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Poverty in Djibouti
Djibouti is a small country in the Horn of Africa. Surrounded by Ethiopia and Somalia, the country has a strategic location and fruitful fishing waters. However, regional instability has put pressure on Djibouti’s economy and resources, heightening poverty levels. Djibouti has taken on many refugees and immigrants from Ethiopia and Somalia, burdening its already weak economy.

The average unemployment rate in the country is around 45% and over half of the very poor in Djibouti have no employed members of their family. Poverty in Djibouti is also affected largely by poor education, health, and nutrition. Djibouti has a literacy rate of 57%, life expectancy at birth is 49 years, and 26% of children under five years old are chronically malnourished.

This data underscores the need to invest in human capital to alleviate poverty in Djibouti. Pro-poor education strategies need to be adopted with a particular focus on education for women and girls, who have a much higher illiteracy rate than men. Preventive health programs should also be enacted to develop human capital. Women often have too many children at too young of an age, and education could increase the ability of couples to space their children properly and promote family planning methods.

USAID has enacted several programs to address poverty in Djibouti. USAID works with Djibouti’s Ministry of Education to develop a teacher training plan and has trained over 1,200 teachers in the country. USAID has also, according to its website, supported parent-teacher associations, linked secondary schools with university mentors, and developed strategies to improve access to education for girls. USAID has also contributed to programs combating polio and tuberculosis, in addition to aiding food distribution to combat malnutrition. The U.S. is currently the largest contributor of humanitarian assistance to the Horn of Africa, where Djibouti is located.

The effort to combat poverty in Djibouti suffered hardship in 2011 when the eastern Horn of Africa was hit with its most severe drought in 60 years. The drought-affected more than 10 million people, inducing high child mortality rates and sharply increasing food prices in the region. Djibouti is still in the process of recovering from the crisis.

USAID’s website describes Djibouti as a “unique and strategic partner for the United States.” The U.S. maintains the military base Camp Lemonnier in the country which serves as a staging ground for U.S. counter-terrorism efforts in the Horn of Africa and the Arabian Peninsula.

Djibouti’s government is committed to peace and holds moderate views compared to some others in the region which includes the conflict-prone countries of Yemen, Somalia, Eritrea, and Ethiopia. Combating poverty in Djibouti is crucial to the stability of the region, and could lead to more prosperous economies on the Horn of Africa that contribute to the global economy.

– Martin Drake
Source: World Bank, Reuters, Washington Post
Photo: The Guardian

Birth Rates and Poverty in Niger
Niger is the seventh poorest country in the world. It is an example of the multitudinous effects of extreme poverty. With high political instability, high levels of gender inequality, high birth rates, high levels of malnutrition and ethnic conflict, attempts to lift Niger out of poverty have often failed because of the magnitude and multitude of problems to be faced.

The population of Niger works largely in fishing and farming. As a result, they are unusually susceptible to natural disasters and climate conditions. A 2005 drought that led to a massive food shortage had devastating effects on the people and the economy, with the IMF forgiving 100% of the nation’s debt, roughly $86 million USD. In 2010, famine wiped out many people and the country reported the outbreak of multiple diseases, with deaths due to diarrhea, starvation, gastroenteritis, malnutrition and respiratory diseases.

Education levels in Niger are among the lowest in the world, with many children unenrolled and children often forced to work instead of study. Nomadic children often do not have access to schools.

The high birth-rates in Niger are a problem, as they contribute to an expanding population whose families cannot support them. This is partly as a result of the belief that the greater the number of children one family has, the greater the chance that a family will be lifted out of poverty when one finds success.

– Farahnaz Mohammed
Source: Richest.org, DW.DE
Photo: Niger Delta Rising

Niger's 3N Initiative to Improve Food Security
The African country of Niger, a landlocked nation in the north-central part of the continent in the Sahel region, has struggled intermittently with food security for the last fifty years. Before the 1960s, Niger was a productive agricultural region that was not only self-sustaining but exported cereal grains. Now, due to a rapidly growing population, recurring droughts and poverty, Niger struggles to grow enough food to feed its people.

The Nigerien government is implementing an ambitious agricultural transformation plan called the 3N Initiative – Nigeriens Feeding Nigeriens. It is estimated to cost $2 billion in the first three years and will address issues and reformations in the agricultural, environmental, industrial, and energy sectors. Initiatives range from providing farmers with technology and seeds to expanding market access and management.

Overcoming obstacles to food and nutrition security in Niger is no small task. Drought is the main impediment to productive agriculture: Niger experiences drought at least once every two years, although droughts have been increasing in the last decade. Only one percent of the country’s land receives more than 23 inches of rain each year, and just 12 percent of the land can sustain agriculture.

In a country where eighty percent of the population depends on agriculture for sustenance and livelihood, addressing agricultural issues is critical. Niger has one of the fastest-growing populations of any country, has doubled from 7 million in 1988 to 15 million in 2010. In addition to population growth and drought, unstable food prices have contributed to food insecurity throughout the Sahel region. The prices of staple cereal grains such as millet are well above the five-year average. For the world’s poor, food accessibility is just as important as agricultural productivity in improving health and quality of life.

Attempts by previous Niger administrations to achieve food security have clearly not been successful in the long run. Current national administrators say that political will, coordination, and centralized leadership set the 3N Initiative apart. The Nigerien government is working to draft legislation that will ensure the existence of the Initiative well into the future.

Both Niger and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) acknowledge the urgency of addressing food security throughout the Sahel region, which suffered a major drought and resulting famine in 2010. Niger’s FAO representative states that addressing food security is necessary for every country in the region. Niger’s 3N Initiative, if successful, can serve as an example for other African countries seeking to achieve food security through agricultural and political transformation.

– Kat Henrichs

Source: FAO
Photo: AusAID

Drought in India Brings Villagers TogetherThe villages around Dungarpur in India’s northwestern state of Rajasthan have a natural beauty that is characteristic of many rural hillside towns. There are rolling wheat fields, eucalyptus trees and luscious neem trees that contrast the colors of the red-tiled houses. However, this area is not without its natural problems as well. The region suffers from a chronic lack of water and faces the common problem of drought in India. Between rainy seasons, the men of the village often have to leave their farms to pick up work in surrounding cities.

This year, half the men are staying closer to home. The village is structured around a pond that provides water to surrounding farms. Normally, the pond dries up by this time of the year, but thanks to the Evangelical Fellowship of India Commission on Relief (EFICOR), the lake has enough water to last until the next rains come months from now. The pond has suddenly turned into a lake after tractors deepened it by 15 feet last May to drastically increase the size of the reservoir. Now, the lake is not only filled in a time of year when it used to be dried up, but there is enough water to irrigate fields that are farther away, allowing the villagers to plant second crops. This drought in India is benefiting the villagers.

EFICOR’s work in the region has not come easily. The organization has been in this area of India since 2008 trying to gain the trust of the locals and figure out how best to serve them. The villagers in the area are marginalized Bhil people that are distrustful of and unconnected to state government. EFICOR worked with them to make use of the government aid programs that they are eligible for. One of the most important breakthroughs for the villagers was forming community committees. The formerly disconnected families came together under these new committees to decide which ponds to deepen and which families needed the most urgent attention. The committees even tested the power of the village chief that formerly based these types of decisions on favoritism.

In addition to their community committees, EFICOR has set up savings groups for women in the villages. One group saved enough money to consider buying a small grinding mill. The goal of the project is to build confidence among the marginalized communities and show them that they are entitled to just as many government services as any other citizens. The plan seems to be working, but it will be a long time before we can tell if the newfound solidarity among the villagers will last.

 – Sean Morales

Source: The Guardian