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2010 Haiti Earthquake
The catastrophic earthquake that struck Haiti a decade ago has birthed a very different humanitarian crisis. On January 12, 2010, the 7.0 magnitude earthquake killed over 250,000 people with 300,000 more injured. The 2010 Haiti earthquake was the most destructive natural disaster the region had suffered, displacing over 5 million people and destroying nearly 4,000 schools. The earthquake’s epicenter was at the heart of the metropolitan area in the capital city Port-au-Prince. Ten years later, 4 million people are experiencing severe hunger with 6 million living below the poverty line.

The Root Problem

These consequences led to many social and political setbacks. Before the 2010 earthquake, 70 percent of people lived below the poverty line. Now, a nationwide study indicates that one in three Haitians needs food aid and 55,000 children will face malnutrition in 2020. Despite others allocating $16 billion in aid to the island, the nation has lapsed in food security due to a lack of international investments and funding.

Humanitarian Response

Recurring climate events such as prolonged droughts and Hurricane Matthew, which struck Haiti on October 4, 2016, have resulted in the destruction of agricultural sectors and infrastructure. The hurricane took the lives of an estimated 1,000 people. The island also suffered a cholera epidemic in 2010 that resulted in over 8,000 deaths. Since then, thousands reside in makeshift internal camps—once regarded as temporary housing—without electricity or running water.

World Vision’s relief fund aims to provide essential care to residents through agricultural support, emergency food supplies and medicinal materials. Donations and sponsorship of children alleviate many of the poverty-stricken burdens. After the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, the organization’s unified efforts brought food to over 2 million people. Other international humanitarian organizations have received critical reception over discrepancies in rebuilding efforts and the disbursement of funds.

Political Unrest

Various ambassadors and nations followed with many humanitarian responses and appeals for public donations such as the European Council providing millions of dollars in rehabilitation and reconstruction aid. Frequent political turmoil has curbed humanitarian progress in Haiti. In September 2019, thousands demanded the resignation of President Jovenel Moise over his mismanagement of the economy, which impacted poorer populations the most. For more than 50 years, the World Food Program has attempted to build resilience in the political and economic framework of Haiti through school meals and nutrition, and disaster preparedness. By preparing food before the hurricane season, the program can meet over 300,000 people’s needs. It delivers daily meals to 365,000 children in approximately 1,400 schools across the nation. Other organizations that provide sustainable development projects and emergency relief include CARE, Food for the Poor, Midwest Food Bank and Action Against Hunger, among others.

The humanitarian crisis a decade after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti requires a level of urgency. Millions in Haiti are facing unprecedented levels of severe hunger due to a lack of funding and economic and political stability. International organizations are vital to providing aid and care to these populations, and the world’s growing awareness of this issue is just as important.

– Brittany Adames
Photo: Flickr

Sanitation in Zimbabwe
Zimbabwe is a landlocked country in southern Africa that lies between the Limpopo and Zambezi Rivers with a population of 14.86 million. In the 20th century, Zimbabwe’s sanitation infrastructure was quite stable, but due to economic collapse resulting from the loss of public sector and donor investments in the early 2000s, the country’s sanitation development came to a halt and it began to degrade. Thousands of people living in Zimbabwe’s urban and rural areas lost access to not only clean drinking water, but also proper sanitation. Zimbabwe’s constitution states that every person has the right to “safe, clean, and potable water,” but the country still has a lot of work to do to make that statement come true. Here are 10 facts about sanitation in Zimbabwe.

10 Facts About Sanitation in Zimbabwe

  1. Water coverage has been increasing since Zimbabwe’s independence in 1980. Water coverage has increased from 32 percent to 56 percent in the 20 years after the nation gained independence. This increase in coverage has also directly improved overall sanitation access, from 28 percent to 56 percent. Two main elements propelled the growth of the country’s sanitation infrastructure: interest in urban and commercial farming and implementation of innovative technologies by the Integrated Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Program (IRWSSP). Both endeavors helped drive urban sanitation coverage to 90 percent up until the late 1990s when the economic crisis caused the coverage to decline.
  2. The rural sanitation infrastructure is still vastly underdeveloped. When comparing the rural system to the urban infrastructure of sanitation in Zimbabwe, flushing toilets, running water and access to clean drinking water is uncommon in rural areas. The World Health Organization (WHO) shows that 66 percent of the population in more affluent areas of Zimbabwe has access to basic sanitation, while only 13 percent of the population in poor areas has basic sanitation access. Further, while Zimbabwe’s population does receive a small number of subsidies from the government to improve sanitation, 80 percent goes to the urban, more wealthy areas.
  3. Studies prove sanitation in Zimbabwe’s rural areas is significantly worse. According to a 2017 report by the Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency (ZIMSTAT), 91.5 percent of urban households have properly flushing toilets, while just 36.8 percent of households in rural areas are without toilets. These rural areas do not have reliable access to water pipelines, and therefore, most of the population relies on open defecation. A Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey study estimated that 42 percent of the rural population in Zimbabwe still uses open defecation. In order to bring the rural areas up to the standards of the urban areas, the government would need to spend $90 million per year on sanitation hardware.
  4. In 2010, the Zimbabwe National Action Committee created its Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) Sector. WASH has helped to combine Zimbabwe’s urban and rural sanitization efforts to gain a more organized action plan on how to improve sanitation, restore leadership throughout urban and rural areas, institutionalize government responsibilities and support sector development. So far, WASH has aided in the doubling of water production in 14 small towns, worked with UNICEF to drill boreholes, creating access to more water. The WASH program has also worked on the Participatory Health and Hygiene Education (PHHE) initiative, supporting 432 sanitation action groups and 388 health clubs.
  5. Sanitation in Zimbabwe currently aims to align with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The government recently approved a gender-sensitive Sanitation and Hygiene Policy that aims to ensure Zimbabwe is defecation free by 2030. To achieve this goal, the Sanitation Focused on Participatory Health and Hygiene Education (SafPHHE) has been implemented throughout 45 rural districts in Zimbabwe. SafPHHE will produce a framework to improve sustainable and reliable sanitation services. By spreading awareness of good hygiene behavior and increasing sanitation coverage, open defecation rates should reduce in accordance with the SDGs.
  6. Australian aid has been supporting efforts to improve sanitation in Zimbabwe. CARE, an Australian-based international aid organization, works around the world but is also helping communities in Zimbabwe to build toilets and hand-washing facilities. About 6,671 students now have access to 2,870 new toilets with handwashing facilities in schools and villages in Zimbabwe.
  7. Feminine hygiene and sanitation in Zimbabwe are sub-par. Many girls and women in Zimbabwe, ages 15 to 29 years old, do not have access to proper sanitary wear, or Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM). This lack of feminine hygiene poses health risks not only to women but also to their communities. Girls miss four to five days of school because of menstrual cycles, according to CARE. According to an article published by Jamba, MHM is clouded in cultural taboos, constraints and unhygienic practices that further cause health-related dangers for women and girls. 
  8. Households in Zimbabwe rely on donor-drilled boreholes for the water supply. While these boreholes do supply water, they are typically highly unsanitary. Specifically, cholera broke out in 2018, killing 30 people. Further, people sometimes use the boreholes as extortion for financial gain, or otherwise access the water.
  9. Local and national corruption further exacerbate the issue of sanitation in Zimbabwe. In the capital city of Harare, the water management system charges residents for water even though the water does not run properly and is contaminated. Further, the government admits that it does not use the revenue to maintain and improve the quality of the water. The Export-Import Bank of China provided Zimbabwe’s government a $144 million loan with no results in sanitation improvements. According to the Human Rights Watch, solutions include the government using a sliding-scale for the residents’ water supply cost and investing in sanitation and water strategies, such as building toilets, pit latrines and uncontaminated boreholes.
  10. In 2014, Zimbabwe’s government made a public pledge to create and sustain a sanitation and hygiene policy. The government anticipates improvements aligned with the SDGs by keeping rural water supply functioning long-term, improving the reliability of the urban water supply, rehabilitating public latrines, emptying the latrines when they are full and reusing wastewater. It was the plan to achieve the goals by 2015, but with clear corruption and without proper funding, it may take some time for Zimbabwe to reach its goals.

Zimbabwe has an intense need for sanitation improvements in both urban and rural areas of the country. These 10 facts outline the current reality of sanitation in Zimbabwe. In aiming to achieve the SDGs and more, the country can change in a way to allow people to lead healthy and safe lives.

– Marlee Septak
Photo: Unsplash

India is Winning the War on Poverty
In 2010, India was home to most of the world’s poor with more than 410 million people living in poverty. So, just how is India winning the war on poverty? People do not just define poverty by low income, but also by poor health, poor quality of work and the threat of violence. Since 2010, India has made incredible progress and is now even a middle-income country. India is the second-most populous country and the seventh-largest country by area. The dense population is a trigger for any of the possible negatives that come with living in India.

India’s Path to Economic Success

From 2006 to 2016, India lifted 271 million people out of poverty, cutting the poverty rate by half. This was because of improvements in assets, sanitation and nutrition. India received recognition for improvements it made in some of its most impoverished areas. In Jharkhand, poverty has decreased from 74.9 percent (2006) to 46.5 percent (2016). The better quality of life is a huge factor in how India is winning the war on poverty, most importantly in regards to nutrition.

Organizations such as The Integrated Child Development Services and The National Health Mission set out to improve the nutrition status in the country. Care is an NGO that has been working for 68 years to fight poverty in India. It formed in 1950 by the signing of the IndoCARE bilateral agreement and focuses on women and children. India is home to 30 percent of the world’s impoverished children, and children are twice as likely to live in poverty than adults. Saying this, poverty rates among children have decreased faster than adults, and the child mortality rate has decreased by 2.4 percent compared to 2005.

A Better Future

Predictions determine that 40 percent of Indians will be urban residents by 2030, but it is still imperative that there is socioeconomic inclusion within the rural states, where a majority of the country’s poor reside. There is a lack of connection to electricity, internet and financial institutions which drastically impacts the poverty rate. The Economic Rural Development Society, a nonprofit established in 1982, works to introduce sustainable development techniques in rural communities. It has built 606 sanitation units to lower the impact of human waste as well as forming health education and rehabilitation programs for the elderly. It equips marginalized people with education, livelihood skills and self-governing capabilities.

In 2018, only 5 percent of the 130 billion living in India was in extreme poverty. According to the World Poverty Clock, if things continue the way they are, fewer than 3 percent of the population will live in extreme poverty by 2021. Having more access to cooking fuels, sanitation faculties and household assets have driven the decrease in poverty.

For India to continue to win the war on poverty it must implement skill development for its workers. Changes in education and a focus on tangible skills are important to ensure Indian workers keep up with the technologically advancing world.

Efforts to make health care more accessible to all citizens is a problem that the country still needs to tackle. Making sure that people properly sanitize health care facilities is also a way to ensure that the tightly-packed population does not get sick. India eradicated the Polio scare, but there is still 63 percent of the population dying from non-communicable diseases, which can emerge from unhealthy food and lifestyle choices.

India has a long way to go, but it has moved from the poorest country to a middle-income country. Many of its citizens have emerged from poverty, and the future looks bright for India as long as the way of life continues to rise.

Taylor Pittman
Photo: Flickr

Education in Timor-Leste
Timor-Leste is a Southeastern Asian country occupying the east side of the island, Timor. The small country is home to a little more than 1 million people. Unfortunately, the literacy rate is only 67.5 percent. Improving the quality of education has been a struggle, but there has been significant progress in the past 18 years. Here are eight facts about education in Timor-Leste.

 8 Facts About Education in Timor-Leste

    1. By 2001, a year before gaining its independence, 90 percent of schools had been destroyed due to the violence and destruction that ensued from Indonesia’s rule over the country. These destroyed schools had once employed 6,000 teachers and educated 240,000 children. After Timor-Leste gained its independence, the country had to completely rebuild these institutions from the ground up.

    2. Because of the focus on rebuilding education, Timor-Leste was able to make quick progress. Between 2002 and 2014, enrollments went from 240,000 students enrolled to 364,000. The number of teachers doubled during this time, going from 6,000 to 12,000. Primary education enrollment increased from 68 percent in 2005 to 85 percent in 2008.

    3. Despite the increase in school enrollment, many young and adult Timorese lack the basic education needed to fully participate in society and contribute to the economy. Unfortunately, 27 percent of the adult population is semi-literate and 37 percent is completely illiterate.

    4. In 2010, the World Bank set up its Second Chance Education project to boost the number of out-of-school youth and adults who have access to an equivalency program to receive the education they missed. The Second Chance Education project ran from December 2010 to December 2015, supporting the Ministry of Education in Timor-Leste. Its major goals included training staff members, developing school curriculums and improving existing adult literacy programs. The same year, the government aimed to accelerate the completion of basic education for uneducated students due to lack of availability, while trying to build the education system back up. Government expenditure on education had increased from 13 percent in 2004 to 25 percent in 2010.

    5. The quality of education has room for improvement. About 70 percent of students in grade one could not read a single written word in Portuguese and the native Tetum language, the two most commonly spoken languages in the country. This, however, decreased to 40 percent by the end of grade two. Still, by the end of their second year of schooling, 40 percent of kids are still illiterate.

    6. Many teachers have only completed secondary school themselves. But with UNICEF supporting the Ministry of Education, teachers are trained in order to improve the quality of education. Teachers who have already gone through training have noticed that with their new direction toward teaching, students are more engaged and more conversation between instructor and student.

    7. There is a large gap between access to education between rural and urban areas. For urban residents, the enrollment rate for pre-secondary and secondary levels is 100 percent, while in rural areas, it is only 60 percent. Likewise, the literacy rate for youth ages 15-24 in urban sections of the country is 94.3 percent, but 78.5 in rural locations. The Education Management Information System works toward future teacher redistribution. This will place more teachers in rural areas in hopes of increasing the quality of education and bridging the gap between rural and urban.

    8. CARE’s Lafaek Education project provided “Lafaek Prima,” educational magazines written in Tetum, for 85,276 students in grades three and four. This builds off of what these students already learned in grades one and two; the content prepared in collaboration with teachers, educational staff and the government, ensures that the magazine is suitable for their students.

Despite working from the ground up, education in Timor-Leste has greatly improved since it gained its independence in 2002. The government has stepped in, as well as other organizations, to prioritize educational needs across the country. In the long term, this will assist the Timorese in climbing out of poverty.

Jordan Miller
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts about Life Expectancy in Myanmar
Formerly known as Burma, Myanmar is a country in Southeast Asia nestled between India, Bangladesh, China, Laos and Thailand. While it is currently transitioning from a military government to a democracy, the following are 10 facts about life expectancy in Myanmar.

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Myanmar

  1. Myanmar’s Life Expectancy: For the first of the 10 facts about life expectancy in Myanmar, the average life expectancy in Myanmar is 66.96 years. For males, the average is 65 years and for females, it is 69 years. Steadily rising since 1950, the average life expectancy was once 33.63 years. By 1990, life expectancy slowed as it only reached 56.65 years and did not exceed 60 years until 2001. Based on data collected by the United Nations, Myanmar is not projected to have an average life expectancy exceeding 70 years until almost 2040.
  2. Other Countries’ Life Expectancies: Myanmar’s life expectancy is lower than most of its neighbors. Compared to surrounding countries, such as China, Thailand, India and Bangladesh the average life expectancy ranges between 69 and 77 years. However, Myanmar has a relatively similar life expectancy to the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, which is at 67.27 years. This could be due to Myanmar’s changing government and tumultuous internal conflict. Unlike its neighbors, Myanmar has engaged in a civil war since it broke from British rule in 1948. In fact, it is the world’s longest ongoing civil war.
  3. Myanmar’s Internal Conflict: These disparities in life expectancies between Myanmar and other Asian countries could be due to its internal conflict. In Myanmar, there is a constant struggle for power in the government with the military primarily seizing control and ending rebellions since the country gained independence in 1948. Among this political struggle is an ethnic one; the Buddhist population (which makes up 90 percent of Myanmar’s total population) targets minority religious groups, specifically the Rohingya, a Muslim minority group. While there have always been tensions between ethnic groups in Myanmar, violence did not escalate until 2016. Thousands of Rohingya are fleeing Myanmar to Bangladesh because of persecution, extreme violence and borderline ethnic cleansing by Myanmar’s security forces. People do not know much about the death toll in Myanmar but BBC reports that the violence resulted in the killings of at least 6,700 Rohingya a month after violence broke out in August 2017. People burned at least 288 Rohingya villages since then and nearly 690,000 Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh. Myanmar’s rapid population decline and lowered life expectancy may be due to either genocide or the fleeing of many of its civilians.
  4. Rising Life Expectancy: Despite the ongoing civil war in Myanmar, life expectancy is rising. One of the greatest links to health and life expectancy is the standard of living. According to a study by the World Bank, “the proportion of the population living under the national poverty line halved from 48.2 percent in 2005 to 24.8 percent in 2017.” More people are now able to afford health care and medical treatments, allowing for the rise in life expectancies. Additionally, as poverty declines, the Myanmar government is devoting more resources to improving health care. Myanmar has specifically targeted malaria. In a study by the World Health Organization, in Myanmar, “malaria morbidity and mortality has declined by 77 percent and 95 percent respectively by 2016 compared to 2012. The country is moving forward as per the National Strategic Plan aiming for malaria elimination by 2030.” By abiding by the National Strategic Plan, Myanmar was able to successfully reduce malaria in the country and boost life expectancy.
  5.  Reducing Poverty: Myanmar and various international powers are making efforts to reduce poverty in the country. In April 2017, the World Bank approved a $200 million credit for a First Macroeconomic Stability and Fiscal Resilience Development Policy Operation. The purpose of this is to help Myanmar achieve economic stability and reduce poverty. It would also allow greater access to public services, such as electricity and health care resources. In addition, China agreed to assist in reducing poverty in rural areas of Myanmar in February 2018. Rural Myanmar has higher poverty rates than in urban centers (38.8 percent compared to 14.5 percent in towns and cities). The project from China includes infrastructure development and vocational training, which will implement better roads and agricultural techniques. With these efforts, poverty is in decline and quality of life rises, allowing for people to live better and longer lives.
  6. Access to Electricity: People across Myanmar are gaining access to electricity. According to the World Bank, 69.815 percent of the population had access to electricity in 2017, as opposed to 55.6 percent in 2016. In 2015, both the government of Myanmar and the World Bank developed a National Electrification Plan that will achieve universal electricity by 2030. To do this, the World Bank has given Myanmar a $400 million credit to launch this plan throughout the country. Myanmar has already exceeded the goals set in 2015. One goal was to have 1.7 million households connected to electricity by 2020. Currently, 4.5 million households have electricity. Because of this and the decline of poverty, more households can obtain home appliances as well as other consumer goods like cell phones and computers. While these are not direct causes of rising life expectancy, they do indicate that people in Myanmar are gaining a better quality of life, which can attribute to living longer lives.
  7.  Health Care: Myanmar consistently ranks among the worst health care in the world. Myanmar citizens pay for most health care resources out of pocket. Only 600,000 of 53.7 million people in Myanmar have health insurance, the Social Security Scheme. There are shortages across the country in human resources for health. There are only 61 doctors per every 100,000 people in Myanmar. There are not many medical schools available and therefore a lack of other health professionals like pharmacists, technicians and bioengineers. Many of the current doctors in Myanmar feel overworked and burnt out of the profession. The lack of many resources can contribute to lower life expectancies.
  8. Leading Causes of Death: Without access to health care, diseases become the leading cause of death in Myanmar. Non-communicable diseases cause 68 percent of deaths in Myanmar. COPD, stroke, ischemic heart disease, diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease are some of the leading causes of death in Myanmar. However, preventable diseases are in decline. Tuberculosis, HIV and lower respiratory infections have decreased as leading causes of death. Even though access to health care is limited, the quality has improved overall, allowing for people to fight off these infections and live longer.
  9. Improving Health Care: The Myanmar government is slowly improving health care. Unfortunately, government spending on health care is one of the lowest in the world at 5 percent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP). However, studies by the World Bank shows that this percentage has increased over time. In 2011, the Myanmar government only spent 1.687 percent of its GDP on health care, the year Myanmar began its transition to democracy. Since 2013, Myanmar began to implement more policies devoted to national health care. The government went from spending 2.11 percent on health care in 2013 to 5.03 percent in 2014, making health care more affordable and available for mothers and children. Myanmar also reduced the number of medical students to ensure a better quality of education. The severe lack of government investment in health care makes health resources difficult to access by the population, which one can attribute to the lower life expectancies, but it is clear that Myanmar is taking steps in the right direction.
  10. International Support for Health Care: There is a lot of international support for health care in Myanmar. Cooperative for Assistance and Relief Everywhere (CARE) has worked with Myanmar since 1995 and has helped improve community health services. It also provides women valuable information on sexual and reproductive health. The Japanese International Cooperation Agency has also worked on special projects in Myanmar since 2000, most notably creating a standard for sign language and providing teachers. Additionally, the World Health Organization has also worked with the Myanmar government to set goals for their health care. The WHO assisted in drawing up Myanmar’s Health Vision 2030. Further, the World Bank provided a $200 million loan to Myanmar for an Essential Package of Health Services. Much of the international support is at local levels; it is up to the Myanmar government to provide support across the entire country.

As evidenced by the 10 facts about life expectancy in Myanmar, several circumstances could be contributing to the lower life expectancy of the country. However, despite the long and winding path ahead, it is clear that life expectancy is rising as living conditions continue to slowly improve. 

– Emily Young
Photo: Pixabay

Ending Child MarriagesChild marriage is one of the biggest problems affecting young women in third world countries. Roughly 15 million girls under age 18 are married every year. That translates to around 41,000 girls every day. Child marriage affects young girls throughout third world countries by cutting off their access to education, harming their health and making them more susceptible to cases of domestic and sexual violence. Child marriage also puts a strain on a country’s economy and will end up costing them trillions of dollars over the next 10 years. Though the statistics appear devastating, several organizations are dedicated to ending child marriages in third world countries.

Africa, Asia and the Middle East have the highest percentages of child marriage. Research done by CARE, an organization fighting global poverty, provided the top 26 countries where girls under the age of 18 are more likely to get married rather than enroll in secondary school. The country with the lowest percentage of girls enrolled in secondary school is Niger with only 10 percent. However, 76 percent of girls in Niger are married before age 18. Other countries with significantly low enrollment rates include Somalia, Mozambique and Ethiopia.

Girls Not Brides

Girls Not Brides became an independent charity in 2013. It is an organization committed to ending child marriages. There are 1,300 civil organizations from 100 countries involved in the organization. The sole intention of Girls Not Brides is to end child marriage so girls can live a fulfilling and healthy life. Its main goal is to bring global attention to child marriage and support laws or programs that will protect girls worldwide from the dangers of child marriage.

Girls Not Brides also offers support to those who were already married all over the world. They believe that the minimum age for marriage should be 18 years old for both boys and girls. This is in accordance with the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child. Girls Not Brides aims to encourage an open dialogue about the dangers of child marriage, work with other organizations to end child marriage and help to introduce different policies and funding to end child marriage.

In 2016, Girls Not Brides published a strategy set on their plan to tackle child marriage from 2017 until 2020. The plan is an overarching blueprint of what the organization wants to do that is based on their successes in its 2014-2016 plan. Its number one goal is to work with governments to get child marriage legislation passed as well as bring it to the attention of lawmakers. Other goals include globalizing, engaging communities, increasing their funding and donations, using facts and evidence to further their claims about child marriage and setting up partnerships with other organizations.

Other Organizations Fighting Child Marriages

Even though Girls Not Brides is one of the only organization that is dedicated specifically to fighting child marriage, there are other organizations that have made ending child marriages a part of their mission. CARE focuses on ending global poverty through women’s empowerment. Breakthrough uses more artistic and creative means to fight for social justice, which includes children’s rights. Humanim is an NGO fighting for children’s rights and protections.

On a more local level, some organizations focus nationally. In Egypt, the Egyptian Foundation for the Advancement of Childhood Conditions works under the Childs Rights International Network to protect the basic human rights of children. Seya, in Yemen, is a children’s rights organization that puts protecting children as its most important mission. Vasavya Mahila Mandali, which is one of two organizations based in India that believes in empowering women and children.

Child marriage is a huge issue for girls and young women globally. It is one of the top three things holding girls back from obtaining an education and living their lives to the fullest potential. Child marriage violates a young girl’s autonomy and puts her in danger of being seriously injured or, at worst, killed. The existence of Girls Not Brides and the other organizations that are dedicated to ending child marriages and working to educate the public about it are making the world a better place for those who are at risk of becoming a child bride.

Sydney Toy
Photo: Flickr

ten facts about social activism
Social activism is a purposeful action with the mission of bringing about lasting social change. Anyone with a cause that they feel passionate about can become a social activist if they work to create effective and positive change. Social activism generally refers to working to right the wrongs of unjust practices affecting humans, such as the Rohingya genocide in Myanmar or the separation of families at the United States and Mexico border by immigration officers. However, activists can work to create change with any cause, including environmental activism and animal activism. These 10 facts about social activism will provide information on the evolution of activism, as well as careers relating to social activism.

10 Facts About Social Activism

  1. The social services industry works to address the direct needs of individuals, while social activism deals with uncovering the root cause of a negative issue impacting a group of people. A social activist may use various techniques to bring light to an issue, either through advocacy campaigns to raise public awareness on an issue, or by coordinating help to aid an affected population. Social activism deals more heavily with bringing light and change to societal issues.
  2. Social activism has changed drastically with the rise of social media. For example, the civil rights movement had mostly peaceful demonstrations and protests and is still one of the most successful social activism campaigns. Nowadays, social media has become a key player in social activism. Hashtags such as #BlackLivesMatter and #MeToo have taken over the role of advocacy and are very successful in bringing light to social justice issues by providing accessible information across the world.
  3. A survey that the Pew Research Center carried out found that 69 percent of Americans believe that online platforms are essential for successful social activism campaigns. Americans believe that online platforms accomplish various political goals such as getting the attention of legislators and creating sustained movements for social change. There is a debate over slacktivism versus social media activism. Slacktivism is the belief that social media leads to passive activism.
  4. The same survey found that certain demographics of social media users – most notably African and Latino Americans – see these platforms as an essential tool for their own political expression and activism. Around half of all African American social media users state that these platforms are at least somewhat important for them to express their political views. Many minorities feel that social media allows them to be more active in speaking up for their own rights. Those views fall to about one-third of all white social media users.
  5. Organizations, corporations and government agencies are frequent targets for social activists aiming to influence society by altering established practices and policies. Activists may use techniques such as naming and shaming to bring about social change. Naming and shaming is when a group or organization calls out another group for unethical practices. An example of this is when the United States placed sanctions on South Africa for apartheid. The sanctions shamed South Africa and brought this issue to the attention of the international community.
  6. One can place activists into two categories depending on their relationship to an organization. Insider activists are employees of a targeted organization. They have certain benefits and challenges compared to outsider activists who are members of independent social activism movements. Insider activists are also called whistleblowers and they expose unethical practices happening within the organization they are a part of.
  7. Activists may use boycotts and protests to target businesses and get them to change their practices or behaviors. Boycotts are successful in targeting businesses as they cut them off from economical transactions and limit their profits. Businesses will often adhere to the demands of customers if the boycott is large enough to severely impact them. Therefore, boycotts are an effective way of getting businesses to change their business models to something more ethical that pleases their consumer base.
  8. Millennials are often socially active consumers as they consider the ethics of their products before purchasing. The shoe brand Toms promises to donate a pair of shoes to a child in need for every pair purchased. Paper straws have also become a popular environmental alternative to the traditional plastic straw. The clothing brand Reformation claims to be the most sustainable option in clothing second to being nude. Millennial consumption habits have created a whole market for sustainable and ethical products.
  9. There are many careers that incorporate some elements of social activism, with careers in law and public policy creating change through human rights law, lobbying and public interest law. Careers in government and international relations can bring one into agencies such as the State Department or the Environmental Protective Agency (EPA), as well as international organizations like the United Nations. Community organizers empower and develop local community leadership to enable them to meet community needs, ranging from clean water to better education. Careers in nonprofit organizations, like Save the Children or CARE, both of which provide humanitarian assistance to developing countries, are also great paths to go down.
  10. There are certain skills that make individuals qualified for a career in social activism. Individuals must be able to work with a diverse array of people, have excellent communication skills and be able to speak persuasively. Strong writing and critical analysis skills are also helpful, in order to strategize and envision an improved society.

These 10 facts about social activism show the evolution of activism with the rise of modern technology and social media. The form and pace of social activism will continue evolving to keep up with changing technologies. Technology and social media have sped up the exchange of information and knowledge, which largely contributes to the basis of many worldwide social activism campaigns.

Laura Phillips-Alvarez
Photo: Flickr

10 facts about hunger in Jordan
Jordan is located in Southwest Asia with a population of 9.5 million. Although there have been improvements, the country still suffers from high rates of food insecurity. Here are 10 facts about hunger in Jordan.

10 Facts About Hunger in Jordan

  1. Food Security: According to the Global Hunger Index, Jordan is a food secure country where the levels of hunger are moderate. However, the arrival of Syrian refugees is putting pressure on food and water supplies in Jordan. Nonetheless, The World Food Programme (WFP) supports refugees in Jordan by offering them cash and food-restricted vouchers. In 2014, the organization, started its school meal program, which aimed to reach more than 320,000 schoolchildren through 2016, concentrating on the most food-insecure areas in Jordan. In addition, the program provided locally produced date bars three times a week as well as high energy biscuits and fresh fruit during the last two days of the school week.
  2. E-cards: In an effort to fight hunger, WFP created an innovative electronic voucher program known as e-cards. The e-cards are a multi-year collaboration with MasterCard that will help refugees buy their own food. Every month, the e-cards load with $27 for each family member to buy food based on their own specific needs, such as fresh produce. In addition, WFP has provided about $192 million to local economies in Jordan along with refugees in Turkey, Iraq and Egypt. Aiding Syrians is WFP’s biggest and most complex emergency operation.
  3. Population: In Jordan, population increase is a major challenge that affects food and water security. In 2014, the population stood at 7,930,491 and continues to grow by 3.86 percent each year. The rise in numbers causes a strain on supplies for survival.
  4. Unemployment: According to the Department of Statistics, unemployment rose to 19 percent in the first quarter of 2019, a 0.6 percent increase compared to the first quarter of 2018. The rate of unemployment among men was at 16.4 percent in comparison to 28.9 percent among women. Due to the global economic crisis of 2008, the Arab Spring, a large number of refugees and the closing of borders with Iraq and Syria all contributed to Jordan’s economic issues. The average income of Jordan decreased, making household food hard to attain and families had to opt for cheaper, less healthy food.
  5. Save the Children: Jordan’s government is struggling to provide for vulnerable refugees and Jordanians. Nonetheless, the Save the Children organization has provided aid, education and protection to children in need. Save the Children is a nonprofit that dedicates itself to helping children around the world. It has been in Jordan since 1985. The organization has protected 38,097 children from harm, supported 129,003 children in times of crisis and given 22,363 children vital nourishment.
  6. Stunting: According to UNICEF, stunting declined from 12 percent in 2002 to 8 percent in 2012, but numbers have not changed much since because of a lack of access to quality food, information on care practices and proper hygiene.
  7. Alliance Against Hunger: Jordan’s poorest people living in rural areas are the most susceptible to food and water insecurity because they own small pieces of agricultural property with low production. However, the Ministry of Agriculture has collaborated with an NGO called Alliance Against Hunger, an organization that helps strengthen agricultural production, assists in local market activity, supports micro-enterprise initiatives and helps vulnerable communities gain access to food and income. In 2018, the organization helped a total of 52,805 people. It helped 52,569 people through food security and livelihood programs and aided 165 people through water, sanitation and hygiene programs.
  8. Diet: In Jordan, the average diet is based on wheat and rice. Due to economic issues, Jordanians are transitioning into an unhealthy lifestyle of consuming a lot of sugar and carbohydrates. Consequently, this causes people, specifically women, to become obese and anemic.
  9. Food Insecurity: According to a study in the United Nations Development Program, 34 to 46 percent of households are food insecure and cannot afford to have three meals a day.
  10. CARE: Due to the influx of refugees from Iraq and Syria, food and water insecurity have been on the rise. The population will most likely double in the next two decades and water resources will become a huge problem for farmers. CARE is an NGO working around the world to end poverty. CARE has worked in Jordan since 1948 to help Palestinian refugees and continues to support Syrian refugees as well.

These 10 facts about hunger in Jordan present areas of focus and improvement to better the country and reduce food insecurity. Despite these challenges, there are several organizations that work towards helping fight food insecurity in Jordan. With the attention and support of political leaders, these issues can come to a stop.

– Merna Ibrahim
Photo: Flickr

10 Shocking Facts About Fidel Castro As the political leader of Cuba from 1959 to 2008,  Fidel Castro, nicknamed El Comandante, was the “face of left-wing totalitarianism”. Though Castro’s educational reforms significantly improved the system of education in Cuba, they often came at the hand of communist policies that left its citizens impoverished as well. While most of Castro’s reforms proved harmful, a few paved the way for advances in Cuban health and education. Here are eight shocking facts about Fidel Castro.

8 Shocking Facts about Fidel Castro

  1. Castro eradicated Cuban illiteracy. Through the implementation of the Cuba Literacy Campaign of 1961, Cuba met the Millennium Development Goals set forth by the United Nations and the country’s literacy rate rose from 60 to 100 percent. In one day, the program opened 10,000 classrooms, guaranteeing education for all Cuban citizens. Overall, more than 700,000 Cubans became literate in just one year. Castro’s relentless fight for universal education brought the issue to the forefront of Cuban challenges and successfully improved literacy among its people.
  2. Castro established Cuba’s universal health care system. By nationalizing Cuban health care, Castro’s policies not only expanded public health care but improved it. With the establishment of the Rural Medical Service and the Declaration of Alma-Ata, Castro brought medical services to rural locations, opened family clinics and made free medical care accessible for all. Cuba’s health care successes also include completely blocking the transfer of HIV and syphilis from mother to child and providing the first vaccine for meningitis B, which is still the only available vaccine for the disease today. Castro not only provided health care for the Cuban people by improving prevention, equal coverage and access but his policies also advanced the quality of care as well.
  3. Castro punished those who thought differently than himself. By jailing political opponents and closing down newspapers with alternative political perspectives, those who thought differently than Castro were not safe during his reign. The native-born Cuban leader limited his citizens’ free speech and punished those who valued their voice more than their safety. Castro did not limit his punishments to speech; he also legalized physically abusive tactics on politically divergent individuals. Those who questioned or criticized the way Castro ran his government were often imprisoned, denied access to medical care, suffered beatings and entered solitary confinement. In 2003, Castro executed his methods on a larger scale when 75 people, human rights activists, journalists and trade unionists, received his abusive tactics following their outspoken criticism of the Cuban government.
  4. Castro limited economic freedom. Life under Castro’s rule was economically suffocating. With the creation of The First Agrarian Reform in 1959, Castro intended to improve the economy by redistributing land among the classes. The law, however, was more prohibitive than inclusive. It placed limits on the amount of land individuals could own, abolished private business and nationalized foreign land ownership. With The Second Agrarian Reform of 1963, these limits only became more restrictive. The new law gave Cuba ownership over two-thirds of national farmland, and by 1998, the country owned 82 percent of it. With such limited freedom over their own economic choices, hundreds of thousands of middle-class Cubans fled their homes for a better life in the U.S.
  5. Castro plunged Cuba into an economic downfall. During his rule, Castro made sugar Cuba’s main source of income. The growing of Cuban sugarcane relied on imports of fertilizers, pesticides and technology from the Soviet Union. So when the USSR fell in 1989, Cuba was no longer able to produce its main source of income, and its economy consequently collapsed. As a result, the country’s GDP fell by 35 percent, which propelled Cuba into a time of economic struggle known as the Special Period. Marked by food and housing shortages, increased unemployment and reduced public services, Castro’s economic decisions resulted in the impoverishment of his own people.
  6. Castro did not let human rights organizations enter Cuba. Castro treated many people inhumanely and he refused human rights organizations entry into the country. Without access to the country, organizations, such as the International Committee of the Red Cross, were unable to work toward improving the harsh realities of the Cuban people and inhumane practices went on without consequence.
  7. Castro refused to hold elections while in office. Castro remained in power for almost five decades and this was partly due to his refusal to leave power. Nobody was legally able to run against Castro unless they shared his political perspective because he placed a ban on multiparty elections after self-proclaiming himself a socialist. This meant that he was able to enforce his inhumane policies for decades and the economic strain was long-lasting.
  8. The Cuban government still uses Castro’s abusive methods. Abusive tactics introduced during Castro’s reign, such as arbitrary arrest and detention, beating, acts of repudiation and government surveillance, are still used in Cuba today according to the Human Rights Watch. While Raul Castro, Castro’s brother and Cuba’s current leader, has hinted towards reconsidering the country’s abusive methods, he has taken no real action, and the country’s citizens continue to suffer abuse. For example, in 2016, the arrests of 9,940 Cuban citizens led to harassments, beatings and the subjection to acts of repudiation.

These eight shocking facts about Fidel Castro cannot encapsulate 49 years of supremacy, though they can provide a glimpse into Cuban life under his rule. While Castro passed away in 2016, his death cannot erase the influence his policies had on Cuba. However, organizations, such as CARE and the Foundation for Human Rights in Cuba (FHRC) are implementing programs to increase living conditions in Cuba.

Organizations Working to Rebuild Castro’s Cuba

CARE, an organization that began working in Cuba during the Special Period, is doing great work to reinstate the food security Cuba lost during the fall of the Soviet Union. With projects such as the Strengthening Dairy Value Chain Project (SDVC) and the Co-Innovation Project, CARE is working with Cuban farmers to improve agricultural practices. CARE made Cuban food security a national priority by providing rural farmers with access to new farming technologies, helping them in diversifying their food supply and figuring out ways to make food products more accessible at the local level. While Castro’s rule limited non-governmental farmland ownership to 18 percent, Cuba now allows its citizens 66.29 percent of farmland ownership, meaning that Cuba now has the ability and freedom to achieve its food security goals.

FHRC uses non-violence to protect the rights of Cuban citizens. Through the Cuban Repressors Program, the FHRC has created a safe place for Cuban citizens to report violent Cuban government officials. The program provides Cuban activists with cameras and smartphones that allow them to record inhumane activity. It also distributes photos and pamphlets with images of repressive perpetrators to communities and posts identified repressors on the internet. Since the launch of the program, these methods have identified 93 repressors, and with the number of reported repressors decreasing each month, the FHRC is succeeding in attaining justice for the Cuban people.

U.S. Relations with Cuba

Years after Raul Castro took over presidential responsibilities from his brother, President Obama announced that the U.S. and Cuba would restore its diplomatic ties in an effort to normalize relations between the two countries. Obama began to ease U.S. trade and travel restrictions with Cuba that were upheld for decades due to Castro’s abusive policies. However, the Trump Administration is making efforts to roll back Obama’s policies and enforce new economic sanctions on Cuba. With Cuba’s newly elected president, Miguel Díaz-Canel, only time will tell how the U.S.- Cuba relationship will develop.

– Candace Fernandez
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Morocco
Morocco is a country in North Africa that borders the Atlantic Ocean in the west and the Mediterranean in the north. Its location makes it a strong competitor in international trade and business. Forbes has classified Morocco as an emerging country with financial, educational and political potential. In 2015, the Government of Morocco and the World Health Organization (WHO) teamed up to improve the public health situation in the country, focusing on five regional priorities: health security and control of communicable diseases, mental health and violence, nutrition, strengthening health systems and responsiveness to health crises. Here are the 10 facts about life expectancy in Morocco.

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Morocco

  1. Life expectancy at birth in Morocco has increased by over 35 years since 1950. A recent report found that Moroccans should reach a 77-year life expectancy compared with the 42 years of average life expectancy in 1950. The Ministry of Family Solidarity, Equality and Social Development carried out this study in partnership with the National Observatory for Human Development.
  2. The same study found that the life expectancy of Moroccan women was age 60, which was 21 years longer instead of just 17 years longer as recorded in 1980. There was a similar increase with Moroccan men at age 60, who now should live 19 years longer instead of 17 years longer in 1980.
  3. The 2014 Moroccan census showed that nearly 3.2 million Moroccans are over 60 years old, while in 1960, less than one million Moroccans lived to be 60 years old. The aforementioned study predicts that by the year 2030, the number of people who live to be 60 and above will double to almost six million Moroccans, which is 20 percent of the population.
  4. Morocco is currently going through a demographic transition. The population is increasing but at a declining rate, as the overall life expectancy from birth continues to increase but women are having fewer children. Morocco is following development trends; the more it develops, the more the rate of its population goes down. When Morocco reaches the status of a developed country, its population will decline like countries across Europe and the United States of America.
  5. Overall infant, child and maternal mortality rates have decreased as there is more emphasis on expanding access to vaccinations, adequate nutrition, hygiene and better primary health care. Various international organizations and nonprofits, such as the WHO and CARE have managed to improve the overall health care situation in Morocco. All of these contribute to the decrease in mortality rates and the increase in life expectancy.
  6. Morocco has a shrinking population of children which reflects the decline in the total fertility rate from five in the mid-1980s to 2.2 in 2010. Total fertility rate (TFR) relates to the total number of children born or likely to be born to a woman in her lifetime, assuming she is subject to the age-specific fertility rate of her society’s population.
  7. Aging is the main trend in demographic shifts. The joint report found that by 2050, Morocco will have approximately 10 million senior citizens. This again points towards increased life expectancy and Morocco’s increasing overall development.
  8. The joint report also indicated that poverty in urban areas decreased from 4.9 percent to 0.7 percent and in the countryside from 14 percent to 4.5 percent in the span of almost a decade. This decrease in poverty, as well as the tendency of elderly to live in urban areas with increased access to health care, are all contributing factors to the increased life expectancy of elderly, as well as the general population.
  9. The study found that proper medical care and social care for the elderly is lacking, despite the increasing senior population in Morocco. Currently, there is not enough investment in welfare programs or senior living facilities and arrangements. This makes it more difficult for seniors to participate in Moroccan society by posing challenges to their own mobilization and physical health.
  10. The Ministry of Family, Solidarity, Equality and Social Development stress that research on life expectancy help the government to assess and develop adequate social welfare and health care programs. The increase in elderly people in the population implies the government should be investing in senior accommodations such as senior living homes.

These 10 facts about life expectancy in Morocco should help the country adequately serve its people through health care and social programs. With this knowledge, the country can prepare to provide care and housing for an older population.

– Laura Phillips-Alvarez
Photo: Flickr