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zero extreme poverty
The Philippines ranks on the top twelve list of the most populous countries in the world. Yet, in 2015, the number of Filipinos living under the poverty line made up over 21 percent of an already large 100 million people. While this rate indicates improvement, in 2006 the rate was 5 percent higher, NGO leaders such as Armin Luistro and Reynaldo Laguda knew that more could be done.

Specifically, operational changes for NGOs Philippine Business for Social Progress (BSFP), Habitat for Humanity Philippines and Peace and Equity Foundation had to be made. These NGOs rolled out plans dedicated to special and long-term interventions that targeted extremely impoverished Filipino families. The focus of these plans centered on rural fishing and agriculture communities, as well as marginalized indigenous peoples.

The Zero Extreme Poverty Goal

In 2015, 17 NGOs unified to form The Philippines’ Zero Extreme Poverty Goal (ZEP PH 2030). Together, they strive to lift at least one million Filipino families from extreme poverty by the year 2030. This is the year that the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals are due which adds momentum to the cause.

Beginning as a coalition of a handful of NGOs, ZEP now houses corporations who wish to join the Filipino fight against poverty. Indeed, ZEP prides itself in maintaining a diverse team made up of groups with unique strengths. Different members and partners of the coalition are organized into eight different clusters. They are as follows:

Various Programs

  1. Education seeks to ensure that youth have access to education and employment opportunities. ZEP aims to ensure that two million youth are employed by 2030.
  2. Health supports the health of Filipinos in impoverished communities. The program conducts awareness campaigns on maternal, child health and nutrition in target areas to promote health policy advocacy.
  3. Livelihood is led by the Peace and Equity Foundation within ZEP, and with fellow committee members, ensures the coalition’s ability to provide assistance to the extremely poor.
  4. Environment works to maintain and improve upon ecosystem services within The Philippines in order to sustain healthy communities. They aim to guarantee a number of benefits to the country, like a 10 percent increase in agricultural areas by 2028.
  5. Agriculture and Fisheries seeks to bring complete self-sufficiency to small fisheries and farms by 2030, through initiatives such as market empowerment and accessible support services.
  6. Housing and Shelter provides safe and sufficient homes with basic facilities to extremely impoverished families. Involved organizations within the cluster, including Habitat for Humanity, also work with local governments to implement social housing programs and projects.
  7. Partnerships for Indigenous Peoples helps build self-sustaining indigenous peoples communities, whether it be through advocacy means or by establishing community-based plans. Implemented programs include promoting women and children’s rights.
  8. Social Justice serves as the overarching cluster and theme of ZPH, in which the coalition’s diverse private and public groups align in the Filipino fight against poverty. By engagements with local governments and through policy programs, ZPH aims to end conditions within the Philippines that prevent the poor from finding self-sufficiency.

A Personal Approach

A primary strategy used by ZEP in order to maximize their efficiency is community consultation. Participating NGO programs employ a personal approach. They ask local Filipinos for their experiences and stories to truly understand the needs of poor communities. Organizations within the community can then easily refer to other member organizations of ZEP, whether they be businesses or NGOs, who specialize in the community’s needs.

In one case study, ZEP assisted an indigenous father of two in the foundation of a basket business. His business has since expanded, employing dozens of workers. ZEP reports that 63 families have benefitted in the process. In another case, ZEP assisted a single mother of seven children in improving her family’s living conditions. Moreover, the education cluster is supporting the families oldest child to pursue her academic career. Stories like these illustrate the promise of the ZEP goals.

Hope for the Future

By December of 2018, the coalition had implemented poverty-reduction programs in 109 cities. 10,000 families were provided with aid and assistance. However, ZEP’s Filipino fight against poverty is far from over. They continue to relentlessly assist communities in need as well as work to further expand themselves as a coalition. Nevertheless, the Zero Extreme Poverty goal coalition always stays true to its core values of social justice, service and diversity.

Breana Stanski
Photo: Flickr

the urban-rural poverty gap in moroccoThough Morocco’s economic and political status has improved as a result of King Muhammad VI’s reign, the North African nation remains impoverished. Specifically, the urban-rural poverty gap in Morocco is one of the nation’s most complex issues. Morocco’s larger cities, namely Casablanca and Rabat, are evolving into flourishing economic centers, attracting companies and tourists from around the world. Simultaneously, Morocco’s rural and agrarian communities–the Amazigh people–have found themselves stuck living with little access to modern commodities.

A First-Hand Account

Sophie Boyd, an undergraduate student majoring in Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies at Colgate University, studied abroad in Rabat last summer. Boyd provided the Borgen Project some insight into the poverty situation in the North African nation. “There was a huge disparity between the living conditions of Moroccans in cities compared to the rural Amazigh villages we visited,” Boyd said. “You could be wandering around the enormous shopping mall in Casablanca and still only be an hour drive away from people who live with almost no electricity. This extreme gap was unfortunate to see and these neglected and impoverished people desperately need more accessible resources and aid.”

The Amazigh People

Unfortunately, Boyd’s observations were fairly accurate and realistic, as Morocco’s Amazigh population has faced hardship and poverty for decades. Though there are about 19 million Amazigh people living in Morocco, which makes up approximately 52 percent of the nation’s population. Their language, known as Tamazight, was not even recognized as an official language of Morocco until 2011. Not only do the Amazigh people who occupy these rural communities not have adequate means to subsist on, but they had also lost their representative voice in the Moroccan government until recently.

Urban Gains

A 2017 study conducted by the World Bank and the Morocco High Commission for Planning found that poverty was actually decreasing at a much faster rate in urban areas than in rural communities. This makes sense considering there is more room for economic growth and consumption in urban centers. Still, this phenomenon contributes to the urban-rural poverty gap in Morocco and creates an even more drastic inequality between rural and urban communities.

Poverty Rising

Another aspect of the urban-rural poverty gap in Morocco that has continued to develop over time is the concept of subjective poverty. The subjective poverty rate refers to the percentage of people, in this case, Moroccans, who consider themselves to be poor or impoverished. The aforementioned World Bank study found that from 2007 to 2014, the subjective poverty rate in rural areas increased from 15 percent to 54 percent. This drastic increase can be partially attributed to the recent economic growth in urban areas. However, it may also have to do with the daily living conditions of the rural Amazigh communities. For example, CIA World Factbook states that only 68.5 percent of Moroccans are literate. This can make life for rural people trying to emerge from poverty increasingly difficult, compounding with other factors such as the infertile, arid land.

A Hopeful Future, Still

The Moroccan government has made it a point to address the urban-rural poverty gap in Morocco. The nation has already demonstrated its interest in resolving this gap through initiatives such as the National Initiative for Human Development Support Project, a plan launched in 2005 to try and close the poverty gap. Morocco will have to continue to work toward better living conditions in its rural communities. If the nation can fix issues like illiteracy and decrease the subjective poverty rate, then it will be well on its way toward closing the urban-rural poverty gap in Morocco.

Ethan Marchetti
Photo: Flickr

Resiliency in Sint Maartin
Located in the Leeward Islands in the Caribbean, Sint Maarten and St. Martin comprise one small island of fewer than 80,000 people. The northern part of the island, St. Martin, is a French territory, while Sint Maarten, the southern portion, is a former Dutch colony that gained independence within the Dutch Kingdom in 2010. The local island economy centers around tourism, as the island draws more than one million tourists every year to its scenic beaches and resorts.

In September 2017, Hurricane Irma, a Category 5 hurricane with winds up to 182 miles per hour, devastated the once serene and lively island. Responsible for 14 fatalities, Irma destroyed infrastructure and left residents without electricity, running water and telecommunications. Nearly two years after Irma hit the shores of the dual-country island, here are five facts about the resiliency in Sint Maarten.

Five Facts About Resiliency in Sint Maarten

  1. Irma took a massive hit on the island’s economic powerhouse: tourism. Since more than 99 percent of employees work in the service or industry sectors, many locals faced unemployment due to the destroyed restaurants and shops, the drastic drop in tourism and devastated resorts.
  2. Hurricane Irma caused as much as $3 billion in damages. Collapsed infrastructure, roofless buildings and homes and a deserted airport are all signs of how much physical damage Irma caused. However, some see reconstruction as an opportunity for new and improved resorts and tourist attractions, which will hopefully boost the tourism economy again, attracting millions of cruisers and destination vacationers who can revitalize the tourism-dependent economy.
  3. Improvements to Sint Maarten surpass improvements to St. Martin. This Caribbean island is unique in that both the Dutch and French governments preside over their half of the island. The relief responses of the European nations differ greatly and the results are visible, as the Dutch side rebuilt quicker than the French. The Dutch government also offered $650 million for relief and recovery efforts, which the island eventually accepted. However, residents report lacking basic necessities, even after the interim government accepted the sum.
  4. Prime Minister Leona Romero-Marlin has a seven-year recovery plan. This plan estimates $2.3 billion to recovery for the island. After two years, that included emergency, immediate and short-term needs, and the next five years include plans for recovery, resilience and development. Examples of disaster mitigation include improving emergency response coordination, involving the community in climate-change adaptation curriculum, awareness campaigns and emergency drills at all levels of society.
  5. The island still has access to the sea, a connection to nature and a feeling of home and community. Although residents withstood a terrifying storm and face the fear of uncertainty for the future, Sint Maarten/St. Martin is still home to thousands of residents who know and appreciate the natural beauty and deep-rooted connection to the island. Hurricane Irma brought together the local community, uniting residents to aid each other in rebuilding the place they know as home. The eye of the storm has long passed, but locals have a long way before returning to a sense of normalcy they had before the 2017 hurricane.

Almost two years since the winds and rains of Hurricane Irma transformed the once welcoming island into a deserted entity flooded with water and rubble, the remaining residents remain to show the resiliency in Sint Maarten to rebuild their homes and return the island to its former beauty.

– Keeley Griegor
Photo: Lionel Chamoiseau

World Heritage Sites
Chew Jetty is a small town in Malaysia’s George Town that achieved Unesco World Heritage status in 2008. On Penang Island, the town contains wooden piers that used to belong to a bustling seafront hub and represents the vitality and dynamic nature of one of the last intact bastions of Malaysia’s old Chinese settlements. After World War II and Japanese occupation, the piers decayed immensely until the settlement’s economy was hardly able to sustain itself. In a final attempt to preserve the economy and the once-vivacious settlement, the town made a bid to Unesco for protection.

Chew Jetty Tourism

When Chew Jetty was awarded World Heritage status, the change was not at all what the residents had expected. Two of the clan enclaves had been demolished to create new housing complexes. Additionally, flocks of tourists infiltrated historical homes, vendors installed flashy commercial stalls and encroaching developers urged locals to alter important structures to make room for new developments. Suddenly, Chew Jetty’s status as a Unesco World Heritage site attracted thousands of tourists by the boatload, effectively uprooting the culture and traditions once held sacred to the old Chinese settlement.

And yet, receiving its status as a World Heritage site seemed to be the only measure of action that prompted Chew Jetty out of its declining economic state. Therein lies the dichotomy in in Unesco’s attempt to benefit economies and its detrimental effect on the local population.

Anti-Tourism Conundrum

This anti-tourism sentiment can be seen worldwide. In 2017, local communities in Venice and Barcelona gathered together in an outburst of anti-tourism marches, complaining about rising rents, overcrowding, and the increase in pollution due to cruise ships. Local residents and activists are demanding authorities to alter the management of tourism, as it has significantly altered their normal daily lives and actually increased the cost of living for them.

At first glance, the influx of tourists is interpreted as an increase in the tourist economy and consequently an increase in the state economy. However, upon a further breakdown of this effect on the locals of any given city, the influx of tourists increase costs and overcrowding, making living conditions more difficult and less affordable for local residents. This could, in turn, actually increase poverty rates among the citizens who once inhabited these locations.

World Heritage Sites

There are 1,052 World Heritage sites across the world, and most of these locations struggle with the same conflict of striking a balance between tourism and the preservation of culture. Several organizations, including Unesco itself, have been working towards a solution to this problem. The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) has stated that the goal should not be to limit the number of tourists visiting these cities, but rather to better manage the flow of tourism by perhaps redirecting them away from main city centers and city attractions and formulating a more sustainable form of tourism.

Additionally, the Unesco World Heritage Tourism Program has identified the adverse effects of tourism on World Heritage sites and is making active efforts to thwart the increasingly adverse effects of tourism on the local population. For instance, the Program is implementing appropriate tourism management workshops for its annual conventions and adopting a new set of standards and principles relating to sustainable tourism at World Heritage sites.

While there are negative socio-cultural and economic effects on World Heritage sites, there are several movements that are working together to bring a more sustainable form of tourism and enhancement of a city’s economy without sacrificing the well-being of the locals.

– Shefali Kumar
Photo: Flickr

Infrastructure in GhanaTechnological advancement, especially regarding mobile phone development and access, has revolutionized the way Ghanaian people are learning, both in and out of African school systems. As mobile phone access becomes more readily available throughout Ghana, app developers are revolutionizing distance education and mobile e-learning programs. According to a report published by the GSM Association, the countries of Sub-Saharan Arica experienced a 58 percent increase in the number of mobile health services available to the public that make access to health information and training programs far more accessible

With e-learning programs on the rise, Ghanaian adults now have access to college-level courses, skill development training sessions, and even medical school examination prep courses. Increased dissemination of m-learning – mobile phone learning – programs and software may serve to promote literacy and education in areas of Africa where academic infrastructure is lacking. Additionally, African colleges can utilize these learning programs to augment pre-existing programs so as to better prepare Ghanaian college graduates for employment or further education.

Stakeholders and app developers have made great strides in establishing a public health approach that utilizes online education to counter the public’s access to certain aspects of healthcare.

One particular e-learning platform, skoool HE, seeks to promote greater access to midwifery education in an effort to reduce the maternal mortality ratio, which lies at approximately 350 deaths per 100,000 women. The application, funded and developed by Ghana’s Ministry of Health, delivers an interactive learning platform wherein students are taught emergency preparedness and neonatal delivery procedures on a case-by-case basis. As a large proportion of practicing midwives approach the mandatory retiring age of 60, the Ghanaian government is utilizing educational technology to establish a new workforce to fill the impending gap.

Stakeholders involved in the sustainability of skoool HE are facilitating the development of additional learning modules and are coordinating with local communities that use the technology in an effort to augment the educational infrastructure in Ghana.

Another application supplementing healthcare education in Africa, MedAfrica, essentially mirrors the fundamental components of Web MD. This application is available to the general public free of cost and provides information regarding diagnoses, symptoms, and treatment options for multiple diseases and infections.

As Ghanaian e-learning programs continue to increase public access to college courses, healthcare information, and skill development training to adults and children, scientists are now interested in improving educational infrastructure in Ghana that promote faculty curriculum training and development.

Matthew Boyer

Photo: Flickr

The Latin country of Argentina, tucked between Brazil and Chile, has had a long history of improving its infrastructure. In fact, the infrastructure in Argentina is ranked as one of the best among other Latin countries, but still requires many improvements.

In total, the country boasts over 130,000 miles of roads and highways. However, only a little over 39,000 miles of the roads are paved. Additionally, the country has an extensive rail system with almost 24,000 miles of tracks, and 6,800 miles of navigable waterways. Argentina also has 1,300 airports, but only 142 have paved runways.

Despite having a solid infrastructure, the country still has a long road ahead of it. In order to address the problems of unpaved or damaged roads, ports and runways, the government has launched new projects. The government has offered several proposals for 2017 that will address improvements for 94 highways and roads, 62 airports, 27 railways, eight urban transports and five ports.

Many projects have already gone underway thanks to a number of aid packages to improve infrastructure in Argentina. The United States and the World Bank have even pitched in with their respective $7 million and $450 million donations for highway construction.

Beyond improving the quality of life for citizens by completing these projects, the improvements of the infrastructure in Argentina will also be boosting its economy. The main objective of the plans is to kick-start the economy and create more jobs. The long term plan is to boost the country’s competitiveness and lay foundation for an export-led economic strategy.

The first step to bridge the infrastructure gaps in Argentina is to double the investment in the infrastructure sector compared to the levels of recent years, from three percent to six percent of GDP, increasing approximately $13.5 billion a year to $27 billion. The country has already resecured access to international capital markets with a $15 billion bond issue to address these issues.

As the government makes plans to improve infrastructure in Argentina, the rest of the country will see improvements too. Upgrades on roads, waterways, ports and runways will help increase the economy, create new jobs and improve the overall quality of life.

– Amira Wynn

Photo: Flickr

VenezuelaThe South American country of Venezuela was once one of the most successful oil industries in the world, with a thriving economy. After oil prices dropped drastically in the 1980s, Venezuela has been searching for ways to recover their largest money-maker and restore their crippling economy.

China and Venezuela have been working together for over 15 years as part of the Mixed China-Venezuela High Commission. They are energy-supply partners that have signed 480 agreements together since 2001. As Venezuela has continued struggling economically, China has contributed efforts to help save the country’s economy. There are five development projects in Venezuela underway to do just that:

  1. China and Venezuela have signed a total of 22 new deals worth 2.7 billion U.S. dollars in order to stimulate economic development in Venezuela and strengthen their partnership. This development will include infrastructure, import and cargo transport projects. Six of the 22 agreements are focused on energy output and the oil industry.
  2. China has agreed to assist in the supply and export of Venezuela’s oil production. China will build a refinery in southeast China’s Guangdong Province, Nanhai which will process around 400,000 barrels of extra-heavy crude oil from Venezuela’s land. The mission for this project is to increase the amount of oil output and exports.
  3. Venezuela spent 9,576 million on imports in 2015. China and Venezuela have begun to build an industrial plant in Anaco, Venezuela whose purpose will be to produce seeds, fertilizers and agrochemicals that are normally imported to help reduce the amount of money spent on imports.
  4. China is also a major investor in Venezuela’s new food supply distribution network Local Supply and Production Committees (CLAP). Venezuela’s food supply has taken a major hit since the economy’s decline. The decline of the country’s food supply has reached a point of crisis where basic food needs are not obtainable. The CLAP project will work to get food to Venezuelan residents. In addition, CLAP will serve as a way to regulate food distribution from house to house in order to ensure a proper amount of food for each family. CLAP representatives carry essential food and products to households. This system is meant to prioritize the needs of families and has already made deliveries to 504,000 families.
  5. Venezuela has launched a mining project called Arco Minero del Orinoco. Companies in China will be involved in the project. Two of the groups working with this project are China CAMC Engineering Co. and the Yankuang Group. Arco Minero is located in the northern part of Venezuela and is a prime spot for mining gold, diamonds, coltan, copper, iron and bauxite. The exploitation of these minerals will be a stepping stone in the quantification and certification of mineral reserves. As a result, mining will be a more widespread way to raise exports.

China has provided massive assistance to Venezuela over the years in an effort to help the country’s economy. With this new set of agreements, the trade partners will work together to make Venezuela’s economy more prominent. These five development projects in Venezuela are a start in the strengthening of Venezuela’s oil industry, economy and relationship with China.

– Brianna Summ

Photo: Flickr

Development Projects in TajikistanA former member of the Soviet-bloc, modern day Tajikistan unfortunately answers to the calling card of poorest country in Eurasia. In 2012, the U.N. Population Fund found that 50 percent of Tajiks live in poverty and economic downturn has only worsened in Eurasia since this figure was published. High rates of food insecurity also beset Tajikistan, due to its mountainous terrain, harsh winters and scarcity of arable land.

An incredible 93 percent of Tajikistan’s territory is covered by some of the tallest mountains in the world. This fact alone is a significant contributing factor to many of the obstacles to development that currently beset Tajikistan. In addition to high rates of food insecurity, other contributing factors include lack of a reliable power supply, limited transport connectivity and low levels of private investment.

Because the Tajik economy is highly dependent on remittances from migrant workers, the country is especially vulnerable to the regional economic hardships. The World Bank estimated that remittances constituted more than 50 percent of the country’s GDP in 2012. Russia and Kazakhstan have been the favored destinations of Tajik migratory workers since the mid 2000s and the remittances received from migrant workers in these countries have lifted many Tajik families out of poverty. Over the course of 2015, however, remittances from workers in Russia fell dramatically, which had the effect of contributing to a decline in the value of the Tajik currency by almost 17 percent relative to the dollar, since January 2015.

Amidst the troubling economic hardships facing many Tajiks today are several aid programs and development projects that are working to keep hope alive in this country. Here are five of the most salient development projects in Tajikistan:

  1. The Asian Development Bank’s (ADB) Tajikistan Partnership Strategy seeks to help the Tajik government “achieve sustained and inclusive growth that is less susceptible to external shocks and create higher-paying jobs” through three key initiatives: infrastructure investments and urban and transport development; investment in climate reforms, technical and vocational education and training for the purposes of economic diversification; and enhancing water resource management and climate change adaptation, targeting poorer regions in order to improve food security. These strategic objectives were implemented in 2016 and have a target completion date of 2020.
  2. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) sees Tajikistan as a “linchpin” for regional security in Eurasia and has dedicated a significant amount of resources, with the goal of increasing the country’s security and stability. To combat food insecurity, USAID includes Tajikistan in its Feed the Future initiative, which addresses the root causes of hunger through accelerated agricultural development and improved nutrition. USAID has additionally worked to bolster the Tajik economy by assisting in the evolution of a regional electricity market.
  3. In an effort to foster economic recovery, The World Bank has dramatically increased its lending commitments to Tajikistan, from $10 million in 2016 to $226 million in 2017. Additionally, The World Bank implemented a Social Safety Net Strengthening Project in 2011, which aims to “improve the capacity of Tajikistan to plan, monitor, and manage social assistance for the poor.”
  4. Founded by the hereditary Imam (Spiritual Leader) of the Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims, the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) has operated in all regions of Tajikistan since 1992 and currently employs over 3,500 Tajik people. AKDN “supports the establishment of programmes and institutions that allow the Government, private sector and civil society to play complementary roles” towards the goal of fostering prosperity and development in Tajikistan.
  5. The European Union (EU) has invested in development projects in Tajikistan since the formation of their partnership in 1991. Between 2014 and 2020, the EU’s development support for Tajikistan will focus on the health (€62 million), education (€75 million) and rural development (€110 million) sectors.

The current economic downturn has exacerbated Tajikistan’s struggle to overcome its numerous obstacles to security and stability, but these five development projects in Tajikistan provide hope for a more prosperous future.

– Savannah Bequeaith

Photo: Flickr

Development Projects in ThailandEconomic development in Thailand has been increasing rapidly over the past 40 years. Poverty has declined considerably from 67 percent in 1986 to just 7.2 percent in 2015. The rate of economic recovery and reignition of growth will both depend on how fast Thailand can address structural constraints. To this end, there is hope since, according to the World Bank, there are many opportunities available to help with development in Thailand and to help the many people in the country.

There are a variety of options that can help with development in Thailand such as improving the business environment, expanding trade through better integration with the global economy, implementing public investments to private capital, stimulating domestic consumption and improving the quality of public services across the country. Beginning in 2017, in order to be recognized as a developed country, Thailand set long-term economic goals that address many key issues in the country. The Minister of Transport in Thailand, Prajin Juntong, has created five development projects in to help boost the infrastructure sector and encourage growth and prosperity for the Southeast Asian country:

  1. Project one: Developing urban connection, which includes buses, sky trains, metros and taxis, to help improve connectivity between different parts of Bangkok and enhance travel for passengers. Advancing these forms of transportation will also promote the use of public transportation as opposed to private cars.
  2. Project two: Connecting railway tracks between cities within Thailand and with neighboring countries. The current railway system is a one-meter single track system but a one-meter dual track system will be installed in its place. This will help ensure a timely and safe delivery of passengers and goods around the country. The targeted distance for this expansion is 3,000 kilometers or about 1,864 miles.
  3. Project three: Upgrading airports to accommodate the extra five million passengers at the Suvarnabhumi airport, Don Mueang airport and the Royal Thai Navy’s Utapao airport, all of which are international airports. Parts of this project include adding additional terminals and parking spots to airports and constructing extra runways. Smaller, more domestic airports like the one in Phuket will also receive upgrades so that there can be a high functioning airport available to take in the many travelers to the highly popular island.
  4. Project four: Expanding seaports in the southern part of Thailand, to and from the Andaman Sea, to expand trade between Europe and Asia. The main part of this project is a venture called the Dawei project, an international joint expansion project of seaports with Myanmar. Domestic ports like The Songkhla seaport and Chumporn seaport will be upgraded in the future and another new port, Pak Bala, will be built.
  5. Project five: Expanding roads and highways to increase public convenience and accommodate the increasing population. This project aims to connect people to newer economic zones. Recently, 12 of these economic zones have been added in Thailand so it is important that cities are connected to each other and economic areas are connected to neighboring countries.

Thailand’s economy is expected to develop further in 2018, with an increase of around 3.6 percent. Even faster growth may be possible in the long run with the inclusion of public infrastructure management. When these five development projects in Thailand are carried-out more opportunities will develop and economic growth will increase.  

Lorial Roballo

Photo: Flickr

Water quality in North KoreaLocated on the Korean peninsula, North Korea has been discreetly building up a nuclear arsenal while projecting its power to ensure that it is a force not to be reckoned with on the international stage. Despite such shows of power, it is known to be one of the largest food recipients in the world. More recently, it faces immense challenges as a result of ballistic missile tests that have been met with hard sanctions. Economically unbalanced and a grave threat to the international community, the hope of cooperation seems nonexistent. Kim Jong-un still has yet to respond to the country’s severe poverty situation, with about half of North Koreans living in poverty.

The Problem
Water quality in North Korea has been affected by a severe drought, forcing relief aid to step in and counter some of these issues. One observer had the opportunity to monitor the water quality in North Korea and witness the scarcity of access to clean water due to environmental degradation that has gravely affected the nation. Too often, the North Korean people are neglected and rarely humanized by news outlets, who tend to focus on the ominous threat that the country’s government presents.

This individual, who remained anonymous, observed the work of an international charity organization known as World Vision, an advocacy organization that works on development and humanitarian aid. During this visit to North Korea, the observer witnessed the lives of people in rural and urban areas, noting the environmental degradation that had taken place due to the effects of climate change, deforestation, soil erosion and water resource depletion.

In January, it was reported that “more than 50,000 hectares of farmland in North Korea’s granary zones have been damaged by drought.” According to the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), a severe drought had plagued agricultural areas due to a 30-80 percent drop in precipitation in January. OCHA further cited that due to this drought, the effects were a deterioration in water quality in North Korea, causing a concern of waterborne diseases spreading among the population.

Initiatives
On a more positive note, according to a report by World Vision, there has been an increase in installations of wells, along with high-quality solar pumps, in order to pump water to water tanks on nearby hills. This action has led to substantial improvements in access to clean water for communities. Some of the most vulnerable who were lacking this inalienable right that a lot of us take for granted now have indoor plumbing, offering them clean sanitation. As the observer explained: “1,435 children will have easy access to clean water for the first time in their lives.”

Final Thoughts
With its relentless assault on freedom of expression and stifling of any political dissidents who may challenge the status quo, North Korea’s government remains a staunch opponent to any form of democracy. The average North Korean citizen only worries about their daily lives, which includes how to break out of poverty. North Koreans may be among the most difficult group of people in the world to help due to the restrictions imposed by their government, but taking simple steps to improve sanitation and water quality in North Korea can make a major improvement in their lives.

– Alexandre Dumouza

Photo: Flickr