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Living Conditions in Lesotho

Lesotho is a small, mountainous African kingdom surrounded by South Africa. Lesotho’s population is 72 percent rural and 80 percent are engaged in the agricultural sector, which has suffered greatly due to recent droughts, climate change and failed harvests. Lesotho is classified as a lower-middle-income country; however, 57 percent of its two million residents live below the poverty line. Here are eight facts about living conditions in Lesotho to know.

8 Facts About Living Conditions in Lesotho

  1. HIV/AIDS – In 2017, 23.8 percent of adults aged 15 to 49 in Lesotho had HIV, 320,000 people were living with HIV and there were 4,900 AIDs-related deaths. NGOs such as UNAIDS, UNICEF and the WHO have been working with Lesotho’s government to fast-track HIV prevention, testing and treatment. In 2017, 80 percent of people living with HIV in Lesotho were aware of their status, 74 percent of people with HIV were on treatment and 68 percent of people on treatment were virally suppressed.
  2. Tuberculosis – Around 405 out of 100,000 people suffer from tuberculosis (TB). This is one of the highest tuberculosis rates in southern Africa. This airborne bacterial disease is a huge public health crisis in Lesotho and is seen as a co-epidemic with HIV/AIDS. The crisis has narrowed substantially from the TB rate of 695 out of 100,000 people in 2007. Progress is being made, but there is still much to improve upon in terms of public health and living conditions in Lesotho.
  3. Access to Clean Water – The Highlands Water Project raises millions of dollars annually for Lesotho by selling water to its neighboring countries, primarily South Africa. Still, around 18.2 percent of people in Lesotho do not have access to clean drinking water. Many must walk for hours just to reach water access points that may or may not be in working order. The Metolong Dam Project is a promising project to help increase clean water accessibility. When completed in 2020, it is predicted that water supply will reach 90 percent of the district Maseru and sanitation coverage will increase from 15 to 20 percent.
  4. Food Insecurity – Drought in Lesotho combined with two successive crop failures, low incomes and high costs for food left more than 709,000 people in “urgent need of food assistance” from 2016 to 2017. The food insecurity crisis worsened with a steep reduction in harvest for Lesotho’s main crops of maize, sorghum and wheat between 2017 and 2018. The World Food Programme (WFP) is helping to reduce hunger in Lesotho by supporting more than 260,000 people affected by drought with monthly food distributions and cash-based transfers during the low-yield season.
  5. Stunting – One in three children under 5 years old are stunted as a result of chronic malnutrition. Acute malnutrition is a major problem in Lesotho’s population that affects children the most. Many NGOs focus on alleviating child hunger caused by poor living conditions in Lesotho. UNICEF provided support to 1,750 children suffering from severe acute malnutrition in 2017 and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) helped 2,560 families start home-based gardens with vegetables to create a stable, healthy food source. In addition, the WFP currently provides free healthy school meals to more than 250,000 children in 1,173 of Lesotho’s primary schools.
  6. Housing – Around 70 percent of Lesotho residents live in substandard housing conditions with issues ranging from overcrowding to lack of toilets. Nonprofits such as Habitat for Humanity operate in Lesotho to build homes for vulnerable populations, but individuals also can have a large impact on housing and development. A winning proposal by Javed Sultan for Climate CoLab laid out the success in building affordable and climate responsive homes for the elderly in Lesotho. Innovative and cost-effective building in Lesotho has the potential to help many people in housing poverty.
  7. Sanitation – Access to proper sanitation facilities has increased every year since 1994. In 2015, 30.3 percent of the population had access to improved sanitation facilities that included flushing systems, ventilation latrine pits and composting toilets ensuring hygienic separation from human waste. In 1994 only 22.6 percent had this level of sanitation. This shows that progress is being continually made to improve this area of living conditions in Lesotho, but there still is much to accomplish.
  8. Education – In 2010, Lesotho established Free and Compulsory Primary Education by law. The net lower basic enrollment ratio increased from 82 percent in 2000 to 95 percent in 2010. Lesotho also has one of the highest literacy rates in Africa, with 85 percent of people over the age of 14 being literate. The Government of Lesotho allocates 23.3 percent of its annual budget, or 9.2 percent of Lesotho’s GDP, on the education sector showing its commitment to improving its education system.

These eight facts about living conditions in Lesotho show that there are still major issues including epidemics, water, hunger and sanitation crises that need to be further addressed. However, progress is being made to improve living conditions on many fronts due to the collaboration of charitable organizations and the Government of Lesotho.

– Camryn Lemke
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Nepal
Straddled by two of Asia’s growing giants, India and China, Nepal features vast, mountainous landscapes and people from diverse ethnic cultures. However, the nation remains one of the poorest countries in the world. Here are 15 facts about poverty in Nepal.

15 Facts About Poverty in Nepal

  1. Poverty Rate: Twenty-five percent of the Nepali population lived below the poverty line in 2011. However, the country has seen a significant improvement compared to a rate of 41.8 percent in 1996 and 30.9 percent in 2004.
  2. Malnourishment: High food prices and limited access to farming in rural areas contribute to hunger in Nepal. Around 5 million people in Nepal do not have sufficient nourishment. Additionally, more than 85 percent of people rely on small scale agriculture as their main form of sustenance.
  3. Civil War: Nepal experienced a civil war between 1996 and 2006, the effects of which the country still feels today. Conflict within a country often coincides with increasing poverty rates, as it limits the transportation of resources, health care access and a healthy job market.
  4. Corruption: Nepal’s government holds a reputation for being corrupt. Abuse of authority leads to an unfair economic system and unequal distribution of resources thereby perpetuating the issue of poverty in Nepal. Countries often feel the effects of corrupt government bureaucracy during natural disasters.
  5. Natural Disasters: Natural disasters have heavily afflicted Nepal, such as the 2015 earthquake which destroyed infrastructure, homes and economic growth. An already struggling economy and little political stability often exacerbate the effects of earthquakes in Nepal. Between the main earthquake in 2015 and the aftershock that came two weeks later, 8,970 lost their lives and 22,303 people became seriously injured. Estimates determine that the total value of the damages from the earthquake and aftershock are equivalent to $7 billion.
  6. Infant Mortality Rates: A lack of health care and access to education in impoverished regions, for which there are many in Nepal, contribute to high infant mortality rates. In 2016, for every 1,000 children born in Nepal, 34 died before their fifth birthday.
  7. Geography: The geography of this country makes it difficult to effectively alleviate poverty. As a landlocked and mountainous region, the development and transportation of resources are cumbersome in Nepal. Furthermore, Nepal experiences political pressures from neighboring countries that can interfere with resource distribution.
  8. Infrastructure: Nepal’s roads are often in rough condition and the seasons heavily affect them. Delays, flat tires and small spaces are common. Because of their rural location, distance and terrain isolate much of Nepal’s population from employment and economic opportunities. Lack of basic infrastructure and access to transportation services makes it difficult for those in poverty to access markets and services.
  9. Agriculture: A lack of advanced farming methods also makes it hard for the country to make progress against poverty. Eighty percent of Nepal’s population lives in rural areas. In 2017, agriculture made up nearly one-third of the Himalayan country’s GDP. Additionally, over 85 percent of its people relied on agriculture as their main form of sustenance. However, outdated methods are slowing the farming pace, and Nepal’s government continually fails to provide proper infrastructure to farmers.
  10. Education: Prior to 1951, only members of the upper class received an education. Since then, the Nepali government began expanding the reach of education. However, when the country introduced private education, the gap between rich and poor children only widened. Poor children still have low rates of access to education and many children leave school to work or help at home. Nepal as a whole has a literacy rate of only 65 percent. Furthermore, the quality of education remains low, as the teachers themselves often have very little schooling.
  11. Forced Labor and Human Trafficking: Nepal is a source, transit and destination country for forced labor and human traffickers. Lack of education for women and children leave them particularly vulnerable. Many women will agree to marriages through matchmaking companies and find themselves in a domestic slavery situation instead. In desperation, parents will allow people to take their children in exchange for education opportunities. However, these children often end up in false orphanages to garner donations from tourists.
  12. Sanitation: Access to basic sanitation is still a major problem in Nepal. Nearly 10.8 million people are without access to basic sanitation and 16 percent of the population practices open defecation. Organizations such as the Global Hope Network have sought to educate inhabitants of villages about the health issues associated with these systems, and have begun building more sanitary infrastructure in places without access to toilets.
  13. Rice Production and Economic Growth: In 2017, Nepal produced 5.2 million tons of rice, the most ever recorded. This helped the country grow economically by 7.5 percent and greatly reduced its poverty levels. During this same time period, Nepali foreign workers sent significant amounts of remittances and inflation rates stabilized for the time being.
  14. SAMBHAV: There are many nonprofits working to alleviate poverty in Nepal from the ground up. Organizations such as SAMBHAV are beginning with the education system. This group has reconstructed schools and moved them to more convenient locations in order to increase attendance. SAMBHAV also renovates and rebuilds schools so that students can study in modern, clean and safe classrooms, often adding sanitation facilities where they did not previously exist.
  15. Habitat for Humanity: Habitat for Humanity is also working on the ground in Nepal to address the housing crisis. Currently, the organization, alongside its partners, is building 2.3 houses per hour.

The issues contributing to these facts about poverty in Nepal are many, but the country is making progress. The country’s poverty rate has seen significant improvement over the past two decades, and recent economic successes should continue that trend, leading to a better quality of life for more and more Nepalis. Efforts of volunteers and nonprofit organizations have the potential to make a big difference. These 15 facts about poverty in Nepal highlight the various issues that contribute to the problem and the impact they have on the country.

– GiGi Hogan
Photo: Flickr

top 10 facts about living conditions in Hungary

Hungary is a country of 9.8 million people located in central Europe. It makes up a portion of the EU’s southern border and is a major immigration hub. Hungary is one of the EU’s poorer countries, with a GDP in the lower third of all member states, though it is still better off than many of its central European and Balkan neighbors. Below are the top 10 facts about living conditions in Hungary.

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Hungary

  1. Impressive work-life balance
    Unemployment is high in Hungary, with only 68 percent of people age 15 to 64 employed. Of those employed, 75 percent are men and 61 percent are women. However, the number of employees working very long hours is less than 4 percent–much lower than the United States, where 11 percent of employees work long hours.
  2. Standards of living are nearly the lowest in the EU
    In terms of GDP, Hungary is ranked 23rd out of the EU’s 28 member states, at 68 percent of the EU’s average. In first place for the region is Austria, which produces at roughly twice Hungary’s capacity. Another metric used to determine the welfare of the consumer, Actual Individual Consumption (AIC), places Hungary second-to-last.
  3. Habitat for Humanity is raising awareness on housing inequality
    In 2015, the Hungarian government ended housing support to nearly half a million impoverished residents. Prior to that, several hundred thousand Hungarians were already experiencing housing poverty. A Habitat for Humanity report from 2014 noted that more than half a million Hungarians lived with leaky roofs and/or moldy walls. Just under half of the population (44.6 percent) live in overcrowded flats, and 52 percent of Hungarians not living in major cities have access to a sanitary sewer.
  4. Hungary has universal health care, but the rate and efficacy of coverage are low
    Although Hungary has had universal health care coverage since the 1940s, it still ranks in the bottom third in the EU in terms of quality of coverage. This is partly due to low salaries—medical professionals cannot expect to make as much money in Hungary as they would in other EU member states. The main issue is a focus on curative care in hospitals, rather than preventative care in other medical facilities.
  5. Hungary has received significant foreign investment
    As of 2018, Hungary has an annual inflow of $4.3 billion per capita of foreign direct investment (FDI), a full recovery from the stagnation of the 2009-10 financial crisis. While this is partly since Hungary has an ideal geographical position for foreign investment, foreign investors have also shifted focus from the relatively poor textile and food processing industries to more lucrative industries such as wholesale, retail trade and automotive repair.
  6. Primary and secondary education enrollment rates are high
    For primary school students, enrollment has varied slightly over the past two decades, but has remained above 95 percent overall. At its highest, the enrollment rate was 97.2 percent in 2009, and at its lowest in 2012, at 95.7 percent. For adolescents in school, the statistics are similarly good: though there has been a slight rise since 2014 of the number of adolescents out of school, the overall number has hovered at less than 5 percent.
  7. Tertiary education needs investment
    Only 13 percent of 25-64 year-olds have a bachelor’s degree, with 9 percent of that population holding a master’s degree or equivalent. These statistics are low, but the individuals who possess these degrees are reaping the benefits. Studies have shown that postsecondary education credentials can potentially double one’s earnings in Hungary: a bachelor’s degree is worth a wage premium of 72 percent, while a master’s or above can earn 140 percent more than the country’s respective average salaries.
  8. Investments in higher education are underway
    An initiative led by the NGO HEInnovate to invest in higher education has been taking place over the last decade, spurred by a decline in institutional funding from the state. The focus of this initiative has been to utilize Hungary’s educational system to boost economic and socio-cultural development at the local and national levels. This has led to a marked increase in venture capital and start-up creation among academics and has caused strong domestic economic growth.
  9. Many institutions have been consolidated by the federal government
    Since his election in 2010, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has taken steps to consolidate hundreds of pro-government media outlets into a propaganda conglomerate. These actions have been received well by some but not as well by others — Orban enjoys far more support from individuals living in rural areas of Hungary than he does from individuals living in Hungary’s urban centers.
  10. Hungary’s location has made it a major migration hub for refugees in the past
    Since a section of Hungary’s border forms the external border of the European Union, the country has received many migrants in the past. However, in recent years Hungary has adopted a harder stance on immigration, which has drastically reduced the number of asylum seekers from the Middle East.

These top 10 facts about living conditions in Hungary demonstrate how the country remains at a crossroads in the European Union—geographically, economically and socially. While the country performs well in some areas, such as education and cost of living, it still faces more economic hardship than most other EU member states, and its status as a migration hub has led to entrenched xenophobia in the country’s political landscape.

– Rob Sprankle
Photo: Flickr

ethnically and culturally diverse country

Brazil is located in South America and neighbors every country within the continent except for Chile and Ecuador. It has the largest number of Portuguese speakers in the world and is known as one of the most ethnically and culturally diverse countries in the world. Since the 1930s, immigrants from many countries have become the backbone of Brazil. Although the country’s growth does not necessarily cause poverty, there is a correlation between overcrowdedness and population growth in specific regions of the country that are poor. Here are seven facts about overpopulation in Brazil.

7 Facts About Overpopulation in Brazil

  1. Brazil is currently the most populous country in South America and the fifth-most populated country in the world with 212.41 million people. The current growth rate is 0.75 percent per year. Although the population is dense on the east coast, the central and western parts of Brazil are vastly less populated than these regions. Brazil is ranked sixth in the world in population density with about 24 people per unit area.
  2. Brazil is home to the most expensive cities in the Americas. In addition, São Paulo is ranked as the world’s 10th most expensive city and Rio de Janeiro is ranked as the 12th most expensive city in the world. Of note, 81 percent of Brazil’s population lives in urban areas. Purchasing an apartment in urban Brazil is estimated at $4,370 per square meter. Owning an apartment in these areas is more expensive than owning one in New York City, which is ranked as the 32nd most expensive city.
  3. More than 50 million Brazilians live in inadequate housing. São Paulo is the most populous city in Brazil, South America, the western hemisphere and is even the 12th most populous city in the world. Forty percent of Sao Paulo’s population experience poor living conditions and the poverty rate stands at 19 percent.
  4. There are about 1,600 favelas, or slums, in São Paulo and more than 1,000 in Rio de Janeiro. Rocinha is the largest favela community within Rio de Janeiro. Although the 2010 census reports only 69,000 people living in Rocinha, there are actually between 150,000 and 300,000 inhabitants. The population density in Rocinha is crammed with 100,000 people per square kilometer compared to Rio de Janeiro’s city proper 5,377 people per square kilometer.
  5. Communities like Rocinha in Rio de Janeiro also have high crime rates. There are roughly 37 murders per 100,000 people. In comparison, cities such as London have less than two murders per 100,000 people.
  6. In Brasilia, there are 25 million people who lack access to improved sanitation. Although the country possesses 20 percent of the world’s water, there are still 5 million people who lack access to safe drinking water. In addition, 83 million people who are not connected to sewage systems which have caused many odors and health risks. Habitat Brazil has been working to improve access to clean water for those families who live in extreme poverty. In order to solve this problem, Habitat Brazil is repairing and enlarging roofs and building cisterns for collecting and storing water. This will provide access to safe and usable water for hundreds of families. In addition, Habitat Brazil has constructed 30 water reservoirs. Each reservoir stores 16,000 liters of water. This makes it possible to capture the 200mm of rainwater that falls during the year.
  7. One of the top facts about overpopulation in Brazil happens to be the housing deficit which stands at between 6 and 8 million houses. Low-income families account for 73.6 percent of the housing deficit population. Projects such as the Sustainable Social Housing Initiative Project (SUSHI) and the My House, My Life Brazil Project (Habitat for Humanity) are fighting the country’s sustainability crisis. My House, My Life has already provided 2.6 million housing units for 10.5 million low-income Brazilians. It is currently building 685 houses in two states of Brazil. It is also expected that 100 families in Sao Paolo will have their houses repaired and improved through Habitat Brazil.

– Francisco Benitez
Photo: Flickr

10 facts about slums in BrazilBrazil, being among the top 10 most populous countries in the world, has one of the highest levels of wealth inequality. Wealth distribution is lacking, as the south is responsible for the vast majority of Brazil’s bustling economy and holds a large fraction of the nation’s money. The stark contrast between the affluent and the poor is as visible as the divide between the metropolis and the countryside. The outskirts of Brazil’s major cities, namely Rio de Janeiro, indicate a clear division as unregulated neighborhoods, or slums termed “favelas,” are ever-present. Here are 10 facts about slums in Brazil.

10 Facts about Slums in Brazil

  1. Construction of homes: The original slums were constructed from debris and stolen materials such as wooden scraps. The homes generally start as makeshift creations. After a time, improvements are made and the homes are solidified with brick, cinderblocks and sheet metal; however, the homes are far from being “adequate living conditions,” according to the World Bank.
  2. Growth: Favelas started growing between the 1950s and 1980s. As the cost of scarce land increased drastically and people migrated from the countryside to the city, rural migrants were trapped in poverty. During this time period, the population in favelas outside Rio de Janeiro alone increased from around 170,000 to over 600,000.
  3. Lack of housing: Brazil has anywhere between six to eight million fewer houses than it needs to house the residents of the favelas. The lack of housing leads to the proliferation of slum housing and the overcrowding of these neighborhoods. Habitat for Humanity is working alongside city councils to rehabilitate the slums and find solutions to the housing crisis.
  4. Population: According to the 2010 census, nearly 6 percent of Brazil’s population lives in a favela. This is likely due to the low wages and extremely high cost of living in Rio de Janeiro and other parts of Brazil.
  5. Poverty: Favelas are areas of concentrated poverty. More than 50 million Brazilians are living in inadequate conditions. Of these 50 million, most are families that have an income of around $300 per month.
  6. Sanitation: Twenty-six million Brazilians in urban areas do not have access to drinking water, 14 million are without trash collection services and 83 million live without sewage systems. In order to reach clean water, people living in favelas have to walk over two hours each day. Habitat for Humanity is making strides to alleviate the severity of this issue by repairing and enlarging roofs in favelas while also “building cisterns for water catchment and storage,” according to their website.
  7. Life expectancy: The life expectancy in Brazil is approximately 68 years while the life expectancy of individuals living in favelas is merely 48 years. Conditions are improving as medical care is available at no cost. However, essential medicines are lacking and care for illnesses such as bronchitis is rare as resources are slim.
  8. Crime: The favelas are overrun by drug-trafficking gangs, and the police presence is scarce. However, in the favela outside Rio de Janeiro, a local militia formed in response to these gangs. The Police Pacification Units were introduced in 2008 and are slowly reducing the crime rates in the favelas.
  9. Employment: Around 80 percent of people living in Rocinha, the largest favela in Rio de Janeiro, are employed and a grand majority of the inhabitants have no affiliation with the previously mentioned gangs and violence associated with favelas.
  10. Improving the favelas: While poverty and disease within the favelas is still high, there are social and religious organizations focused on gaining access to basic rights and services for residents of favelas. For example, The Future Begins at Home is a project based in Recife that allows 250 families access to healthier spaces for work, play, and family life.

The favelas of Brazil signify the divide between the poor and the wealthy. Rio de Janeiro has implemented programs to eradicate the favelas and replace the weak, dangerous infrastructure of the slums with more permanent housing. While the conditions of the slums in Brazil may seem hopeless, change is occurring and progress is being made.

– Clare Leo
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Slums in Manila
Since as early as the mid-1900s, impoverished citizens of Manila, Philippines have resided in informal settlements known as slums. The metro Manila area has several of these slums which houses much of the poor population of the city. Below are 10 facts about slums in Manila.

10 Facts about slums in Manila

  1. An estimated 35 percent of the metro Manila population live in unstable, poorly constructed shelters in slums. Eleven percent of slum residents live near unsafe areas like railroads and garbage dumps. According to the World Bank, living conditions in slums are worse than in the poorest rural areas. The Mega-Cities Project’s research found that tuberculosis rates were nine times higher than in non-slum areas and that rates of diarrheal disease were two times higher.

  2. It is extremely difficult to collect adequate demographic data on slum populations, as most constituents lack a proper address. Even if surveyors reach slum occupants, most are timid to answer questions due to the fear that surveyors will use the information to demolish their shelters or resettle them. Most slum residents have very little or no tenant security. However, in 2000 the Asian Development Bank estimated a total slum population of around 3.4 million in Manila.

  3. The rate of childhood malnutrition is three times higher in the slums than in non-slum areas. According to USAID, children sometimes have to sort through garbage for scraps of food. A study of the Smoky Mountain slum found that 80 percent of children aged eight months to 15 years who scavenged for food had at least two species of intestinal parasites. An Asian Development Bank study found that 50 percent of children were anemic. This is despite the fact that many of these children have access to medical facilities.

  4. Residents in Manila slums lack access to proper sanitation and a clean environment. USAID states that 66 percent of slum residents lack an adequate way to dispose of human waste and often resort to open pits or rivers. A UNICEF study found that only 16 percent of children in the slums have access to clean drinking water. As a result, residents often turn to vendors or contaminated groundwater. The child mortality rate in slums is three times higher than in non-slum areas according to the Philippines Health Department.

  5. Project PEARLS is providing children in Manila slums with food and health care. The organization has three different food programs for the children of Manila slums. PEARLS launched The Soup Kitchen program in July 2015, which feeds at least 300  children per day on a budget of $160. The organization also provides free medicine to children for illnesses like dehydration, flu, pneumonia and infections, as well as various wounds.

  6. Slum settlements in Manila are extremely vulnerable to natural disasters. The Philippines ranks fourth in the global climate risk index and is often prone to typhoons, flooding, earthquakes and other natural disasters. The instability of the often homemade shelters provides little to no protection from these calamities. The Asian Development Bank states that this and the fact that most slums are in dangerous locations make slum settlements vulnerable to natural hazards. Heavy rains in July 2000 caused a landslide of garbage that killed 218 people in a slum settled on top of a garbage dump.

  7. Habitat for Humanity is building stable shelters for slum residents in Manila. With the help of volunteers, the organization builds around 5,000 homes every year. The team works with the local government to rebuild homes and also construct new homes that can withstand the natural elements. From digging the foundation to pouring the concrete and laying the roof, the organization and volunteers create sustainable homes from the ground up for thousands of impoverished slum residents.

  8. The moderate economic growth in recent years did not help to mitigate poverty or slums. The Asian Development Bank reported an average 5.3 percent increase in GDP from 2003 to 2006. Poverty rates increased from 24 percent to 27 percent during that time and continued to increase in 2007 when the GDP growth was 7.1 percent. Chronic poverty, driven by factors like severe inequality and corruption, hinders the reduction of slum residents and settlements. The Philippines ranked 141 out of 180 countries in the 2008 Transparency International corruption perceptions index. According to the Asian Development Bank, local political dynasties manipulate markets to deter the poor from accessing private goods and capital. In 2006, the richest 20 percent owned 53 percent of the wealth in the country.

  9. Poverty is fuelling online child sex abuse in the slums. The live streaming of child pornography in these locations has led UNICEF to name the Philippines the global epicenter of the online child sex abuse trade. Despite the new cybercrime unit at the Philippines National Police Headquarters and the passage of an Anti-Child Pornography Law, convictions remain low and case reports high. This is partially due to the fact that the age of consent in the Philippines is only 12 years old. UNICEF reports that parents have even brought their children to these shows to earn money.

  10. Police and government corruption have engendered the unlawful killings of thousands of slum citizens at the hands of officers since the start of President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs. These corrupt and violent raids target slum residents the most. A Human Rights Watch report found that these raids have unlawfully killed over 7,000 people. The report states that police often falsify evidence and falsely claim self-defense to get away with these extra-judicial killings. Although Duterte has not called for extra-judicial killings, his repeated calls for the killing of drug offenders and an absence of any investigations into the killings prompted the Human Rights Watch to label this campaign as a possible progenitor of crimes against humanity.

The Manila government has struggled to find ways to reduce poverty and the population of slum residents, but poverty is a drain on Manila’s economy. According to the Asian Development Bank, for every one percent increase in poverty, there is a 0.7 percent decrease in overall per capita income. Along with this economic algorithm, a lack of investment, access to capital and financial markets throughout slum communities hinders economic growth. Different non-governmental organizations like Habitat for Humanity and Project PEARLS are providing basic essentials and helpful assistance for the different struggles of slum life. However, the Philippines requires more research and both domestic and international assistance to mitigate and eventually solve the aforementioned 10 facts about slums in Manila.

– Zach Brown
Photo: Flickr

Living Conditions in Portugal

Living conditions in Portugal, as described by Marcel Rebelo de Sousa, the president of Portugal, are “disgraceful.” Rebelo defends the urgency to come up with a strategy to eradicate poverty in the country. He also states, “We must get this message through to the Portuguese society that no one is happy or could be happy pretending there is no poverty around them.”

With President Rebelo’s message in mind, here are the top 10 facts about the living conditions in Portugal that represent the significance of the need for change in the country.

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Portugal

  1. In 2017 and 2018, Portugal had one of the widest wealth gaps. Wealthy citizens in the country are earning up to five times more money than those living in poverty. In fact, 18.7 percent of the population lives below the poverty line. In comparison to 2012, it has been increasing.
  2. Portugal was experiencing a recession illustrated by the economy growing 0 percent in 2008. The economy then fell 3 percent in 2009. Additionally, the government underwent a 3 percent budget deficit in 2008.
  3. According to Eurostat in 2019, people in Portugal work up to twelve hours per day. The average hourly rate for workers in Portugal has dropped to 12.10 euros. In comparison, the average pay per hour in European countries stands at €27.60.
  4. BBC News reports people in Portugal suffer pay cuts due to ongoing government reforms. Annual salaries have been cut down three quarters the usual wage. A majority of the population has seen their wages cut by 6 percent.
  5. Necessities such as water and electricity are increasing to an all-time high. When looking at annual income and the expenses necessary for survival, citizens of Portugal earn less than what is necessary to live comfortably.
  6. There are several factors for children misbehaving in schools For example, in addition to insufficient finances to buy food, water and clothing, there is a lack of parental guidance. In turn, these factors negatively impact the education of the youth in Portugal.
  7. Joao Carlos, the headteacher of a school in Rio Moro, notes that over the past year, violence has been increasing in schools. Similarily increasing, is the number of students arriving without having eaten breakfast. Carlos states, “If a child is going to perform well at school, they need to eat well at home and they need to stop growing up by themselves.”
  8. Child labor has become increasingly common in Portugal. Many kids under the age of 16 have to beg for jobs in order to help support the family. This is one result of children choosing not to attend school.
  9. According to Trading Economics, in January 2019, 6.8 percent of the country remains unemployed. This is a slight increase from the 6.7 percent that was unemployed in 2018.
  10. World HIV and Aids Epidemic Report states that Portugal has one of the highest incidence rates of HIV/AIDS in Europe. There are over 34,000 people infected with the virus. Of that number, 500 people died of the disease last year.

President Sousa has outlined a plan he hopes to implement in the coming years to reduce poverty in the country. Sousa’s main goal is to expand the job force while increasing wages. Additionally, he wants to provide a better education especially for women, more access to health care, and improving sanitation in the country.

In addition to Sousa’s efforts, non-profit organizations such as the ABIC- Associação dos Bolseiros de Investigação Científica and Habitat for Humanity are forming. ABIC’s main actions include forming funding agencies in Portugal while urging the government to open scientific job positions. On the contrary, Habitat for Humanity in Portugal helps low-income families by building new homes and renovating houses on family-owned land.

Although these 10 facts about the living conditions in Portugal appear devastating, the steps toward solutions have been initiated. More awareness around the issues suffocating the country is starting the process of reform for those in Portugal.

– Aaron Templin
Photo: Flickr

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

Volunteers to Build Homes
Hundreds of thousands of families in developing countries struggle to keep a roof over their heads or lack one altogether. Shelter is a critical part of a stable community and life. It has been directly linked with better, healthier and financially stable lives.

Several organizations are enlisting volunteers to build homes for communities and families in need. Spanning from a few days to several weeks, the trips are flexible and affordable creating multiple opportunities to give back. Rather than simply donating to organizations, volunteering physically allows a person to be a direct part of the change. Below is a list of the top five organizations enlisting volunteers to build homes.

Build Abroad

Build Abroad is a nonprofit with a focus on construction volunteering. The organization builds and repairs homes, schools and communities with the help of volunteers. Two friends founded the organization in 2010, as they wanted to combine their love for travel and architecture to serve developing countries. Build Abroad strives to build better infrastructure in order to impact communities for years to come. It has programs in six countries with plans to expand by two countries every year, according to its website. The organization’s volunteer trips range from one week to six months.

1 Mission

1 Mission organizes short-term trips in order to create long-term impacts. The organization is, “A community development organization giving people in poverty the opportunity to earn a house by serving their community,” according to its website. 1 Mission has successfully built 847 home for people and families in need. They organize short, three-day trips, which allows volunteering to be convenient for anyone.

The organization currently works in Nicaragua, Mexico and El Salvador, having affordable trips starting at $280 per person. J.D. Cavness, a 22-year-old, volunteered with 1 Mission in October 2018, where he helped build a three bedroom house in just three short days for a family in need along with other volunteers. During an Interview with The Borgen Project, J.D. reflected saying, “It was super rewarding and cool to give a family a home that they can live in and raise their own family in.” After experiencing the trip himself, he explained how he would recommend it to anyone, especially since volunteering does not require building experience.

Habitat For Humanity

Habitat For Humanity is an international nonprofit housing organization working throughout the communities of 70 different countries. Habitat’s vision is, “of a world where everyone has a decent place to live,” according to its website.

The organization’s team and volunteers work in home construction, neighborhood revitalization, disaster response and financial education. Habitat For Humanity believes affordable housing leads to stable communities. It offers homebuilding trips in nearly 30 countries around the world with its Global Village Program, as well as local trips to build in the U.S. Since the nonprofit’s founding, it has helped more than 22 million people build or improve their homes.

International Volunteer HQ

International Volunteer HQ emerged in 2007 and has grown to become one of the leading volunteer organizations with over 40 global destinations. The nonprofit strives to create affordable, safe and quality volunteer trips fostering long-term community goals in countries around the world. The organization offers several different project options to choose from.

Specifically, its construction and renovation volunteer abroad projects include building, renovating and improving infrastructure in local communities. International Volunteer HQ has construction volunteer trip durations ranging from one to 24 weeks long. International Volunteer HQ believes, “In a future where any traveler, anywhere in the world is empowered to make a meaningful difference in the community they are visiting,” according to its website.

Global Vision International

Global Vision International (GVI) has been offering volunteer abroad opportunities since 1998. GVI runs various programs throughout 13 different countries. The nonprofit centers its projects around making a sustainable, positive and long-lasting impact. GVI uses the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals as a framework for its objectives.

GVI offers construction volunteer trips to lay foundations in developing countries for years to come. The construction project locations range from Fiji, South Africa, Thailand, Costa Rica and more. The goal of the construction projects is to, “Work to build or improve key infrastructure, and thereby, improve the communities’ access to healthcare, education and children’s development,” according to the organization’s website.

These organizations give people a means to act whether they have a history of construction or limited time. The top five organizations enlisting volunteers to build homes allow anyone to be a part of improving lives.

– Savannah Huls

Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Living Conditions in Armenia

Armenia, a country nestled in the mountainous region between Asia and Europe, has faced many devastating blows in its colorful past and is, unfortunately, still dealing with the aftermath. Ever since the election of Nikol Pashinyan as Prime Minister in 2018, the country of Armenia has experienced an exorbitant amount of welcome change. However, recovering from years of corruption is not something that can happen overnight or at the hand of just one man.

10 Facts About Living Conditions in Armenia

  1. Riddled with dilapidated buildings, Armenia is still recovering from a 1988 earthquake. More than 30 years have passed, and the 517,000 people left homeless have had to live in dorms or single rooms. Many buildings do not have heating or cooling systems, so residents rely on burning wood as their source of heat. Over 50 percent of apartment buildings are due for renovations that will make them more earthquake resistant and energy efficient. Since 2015, Habitat for Humanity has provided housing to 4,323 families who would otherwise be homeless or living in broken-down buildings.
  2. Though there is a vast supply of natural water due to Armenia’s location in a mountainous region, the country has not yet achieved unlimited access to tap water, though about 99 percent of the population now have running water for twenty-one hours a day (formerly it was six hours). Companies like Veolia, which also deals with Armenia’s wastewater treatment, are responsible for the improvements in water accessibility and cleanliness.
  3. Attempts to improve health care brought about the Basic Benefits Package, which Armenia introduced in 1999. Under this package, Armenians are supposed to have access to state-funded health care services. However, the state pays out so little that patients end up having to pay out-of-pocket for services. Due to lack of funding, many people rely on home remedies or wait to see if symptoms pass before seeking out a medical professional.
  4. Educating the population about the prevention and treatment of sexually transmitted diseases has also become a priority. In 2004, the Center of Dermatology and Sexually Transmitted Infections, along with IntraHealth International, taught a course about the management of STIs for obstetrician-gynecologists and STI specialists. Since 2010, new HIV infections have decreased by 31 percent.
  5. Students have access to free schooling. While instruction is mainly in Armenian, schools teach English as a second language. The main public universities are Yerevan State University and the Yerevan Architecture and Civil Engineering Institute, whereas the American University of Armenia is a private university.
  6. Services for students with special needs are limited, so UNICEF is working to provide an inclusive early childhood education to all children, making sure to train school staff to accommodate those with special needs.
  7. The average monthly salary is 55,000 Dram, which is roughly $115 USD. In March 2018, the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs of Armenia was drafting a new labor law to allow for open communication between employees and employers to discuss working conditions and overtime hours. The new law would also encourage the involvement of trade unions in negotiations.
  8. Armenia is one of many countries who participate in compulsory military service. Armenia drafts Armenian men to the army for two years when they turn 18. However, those pursuing higher education may defer their service until obtaining their Bachelor’s degree, at which point the government would require them to serve for three years. Many students complain that the required military service interrupts their education, making it difficult to return to school after this mandatory hiatus.
  9. Most Armenians welcomed Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan with open arms because he made them feel hopeful about their future. After his election, he pled with his people to join him in protecting their country, “We’re waiting for everybody! This is a new Armenia, where we do not shy away from military service, from where we do not emigrate, where we return – to incur their share of duty and duty for the sake of the future of Armenia.” Because of the trust they had placed in him, 320 citizens returned to serve in the army, 156 of which had previously evaded service.
  10. Upon election, Pashinyan called for the arrest of many corrupt government officials and filled the open positions with members who intend to drive Armenia forward. In addition, the government audited several businesses that had been working closely with the previous Republican Party.

With its history of corruption, Armenia was struggling to thrive in its war against poverty. Bearing in mind that it has only been a year since Pashinyan’s election, one cannot expect instantaneous improvements. However, these 10 facts about living conditions in Armenia point to positive changes in the future of its people.

– Sareen Mekhitarian
Photo: Flickr