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childhood obesity in poverty-stricken AfricaChildhood obesity is a major issue in middle-income countries. However, this issue is growing in low-income countries as well now. In Africa, micronutrient deficiency and wasting are among the biggest challenges associated with children’s health. However, with sugary foods and snacks becoming cheaper and more accessible, childhood obesity is becoming more of an issue in Africa. A 2000 survey revealed that 10% of low-income countries had a 10% rate of teenagers who were overweight. Just between 2014 to 2016, that number jumped from 40% to 75%. It is quite clear that this issue is quickly increasing.

The Problem of Childhood Obesity

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), childhood obesity in poverty-stricken Africa is one of the most pressing issues of this century. Without intervention, this issue will only continue to spread.  Along with it, long-term health problems associated with obesity, such as diabetes, will also increase. Furthermore, not only are obese people at risk of contracting preventable health conditions but they are also at risk of early death. According to WHO, obesity takes more than two million lives every year worldwide.

Despite the growing economy in Africa, millions still suffer from poverty. This poverty, coupled with the growth of obesity, has Africa simultaneously facing two major challenges. These two challenges have led to a significant increase in diseases throughout Africa. Since the 1980s, diabetes has grown by 129% in Africa. To combat the spread of diabetes and the consumption of high sugar beverages, South Africa has passed a bill that taxes such beverages.

Combating Childhood Obesity

A few organizations are taking steps to combat childhood obesity in poverty-stricken Africa. The World Health Organization places its focus on what types of foods to consume, the number of physical activities that are being completed and overall health. The organization believes that in order to avoid the increasing amount of childhood obesity that Africa is experiencing, there must be corrections to all three factors mentioned above.

WHO created the “Global Strategy on Diet, Physical Activity and Health” to reduce obesity and improve overall health. The strategy focuses on four major goals that will ultimately help combat childhood obesity, diseases and death. The four main goals are to reduce risk, increase awareness, develop policies and action plans and monitor science. Though created 16 years ago, this strategy will only begin to make an impact after several decades. In order for the strategy to succeed, all levels of life and business must assist in the effort.

Childhood obesity in poverty-stricken Africa continues to be an issue. Although a relatively new issue in developing countries, obesity is quickly increasing. Africa is now combatting both ends of the nutritional spectrum, with malnutrition and childhood obesity now prevalent throughout the continent. Despite increases in these issues, organizations such as WHO are working diligently to reduce childhood obesity in Africa.

– Jamal Patterson 
Photo: Pixabay

healthcare in South Korea
South Korea is one of the many countries in the world that provides universal health care for its citizens. This universal health care is both a source of relief and national pride for many South Koreans. This pride is further amplified by the fact that modern health care in South Korea rose out of the devastation of the Korean War. With the recent COVID-19 global pandemic, South Koreans rely, now more than ever, on their health care system.

History of the South Korean Health Care System

South Korea’s health care system was developed at the end of the Korean War in 1953. One of the first projects that aimed to help South Korea was the Minnesota Project, launched in September 1954. Under the Minnesota Project, Seoul National University agreed to receive medical education and equipment from the University of Minnesota. The U.S. Department of State also contracted the University of Minnesota to assist Seoul University with staff improvement and equipment aid.

This project allowed the health care system to grow and flourish over tte next couple of decades. In 1977, the Korean government mandated all companies with more than 500 employees to provide health insurance programs for employees.

How South Korean Health Care Works

Established in 2000, the National Health Insurance Corporation (NHIC) is still in charge of national insurance enrollment, collecting contributions and setting medical fee schedules. To provide coverage for all Korean citizens, the NHIC gathers contribution payment from all citizens as part of their taxes. In addition to the contribution payment, the NHIC gather their funds through government subsidies, outside contributions and tobacco surcharges. This wide range of funding sources allows South Korea to provide clinics that are both modern and efficient.

Prevailing Issues

The South Korean health care system does have some issues, however. While the overall quality of health care in South Korea is excellent, access to high-quality medical care can still be difficult for rural residents. According to a WHO case study of South Korea, 88.8% of physicians in South Korea were employed by non-governmental clinics. These non-governmental clinics are usually located in urban areas. About 25% of all elderly over the age of 65 years reside in rural areas, where they are at high risk of falling and other physical injuries. With physicians mainly located in urban areas, the South Korean government recognizes the need to improve health care in rural areas.

A more recent issue that the South Korea health care system is facing is the treatment of foreign nationals. In the past, there were some foreigners who forewent payment after their medical treatment in South Korea. Termed “health care dine and dash,” the Korean government now requires all foreign nationals to sign up for the National Health Insurance scheme within their first six months of living in the country. Once a foreign national receives their Alien Registration Card, they can benefit from Korea’s National Health Insurance Scheme and private insurance.

A Model of Universal Health Care For the World

Developing out of the devastation of the Korean War, the excellent quality of health care in South Korea is a prime example of how a country can implement and sustain universal health care. Despite needs for improvement, the South Korean health care system remains an international model for universal health care. With the recent COVID-19 pandemic, South Koreans recognize the importance of their continuous support for the universal health care system.

 – YongJin Yi 
Photo: Pixabay

child marriage in ZambiaIn Zambia, about two in every five girls are forced into marriage. Currently, the country is renewing its efforts to eradicate child marriage. In 2017, the President of Zambia along with presidents from Uganda and Malawi held an event where they declared they would prioritize ending child marriages by 2030. The President of Zambia stated, “Girls who marry young are often denied their rights. Ending child marriage by 2030 will require a range of actions, including making sure girls have access to quality education, legal reforms and changing traditional harmful practices.”

Already, rates of child marriage in Zambia have drastically decreased. Zambia’s Demographic and Health Surveys in 2002 found that the child marriage rate was 42%. In 2014, however, the child marriage rate had dropped down to 31%. Despite these numbers, Zambia still has a lot of work to do to save these young girls.

Common Reasons for Child Marriage

There are many factors contributing to child marriage. Here are three of the more common reasons for child marriage in Zambia.

  1. Poverty: Some families see child marriage as a way to reduce the financial burden of having young girls. Often, families in poverty will marry off their young daughter(s) to receive a payment of dowry. This dowry gives them great financial relief. In addition, they are saving money because they no longer have to provide for their daughter(s).
  2. Vulnerability: While all children are susceptible to being vulnerable to child marriage, orphans and stepchildren are even more vulnerable, specifically once they hit puberty. Some families feel that their job of taking care of them is done at that time, so they marry them off young. Stepchildren and orphans are also more widely mistreated than biological children. They may feel getting married is an escape from an otherwise unbearable situation.
  3. Protecting a Girl’s Sexuality: Parents may believe that if they marry their girls off young, they can protect them from engaging in “inappropriate behaviors,” like having multiple sexual partners. This way the girl only has sexual intercourse with her husband, and her family’s honor remains preserved. Some also consider child marriage as a protection for the girl against HIV or unwanted pregnancy.

The After-Effects

  • Increases Poverty: Child brides tend to drop out of school. As a result, any opportunities they may have had at getting a good job and helping their families out of poverty disappear.
  • Health Risks: Child brides are more likely to suffer from depression or PTSD due to abuse from their spouses or the fast-paced way they are forced to grow up. Also, child marriage in Zambia is often correlated with pregnancy, which can lead to higher death rates for the mother or child because the mother is not developmentally mature enough to carry a baby.
  • Risk of Violence: Child brides are more likely to deal with domestic violence including physical, sexual and emotional abuse.

The Good News

Despite these practices still occurring, the citizens and government of Zambia have begun taking steps to eradicate child marriages by 2030. Plan International is a humanitarian organization that works to advance children’s equality and rights. The organization’s Regional Director for both Eastern and Southern Africa, Roland Angerer, says change begins with education. He states, “It is essential that we promote education and encourage dialogue if we want to change social norms . . . Governments must ensure schools are accessible, inclusive and safe […] to enable more girls to attend and stay on in school.” This education helps not only young girls but also their families.

Senior Headman, Davison Shafuluma, in the Mumbwa district, holds meetings where he teaches parents and other family members that child marriage hurts more than it helps. He shares with them the effects a young girl can suffer through by marrying and carrying a child at too young an age. He also explains that they, as a family, can say ‘no’ to anyone who propositions marriage.

Beyond education, the UNFPA-UNICEF Global Programme on Ending Child Marriage helped establish 550 Safe Spaces in Zambia. In these Safe Spaces, young girls learn that they are equal to their male counterparts. The young girls learn that school, homework and their futures should be their focus and priority.

International Work to Eradicate Child Marriage

Aside from better education, “Zambia also co-sponsored, along with Canada, the first U.N. General Assembly (UNGA) resolution on child, early and forced marriage in 2013.” In 2014, eight Ministers from Zambia also committed to addressing child marriage and continuing the conversation. The country has also legislated a minimum age requirement for marriage beginning at the age of 18.

Although many more improvements are still necessary, Zambia is making much progress to diminish child marriage. The conversations in Zambia and across the world are finally giving these young, vulnerable girls a voice.

Stacey Krzych 
Photo: Flickr

Uganda has been noted as an African country that is on the rise out of poverty. This is partly due to foreign assistance coming from countries like the United States. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has carried out work in Uganda excelling improvements in economy, health care, education, and the state of democracy.

Economic Growth

USAID has been engaged in Uganda’s efforts to reduce poverty and hunger. Among many other goals, Uganda and USAID are working with public and private sectors to promote investment, agriculture production, food security and efficient energy usage. US based programs like Development Credit Authority, Feed the Future Youth Leadership for Agriculture and Global Development Alliances, have assisted in Uganda’s success of lowering the poverty rate. By connecting Ugandans with businesses to market their products, USAID is helping to improve household incomes as well as stabilize the country’s gross domestic product. Investments in the future are also being made by training youths for the job market and connecting farmers, refugees, and workers with agricultural resources and trade opportunities.

State of Democracy

USAID works with the Ugandan government to bring up issues regarding transparency, human rights, and justice for citizens. USAID’s democracy program in Uganda particularly focuses on women and youths as a voice to be heard. The USAID’s overall objective of promoting civil society encompasses the opportunity for citizens to part-take in the governing process while leaders are working for the people. Improving the democracy of Uganda will help build a strong and independent country, which in turn will partake in flourishing the entire region.

Education and Training

With a high number of vulnerable children, USAID is working with the Ugandan government to implement plans providing education for young children, while focusing on teaching languages and educating on health, HIV/AIDS and violence. USAID is also striving to develop the future workforce with the Better Outcomes for Children and Youth activities, which helps youths cultivate the skills needed for success, both in work and in life. There is also new training available for teachers, with improved computer technology.

Health and HIV

USAID’s effort in addressing health care issues in Uganda includes eliminating HIV/AIDS through the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), reducing tuberculosis infection rates, and eradicating malaria under the U.S. President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI). Other health care programs include child and maternal health, family health, and disease prevention, as well as educating young women on sexual violence and HIV/AID protection. Since many diseases are spread through poor sanitation, USAID’s work in Uganda also focuses on improving water sanitation and hygiene practices.

Humanitarian Transitions

Through USAID, the U.S. is helping Uganda with emergency food supplies, health care assistance, and conflict resolution in democracy to improve the country’s status and enhance people’s quality of life. The continuing basis of humanitarian aid effort has made the U.S. the “largest single honor of humanitarian assistance in Uganda,” according to Anne Ackermann, a photojournalist with USAID.

USAID’s continuing work in Uganda, along with the positive outcomes seen by the country so far, underscores the effectiveness of overseas involvement and the power of foreign aid in general. Foreign aid will always have an important role in country development and growth.

– Hung Le

Photo: Flickr

Tackling Iron Deficiency in Developing CountriesIron deficiency — which often leads to iron deficiency anemia — is estimated to affect around 2 billion people around the world. Iron deficiency is most prevalent among children and women of childbearing age, especially those living in developing countries. In light of growing iron deficiency cases in many African countries, policymakers are focusing on iron interventions such as the creation of fortified flours and supplements for menstruating women and expectant mothers.

Challenges

There continues to be skepticism and disbelief about iron-deficiency in some low-income countries. In fact, many government officials and individuals do not recognize the correlation between fatigue or low-productivity and low iron intake. And, as such iron deficiency is regarded as a hidden disease. This further impacts the availability of accurate, reliable and comparable data on iron deficiency in some of the most at-risk parts of the world.

Causes of Iron Deficiency in Developing Countries

The factors that cause iron deficiency include disease, food insecurity and blood loss. In developing countries, iron deficiency is compounded by infectious diseases like malaria, HIV and hookworm. These diseases must be treated alongside iron deficiency in order to avoid long-lasting consequences. Moreover, malnutrition is one of the leading causes of iron deficiency in developing countries. The lack of proper food security and iron-fortified foods creates a widespread issue of iron deficiency.

Tackling Iron Deficiency in Developing Countries

The fortification of foods, such as flour with iron, provides a way to easily add iron to the diet of the average person. Organizations such as the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) help to implement food fortification programs in developing countries. These programs either provide the nutrients needed for food fortification or identify local resources that contain the necessary nutrients to fortify food, known as food-to-food fortification. An example of food-to-food fortification is fortifying ogi, a cereal-based dough made in Nigeria, with iron-rich baobab fruit powder.

Using natural iron substitutes to add to foods at home is another way to mitigate the issue. Lucky Iron Fish Enterprises created an iron shaped fish that reduces iron deficiency in low-income communities. When boiled in soup or water, the Lucky Iron Fish gives the individual around 40 percent of the daily amount of iron recommended per day. The company served about 54,000 people around the world in 2018 with its various programs. One notable service available is the “Buy-one-Give-one” project. Customers can buy a Lucky Iron Fish for themselves, and the company will match the purchase by giving a Lucky Iron Fish to an individual in a vulnerable partner community.

In an attempt to help combat iron deficiency in babies, researchers recommend delayed umbilical cord clamping by about 5 minutes to increase the number of red blood cells going into the baby. In a 2017 Nepal study, researchers analyzed the results of 540 babies who were randomly selected to have either delayed cord clamping or clamping within a minute of delivery. Infants with delayed clamping were 11 percent less likely to have anemia and 42 percent less likely to experience iron deficiency than babies whose cords were cut within a minute of delivery.

 

Overall, the best way to tackle iron deficiency is to create awareness about the issue. Additionally, helping people make healthy diet choices that provide the necessary amount of nutrients, such as fortified flour, will help with the issue.

Ashleigh Litcofsky
Photo: Flickr

Life expectancy in Grenada
Grenada is a country in the Caribbean composed of seven islands. This former British colony attained its independence in 1974, making Grenada one of the smallest independent nations in the western hemisphere. Nicknamed historically as the “spice isle,” Grenada’s traditional exports included sugar, chocolate and nutmeg. From 1979 to 1983, Grenada went through a period of political upheaval, which ended when a U.S.-led coalition invaded the island. Today, Grenada is a democratic nation that is working to ensure the health and well-being of its citizens. Here are nine facts about life expectancy in Grenada.

9 Facts About Life Expectancy in Grenada

  1. The World Bank’s data showed that, as of 2017, life expectancy in Grenada was 72.39 years. While there was a rapid increase in life expectancy from 1960 to 2006, life expectancy decreased from 2007 to 2017.  However, the CIA estimates that this metric will increase to 75.2 years in 2020.
  2. Non-communicable diseases constitute the leading cause of death in Grenada. According to 2016 WHO data, non-communicable diseases such as cardiovascular disease, cancer and diabetes constituted the majority of premature death in Grenada. Cardiovascular diseases, which constituted 32 percent of all premature deaths, were the leading cause of death in 2016.
  3. Grenada’s infant mortality rate stands at 8.9 deaths per 1,000 live births. This is a significant improvement from 21.2 infant deaths out of 1,000 in 1985 and 13.7 deaths out of 1,000 in 2018.
  4. Grenada has universal health care. Health care in Grenada is run by the Ministry of Health (MoH). Through the MoH, the Grenadan government helps finance medical care in public institutions. Furthermore, if an individual wishes to purchase private health insurance, there are several options to choose from.
  5. Around 98 percent of people in Grenada have access to improved drinking water. However, water scarcity still plagues many people in Grenada due to erratic rainfall, climate change and limited water storage. To remedy this, Grenada launched a $42 million project in 2019 with the goal of expanding its water infrastructure. This includes plans to retrofit existing systems.
  6. Hurricanes and cyclones pose a threat to life expectancy in Grenada. While in recent years Grenada has not been significantly affected by a hurricane, Grenadians still remember the devastation caused by Hurricane Ivan (2004) and Hurricane Emily (2005). Hurricane Ivan caused an estimated $800 million worth of damage. In the following year, Hurricane Emily caused an additional $110 million damage. On top of 30 deaths caused by these natural disasters, the damage they inflicted on Grenada’s infrastructure and agriculture can have further harmful ramifications for the people of Grenada.
  7. The Grenadian government is taking measures to improve the country’s disaster risk
    management (DRM). With the help of organizations such as the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR), Grenada is recovering from the devastation of 2004 and 2005. In 2010, for example, GFDRR conducted a risk management analysis which helped the preparation of a $26.2 million public infrastructure investment project by the World Bank in Grenada.
  8. The Grenadian government’s 2016-2025 health plan aims to strengthen life expectancy in Grenada. One of the top priorities of this framework is to ensure that health services are available, accessible and affordable to all citizens. Another goal surrounds addressing challenges for the most vulnerable groups in society such as the elderly, children and women.
  9. Grenada received a vaccination award from the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO). In November of 2014, PAHO awarded Grenada the Henry C. Smith Award for Immunization, which is presented to the country that has made the most improvement in their immunization programs. PAHO attributed this success to Community Nursing Health teams and four private Pediatricians in Grenada.

The Grenadian government is committed to providing the best quality of life for its citizens. However, there is still room for improvement. The prevalence of premature death caused by cardiovascular diseases suggests that Grenada needs to promote healthier life choices for its citizens. With the continued support and observation by the Grenadian government, many hope that life expectancy in Grenada will increase in the future.

YongJin Yi
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Lithuania
With strong connections to the Nordic countries of Northern Europe and the European Union, the Republic of Lithuania is located at the shores of the Baltic Seas in Europe. The nation has an intriguing history: while maintaining independence since 1990, Lithuania has also been occupied by foreign powers for many years out of the last two centuries.

Lithuania has an extremely high quality of life under a stable democratic system. This may be connected to continental trade through the E.U.’s free movement agreement and global security through N.A.T.O membership. Despite experiencing stability and growth, life expectancy in Lithuania has seen several fluctuations; even after a decade of continuous growth, it remains below average for the area. Here are 10 facts about life expectancy in Lithuania.

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Lithuania

  1. The current life expectancy in Lithuania is 74.6 years. Compared to other European Union nations, who average at 84 years, life expectancy in Lithuania is nearly a decade shorter. The nation also remains below the average of its immediate neighbors in Central Europe and the rest of the Baltics, who have a life expectancy of 77 years. Further, Lithuania lands just above the world average of 72 years.
  2. Life expectancy in Lithuania has had a chaotic trend over the last 70 years. In the 1990s, economic fallout and loss of life caused by riots and chaos during the independence movement led to a low life expectancy rate of 68.5 years in 1994. Since then, however, life expectancy growth rates have more or less stabilized. Lithuanian life expectancy currently shows little sign that the upward trend will change for the worse.
  3. The population of Lithuania has decreased since independence. Having peaked at 3.7 million citizens in 1991, the population has steadily declined. Today, the country is inhabited by 2.79 million people, due to the country’s high death rate of 15 deaths per 1000 people, which results in a negative population growth rate of 1 percent. Furthermore, the emigration of the general populace towards Western Europe has only aided Lithuanian population loss.
  4. Life expectancy in Lithuania has increased at a slower rate than the rest of the world. Lithuanian life expectancy has increased by 8.35 percent from 1986 to 2017. Comparatively, the rest of the world’s life expectancy average has increased by 25.1 percent. Despite the human development index ranking of 34th in the world for development, it is possible high suicide rates in Lithuania substantially influence life expectancy. Unfortunately, the nation has the highest suicide rate in the world at an average of 26 suicides per 100,000 people.
  5. High Lithuanian suicide rates have gained national attention. Having such high suicide rates is clearly a major contributor to the nation’s lowered life expectancies and high death rate. Certain areas of the country are reaching rates of 71.9 deaths per 100,000 people. Subsequently, this has been the focus of intense national efforts. The government has been pursuing support through organizations such as the National Suicide Prevention Strategy; additionally, N.G.O. ‘s like the World Health Organization has supported Lithuania in suicide reduction efforts. As a result, suicide rates have reduced by nearly 15 percent between 2010 to 2016.
  6. Gender disparity is still relevant to suicide rates in Lithuania. On average, men typically live to be 69.2 years while women live to be 79.7 years. Social conditions play a role in this, as men are more heavily affected by the patriarchal norms that drive them into more dangerous work environments. As a result of the intense stress, the suicide rate in men is at heights far above the rate for women.
  7. Lithuanian suicide rates are the result of a complex series of social conditions. As one of the external driving factors behind lowered life expectancy in Lithuania, suicide rates are key as it is affecting all strata of society in the nation. There are various factors besides gender disparity that influences the inclination to commit suicide. One factor is extremely high alcohol consumption, where one in three men report high alcohol intake. Additionally, Lithuania has poor mental health facilities, creating an environment where it is difficult to seek adequate help. Finally, the legacy of historical suicide ideation plays a part in this figure as well.
  8. Biological causes are also a key part of life expectancy in Lithuania. The most considerable influence on life expectancy from biological causes is cardiovascular disease. Thirty-four percent of all deaths in 2017 were due to cardiovascular disease, which is linked to the high rates of obesity in the country. Above 60 percent of the adult population of Lithuania is overweight; obesity is directly linked to poor cardiovascular health and a higher risk of stroke, which is the second-highest cause of death in Lithuania.
  9. Unhealthy diets and low physical activity levels are the primary causes of obesity in Lithuania. The obesity problem affecting life expectancy in Lithuania is the result of a number of factors, crucial amongst them being low rates of physical exercise and unhealthy diets. Only 10.1 percent of the population reported committing to minimal exercise in 2010. Adjunctly, Lithuania’s diet surveys reveal that upwards of 13.2 percent of caloric intake comes from saturated fats; Medline Plus states that saturated fat intake should be less than 10 percent for a healthy diet. However, the government continues efforts to tackle obesity by encouraging exercise among adults and implementing food and drug protocols to reduce unhealthy food consumption.
  10. Health spending in the country is amongst the lowest in the European Union. Public health spending is currently at 6.5 percent of the GDP and remains the sixth-lowest in the European Union. At double the E.U. average, 32 percent of all health spending is privately funded, mostly coming from pharmaceutical expenditures. This means that citizens are forced to spend personal funds on acquiring medication that is often quite expensive. Although, spending has increased from 5.6 percent of GDP in 2005 to 6.5 percent in 2015. Despite this gradual increase, greater strides are necessary for the health system to match the rest of the E.U. and begin increasing overall life expectancy in Lithuania.

These 10 facts about life expectancy in Lithuania outline that despite its tremendous human development index and growing economy, the general health and overall lifespan of the nation’s population are quite poor. Further, the issue is not being addressed as effectively as it could be. Life expectancy in Lithuania could be improved by improved government programming and initiatives. Specifically, the implementation of effective mental health systems would greatly impact public health. Another solution would be to execute physical preventative care, such as exercise infrastructure, to increase public health.

Neil Singh
Photo: Pixabay

5 Women Fighting Poverty in Latin America
Around the world, women bear the brunt of poverty. Specifically in developing countries, women hold the responsibility of household welfare and the gendered division of labor; in their attempt to manage both, women face the absence of autonomy and economic opportunities.

Here are five women fighting poverty in Latin America. These women are working hard to ensure their rights and the rights of thousands of people in their countries who are living in poverty.

Mariana Costa Checa

A businesswoman from Peru, Mariana Costa Checa is the brain behind Laboratoria. Laboratoria is a web-based education startup that uses online boot camps and corporate training programs to train women in the tech industry. The goal of the company is to enable women of all income levels to train for and connect with and work at tech jobs that have an impact at the systematic level. By providing women with a source of income and the knowledge to pursue various careers, Mariana has established a company that has the potential to draw hundreds of women, and their households, out of poverty.

Claudia López

Another one of the women fighting poverty in Latin America is Claudia López, who was elected as mayor of Bogotá in Colombia’s October 2019 election. This event marked a historic first for the country as Claudia López is the first woman, and the first gay woman, elected as mayor. In Colombia, the mayor of Bogotá holds a high position, often considered the second most important politician in the country after the president. López has reached a milestone for women, and she promises to continue fighting for women by providing educational opportunities and opening up more job opportunities.

López also prioritizes fighting corruption, ending child labor and putting more police officers on the streets. With her victory, the country has a chance to put an end to some of its most ongoing and pressing issues.

Erika Herrero

As the chief executive officer of Belcorp, Erika Herrero Bettarel has been making waves in the beauty industry and the community of women. Belcorp is a multi-brand corporation that specializes in beauty products and services based in numerous countries around Latin America. Belcorp believes that women are a major driver of positive social change, and the company aims to bring women closer to their idea of beauty and fulfillment. With Erika’s help, Belcorp has been able to help support over 1 million women in terms of receiving income, flexible working hours, appropriate training, social protection and micro-life insurance.

Belcorp has also facilitated over 1,600 scholarships for young Latin American girls and trained over 18,400 low-income adult women in areas of personal development, violence prevention and economic development. Erika Herrero says that by capitalizing on the importance of the beauty industry, she is able to use Belcorp to open up more networks and job opportunities for women in Latin America, promising women a better future by helping to end their poverty.

Lynne Patterson and Carmen Velasco

Co-founders of Pro Mujer, Lynne Patterson and Carmen Velasco, are leading women’s development through social entrepreneurship. Patterson and Carmen’s work has provided women in Latin American with health, microfinance and training services that are typically out of reach to women of low-income families. Pro Mujer works with over 277,000 women across five Latin American countries to help diagnose and treat health problems such as obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure. Individuals in poverty are at high risk for these chronic diseases due to economic problems.

When individuals in poverty are struck with illnesses that go untreated, their condition further deteriorates, perpetuating the cycle. Pro Mujer promotes healthy behavior among clients by holding meetings, offering health counseling and education and using innovative and financially sustainable health models to diagnose and treat illnesses. By offering below-market prices for its services, Pro Mujer is giving sophisticated health care to those in poverty.

 

Women may still carry the weight of poverty, but there are many women fighting poverty in Latin America. Mariana Checa, Claudia López, Erika Herrero, Lynne Patterson, Carmen Velasco and countless others are making a significant difference with their work. As women continue to make progress in Latin America, the region has high hopes of economic growth.

Shvetali Thatte
Photo: Pixabay

Smoking in Developing Countries
Smoking rates among adults and children in developing countries have been increasing for years. In developed nations, such as the United States, people have implemented certain policies in order to increase taxes and therefore reduce tobacco consumption, successfully. Such policies have not yet enacted in areas of extreme poverty around the world. In fact, tobacco companies have responded by flooding low-income areas with reduced-priced cigarettes, tons of advertisements and an excessive number of liquor stores and smoke shops. It is time to have a conversation about smoking rates in developing countries and whether or not tobacco control policies are the best approach long-term, worldwide. Here are the top 6 facts about smoking in developing countries.

Top 6 Facts About Smoking in Developing Countries

  1. Smoking affects populations living in extreme poverty differently than it does those in wealthy areas. Stress is a harmful symptom of poverty and contributes to smoking rates in low-income areas. Oftentimes living in poverty also means living in an overcrowded, polluted area with high crime and violence rates and a serious lack of government or social support. Stress and smoking are rampant in these areas for a reason. It is also important to note that smoking wards off hunger signals to the brain which makes it useful for individuals to maintain their mental health of sorts if food is not an option.
  2. Smoking rates are much higher among men than women across the globe. While the relative statistics vary from country to country, smoking rates among women are very low in most parts of Africa and Asia but there is hardly any disparity in smoking rates between men and women in wealthy countries such as Denmark and Sweden. The pattern of high smoking rates among men remains prevalent worldwide. One can equally attribute this to two factors that go hand-in-hand: the oppression of women and the stress that men receive to provide with their families.
  3. The increase in smoking rates in developing countries also means an outstanding number of diseases and death. The good news is that countries have succeeded in reducing consumption by raising taxes on the product. Price, specifically in the form of higher taxes, seems to be one of the only successful options in terms of cessation. Legislation banning smoking in certain public spaces is one example of an effort that places a bandaid on the problem instead of addressing the root cause. There is no data that shows a direct correlation between non-smoking areas and quitting rates among tobacco users.
  4. The World Health Organization (WHO) reports an estimated 6 million deaths per year which one can attribute to smoking tobacco products. It also estimates that there will be about another 1 billion deaths by the end of this century. Eighty percent of these deaths land in low-income countries. The problem at hand is determining how this part of the cycle of poverty can change when it has been operating in favor of the upper class for so long.
  5. Within developing countries, tobacco ranks ninth as a risk factor for mortality in those with high mortality and only ranks third in those with low mortality. This means that there are still countries where other risk factors for disease and death are still more prominent than tobacco use, but that does not mean that tobacco is not a serious health concern all over the world. Of these developing countries, tobacco accounts for up to 16 percent of the burden of disease (measured in years).
  6. China has a higher smoking rate than the other four countries ranked highest for tobacco use combined. The government sells tobacco and accounts for nearly 10 percent of central government revenue. In China, over 50 percent of the men smoke, whereas this is only true for 2 percent of women. China’s latest Five-Year Plan (2011 – 2015) called for more smoke-free public spaces in an attempt to increase life expectancy. A pack of Marlboro cigarettes in Beijing goes for 22元, which is equivalent to $3. This is far cheaper than what developed countries charge with taxes. This continual enablement is a prime example of why smoking rates in developing countries are such a problem. While many people mistake China for a developed nation because it has the world’s second-largest economy and third-largest military, it is still a developing country.

In countries like China where smoking rates are booming and death tolls sailing, tobacco control policies may not be the best solution. While raising taxes to reduce consumption may seem like a simple concept, when applied to real communities, a huge percentage of people living in poverty with this addiction will either be spending more money on tobacco products or suffering from withdrawals. While it might be easy for many people to ignore the suffering of the other, in this case, a lower-class cigarette smoker, one cannot forget how the cycle of poverty and addiction and oppression has influenced their path in life.

Helen Schwie
Photo: Flickr

sustainable farmingHunger and food insecurity are major issues in India; the nation is home to 15 percent of the world’s undernourished people. The United Nations’ FAO estimates that every single day, more than 195 million people in India suffer from hunger.

The nation seriously lags behind other major nations like Brazil and China when it comes to crop yield for cereal and rice, which are India’s two key crops. India’s slow and inefficient agricultural sector is the result of limited access to modern technology, inefficient systems for transporting goods and urbanization. And on top of that, 63 percent of agricultural land is dependent on rainfall, so years with low rain devastate crop production. Despite all of this, farmers in India have started movements to utilize more sustainable farming methods and practices that work to make the agricultural system more efficient in order to increase outputs and improves people’s lives.

Sustainable Farming Methods

Sustainable farming practices are used to improve agricultural output and efficiency, which means that more food is produced, less resources are used and more profits are made by farmers. Examples of sustainable farming methods include using a biodegradable mulch film instead of one made from Polyethylene. While Polyethylene films require intense labor to remove, and can affect soil quality and crop growth if done improperly, biodegradable films are naturally absorbed by microorganisms in the soil, and help maintain the quality of soil while reducing costs of labor. Farmers will also use fungicides and insecticides on their seeds in order to improve the health of their crops and enhance their productivity. In addition, due to the fact that agriculture relies so heavily on rainfall, effective sustainable water management is crucial for a successful harvest.

Along with how crops are grown, how they are stored and distributed is a crucial aspect of agriculture. An estimated up to 67 million tons of food are wasted every year in India. Perishable goods end up often rotting as a result of a lack of modern technology, pests, or weather. Sustainable initiatives like using more efficient insulation and special tarpaulins that keep fruits and vegetables at proper temperatures during transportation work to reduce the number of perishables that rot. Reducing the amount of food that rots means that there is more food available to eat, which combats food insecurity and ensure that more food items are available without even increasing crop yield. And of course, combining these efforts with initiatives to produce food more sustainably and efficiently does even more to fight food insecurity.

The Natural Farming Movement

India’s Natural Farming movement plays a massive role in promoting sustainable farming practices that improve health, create jobs, cut labor costs and improve peoples’ overall quality of life. The use of pesticides has devastated farmers across India which has led to the loss of crops, debt, illness and even death. In 2000, villagers from the village of Punukula, Andrha Pradesh, launched a grassroots movement against the use of pesticides, focusing on non-pesticide management techniques that employ natural alternatives like chili pepper and planting trap crops like castor.

Within a year of the start of the movement, farmers saw pesticide-related health issues vanish, expenses drop, and profits increase. In addition, new jobs were created as a result of the need to create repellents from natural products. Villagers reported that the movement improved their quality of life — improving their financial situations, their health and their overall happiness. More villagers began to reject the use of pesticides, and the village declared itself as pesticide-free in 2004.

Zero Budget Natural Farming

A similar natural farming movement is Zero Budget Natural Farming, which began as a grassroots effort led by people in the state of Karnataka. Zero Budget entails that farmers do not spend money on inputs for their crops and that they would rather use resources from nature to grow and tend to their crops instead of chemicals, thus Zero Budget Natural Farming. Using natural products instead of taking out loans to spend on chemicals allows for farmers to save money, which improves their financial stability and allows them to focus more on tending to their crops.

A key aspect of Zero Budget Natural Farming is the use of the fermented microbial culture Jeevamrutha (a mixture of water, cow urine, cow dung, flour, soil, and brown sugar) on soil. Jeevanmrutha acts as a catalyst in promoting earthworm and microorganism activity within the soil, while also providing the soil with additional nutrients. Using natural products instead of taking out loans to spend on chemicals allows for farmers to save money, providing them with more financial stability and thus improving their quality of life.

The Zero Budget Natural Farming movement actually runs training camps that receive support by the state government. These camps last five days, with eight hours of classes per day. Attendance ranges from 300 to 5000 farmers, and topics covered include philosophy, ecology, successful farming practices, and of course, Zero Budget Natural Farming methods.

A Promising Future

The people of India suffer enormously from hunger and food insecurity. India’s weak and inefficient agricultural and food storage and distribution systems, coupled with devastating years of low rain often leads Indian farmers into bad health, hunger, and poverty. However, farmers in India have started a movement towards a more efficient, sustainable, and eco-friendly farming techniques that fight against poverty and hunger. Using these sustainable techniques means that farmers have fewer costs upfront, ensuring that they are able to make higher profits and worry less about having to take loans or to pay off debts. Sustainable farming in India reduces poverty, fights hunger, and changes lives.

Nicholas Bykov
Photo: Flickr