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Multinational Corporations in Developing Countries
Multinational corporations (MNCs) have a global presence, even in developing countries. There are over 80,000 companies that drive the 21st-century economy. For example, Coca-Cola sells its product in nearly every country and has established over 900 bottling facilities worldwide. MNCs have propelled the GDP of their parent countries, most notably the United States, Japan, China and Western Europe, but how do their international operations affect developing countries?

It is difficult to say whether multinational corporations in developing countries are decidedly ‘good’ or ‘bad.’ One must consider many perspectives before making that judgment. However, researchers have identified a variety of positive and negative impacts applicable to most MNCs.

Individual Wellbeing

Multinational corporations in developing countries employ millions of people, but the quality of these jobs is often low. When Coca-Cola instituted a bottling facility in El Salvador, its supply chain hired sugar cane harvesters. El Salvador needed this hiring surge, as its poverty rate is 25.70%. However, an Oxfam study discovered that many workers receive less than the minimum wage. Additionally, harvesters face physical risks (burns, lacerations, exhaustion). This is because their work entails cutting cane stalks with a machete in chemically treated agricultural fields.

Perhaps the most notorious examples of worker exploitation in developing countries are sweatshops. These facilities in MNC supply chains provide employment with long hours, low wages and unsafe working conditions. An estimated 250 million children work in sweatshops worldwide, working over 16 hours a day to provide products for the clothing and toy consumer base.

Some experts argue that sweatshops are helpful to local populations because they provide job opportunities that would otherwise not be there. This defense, the “Non Worseness claim,” essentially states that sweatshops are better than nothing and that even if there were regulations on improved wages and working conditions, the jobs would be outsourced to a place where those restrictions do not exist. Defenders of MNC sweatshops often cite this controversial idea.

Economics

At first glance, it may be easy to claim that MNCs are unequivocally good for developing countries’ economies. After all, they provide jobs that were not present before, even if they are dangerous and pay low wages. Additionally, MNCs bring in capital flow to developing countries by building factories, which require construction workers and surrounding infrastructure, thereby stimulating economic development in host countries.

However, beyond the short-term benefits, the economic value of multinational corporations in developing countries becomes rather hazy. Most of the profit produced by an MNC subsidiary in a developing country goes to the company’s parent country. In the case of El Salvador, most profits generated by cane harvesters return to Coca-Cola’s executives in the U.S.

When multinational countries flood the economic landscape of developing countries, small businesses and local entrepreneurs find it difficult to compete. Thus, host countries develop a kind of dependency where they cannot break off from the MNCs’ influence in fear of rising unemployment. They also cannot compete with MNCs because of their established production methods.

Solutions

The Human Rights Watch and other humanitarian nonprofits have called for supply chain transparency in MNCs, particularly clothing and footwear industries, to publicize and improve working conditions in sweatshops across the globe. These corporations would have to provide specifics about factories manufacturing their products beyond the general tag: “Made in China.”

Additionally, the social inequities surrounding MNCs appear to be a result of their intentions. Paying low wages, building factories with unsafe working conditions, and outsourcing production relate to a key goal of MNCs: the corporate mantra, “maximize shareholder value.”

But MNCs do not need to operate according to this objective. At the very least, maximizing profits is not the only objective that they can strive for. Many MNCs, such as Ben and Jerry’s and Patagonia, have altered their practices to become benefit corporations. This role includes adding the goal of benefiting the public good to their company mission. Through this method, MNCs have a chance to reverse social injustices by redirecting their profits into improving the social, environmental and economic processes in developing countries.

Christopher Orion Bresnahan
Photo: Flickr

hunger in kazakhstanKazakhstan has made great strides in reducing hunger levels within its borders. In the 1920s, the country experienced a famine that led to up to 33% of the Kazakh population dying. The country experienced another famine in the 1930s, during which up to 1.5 million people died. Today, Kazakhstan has put forward a tremendous effort in reducing hunger to a very low hunger level. The country ranks 20th out of 117 qualifying countries, behind nations such as Uruguay, Bulgaria and Chile. Less than 2.5% of children experience undernourishment, and Kazakhstan boasts an under-5 mortality rate due to hunger of 1%. However, even with low hunger levels, efforts to reduce hunger in Kazakhstan remain steady. Without reducing hunger levels, children’s growth can be stunted and malnourishment can cause future health problems, something the country has been trying to avoid following its post-Soviet rule.

Hunger in Kazakhstan: A New Food Crisis

While hunger in Kazakhstan has largely been eliminated, the country is taking a new approach to food accessibility and education. Now, the types of foods that Kazakhs are eating are not as nutritious as they could be. Almost 20% of children from ages six to nine are overweight, and only about one in three children consume fresh fruits and vegetables on a daily basis. These eating habits are due in part to cultural practices of Kazakhs, as many come from nomadic cultures where food, mainly meat, had to be preserved with high levels of salt. This practice continues today, and both traditional and commercially produced food has extremely high levels of salt. The average salt intake in Kazakhstan has reached almost 17 grams a day, four times the WHO recommended daily limit. This makes Kazakhstan’s salt intake the highest in the world. Additionally, many Kazakh foods contain very high levels of trans fatty acids, which often connect with higher blood pressure, obesity, a higher risk for heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Without regulating and changing the food industries to guide consumers toward healthier options, Kazakhstan will be looking at increased medical costs for rising health issues related to nutrition.

Looking Forward to Solutions

To find solutions, Kazakhstan will need to include both healthy marketing techniques as well as provide more options for fresh fruits and vegetables. While it will be difficult to change traditional methods of food preparation, by including more fresh produce in food preparation Kazakhs can begin to reduce their salt and trans fatty acid intake, significantly improving their health. Additionally, while current levels of hunger in Kazakhstan are low, the coronavirus has impacted food prices and availability. Since January 2020, the costs of food have increased to be 11.3 % higher than they were in 2019. Global trade has been limited due to health and safety concerns, and since agriculture in Kazakhstan takes up a small percentage of its economy, accessing fresh produce during the pandemic has been difficult.

The country is making great strides toward reducing hunger in Kazakhstan and the effects of malnourishment within its borders. However, without an approach toward making healthy food accessible and informing citizens of healthy food practices, Kazakhstan is likely to see a rise in health concerns due to obesity and other non-communicable diseases. This process will take a coordinated effort from multiple areas of Kazakh society, but if Kazakhstan is successful in reducing obesity, the country will be well on its way to a full recovery from its history.

Julia Canzano
Photo: Pixabay

childhood obesity in poverty-stricken AfricaChildhood obesity is a major issue in middle-income countries. However, this issue is growing in low-income countries as well now. In Africa, micronutrient deficiency and wasting are among the biggest challenges associated with children’s health. However, with sugary foods and snacks becoming cheaper and more accessible, childhood obesity is becoming more of an issue in Africa. A 2000 survey revealed that 10% of low-income countries had a 10% rate of teenagers who were overweight. Just between 2014 to 2016, that number jumped from 40% to 75%. It is quite clear that this issue is quickly increasing.

The Problem of Childhood Obesity

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), childhood obesity in poverty-stricken Africa is one of the most pressing issues of this century. Without intervention, this issue will only continue to spread.  Along with it, long-term health problems associated with obesity, such as diabetes, will also increase. Furthermore, not only are obese people at risk of contracting preventable health conditions but they are also at risk of early death. According to WHO, obesity takes more than two million lives every year worldwide.

Despite the growing economy in Africa, millions still suffer from poverty. This poverty, coupled with the growth of obesity, has Africa simultaneously facing two major challenges. These two challenges have led to a significant increase in diseases throughout Africa. Since the 1980s, diabetes has grown by 129% in Africa. To combat the spread of diabetes and the consumption of high sugar beverages, South Africa has passed a bill that taxes such beverages.

Combating Childhood Obesity

A few organizations are taking steps to combat childhood obesity in poverty-stricken Africa. The World Health Organization places its focus on what types of foods to consume, the number of physical activities that are being completed and overall health. The organization believes that in order to avoid the increasing amount of childhood obesity that Africa is experiencing, there must be corrections to all three factors mentioned above.

WHO created the “Global Strategy on Diet, Physical Activity and Health” to reduce obesity and improve overall health. The strategy focuses on four major goals that will ultimately help combat childhood obesity, diseases and death. The four main goals are to reduce risk, increase awareness, develop policies and action plans and monitor science. Though created 16 years ago, this strategy will only begin to make an impact after several decades. In order for the strategy to succeed, all levels of life and business must assist in the effort.

Childhood obesity in poverty-stricken Africa continues to be an issue. Although a relatively new issue in developing countries, obesity is quickly increasing. Africa is now combatting both ends of the nutritional spectrum, with malnutrition and childhood obesity now prevalent throughout the continent. Despite increases in these issues, organizations such as WHO are working diligently to reduce childhood obesity in Africa.

– Jamal Patterson 
Photo: Pixabay

surfing helps relieve global poverty Surfing is one of the oldest but most under-appreciated sports in the world. In California and Hawaii, it is more widespread than in the rest of the U.S. combined. Australia is the only other country that hails surfing as one of its national pastimes. The birth of the sport came about in Polynesia where natives would draw cave paintings of people riding on waves as far back as the 12th century. At some point, the Polynesians traveled to the Hawaiian Islands. There, the Polynesians transferred the sport of surfing where it transcended to religious-like status for Pacific Islanders everywhere. Surfing has become an altruistic tool for the less fortunate around the world. Despite surfing’s lesser-known status in America, the sport has made an impact in underprivileged countries, particularly regions in Southeast Asia. Here is how surfing helps relieve global poverty.

SurfAid

SurfAid, a nonprofit organization founded in 2000, comes from a grassroots background. It has grown in the U.S., Australia and New Zealand. Over the years, it has become one of the top charities in surfing, assisting local governments and communities to prevent mother and child deaths. In Indonesia, a mother dies every three hours and 20 babies die every other hour. SurfAid offers support by providing materials to observe the health of mothers and children.

For example, a simple, yet important material like a weighing scale allows doctors to ensure that patients’ body weight is on par with their age. Other materials include measuring tapes, record books and materials for teaching. Most importantly, SurfAid helps improve water and sanitation issues through building water tanks, water taps and toilets. Having clean water and sanitation prevents diarrhea for children under the age of five, giving them a better chance to survive.

SurfAid staffers also provide equipment and seeds for gardens as well as malaria nets. With this increase in practical support, basic hygiene has decreased diarrhea by more than 45%. Antenatal care also has been implemented into programs to educate mothers about healthy pregnancies. This care and education help prevent complications from occurring during pregnancy and childbirth. Additionally, through birth spacing, the process of mothers giving birth every two to three years, women can potentially “reduce infant mortality by 20%.”

SurfAid’s Work in Indonesia

SurfAid has also aided the island of Sumba. Located in Eastern Indonesia, the island is plagued by poverty, food insecurities and famine, making daily lives difficult. This has resulted in more than 60% of its children under five suffering from malnutrition.

SurfAid developed a project called the HAWUNA program, meaning ‘unity’ in Indonesian. The program works with more than 7,500 people in 16 different communities in the sub-district of Lamboya Barat to improve food insecurity. Additionally, the program educates parents on childcare in order to combat malnutrition. With access to clean water, sanitation and healthcare, there have been massive improvements in healthcare and healthy weight gain across the community.

SurfAid’s project development also includes the availability of support services. The organization’s collaborations with the communities are developed through detail-oriented results. Collaborations take into account the health, livelihoods, beliefs and social structure the people of each community have.

The Story of Dharani Kumar and Moorthy Meghavan

Another way to see how surfing helps relieve global poverty is through the story of Dharani Kumar. A 23-year old native Indian fisherman, Kumar started surfing in his teens in Kovalam Village using polystyrene foam as surfboards. After surfing for nine years under his mentor, Moorthy Meghavan, Kumar became a surfing champion in his homeland in 2015. The hobby he picked up as a teen did more than just provide an outlet for Kumar’s talent. Surfing also allowed Kumar to improve his networking opportunities around the world, as well as learn the English language.

In 2012, Kumar’s mentor, “Moorthy Meghavan founded the Covelong Point Social Surf School.” As a result of this school, Kumar and his group of friends pledged to stay away from drugs and alcohol. As a rule, if students started using or drinking, they were kicked out. Through this school, Meghavan was able to turn his dream of guiding poor, disadvantaged children away from addiction into a reality.

When Meghavan dropped out of school in sixth grade, he started fishing for a living to provide for his family. Though passionate about surfing, Meghavan was virtually unknown in the international surfing community. However, he still forged a plan to help children fight their way out of poverty through surfing.

Meghavan’s slogan, “No Smoke, No Drink, Only Surf”, has become instilled in the program. The program has paid dividends for locals looking for direction in their lives. Though substance abuse is somewhat prevalent in Kovalan Village, his guidance through his own experiences mixed with his passion for the sport has reflected on others. Though not a household name in surfing, Moorthy Meghavan has become a local legend by not only helping Dharani Kumar rise as a surfing star but also in guiding children to a better life.

The Impact of Surfing

What started out as an ancient art form by native Polynesians has now become an international phenomenon. Whether it’s providing assistance to those living in impoverished conditions or guiding children to a better lifestyle, there is no doubt that surfing helps relieve global poverty.

– Tom Cintula 
Photo: Flickr

poverty relief reduces disease
The universal rise in global living standards has helped combat diseases, spurred on by international poverty relief efforts. In fact, one study found that reducing poverty was just as effective as medicine in reducing tuberculosis. Poor health drains an individual’s ability to provide for themselves and others, trapping and perpetuating a cycle of poverty. Better public health increases workforce productivity, educational attainment and societal stability. Here are 5 ways poverty relief reduces disease.

5 Ways Poverty Relief Reduces Disease

  1. Better Sanitation: According to the WHO, approximately 827,000 people die each year due to “inadequate water, sanitation, and hygiene.” Poor sanitation is linked to the spread of crippling and lethal diseases such as cholera and polio, which hamper a nation’s development. By investing in the sanitation of developing nations, the rate of disease decreases and the food supply improves. Furthermore, an all around healthier society emerges that can contribute more to the global economy. In fact, a 2012 WHO study found that “for every U.S. $1.00 invested in sanitation, there was a return of U.S. $5.50 in lower health costs, more productivity, and fewer premature deaths.”
  2. Improved Health Care Industries: A hallmark of any developed nation is the quality of its health care industry. A key part of reducing poverty and improving health, is investing in health care initiatives in developing countries. When the health care industry is lacking (or even non-existent), the population experiences high levels of disease, poverty and death. Many American companies have already invested millions into the medical sectors of developing nations, however. In September 2015, General Electric Healthcare created the Sustainable Healthcare Solutions, a business unit that donates millions in money and medical equipment to developing nations.
  3. More Informative Education: Knowledge is power when it comes to fighting disease. Educational institutions provide a nation with one of the best tools to fight diseases of all kinds. According to a WHO report, “education emphasizing health prevention and informed self-help is among the most effective ways of empowering the poor to take charge of their own lives.” Schools must teach about proper sanitation, how to spot warning signs and form healthy behaviors. School health programs are also an invaluable resource in times of pandemics and disease outbreaks, as they coordinate with governments. This cooperation has helped tackle diseases, including HIV/AIDS in Sub-Saharan Africa. Eritrea, for example, has one of the lowest rates of infection in the region (less than 1%), partially due to an increase in HIV/AIDS education measures.
  4. Enhanced Nutrition: Malnutrition and food insecurity weaken the immune systems of the impoverished and significantly lower one’s quality of life. Millions of children each year die from famine or end up crippled due to dietary deficiencies. By investing in and supporting agricultural sectors of developing nations, aid programs help in not only decreasing poverty, but also in cutting down on illness of all kinds. Likewise, international aid during conflicts and natural disasters is crucial to ensuring the continued health and productivity of a country. One nation combating such an issue is Tanzania. With the help of aid organizations like UNICEF, Tanzania has decreased malnutrition for children under five.
  5. More Effective Government Services: Arguably encompassing all the previous categories, governments with more money and resources can effectively help stop diseases. A healthy general population leads to more productivity, which increases tax revenue. Central governments can then invest that money back into health care and sanitation, creating a positive feedback loop. Governments also provide a centralized authority that can cooperate with organizations like the WHO. In the 21st century, communication and cooperation between world governments is key to halting pandemics and working on cures.

Impact on COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic is a prime example of how improved government resources provide poverty relief, which helps combat the virus in the developing world. Kenya is a good example of how developing nations can help contain and combat the virus with effective government actions. The systems and governmental services built up over past decades sprang into action and coordinated with organizations like the WHO. The government has also implemented various economic measures to help mitigate the negative economic side-effects. Moving forward, it is essential that governments and humanitarian organizations continue to take into account the importance of poverty relief for disease reduction.

– Malcolm Schulz 
Photo: Flickr

Healthcare in Sierra LeoneSierra Leone is a small nation located on the coast of West Africa. While the country boasts an abundance of natural resources, it is also a poor nation, with a healthcare system in dire need of improvement. Here are 9 facts about healthcare in Sierra Leone.

9 Facts About Healthcare in Sierra Leone

  1. Sierra Leone has one of the lowest life expectancies on the globe. In 2018, the average life expectancy in Sierra Leone was 54.3 years. This places the nation among the bottom five in the entire world. In comparison, the average global life expectancy is 72.6 years.

  2. Sierra Leone faces high rates of infant and maternal mortality. Similar to life expectancy, infant and maternal fatality rates help gauge the quality of a nation’s health care system. In 2015, 87.1 infants died per 1,000 births in Sierra Leone, while 1,360 mothers died per 100,000 births. In the U.S., just 5.4 infants died per 1,000 births, and only 14 mothers died for every 100,000 births. Birth-related deaths generally occur when there are delays in women seeking, reaching and receiving care.

  3. All people living in Sierra Leone are at risk of malaria. Malaria is endemic to the nation, and poses a great health risk. In fact, four out of every ten hospital visits in Sierra Leone are due to malaria. Children are at particular risk, and the disease contributes to the nation’s high number of child fatalities. However, rates of the illness are falling across the country due to preventative practices such as sleeping under insecticide treated nets. Earlier diagnoses and treatments also contribute to the lowered rates of illness. By the end of 2020, the Ministry of Health and Sanitation in Sierra Leone hopes to have decreased cases by 40 percent.

  4. The Ebola outbreak of 2014 hit Sierra Leone particularly hard. Despite its relatively small population, there were more cases of Ebola in Sierra Leone than any other country. To be exact, there were a total of 14,124 cases in the country, including nearly 4,000 deaths. The first case was reported in May 2014, and Sierra Leone was not declared Ebola-free until February 2016. According to the World Health Organization, the virus was able to spread so widely due to the weaknesses of the healthcare in Sierra Leone. These weaknesses included too few healthcare workers, not enough oversight and a lack of resources.

  5. Disabled residents face tough conditions. Approximately 450,000 disabled people live in Sierra Leone, including those who were maimed in the decade-long civil war that ended in 2002. The government does not currently provide any assistance to the disabled. Those with disabilities resort to begging on the streets of Freetown, the nation’s capital. Disabled youth turned away from their families (due to the family’s inability to support the youth) often form their own communities on the streets. Employment can also be hard to achieve due to discrimination. Julius Cuffie, a member of Parliament who suffers from polio, brings awareness to the disabled’s struggles. Hoping to bring the disabled’s issues to the forefront, Cuffie pushes for the Persons with Disabilities Act.

  6. Corruption exists in Sierra Leone’s healthcare system. According to a 2015 survey, 84 percent of Sierra Leoneans have paid a bribe just to use government services. Additionally, about a third of the funds given to fight the Ebola crisis are not accounted for. This translates to roughly 11 million pounds, or almost 14 million dollars. Sierra Leone has a literacy rate of about 40 percent. As a result, many health care services overcharge unknowing residents for basic services. A new initiative, put together by the nation’s Anti-Corruption Commission, advises residents to report cases of bribery.

  7. In 2010, Sierra Leone began offering free health care. The Free Healthcare Initiative (FHCI) aims to decrease the nation’s high maternal, infant and child mortality rate. The government also hopes the initiative improves general health across the country. The ordinance provides a package of free services for pregnant women, lactating mothers and children under the age of five. The program has not been without its challenges, however, due to the aforementioned weaknesses of previous systems of health care in Sierra Leone. That said, the initiative has resulted in a number of positive changes. For example, there has been an increase in the number of healthcare staff, a larger willingness for parents to seek care for their children and a reduction in mortality for those under five.

  8. There has been an increase in efforts to strengthen emergency medical response in Sierra Leone. Road accidents kill thousands each year in the country. In response to this, the First Responder Coalition of Sierra Leone (FRCSL) was created in 2019 to improve the state of urgent medical care. Five national and international groups in Makeni, a city in northern Sierra Leone, founded the coalition. The group aims to provide emergency care, treat the high numbers of injuries and resolve the low amount of pre-hospital treatment in Sierra Leone. In its first two months, the FRSCL trained 1,000 Makeni residents, equipping each one with a first aid kit. The coalition hopes to train 3,500 more in the next six months. It also plans on expanding out of the northern province in the next five years. Hopefully, the FRCSL’s efforts will save thousands of lives from vehicle accidents in the coming years.

  9. CARE is working to improve sexual and reproductive health for women and girls in Sierra Leone. The humanitarian agency began working in the country in 1961. Goals of the organization include providing medical supplies and contraceptives, giving training to healthcare workers and working with the community to eliminate attitudes that prevent women from discovering their rights to sexual and reproductive health. CARE is currently present in approximately 30 percent of the country’s communities, particularly in areas that have high rates of HIV infection and teenage pregnancy. One Sierra Leonean mother, named Fanta, credits CARE with educating her about proper breastfeeding and health practices, leading to the survival and continued health of her daughter.

Healthcare in Sierra Leone is an issue that is complicated by the nation’s high rates of poverty, many endemic diseases and tumultuous political history. While shocking statistics, such as the country’s low life expectancy and high maternal and infant mortality rates paint a grim picture, there are signs of progress being made, and there is potential for much more change on the horizon.

– Joshua Roberts

Photo: Flickr

Facts about overpopulation and poverty Overpopulation is defined as “the presence of excessive numbers of a species, which are then unable to be sustained by the space and resources available.” While many definitions of poverty exist, the simplest is that it all but guarantees struggle, deprivation and lost opportunity.

Contemporary understandings of poverty are more holistic, rather than just quantitative measures of income. Considering factors such as health care and education helps broaden the view of poverty and its causes. Here are 7 facts about overpopulation and poverty.

7 Facts About Overpopulation and Poverty

  1. Population growth and poverty present the classic “chicken or egg” dilemma. According to Dr. Donella Meadows, “poverty causes population growth causes poverty.” Her eponymous 1986 essay explains why the classic “chicken or the egg” dilemma regarding overpopulation and poverty leads to different conclusions on how best to intervene. Dr. Meadows ultimately concludes that the question itself is less of an “either/or” and more of a “both/and” question.
  2. There is a cycle of poverty and overpopulation. One factor causes the other and vice-versa. For example, when child mortality is high (usually due to living in impoverished conditions), the overall birth rate is also high. Therefore, it is in everyone’s best interest to lower the child mortality rate by reducing poverty.
  3. There is a correlation between declining birth rates and rising living standards. Declining birth rates and rising living standards have occurred simultaneously in the developing world for decades. This relationship between fertility and economic development results in a virtuous circle, meaning “improvements in one reinforce and accelerate improvements in the other.” As a result, this pattern between fertility and economic development helps reduce poverty.
  4. By the end of this century, the population is expected to grow by 3 billion people. Over the next 80 years, the majority of the increasing population will live in Africa.
  5. Although Africa has experienced record economic growth, the much faster rate of fertility still leaves much of the population impoverished. While Africa’s economy continues to grow, the Brookings Institute notes that “Africa’s high fertility and resulting high population growth mean that even high growth translates into less income per person.” The most effective strategy to combat this is to reduce fertility rates.
  6. The number of megacities has more than tripled since 1990. Megacities are cities with more than 10 million people. Although there are currently 33 megacities in the world, that number is expected to increase to 41 by the year 2030. Of those 41 megacities, five will appear in developing countries. Megacities are susceptible to overpopulation and concerns about disease control. Furthermore, some megacities relieve poverty while others exacerbate it.
  7. A sense of taboo surrounds discussions about overpopulation. Is talking about overpopulation still taboo? Some experts believe so, citing the 17 goals and 169 targets of the UN Sustainable Development Agenda that have been silent on the issue. Luckily, philanthropists and voters are leading the way in normalizing frank discussions regarding facts about overpopulation and poverty.

Despite gradually increasing developments, global overpopulation and poverty continue to remain prevalent. Steps such as viewing poverty holistically and working to end the stigmatization and taboo surrounding discussions about overpopulation help further the much-needed improvements for overpopulation and poverty.

– Sarah Wright 
Photo: Flickr

Tackling Iron Deficiency in Developing CountriesIron deficiency — which often leads to iron deficiency anemia — is estimated to affect around 2 billion people around the world. Iron deficiency is most prevalent among children and women of childbearing age, especially those living in developing countries. In light of growing iron deficiency cases in many African countries, policymakers are focusing on iron interventions such as the creation of fortified flours and supplements for menstruating women and expectant mothers.

Challenges

There continues to be skepticism and disbelief about iron-deficiency in some low-income countries. In fact, many government officials and individuals do not recognize the correlation between fatigue or low-productivity and low iron intake. And, as such iron deficiency is regarded as a hidden disease. This further impacts the availability of accurate, reliable and comparable data on iron deficiency in some of the most at-risk parts of the world.

Causes of Iron Deficiency in Developing Countries

The factors that cause iron deficiency include disease, food insecurity and blood loss. In developing countries, iron deficiency is compounded by infectious diseases like malaria, HIV and hookworm. These diseases must be treated alongside iron deficiency in order to avoid long-lasting consequences. Moreover, malnutrition is one of the leading causes of iron deficiency in developing countries. The lack of proper food security and iron-fortified foods creates a widespread issue of iron deficiency.

Tackling Iron Deficiency in Developing Countries

The fortification of foods, such as flour with iron, provides a way to easily add iron to the diet of the average person. Organizations such as the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) help to implement food fortification programs in developing countries. These programs either provide the nutrients needed for food fortification or identify local resources that contain the necessary nutrients to fortify food, known as food-to-food fortification. An example of food-to-food fortification is fortifying ogi, a cereal-based dough made in Nigeria, with iron-rich baobab fruit powder.

Using natural iron substitutes to add to foods at home is another way to mitigate the issue. Lucky Iron Fish Enterprises created an iron shaped fish that reduces iron deficiency in low-income communities. When boiled in soup or water, the Lucky Iron Fish gives the individual around 40 percent of the daily amount of iron recommended per day. The company served about 54,000 people around the world in 2018 with its various programs. One notable service available is the “Buy-one-Give-one” project. Customers can buy a Lucky Iron Fish for themselves, and the company will match the purchase by giving a Lucky Iron Fish to an individual in a vulnerable partner community.

In an attempt to help combat iron deficiency in babies, researchers recommend delayed umbilical cord clamping by about 5 minutes to increase the number of red blood cells going into the baby. In a 2017 Nepal study, researchers analyzed the results of 540 babies who were randomly selected to have either delayed cord clamping or clamping within a minute of delivery. Infants with delayed clamping were 11 percent less likely to have anemia and 42 percent less likely to experience iron deficiency than babies whose cords were cut within a minute of delivery.

 

Overall, the best way to tackle iron deficiency is to create awareness about the issue. Additionally, helping people make healthy diet choices that provide the necessary amount of nutrients, such as fortified flour, will help with the issue.

Ashleigh Litcofsky
Photo: Flickr

Raising Awareness for AutismThe U.S. continues to successfully diagnose countless cases of autism in hopes of helping children with autism. However, developing countries have been far less successful in addressing autism. In many parts of the underdeveloped world, countless children remain undiagnosed and are kept hidden away from society. Many developing countries associate a negative stigma with autism. In some countries, such as Pakistan, autism is relatively unheard of. These factors all contribute to the lack of addressing the prevalence of autism in these countries.

The importance of raising awareness for autism in developing countries is clear. According to professionals, “awareness is the first step and is essential for early diagnosis. Diagnosing autism as early as possible, both in the U.S. and in other countries, can lead to early intervention and treatment that can greatly reduce symptoms for many children and help them make meaningful progress as well as promote independence and improve quality of life.” It is conditions in these countries and the importance of raising awareness for autism that prompted the creation of the Global Autism Project.

The Global Autism Project’s Mission

The Global Autism Project is committed to reducing the disparity of resources in developing countries. The project works to research and treat autism across the world. Its resources are geared towards early intervention. In the U.S., children are typically diagnosed with autism by the age of three, conversely, in developing countries, some children aren’t diagnosed until the age of eight. This project seeks to increase early intervention in developing countries by raising awareness for autism.

Another aspect of the Global Autism Project is to ensure that all children have access to trained professionals. This organization seeks to increase the number of licensed professionals by getting more people board-certified in Behavior Analysis. The world must raise the bar for these professionals. Many countries do not have special needs services, other international services provide subpar training with no further follow-ups. The Global Autism Project desires to create quality level professionals that are capable of aiding children and adults that suffer from autism. The project pairs with various centers and follows up with them for seven years to monitor growth, and to ensure that world-class professionals are being provided in these regions.

The Global Autism Project’s Recent Efforts

The Global Autism Project recently partnered up with The Zeebah Foundation to further its mission. The Zeebah Foundation seeks to address autism in Africa. The foundation paired up with the Global Autism Project to ensure that their staff on the ground would be properly trained to give quality service to children suffering from autism.

Members of the Global Autism Project have recently met up with workers from The Zeebah Foundation stationed in Nigeria. Jessica Miller, a member of the Global Autism Project, has provided her insights into the group’s efforts in Nigeria.

Miller was enthused to see how welcoming and eager the Zeebah staff were. The workers of Zeebah embraced all the insight the Global Autism Project had to share and was eager to implement its suggestions among autistic Nigerian children. After Miller and colleagues observed the Nigerian staff and children for a full day, Miller was able to collaborate with Zeebah to increase communication during group activities, and the collaboration has only continued to increase. After each school day, the Zeebah and Global Autism Project members gather to troubleshoot ideas. To encourage independent thinking amongst Zeebah staff representatives of the Global Autism Project, to push Zeebah members to use their analytical skills to figure out ways to address the problems they have raised.

Through its work with The Zeebah Foundation, the Global Autism Project has been able to carry out its mission by ensuring that Nigeria, and eventually other regions of Africa, will have access to well-trained professionals who know how to help children with autism. Miller is particularly enthusiastic about the Global Autism’s Project experience in Nigeria. Miller recalls a Zeebah staff member commenting, “it’s overwhelming, the goodness of today,” after the first day the two teams spent working together. Miller believes that all members present from both organizations shared a similar feeling. Through the work of the Global Autism Project, aiding other organizations like The Zeebah Foundation, raising awareness for autism in developing countries can be accomplished.

– Gabriella Gonzalez
Photo: Flickr

Effects of Poverty While PregnantWomen represent more than half of the world’s poor and make only a small percentage of the world’s income. This is influenced by various factors, including lack of access to education, abuse and gender inequality. Because women are already at a higher risk of facing the crippling effects of poverty, their situation becomes more precarious when they are pregnant or new mothers. It is estimated that 99 percent of all maternal deaths occur in developing countries.

Furthermore, in food insecure and unstable countries, adolescent pregnancy is the leading cause of death in young women, ages 15-19. Some of the leading causes of maternal death include severe bleeding, infection and delivery complications due to a lack of proper health care facilities.

Physical Effects of Poverty While Pregnant

In developing countries, where there is often little access to high-quality food and water, one of the most common effects of poverty while pregnant is malnutrition. Underweight and malnourished mothers are at an increased risk of mortality, miscarriage and preterm labor. Because they lack proper access to antenatal care, they are prone to infection and morbidity.

The WHO Millennium Goals Progress Report showed that 60 percent of women in Africa give birth without the presence of a skilled attendant. In addition, nearly 50 percent in Africa lack any antenatal care.

As it relates to malnutrition, more than half of all pregnant women in developing countries suffer from anemia. In South Asia, for instance, 75 percent of pregnant women have anemia versus 18 percent in developing countries. Aside from the low energy levels associated with anemia, anemic pregnant women face a heightened risk of death from bleeding during childbirth.

Malnourished mothers are also at risk of developing hypertension. Although hypertension is associated with higher risks of preterm birth and lower child birthweights, the most severe risks include preeclampsia and placental abruption. The former can cause kidney, liver and brain damage for the mother. Although this is a treatable condition if caught early, many women in developing countries have little access to health care that would offer a proper diagnosis or treatment.

With regard to placental abruption, the placenta separates from the wall of the uterus and can cause severe bleeding for the mother and prevent the baby from receiving enough oxygen. Like anemia, hypertension is a severe physical side effect directly correlated with higher rates of poverty that puts malnourished mothers and babies at great risk.

Emotional Effects of Poverty While Pregnant

In many developing countries, women do not have equal access to education or career opportunities, making them dependent upon their spouses or families. Such dependency can lead to feelings of helplessness that can affect the health of pregnant women. Evidence suggests that pregnant women who face extreme poverty are more likely to face inequality and develop mental illness.

Furthermore, humanitarian crises, such as conflict and post-conflict situations, can increase the risk of violence against women. It is estimated that 35 percent of women worldwide have experienced physical and emotional violence. In places such as West and Central Africa where child marriage still exists, women are more likely to face violence and domestic abuse.

In sub-Saharan Africa, Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) has a 61 percent prevalence in some areas. Abuse in any form, physical, psychological or sexual, can have dire consequences on women and their health during pregnancy. Victims of abuse often face physical harm and mental health issues, such as depression, post-traumatic stress and anxiety. Some victims turn to alcohol or drugs. In addition, women who suffer abuse often face unwanted pregnancies and unsafe abortions. The stress of abuse can affect many aspects of a person’s life but puts pregnant women at a much greater risk due to their already vulnerable physical state.

Efforts to Lessen the Effects of Poverty While Pregnant

Programs such as the U.N.’s Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescent’s Health, the U.N. Millennium Development Goals and WHO Global Action Plan have made strides in reducing the effects of poverty while pregnant. Between 1990 and 2013, the global maternal mortality rate has decreased by 50 percent.

Although maternal mortality rates remain high in developing countries, programs such as the U.N.’s Agenda for Sustainable Development and numerous nonprofit organizations are working to provide access to antenatal care and technology that would assist in identifying health problems for pregnant women. With increased food security, access to antenatal care and an increase in education and gender equality, the U.N. Agenda For Sustainable Development hopes to decrease the maternal mortality rates by at least two-thirds by 2030.

In keeping with this sustainable development agenda, the Reach Every Mother and Child Act (S.1766) is a bipartisan bill that would allow for mothers and children in these impoverished nations to receive the care they so desperately need while also providing a foundation for them thrive and contribute to the global economy. Because the U.S. already has the expertise in ending preventable maternal and child deaths, we must play a larger role in this global fight to help mothers and their children.

 

Send an email to your Senators today asking them to support the Reach Every Mother and Child Act.

 

In addition to increasing access, a greater focus is being placed on the quality of care for these vulnerable groups led by the WHO and UNICEF. The two organizations recently launched a Network for Improving Quality of Care for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health to “cut preventable maternal and newborn illness and deaths, and to improve every mother’s experience of care.” In 2017-2019, Bangladesh, Côte d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Ghana, India, Malawi, Nigeria, Tanzania and Uganda signed on as partners and more countries are expected to join this effort in the future.

– Christina Laucello and Kim Thelwell
Photo: Flickr