Inflammation and stories on global poverty

Posts

PCPartPickerPCPartPicker and charity: water formed an unexpected partnership, united in their common goal of providing clean drinking water for communities in developing nations.

PCPartPicker

PCPartPicker was founded in 2011 by Philip Carmichael. The website was designed to guide computer enthusiasts on how to build their PCs from scratch.

Carmichael, a Texas A&M University educated software engineer, started PCPartPicker with the intention of creating something that would impact more than just the PC-building community: “My desire was, and still is, to help people with fundamental needs that we often take for granted, such as access to clean water and sanitation.” That is why PCPartPicker has supported charity: water, a non-profit organization that provides access to clean drinking water in communities across 29 developing countries.

The World’s Water Crisis

In 2017, the World Health Organization reported that 2.2 billion people do not have access to safely managed water services. Of those 2.2 billion, 785 million do not have immediate access to clean drinking water. Immediate access in this case refers to access that takes less than 30min of travel time. In other words, 10% of the world’s population often have to travel long distances to collect water for themselves and their families.

Most of those who are unable to use a safely managed drinking water source end up using water that is contaminated as a result of poorly maintained sanitation and water services. Diseases such as cholera, typhoid, hepatitis A and dysentery can be spread through these contaminated water sources. Almost a million people die each year due to infected drinking water, unsafe sanitation and poor hygiene. These deaths are completely preventable.

If clean drinking water was more accessible, millions of people would not have to spend hours every day traveling to collect it. Instead, children could spend more time in school and community members could spend more time growing food, starting small businesses and earning an income. The 40 billion hours a year women spend walking to collect water in Africa alone could be invested in those activities which are far more beneficial for improving livelihoods and in turn alleviating poverty.

charity: water

Founded in 2006, charity: water seeks to end the global water crisis. The organization raises funds to provide safe drinking water in communities that historically have not had access. According to its website, charity: water works with experts within each community to develop clean water solutions that will be sustainable over time. Examples of sustainable solutions include rainwater harvesting tanks, wells, piped systems or BioSand Filters that treat contaminated water to make it safe for consumption.

Once the community has been provided access to safe drinking water, charity: water’s partners implement training for preventing disease through safe hygiene and sanitation practices. A “water committee” is also elected from within the community in order to keep the standard of the water safe for years after the organization completes its project.

As of November 2020, charity: water has completed or is working on 59,608 projects helping more than 11 million people across the world. Transparency is a priority to the organization, which has an interactive map on its website showing every location at which it has completed a project.

An Unexpected Team

In order to fulfill his desire to help others, Carmichael began donating PCPartPicker profits to charity: water right from the start of the company’s journey. After many requests, the website launched a merchandise store in 2012 and Carmichael pledged 100% of proceeds to be donated to charity: water. The first completion report was posted in 2014 when Carmichael shared that the merchandise proceeds as well as the portion of earnings he donated monthly, funded access to clean drinking water for 373 people in Malawi.

The latest report, posted in July 2020, shows that charity: water has completed several projects in Ethiopia, Malawi, Bangladesh, India, Rwanda, Niger, Nepal and Uganda as a direct result of PCPartPicker’s donations. Together, these organizations have helped 34, 853 people gain access to clean drinking water.

Clean, safe drinking water is a fundamental human right. Organizations such as charity: water and PCPartPicker are dedicated to helping the cause and ensuring clean water access for as many people as possible.

– Emma Maytham
Photo: Flickr

literacy in EthiopiaThere are 781 million adults in the world who are considered illiterate. This statistic reflects more than just the ability of people to read, it is inherently tied to the poverty rate. In fact, 43% of adults with low literacy rates live in poverty. There are multiple issues that contribute to this, however the most influential is education. Several programs address literacy in Ethiopia.

The Relationship Between Literacy and Poverty

In the fight against global poverty, education is a sought after resource. With increased education comes increased opportunities for those within the community to contribute to the economy and increase their prospects. In order to bolster educational efforts, children must be able to read. Literacy is considered to be the foundation of learning and is directly responsible for the success of children in education as a whole. Without this vital skill, children are unlikely to move onto higher education or secure high paying jobs. This stagnant economic standing is perpetuated through families because parents with low literacy rates are 72% likely to pass that low literacy rate down. The resulting generational illiteracy is a detriment to the growth of communities because it cements them into a lower economic standing.

The importance of literacy within the fight against poverty is underscored by the World Bank. It has coined the term “Learning Poverty” which refers to the inability of a child to read and comprehend by age 10. The severity of “Learning Poverty” aids in the prediction of future literacy and economic success. Additionally, the World Bank believes that this statistic is a useful indicator as to whether or not global educational goals are being met. In relation to poverty, these goals are paramount in the rate of sustainable development in poor countries. Moreover, poverty would be reduced by 12% if all students in low-income countries were able to read. As educational goals are met and literacy is increased, impoverished communities have the opportunity to create sustainable change in terms of their economic standing and overall quality of life.

Illiteracy and Poverty in Ethiopia

Ethiopia has the second largest population in Africa, with 109.2 million people. Unfortunately, the country also suffers from rampant poverty as it was reported in 2016 that 24% of Ethiopia’s population is considered impoverished. Poverty is a multifaceted and complicated issue, however, one can generally find a low literacy rate in countries with corresponding high poverty rates. In Ethiopia, this holds true because just under half of its population is illiterate. Given the extreme disadvantage that low literacy rates put on communities, there have been multiple efforts to improve the Ethiopian education system. and literacy in Ethiopia.

READ II

READ II is a project that focuses on the education of children considered at risk of school failure or dropout due to the cognitive, emotional and physical effects of hunger, violence and displacement. READ II spans 3,000 schools across 50 districts, ultimately wishing to expand the basic model to reach a targeted 15 million learners. Specifically, within the Addis Adaba, Tigray and Amhara regions, the project is working to improve the preparedness of teachers, increase support for women’s education and push for the widespread education of English.

Unlock Literacy

Unlock Literacy is a project founded by World Vision in 2012 that has reached a total of 1.7 million children in the endeavor to increase the literacy rate in impoverished countries. Unlock Literacy is committed to the implementation of teacher training programs, better educational resources and appropriate reading materials. The program acknowledges the fact that oftentimes rural areas are unable to attain reading material that is applicable to the children being educated. As a result, it has aided in the creation of over one million new books in the common languages of the students. Unlock Literacy has also seen success as children who could read with comprehension rose from 3% to 25% after the program.

READ TA

READ TA was founded in 2012 by USAID in partnership with the Ethiopian Ministry of Education in order to advance writing and reading among 15 million early education students. With READ TA’s methods, more than $17 million has been provided to train 113,385 teachers in safe and practical learning initiatives. In recognition of low literacy’s association with poverty, the program also seeks to improve the student’s overall understanding of class materials. This has been accomplished by giving schools the necessary educational resources that have been designed to appeal to the student reading it. Additionally, READ TA has adapted 320 educational materials to address the local context of communities living outside of administrative regions.

With organizations and programs committed to improving literacy in Ethiopia, the prospect of reduced poverty in the region is hopeful, as is reaching the goal of alleviating global poverty overall.

– Stella Vallon
Photo: Flickr

Z EventEven though the world is more connected than ever, poverty remains a large problem as many people are left behind. Fortunately, the internet has been used as a platform for change, resulting in unprecedented awareness of global poverty. One example of this is Z Event, a French charity project hosted annually on the live streaming website Twitch. Z Event started with just two people who wanted global change. The video gaming event has been shattering world records and raising millions of dollars for charity.

Twitch Live Stream Platform

Z Event would not have been possible without the rise of the Twitch platform. Twitch is a website that people can use for live streaming. This means that whatever viewers are watching is happening in real-time. This creates a new world of interactivity. While Twitch was originally created for live streaming video games, the website has now expanded into other genres like art, music and chess. Twitch now has a massive following, with over 140 million monthly users.

It was only a matter of time before content creators used Twitch as a platform to raise money for charity. In July 2013, Summer Games Done Quick raised $257,181 for Doctors Without Borders in a charity stream on Twitch. As Twitch started growing in popularity, charity streams became even more popular. In 2019, Twitch streamer “DrLupo”, raised more than $2.3 million for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in 24 hours.

Video Gaming: Z Event

With the success of charity streams in the past and the increasing global presence of Twitch, the time was right for Z Event. In March 2016, a charity stream called “Avengers Project” raised 170,000 euros for Save the Children. The goal of the project was to gather every popular French streamer to raise awareness for certain issues. While the project started small, the annual event grew considerably. In 2017, the now named “Z Event” raised 500,000 euros. Z Event is the annual charity event by French streamers ZeratoR and Dach. As the project grew larger, more popular French streamers joined the event. In 2020, 41 Twitch streamers participated in the event.

Video Gaming for a Cause

While each individual streamer is popular on their own, their platform increases exponentially when combined. In 2020, the event had an average of 248 thousand viewers with a peak of nearly 700 thousand viewers. This large amount of awareness led to large sums of money raised for charity. In 2019, Z Event hit the world record for most money raised in a charity stream on Twitch, over 3.5 million euros. In 2020, Z Event shattered its own record, raising over 5.7 million euros, which is approximately $6.7 million.

Each year, the event raises money for a different cause. The money raised in 2019 was for the Pasteur Institute, a nonprofit organization that researches diseases. In 2020, Z Event raised money for Amnesty International, an organization focused on global human rights.

Video Gamers Uniting for Charity

These efforts have been applauded by many. Mark Hamill supported Z Event on Twitter and President of France, Emmanuel Macron has also commended the project.

While poverty remains a problem in the world today, the growing platform of the internet along with websites like Twitch show significant promise. Millions of dollars have been raised for charity to fight poverty. France’s Z Event shows that when people come together, the impact is substantial.

– Evan Weber
Photo: Flickr

Public Development BanksIn November 2020, the world’s 450 Public Development Banks (PDBs) gathered at the first-ever global summit, the Finance in Common Summit. The summit emphasized that PDBs have an essential role in meeting the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that encompasses both short-term responses and sustainable recovery measures. The commitment of PDBs to a joint effort in support of vulnerable communities around the world is an unprecedented step toward inclusive global development.

Public Development Banks

Public Development Banks are essential to the global economy and play a key role in fighting extreme poverty and hunger by bridging finance and public policy. PDBs are supported or controlled by governments but are legally and financially independent. Investments by PDBs made up 10% of yearly public and private investments in 2018, though all PDB investments are public, allowing the banks to openly and actively direct finances toward the evolution of international economic order and inclusion of declining countries with fewer limitations. This makes PDBs especially effective at supporting change for institutions, economies and infrastructure that reflects their public mandate to work in favor of entrepreneurs and vulnerable groups, such as women and children. None of the financing done by PDBs is related to consumers, individual accounts or credit.

A Cause for Cooperation

Conditions in areas suffering from extreme poverty are declining due to climate change and COVID-19. Developing countries have limited capacity to adapt their unstable agricultural methods and systems to changing climates. The capacity that does exist, including aid received, has been strained by the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic and social issues that accompany it. Common hardships have shed light on the need for united relief efforts that reach all regions and societies, and Public Development Banks have taken action by joining in unprecedented discussion and collective decisionmaking. The desired outcome was a diverse and collaborative movement to achieve the SDGs and respond to the challenges arising from COVID-19 and climate change.

The Future of PDB Financing

The developments made at the Finance in Common summit are clearly communicated in a joint declaration made by all 450 PDBs. The Public Development Banks came to a consensus for aligned strategies and investments that will support sustainable growth in societies and the global economy, all while prioritizing eco-friendliness. Future activity of PDBs will be targeted at attaining the SDGs and responding to a changing climate. Another outcome of the summit was a group of PDBs that will focus investments on rural sectors and agriculture around the world to help eradicate poverty and hunger.

Steps that PDBs have committed to taking together include transitioning investments to support low-carbon and climate-resilient solutions, renewable and clean energy and ecosystem restoration. Also on the global PDB agenda is improving the accessibility of education, housing, hygiene and sanitation as well as advancing social and financial inclusion. These measures were developed with the world’s most vulnerable in mind: young people and the elderly, members of rural communities, refugees and small-scale producers, among others. The alliance of PDBs is dedicated to achieving these goals while upholding best practices in finance and global inclusion.

PDBs Fighting Global Poverty

Public Development Banks have displayed a capacity to serve as leaders in the fight against extreme poverty and hunger. Their landmark summit can be a model for future progress toward equality in all parts of the world. In the middle of widespread crisis and instability, such international cooperation is needed more than ever.

– Payton Unger
Photo: Flickr

Sweden’s Feminist Foreign PolicySweden, one of the Nordic countries known for its economic stability, high education rates and social mobility, has also been serving as a prime example of humanitarian-focused foreign policy. The Scandinavian nation has not participated in a single war since 1814 and is currently running one of the world’s most revolutionary foreign policies. Sweden’s feminist foreign policy is the first of its kind.

Sweden’s Feminist Foreign Policy

With regard to foreign policy, minority groups and underrepresented populations are often unintentionally overlooked. Sweden’s foreign policy, on the other hand, takes a modern approach, becoming the first country in the world to launch a feminist foreign policy in 2014. Sweden has a feminist government and the approach was inspired by years of efforts to promote gender equality and focuses and take heed of the voices rarely heard in the distant wars and conflicts.

Sweden’s feminist foreign policy is based on the justification that lasting peace, security and development cannot be achieved if half the world’s population is excluded. The policy is a response to the discrimination and systematic subordination that endless women and girls face daily, all over the world. By taking this approach, the Swedish government hopes to change the way the world perceives the structure of international relations in today’s globalized world.

Sweden’s International Aid

Sweden is one of the only nations that has surpassed the goal of giving 0.7% of its GNI to foreign aid and has been providing around 1% consistently since 2008. Prior to COVID-19, the developmental aid from Sweden had been mainly directed to Afghanistan, Somalia, Mozambique, Tanzania and Uganda.

What is Sida?

Sweden’s foreign policy is dedicated to helping nations worldwide accomplish the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The aid provided and how it is utilized depends on the needs of each nation and the nation’s SDG standing. Sida is a Swedish government agency that works globally to fight for the improvement of SDGs in every nation and creates long-term projects that aim to do so. Strategies and policies for each country that Sweden aids are selected in accordance with each country’s needs, ensuring that foreign aid is personalized and effective.

A leader in Foreign Policy

For more than a decade, Sweden has been acting as a leader of humanitarian international relations and is now one of three nations running a feminist foreign policy. The country ensures in its every step that its actions on foreign grounds and the aid provided have positive long-term influences, rather than acting as a momentary band-aid. This type of foreign policy is an inspiring example of what is needed to achieve the SDGs by 2030 and fight global poverty, hunger and inequality worldwide.

– Anna Synakh
Photo: Flickr

Teachers in NigeriaWhile Nigeria’s population makes up only 2.8% of the world, 20% of the children not in school live in Nigeria. Education in Nigeria is especially lacking in the northern states, where more than 50% of the children are not in school. Although education is supposedly free and mandatory, the Nigerian government has long failed to provide its citizens with the tools to improve their education. The president of the country has recently made a commitment to prioritize teachers in Nigeria.

Unrest in the North Affects Schools

The northeastern Nigerian states of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa, have been victims of significant violence from the Boko Haram insurgency, a terrorist group whose name translates to ‘Western Education is Forbidden.’ Currently, 800 schools in this region are closed and 500 more have been destroyed due to conflict. Furthermore, less than 50% of girls in the north are in school due to cultural practices and attitudes discouraging girls from receiving an education.

The Link Between Poverty, Population & Education

The lack of education in Nigeria has deep effects on the nation’s present condition and future direction. There is a close correlation between girls receiving less education and fertility rates soaring. In 2018, Nigeria’s total fertility rate was 5.4 children per woman. This rate is far higher than the global average of 2.5 and above the sub-Saharan African average of 4.7. Consequently, Nigeria is one of the most rapidly growing countries in the world, with a population of about 200 million people and an average age of 18. Furthermore, the population is projected to double to more than 400 million by 2050.

Although Nigeria is Africa’s biggest exporter of oil, its economy’s growth rate has stagnated since oil prices collapsed five years ago. In developing countries, when population growth overtakes economic growth, resources become scarce and the people suffer. Nigeria’s population growth rate of 2.6% is outpacing its economic growth rate of 2%, thus further perpetuating the already widespread poverty. In 2019, 82 million Nigerians lived below the poverty line.

A Commitment to Education in Nigeria

While past Nigerian leadership has failed to emphasize education or recognize it as a means to reduce poverty and provide opportunity, President Muhammadu Buhari has signaled a commitment to establishing education as the backbone of society and prioritize teachers in Nigeria. In order to strengthen education in Nigeria, the government has committed to guaranteeing employment for students graduating with a Bachelor’s of Education. President Buhari underlined the need to incentivize students to become teachers by providing fiscal stability to the profession. He believes that this will attract a higher quality and quantity of teachers, which will in turn improve the system as a whole.

Additionally, these graduates will receive a university stipend and a special teacher’s salary. The retirement age and duration of service will both be extended by five years as well. The effects of Nigeria’s new commitment to prioritize teachers in Nigeria and education remain to be seen but certainly is a step in the right direction for the country to progress out of poverty.

Adrian Rufo
Photo: Flickr

The Nike Foundation’s Girl EffectAround the world, many young girls are without access to basic health and educational resources. Research has shown that gender equality and women’s empowerment initiatives are key to alleviating global poverty. Over the years, organizations have developed across the globe committed to providing such resources in order to improve the quality of life for millions. One of those organizations is The Nike Foundation’s Girl Effect. This organization is a creative nonprofit working where girls are marginalized and vulnerable.

4 Facts About Girl Effect

1. Girl Effect has been in operation for 12 years. The Nike Foundation launched Girl Effect in 2008 at the World Economic Forum. According to its website, “The Girl Effect is about the unique potential of adolescent girls to end poverty for themselves and the world.” Nike designed the organization to inspire the most influential leaders in the world to get girls in vulnerable nations on the global development agenda and help increase the drive of resources to them. Girl Effect also aims to create media resources for girls around the world in order to increase their access to resources surrounding education and healthcare. Through partnerships with prominent organizations and creating branded media content, Girl Effect has provided millions of girls access to life-saving information.

2. It uses media and the internet to reach girls in developing nations. Girl Effect creates branded media for girls around the world that helps to “navigate the pivotal time of adolescence so they can make positive choices about their health, education and economic future.” Girl Effect currently operates seven different digital programs to reach girls around the world; Chhaa Jaa, Ni Nyampinga, Springster, TEGA, Tujibebe, Yegna and Zathu. The Chhaa Jaa program, which means “go forth and shine” in Hindi, is a “digital-first youth brand that inspires, informs and equips girls in India with the right skills and confidence to navigate adolescence.” These resources include helping girls access information about sexual and reproductive health, how to negotiate with parents about their choices for continuing their education, and how to prepare for their first job. Tujibebe is a program that was born from Tanzanian culture and is a mobile-based brand focused on helping provide adolescent girls with information and resources they need to make positive choices about their future. This includes how to finish their education and setting up their own small business.

3. It partners with numerous organizations to share its message. Girl Effect has worked with organizations from a variety of industries, from nonprofits to social media networks, to help effectively spread its message to girls across the world. One of the largest nonprofit organizations that it partners with is UNICEF. Together the organizations support and promote the Ni Nyampinga program in Rwanda. Through this partnership, UNICEF and Girl Effect have been able to make Ni Nyampinga a nation-wide movement with 80% of the population of Rwanda aware of it, which is almost 6.6 million Rwandans. Another prominent partner of the organization is Facebook. Through the use of Facebook’s Free Basics platform, which provides people with full access to services on their mobile phones, Girl Effect is able to promote its Springster program on a worldwide scale. Through this partnership, Facebook and Girl Effect have been able to reach over 12 million users in the past year alone. The program is available in over 50 countries, including South Africa, Nigeria, the Philippines and Indonesia. A few additional Girl Effect partners include the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Gavi and Mastercard Foundation.

4.  The Nike Foundation’s Girl Effect made great strides reaching developing countries. Since its introduction in 2008, Girl Effect has been able to reach millions of girls in developing nations to provide education and resources. In India and South Africa, its online chatbots have responded to over 1.2 million messages asking for advice on sex and healthy relationships. It has helped connect over 15,000 girls in India with efficient sexual and reproductive health information and services online. In Malawi, girls who read Girl Effect magazine are 32% more likely than non-readers to go to a medical provider and receive their first dose of HPV medication. In Indonesia, those who have seen Girl Effect’s digital nutrition campaign are 32% more likely to make healthier food choices than those who did not view it.

Girl Effect Closes the Gender Gap

Since its beginning, The Nike Foundation’s Girl Effect has helped to create media for girls around the world to provide resources on how to improve their education, healthcare and well-being. For years, the world has struggled to include girls in the many advances that have been made in healthcare and education. However, organizations like Girl Effect help to close this gap.

– Sara Holm
Photo: Flickr

Global LEAD InitiativeAs a demographic, over one-sixth of the global population are between the ages of 15 and 24. Because of its sheer size, this group plays a critical role in forging the next steps for global development. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) introduced the Global Leadership and Education Advancing Development (Global LEAD) Initiative in August of 2020 in order to support and empower the world’s youth. Youth help shape the future of their respective nations. As a result, USAID’s Global LEAD Initiative aims to increase youth participation in building resilient and self-supporting communities. The Initiative serves as an umbrella project, with several programs branching out.

Key Subgroups of Global LEAD

  • New Partnerships Initiative (NPI): A fundamental goal of USAID’s Global LEAD Initiative is to make connections between young people, the communities they serve and other related groups and organizations. The NPI is a separate initiative led by USAID that removes access barriers to various USAID resources and funding. NPI impacts USAID’s Global LEAD Initiative by allowing for diversification of available partnerships, helping youth connect with the organizations that serve them.
  • YouthPower2 (YP2): Part of the process for USAID’s Global LEAD Initiative is to proactively support young people, providing them with training and resources to give them the skills they need to foster healthier communities at the start. YP2 uses what is known as a “positive youth approach,” meaning that adolescents are empowered to participate and play active roles in societal endeavors. Under this model, YP2 works with groups and organizations that are run by youth, or that serve youth. Another program that emerged from YP2 is YouthLead, which puts a strong emphasis on building leadership abilities among youth. YouthLead connects youth with opportunities to engage in service and advocacy projects within their communities. The program also provides information on funding, grants and scholarships so that young people have the financial resources to make positive changes for their futures.
  • HELIX: Higher Education for Leadership, Innovation and Exchange, or HELIX, is another mechanism of USAID’s Global LEAD Initiative that supports its mission to encourage nations and communities to prepare themselves on the “Journey to Self-Reliance.” Under this program, the focus is on bettering the capacity of higher education institutions and systems to find innovative solutions to cultivating increased development within communities. Various partners of the HELIX program aim to provide opportunities for global youth to access higher education, such as through scholarships, internships, research and fellowships. USAID believes that having better access to higher education is fundamental for a nation’s development, where a nation can experience sustainable progress by nurturing the cognitive and creative capacities of its youth.

Leaders of Tomorrow

The youth of today will be the leaders of tomorrow so it is vital that they are included in the process of bettering communities. USAID’s Global LEAD Initiative is taking steps to ensure that the world’s youth have access to the necessary resources to be able to innovate and lead further international development.

– Melanie McCrackin
Photo: Flickr

LeAP initiativeAccess to education is a global issue that is deeply connected to issues of global poverty. Education often provides impoverished people with a way to escape poverty through improved job opportunities and better knowledge of healthcare. In this way, reducing poverty in developing countries often requires improving access to education. The World Bank is currently implementing a program called the Learning Assessment Platform, or LeAP, which it hopes will allow world leaders to better track how effective and efficient their nations’ educational systems are. Through the LeAP initiative, the World Bank hopes to improve global education.

Learning in Crisis

Poor and absent education is a serious global issue, with UNESCO finding that roughly 258 million children were not enrolled in school in 2018. That number has likely increased since then as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Even for children in impoverished countries who do get an education, many times the education they receive is poor in quality and ineffective. Among developing nations, only 44% of children enrolled in school had obtained proficiency in mathematics and reading in 2017. In sub-Saharan Africa, that number fell to only 10%.

According to the World Bank, a significant factor contributing to these low education rates is the fact that many developing countries lack systems to measure learning outcomes among populations. Without such systems, leaders in these countries are unable to accurately identify the reasons why their education systems are failing, which prevents them from implementing effective policies that would improve the education systems.

The LeAP Initiative

Despite these challenges, the World Bank is hoping to use its resources to improve education by leaps and bounds. In order to meet this goal, the World Bank is working to improve learning assessment systems in developing countries by developing a Learning Assessment Platform. The LeAP initiative would provide countries with the tools and resources needed to develop more effective systems for assessing the state of education among populations.

For the past decade, the World Bank has been working to build a solid base of learning assessment resources for the LeAP program to build off of. With the help of Russia’s similar learning assessment program, called the Russia Education Aid for Development (READ) Trust Fund program, the World Bank has developed a wide range of tools and resources specifically designed to help countries accurately gauge the effectiveness of education systems. These include free online courses for educating policymakers and specialists on effective learning assessment techniques, tools for benchmarking education success and access to more than 60 reports detailing the student assessment systems of dozens of countries.

Investing in Learning

In its efforts to improve global education, the World Bank has done more than just provide developing countries with learning assessment resources. Working with the READ Trust Fund program, the World Bank has helped secure more than $20 million in learning assessment system improvement grants for 12 different countries, including Ethiopia, Cambodia, India and Vietnam.

Through the LeAP initiative and several other global education programs, the World Bank hopes to reduce worldwide “learning poverty” by at least 50% by 2030.

The World Bank’s goal of cutting learning poverty is ambitious but its work on improving learning assessment systems around the world is an important step toward making it a reality. When countries are able to accurately assess the strengths and weaknesses of education systems, they are able to craft policies that more effectively improve these systems while also allowing other countries to learn from them and develop their own learning assessment systems. In this way, The World Bank’s LeAP initiative is pivotal in its effort to improve global education.

– Marshall Kirk
Photo: Flickr

green energy to rural AfghanistanFor many Afghans, the country’s past wars and economic hardships have taken a heavy toll and even with the strides made towards rehabilitating the country over the past decade, the scars of the past remain ever-present in the lives of tens of millions of its inhabitants. As Afghanistan seeks to recover and increase development in the wake of destruction and instability, fortification of critical infrastructure has become more important than ever, with one of the most important priorities being access to energy and electricity. As of 2020, many Afghans, particularly in rural areas, live either with unreliable access to electricity or even no access at all. With best estimates claiming that only 30% of the Afghan population are connected to the country’s central energy grid, finding innovative ways of servicing the remaining 70% and bringing green energy to rural Afghanistan is a top priority for infrastructure development and aid in the country.

Energy Poverty in Rural Afghanistan

According to recent reports, most Afghans have limited access to electricity. Lack of development in areas outside of urban centers continues to severely affect tens of millions of people. In 2017, more than half the population lived below the national poverty line. Afghanistan continues to sustain one of the highest poverty levels in the world. Many of the impoverished population live beyond the reach of integrated energy systems and continue to rely upon burning fuels such as diesel and kerosene to generate power for necessities such as cooking and generating heat. These methods can lead to local air pollution through the production of carbon monoxide and other harmful toxins, which can contribute to respiratory problems and other health issues.

What is a Mini-Grid?

Recent advances in green energy infrastructure have provided an alternative to the more harmful energy sources, with the implementation of renewable-powered mini-grid technology. Mini-grids are self-contained energy networks designed to provide energy and electricity to a small, localized area. These networks can vary in size and complexity and as such can offer a spectrum of energy output levels, ranging from “micro-grids” that produce only a few kilowatts to larger networks capable of producing up to 10 megawatts. Mini-grids can run on numerous fuel sources but over the past decade, renewable networks have gained recognition for their utility in both developed and under-developed areas due to their cost-effectiveness and their low environmental and health impact. Bringing reliable green energy to rural Afghanistan is a fundamental component of poverty reduction, as it provides the ability to build infrastructure for digital communication, transportation and education.

The UNDP’s Energy Goals in Afghanistan

Recently the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) launched a project with the aim of harnessing solar-powered and hydro-powered mini-grids to provide green energy to rural Afghanistan. In early 2020, the UNDP approved the Afghanistan Rural Energy Market Transformation Initiative to be backed by $17.2 million from the organization’s Green Climate Fund and additional support from the country’s Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development. The initiative is projected to span 60 months total and to develop renewable mini-grid networks in central and southeast Afghanistan, with pilot projects in the regions of Kandahar, Parwan and Khost. These preliminary sites are intended to serve as examples of the potential of green infrastructure in the country, with further development already planned for the regions of Uruzgan, Daykundi, Bamyan, Laghman and Paktika. While the initiative has been approved by the U.N. and has the joint support of Afghanistan’s Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development, its expansion will largely rely upon future investment from the country’s energy sector, allowing for additional mini-grid networks to be installed over time. If instituted on a wide scale, mini-grids are estimated not only to improve health conditions and provide reliable energy access to millions of people but also to place Afghanistan on track to meet the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goal 7.

Though still in the early stages of development, this effort to bring green energy to rural Afghanistan is indicative of a growing trend towards decentralized and renewable energy solutions. Mini-grids are a prime example of how innovative technologies are creating innovative solutions to energy poverty around the world, all while remaining environmentally conscious.

–  Matthew Otey
Photo: Flickr