberia.


Widespread poverty in Liberia has had far-reaching impacts on citizens’ lives. Apart from an inadequate health care infrastructure in Liberia, poverty also directly impacts the health of citizens in the form of malnutrition. The effects of malnutrition are far-reaching, especially for children. An estimated 32% of children younger than the age of 5 suffer stunting due to malnutrition.

Malnutrition also increases the risk of death and infections. Additionally, malnutrition can negatively affect a child’s brain function. The struggle stems from more than just a lack of food, but a lack of funds to afford foods with the proper nutrients. As of 2017, 69% of children under the age of 5 in Liberia are anemic.

Malnutrition has an adverse effect on economic efficiency, human capital and national development, according to USAID. Furthermore, the lack of resources such as clean water and proper sanitation increases the risk of stunting.

Partners in Rebuilding Health Care

The interconnectedness of the world means quick patterns of disease spread, which can lead to global health crises, as with the COVID-19 pandemic. However, impoverished countries, such as Liberia, have fragile health systems that are not well-equipped to properly manage such disease outbreaks.

Partners in Health (PIH) came to the country’s aid back in 2014 when the Ebola outbreak posed a massive threat to West Africans. Partners in Health continued to aid health care in Liberia, by strengthening the pre-existing health care facilities and infrastructure.

The organization’s aid has contributed to positive health impacts in Liberia. For instance, people dying from tuberculosis decreased from 15% to 0% after PIH support began in 2014. Also, mental health patients in Partners in Health supported facilities went up 30%. The organization has also helped train communities on health-promoting practices and provided training to health care professionals as well.

The world is more interconnected than ever, which means that countries are more able to help one another and collaborate to combat global poverty.

– Kelsey Jensen
Photo: Flickr

Aid to Ukraine
Tensions mounted between the Russian and Ukrainian governments for years following the fall of the Soviet Union. But, in the latter half of 2021, Russia drew immediate international attention to the region when it built up a military presence along the Russia-Ukraine border. The aggressive action received immediate criticism from the international community, and on Feb. 24, 2022, the United Nations Security Council convened to discourage further conflict. Amid the meeting, Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Countries, international organizations and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are providing aid to Ukraine in response to the invasion.

The Humanitarian Consequences

Since the invasion in February 2022, Ukraine has noted more than 1,500 casualties. As of March 11, 2022, more than 3 million refugees have fled to neighboring countries and experts predict that the conflict will have broader ramifications for international security. Russian military attacks crippled hospitals and residential areas, and against this backdrop of violence, Ukrainians both in and out of the country lack important resources. Vulnerable populations, including women, children and those below the poverty line, particularly need help as they lack basic medical services and necessities like food, water and shelter.

3 Organizations Providing Aid to Ukraine

Amid the protests and violence, several countries and organizations expressed their support for the Ukrainian people by providing aid to Ukraine.

  1. CARE. As an international humanitarian organization founded in 1945 to fight global poverty, CARE provides aid to Ukraine and other conflict-ridden countries. Following the crisis in Ukraine, the organization began initiatives to assist the people most in need, especially women, children and the elderly. The organization “aims to reach 4 million people” through its Ukraine Crisis Fund and partnership with fellow organization People in Need to “distribute urgently needed emergency supplies such as food, water, hygiene kits and cash to cover daily needs.” On March 3, 2022, these necessities arrived in Lviv, Ukraine, through trucks filled with “food, diapers and sleeping bags.” In the meantime, People in Need is handing out food in heated tents to civilians along the Slovak-Ukrainian border.
  2. Project HOPE. This NGO tackles the need for medical supplies and mental health resources. Response teams on the ground coordinate with local groups to assist refugees and provide assistance to hospitals in Ukraine. On March 14, 2022, Project HOPE  shipped “22 pallets of antibiotics and surgical supplies to Lviv.” The organization is also helping hospitals maintain some normal functions while assisting displaced people with otherwise limited access to health care services. Additionally, Project HOPE provided mental health resources to refugees in Romania by supporting local NGOs, noting that “mental health needs are the most urgent health concerns for refugees at this time” as Ukrainians enter countries where they have no social network or support system.
  3. Ukraine Humanitarian Fund. The United Nations Emergency Relief Coordinator developed the Ukraine Humanitarian Fund to direct money toward relevant, effective organizations, including the Red Cross, vetted international and national NGOs and United Nations agencies. The fund lets individuals indirectly allocate aid to Ukraine. Though the pooled fund underwent establishment in 2019, the effort is more important than before as ReliefWeb notes that, since Feb. 24, 2022, “Ukraine’s security and humanitarian situation is deteriorating rapidly.” The fund provides the necessary money for “health care, food aid, clean water, shelter and other humanitarian assistance” throughout Ukraine. As the crisis worsens, the United Nations can ensure funding “reaches the people most in need when they need it.” Like CARE and Project HOPE, this fund accepts donations straight from ordinary citizens to achieve humanitarian objectives.

Looking Ahead

Though it may seem difficult to imagine an end to the years-long conflict, individuals, organizations and countries across the world are directing their attention to hurt and displaced Ukrainian populations and there are ways for ordinary citizens to help. As the crisis unfolds, it is more important than ever for ongoing relief efforts to both receive and provide aid to Ukraine to protect vulnerable populations.

– Lauren Sung
Photo: Flickr

NGOs in UkraineUkraine has a long history of political turmoil and foreign interference since it achieved independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. From the annexation of Crimea in 2014 to Russia’s covert war in the Donbas, Russia has consistently engaged in undermining the territorial and political integrity of Ukraine. Remaining in line with these actions, on February 24, 2022, Russian President Vladamir Putin authorized a military invasion, or what he dubs a “special military operation,” against neighboring Ukraine. During the first week of the invasion, 1 million refugees fled the destruction and warfare taking place in Ukraine. In light of the destruction that the Russian invasion caused, NGOs in Ukraine are trying to funnel much-needed aid from international donors to Ukrainians.

Medical Assistance

The Russian invasion of Ukraine has led to an abysmal shortage of necessary medical supplies. Ukraine is “facing shortages of zeolite,” a necessary material for the manufacturing of medical oxygen, and by March 1, 2022, UNAIDS announced that Ukraine has “less than a month’s” supply of HIV/AIDS medication. In addition, Ukraine has had to abruptly pause efforts to contain Polio “as health authorities shift to emergency care.”

With the lack of medical supplies, NGOs in Ukraine, including Doctors Without Borders and Project HOPE, have been funneling medical aid to alleviate the critical medical shortages in Ukraine. Doctors Without Borders is organizing kits of both medicine and medical equipment to alleviate Ukraine’s medical shortages from Doctors Without Borders’ logistical bases in Bordeaux and Brussels. To increase the supply capacity for medical assistance, Doctors Without Borders is also establishing warehouses in Western Ukraine.

Project HOPE, with more emphasis on supporting Ukrainian refugees, is operating in Eastern Europe to deliver crucial medical supplies to fleeing Ukrainians in coordination with government agencies. In Moldova, Project HOPE has been coordinating with Moldova’s Ministry of Health to deliver medical supplies for Ukrainian refugees, which includes an Interagency Emergency Health Kit designed to assist 10,000 individuals for a span of three months. The Interagency Emergency Health Kit consists of one ton of medical resources, such as medical supplies, topical treatments, oral therapeutics and medical devices.

Refugee Assistance

Aside from NGOs in Ukraine delivering medical assistance, NGOs are also operating outside of Ukraine in Eastern Europe to support refugees. In particular, “CARE’s partner organization” is operating with aid workers on the Slovak-Ukrainian borders to establish heated tents for people to rest as well as sanitation facilities and portable toilets. For refugees, emergency relief teams are also providing “crisis intervention and psychosocial assistance” services.

The organization People in Need is also providing heated tents, designed to provide a space for Ukrainian refugees to rest, capable of holding up to 200 individuals. The organization is also providing water, hygiene items, food and SIM cards for communication on the Slovak-Ukrainian border. Furthermore, People in Need has also established facilities for Ukrainians waiting for border control near Velky Berezny to vet them.

The humanitarian crisis in Ukraine is critical: the U.N. estimates that an additional 4 million individuals “may flee Ukraine.” While the Russian invasion of Ukraine is dim, there is hope as NGOs in Ukraine are providing aid and local organizations are working to alleviate the refugee flow from Ukraine into Eastern Europe.

– Alexander Richter
Photo: Flickr

Heroin Use in Seychelles
In 2019, the Republic of Seychelles had the world’s worst reported heroin usage rate per capita. About 10% of the working-age population, between 5,000 and 6,000 people, had an addiction to heroin. The archipelago’s total population in 2019 was only 94,000. Seychelles’ opioid use rates have also consistently been among the world’s highest rates. These have continued to rise during the COVID-19 pandemic. Heroin use in Seychelles continues to be an epidemic, but some are implementing measures to combat it.

Why Seychelles is Suffering a Heroin Epidemic

Seychelles is a developing country in the Indian Ocean that includes more than 100 islands. The nature of Seychelles’ borders makes it difficult for law enforcement to intercept heroin arriving primarily from Afghanistan. Even during the pandemic, while lockdown measures were in place, the drug market continued to flourish in Seychelles with steady imports of illicit drugs as other markets struggled.

Heroin is so abundant that the cost of a line has dropped from about 1,000 Seychellois rupees to about 30 rupees. By 2020, the typical salary in Seychelles was $420 or approximately 5,400 rupees. With about 40% of the country’s population living in poverty, heroin has become an affordable option for drug users. People living in poverty are also more likely to use drugs like heroin and engage in drug-related crime than people who are financially better off. Additionally, impoverished people who are drug addicts tend to lack access to the addiction services and other forms of support they need to recover.

By 2011, the number of heroin users was about 1,200. The alarming and quickly rising number of users prompted the government to engage in a war on drugs. The war involved implementing strict enforcement on drug traffickers and addicts alike. However, the increase in users over the years accompanying the significant drop in the cost of heroin shows the ineffectiveness of cracking down on addicts. As a result, the government of Seychelles shifted its focus to drug prevention and rehabilitation.

Efforts to Curtail Heroin Use in Seychelles

In 2020, Seychelles’ government invested 75 million Seychellois rupees toward prevention and rehabilitation, nearly ten times what it invested in 2016. The Agency for the Prevention of Drug Abuse and Rehabilitation (APDAR) also emerged in 2017. Enrolled in its programs are more than 2,000 people, 68% of whom have gainful employment. The agency offers a high- and low-threshold program for addicts.

People who participate in the high-threshold program receive in-patient care and go through detoxification. Those registered for the low-threshold program primarily learn harm reduction strategies designed to reduce drug abuse’s negative impacts. APDAR also engages in prevention efforts, demand reduction and aftercare programs. In 2018, the agency designed a national plan to deal with heroin use in Seychelles. Included in the plan is a rehabilitation village offering residency to drug users and their families which began construction in 2020.

Seychelles has a notable lack of NGOs to provide support to people dealing with drug addiction. In 2012, an NGO called CARE launched a drug abuse education and awareness campaign targeting youths. Young people make up a large proportion of Seychelle’s heroin users. Therefore, education informing youths of the dangers of heroin is necessary to reduce the number of future addicts.

Stopping the Heroin Epidemic

The pandemic certainly has not helped to reduce heroin use in Seychelles. However, with complex and well-funded prevention and rehabilitation programs in place, heroin addicts and their families can get the help they need. Relapse is always a possibility for users as getting and staying clean is a difficult thing to achieve. However, with time, Seychelles can bring the number of users down to what it was in 2011, and then reduce the number even further.

– Nate Ritchie
Photo: Flickr

CARE is a nonprofit international organization that has worked for 75 years to create better lives for the underprivileged. In 2020, CARE implemented 1,300 projects that reached 90 million people across 100 countries. The organization’s work focuses on women and girls because it believes that poverty will not undergo eradication until all people have equal rights and opportunities. Two CARE programs in Africa are helping reduce poverty in several different ways.

About Water+

CARE uses many different approaches to help countries all around the world. One approach is Water+, which focuses on using water to alleviate contributing factors of poverty. This program links water to more than just hand-washing and clean drinking water. In order to make the most significant impact possible, it focuses on the connections between water and many other systems, including agriculture, education and nutrition.

In 2013, 14 studies occurred in low-income countries on water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) interventions that found that WASH interventions improved the height-for-age scores in children below the age of 5 years old. This is significant because malnutrition is the surface cause for stunted growth. However, by improving access to water, sanitation and hygiene, the nutrition of the children improved. The direct link between nutrition, hygiene and poverty means that CARE’s Water+ programs are effectively able to alleviate many contributing factors of poverty.

Water+ puts in extra effort to ensure that the water services it provides receive proper maintenance and financing once they are in place so that they will be sustainable. In 2019, CARE’s Water+ approach has directly impacted 8 million people throughout 56 countries. Here is information about two CARE programs in Africa working to improve circumstances regarding poverty and clean water.


In sub-Saharan Africa, women have limited access to land, water and education, yet they make up 50% of the workforce and are responsible for a large portion of agricultural labor. She’s SMART impacts poverty in Africa by working with female farmers in Mali, Malawi and Ghana, helping them grow more food by using Water Smart Agriculture (WaSA). Women farmers in Mali restored around 225 acres of land to productivity using techniques they learned from the WaSA project.

Women are also receiving encouragement to use CARE’s Village Savings and Loan model because having savings allows them to borrow money for any needs they might have. The Village Savings and Loan Associations (VSLAs) are currently part of a 12-year strategy to support 65 million people as they form groups by 2030. The savings groups usually contain 15 to 25 people that meet up to “save their money in a safe space, access small loans, and obtain emergency insurance.”

Overall, women in Mali report that they retrieve water for their fields half as often since implementing the WaSA techniques and they saw an increase of 18% in their annual income. In Malawi, the women saw a 27% increase in their income, while Ghana saw a 27% decrease in the costs of production. Thanks to She’s SMART, 36,000 women across these three countries have learned to grow and prepare healthy vegetables, and how to use wastewater to reduce the amount of labor for water collection.

CARE’s Nutrition and Hygiene Project

Each year, malnutrition is responsible for almost 50% of child deaths globally. Therefore, it is important to improve sanitation and provide access to clean drinking water in order to prevent communicable diseases that can lead to malnutrition. The CARE Nutrition and Hygiene project lessens the impact of poverty in Africa by improving the nutrition and health of pregnant women and children under the age of 2 years old in Mali by implementing nutrition, water, sanitation, hygiene (WASH) and agricultural interventions. The project takes multiple approaches including helping farmers to produce more nutritious foods, improving the treatment of malnutrition and educating communities on healthy nutrition.

As of August 2019, 48,364 children under the age of 5 years old had improved their nutritional status, 277,838 people had access to an improved sanitation facility, more than 180 communities received open defecation free certification and 9,000 farmers had applied new management or technology practices and increased their food security. At the end of the program interventions in 2019, the project reached 173,000 children under the age of 2 years old, along with 68,300 pregnant and lactating women and 17,500 farmers and their households. There was also a 70% decrease in the prevalence of underweight children.

The Good News

These two CARE programs in Africa were both successful and made an impact on many lives. Past programs also include Glarciares+ which worked to help communities better adapt to changing weather in Peru, and the School Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene plus Community Impact (SWASH+) which focused on “increasing the scale, impact, and sustainability of school water, sanitation, and hygiene (SWASH) programming in Kenya.” Currently, CARE is implementing Rural Access to New Opportunities in WASH (RANO-WASH) which aims to “create solutions for sustainable and equitable water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) systems so people can live healthier lives and preserve the environment” in rural parts of Madagascar. With continued efforts, CARE will have a positive impact on communities by focusing on water, sanitation and hygiene programs to alleviate poverty for years to come.

Trystin Baker
Photo: Flickr

Empowering Women in Vietnam
Like in many emerging economies around the world, women in Vietnam form the majority of the working poor, often earning less than men and having fewer high-income opportunities. In Vietnam, many disparities between men and women result from gender-based discrimination and the social acceptance of inequity. These can manifest in educational discrimination and pay discrimination.

Without equal resources and support, young girls lack the necessary skills and acceptance for their futures to move beyond vulnerable positions or “invisible” jobs such as homeworking and street vending. However, many organizations are working to promote equity for women in Vietnam, whether through government lobbying or independent support. Here are three NGOs empowering women in Vietnam.

The Asia Foundation

Working throughout the continent, The Asia Foundation has worked in Vietnam specifically for more than 25 years, partnering with local NGOs and governments to improve women’s livelihoods. This organization seeks to strengthen and improve women’s and girls’ economic opportunities and autonomy. It has advocated for more inclusive political atmospheres and worked to expand women’s rights. To expand women’s economic opportunities, it partnered with the Vietnam Women Entrepreneurs Council to increase women-owned small and medium-sized enterprises.

With funding from the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, The Asia Foundation facilitated a mobile banking platform aimed toward low-income populations in Vietnam. In 2017, The Asia Foundation provided 333 girls with secondary schooling scholarships, school supplies, books, uniforms and bicycles. Through its expansive and integrated approach to empowering women in Vietnam, The Asia Foundation provides the tools necessary to help create an equitable future for women and girls.

Women’s Empowerment and Voice (WEAV)

This organization is unique among the three as it consists of Vietnamese Americans, including general members and leadership. Members’ work focuses on the improvement and inclusion of impoverished girls and women in a complete education. By providing the opportunities necessary to complete a college education, WEAV enables the potential for higher-paying careers and a wider variety of employment options.

In Vietnam, “[o]nly boys can expect to be educated at the primary and secondary levels,” according to the organization.” As a result, this organization funds scholarships for girls needing financial support to stay in school. Women’s Empowerment and Voice supports more than 100 women attending four different colleges in the Mekong Delta. Since WEAV launched in 2011, it had its first college graduate in 2015.

Additionally, it continues to increase the number of scholarships with each passing year. Its dedication to uplifting women in poverty or in financial need supports women and their families, lifting overwhelming economic burdens. WEAV provides futures by breaking down barriers of discrimination and socioeconomic disadvantages to empower women in Vietnam, allowing bright minds to shine.


In covering a wide variety of circumstances, CARE’s programs in Vietnam work to enhance women’s economic growth and prevent gender-based violence, including workplace sexual assault. Since its work in Vietnam began in 1989, eliminating gender-based discrimination and mapping strategies to eliminate poverty have helped underprivileged communities. A recent program that CARE formed called “Ignite” seeks to boost women-led entrepreneurship in Vietnam, placing these businesses at the forefront of their fields.

Despite the growth in women-owned businesses, numbers remain low and often unseen. Ignite hopes to improve visibility and support entrepreneurs in maintaining businesses. The program seeks to accelerate the growth of 50,000 enterprises and positively impact at least 340,000 entrepreneurs, of which at least 70% would be women. In order to stand against social norms disassociating women from business, CARE provides access to resources and support organizations ready to assist women, allowing for more equitable opportunities both within and outside of the workplace.

Looking Forward

Despite Vietnam’s economic growth and development over recent decades, social norms and financial inequality leave women with fewer opportunities and lower incomes than men. However, these three NGOs empowering women in Vietnam lay the groundwork for effective positive change.

With their support, women can hold more political autonomy and economic power, while other organizations and programs focus on alleviating financial burdens on families to allow girls a comprehensive education. As the Australian government partnered with The Asia Foundation, the United States and other economic powers have the opportunity to reflect such a partnership and increase funding toward poverty elimination and gender equity worldwide.

– Mikey Redding
Photo: Flickr

COVID-19 On Poverty In Sri Lanka
The COVID-19 pandemic has had countless effects on every aspect of life. However, it has particularly affected the economy and poverty levels. The impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Sri Lanka has halted significant poverty reduction progress due to how the pandemic has affected work stability and household income.

The Severity of the Pandemic

In May and June 2020, Sri Lanka faced increasing COVID-19 rates. The country is currently reporting about 1,282 new cases each day with the peak occurring on May 25, 2021. Sri Lanka remains on the lower end of the proportion of the South Asian population infected. However, the extremely low vaccine rate makes the situation dire. The country has administered approximately 5.3 million vaccine doses so far.

The Unstable Situation for Workers

The impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Sri Lanka is clearly visible in the labor market and job stability. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Sri Lanka had made significant progress in reducing poverty. However, a majority of workers still work in agriculture and service with low incomes and poor job quality.  About 70% of these jobs fall in the informal sector, a sector vulnerable to job losses and wage cuts.

Increased unemployment along with low wages and little opportunity to save put workers in a tough situation when the pandemic began. Even workers who had formal employment still clearly felt the effects of the pandemic. For instance, certain export industries struggled due to decreased demand and restrictions on travel.

However, the pandemic caused these groups of people to lose their stable wages and fall below the poverty line, contributing to an increase in overall poverty. The unemployment rate overall rose by about 0.6% from 2019 to 2020. However, this figure may not take into account the workers with part-time employment or informal jobs. The increase in poverty rate is dramatic, going from 9.2% to 11.7% from 2019 to 2020 based on the $3.20 poverty line.

Effects on Households

The impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Sri Lanka and the ensuing instability in the labor market has had significant effects on households and forced many to adjust their lives. In just the first few months of the pandemic in 2020, nearly 40% of households had lost all of their income and 93% faced some consequences from the pandemic.

Sri Lankans are still feeling the effects of the initial economic shock. Because of reduced income, families have to find alternative ways to meet their basic needs. For many, food insecurity is now a prominent issue. As a result, many people have cut back on food consumption. To save on costs, households may consume less nutritious food, which could adversely impact the health of people, especially children.

The Government Assists

When there is a crisis as widespread and impactful as the current pandemic, governments will often take action to mitigate the effects on people. It is impossible to fully negate the impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Sri Lanka. However, some of the programs may help reduce the impact and prevent the complete collapse of the economy.

Using welfare programs that had already been in place, such as the Samurdhi program, the Sri Lankan government was able to lessen the blow to people who lost part of or all of their income. During the first wave, the government gave five million families a payment of Rs 10,000. During the second wave, it gave 1.4 million families Rs 5,000.

Along with these payments, the government also instituted programs to help with employment and training for public sector jobs to help keep people employed with a stable income. Other organizations such as the World Food Programme and CARE have also been working in Sri Lanka to ensure food security.

As more Sri Lankans receive vaccines and cases decrease, Sri Lankans will hopefully be able to return to their normal lives. Being back at work with a stable income will have an immense impact on the livelihoods of millions and government programs will help restore the economy. Sri Lanka had already been making progress in lowering poverty and will hopefully get back on track after the pandemic ends.

Ritika Manathara
Photo: Flickr