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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

 

Visual Impairment in Refugees

Last year, there were an estimated 70 million forcibly displaced individuals in the world. NGOs and governments stepped up by providing funding for food, water, sanitation, education, and healthcare, but visual impairment in refugees is rarely ever prioritized.

Vision Impairment is a Major Life Obstacle

Eye care is something often overlooked when organizations are administering urgent medical treatment to refugees–in most cases, eye injuries are not considered life-threatening. While an eye injury may not be fatal, it can greatly reduce the quality of life. This was the case for 10-year-old, Hala Shaheen, who suffered retinal detachment before the outbreak of the Syrian War and was undergoing treatment to fix the issue. She required specialist care and regular check-ups.

However, when chaos and violence broke out in Syria, Hala and her family were forced to flee to the Rukban refugee camp between Syria and Jordan, where no eye care specialist could be found. Now Hala is blind in one eye and her vision in the other eye is continuing to deteriorate. When asked about her condition, she told reporters, “I don’t want to continue living with this level of pain and suffering.”

Refugees like Hala do not have the resources to prevent or tackle blindness, Hala could have retained her vision. Blindness prevents her from experiencing life fully. Since braille is not readily taught, getting an education is difficult. Hala’s condition forces her to be dependent on her family. When blindness presents itself in adult refugees, it stops them from being productive workers and the extra burden is placed on their family’s shoulders. Thankfully, some NGOs have identified this problem and are on their way to creating better conditions to fight visual impairment in refugees.

Bringing Clarity to the Visually Impaired

NGOs and charities are assembling coalitions all over the world to find solutions for visual impairment in refugees. The main mission is to provide diagnostic services and visual assistance to those who need it.

The International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB) is working in Cox Bazar, a Rohingya refugee camp of over 900,000 people, has created an eye care plan to fight visual impairment in refugees. They plan to provide over 150,000 eyeglasses each year and deploy 30 optometrists and 30 ophthalmologists to conduct Rapid Assessment of Avoidable Blindness (RAAB) exams. These exams are vital in the prevention of blindness and vision loss, which can be the result of neglected chronic eye disease. In Cox Bazar, there is an estimated 30,000 at risk for diabetic eye disease and 70,000 at risk for glaucoma. If left untreated, it could result in a massive amount of vision loss.

There are numerous other coalitions like the IAPB. VisionSpring works with EYElliance in Ghana and Liberia to provide glasses to children and launch country-level initiatives to identify visual problems in refugees. SightGeist is an annual conference of companies and organizations from various sectors who come together and use their resources to provide visual assistance and preventative care to those affected by visual impairment. NGOs like Light for the World work together with Warby Parker, an eyewear company, and Aravind Eye Care System, a chain of hospitals in India, to come up with solutions to problems that are too large to tackle alone.

Gender and Visual Impairment

Another aspect of visual impairment in refugees is gender. Women and girls are disproportionately impacted by visual impairment, accounting for two-thirds of those with severe vision loss. This can be due to the impact of traditional female roles, like having to collect water and wash clothes. These duties put them at risk of being bitten by blackflies which transmit parasites that destroy vision. In developing countries, women are typically not in charge of finances, so they have less control over the budget and cannot pay for healthcare. Women are also often too busy taking care of the home and may not even know where to go to access eye care.

Visual impairment in refugees, particularly females, deepens their plight; those who are visually impaired are more likely to suffer sexual violence and shamed by their families. Programs like CATCH in Uganda and Lady Health Worker in Pakistan are reaching out to these women. CATCH conducts exams to detect visual impairment early and provide preventative care to women. The Lady Health Worker program empowers female workers to provide healthcare and eye care to women and children in their own communities. Simply bringing attention to eye care and reducing the stigma of visual impairment can vastly improve lives.

Visual health underpins many of the Sustainable Development Goals put forth by the U.N. It is up to these organizations now to spread the word and see to it that visual impairment in refugees and developing countries become a greater priority for donors.

– Julian Mok
Photo: Flickr

Top 10 Facts About UNICEF
UNICEF is an organization which assists children in over 190 countries. The organization focuses on saving the lives of children, defending children’s rights, and helping them fulfill their potential as individuals. Founded in December of 1946 in an effort by the United Nations to support children in post-war Europe and China, UNICEF has been active ever since.

Here are the top 10 facts about UNICEF and how their impact has been felt around the world.

Top 10 Facts About UNICEF

  1. UNICEF is an organization which helps children receive necessary vaccinations. The organization gathers vaccines for 40 percent of children globally. Annually, this amounts to roughly three billion doses of vaccines.
  2. Globally, UNICEF is the largest buyer of mosquito nets which can be used to protect children from harmful insect bites. Malaria is an example of a disease which can be preventable through the use of a mosquito net. In 2006, UNICEF purchased 25 million of these mosquito nets.
  3. In 2006, UNICEF procured 10 million-plus malaria treatments. ACT, which stands for pyronaridine- artesunate, is a form of therapy which has been shown to be just as effective as other drugs for treating Malaria. The WHO recommended that this type be used to treat P. falciparum malaria.
  4. UNICEF embraces a wide variety of social issues. Among these are the protection of children, girls education, HIV/AIDS, immunization, malaria, nutrition, South Sudan child soldiers, and WASH (Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene).
  5. In April of 2005, UNICEF released a publication which documented the organization’s work between 1995-2005. Titled ‘A Pivotal Decade’ the publication covered the 10-year span during which UNICEF helped ensure that millions of children survive who could have been lost. The publication explores how UNICEF is well-equipped to handle its main goal; striving to give each and every child a better future.
  6. According to UNICEF, human trafficking has been reported in all 50 US states. The highest rates have been reported in CA, FL, NY, OH, and TX. These are the statistics reported by UNICEF in one of their fast facts publications.
  7. UNICEF’s overarching goal is to achieve worldwide equality. Especially in the lives of children afflicted by illness, hunger, or war, who cannot attend school and receive a proper education as a result. There are also instances where children are prohibited from attending school. Specifically in the lives of young girls, which UNICEF works hard to support.
  8. Vaccines for diseases such as polio and typhus cost one dollar or less per 1 (unsure of currency) per vaccination. Despite the price, many still cannot afford these vaccines which prevent dangerous, if not deadly, diseases. UNICEF gives out free vaccinations to one in three children worldwide.
  9. When first launching in 1946, UNICEF concentrated primarily on supplying food, clothes, and medicine to young children and mothers in post-war Europe, China, and Palestine. Beginning in the early ’50’s, UNICEF sought to create more long-term goals for developing countries. As a result of these efforts, UNICEF constructed health stations in third world countries and began starting projects to ensure children and adolescents attend school.
  10. UNICEF’s long-running history of seeking to make the world a better place has resulted in them putting vast amounts of money towards public health efforts. The organization reportedly sets aside 80 percent of its funds towards public health initiatives.

Since their launch 73 years ago, UNICEF has become one of the most well-known and renowned organizations dedicated to public health and the well-being of children. These top 10 facts about UNICEF are just a few of this organization’s incredible accomplishments. Striving to make the world a better place since December of 1946, UNICEF shows no sign of slowing down.

Jacob Nangle
Photo: Flickr

foreign aid helps the U.S.
Giving, especially in the form of foreign aid, has shown to cultivate meaningful relationships among people and countries, some that lead to rewarding trading agreements amid other benefits. Recent history has particularly exhibited how foreign aid helps the U.S., which is a crucial consideration in the political dialogue surrounding the current foreign aid budget.

Foreign Aid Helps the U.S. with Trade

One valuable return the U.S. has received in its giving of foreign aid to other developing countries has been the increase in American jobs as well as trade. Foreign aid is much like an investment; it helps to forge the foundation needed for low-income countries to build up and become middle-income, sustainable states. Here are some examples:

  1. After World War II, U.S. foreign aid to Japan helped recover Japan’s infrastructure and highly contributed to the success of American companies like Microsoft.
  2. The U.S. now trades and does business with former recipients of foreign aid, such as South Korea, Brazil, Mexico, Vietnam and Thailand.
  3. The President’s Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) successfully slowed down the AIDS epidemic and countries that received such aid have, in turn, consumed more American goods. Exports rose 77 percent in Tanzania, 189 percent in Zambia and 241 percent in Ethiopia.
  4. PEPFAR is one of the strong determinants of increases in the trade of pharmaceuticals.
  5. Foreign aid has attributed $46 billion more in U.S. exports and 920,000 more jobs in the U.S.
  6. In 2011, 44.6 percent of U.S. exports went to developing countries.
  7. In Tennessee alone, more than $33 billion in goods and services were exported to foreign countries in 2014 and this trade, in turn, supports over 22 percent of jobs, 830,000 local jobs to be specific.

Foreign Aid Helps with Health

Foreign aid helps the U.S. in preventing global epidemics that could otherwise be much worse. While assisting developing countries with their challenges in health, the U.S. also does its duty to minimize any possible health issues and diseases from traveling overseas or across borders to the U.S. There has been a great number of such instances, such as:

  • The U.S. was the largest funder of a number of health workers stationed in Nigeria with the original goal of polio eradication. The workers were later reassigned and succeeded in countering the infamous Ebola epidemic.
  • The PEPFAR program has helped stop the spread of AIDS by supplying life-saving medicines to over 14 million people.

Foreign Aid Helps with National Security

One of the non-negotiable benefits the U.S. reaps from its giving of foreign aid to developing countries is an improvement in national security. To prevent a third world war, the U.S. created what is now the modern development assistance program to avoid further instability in Europe.

Stability in developing countries is key in preventing future political issues from unfolding. The U.S. has defense agreements with 131 out of the 135 countries that it provides foreign aid to.

The importance of international aid lies in economic benefits, such as trading proliferations, as much as health and national security. As evidenced above, it is clear that there is truth in the fact that foreign aid helps the U.S. just as much as it helps other nations.

– Roberto Carlos Ventura
Photo: Flickr

working to end Lassa fever in NigeriaLassa fever is a growing epidemic for many Nigerians. The World Health Organization reports that 72 Nigerians have died from the disease while 317 others are infected. Lassa fever has also spread to 18 Nigerian states since its outbreak in January. However, many entities are working to end Lassa fever in Nigeria.

  1. ALIMA Treats Lassa Fever Patients
    In January 2018, the Alliance for International Medication Action (ALIMA) commenced a rapid emergency response to Nigeria’s Lassa fever epidemic. ALIMA also supported the rehabilitation of a 38-bed treatment center for patients in Owo.
    “The goal is to catch cases early, and improve the chances of survival for those who become infected,” said Guillaume Le Duc, ALIMA’s Lassa fever coordinator.
  2. The Cross River’s Sensitization Against Lassa Fever
    On Jan. 30, 2018, Nigeria’s Cross River state increased its sensitization and awareness campaign against Lassa fever, hoping to prevent further outbreaks of the disease. Dr. Inyang Asibong, Cross River’s commissioner for health, said the campaign was necessary since two cases of Lassa fever were recorded from migrants who entered Cross River. Asibong also gave nose masks, disposable gowns, gloves and other protective equipment to the state’s health workers.
  3. Gombe’s Investment to Prevent Lassa Fever
    On Jan. 31, 2018, Nigeria’s Gombe state earmarked ₦20 million for preventing the outbreak of Lassa fever to its people. Dr. Kennedy Ishaya, Gombe’s state commissioner for health, said the funds were part of the amount set aside for Gombe’s Rapid Response Committee (RRC). Gombe’s RRC will use the money to protect the state’s people from Lassa fever and other diseases.
  4. Hand Washing Helps Prevent Lassa Fever
    On Feb. 5, 2018, UNICEF and the Imo state’s Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Agency (RUWASSA) sensitized Nigerians on how handwashing can prevent Lassa fever.
    “Medical reports have it that the simple act of washing hands constantly with soap can reduce infections by 50 percent,” said Nkechi Okorocha, wife of the Imo State Governor Rochas Okorocha. Chika Edom, the RUWASSA program manager, said that hand washing is part of UNICEF’s initiative to keep Nigeria’s people alive and healthy.
  5. Nigeria’s Proposal for a More Established CDC
    On Feb. 8, 2018, the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) asked the National Assembly to pass a bill that would financially help the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (CDC) treat Lassa fever cases. Dr. Mike Ogirima, the NMA president, was displeased from poorly-equipped ambulances transferring Lassa fever patients to the Irrua Specialist Teaching Hospital in Edo. Though the bill went through first and second readings at the house level, it has yet to be passed into law.
  6. The World Health Organization Works to Contain Lassa Fever
    On Feb. 20, 2018, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced it was working to end Lassa fever in Nigeria. The WHO deployed staff to support Nigeria’s government agencies. The WHO’s representatives are also helping rapid response teams contain Lassa fever in the Ondo, Ebonyi and Edo states.
  7. Redeemer University Could Eliminate Lassa Fever
    On Feb. 20, 2018, Redeemer University revealed its capacity to contain and eliminate Lassa fever through research activities.
    “We are behind the scene, providing solutions to Lassa fever in the country,” said Debo Adeyewa, the university’s vice-chancellor. Adeyewa also revealed that the Lassa fever outbreak was being managed at the Edo state’s Irrua Specialist Teaching Hospital.
  8. Governor Obaseki’s Work to Contain Lassa Fever
    On Feb. 22, 2018, Governor Godwin Obaseki said that no case of Lassa fever had been reported at the Irrua Specialist Teaching Hospital for the past two weeks. Governor Obaseki’s administration purchased and deployed equipment to the hospital and is working to end Lassa fever in Nigeria.
    “That no death has been recorded since our intervention goes to show that we read the signs correctly, mobilized skilled manpower and tackled the challenge head-on,” said Crusoe Osagie, Obaseki’s special adviser on media and communication strategy.
  9. The U.K.’s Work for Nigeria
    On Feb. 27, 2018, the U.K. sent two epidemiologists, a logistician and other experts to help Nigeria contain its Lassa fever outbreak. The U.K.’s public health rapid support team will also provide Nigeria with research assistance.
    “Viruses like Lassa Fever do not respect borders, and it is only right that we share our expertise with countries facing serious outbreaks around the world,” said Public Health Minister Steve Brine.

While many Nigerians continue to be infected with Lassa fever, efforts to treat and save patients’ lives will not stop. The World Health Organization, the U.K. and other entities are working to end Lassa fever in Nigeria and could inspire more parties to help. Supplying the country’s hospitals with necessary medical equipment to treat patients will also play a role in helping Nigeria control Lassa fever and other diseases.

– Rhondjé Singh Tanwar

Photo: Flickr

Causes of Poverty in Nicaragua
Nicaragua is the second poorest country in Latin America, behind only Haiti. Recently, the World Bank cautioned that poverty is still rampant in Nicaragua and that it “is still one of the least developed nations in Latin America, a country where access to essential services is still a daily struggle.”

Indeed, as of 2014, the national poverty rate was at 29.6 percent. What’s more, though overall poverty in Nicaragua has dropped significantly in the past 12 years, extreme poverty (earning less than $1 a day) is reported to be on the rise, going from 7.6 to 9.5 percent between 2012 and 2013. What are the causes of poverty in Nicaragua? Why does an already struggling country only seem to be getting worse, according to international studies and statistics?

According to a survey cited by the Tico Times, one reason for recent rises in poverty could be lowered export prices on agricultural goods. Much of the country is dependent on temporary farm work and agricultural products such as coffee, and as prices dip, jobs are lost and people struggle to gain a foothold as labor opportunities become harder to find.

Another reason may be stagnant enrollment in education. UNICEF estimates that around 500,000 children between the ages of three and 17 are not enrolled in any formal education. To add to the problem, the number of school-aged children in Nicaragua is at roughly two million, equal to a third of the country’s total population.

However, the causes of poverty in Nicaragua are beginning to be addressed. According to the Tico Times, “the government earmarked $1.3 billion – more than half its official budget – to finance anti-poverty programs and free health and education services. Venezuelan aid also has helped fund programs for the distribution of roof sheeting, financial credits, low-cost housing and food packages for the poor.”

What’s more, the 2017 World Happiness Report noted that Nicaragua had made the largest gains in overall happiness out of 155 countries analyzed.

To trace all the causes of poverty in Nicaragua is a complicated job. As the government continues to fund anti-poverty programs and foreign aid continues to pour in, it seems Nicaragua is on the precipice of moving away from the abysmal poverty rate it now has.

It will take more than mere happiness to combat poverty, but the groundwork has been laid. As global poverty rates continue to fall and markets continue to rise, Nicaragua just may be able to pull itself out of poverty.

Joseph Dover

Photo: Google

 

Pakistan's IPD ProblemIn recent years, Pakistan has become home to one of the world’s largest population of internally displaced persons (IDPs). A decade-long militant insurgency; many military operations in the northwest and natural disasters have displaced millions of people from their homes. As a result, Pakistan’s IDP problem is the greatest humanitarian crisis in the country’s history.

According to the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP), “a total of 5.3 million people in Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) have been displaced as a consequence of counter-terrorism operations since 2008, some of them multiple times.” Of these, 4.8 million to have returned, and the rest have yet to go back to their homes.

The state of Pakistan, with the help of international humanitarian groups, has responded to the crises. However, it has not fully met the post-displacement challenges of the displaced and returnees. Particularly, five things about Pakistan’s IDP problem warrant the immediate attention of national government and international aid agencies:

  1. Education: Tens of thousands of displaced children have their education disrupted as a result of religious militancy and military operations in FATA. Large numbers of them were still out of school after displacements because the state had no proper arrangements to help them resume their education. Before the start of operations, non-state armed groups (NSAGs) had destroyed many schools in the region. They only left behind madrassas (religious seminaries). Girls’ education was particularly affected. In 2012, the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan’s (TTP) attempted an assassination of teenage education activist Malala Yousafzai in Swat valley, aiming to scare girls away from school. The need for education after IDPs’ return is only greater, as most schools have been either destroyed or used as home shelters that need repair.
  2. Lack of Basic Necessities: A quarter of IDPs did not have access to basic necessities, such as food, clean drinking water and shelter. Most of them lost around a third of their food supplies during the displacement. Poor strategy and coordination have made it worse for relief operations to provide for the basic needs of IDPs. Moreover, the state’s rehabilitation services, as most IDPs have returned or are in the process of returning to their homes, are less than encouraging. The state provides a resettlement allowance that surely helps, but not enough to repair the destruction left behind. Most importantly, FATA is the poorest region in Pakistan. The area needs a comprehensive development plan, as it has been historically ignored.
  3. Second Class Citizens: The IDPs not only faced harsh circumstances in camps, but they have also received very unwelcoming attitude from some host communities. In the recent past, the provinces of Punjab and Sindh have opposed the entry of IDPs from FATA because of the alleged fear of terrorists among them. Moreover, once the IDPs entered and settled temporarily, some host communities and even security agencies in Punjab labeled them as a potential threat of terrorism. The alienation of one of the largest ethnic groups, Pashtuns, only made it more difficult for IDPs to find work and live in peace. This double standard regarding the treatment of refugees is striking to watch; many in Pakistan are angry at the West for its treatment of refugees from Muslim lands.
  4. Health: Healthcare in Pakistan is the holy grail for the poor in normal circumstances. Mass exodus due to conflicts and insecurity have made it impossible for the displaced persons to attain basic health care. The most common problems among IDPs are malaria, skin infections, diarrhea and colds. Very few mothers and children received assistance to fulfill their nutritional needs. Health services, though available in the area, already overstretched before the IDPs’ arrival.
  5. Insecurity: Instability and recurring violence is another challenge of Pakistan’s IDP problem. Despite the army’s claim of clearing the region from militants, the events on the ground indicate a different reality. Many FATA locals are suspicious of the army’s role in eliminating militants. The U.S. has also blamed Pakistan for playing a double-game by supporting groups like the Haqqanis as its long-term ally in Afghanistan where Pakistan considers the increasing Indian influence as a threat to its territorial integrity. Insecurity has also made it difficult for aid agencies to reach out to the affected people. The government requires most NGOs to get NOCs in order to function in the FATA.

The good news is that national and provincial authorities, military, civil society and community networks are all involved in Pakistan’s IDP problem. The government has made substantial efforts to address IDPs’ needs over the years. Immediate relief has generally included shelter, relief, cash grants, water, etc., but Pakistan has no national policy or legislation to cope with the recurrent crises of internally displaced persons.

Aslam Kakar

Photo: Flickr


Despite the modern advancements of this era, developing countries still have poor access to quality, cost-effective healthcare. Attempting to close the socioeconomic gap created by poverty, there are three initiatives that governments and national organizations can take to improve health in developing countries.

  1. Investing in Education
    One of the most important ways to improve health in developing countries is by educating citizens. Educating people enables them to obtain safer jobs, increased health literacy, take preventive healthcare measures, avoid riskier health behaviors and demand better-quality health services.This is especially true for women living in developing countries, from girls entering puberty to pregnant mothers. Most deaths that occur in developing countries are neonatal, or during the first five years of life. By “providing formal or vocational education, adequate family planning, and antenatal services can break the cycle of poverty and empower women”, this type of education would begin providing soon-to-be mothers with the necessary knowledge to keep her family, future children, and self both safer and healthier.
  2. Increasing Health Benefits for the Poor
    Poorer countries receive much lower health benefits than richer countries. In developing areas, the poor are subjected to higher risk of contracting diseases and lower access to quality healthcare. This is solely due to the cost of medicine, treatments and vaccinations. Through the creation of targeted systems that strategies identify who is poor and eligible for lower-cost health care. Another attribute of this system is directing programs directly towards lesser developed areas. This targeting system has the potential to “eliminate poverty at less than 10 percent the cost of development programs that do not discriminate between poor and rich”. These systems are done on different levels: most specifically they target individually poor, geographically poor, what diseases need to be prioritized, and the age of those that need health care the most.
  3. Promoting primary and essential healthcare
    A way to improve health in developing countries involves governments providing cost-effective health packages for everyone. An example of this would be Ethiopia and Malawi, where governments have focused on achieving universal vaccine coverage, developing cleaner water supplies and creating better sanitation practices.On a broader scale, as part of the Sustainable Development Goals, the U.N. has agreed to pursue universal healthcare by 2030. The initiative to create universal healthcare includes “access to quality essential healthcare services and access to safe, effective, quality and affordable essential medicines and vaccines for all”. By making availability universal, resources can be directed towards primary-level facilities of care that strengthen the overall treatments that people will be receiving.

These are not the only ways to improving health in developing countries. Governments and organizations have taken many different initiatives to closing the socioeconomic gap. With the Sustainable Development Goals, there should be a significant increase of developed countries contributing to establishing safe, quality healthcare systems.

Taylor Elgarten

Photo: Flickr


Andorra is a healthy country; its lack of heavy industry leaves air clean, and people of all ages are used to climbing up and down its hillsides, both of which contribute to the country’s very high life expectancy Still, there is disease. The major diseases in Andorra are non-communicable in nature.

Some of the major diseases in Andorra are cardiovascular diseases, cancer and neurological disorders. These are the most deadly non-communicable diseases. According to HealthGrove, 40.1 percent are affected by cardiovascular diseases, 31.6 percent are affected by cancer and 11.9 percent are affected by neurological disorders like Alzheimer’s disease.

Cardiovascular Diseases
In 2013, ischemic heart disease, stroke, and other cardiovascular and circulatory diseases were the most deadly cardiovascular diseases. They accounted for 87.6 percent of all deaths from cardiovascular disease in Andorra. Of the three, ischemic heart disease was the most deadly, followed by stroke. The mortality rate for the former has decreased by 11 percent since 1990; for the latter it has declined eight percent. The other cardiovascular and circulatory diseases, on the other hand, kill fewer people, but their mortality rate has increased by 25 percent in little more than a generation.

Cancer
Tracheal, bronchus and lung cancer were the three most deadly cancers in 2013, followed by colorectal and prostate cancer. The rate of cancer deaths is on the rise in Andorra. The mortality rate for the respiratory-related cancers is up 18 percent since 1990; for colorectal cancer the increase is 19 percent. The mortality rate for prostate cancer has grown by an astonishing 48 percent since 1990.

Neurological Disorders
Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias, Parkinson’s disease, and other neurological disorders were the most deadly neurological disorders in Andorra in 2013. In 2013, 72.8 people out of every 100,000 were killed by Alzheimer’s and other dementias. Since 1990, the mortality rate for these dementias has increased by 29 percent. Parkinson disease killed another 8.1 per 100,000; its mortality rate has climbed by 61 percent. The mortality rate for other neurological disorders is up 17 percent since 1990.

Even though non-communicable diseases are some of the major diseases in Andorra, the country, overall, is still relatively healthy. Andorra has some of the most technologically advanced hospitals in Europe. There are ten state-funded health centers in Andorra, which are staffed by nurses. They are responsible for first aid, antenatal and child care, nursing services, home and rehabilitation care, immunizations and general healthcare. Moreover, emergency care is free for everyone.

Solansh Moya

Photo: Flickr