Poverty Among Romanians in Albania
Albania, a country located east of the heel of Italy and bordering a chunk of the Adriatic Sea, receives millions of Euros each year. However, Albania invests next to nothing, if even that, in the ghettos where a majority of the Romani population live. The result is a continuous cycle of poverty among the Romani in Albania.

Estimates determine that Romani people migrated from Northern India to Eastern Europe in the 1400s. Upon arriving, Eastern Europeans discriminated against the Romani people due to their nomadic lifestyles. Romani people lived in tribes and worked as craftsmen. Being further developed when it came to technology, the Eastern Europeans used this to justify why they treated the Romani as “less than” or “untouchables.” In Albania, this treatment is still present today.

A Large Population

Although no one seems to have accurate data of how many Romani people live in Albania, the majority of sources seem to estimate somewhere between 50,000 to 100,000. Of this amount, 80 percent of the Romani in Albania have no job and live in extreme poverty. While this is a vast percentile, the Albanian government is still not fully addressing the issue of poverty among the Romani in Albania. For instance, the country’s social services such as welfare and economic aid make it difficult, sometimes impossible, for the Romani people to access them. Because most Romani people in Albania do not register at their local municipality, the government uses this to justify them as ineligible for the social services. However, the reason Romani in Albania do not register at their local municipality is due to the discrimination they face. This causes them to live on unclaimed land, move frequently and/or bear children at home rather than in a hospital.

Issues of Education

In Albania, 52 percent of the Romani population has no education. Of the other 48 percent who do attend school, 14 percent complete elementary school, three percent complete secondary school and four percent graduate from a college or university. Because of the lack of education, many Romani are not eligible to access employment which further contributes to their poverty.

Romani children tend to not attend school for the following reasons:

  1. They have to work to help their family survive because the average monthly income of Romani households is 68 Euros. The Romani people make less than half the monthly income of non-Romani households living in the same neighborhoods.
  2. Some schools refuse to register Romani children because they do not have birth certificates. This is despite the fact that it is the law in Albania to accept all Romani students into public schools whether they have a birth certificate or not.
  3. Romani parents choose to keep their kids home from school due to their claim that the teachers discriminate against their children because of their ethnicity.

Temporary Work

Because many Romani people in Albania are unable to find a stable source of income, they often resort to small, temporary jobs in different trades such as construction and agriculture, and most of these are low pay. While the government does provide economic aid to the unemployed, very few Romani benefit from this aid, and if they do, they do not receive it for as long as they need it. On top of all of this, Romani people are continuously denied their rights to adequate housing and lack of access to clean drinking water, and often experience ill-treatment from local police for no reason other than being of Romani descent.


In 1996, the European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC) emerged out of recognition of the discrimination Romani people face in multiple countries including Albania. It uses two methods to establish equal rights and opportunities for all Romani people:

  1. Strategic Litigation: In order to eliminate the discrimination against Romani people that prevents them from moving out of poverty, the ERRC fights whoever is implementing these discriminatory acts in court. It is able to do so in both domestic and international courts.
  2. Advocacy and Research: The ERRC believes that one of the best things anyone can do in order to help prevent poverty among Romanians in Albania as well as in other countries is to get the word out. One requires awareness and education of the issue in order for change to be possible.

An ERRC Victory

The ERRC completed its latest project in Albania on December 12, 2018. Due to discrimination, Romani citizens of Fushe Kruje, a city in Albania that has been home to a Romanian community since 1990, were suffering from lack of clean drinking water. While numerous Romani organizations took action to prevent this for the past 20 years, next to nothing has changed. The ERRC stepped in and went to court to fight the local municipality in Fushe Kruje for refusing to address the community’s limited access to clean water. The ERRC won the case, and the court declared that the local municipality would have to fix this issue within 30 days or receive a fine.

The ERRC envisions a world in which Romani people and non-Romani people in Albania are able to work together to challenge the racism that exists. By doing so, poverty among the Romani in Albania will end, thus, allowing them to receive access to proper education, steady employment, and ultimately, better healthier lives.

Emily Turner
Photo: Flickr



GrapheneGraphene’s potential to eliminate poverty first arose in 2004 at the University of Manchester, when its benefits were discovered by Professors Andre Geim and Kostya Novolseov. In removing some flakes from a lump of bulk graphite via sticky tape, the scientists noticed that some of the flakes were much thinner than the others. As they continued to separate fragments, they isolated graphene for the very first time.

With a material that is 200 times stronger than steel, 1 million times thinner than human hair and also the world’s most conductive material, the possibilities for graphene production are near limitless. It is believed that graphene possesses the capability to provide clean drinking water for millions. Not only can graphene membranes effectively separate organic solvents from water, but they can also stop helium–the hardest gas to block. Such an ability is vital in the water purification process.

Such technology could help eliminate poverty and prove highly beneficial for developing nations who are currently lacking in access to water purification technology, as well as providing more efficient desalination plants. Graphene has the potential to filter impurities from drinking water and even convert seawater to drinking water.

Graphene also has the potential to dramatically increase the lifespan of a lithium ion battery. Devices, like phones and medical technology, could be charged quickly and hold their charge for much longer periods of time. These batteries would also be light enough to stitch into clothing for easy accessibility.

It has been established that there is great potential for graphene to revolutionize the way in which organizations and governments work to eliminate extreme poverty; however, it could also aid in environmental issues.

The National Graphene Institute at the University Manchester is currently collaborating with over 40 international companies to explore the possibilities of graphene’s potential in grid applications, as well as the storage of both solar and wind power.

As good as the product sounds, development is a problem: production is expensive and there is little research on the optimal methodology to create it.

Recently, the Spanish company Graphenea claimed to have developed three new batteries: one for electric bicycles, another designed for motorbikes and a third for stationary domestic storage. The company is already selling graphene in small quantities on their website. Although production is scheduled to begin this October, speculation still surrounds the industrial technique used to create the supposedly “cost-effective batteries.”

Regardless of claims regarding Graphenea’s ability to produce the material, graphene could one day revolutionize our society in more ways than one–how poverty is eliminated, the energy sector and how the environment is preserved.

Veronica Ung-Kono

Photo: Flickr

The Quick War on Poverty ResultsIn the last 20 years, governments, firms, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and leaders of industry’s efforts have helped to dramatically reduce the number of people living beneath $2 per day. Between 2001 and 2011 alone, the war on poverty resulted in reducing the percentage of the population affected from 29 percent to 15 percent.

As a result, the war on poverty has led to an expanding middle class, with people living off of less than $10 a day falling from 79 percent to 71 percent. Although the shift was not enormous, it still factors into an increase in prosperity for millions.

But the war of poverty results in more than monetary gains. Since 1990, extreme poverty has also been cleaved by more than half, elevating the lives of more than a billion people, according to the United Nations. Here are five other life-changing impacts that the war on poverty has produced.

Between 2000 and 2012:
Approximately 3.3 million deaths from malaria were avoided because of the substantial expansion of malaria interventions funded by international aid. Increased rates of measles immunization have also prevented an estimated 14 million deaths. In addition, since 1995, an estimated 22 million lives have been saved from tuberculosis.

More than 2.3 billion people have gained access to an improved source of drinking water. This improvement allows communities to spend less time acquiring water and give more time to poverty reducing activities, such as working or attending school.

The number of children dying under the age of five has almost been halved, dropping from 90 deaths per 1,000 live births to 48 per 1,000 live births. The child survival rates have also improved. Between 2005 and 2012, the yearly rate of reduction in child mortality was more than three times faster than between 1990 and 1995.

Almost 2 billion people gained access to an improved sanitation facility, preventing communicable diseases and contamination of water sources.

An estimated 90 percent of primary school-aged children are enrolled in school, increasing their chances at breaking the poverty cycle in impoverished communities. The gender disparity gap of boys to girls enrolled in school has also shrunk significantly.

According to the U.N., for the first time in human history, the ability to strike down extreme poverty is within reach.

Claire Colby

Sources: Bloomberg View, UN 1, UN 2
Photo: Flickr

The topics of global warming and climate change have been discussed in great length in recent times. The effects of both of these trends have an especially significant impact on those living in poverty. Here are some ways climate change impacts poverty by making life more difficult for those already experiencing poor conditions:

Climate change causes more extreme weather. For instance, floods or hurricanes can result in damage to homes and land. Displacement is especially an issue in developing countries when natural disasters strike because victims may flee to safer areas, but are unable to return to their homes.

According to the Brookings Institute, since 2008, an average of 26.4 million people have been displaced by natural disasters every year. Relocating impoverished communities means that efforts to end poverty slow down and become more complicated, especially in developing countries.

Many impoverished communities live in rural areas where agriculture is their source of sustenance. Climate change can cause droughts, famines and loss of livestock, which causes food and water to become scarce.

A survey of households in India’s Andhra found that in a 25-year span, 12 percent of households became more impoverished, and 44 percent of them cited the weather as the cause.

The poor rural farmers who produce the bare minimum needed to feed their families have few resources as it is. Climate change will lead to more undernourished households.

Sanitation and Water Supply
Climate change jeopardizes the availability of clean drinking water. For example, severe flooding causes damage to drinking water infrastructures, which often take weeks to repair. Climate change also creates an environment where diseases are easily spread. In 2007, floods in Bangladesh resulted in the widespread contamination of tubewells.

More countries are enforcing climate policies in order to slow down global warming. These strategies include policies that reduce greenhouse gas emissions, carbon pricing to reduce emission and phasing out fossil fuel emissions.

Dr. Margaret Chan, the World Health Organization Director-General stated: “The evidence is overwhelming: climate change endangers human health. Solutions exist and we need to act decisively to change this trajectory.”

Marie Helene Ngom

Sources: World Bank, Brookings, WHO
Photo: Pixabay

LifeStraw Purifiers Provide Schoolchildren with Clean Drinking WaterIn Eastern Africa, 70 percent of hospital visits are related to contaminated water. This is due to a lack of clean water sources. The majority of people in developing countries depend on water sources like rivers to drink and bathe, but serious illnesses like typhoid fever, dysentery and guinea worm disease are common diagnoses for those who consume dirty water. In fact, diarrhea is the third leading cause of death in Kenya.

Vestergaard, a Swiss global health company, created a water filtration system called LifeStraw to put an end to these water-related infections. LifeStraw is a lightweight, portable filter that uses hollow fiber technology to filter up to 1,000 liters of water. The filter is also chemical-free and does not require any electrical power — instead, it depends on the suction generated by its user.

Water enters the plastic container and flows through narrow fibers under high pressure. These fibers then trap bacteria and other toxins that are flushed out of the water via backwashing. The clean water travels through pores in the walls of these fibers.

With LifeStraw, households in these regions will no longer have to boil contaminated water to make it drinkable. As a result, there will likely be a reduction in indoor pollution and house fires. People will also burn less firewood, which helps lessen deforestation. According to Vestergaard, the use of LifeStraw reduces carbon emissions by nearly three tons per year, per filter.

Of note, luxury car manufacturer Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) invested in LifeStraw in 2013 in support of sustainability. In partnership with the carbon-offset company ClimateCare, the LifeStraw Carbon for Water project was born. This partnership has provided 1,900,000 people in western Kenya with LifeStraw filters.

Within the next few years, this investment will also provide 300,000 Kenyan schoolchildren access to safe water and filtration training programs. Once LifeStraw filters are installed at a school in Kenya, a JLR team will monitor its use once every term for five years. Teachers and students will also complete training to learn about the significance of clean water.

In 2014, the Follow the Liters campaign was created by 80 LifeStraw volunteers to provide schoolchildren with safe water. If a person purchases one LifeStraw water filter, the company will provide a child from the developing world with clean drinking water for an entire year.
Last year, 158,000 African students were provided with a LifeStraw filter and 300 more schools in western Kenya also received filters.

Kelsey Lay

Sources: Business Fights Poverty, Jaguar Land Rover, LifeStraw, The Examiner
Photo: Flickr

Clean-Water-Car Battery
Providing clean water to poor communities is a critical step in ending poverty. Dirty water is a breeding ground for bacteria and parasites that cause severe illness and death. Also, women and young girls are the main group of people who collect water. If they have to spend more time walking to the places that have clean, safe drinking water, they have less time for taking care of their family or going school, respectively.

There are roughly 1 billion people without access to clean water and thousands more who travel a long distance to find it. That is why organizations and people are building wells and finding innovative solutions to turn dirty water into drinking water.

A new method involves a car battery, some water and the right mix of salt. The NGO PATH and Mountain Safety Research have teamed together to bring this car battery water purifier to people in need. It is called the SE200 Community Chlorine Maker.

What the SE200 does is create chlorine that is then used to treat contaminated water. (Chlorine is often used to kill bacteria and viruses that make water unsafe to drink.) One teaspoon of chlorine can purify 5 gallons of water.

So, how does the SE200 make chlorine? Well, there is a small plastic canister that attaches to the car battery. The canister is marked with lines that guide the user in adding the right amount of water and salt. The user simply has to push the button on the machine, and the magic begins. What unfolds next is a chemical reaction that separates the salt ions to create chlorine in about 5 minutes. The kit even comes with test strips to make sure that the chorine concentration is correct, though the makers boast that the SE200 will always make the right concentration.

The SE200 has been field tested over the past several years with many positive results. The makers of the SE200 say that it can last for up to five years and provide clean water to 200 people. Each batch of chlorine can clean 200 liters of water.

The SE200 is currently being distributed by NGOs to the areas that are in need of clean water. The Mountain Safety Research group is providing yet another way for people in developing countries to access clean water and live better lives.

– Katherine Hewitt

Sources: Global Biodefense, NPR, The Water Project, United Nations
Photo: Wikipedia

Pakistan’s Innovative Drinking Water ATMs
Drinking water ATMs? In recent years, severe water shortages have challenged an already energy-starved Pakistan. Now, Punjab province is installing solar-powered ATMs that can distribute clean water to residents.

The small, two-foot boxes function just like normal ATMs, with one notable difference. Instead of cash, the machines dispense clean drinking water, which in times of extreme water scarcity can be more valuable than money.

Punjab Saaf Pani (Clean Water) Company and the research center Innovations for Poverty Alleviation Lab (IPAL) created the drinking water ATMs to give residents in “rural and urban fringe areas” access to clean water. The ATMs provide water free of charge to beneficiary families, and communities will be responsible for pooling funds for the machinery’s maintenance charges.

To operate the machines, users scan a smart card to verify their identities, then push the machine’s red and green buttons to collect their daily share of water. The system will allow each family to collect up to 30 liters of water a day.

The project also aims to help the Pakistani government reduce water waste. To help the government track the exact amount of water dispensed in each location, a central server for the machines will virtually record water use in real-time.

Currently, Pakistan has few water conservation programs in place. One official noted, “There is a national habit of extravagance,” regarding resources like water, electricity and gas. The drinking water ATM system will help the government regulate the population’s consumption of water for home and agricultural use.

Because agriculture alone makes up 21 percent of Pakistan’s GDP, proper water management is key to the growth of the country’s economy. The Indus River stretches the length of Pakistan and feeds irrigation canals nationwide. Water shortages due to drought and mismanagement can affect major exports such as vegetables, wheat and cotton.

The Indus Basin aquifer, which provides fresh water to Pakistan and India, also faces a shortage crisis. There are few alternatives to excessive aquifer use in the densely populated region, and the underground water table is being depleted faster than it can recharge. As a result, the Indus Basin is now the second most stressed aquifer in the world.

To address this worsening water crisis, Punjab Saaf Pani Company and IPAL plan to install 20 initial ATMs at water filtration centers in Punjab, Pakistan’s most populous province. The project will start in three Punjabi districts with serious water contamination issues. According to the program manager at IPAL, this first round of installations will benefit over 17,500 families.

The Punjabi government has pledged the equivalent of almost $200 million to clean water efforts through 2017. It plans to expand its current programs to provide 35 million people with access to safe drinking water.

In February, Pakistan’s minister for water and energy warned that both climate change and government waste have taken a toll on the country’s water supply. “Under the present situation, in the next six to seven years, Pakistan can be a water-starved country,” he stated.

Nationwide, 35 percent of Pakistan’s population lacks access to clean drinking water. In rural areas of Punjab province, that number is as low as 13 percent.

The recent heatwave in Pakistan brought international attention to the government’s mismanagement of the water crisis. Over 1,200 people have died as a result of dehydration, heat stroke and other heat-related causes, though the government has denied accountability for the deaths.

Many experts consider ineffective governance at the national level the biggest obstacle to water security in Pakistan. Muhammad Farasat Iqbal, chief executive officer of Punjab Saaf Pani Company, says that while access to clean water has become a top priority of the provincial government, it will take the concerted effort of the national government to effect real change across Pakistan.

Caitlin Harrison

Sources: Washington Post, Reuters, New York Times, Government of Pakistan Ministry of Finance, Time
Photo: Tribune

Reawakening the global health problem of unclean, polluted drinking water, rural Asian villages have been plagued with arsenic-ridden water. Most of these rural villages are near mines which leak and pollute local water sources with the carcinogen arsenic. In the past decade, the Heshan village in China has seen nearly 20 percent of the population get cancer from the polluted water.

The arsenic has been traced back to runoff and residue from a local mine that was closed in 2011. The 190 living cancer patients have petitioned the local governments for monetary compensation and aid, but the $1,600 reimbursement is insufficient for even one round of chemotherapy or radiation. For many of these poor rural villagers, the cancer diagnosis from arsenic poisoning is nothing less than a death sentence because of the unaffordable cost of treatment.

Tests of the ground water have resulted in arsenic amounts 15 times the safe amount of arsenic. The water is so toxic that many of the agricultural staples are not viable in the region, stripping these people of their livelihood and reinforcing the cycle of poverty in the area.

Similar cases have been reported throughout China and India. With water security being of the utmost importance, cancer patterns have sprung up around villages with arsenic in the water. Local medical professionals have denied the correlation between the high arsenic levels and the cancer hotspots, despite the fact that arsenic has been recognized by many health institutions as a known carcinogen.

The lack of transparency between health officials and the villagers coupled with insufficient cleaning methods has resorted in the outbreaks of cancer caused by arsenic. The toxicity of the element, both for humans and agriculture, has stunted the regional economies and has restricted the employment pool. A needless tragedy, the arsenic-laden drinking waters have destroyed families and the economies of the rural villages afflicted by the toxic water.

– Kristin Ronzi

Sources: American Cancer Society, Reuters, Times of India
Photo: Trip Advisor

Every day, 1,440 children under the age of five die from water-based diseases. In Ethiopia alone, 58 percent do not have access to clean water. These numbers are gradually increasing as the Horn of Africa faces water shortages and poor sanitation. Arturo Vittori and Andreas Vogler, both architects, recently devised a solution to alleviate Ethiopia’s sanitation and water crisis.

Six hours each day is the estimated duration of a woman and child’s journey to collect water. This process endangers children by exposing them to harsh climates and removing them from school. Every day a child goes to collect water is a day taken away from school, guaranteeing that the poverty cycle repeats.

Vittori and Vogler’s solution, named WarkaWater, is a bamboo structure that harvests potable water. This revolutionary device collects condensation droplets, which flow through micro-tunnels that lead to a basin at the bottom of the WarkaWater tower. An estimated 25 gallons of potable water can be gathered by the towers each day.

“WarkaWater is designed to provide clean water as well as ensure long-term environmental, financial and social sustainability,” Vittori said.

WarkaWater towers are not made using industrial materials. Vittori believes that locally produced materials will contribute to a better success rate of the WarkaWater towers. These 30-foot tall towers are constructed from local bamboo, rope, wire and fabric. “Once locals have the necessary know how, they will be able to teach other villages and communities to build the WarkaWater towers.”

“Rather than giving money, we want to inspire people to create their own visions and make them reality,” Vogler said. “We believe the fastest way to do this is to build and test an idea fairly quickly and at a low cost.”

WarkaWater towers will eliminate the time Ethiopians spend on retrieving water. This time can be used to improve Ethiopia’s prosperity, ultimately eliminating poverty in this area.

– Natarsha Towner

Sources: Inhabitat, Smithsonian Magazine, UNICEF
Photo: Techno Crazed

Out of the 7 billion people on earth, 780 million people don’t have access to clean water: According to the 2013 UN Development Report, around 780 million people lack access to clean water. In other words, one in nine people don’t have access to clean water. Next time you go to a crowded place, think about the fact that one in nine people don’t have the luxury of clean water! Without clean water, you can’t make food, shower, or even go to the bathroom. In fact, 2.5 million people don’t have access to a toilet because of lack of access to clean water.

2. More than 3.4 million people die each year because they don’t have access to clean water: Around 3.4 million people die each year because they can’t access clean water. 99 percent of these deaths occur in the developing world. Why are these numbers so high? According to, 2.5 billion people lack access to sanitation and 1.1 billion practice open defecation. The lack of access to clean water, sanitation and open defecation severely increases death rates in children. The website explains that the numbers can be compared to a jumbo jet crashing every four hours.

Every 21 seconds, a child dies from a water-related disease. This statistic is incredibly high. Due to a lack of access to clean water, a child dies every 21 seconds. According to, this child mortality rate has diminished. In 2009, a child would die every 15 seconds. Moreover, reported that in 2013, three children would die after only one minute, compared to four children in 2009. Although mortality rates are decreasing, the numbers are still high. Will we ever be able to solve this?

3. Women and water: According to, “200 million work hours are consumed by women collecting water for their families. This is equivalent to 28 empire state buildings each day.” It is amazing how much work and effort people must go through to collect a little bit of water for their families in developing nations. Meanwhile, people in developed nations don’t have to worry about having access to potable, quality water. Although we might get an alert now and then about diseases in our water, those of us in developing countries still have water treatment plants, and septic systems which allow us to lead a full and healthy life.

4. Hygiene: According to the World Health Organization, there are things that the developing world can’t do, such as taking a shower, getting clean water from the tap, and using the toilet. In total, 1.2 billion people have no hygienic facilities. states that in regions which experience these trends, there are no facilities that separate humans “from their own excrement.” The amount of untreated fecal matter that these countries produce would be able to fill the Superdome in 3 days. In conclusion, clean water is essential to our health, economy, and overall standard of living.

– Stephanie Olaya

Sources: UN News Center,, World Health Organization