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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

five NGOs are petitioning the government to end the war in Yemen
The war in Yemen between Houthi rebels and the Saudi led coalition has created the world’s largest humanitarian crisis. Despite the dire situation, there is reason to hope. On November 26, five NGOs petitioned the U.S. Government to call an end to the war. Two days later, the U.S. Government announced it would add an additional $24 million to USAID’s Office of Food for Peace. On December 13, the Senate voted to end the United States support of the Saudi coalition. These are the five NGOs that are petitioning to end the war in Yemen.

Since 2015, there have been more than 16,000 civilians casualties, 22.2 million people, including 11 million children, are in need of aid and eight million are at risk of famine. The war has led to a host of other problems as well, including a cholera outbreak and a lack of access to clean water. Many organizations are trying to stop the conflict in Yemen. These are 5 nonprofit organizations working hard to protect the people of Yemen.

These are the 5 NGOs that are petitioning to end the war in Yemen

  1. International Rescue Committee (IRC): The International Rescue Committee, headed by David Miliband, a former U.K. Secretary of Foreign Affairs, is focused on humanitarian relief operations in war-affected areas. Right now it operates in more than 40 countries, and its refugee resettlement program operates in 28 U.S. cities. The IRC has been providing aid to Yemen since 2012, working to protect women and children as well as provide access to healthcare and education.
  2. Oxfam: Oxfam is a global organization working in more than 90 countries to end poverty. Led by Abby Maxman, the former Deputy Secretary General of CARE International, Oxfam believes in identifying and changing the root causes of poverty rather than just sending material aid. Through fighting and eliminating injustice, Oxfam feels that poverty can finally be eliminated. The organization has been working in Yemen since 2015 to prevent diseases by providing sanitation, hygiene assistance and clean water to those affected by the war.
  3. CARE: CARE is active in 93 countries around the globe working to combat social injustice and poverty. The organization is headed by Michelle Nunn, who previously ran the organization Points of Light and had been a candidate for the U.S. Senate. CARE current goal is to reach 200 million of the world’s most vulnerable people by 2020. CARE has been working in Yemen since 1992 and is currently providing food, water and sanitation to one million Yemenis people each month.
  4. Save the Children: Save the Children is an organization that works in the U.S. and around the world to provide for underprivileged children. It is headed by Carolyn Miles, who has been with the organization since 1998. Save the Children is active in 120 countries worldwide promoting nutrition, health and education programs. Save the Children is doing just that in Yemen by treating almost 100,000 Yemenis children for malnutrition through mobile health clinics.
  5. Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC): The Norwegian Refugee Council started its relief efforts after World War II and continues its mission to this day. The organization is active in 32 countries across the world to provide clean water, education, camp management, legal aid, food assistance and shelter to refugees. The Norwegian Refugee Council is headed by Jan Egeland, who has been with the organization since 2013 and was appointed in 2015 by the U.N. as special envoy to Syria. In 2017, the NRC has provided food for more than 300,000 Yemenis and shelter to more than 50,000.

These 5 NGOs that are petitioning to end the war in Yemen are all fighting for a better world for the world’s poor. Through their work, they were able to spur the government into action. Since the petition, millions of dollars have been added to the aid package for Yemen, and the U.S. has voted to end its military involvement in the conflict.

Peter Zimmerman
Photo: Flickr

Human Rights in Nicaragua

In recent weeks, the previously peaceful country of Nicaragua has been rocked as social protests have been combated with violent repression. At the end of April, citizens of Nicaragua took to the streets after President Daniel Ortega proposed cutting pensions and social security. Since then, Ortega has abandoned these plans, but Nicaraguans are now protesting and calling for his resignation. The government has responded violently to these anti-government protests, and an estimated 200 people have been killed; although, many have reported that this is a low estimate.

Despite this blatant disregard for human rights, the government’s violent response to these protests has received limited news coverage. It is for this reason that the work of human rights activists and defenders highlighted below is more important than ever. The first two organizations defend human rights as researchers and activists, and the last two organizations are working to provide basic human rights such as shelter, food and clothing. Each organization is protecting human rights in Nicaragua in different but equally important ways.

Amnesty International

This well-known organization is similar to The Borgen Project due to its focus on advocacy, campaigning and action. Amnesty International fights human rights abuse around the globe and campaigns for a world where everyone has human rights. One of the ways they help countries like Nicaragua is through researching and reporting on human rights abuses.

Throughout the current conflicts in Nicaragua, Amnesty International has both reported on the issues and called on countries and governments around the world to do more. At the end of May, the organization released a report on Nicaragua that explains the repressive strategies being used on protesters, which was used as a reference by larger news sources reporting on the country. Throughout the month of June, the organization continued to release news stories on the violence in the country and called for international leaders and organizations to not turn their backs on the Nicaraguan people. The spotlight and voice they are providing for victims of violence have been one of the ways they have fought to protect human rights in Nicaragua.

Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR)

Started in 1959, the IACHR is an independent body in service of The Organization of American States whose goal is to improve human rights in the American hemisphere through promotion and protection. It also operates with The Inter-American Court of Human Rights, or “The Court,” under a charter that calls for the full respect of human rights.

This organization plans to set up a Rapid and Integrated Response Coordination Unit (SACROI in Spanish) in order to focus attention on human rights in Nicaragua. By the end of May, the Commission had sent groups to four locations in Nicaragua. The purpose of these trips was to observe the human rights situation after the violence that happened in April, to document these events and to create recommendations for the current state of the country. The groups visited State facilities, hospitals, detention centers and healthcare facilities and produced a lengthy report of their findings.

The findings show that police violence, unlawful detentions and limiting access to medical care have been used to keep people from demonstrating. According to this report, as of June 19, 212 people had been murdered and 1,337 people injured. The report argues that the government’s repressive reaction to demonstrations has created a serious human rights crisis. Their findings were presented to the OAS and have shown how important it is to protect the Nicaraguan people.

Nicaragua Nonprofit Network (NNN)

The NNN is different than other nonprofits in Nicaragua because it’s mission is to bring development together by providing a common platform for all nonprofits in the country. Volunteers and organizations are able to share resources, knowledge, accomplishments and experiences with others to improve efficiency and development. Basically, it is a way for the people working for basic human rights in Nicaragua to work together to share what has worked and what hasn’t in order to have a bigger impact on the country.

Their technologies and strategies are extensive making the organization more effective. They include comprehensive profiles of nonprofits, search tools, like maps and databases, allow one to search for nonprofits in certain areas and what they do, forums for members, news and reporting, custom Google Map tools, event calendars and staff/volunteer listings. Currently, the NNN is made up of 152 organizations spread across the country who are using this platform to work together with other nonprofits.

Other than networking nonprofits together, the NNN has had an active Twitter feed throughout the protests in Nicaragua. They share updates and news stories about these human rights abuses and have acted as social media activists.

CARE

CARE is a nonprofit that protects the basic human rights of people all around the world in areas such as gender equality, social justice and fighting poverty.

In 1990, CARE started clean water, preventative health, and sanitation programs and is working to establish sustainable agriculture in rural areas. Through these programs, CARE has touched over 300,000 lives in Central America and provided food security to many families. Other areas of focus in Nicaragua include ending child poverty, improving girls’ education, youth empowerment and maternal health.

Each of these organizations is protecting human rights in Nicaragua in equally important yet different ways. As the Nicaraguan government continues to abuse its people, these organizations are working for good and will continue supporting human rights.

– Alexandra Eppenauer
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Poverty in Manila
With a population of 1.78 million, Manila is the capital of and second largest city in the Philippines. It has 42,857 people per square kilometer, making it is the world’s most densely populated city. Manila struggles with crime, overpopulation and pollution. Here are 10 facts about poverty in Manila.

Facts About Poverty in Manila

  1. There are 3.1 million homeless people living in Manila. The city has the highest homeless population of any in the world. In the Philippines, more than 1.2 million children are homeless and over half of these are found in Manila.
  2. One-tenth of slum dwellers live in the capital of Manila. The Tondo District, a neighborhood in Manila, is one of the most densely populated places with 80,000 people per square kilometer. According to the United Nations, many of them lack adequate water, housing, sanitation, education, health and employment.
  3. The annual average of air pollution in Manila is 70 percent more than the recommended safe level. Dangerously high levels of air pollution are more threatening to urban areas such as Manila and come with multiple health risks.
  4. Nearly 10 percent of the estimated 39 million Filipinos ages six to 24 is an Out of School Child and Youth (OSCY) in Manila. This is equivalent to one in ten Filipinos, with OSCY referring to those who are not attending formal school, are not currently out of school, have not gained employment and have not finished college or post-secondary courses.
  5. There are an estimated 6,000 slum-dwellers from 800 families living in cemetery slums in Manila North. These communities have existed since the 1950s. Manila North is the city’s oldest and largest cemetery, encompassing an expansive 133 acres.
  6. Within these cemeteries, frequent, violent anti-drug raids by the Philippine National Police (PNP) have killed more than 12,000 people since June 2016. These killings are linked to President Rodrigo Duterte’s “war on drugs” campaign. The PNP claim that crime and drug use is prevalent in these cemeteries, which is liked to the high levels of unemployment of those living in the cemeteries.
  7. In Manila, 3.4 million children are stunted with over 300,000 underweight, all of whom are under the age of five. Poor nutrition has remained a constant problem and has made the Philippines has the ninth highest prevalence of stunted kids of all countries in the world. Studies show that this number is expected to grow if the government does not boost support for social services.
  8. “Happyland,” a slum area of Tondo, has more than 12,000 people living in shelters built around a garbage dump. Residents of “Happyland” look through garbage daily for anything of value. One common finding is chicken scraps which are collected in bins and then recycled through boiling. This is referred to as “pagpag,” which is then sold to hungry families in slums for a few pesos.
  9. Slums are scattered over 526 communities in all cities and municipalities of Metro Manila. These communities house 2.5 million people in either vacant private or public lands, usually along rivers, near garbage dumps, along railroad tracks, under bridges and beside industrial establishments.
  10. On average, three-quarters of the households in Manila’s slums are long-term, or more than five years, residents of the area. The average settlement is 19.2 years, with the majority of households migrating to the areas from other cities within the metro or the city.

These facts about poverty in Manila illustrate some of the extremes that people in the city live under, but this does not mean that there is no opportunity for change. Organizations such as CARE are working in the Philippines to help the urban poor in Manila and other cities, and in 2017, they aided more than 30,000 individuals in improving their quality of life. Continued assistance can ensure that these facts about poverty in Manila affect fewer people in the future.

– Ashley Quigley

Photo: Google