Inflammation and stories on global poverty


Food Prices & Obesity in Developing CountriesUnhealthy food is not only one of the cheapest options in the United States; junk food is also cheaper in developing countries. Because impoverished people cannot afford to purchase healthy, more expensive foods, they risk obesity and “undernutrition.” Even though food prices have decreased in the past six months, these prices are still near a record high level.

The high food prices are contributing to an increase in obesity in third world countries. Otaviano Canuto, World Bank Group’s vice president for poverty reduction and economic management, explains, “When poor people with some disposable income in developing countries try to cope with high and increasingly volatile food prices, they also tend to choose cheap food that is high in calories but without much nutritious value.”

There are many factors contributing to increased food costs. A drop in the supply of wheat and grains caused the price of cereal to go up by 3%. The prospect of more droughts in wheat-producing countries, like Argentina, Australia, and South Africa, could mean even further price increases. The higher cost of oil is also contributing to the problem.

Given that half of the obese people in the world live in nine countries, China, United States, Germany, India, Russia, Brazil, Mexico, Indonesia and Turkey, it is clear that the epidemic is no longer only prevalent in developed countries. The World Bank fears that these high food costs may become the “new normal,” a phenomenon that could potentially cause the number of obesity cases in developing countries to double by 2030.

– Mary Penn

Source: SCMP

Will Poverty End in Your Lifetime_opt
According to the Oxford University Poverty and Human Development Initiative, the poorest nations in the world may be brought out of poverty in twenty years if current rates of development continue – a sure sign that foreign aid and global relief programs are working.

Oxford released the study after the United Nations published a report documenting that poverty reduction drives were exceeding all expectations. The study also noted that this was the first time in history that poverty has been beaten back so dramatically and quickly.

This type of shining development is the effect of the investment of foreign aid and development projects in helping communities establish higher standards of living and the infrastructure to help sustain those standards of living. The UN pointed out that trade had become an important factor in improving conditions in impoverished countries such as Afghanistan, Sierra Leone, Rwanda and Ethiopia.

As Secretary of State Kerry pointed out during his first address, eleven of the top fifteen trading partners of the United States were once beneficiaries of foreign aid. If advocacy groups continue to work toward sustainable development in impoverished nations, it’s possible a few of these countries will make that list in the coming decades. Among the current countries pushing forward, Rwanda, Nepal, and Bangladesh are the countries in which poverty is declining the quickest, followed closely by Ghana, Tanzania, Cambodia and Bolivia. In the three former countries, if poverty continues to decline at this rapid rate, it is projected that the global community can eliminate poverty within the current generation’s lifetime.

– Pete Grapentien

Source: The Guardian

US AID Praises Filipino Volunteer OrganizationThe United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Department of Health commended a volunteer-based organization in the Philippines named the Family Planning Organization of the Philippines (FPOP). The group, located in Iloilo City, teaches young students in poor villages about preventing unplanned pregnancy and provides reproductive education. Many low-income families living in the Philippines do not have access to family planning services, so the Filipino volunteer organization has been working diligently to provide this much-needed information.

Volunteers for FPOP complete extensive training in preparation to teach adolescents about reproductive health. These volunteers are able to educate students on family planning, the importance of preventing teen pregnancy, and birth spacing. The FPOP also reaches out to the LGBT community for peer counseling, thus providing a safe and open place for these students to ask questions and learn about sexual health.

The FPOP in Iloilo City has partnered with the Department of Education to incorporate reproductive education and family planning into the current school curriculum. Now, students in the 5th and 6th grade may learn about preventing pregnancy in science, health or social studies classes. So far, one elementary school and one high school have begun to include FPOP information in their classrooms.

Six barangays, or small villages, have seen the benefits of the FPOP. Not only are students better educated on topics that greatly affect their futures, but they also have the opportunity to positively interact with mentors from the FPOP. Clearly, this is a wonderful organization that deeply impacts its community and deserves praise from USAID.

– Mary Penn

Source: Sun Star Iloilo
Photo: Flickr

A Solution to Global Poverty: Mobile MoneyKenya has recently gained attention for its successful adaption of mobile money. A majority of its population, two-thirds of which live on less than $2 a day, are able to manage their finances using cell phones. Through this service, which does not require a bank account, millions of customers are able to send a text message to banks to pay bills, receive payment, and transfer money. Given that nearly 2.5 million people in the world do not have bank accounts and 2 billion people have cell phones, the program will make it easy to include a large number of people previously without access to finance management. As of now, there are 15 million mobile money customers in Kenya.

The impact of mobile money on people living in developing economies is vast. They now can boast financial independence, control of their funds, and the ability to assist family members and friends with ease. Mobile money can also improve financial security and local economic activity for small, low-income villages.  Most importantly, this is all available with the convenience and simplicity of a cell phone.

Safaricom developed the mobile money service in Kenya in 2007 and named it M-Pesa. Since then, many other companies have been eager to join the mobile sensation. However, despite the success seen in Kenya, mobile money providers have not been able to reproduce its effects in other countries like Afghanistan and Zambia. Many other factors contribute to mobile money besides technology. One reason why the Kenyan program has been so successful is due to its regulatory policies. The Kenyan government employs flexible regulatory rules after the innovative process occurs in order to ensure protection for customers and service providers.

Before this phenomenon, those living in poverty had little access to financial services. There are now 150 money mobile services throughout the world, which means that every day more and more impoverished people are able to benefit from mobile money. Little by little, one village at a time, we can hope to see improving economies in developing countries thanks to this innovative money service.

– Mary Penn
Source: Brookings
Photo:Business Daily Africa


Earlier this week in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 55 scientists from throughout the world met to discuss sustainable development solutions and how science can play a leading role in the fight against poverty. The goal is to explore the ways that science can help defeat such challenges faced by all human beings. Members of science academies who were involved in this meet are ones already involved in dealing with global warming, population growth, and evolution issues.

This meeting was organized most importantly to parallel the United Nation’s Millennium Goals of 2015 to end global poverty: “Based on the “Future We Want” document signed in Rio last June, the panel organized its meeting to find solutions for the welfare of mankind and for sustainable development.” Although industrialized developed countries were mainly prevalent to meet the Millennium Goals, recently there has been a need for input from developing nations as well.

According to the Brazilian representative of the U.N. Development Program, science’s role is to change the very path of development which would thereby lead the world to a better outcome. Thus, this meeting will elaborate on the ways that science reduces poverty.

– Leen Abdallah

Source: Global Post
Photo: Google

World Day of Social Justice
Days ago, on Wednesday, February 20th, the global observance of the World Day of Social Justice was honored by the U.N. It was first observed in 2009. Ban Ki-moon, the Secretary-General of the U.N., uttered some words of remembrance this year when he expressed that in order to achieve a better and more ideal world, there will be a need for a more “inclusive, equitable and sustainable development path built on dialogue, transparency and social justice.”

The World Day of Social Justice is dedicated to the hopes of better employment, social justice, and equality for all. By breaking social barriers of race, gender, disability, and religion, such an idealistic goal can be met. Ten years after political leaders’ decision to tackle global poverty and unemployment, a promise was made to better develop social justice. Thus, in 2007, the World Day of Social Justice was launched by the U.N. General Assembly. Although relatively new, each year the cause becomes more known and incorporates more and more people and institutions, such as various schools and colleges, to take it into account.

Social justice holds a powerful force to influence and lead better lives, equally and positively affecting people from all over the world and from different backgrounds. With the growth of poverty, particularly child poverty, all over the world including in the U.K., poverty awareness is becoming increasingly important. Future policies must better address poverty in hopes of fulfilling social justice and promoting coexistence.

– Leen Abdallah

Source: New Free Press

5 Critical Factors In Rwanda’s Healthcare SuccessJust in the last ten years in Rwanda, deaths from HIV, TB, and malaria have dropped by 80 percent, annual child deaths have fallen by 63 percent, maternal mortality has dropped by 60 percent, and life expectancy has doubled. All at an average annual healthcare cost of $55 per person.

Normally, after horrific national traumas, like Rwanda’s genocide of almost a million people in 1994, countries fall into a cycle of poverty and economic stagnation. Poor health and disease cripple workers and then the national economy, leaving the country ineffective to break out of depression.

A recent article in BMJ, led by Dr. Paul Farmer, Chair of the Department of Global Health and Social Medicine at Harvard Medical School, examined data from the World Health Organization (WHO) and attempted to identify why Rwanda was able to make such dramatic progress when so many other nations have failed before them.

They identified 5 critical factors In Rwanda’s healthcare success:

1. The government formed a centralized plan for economic development, with one of the pillars being health care; knowing that, without improving health, poverty would persist. There were heavy research and reliance on facts and data to formulate their health metrics.

2. Aid allocation was controlled and monitored; the government insisted that all aid agencies meet transparency and accountability standards consistent with the national development plan.

3. A treatment plan addressing all the associated issues around AIDS was implemented:  tuberculosis, malnutrition, need for in-home care, community health workers, “psychosocial” support, primary and prenatal care.

4. Financial incentive was given to coordinate care; a performance-based financing system was set up to pay hospitals, clinics and community health workers to follow-up on patients and improve primary care.

5. Universal health insurance for all citizens, with particular attention to providing for the most vulnerable populations. The average, annual out-of-pocket health spending was cut in half, and households experiencing health care bills that force them into poverty were significantly reduced. (Half the funding came from international donors and a half from annual premiums of less than $2 per person.)

Access to healthcare for ALL citizens is a prerequisite for controlling diseases and thus allowing for economic growth to lift people, and nations, out of poverty. The medical advances in Rwanda have pushed their economic growth, the GDP per person has tripled, and millions have been lifted from poverty over the last decade. Rwanda offers a replicable model for the delivery of high-quality healthcare and effective oversight, and even with limited resources.

– Mary Purcell

Source: The Atlantic

Human Development Report Shows Progress
The Human Development Report is an annual publication by the Human Development Report Office of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). It is essentially a report that shows how well countries are doing economically. The UNDP compiles its list using information they collect on categories from income and literacy levels to gender rights and longevity. The 2013 report, which is slated to be officially released on March 14th, is said to show great progress in 40 countries that are lifting their people out of poverty. There are a few of the expected countries on the list, such as the emerging superpowers of China, Brazil and India, but the progress goes well beyond these three.

The list is controversial in many circles. Some of the critics argue that the numbers are simplistic or misleading, and can be dramatically misinterpreted with by reading a slight change of the criteria. The focus on material well being rather than any psychological factors are also a point of contention. These critiques are common of any of the myriad of tools that turn the vibrancy of human life into a series of easily digestible numbers. In any case, the Human Development Report has long been a good indicator of global trends and areas that need to be worked on.

While the news of progress worldwide is a good sign, there are still advances to be made. Notably, none of the ten countries of sub-Saharan Africa are on the list. Some of the countries in the Middle East such as Afghanistan, Myanmar and Yemen also continue to struggle. However, the large group of countries that have made the list this year will begin to make themselves heard on a global scale, which can only help to bring up the struggling countries around them.

– Sean Morales

Source: Toronto Star

Red Nose Day Turns 25March 15 will mark the 25th anniversary of the charity organization Comic Relief’s Biannual Red Nose Day. The event, which began in the UK in 1988, is an all-day affair that showcases British comedians performing telethon-style with the ultimate goal of raising money for poverty reduction in Africa. Since the first event, the organization has raised 660 million pounds for the cause.

What now appears to the public as a well-rehearsed and professional telethon was once a much more amateur affair with the most earnest of the organizers and performers of Red Nose Day holding it together. British talk show host and comedian Jonathan Ross recalls one mix-up from the early years when Welsh comedian Griff Rhys Jones began a comedic bit with his trademark enthusiasm only to realize that he was supposed to be presenting a tragic event. Despite moments of confusion, the event was a wild success and continues to be an important national event to this day.

The organization does not simply raise money to be passed on to indiscriminate sources. Walking through the halls of a Comic Relief-assisted school in Accra, Ross was impressed by the real-world impact that a little money collected from thousands of people can make. He recognized the importance of the school to the community in helping the children gain a solid education to escape poverty.  When faced with the reality of the effect that the charity money makes, it is obvious that the school is more than just a place to collect impressive donation statistics or take riveting photos for a catalog. It is an institution that means a great deal to the community.

Ross admits that the idea of using comedy to highlight the tragedy, as in the staggering poverty in Africa, is a risky way to raise awareness. Regardless, the performers and the organization have built a large following in the early years that has only grown since then. At the least, Red Nose Day is a bright and cheery way to bring awareness to global poverty on the international stage.

Sean Morales

Source: The Guardian

Embrace Infant Health in the Developing World

The Embrace infant health “sleeping bag” is an innovative, low-cost baby warmer, engineered for at-risk babies in developing countries. Around the world over 20 million low-birth-weight and premature babies are born every year, in the right environment, these babies can still thrive. However, in impoverished areas without resources or in turmoil, these babies are at risk of dying – and over four million will die within their first month of life. Amazingly, just keeping these newborns at the right temperature can be the difference between life and death.

The design of the Embrace incorporates materials that will stay a constant 98.6F, the critical temperature for a newborn’s survival. After being heated via any AC power source, the “WarmPak” inside the wrap traps the heat and then slowly releases it for up to 6 hours, keeping the “microclimate” inside the Embrace perfect for healthy development. Under normal conditions, a baby’s body temperature can be maintained through basic contact with the mother, but sometimes this is not always an option. Particularly for women who are working and/or caring for other children, who may be recovering from a traumatic birth, and those in disaster-relief and post-conflict settings.

The biggest problem these pre-mature babies face is hypothermia, when they cannot regulate their own body temperature and cannot stay warm. Average room temperature for these tiny bodies actually feels freezing to them. Those that can survive even without proper care will often develop life-long problems like diabetes, heart disease, and low IQ. Simply keeping a baby warm can save its life immediately and allow proper development in the long term.

– Mary Purcell