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Efforts to Combat AIDSAcquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) has plagued the world since 1981. The global AIDS pandemic has infected more than 65 million people around the world since its arrival, with more than 30 million deaths from AIDs-related causes. The impact of AIDS has resulted in a worldwide effort to discover methods to treat and cure the disease. To date, significant progress has been made in the fight against AIDS. However, more needs to be done and the United States has shown continued commitment to support efforts to combat AIDS globally.

AIDS and the Global Poor

While AIDS is a global problem, it has disproportionately affected poorer regions since its arrival. Africa in particular has a significant number of people living with AIDS. Out of the 1.7 million newly infected people around the world in 2019, 990,000 people resided in Africa alone. The disproportionate numbers in poorer regions as compared to wealthier nations could be attributed to lack of quality healthcare and preventative education. However, continued efforts are being made to address the global AIDS pandemic.

Congressional Efforts to Combat AIDS

The United States has been a leader in progress against the AIDS pandemic. It has made significant efforts to contribute its resources to fight the AIDS pandemic, and tangible results have emerged. For example, the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (or PEPFAR) has contributed over $85 billion since its inception in 2003 to AIDS research and prevention, thus preventing millions of infections.

The United States Government has indicated that it has no interest in slowing down support for the cause through efforts to combat AIDS. For example, the Global Health Programs section of Title III in House bill H.R.7608, the State, Foreign Operations, Agriculture, Rural Development, Interior, Environment, Military Construction, and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Act of 2021 specifically outlines Congress’ plans for AIDS-related contributions in the coming years.

Introduced by Rep. Nita M. Lowey [D-NY] on July 13, 2020, the bill appropriates more than $3.2 billion for USAID through 2022. A portion of these funds will be devoted to programs for the prevention, treatment and research of HIV/AIDS, providing assistance to communities severely affected by HIV/AIDS. The bill also appropriates more than $5.9 billion through 2025 for HIV/AIDS research, prevention and treatment efforts, including a $1.56 billion contribution to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS. This all coincides with the billions of dollars already spent in the last decade to combat AIDS globally.

AIDS Progress

As with most issues, funding and resources are necessary to make progress in the AIDS pandemic. The vast majority of new infections occur in countries and regions with weaker finances, poorer healthcare and less quality education, such as Africa and Southeast Asia. It is easy to see that these efforts by the United States and other wealthy nations are invaluable to progress. A particular stride made thus far is that the cost of AIDS treatment drugs has decreased from $10,000 a person to $100 a person in the past 20 years. This has allowed more than 8 million people in impoverished regions access to AIDS treatments. This particular result could be attributed to years of research that the United States and other nations have contributed billions of dollars to maintain. Continued funding will improve the good work that has already been done, such as furthering cost reduction measures on AIDS-related drug treatments as well as further quality education on prevention strategies in regions where AIDS education is sparse.

With continued support and efforts to combat AIDS from wealthier nations such as the United States, even greater strides can be made in combatting AIDS globally.

Domenic Scalora
Photo:  Flickr

Childhood BlindnessFounded by West Virginian Doctor VK Raju, the Eye Foundation of America responds to the ubiquity of childhood blindness. Though less common in industrialized nations, blindness affects many societies throughout the world. Globally, 2.2 billion people cope with cases of vision impairment or blindness, 12 million of which are preventable. According to the foundation, combating childhood blindness may be the most cost-effective health intervention.

Eye Foundation of America

Most instances of vision impairment result from eye conditions. When eye conditions obstruct the visual system and one or more of its functions, if not treated quickly and effectively, vision impairment leads to permanent blindness.

Dr. Raju, the creator of Eye Foundation of America (EFA), grew up in Rajahmundry, Andhra Pradesh, India. His medical career in ophthalmology brought him to his current residence of Morgantown, West Virginia. Following his journey from east to west, Dr. Raju strengthened his ties to India and other developing countries through EFA.

Childhood vision impairments have an impact on education as learning is done 80% through vision. Therefore, EFA revolves around a singular mission: eradicating childhood blindness. The principles of service, teaching and research, underscore operations of the foundation. EFA sets up medical clinics across the world focused on training staff on ophthalmological procedures, screening local populations for eye conditions and maintaining a functional vision for the youth.

In four decades, EFA made notable strides in combating childhood blindness and overall blindness. In 30 countries across the world, EFA trained and educated more than 700 doctors and medical staff, conducted three million vision screenings and saved the vision of more than 350,000 people through essential procedures.

Early Intervention Prevents Blindness

In an interview with The Borgen Project, Dr. Raju affirms the importance of proper sight for children, without which “the child becomes a problem to themselves, a problem to the family and a problem to society.”

Reducing childhood blindness requires early intervention. If health care personnel identify eye conditions in a child’s first two years of life, the visual cortex still has time to develop and function properly. Conversely, if doctors neglect vision problems during this critical period of growth, the brain cells may never learn to see.

Disparities Between Access and Affordability

Dr. Raju traces the pervasiveness of childhood blindness to accessibility and affordability rather than incidence. He offers his home state of West Virginia as an example. In 2018, the U.S. Census Bureau documented the West Virginia poverty rate at 17.8%, which is 6% above the national rate of 11.8%. Despite relative poverty, Dr. Raju asserts that West Virginia residents enjoy excellent health care and ophthalmological treatment, regardless of whether they have insurance.

Two-thirds of the 1.4 million cases of childhood blindness occur in developing countries where Dr. Raju sets up the majority of EFA’s clinics. Accordingly, The World Health Organization (WHO) reports, “The burden of visual impairments and eye conditions tends to be greater in low and middle-income countries and underserved populations, such as women, migrants, indigenous peoples, persons with certain kinds of disability and rural communities.”

Vision Impacts Global Poverty

Mahatma Gandhi once famously declared, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” For Dr. Raju, the change is to see. Though often taken for granted, vision enables children to read, write and learn through seeing. Vision impacts education and education impacts poverty. Dr. Raju’s foundation addresses overall global poverty by addressing childhood blindness.

Maya Gonzales
Photo: Flickr

Fair trade productsIn a global marketplace full of exploitative producers and hungry consumers, fair trade product markets can seem like a welcomed compromise that allows exporters in developing countries to prosper from their resources. These initiatives usually involve goods exported from developing countries to higher-income trading partners, including coffee, tea, cocoa and handicrafts. In more socially conscious trading models, producers are compensated equitably for their products and held to higher environmental and social standards. However, the true efficacy of fair trade models is complex.

Price and Accessibility

Consumer attitudes and behaviors play a significant role in the pervasiveness of fair trade products. Buyers often report positive attitudes toward more ethically traded items but are not always willing to pay the inevitably higher prices. As a result, fair trade products are still a more niche commodity, making up less than 1% of the market. Ironically, the extra expense of these items often makes them less accessible to lower-income consumers in developed countries, creating connotations of elitism. Despite these setbacks, the demand for more ethical products is steadily on the rise.

Fair Trade Product Marketing

Despite many well-intentioned consumer attitudes, fair trade product markets frequently feature marketing strategies that conjure up imperialistic images. Rather than honoring the work of exporters as equitable trading partners, many marketing campaigns portray farmers as grateful and dependent on western purchases.

Transparency in Fair Trade Certification

In products marked as fair trade, the certification might only apply to the product’s raw materials, rather than the full process of production. This means that a shirt made with fair trade cotton could have been manufactured in a sweatshop. Naturally, this lack of transparency can mislead consumers and dilute the meaning of the certification.

Economic Impact of Fair Trade

The efficacy of fair trade as a poverty management tool is up for debate as well. Although fair trade marketing is centered on empowering those in producing regions and reducing poverty, the effects are not as straightforward as many well-intentioned consumers might hope. A 2014 study theorizes that these practices are somewhat effective, “although on a comparatively modest scale relative to the size of national economies.”

Often, the poorest workers are spared the prosperity from fair trade product market practices. A study that observed coffee mills in Costa Rica between 1999 and 2014, explored the impacts of fair trade systems on household incomes within the region. Researchers found that farm owners and skilled growers reap most of the benefits. Unskilled laborers receive no benefits other than the economic spillover of an increasingly prosperous coffee-growing region.

Many requirements of the fair trade certification are inaccessible for growers with fewer resources. Smaller producers might struggle to pay the fees associated with becoming certified fair trade producers. Similarly, producers struggle to attract large corporate trading partners who have no interest in paying the extra cost of sourcing materials equitably. NGOs like Maya Traditions, which helps Guatemalan artisans sell their products on the international marketplace, aim to make entrepreneurship accessible to small producers in developing countries.

The Verdict

The efficacy of fair trade systems is the subject of a great deal of criticism. While fair trade products like coffee, tea, and cotton are worth investing in, the benefits are imperfect and not accessible to all producers or consumers. Some activists advocate for a ‘direct trade’ system, in which consumers can buy goods directly from growers while paying growers sums closer to retail prices. However, the direct trade model comes with its own set of challenges and infrastructural changes. Nonetheless, establishing a system that allows producers to reach more advanced development from trading their crops is challenging but is certainly worth investing in.

Stefanie Grodman
Photo: Flickr

Fighting poverty in EswatiniEswatini, formerly Swaziland, is a landlocked African country positioned between South Africa and Mozambique. As of 2017, it was estimated that almost 60% of Eswatini’s estimated 1.2 million residents lived below the poverty line. Eswatini depends heavily on the economy of South Africa. It derives the bulk of both its imports and exports from this neighboring, middle-income country. Though the lilangeni, Eswatini’s currency, is considered on par with the South African rand, Eswatini’s economic dependency on the South African economy places it in a weaker trade position. Unemployment, heavy dependence on agriculture despite unpredictable weather, HIV/AIDS and high rates of inequality contribute to Eswatini’s struggle to develop economic independence. An increased focus on fighting poverty in Eswatini is imperative.

Eswatini’s Wealth Gap Problem

Efforts to develop Eswatini’s economy have resulted in a widening gap between the wealthy and the poor; as the portion of wealthy people in Eswatini increases, there is a subsequent increase in the poor population. Moreover, policies for economic development often bypass the poor, contributing to worsening inequality. The policies tend to increase business in urban areas, which does not help much in fighting poverty in Eswatini because far more people in rural areas suffer from poverty than their urban counterparts.

The economic insecurity of impoverished people in Eswatini is in large part due to unpredictable weather patterns as the rural economy is highly reliant on agricultural yield. Additionally, a system of land allocation which provides each man with a small plot of land, through a practice called khonta, can contribute to land degradation. Though khonta seems beneficial, often the land becomes overworked and rendered useless in farmers’ desperation to make ends meet. Also, owning a plot of land might discourage farmers from journeying into cities to seek education or other ventures.

A Consequence of Eswatini’s Colonization

Eswatini’s history as a colonized country contributes to its present-day living conditions. The colonization of Eswatini by the British in the 1930s resulted in a disparity between the colonizers and the colonized. The colonizers perceived those who assimilated as modern and enterprising. Therefore, those people tended to flock to cities. The rest, the colonizers considered backward and remained in neglected rural areas. Therefore, the post-colonial line of thought was that the solution to fighting poverty in Eswatini was to develop or modernize the lives of those living in rural areas.

Fighting Poverty with Education

However, Ackson M. Kanduza, a modern scholar, has argued for more holistic approaches to fighting poverty in Eswatini. In his opinion, Eswatini should focus on enriching the lives of children under 15, who make up just under 50% of the Sub-African population.

Children are one of the groups most vulnerable to disease and are frequently subjected to child labor. Kanduza advocates for enriching children’s education, skills and quality of life, which could decrease poverty because children are points of integration in society. The statistics support this theory. In illiterate households, the poverty rate was 71%, whereas that rate dropped to 30% in houses with primary school education.

Fighting poverty in Eswatini will require the reallocation of resources to close the gap between the wealthy and the poor. This means increasing access to education, healthcare, clean drinking water and job prospects for people living in rural areas. It will also involve integration between cities and the surrounding rural areas. One method that could help is direct investment from foreign aid so that Eswatini can develop the strength of its own economy. Finally, focusing on enriching the lives of the Eswatini youth through education could provide new opportunities for generations to come.

Elise Ghitman
Photo: Wikimedi

Water Access in PakistanJust a few months after assuming office in 2018, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan issued a dire declaration to his nation, pronouncing the water crisis to be the most pressing problem facing Pakistan today. Soon after, one team of Pakistani-American college students decided to launch the Paani Project to address the issue. Since then, the group has made astounding strides toward improving water access in Pakistan.

The Water Crisis in Pakistan

The Paani Project is addressing one of the most acute water crises in the world today. With a population of 212 million, poor water management, climate change and intensive agriculture, access to clean water can be scarce. An estimated 40% of deaths in the country are linked to unclean water.

Pakistan also has a shocking disparity in water access between its urban and rural areas. With up to 70% of rural regions having no access to clean water, millions in Pakistan’s more remote areas face a severe risk to their health and livelihoods.

Origins of the Paani Project

In order to combat this critical issue, four University of Michigan students decided to launch the Paani Project. The mission began on a local scale. For three months, on their way to class and around campus, the students would sell doughnuts, slowly collecting enough funds to build their first well in a rural region of Pakistan’s southeastern province of Sindh.

Since funding their first well, the team has put hours of effort, collaboration and organization into the project, creating a fully functioning nonprofit that has seen widespread success.

The Paani Project Impact

With over 850 wells built across rural areas as of 2020 and more than $300,000 donated, the Paani group has made an undeniable impact in improving water access in Pakistan. Their work has spread from Sindh to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan, serving rural needs across the country.

In addition to building wells, the project has also diversified its mission by leading a number of different humanitarian efforts around the country. In Azad Kashmir, Paani led a winter coat drive and in Karachi, the group operated a dental clinic to provide care for those that would not have access otherwise.

The organization has also provided relief from the COVID-19 pandemic by providing food to thousands of workers in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Sindh who rely on daily wages to support their families.

Other Initiatives

Paani also believes that education is an important step in combatting poverty and increasing water access in Pakistan. With every well that has been built, Paani has held “hygiene education seminars” to teach community members about proper sanitation practices and how to maintain the well. The group has also helped develop education curriculums in Sindh, through which they hope to increase knowledge about the water crisis and proper hygiene practices.

Although Pakistan’s water crisis is one that continues to make headlines and threatens the lifestyles of millions of people across the country, work by organizations such as Paani has helped to turn the tide. With tens of thousands of people directly reaping the benefits of Paani’s wells, the group’s contributions are sure to be much more than just a drop in the bucket in the fight for universal water access in Pakistan.

Shayaan Subzwari
Photo: Flickr

Playing sports can foster development for developing countries
The implementation of sports programs provides children with the opportunity to learn teamwork, participation and leadership qualities. Physical activity also stimulates health improvements and offers children equal opportunities to engage in activities. Large, sports associations also spread awareness of global poverty and extend campaigns to a much greater audience. Therefore, sports can foster development in developing nations.

World Health Organization (WHO)

In 2018, the World Health Organization published a global action plan to increase the amount of physical activity worldwide. WHO plans to create a healthier world by 2030. Their strategy is to deliver various selections of physical activity including sports, recreational activities and walking. WHO specifically wants to create opportunities for women, middle-aged adults and individuals with debilities. Currently, 75% of children and 25% of adults do not satisfy the global standard for physical activity. Exercise is essential for healthcare and the development of a nation. Physical activity has also been confirmed to prevent heart disease, diabetes, cancer and mental health illnesses. Physical activity is important for child development, teaching children numerous lessons and qualities. Therefore, WHO targets to increase the amount of regular physical activity to reduce the amount of premature mortality. The WHO’s physical activity plan will also further aide in the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.

UNICEF

UNICEF has also designed sports programs to protect children from violence, disrupt inequality norms and eliminate limits on participation based on physical capabilities. The nonprofit organization strives for “inclusive sport.” UNICEF believes that sports will bring communities together in a positive setting. Sports also provide children with disabilities the opportunity to recognize their potential.  From 2010 to 2013, the Montenegro government and UNICEF ran an “It’s about ability” campaign. The campaign’s primary goal was to create a more accepting society. At the end of the campaign, Montenegro’s citizens recorded more than a 40% increase in citizen approval of their children being in the same class as a child with disabilities. This newfound acceptance will further benefit Montenegro’s government and economy. Therefore, sports can foster development in developing nations.

NFL Athlete Josh Doctson

Over the past couple of months, the coronavirus has dictated several shutdowns across the globe. The rise in the uncertainty of the virus has influenced several U.S. athletes to skip on this year’s upcoming season. One NFL star, Josh Doctson, has decided to sit-out this season and advocate for the world’s poor. Mr. Doctson plans on visiting several African countries, including Rwanda, in hope that he will raise awareness for the underprivileged. The NFL player’s decision to conduct a humanitarian campaign has attracted a lot of attention thus far and therefore already raised attentiveness for the cause.

Sports Events

Local sports events have the potential to generate employment and incentivize the production of goods and services related to the event. Sportanddev.org reports that marathon events hosted by local communities in Peru create a host of economic opportunities. One race, in particular, generated a manufacturing demand and a surge in tourism activities.

Sports programs have been proven to create safe environments, disrupt societal norms and teach children valuable lessons. If implemented appropriately, sports can foster development in developing nations. Nonprofit organizations, international sports teams and professional players also spread global awareness for poverty and inequality. As sports products become widely available globally, sports programs will begin to be implemented at an increasing rate and further contribute to the health, development and success of a nation’s upcoming generation and their economy.

John Brinkman
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in GuyanaWith a population of less than 1 million, Guyana is a country located in the northern region of South America. Guyana’s richness in natural resources including gold, timber and sugar, render its economy highly dependent on its exports, a sector that accounts for more than 60% of its GDP. Guyana’s last official poverty measurement was done in 2006. According to the results, 36.1% of the population in the country were living in poverty, including 18.6% that were living in extreme poverty. According to the Guyana Poverty Reduction Strategy of 2011 to 2016, the country has made some progress in poverty levels since 1992. Despite progress, Guyana is one of the poorest countries in South America, which indicates that the country continues to struggle with poverty.

Five Facts about Poverty in Guyana

  1. The poverty rate is high. According to the Inter-Development Bank (IDB), the poverty rate in Guyana. measured as the percentage of people living on less than $5.50, reached 41.2% in 2017. The IDB has
    also shown that poverty disproportionately affects the country’s rural non-coastal areas where it amounts to more than 50%. The latter statistic denotes significant disparities in poverty concentration along ethnic lines since approximately two-thirds of the Guyanese population living in the rural interior communities are indigenous.
  2. Children and young adults are greatly affected. In terms of age group, Guyanese children are the poorest. Children aged 16 or younger in Guyana are faced with a high poverty rate of 47.5%, while for young adults between the ages of 16 and 25, that figure exceeds 33%. This data is potentially indicative of the country’s troubled economic standing.
  3. The emigration of trained or skilled people is problematic. The brain-drain of skilled workers in Guyana hinders necessary contributions to developments in various economic sectors such as healthcare. Guyana’s unemployment rate stands at 12%, while the percentage of unemployed youth exceeds 20%, according to a 2017 study. This factor makes it difficult to keep trained professionals in the country.
  4. Environmental instability affects economic growth. An additional challenge against economic growth in Guyana is related to fluctuations in climate and weather conditions. In addition to gold, sugar and timber, the export of bauxite, shrimp and rice is also a major source of income to this Latin-American nation. Natural disasters such as floods, to which it is highly susceptible, have been responsible for nearly 94% of the negative impact on Guyana’s economy, according to a 2016 UNICEF study.
  5. Malnutrition seriously affects the indigenous population. Statistics indicate that 25% of indigenous children are stunted, a figure much higher than the national average. It is also estimated that 16% of newborn indigenous children in Guyana are underweight (below 2500g at birth).

Although data shows that the moderate poverty rate (people living on $2 per day) had slightly declined, poverty in Guyana continues to cripple the country in vital areas, leaving much to be done to improve the situation. In spite of the country’s natural resources, Guyana does not meet its economic potential. To alleviate the long-term implications of poverty, it is imperative that poverty in Guyana continues to be a focal point of international aid and developmental endeavours.

Oumaima Jaayfer
Photo: Flickr

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