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Liquid Petroleum GasIn North Darfur, a region of Sudan, 90% of families use wood and charcoal to stay warm and cook meals. Burning wood and charcoal, however, has several negative effects. Practical Action, an international development organization, has partnered with the Women’s Developmental Association to provide these families with liquid petroleum gas stoves, which are cleaner and more efficient. The Low Smoke Stoves Project has been ongoing since 2014, significantly improving the lives of families in the Darfur region.

Negative Effects of Burning Wood and Charcoal

  • It hurts the environment by causing pollution and deforestation.
  • It produces a lot of smoke indoors, which can cause infections and illnesses.
  • The materials are expensive to buy, putting a financial burden on poor families.

Wood and charcoal produce a lot of smoke when burned, contributing to bad air quality and causing a variety of health issues that mainly affect the women and children in the home. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, wood smoke causes particle pollution and releases pollutants such as benzene, formaldehyde, acrolein and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. The particle pollution caused by wood smoke can cause eye infections, chest infections and other illnesses that can be expensive to treat. Deforestation is also an issue in regions that rely heavily on firewood.

Other than the environmental and health concerns associated with burning wood and charcoal, there is also the financial burden it places on families. The materials are expensive to buy and do not cook efficiently. Women have to spend long amounts of time cooking instead of using their time for education and development.

Benefits of Liquid Petroleum Gas Stoves

Liquid petroleum gas stoves have a lot of benefits over traditional cooking methods with wood or charcoal. They produce less smoke and other pollutants, improving air quality and reducing infections and other illnesses in poor families. The stoves are more fuel-efficient, saving families 65% on their monthly bills. Liquid petroleum gas stoves also cook faster, giving women more time to engage in education and development.

Practical Action’s Low Smoke Stoves Project

Practical Action’s ongoing Low Smoke Stoves Project aims to educate regional communities about the dangers of burning wood and charcoal as well as replace those methods with more environmentally friendly and cost-efficient liquid petroleum gas stoves. The organization, partnered with the Women’s Development Association, has already placed 12,080 liquid petroleum gas stoves into homes in the North Darfur region. Since the beginning of the project, the area had improved air quality, less deforestation and lower carbon emissions.

This program works by giving eligible households a microloan to help them buy a liquid petroleum gas stove. While there is an initial cost, the stoves are more fuel and time-efficient so they quickly pay for themselves with the savings they produce. The stoves not only help improve the quality of life for families in North Darfur, but they also have long-term economic benefits, thus helping to lift people out of poverty.

–  Starr Sumner
Photo: Flickr

Benefits of Hosting RefugeesIn 2019, the U.N. Refugee Agency reported that there were about 26 million refugees globally. An estimated 68% of refugees come from just five countries: Syria, Venezuela, Afghanistan, South Sudan and Myanmar. Refugees exist in a state of flux, with their futures and fates in the hands of potential host countries. Refugees are one of the world’s most vulnerable groups yet the idea of hosting refugees comes with hesitancies due to misinformation and misconceptions. There are several benefits of hosting refugees.

Refugees Bring Productivity

There is a misconception that refugees come into a host country and subsist on benefits instead of working. Though not every country allows refugees to work, those that do allow this, see just how productive refugees are. Often unable to use their credentials in other countries, refugees are known for starting from the ground up and they are effective at it. Economic advisor, Phillipe Legrain, estimates that 1,000 refugee businesses could generate $100 million each year. If host countries loosen restrictions and allow refugees to expand their job opportunities, it could significantly improve the economies in host countries.

This would also mean making language learning classes and integration courses more accessible, but in the long run, the fiscal rewards outweigh the cost. Countries that allow refugees to work and open up businesses know that the influx of productivity is one of the major benefits of taking in refugees.

Refugees Enrich Culture

Some fear that accepting refugees means that the native culture will disappear. According to Anna Crosslin of the International Institute in St. Louis, cross-cultural understanding is vital for integration. Events like the annual Festival of Nations, which is run by the International Institute, not only help expose St. Louis residents to other global cultures but also help immigrants feel more at home. Even though there are differences between each culture, most cultures are incredibly similar at their core. Refugees are fleeing the same things ordinary citizens fear: families being torn apart, the right to vote being taken away, lack of education and more.

Refugees do not aim to disrupt the culture of their host countries but enrich it. They may bring with them different practices, foods and religions, but in the end, most people have similar ideals.

Refugees Stimulate the Economy

The more people participating in a country’s economy the better. Economic activity alone is one of the many benefits of taking in refugees. There is an initial investment required when allowing refugees into a country. Housing, language classes, healthcare, sustenance. All of these things cost a significant amount of money to provide, but once refugees are established in their host country, the initial investment pays off.

Refugees start businesses that employ locals, pay taxes and generate wealth. In countries with an aging workforce, young refugees entering the workforce complement their work and allow them to retire, while also contributing to social security or pension funds. Being able to work and make money, in general, allows refugees to stimulate the economy of their host country. Refugees allowed to work and enterprise are great for an economy, much more so than refugees that are not allowed in or not allowed to work.

Refugees Complement the Job Market

There is a misassumption that refugees take jobs away from their host country’s job market. Most studies conclude that refugees have very little effect on the job market at all. The U.S. State Department’s analysis of the labor market over a 30-year period showed that not only did refugees not negatively impact the job market, but they had no effect when compared to regions with no refugee population.

The work migrants do actually fill in the job market. In the United States, it is migrants doing much of the hard, physically demanding work like farming and cleaning meat and fish for consumption. These are jobs that not many native citizens want to do. The economic benefits of taking in refugees are also seen in areas with low domestic migration. In these places, migrants offer an economic boost that native citizens do not.

Refugees Bring Novel Skillsets and Knowledge

Many cultures make rugs, but who makes them like the Persians? Who can delicately remove the meat from a poisonous pufferfish like a Japanese sushi chef? Every country and culture has something that makes them stand out, something that they can teach and share with others.

Refugees offer language skills that natives might not. Many already have professional qualifications from their home countries. Most refugees exhibit a high degree of adaptability, a skill that is important in every industry. To top it off, organizations benefit greatly from diversity, experiencing greater profits, collaboration and retention than organizations that are not as diverse. Though refugees are not the only way an organization can become more diverse, the experiences, skills and perspectives gained are some of the greatest benefits of hosting refugees.

Welcoming Refugees

Resistance to accepting refugees is often due to misconceptions. Native citizens fear a disruption in their economy and culture. But in actuality, refugees stimulate the economy, enrich culture and supplement the job market. Better understanding the benefits of hosting refugees will hopefully mean that countries globally will be more accepting of this vulnerable group, realizing that benefits are provided on both sides.

– Maddey Bussmann
Photo: Flickr

Breastfeeding
The importance of breastfeeding is not limited to health benefits. Higher rates of breastfeeding reap economic benefits too, which in turn can alleviate the strain of poverty in developing nations.

According to a series of studies published in The Lancet, a British medical journal, if a greater number of women breastfed from birth through at least six months of their baby’s life, it could save nearly 820,000 lives and billions of dollars.

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) estimates that if 50 to 75 percent of mothers breastfed through six months, the U.S. alone would save $3.6 billion each year.

The actual savings could be even higher, as these figures come from the cost savings of only three illnesses that are most common among children who are not breastfed. Breastfeeding reduces the risk factor of many other diseases and health complications as well.

In poorer countries, breastfeeding substantially reduces the number of childhood deaths from preventable diseases such as pneumonia and diarrhea.

These diseases are most commonly found in children in poor and underdeveloped countries, which typically already suffer huge economic losses from health problems.

Not only can breastfeeding greatly reduce the risk of these health problems, it can also save millions that would be spent treating these diseases after the fact.

The continued evidence of the importance of breastfeeding is greatly heartening. The difficulty is in getting this critical information to the women who need it most.

As a Huffington Post article explains, the real and current battle involves increasing awareness and education specifically to poorer mothers about the importance of breastfeeding.

Investments in healthcare programs in developing countries should continue focusing on health education, with a strong priority on basic elements of women’s health.

By increasing awareness of women’s health, including the importance of breastfeeding, countries can save many precious lives and valuable resources.

Emily Milakovic

Photo: Flickr

Vaccines_are_an_Economic_Investment
In addition to preventing serious illnesses, vaccines are an economic investment as they have the added bonus of saving money. As fewer people get sick, this reduces the need for complex and often long-term medical treatment which allows communities to save greatly.

Research from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, in addition to other studies, has shown that the returns on vaccines are 16 times the investment; that is to say, every dollar spent on vaccines, on average, saves sixteen dollars in future medical spending.

The journal Health Affairs, which published the Johns Hopkins study, noted that when other factors are considered beyond direct medical costs, such as time not taken off from work due to illness, the return rises to as high as $44 for every dollar spent.

While the economic benefits of vaccinations are great for every country, they especially matter in poor or developing countries, where funds are often stretched thin and accessing affordable health care can be difficult if not impossible.

The World Health Organization estimates that malaria costs Sub-Saharan Africa $100 billion every year. In a region plagued by poverty, that is too much money for countries to be spending on preventable diseases.

Vaccines show that when we invest in prevention, we can make huge savings on treatment. In turn, the money that would be spent treating preventable diseases can go to other places, such as to education, poverty reduction schemes or energy programs.

Vaccines are an economic investment that not only save lives, but they also save money in so many ways, not just treatment costs.

When people are sick with a debilitating illness, not only do they spend money on treatment, they lose money when they cannot work resulting in a vicious cycle of economic hardship. Continued increased access to vaccines can help millions around the world.

Emily Milakovic

Photo: U.N. Multimedia