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Youngest CountryWith its formal recognition as a country in 2011, South Sudan stands as the youngest country on Earth. With a population of more than 10 million people, all eyes are focused on how this country will develop. Born out of civil war and gruesome conflict, the first nine years of South Sudan’s existence have presented numerous humanitarian issues. Widespread hunger, unsanitized water, crumbling infrastructure, underfunded education and much more plague the youngest country in the world. If South Sudan is to grow into a fruitful nation, it must address these serious poverty crises.

History of South Sudan

South Sudan is the world’s newest country. The land and those living there had previously been controlled by neighboring Sudan but a public referendum ended that reign in 2011. Quickly, South Sudan looked to become legitimate and joined both the United Nations and the African Union within days. Violence from militia-led uprisings broke out all across the region as many saw the emergence of a new nation as an opportunity to gain power. Additionally, South Sudan harbors much of Sudan’s oil rigs thus controlling a majority of the economic opportunities in the area. With few resources present, controlling the oil fields presented a strategic advantage. In 2013, tensions boiled over into a full civil war which claimed the lives of tens of thousands of Sudanese and displaced an additional four million. Violence did not end until 2018, more than five years after the conflict broke out.

South Sudan Now

The South Sudan civil war damaged an already weakened system and has created one of the worst poverty situations. Currently, 82% of those residing in the youngest country in the world live under the poverty line. Due to recent poor harvests, Oxfam estimates that more than seven million South Sudanese are in danger of starvation. With an economy almost entirely dependent on crude oil exports, financial stability is nonexistent. The World Bank reports that while South Sudan experienced a GDP growth of 3.2% in 2019, due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, its GDP will shrink 4.3% after 2020, losing more than gained in the previous year. With one third of the nation displaced due to the civil war, more than half of the country struggling to eat and a nationally shrinking economy, South Sudan is in danger of becoming a region defined by immense poverty.

Humanitarian Assistance

With how dire the situation is in South Sudan, leading humanitarian relief agencies have made the youngest country in the world top priority. Action Against Hunger, in 2019 alone, helped feed more than 500,000 South Sudanese people. With over 300 team members present in the country, Action Against Hunger is extending its impact each and every year until the Sudanese can once again retain sustainable harvests.

To help keep the children of South Sudan in school, USAID has created special funding just for education. Since the civil war broke out, USAID has actively helped more than half a million students receive schooling desperately needed to break the poverty cycle. To help bring power and electricity to South Sudan, the African Development Bank stepped up to make it happen. Nearly 99% of people in South Sudan live without electricity. The African Development Bank’s power grid project recently received a $14.6 million loan to help get it started.

South Sudan’s issues cannot be fixed overnight. In fact, these problems will take years of dedication and hard work to begin to see drastic improvement. As the new country of South Sudan looks to gain international recognition and support, it must first prioritize the dire humanitarian crises at home. With the work of Action Against Hunger, USAID and the African Development Bank, hope is on the horizon for the youngest country in the world.

– Zachary Hardenstine
Photo: Flickr

Transforming Education in South SudanAround 1.8 million children in South Sudan are not in school; the majority of children are utilized for manual work to provide for their families. This prevents millions of children, especially young girls, from receiving an adequate education. As the world’s youngest country, South Sudan struggles with many pressing issues, such as an unstable political environment and scarce food access. However, the need for educational reform grows increasingly urgent every day. These inadequate educational circumstances can be attributed to many years of war that left behind devastating conditions for the country and its civilians. However, organizations have committed to transforming education in South Sudan.

The Humanitarian Aid Relief Trust (HART)

Founded in 2004, HART exists to help countries suffering from national conflicts that are not typically served by major aid organizations. A significant amount of its aid is directed toward South Sudan and the country’s unfavorable education status. In its 2020 report, the organization emphasized how many leaders in South Sudan are unable to access funds from large-scale donors. In response to this, the organization stresses that donating funds for essential services in South Sudan should take top priority, especially education funds, considering the substantial number of children displaced from normal learning environments. The organization works directly with partners in South Sudan to get problems solved through direct communication. 

According to HART, a girl raised in South Sudan is more likely to die from pregnancy or childbirth than complete her primary education. More than two million children are not in school, which is the worst number the country has seen yet. If these rates continue, the future generation of South Sudan will not be equipped with the skills that come from an educational background, which also statistically places them as more likely to fall into generational poverty. Organizations such as HART use advocacy as the strongest tool. By bringing light to these startling statistics, it hopes to educate the public on the dire need to allocate funds to South Sudan and reform the educational system through donations.

United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF)

UNICEF has been a global leader in transforming education in South Sudan, as it provides funds for classroom materials and teacher training. A primary focus is to intervene in South Sudanese communities to emphasize the importance of educating their children. The organization understands that when children are educated, it benefits not only them but the entirety of the country.

However, learning in South Sudan has been extremely different since the start of COVID-19 as roughly 1.5 million children have been learning through radio lessons instead of the traditional classrooms. In 2020 alone, UNICEF provided over 40,000 radio sets to be distributed to underprivileged children who do not have access to radios in their homes. Amid these unconventional education times, UNICEF continues to deliver essential services to benefit learning in remote locations under the Government of South Sudan’s “Back to School Initiative”. At the end of 2020, UNICEF plans to have provided 729,000 out of school children in crisis access to education.

Global Partnership for Education (GPE)

The Global Partnership for Education has been partnered with South Sudan since 2012. It emphasizes the high demands placed on the education system in South Sudan’s national plans. The General Education Strategic Plan (GESP), developed by the Ministry of General Education and Instruction of South Sudan, lays out situation analyses, policy frameworks, implementation structures and financing plans. However, there is insufficient public expenditure to cover these projects. In fact, South Sudan possesses one of the lowest education funds in the world. 

The GPE recognizes this need for funding and believes in the vision of The General Education Strategic Plan. In March of 2020, the GPE gifted $7 million in support of the Ministry of Education’s learning plan in response to COVID-19. In particular, the grant goes to support guidelines and policies in place to reopen schools in South Sudan. Other focal points revolve around awareness campaigns on COVID-19 prevention, remote learning materials for students, radio programs for at-home learning, hygiene facilities and back to school campaigns. As the GPE continues backing The General Education Strategic Plan, there is an expected expansion of secondary and technical education and institutionalizing teacher training within the next three years. 

The Need for Improved Education

Right now, over 80% of the South Sudanese population live on less than a dollar per day. In the middle of a humanitarian crisis, many basic necessities fail to be met for this vulnerable population. An increasing urgency around transforming education in South Sudan has caused an abundance of organizations to take a special interest in reforming the education system in the world’s youngest country. While the road to a prospering education system is still long, South Sudan is taking substantial steps toward a better future for its children with the help of humanitarian organizations.

– Hope Shourd
Photo: Flickr

impact of conflict on poverty
Conflict can be a catalyst for an array of poverty-related events. It can impact poverty by depleting resources, interrupting supply chains, destroying infrastructure, taking lives and much more. Unfortunately, this trend has held in the country of Mali, which currently shows the significant impact of conflict on poverty.

Conflict Background and Economic Impact

The Mali War is an ongoing conflict that began in January of 2012. Since then, violence between the North and South of Mali has ebbed and flowed in severity but never subsided. Malian people, including the Tuareg, in the North of Mali, have expressed resentment and concern, as they feel that governmental groups and political factions have been neglecting their concerns and treating them unfairly. Ethnic divides, fundamentalist fighters and an unstable political system are a few issues that have caused this conflict.

There have been thousands of deaths and thousands of more people fleeing the conflict. As mentioned previously, many connect the weak economic sector in Mali to the outbreak of unrest and violence. Almost cyclically, this violence is now negatively impacting the economic sector. Before the conflict broke out, tourism accounted for more than 40% of Mali’s GDP. Researchers estimate that 8,000 people lost their job due to the drastic decrease in tourism after the conflict began. The economic connection highlights the ranging impact of conflict on poverty.

Many of those living in the North of Mali, mostly Tuareg and Arab groups, depend on the agricultural sector for their income. The government has invested very little in this sector and focuses primarily on tourism and the export of gold and cotton from the South. This has led many agricultural producers in the South to grow jaded towards the government due to their increased likelihood of experiencing extreme poverty.

The Impact on Public Health

Roughly 1 in 3 children in Mali are facing chronic malnutrition. An annual average of nearly four million people in Mali do not have access to an adequate amount of food. More than half of Mali’s children and young adults are illiterate and have been pushed out of school due to displacement. Many children in Mali are at great risk of being recruited into militant groups, further threatening their safety, educational resources, and ability to climb from poverty.

At its base level, the conflict in Mali threatens public health by the sheer loss of life it has caused. In 2018, hundreds of civilians were killed by armed groups. The byproducts of this violence caused even more people to experience extreme poverty, malnutrition and death. Additionally, more than 200,000 people have fled Mali altogether to avoid the violence. This stunts Mali’s economic growth, which reaffirms the dangerous impact of conflict on poverty.

Current Aid and Support Efforts

A military coup ousted the former President of Mali, Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta, on August 19th, 2020. President Bah Ndaw became the interim leader of Mali and will hold the position until an election can be held. Some are hopeful that if a legitimate election can be held, much of the conflict in Mali will subside. In the meantime, many local and international nonprofit organizations have mobilized to aid in poverty-reduction efforts throughout Mali.

  1. For example, World Vision began providing aid in Mali in 1975, even before the conflict. In 2012 during the height of the conflict, World Vision provided aid in the form of food, clean water, and shelter to more than 150,000 people throughout Mali. Additionally, more than 60,000 children in Mali are currently benefiting from World Vision’s child sponsorship program. The program allows donors to provide monetary assistance to and communicate with an impoverished child. Many of these sponsored children in Mali reside within conflict-ridden areas.
  2. Peace Direct, another nonprofit organization, focuses on peacebuilding efforts in Mali. They support communities in their implementation of peacebuilding; in 2019 alone, they supported more than 20 projects throughout Mali. Peace Direct realizes the importance of community growth, both physically and emotionally, to peacebuilding. A lack of communal trust can be detrimental to poverty reduction, as teamwork makes progress more effective and efficient. Additionally, the building of trust and understanding among conflict groups is essential to support continued growth and stability throughout Mali. This trust will prevent future conflicts and allow Mali to focus on joint economic growth and poverty-reduction tactics throughout their country.

    3. “The Peacebuilding Stabilization and Reconciliation Project,” run through USAID, began in April of 2018 and is scheduled to be completed in March of 2023. This project focuses on rebuilding many of the conflict-ridden areas throughout Mali, providing rehabilitation resources to those impacted by the violence, increasing civic engagement and helping Mali’s government introduce barriers to prevent violent outbreaks in the future. USAID believes that providing community members with an active role in their governance will decrease dissent, enhance democratic values, reduce the likelihood of future conflict and decrease the joint poverty level throughout Mali. Success will also ideally increase GDP and overall well being while mitigating the impact of conflict on poverty in Mali.

The Future of the Region

The domino effect that violence can have on the prosperity of a nation is not a surprise. Violence decreases an individual’s ability to focus on economic growth or public health. It overtakes governmental initiatives and attention from the media, forcing poverty-related issues to take a backseat. The importance of the international community supporting peacebuilding efforts in Mali remains essential. The path toward peace will trickle-down benefits for many subsets of Mali’s society and will decrease the occurrence of extreme poverty throughout the nation.

Danielle Forrey
Photo: UN Multimedia

Women PeacemakersSince the beginning of the Sudanese civil war in 1983 that split the north from the south, the conflict in South Sudan has cost thousands of civilian lives and fractured the society in the region. The fallout from the civil war led to tribal conflict that is still ongoing and oftentimes the victims of these “total wars” are women. For this reason, women peacemakers in South Sudan are very important.

Feminist Movements in South Sudan

Prior to the civil war, feminists movements were gaining ground in South Sudan, so much so that South Sudan was seen as the center of African feminism during the 60’s and 70’s. These activists secured legal equality for all women across the country, though, with a change of leadership in the late 70’s, women saw their positions in society diminish. With the beginning of the civil war, South Sudanese feminists began to pursue outside avenues to affect policy.

One such group was a collective of female South Sudanese refugees who fled to Nairobi, Kenya. There they drafted a document that outlined how women were essential to the peacemaking and governing process. These women called for the government to acknowledge that “It is first and foremost women who suffer during wars or conflicts. Because of this, they are best placed to act as agents for a conclusive peace process and to spread a culture of peace in the country.” This was the first declaration of its kind, and its message has continued to be influential in how South Sudanese women advocate for increased involvement of women.

Feminist Organizations

Throughout the war period, multiple feminist organizations emerged that called for peace and women’s rights, such as Nuba Women for Peace, Women Empowerment for Peace and Development Network and the National Democratic Alliance. At the turn of the century, many women who had previously participated in these groups came together to form the Sudanese Women Empowerment for Peace (SuWEP), which is an organization with branches in North and South Sudan that collaborate to empower women in the region and promote the role of women peacemakers in South Sudan.

Sudanese Women Empowerment for Peace (SuWEP)

SuWEP’s main goals are to promote the inclusion of women from all layers of society, train women in conflict resolution and mediation, raise awareness, write position papers on its work to be presented to international bodies and advocate for and publicizing its message of gender equality. Due to these efforts, peace centers have now been established throughout both North and South Sudan, food aid has been able to reach the most vulnerable populations throughout the region and the legislature of South Sudan met its quota of 25% of its seats belonging to women.

UN Women Africa

U.N. Women Africa has also been one of the larger advocates for gender equality in South Sudan, with its focus primarily being on increasing female involvement in democracy, increasing literacy and protecting women and girls from gender-based violence. The organization has come before the Security Council to demand greater protections for women because it believes women are essential to the peacemaking process as they have been the greatest advocates of peace since the inception of the conflict. In addition, in a report to the Security Council, it was brought up that the women of these warring tribal and ethnic factions have been able to cooperate and make change together, meaning they can help the rest of the country do so.

Moving into the future, many women peacemakers in South Sudanese see the Revitalized Agreement as the best option for lasting peace because it would require that women hold 35% of government seats and the country would transition towards an expanded democracy. With more women in positions of power, feminists believe there would be an increased focus on women’s issues as well as a greater emphasis on diplomacy and peace.

– Mary Buffaloe
Photo: Flickr


Relying heavily on irrigation from the ancient Tigris and Euphrates rivers, creating sustainable agriculture in Iraq entails overcoming numerous environmental, economic and political dilemmas.

Home to 37 million people, Iraq has experienced worsening agricultural results in the past 20 years, with a GDP contribution of only six percent from the agriculture industry since 1993.  Some of the most influential problems that prevent the development of sustainable agriculture in Iraq include the lack of technologies and educated farming practices, lack of economic power, lack of access to clean water and even civil unrest among cities full of refugees.

According to Nations Encyclopedia, about one-third of Iraqis in the labor force are in the agriculture industry, despite having such a low GDP contribution. A few of the main crops in Iraq include wheat, barley and dates, some of which are staple, or exported crops.

In 1989, the Iraqi government privatized the agriculture industry in an unsuccessful attempt to boost the industry. Still faced with problems today, the privatized farms struggle to produce enough crops to support the urban populations. In response to this food shortage, Iraq began importing food through the United Nation’s Food-for-Oil program, starting in 1995 and lasting until 2003, through which Iraq traded oil reserves for imported foods.

This program led to an increase in competition for local farmers, increasing the difficulty for Iraqi farmers to sell their crops. However, there are aid programs that strive to provide sufficient nutrition to overcrowded, urban areas. The World Food Program (WFP) provides rations to more than 230,000 Iraqis struggling to obtain food. Rations include basic ingredients such as wheat, flour, rice, beans and more.

Additionally, according to Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the European Union donated more than €80 million in agricultural advancement. USAID has invested about $6.6 billion toward improving a wide variety of issues in Iraq, some of which include the improvement of marshlands by reflooding original marshlands, the financing of small, local farms and the improvement of irrigation techniques. The World Bank has also provided more than $990 million since 2003 in grants and soft, low-interest loans for farmers to improve their water supply, irrigation and drainage resolutions.

One of the biggest problems that these programs address is Iraq’s water irrigation systems and cleanliness. Iraqi farmers normally irrigate their crops by flooding their fields; however, this is a short-term solution which causes even more problems in the future, including erosion. The constant flooding of fields leads to water-fueled erosion, which disrupts irrigation canals and tunnels that have gone without maintenance due to a lack of funding and resources from the Iraqi government.

Another dilemma in creating sustainable agriculture in Iraq is the salinity of water used to irrigate crops. According to FAO, about 70 percent of arable land in Iraq is threatened by salinity. Salinity reduces the soil’s health and fertility, directly impacting farmers’ abilities to produce a high yield of crops.

Another short-term solution that Iraqi farmers have found is overgrazing. Overgrazing allows farmers to produce more livestock to meet the high demands of urban populations. However, overgrazing without improving the quality of pastures has led to nutrient-deprived soils, drastically affecting sustainable agriculture in Iraq and advancing soil erosion.

Lastly, the recent political unrest and violence in Iraq has created a massive population of war refugees, as well as directly impacted the ability to grow crops. More than 700,000 people are living in refugee camps, and as of 2017, more than 800,000 Iraqis still require a food assistance program to survive. Such a high number of refugees is what initiated the nation’s increase of imports, therefore causing increased competition with Iraq’s farmers. Violence and conflict can also result in physical damage to arable land as well as to irrigation systems, causing more strain on farmers.

Creating sustainable agriculture in Iraq is a continuous struggle with issues that cannot be fixed through a simple method. The ongoing violence ensures economic hardship for farmers, and with few technologies accessible, alternative, long-term solutions are farmers’ only option to create a sustainable agriculture industry.

– Austin Stoltzfus

Photo: Flickr

 

Learn about Poverty in Iraq

 

Central African Republic ConflictSince 1960, when the Central African Republic gained its independence from France, different armed conflicts have emerged in the country, principally fights for political power. However, in this decade, a confrontation between two different religious groups and the government has led to an environment of constant violence, forcing many people to leave their homes. These are 10 key facts about the Central Africa Republic conflict that you need to know.

  1. The Central African Republic conflict began in 2012 when the Seleka, a Muslim rebel coalition, attacked different cities in the country in order to overthrow the regime of President Francoise Bozizé.
  2. The main opposition group to the Seleka is the coalition known as Anti-Balaka, formed principally by Christian fighters.
  3. In 2014, Seleka rebels and Anti-Balaka forces agreed to a tentative ceasefire agreement.
  4. The Central African Republic conflict started again in 2015 when the government rejected the agreement by Seleka and Anti-Balaka forces.
  5. The Central African Republic conflict has displaced 466,000 people, who are now refugees in other countries.
  6. Since 2013, when the conflict started, more than 935,000 people have been internally displaced and about 60 percent of them are children.
  7. It is estimated that 3,000 to 6,000 people have been killed in the conflict.
  8. According to the U.N., nearly 2.5 million people are facing hunger in the country.
  9. Reports by human rights groups and the United Nations suggest crimes have been committed by both Seleka and Anti-Balaka.
  10. Different allegations of sexual abuse have been made by the United Nations, making the conflict worse inside the country.

Several organizations, principally the United Nations, are working in the country in order to end the conflict. However, the conflict is still ongoing, creating a wave of violence that has resulted in thousands of refugees, deaths and political uncertainty.

Dario Ledesma

Photo: Flickr

Hunger in MaliMali, the eighth-largest country in Africa sits landlocked in the western region of the continent. Hunger in Mali is often driven by drought and conflict in the region. There have been three major droughts that affected Mali in the last decade. In March 2012, the country faced a coup and a rebellion in the north.

According to a report from the World Food Programme, approximately 475,000 people were displaced from their homes after a major conflict in the northern part of the country. The country also suffered from food insecurity and faced issues of nutrition during this time.

In the northern regions of Mali, including Gao, Timbuktu and Kidal, about one-fifth of the households experience food shortages. Additionally, approximately 15 percent of children are afflicted with acute malnutrition in Mali, according to the report.

According to an article from Action Against Hunger, rates of malnutrition in Mali “exceed the critical threshold on a national level.” Specifically, the Sahel region of northern Mali is perpetually in a state of nutrition emergency.

Since 1996, Action Against Hunger has provided treatment for malnourished Malians and helped to develop support malnutrition management in public health facilities.

In 2015, the World Food Programme reported that 2.5 million Malians were struggling to feed their families, and just over 300,000 of the country’s residents were considered to be in need of severe food assistance.

The report also stated that over half of the women in Mali are anemic. Furthermore, approximately 80 percent of children in Mali suffer from anemia.

Hunger in Mali is also worsened by over half the country living below the national poverty line. However, aid from global organizations has helped Mali in respect to food insecurity.

According to their report, the World Food Programme utilizes a cross-border operation from Niger to transport food to northern Mali. This organization also assists the country’s residents by providing them with cash to purchase fresh produce.

While hunger in Mali remains a pressing issue, the stress of food insecurity has the potential to be lessened by global organizations.

Leah Potter

Photo: Flickr

Israel Poverty Rates
Resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would not only deter violent radicalism and terrorism but also reduce Israel’s poverty rates by opening the door to prosperity and human rights for all citizens. Israel is densely populated with 8.5 million people, one-fifth of whom are Arab. While 14% of Jewish Israelis are poor, 55% of Arabs live below the poverty line.

The divide over Gaza is one of many issues plaguing the peace process in Israel. A 2008 airstrike on Gaza damaged many houses and buildings, displacing thousands of Palestinian families. Mostly populated by Palestinians, Gaza is currently under Israeli blockade, cutting off necessities such as electricity, food and medicine.

On average, Arabs make half of what Jewish workers make and are less likely to hold a job. The limited access to power and electricity in Gaza leaves a majority of the 600,000 families unemployed and hungry. Unemployment rates are at an all-time low in Israel. Yet, 70% of those working earn less than average salaries. On the bright side, Israel established a joint initiative with large companies to hire more Israeli-Arabs in 2016, opening better career opportunities to 500 Arabs.

Israel’s poverty rates are affecting future generations. One in three children lives below the poverty line, causing lifelong consequences to health, brain development, nutrition and educational attainment. While school years have increased over time, the quality of education is still low because teachers earn low wages.

So far, American-mediated efforts to help resolve the conflict failed because Israel continues expanding West Bank settlements, Palestinians remain politically divided, and the path to constructive dialogue between Israeli-Arabs and Israeli-Jews is unclear.

The lack of peace is increasing Israel’s poverty rates and an unstable economic situation in West Bank and Gaza. World Bank Country Director for West Bank and Gaza Marina Wes says that Gaza stands “on the verge of a human catastrophe.” All sides need to focus on relief combined with a commitment to financial support from the international community to bring about real changes.

Jennifer Mcallister

Photo: Flickr

The Curse of Oil and its Effects on Poverty in Equatorial Guinea
The discovery of crude oil in the Gulf of Guinea during the mid-1990s resulted in drastic increases in government revenue in Equatorial Guinea. Although the country is one of the wealthiest in Sub-Saharan Africa, two-thirds of citizens live on less than $1 per day, making the rate of poverty in Equatorial Guinea quite high.

President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo is the longest to hold executive office in Africa since taking leadership after a military coup in 1979. Since then, Equatorial Guinea gained the status of the continent’s sixth-largest producer of oil. The country is home to Africa’s highest GDP per capita, while its 2014 rank on the U.N.’s Human Development Index landed at 144 out of 187 states.

Effects of government corruption extend far beyond the economic sector and continue to negatively impact education, child and infant mortality rates as well as access to sanitation. The Center for Economic and Social Rights (CESR) reports that only 41% of individuals in the most populated areas have access to clean drinking water. The CESR also notes that Equatorial Guinea has the third-highest number of deaths of children under 1 year of age in Sub-Saharan Africa. The rate of children in Equatorial Guinea to finish primary school is under 60%, while the rate of boys enrolled in secondary school is double that of girls, according to CESR findings.

Equatorial Guinea’s per capita income of $26,000 along with 76.8% of the country in poverty is exemplary of institutional inequalities that foster conditions for extreme poverty. High corruption, lack of natural resource revenue and support of regimes are vital contributors to poverty in Equatorial Guinea.

U.S. shift in energy policy during 2001 to focus on attaining oil from African countries without foresight for the future of local societies has been key in fostering the continuation of poverty.

Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, condemned former Vice President Cheney’s energy plans due to the lack of attention paid to the strategy’s impact on developing nations. The report specifies the potential of U.S. utilization of West African oil as the region was “expected to be one of the fastest-growing sources of oil and gas for the American market.” The Cheney Report’s main aim was to eliminate hurdles to increase the attainment of foreign oil by the U.S., should they regard legal, economic, political or logistical obstacles.

In a study conducted by Elise Aiken, one-third of the planet’s civil wars are happening in countries where oil production dominates. Aiken attributes this to three main factors: “economic instability caused by fluctuating oil prices, support of insurgencies through black market sales or extortion and encouragement of separatism because of wealth imbalance.” She also notes that oil-rich countries are not guaranteed to have outbreaks of conflict and those governments that “limit corruption and put their windfalls to good use rarely face unrest.” African communities are more likely to face strife when oil production is prominent due to scarce educational backgrounds, unstable economies and in areas with minimal law enforcement and high corruption.

A report by Global Witness attributes the “curse of oil” to a lack of transparency of governments to enclose the amount of revenue from oil production. The report also recommends that the catalytic shift in increasing transparency would come from the implementation of U.S. legislation to enact corporate requirements to enclose revenue reports.

Tutu Alicante, native to the island of Annobon in Equatorial Guinea, is the founder of the first human rights advocacy and capacity-building initiative focused solely on the country called EG Justice. Alicante became passionate about taking action when the military came to his village on orders to eliminate young men in opposition to the regime.

The insurgents were arrested, tortured and publicly executed before the military burned down Alicante’s family home. Five months later, he went to the U.S. with a mission to end the violence through his education. After earning a J.D. from the University of Tennessee and an LLM from Columbia University Law School he now works to increase the transparency of income from natural resources and is a legal adviser for human rights organizations worldwide.

Strides made by activists like Alicante to secure human rights, while promoting natural resource revenue reform is vital to altering the infrastructure that fosters corruption and relieving extreme poverty in Equatorial Guinea.

Amber Bailey

Photo: Flickr

Children in Crisis AreasAccording to a recent UNICEF report, approximately one in four children of school age resides in countries affected by war and humanitarian crises. There are around 462 million children in crisis areas whose education suffers, particularly areas in Syria and Eastern Ukraine.

Of this number, 75 million children are out-of-school, and the situation worsens for school-aged girls. UNICEF reports that over 63 million girls do not attend school and the numbers continue to rise. School-aged girls are in desperate need of a support system to improve their access to education and their chances at a successful future.

An education system not only provides basic instruction but also incorporates a daily schedule, food access and safe shelter for children during times of conflict. Conflicts in Eastern Ukraine have destroyed one out of every five schools and conflicts in Syria have rendered 6,000 schools unusable for education. The sites that can no longer be used as schools are now used as shelters for families or bases for armed forces.

As a result of the humanitarian crises in these areas, many children often receive no chance at an education. However, a recent emergency education fund will help to provide better education for the students facing difficulty, improving their family life and reactions to local conflicts as a result.

The World Humanitarian Summit was held in Istanbul in late May, where an emergency education fund called ‘Education Cannot Wait’ was proposed. The fund will provide for the educational needs of children who are suffering as a result of living in conflict zones.

Education Cannot Wait will attempt to raise $4 billion in the next five years for children in crisis areas struggling with education access and quality. This will support the 2015 Sustainable Development Goals which include a proposal for all school-aged children to have access to free and quality primary and secondary education by 2030. Improving the education systems for children in conflict zones will minimize or mitigate the issues of poverty on a larger scale.

Amanda Panella

Photo: Flickr