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Poverty in ChadLocated in Central Africa, the country of Chad is the fifth largest landlocked state and has a poverty rate of 66.2%. With a total population of approximately 15.5 million, a lack of modern medicine, dramatic weather changes and poor education have riddled the country with deadly diseases and resulted in severe poverty in Chad.

Poor Health Conditions in Chad Lead to Disease

The most common types of disease and the primary causes of death include malaria, respiratory infections and HIV/AIDS. Malaria, usually spread through mosquito bites, is a potentially fatal disease and is quite common in the country of Chad. Due to poor sanitation, Chadians are more susceptible to malaria; the most recently estimated number of cases was 500,000 per year.

Along with malaria, lower respiratory diseases contribute to Chad’s high mortality rate – the most common and deadliest of those being meningitis.  Lower respiratory tract infections occur in the lungs and can sometimes affect the brain and spinal cord. A lack of available vaccinations in the country has increased susceptibility to meningitis. Meningitis is most deadly in those under the age of 20, and with a countrywide median age of 16.6 years old, Chad has seen a rise in total meningitis cases and overall deaths.

As of 2015, there were an estimated 210,000 Chadians living with HIV. According to UNAIDS, there were 12,000 AIDS-related deaths just last year, along with 14,000 new cases. Those living with HIV/AIDS are at a higher risk of death with their compromised immune systems. They are unable to fight off diseases and, with the preexisting severe risk of malaria and meningitis, they are more susceptible to death.

Harsh Weather and Its Role in Food Insecurity and Disease

Due to its geography, Chad is one of the countries most severely affected by climate change. Approximately 40% of Chadians live at or below the poverty line, with the majority relying heavily on agricultural production and fishing. The drastic change in rain patterns and the consequent frequency of droughts have placed a significant strain on their food supply. Fishing in particular has been sparse. Lake Chad, the country’s largest lake, has diminished by 90% in the past 50 years. The rising temperatures in Chad have caused a decrease in both crop yields and good pasture conditions, placing more strain on those who depend on Lake Chad for food and the nutrients it adds to farming.

In addition to affecting poverty in Chad, intense weather patterns have also increased the number of infectious diseases. The infrastructure of the country has not been able to keep up with the rapidly growing population in urban areas. This results in poor sanitation. The sanitation services are overwhelmed during floods: which contaminates the water supply.

Lack of Education Affects Poverty in Chad

Despite the relatively large population, less than half of school-aged children are enrolled in school. With attendance rates so low, the literacy rates in individuals between the ages of 15 and 24 fall; currently, they only reach 31%.  According to UNICEF, attendance rates are astonishingly low; 8% for children in upper secondary school and 13% for lower secondary school. With education rates so low, income inequality, infant and maternal deaths and stunting in children continue to rise; as a result, the overall economic growth of the country declines.

Enrollment is low in Chad due to the lack of resources in schools. With the country in severe poverty, schools remain under-resourced, both in access and infrastructure. Some schools have no classrooms and no teaching materials. Furthermore, teachers are often outnumbered 100:1. As a result, the quality of learning decreases, as does the overall attendance rate.

As of now, only 27% of primary-school-age children complete their schooling. According to UNESCO, if adults in low-income countries completed their secondary education, the global poverty rate would be cut in half. Even learning basic reading skills could spare approximately 171 million people from living in extreme poverty. Educated individuals are more likely to develop important skills and abilities needed to help them overcome poverty. Education also decreases an individual’s risk of vulnerability to disease, natural disasters and conflict.

Poverty in Chad is widespread, and the rate of impoverished people will continue to grow if it is not addressed. Poor health conditions and a lack of education are just a few of the many problems people face; while the living conditions may seem dire in Chad, a gradual decrease in overall poverty rates proves that there is hope.

Jacey Reece
Photo: Flickr

HIV Drug Implemented in Kenya
In 2017, there were approximately 36.9 million people living with HIV/AIDS worldwide. Additionally, 6.1 million of those with HIV were located in western and central Africa. Kenya, a country in eastern Africa, had approximately 1.5 million people living with HIV/AIDs in 2017. That same year, an HIV drug implemented in Kenya started to successfully combat this deadly immune system virus. Unitaid and the Kenyan government simultaneously introduced it to the country.

Dolutegravir and Antiretroviral Therapy

The new HIV/AIDS drug, Dolutegravir or DTG, received approval in 2014 and is the most recent and effective antiretroviral drug used in the treatment against HIV/AIDs. DTG has been the drug of choice in high-income countries for its antiresistance properties, few side effects and easy one pill a day treatment. In 2015, the World Health Organization recommended this drug replace other first-line regimens for adults and adolescents. Recently this drug was not available in low-income countries, like Kenya, because of its high cost.

In 2018, only 62 percent of people with HIV/AIDs had access to antiretroviral therapy, which was an increase from the previous year. This corresponds to the 23.3 million people who were able to receive treatment, however, approximately 14.6 million people could not access treatment. In Kenya, 75 percent of adults with HIV/AIDs received treatment in 2018, which increased from 2016, when only 64 percent of people received treatment. One reason for the increase in HIV/AIDs testing is the partnerships between the government of Kenya and Unitaid that began in 2017 which introduced the generic brand of DTG.

Now, the generic brand of this life-saving drug has been available to people in Kenya since early 2018. This new HIV drug implemented in Kenya has the potential to make life-saving drugs more accessible to those who would normally not be able to afford it. In 2017, a number of nonprofits including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Unitaid, USAID, PEPFAR and others agreed to a pricing agreement to help make the drug more affordable in developing countries. This pricing agreement would allow public sector purchases at $75 per person, per year.

Side Effects of Other Drugs

Before the introduction of DTG, the first-line drug in Kenya was Efavirenz, an antiretroviral medication with side effects for some users including nausea, dizziness, rash and headaches. When the pricing agreement first emerged, the Kenyan Ministry of Health decided that the first round of DTG it distributed would go to 27,000 people who suffered the negative side effects from efavirenz. Then, the Ministry of Health assigned various other health clinics to receive the drug until it could become available to the entire country.

The number of new HIV/AIDs diagnoses in Kenya has halved over the last decade to approximately 80,000 people a year. The new HIV drug implemented in Kenya will only help decrease the number of people suffering from HIV/AIDs. Comprehensive sex education, HIV/AIDs testing centers and the continuation of drug pricing agreements will help alleviate the prevalence of HIV in developing countries, like Kenya.

Hayley Jellison
Photo: Flickr


Since 1987, the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) and its leader Joseph Kony have caused conflict throughout Central Africa. Differing from typical anti-government insurgencies, the LRA has targeted citizens rather than the military. Ending LRA violence has been a goal of the Ugandan government since the 1990s, but attempts were initially unsuccessful.

In 2010, the U.S. became actively involved in ending LRA violence after grassroots advocacy movements brought the issue to the attention of Congress. In October 2011, President Obama deployed 100 U.S. Army Special Forces members to serve as advisory personnel and to aid the African Union Task Force, comprised of Uganda, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan.

Congress has four objectives for ending LRA violence in Central Africa:

  1. Protect of Central Africans from LRA attacks

    There has been a 92 percent reduction in LRA-related killings since 2012, partly due to the establishment of communication networks across the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of Congo. These networks have allowed for the establishment of the LRA Crisis Tracker project, which provides timely updates on LRA attacks and abductions. The communication networks have also allowed for the establishment of an Early Warning Radio Network, which ensures that communities are warned if LRA troops are in a nearby area. This network has ensured that no large-scale massacres, such as the Christmas Massacre in 2008 that left over 600 dead, could occur in the last five years.

  2. Apprehend Joseph Kony and his senior LRA commanders

    Joseph Kony is believed to be hiding in Kafa Kingi in southern Darfur, and the Ugandan military has reported capturing or killing several senior LRA commanders between 2011 and 2014. In 2014, LRA commander Dominic Ongwen was arrested and placed on trial at the International Criminal Court. Court proceedings began last December.

  3. Encourage defection and reintegration among LRA soldiers

    Between 2010 and 2013, the number of LRA combatants dropped from approximately 400 to 250; in 2014, 80 percent of Ugandan male soldiers who left or defected from the LRA did so voluntarily. An innovative way in which the African Union Task force and the U.S. government have promoted defections is through the “Come Home” program. By collecting information on known remaining militants from their communities, the U.S. military has been able to record personal messages for soldiers, which they broadcast through loudspeakers from helicopters and personalized leaflet drops. These personalized messages, along with other messages telling soldiers they will be welcomed back, have had a tremendous impact. In the last six months alone, at least 44 soldiers have defected after receiving personalized messages asking them to return home.

  4. Provide humanitarian aid to communities affected by LRA violence

    USAID focuses on providing resources that assist in early recovery following attacks, including healthcare services and food security resources for displaced persons. They have formed 94 community protection committees in the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the two countries currently most affected by LRA violence. International NGOs have focused their efforts on community-based programs that reintegrate former soldiers into communities and aid with the effects of post-traumatic stress and experienced trauma.

The innovative strategies of the U.S. and the African Union Task Force have had a positive impact, weakening the grip of the movement in the region and improving the lives of those in Central Africa. While Joseph Kony is still at large, with the continued support of aid groups and the U.S. government, ending LRA violence in Central Africa and restoring safe communities is closer to being achieved.

Nicole Toomey

Photo: Flickr

In 2013, conflicts came to a head and raged on in many parts of the world. From Sudan to Syria, civilians suffered the effects of war-torn territory and many have been forced to leave. The rate of refugees or Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) has hit a new high. The number of refugees around the world surpassed its previous high point around the second World War. Over 50 million people around the world qualify as refugees, with half of these being children.

The head of the U.N.’s refugee agency, Antonio Guterres, said in an interview that “We are witnessing a quantum leap in forced displacement in the world,” and if the 51.2 million displaced people were to form their own country, it would be the 24th most populous country in the world. With this many people struggling to find asylum, the reason for their refugee status comes into question.

There are no humanitarian acts that can stop this; aid can only go so far. Guterres has expressed serious concern for this, acknowledging that there are too many people that need help for the capacity of many humanitarian services. The problem cannot be covered with bandages anymore, and the root of the conflicts need to be addressed.

The increased tension in Central Africa, Iran, Ukraine and other countries in crisis threaten to push the displacement number higher than it currently is by the end of the 2014 calendar year.

Guterres notes that the conflicts have resounding effects, citing the fact that Iran and Pakistan still both host 2.5 million Afghan refugees and over 6 million people have been living in exile for at least five years, if not more. Conflict resolutions will not completely fix the problem, but it will serve as a small stepping stone to placing those who have been forced to flee their home countries.

Finding asylum for refugees around the world has proven itself more difficult than expected, with many Western countries tightening the borders and adding intense regulations that make it nearly impossible for refugees to find solace. Eighty-six percent of the world’s refugees are living in developing countries, shattering the idea that many find safety in developed countries like the United States, England or the like.

Safety is not guaranteed for refugees as their population rapidly increases. With little hope for the end of many current conflicts, it is likely the number of refugees for 2014 will surpass the current status with ease.

— Elena Lopez

Sources: New York Times, The Guardian, UN
Photo: The Guardian

westgate_mallThe three-day assault on the West Gate shopping mall in Nairobi, Kenya has been a jolt to the UN, jerking their attention back to central Africa, and particularly the Central African Republic, and the multitude of problems that persist there. Several news channels have reported the UN’s avowal to renew efforts to stabilize the region, and France’s Francois Hollande has led the surge.

President Hollande stated that the entire region was threatened by “Somalisation,” reflecting the concerns with al-Shabbab and its historical ability to keep Somalia in a state of anarchy.

For the Central African Republic (CAR), Somalisation is already in full swing. Somalia’s collapse began as early as 1969, when military dictator Siad Barre began a brutal campaign which destroyed any semblance to order in Somali society. Likewise, CAR has had a long history of genocide, militia warfare, famine, and human rights abuses.

And, being caught between the much larger Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan, and Chad–each with their own history of mass injustice and violence–CAR’s troubles have gone largely unreported by Western media outlets.

However, this is not to say that work is not being done in CAR. The recent reports and rhetoric are welcome in that they may serve to bring the public’s attention to the plethora of issues needing immediate solutions, but they do a disservice to the UN, NGOs, and scientists already working in CAR.

The UN keeps current data on CAR, and currently has programs operating through the World Food Programme and UNICEF, among others. Setbacks have occurred, and continue to occur, but that is often the cost of sending aid to regions which need it most.

When a rebel attack on the capital of Bangui prompted looting of the UN warehouses there, it was not the fault of the UN, or a signal that their programs there are being ignored by the central powers in New York. In a country of 4.6 million, where 1.6 million are in dire need of food and other assistance, a large source of sustenance naturally a prime target in a period of extreme unrest.

Scientists have also maintained a steady rate of interest in the country. A recent report by the Center for International Forestry Research iterated the necessity of stabilizing environmental degradation in central Africa, if social order is ever to be attained. Like its neighbors, CAR is rich in metals and minerals.

The corporations which pay for the extraction and shipment of those resources have spotty records, at best, complying with any kind of environmental protection laws. As pollution accumulates in the region, agriculture and pastoralism become more difficult–thereby prompting the kind of looting on UN food stocks seen in Bangui.

And even before the West Gate attacks, the UN was working on reopening some of its operations in CAR, signaling its refusal to forsake the region.

While the results have not been perfect, and the successes remain largely invisible to global audiences, the implication that CAR has ever fallen off the radar of international aid and development agencies is simply untrue, and a disservice to the organizations and their workers there who risk a great deal to bring necessary goods and services to the struggling region.

– Alex Pusateri

Sources: Fox News, Reuters, Trust, UN, CJA, New York Times, UN: Central African Republic
Photo: Webmania