Help People in The GambiaAt the westernmost tip of Africa exists one of the smallest and poorest countries on the entire continent. The Gambia is a nation of just over two million people and roughly 75 percent of the population live in poverty. The 2011 U.N. Human Development Index (HDI) assessed The Gambia as ranking 168th out of 187 countries. The HDI ranks countries based on their level of human development as a society, averaging things like life expectancy, per capita income and birth rate to make projections.

The Gambia scored so poorly on the HDI for a variety of reasons, but one predominant contributor is poor conditions leading to lack of food and agriculture production. About 60 percent of The Gambia’s population depends on some sort of farming for survival. Despite the fact that The Gambia River runs clear across the middle of the country, only 16.7 percent of the country’s available land is arable. This, in conjunction with frequent and erratic rainfall make the life of a Gambian subsistence farmer an especially tough one. The peak rainy season runs through the duration of the summer, hence food production during this time is negligible. Families who depend on subsistence farming – that is, growing enough food to feed themselves – attempt desperately every year to stock their food supplies in anticipation of the rainy season.

The harsh reality of the situation is that the circumstances are not getting any better, weather patterns become more unpredictable by the year and the price of food in the Gambian economy continues to rise steadily. The combination of all of these factors has led to the emergence of a global need to help people in The Gambia. One particular charity organization, which makes strides to improve life for those in The Gambia, is Aid for Africa. Since its inception in 2004, Aid for Africa has worked to combine the efforts of nonprofit organizations working in Sub-Saharan Africa to help those in need. They have made an impact on the lives of impoverished Gambians by establishing “community based self-help programs,” which aim to provide people with the skills and resources they need to escape the cycle of poverty.

The quickest and most effective way to help people in The Gambia is to donate to a charity such as Aid for Africa or even other similar charities. As members of the international community, we have an obligation to help those in need, and now, more than ever, the people of The Gambia need our help to escape poverty.

Tyler Troped

Photo: Flickr

The Hidden Face of Poverty in Brunei

Brunei Darussalam, the Abode of Peace, is a small Southeast Asian country with a population of approximately 350,000 people. Data on poverty in Brunei is scarce, but it shows that roughly five percent of the country’s population lives in poverty. Nevertheless, there is another face of poverty in the small nation: the poverty of freedom and opportunity.

Brunei is an Islamic Sultanate Kingdom ruled by a monarch in whom rests the executive, legislative and judicial powers of the State. The reigning monarch, Hassanal Bolkiah, is the 29th ruler in an unbroken line of succession for the past six centuries. The country’s citizenry has allowed the monarchical rule to survive for this long because of two reasons: welfare benefits and the respect for social and political order enforced by the state.

Economic poverty in Brunei is not a big problem because it is a rich nation and the third largest exporter of oil and gas, which allows the subjects of the King to enjoy a high per capita income of nearly $24,000 annually. The human development index (HDI) ranks it 30, which falls in a very high human development category, over countries such as Malta, Qatar and Cyprus, which rank 33. Brunei also ranks well in the gender development index (GDI). According to the 2015 HDI report, the female HDI value for Brunei is 0.854 which is a GDI value of 0.986, placing it into Group 1 with countries such as Norway, Australia and Singapore.

However, poverty in Brunei exists in the sense that there are reported problems of smaller economic inequalities and the lack of freedom and opportunity. Development across some areas is uneven and opportunities for younger generations to participate actively in the State affairs through education, employment and promotions on merit are less than encouraging. Brunei has no representative institutions due to the total control of the King’s authoritarian regime. Analysts believe that the State has been able to maintain harmony due to the vast wealth at its disposal for welfare activities.

The less diversified nature of economy, dependency on the oil and gas industry and the spread of ideas due to the rise of Internet and globalization among the younger generation do seem to pose a challenge for the current socioeconomic and political model. Economic and political measures in Brunei must be taken to address the emergent issue of poverty of opportunity and freedom and, simultaneously, sustain growth and prosperity.

Aslam Kakar

Photo: Flickr

Child Poverty in Norway

Norway is among the richest countries in the world; in fact, the Human Development Index ranks it first globally. However, by the country’s own standards of development, there are still segments of society which are considered below the line of poverty. Reports on child poverty in Norway reveal some troubling facts about the country’s economically successful image. Here are six important facts about child poverty in Norway.

  1. More than 90,000 children come from families that are defined as poor. According to UNICEF Norway, this number has doubled since 2000. It is feared that this number will continue to rise if adequate measures are not taken to address the issue.
  2. According to a report by Norway Today, every fifth child, or about 18, 500 of the country’s total number of poor children, lives in Oslo. Child poverty in Norway is relatively high in metropolitan areas such as Oslo.
  3. According to the Minister of Children and Equality, Solveig Horne, more than half of poor children come from families with immigrant backgrounds. However, Kari Elisabeth Kaski, the first candidate in Oslo and party secretary of the Socialist Party, says that child poverty is an important issue regardless of immigration status. Kaski also says that child poverty should become a priority issue in the upcoming election in Norway.
  4. One report shows that though child poverty in Norway is particularly high among certain immigrant groups, approximately half of the children in low-income families are of Norwegian ethnic backgrounds.
  5. In some low-income neighborhoods, such Nedre Toyen in Oslo, two out of three children are poor compared to one in five in the Kampen area, which is several steps away. Differences in child poverty – depending on the area in Oslo – are substantial.
  6. The effects of living in poor neighborhoods on childrens’ future opportunities are alarming. A poor neighborhood, where most or all families are poor, does not provide a good network or “social and cultural capital” that can be mutually beneficial to members of the community in getting a job, better education or any other assistance.

Despite these troubling facts, the good news is that as the world’s most developed country, child poverty in Norway is defined differently in relation to the poverty of children globally. It mostly means for children to have little to no resources to participate in life experiences such as birthday parties, a school trip and other experiences that are socially and culturally enriching. Norway is also a welfare state. Generally, there is little difference between children from rich and poor backgrounds in the sense that they get equal education and healthcare among other social services. Further, the number of children who die has decreased by 50 percent in the last 20 years.

Clearly, poor children in Norway still have the resources to give them the best chance of growing up to be healthy, educated and successful adults; however, there need to be government efforts aimed at the underlying causes in order to prevent child poverty in the first place. Only then will these children have access to necessary socially and culturally uplifting experiences.

Aslam Kakar

Photo: Flickr

Malawi's Poverty Rate
Malawi’s poverty rate has been a critical dilemma, especially in its rural areas. Although the following issues below contribute to Malawi’s poverty rate, a great focus remains on promoting growth and improving Malawians’ standard of living.

7 Facts about Malawi’s Poverty Rate

  1. Malawi’s poverty rate has remained stubbornly high. More than half of the country’s population, about 52 percent, live on less than $0.32 per day.
  2. Malawi has a population of 6.8 million children, which is about 51 percent of the total population. Around 4 million of those children are among the poor, and poverty hits them the hardest. Intense poverty threatens their health, education and safety.
  3. The average life expectancy for Malawian’s has improved in recent years. Life expectancy for women increased from 49 years in 2005 to 63 years as of 2016. For men, life expectancy has increased from 47 years to now 58 years.
  4. As of 2013, Malawi, also known as the Republic of Malawi, is the 18th least developed country in the world. Despite this status, Malawi has improved its rural poverty rate from 44 percent in 2011 to 40.9 percent in 2013– an especially admirable feat considering the presence of conflicts that undermine years of progress.
  5. Malawi’s poverty rate in urban areas is 20 percent. However, the country ranked 170 out of 188 countries on the 2016 Human Development Index of the United Nations Development Program.
  6. Malawi’s people living in rural areas make up 85 percent of its population, making its economy largely based on agriculture. A decline in agriculture production due to droughts caused Malawi’s gross domestic product growth to slow from 5.7 percent growth to 2.5 percent in 2016. An estimate of 6.5 million people will require food assistance due to recent droughts.
  7. The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), a specialized agency of the United Nations, has dedicated more than $160 million to 11 programs in Malawi to promote agricultural growth in an effort to reduce poverty.

Malawi is slowly developing despite its many conflicts. Malawi’s poverty rate is decreasing and progress is being made towards improving agriculture more and more every day. With these developments, Malawians have the potential to achieve economic independence.

Brandi Gomez

Photo: Flickr

The Swaziland Poverty RateDespite its classification as a lower-middle-income nation, 63 percent of the Kingdom of Swaziland’s population still lives below the poverty line. The Swaziland poverty rate is attributed to multiple factors. These factors include stalled economic growth, severe drought, unequal distribution of wealth, high unemployment and a high rate of HIV/AIDS.

According to the African Economic Outlook, economic growth in Swaziland dropped to -0.6 percent in 2016 due to a severe drought during the 2015-16 agricultural season that caused significant declines in the country’s agricultural sector. As nearly 77 percent of Swazis rely on subsistence farming for their livelihoods, Swaziland was one of the southern African nations hit hardest by the drought.

The economic growth rate is projected to rise to 1.4 percent in 2017 as improving weather conditions also improve agricultural production. It will most likely take until 2018, though, to regain and potentially surpass 2015’s growth rate of 1.7 percent.

In 2015, Swaziland was ranked 150 out of 188 countries in the Human Development Index (HDI). The HDI which ranks countries based on life expectancy, education and per capita income indicators. Between 2011 and 2015, the country’s HDI value did not change. Researchers attribute this lack of progress to unmet Millennium Development Goals in areas such as poverty and health care.

In an effort to combat the high Swaziland poverty rate, the Swazi government has undertaken various initiatives aimed at promoting indigenous Swazi entrepreneurship and decreasing youth unemployment rates. According to the 2013-14 Integrated Labour Force Survey, people between the ages of 22 and 35 owned only 33 percent of the country’s small businesses.

The Swazi government is currently working on including more young people in the country’s growing small business sector by including entrepreneurship training in schools and supporting programs that give young people hands-on experience in a small business work environment. Additionally, the nation is planning to revitalize the Youth Enterprise Revolving Fund Initiative.

There are also several organizations working on the ground in Swaziland to help those living in poverty. In 2017, the World Food Programme (WFP) has collaborated with the Swazi government to improve the food consumption of households affected by the drought by providing approximately 250,000 people with food distributions and cash transfers through the use of mobile money.

The organization is also working to combat the malnutrition caused by the drought and the high poverty rate. It provides 15,000 people per month with take-home food rations meant specifically to improve their nutritional status. This initiative mainly targets those undergoing treatment for HIV or tuberculosis. Both of these diseases have high incidence rates in Swaziland.

The Thirst Project is another organization that is working to alleviate the burdens that poverty places on 63 percent of Swazis. Its goal is to end the global water crisis by providing sustainable sources of clean water to communities in developing countries.

It is the belief of Alicia Villafana, though, a recipient of the Thirst Project’s Power of Youth Award for her fundraising efforts, that providing communities with clean water will ultimately help downsize the Swaziland poverty rate.

“Now they can grow gardens and vegetables that provide nutrients. Now HIV patients can take their medication without worrying about catching a disease from the water that might kill them,” states Villafana. “Kids don’t have to spend time going to fetch water. Now they can go to school and get an education.”

With the efforts of the Swazi government, supplemented by aid from humanitarian organizations, the WFP believes that those affected by the Swaziland poverty rate may soon lead healthier, more secure lives.

Amanda Lauren Quinn

Photo: Flickr

Human Rights in JamaicaIn the 2007 Human Development Index published by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Jamaica ranked 101 of 177 countries – the second-lowest in the Caribbean, ahead of only Haiti. Since then, the nation’s rank has climbed to 94; however, human rights in Jamaica and national human development still face several obstacles that need to be addressed.

Poverty and public security are the primary human rights concerns in Jamaica. Gang violence and violent murders are rampant and affect a majority of the population, especially the poorest. Although there has been a slight decrease in gang activity in the last few years, gang violence still accounts for a majority of murders in Jamaica. Last year, the Acting Police Commissioner reported that 65 percent of murders were linked to gangs.

Police violence is also a major issue. The state’s answer to significant violent crime has largely been to respond with its own violence. Human rights activists in recent years have reported the prevalence of unlawful killings on behalf of the state police force on the order of – or complicit with – higher authorities. Since 2000, it is alleged that the Jamaican constabulary force has killed over 3,000 people. Although these killings have been decreasing since 2010, the numbers are still high. In 2016, there was an average of two police killings per week.

Beyond the killings themselves, international human rights watchdog organizations have claimed that police officers perpetuate an atmosphere of fear. The planting and tampering of evidence, along with the intimidation and terrorizing of witnesses, are commonplace.

Another major obstacle to improving human rights in Jamaica is the treatment of the LGBTQ community. Hate crimes directed at these individuals have been committed both by citizens and the police. Between 2009 and 2012, estimates show that over 200 attacks, including physical attacks, mob attacks and home invasions, were directed at LGBTQ members. More recently, the government has formally acknowledged the issue and has put in place initiatives, such as a division of the police focused on diversity, to help aid the problem.

The state of human rights in Jamaica over the past decade has been improving. Initiatives on behalf of the government and the support and direction of human rights organizations have attempted to systematically address the issues that plagued the Jamaican community, and have already made progress. However, there is still a lot of room for improvement and as long as Jamaica suffers from chronic poverty, human rights issues will always be present.

Alan Garcia-Ramos

Photo: Flickr

Human Rights in Norway

Norway is a small Scandinavian country with a population of approximately 4.9 million. It is a parliamentary democracy and constitutional monarchy, and a range of political parties operate freely there.

Recent reports on human rights in Norway show it is one of the best countries for political, civil and individual rights except a few minor, worrying trends in immigration and the rights of religious minorities. “Norway has ranked first on the UN Development Program’s Human Development Index for 12 of the last 15 years, and it consistently tops international comparisons in such areas as democracy, civil and political rights, and freedom of expression and the press.”

Below is a breakdown of characteristic details of human rights in Norway in the past couple of years.

Political pluralism: Norway’s Constitution promotes political pluralism and guarantees it in practice. All political parties from a range of ideological backgrounds participate freely in elections. The country’s political freedom is such that the indigenous Sami population, “the only group in Scandinavia recognized as an indigenous people by international conventions,” has its own legislature, the Sameting, which works to protect the language and political, cultural and economic rights of the group.

Press freedom: Freedom of the press is constitutionally guaranteed and protected in public life. The government subsidizes the majority of newspapers, although private and partisan, in an effort to promote political pluralism and democracy. Citizens’ digital rights are respected. Internet access is free and unimpeded. There is respect for academic freedom, and private discussions are free and vibrant.

The freedom of belief: The freedom of religion is constitutionally guaranteed and respected in practice. Norway is a secular country where the church and the state were separated by a 2012 constitutional amendment. All religious beliefs enjoy freedom, but lately, there is seemingly a rise in anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim violence and harassment.

In 2015, a new special police unit in Oslo – founded to strengthen efforts against hate crimes – reviewed 143 crimes, roughly double the number reviewed in 2014. “In June of this year, Norway became the first Nordic country to propose a ban on the burqa -full face and body covering- in kindergartens, schools and universities.”

Although according to the Huffington Post “very very few” of three percent of Norway’s Muslim population, or roughly 150,000 individuals, wear a niqab – the veil that covers the face, showing only the eyes – it still is a matter of civilian liberty and has to be dealt with accordingly. In August 2015, the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination criticized the country for lack of a comprehensive approach to halt these crimes, as it scars the overall picture of human rights in Norway.

Associational/organizational rights: The Norwegian constitution guarantees the rights to assembly and protest. In 2015, following a terrorist attack on a synagogue, hundreds of Norwegians made a “ring of peace” around an Oslo Synagogue to show solidarity with the Jewish community. The right to assembly and strike is guaranteed to labor organizations/unions and workers except for senior civil servants and the military.

Immigration: Like many other European countries, Norway has seen a surge in the immigration in recent years as it has increased fivefold since the 1970s. “In 2015, Norway received asylum applications from 31,000 people, primarily from Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan; this was a significant increase from the 11,000 applications received in 2014.” The country is witnessing the rise of anti-immigration right-wing politics. Consequently, the controversial practice of refoulment, which the international law forbids, continued in 2015, affecting more than 1,000 people.

Prisoners’ rights: Norway is known globally for its radical humaneness toward prisoners. The incarceration rate is among the lowest in the world at 75 persons per 100,000. In the U.S., it is 10 times higher. There is no death penalty nor lifetime imprisonment, and the maximum sentence for most crimes is 21 years. Norway’s recidivism rate of 20 percent is one of the lowest in the world. However, the country’s capacity has not been sufficient with more than 1,000 prisoners waiting to serve their sentences in recent years.

Individual rights: Norway is also one of the best countries for personal autonomy. Citizens from the European Union do not need a permit to work in Norway. The Gender Equality Act provides equal rights for both men and women. Conscription in armed forces is gender-neutral according to a law that took effect in 2015. In 2013, women won 40 percent of seats in parliament. A gender-neutral marriage act passed in 2009 granted Norwegian same-sex couples identical rights as opposite-sex couples, including in adoption and assisted pregnancies.

Given its credible record in the past, it is very likely that the strong presence of NGOs and civil society networks with the cooperation of government, will strengthen efforts to redress discriminatory practices because they are a threat to pluralism and the positive image of human rights in Norway.

Aslam Kakar

Photo: Flickr

Hunger in Nicaragua
Ranked 125th out of 188 nations on the 2015 U.N.’s Human Development Index, Nicaragua is a low-income, food deficit country, with a per capita National Gross Income (NGI) of $980. Hunger in Nicaragua is among reasons to count the country as the second poorest nation in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Hunger in Nicaragua has plagued the country resulting in its poverty rating. A study revealed by the World Food Program (WFP) shows that chronic undernutrition affects over 40 percent of children under five. The problem is most prominent in the departments of Madriz, Nueva Segovia and Jinotega; where between 28 percent and 29.5 percent of children aged under five are malnourished. Data also reveals that stunting among children aged under three in targeted areas is higher than global mean rates.

The World Food Program has been present in Nicaragua since 1971, supporting the Government of Nicaragua’s Zero Hunger Program and helping to build resilience in food-insecure households and strengthening food security nets.

The WFP provides nutritional support to vulnerable communities faced with hunger in Nicaragua. Families are given assistance through activities such as Food for Assets (FFA) and Food for Training (FFT). In addition, the National School Meals Program supports access to nutritional support with school gardens and a daily meal to pre- and primary school children in the most food insecure areas.

The WFP is collaborating with the Purchase for Progress initiative to grant the necessary resources to smallholder farmers. This impetus will create sustainable development by connecting them to and building networks with local markets. With agriculture being the primary economic activity in Nicaragua, the program is inclusive of 70 percent of the nation’s population and contributes to 20 percent of the country’s GDP.

Action Against Hunger has been involved since 1996. They have established programs focused on nutrition and food security to tackle hunger in Nicaragua and enhance social-net security throughout the country.

The Protracted Relief and Recovery Operation (PRRO) aims to assist some 132,000 people through Mother-and-Child care activities. Its goals include providing food assistance to vulnerable families affected by hunger and poverty.

The food-aid organization Kids Against Hunger works with and through local churches and organizations to provide meals to alleviate hunger in Nicaragua among vulnerable children. The Casper Packaging Event is a community effort with a goal of providing 200,000 meals annually.

The NICE Foundation is the partner organization with Kids Against Hunger that is responsible for the distribution of the packages. The organization exists to meet the long-term nutritional needs of Nicaraguans.

Strides are being made by organizations worldwide to battle the issue of hunger in Nicaragua. Although the economy has faced difficulty in the past in ensuring the stability of food security, there is hope that many faced with hardship and hunger will experience relief.

Shanique Wright

Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Papua New Guinea
Papua New Guinea is located on the eastern half of the island of New Guinea in Oceania. It is the largest country in the Pacific region and one of the world’s most ethnically diverse countries, as exemplified by its nearly 7.1 million people and 850 indigenous spoken languages and accompanying cultures. There is a pervasive belief, particularly among political elites, that poverty in Papua New Guinea is a myth.


The Reality of Poverty in Papua New Guinea


This stems from the notion that all natives of Papua New Guinea are landowners and therefore have access to lives of “subsistence affluence” and a wealth of resources, including forestry, agriculture, fisheries, minerals and biodiversity.

While it is true that nearly 75 percent of natives survive off of subsistence farming and Papua New Guinea does have many natural resources, it is still ranked as a lower-middle income country. The poverty may better be described as a “poverty of opportunity,” which entails a lack of educational and occupational opportunities for its citizens.

Only about 50 percent of adults in Papua New Guinea are literate, while 25 percent of children are unable to attend school.

Healthcare is another problem for Papua New Guinea. The average life expectancy for those within the country is 63 years.

Reports from the 2004 and 2009 National Millennium Development Goals show that Papua New Guinea had difficulty meeting its Millennium Development Goal targets, particularly maternal health, infant mortality, literacy and treatment and prevention of HIV/AIDS.

Many peripheral health facilities have been closed in recent years and those that are open are often severely underfunded or understaffed. Nearly two-fifths of health centers and rural health posts throughout the country have no electricity or access to necessary medical equipment.

Part of the problem with getting to school, work and hospitals have to do with Papua New Guinea’s infrastructure. In rural areas, where nearly 88 percent of the population resides, there are few roads or means of transportation to get to schools or places of employment. Inaccessibility to roads is a leading contributor to poverty in Papua New Guinea.

The poorest communities in Papua New Guinea have to travel 75 percent longer than the richer communities to reach the closest mode of motorized transportation. The average walk for a rural resident in Papua New Guinea is about 90 minutes to reach a rural road, while those most impoverished areas often have to walk four hours or more. Additionally, only seven percent of the population has access to electricity and water filtration.

Poverty in Papua New Guinea has also led to human development lagging behind. The country currently ranks 156 out of 186 countries in the 2013 Human Development Index (HDI). Gender equality is a significant issue facing the people of Papua New Guinea, as the country ranks in the bottom 10 countries in the Gender Equality Index.

Violations of women’s rights are nearly systemic throughout the country, with nearly two-thirds of women having experienced violence. Women and girls also have substantially less access to basic education and healthcare than their male counterparts.

Other countries have not done much to alleviate poverty in Papua New Guinea. Many highly developed nations have used the land’s resources, promising payout to the residents they displace and not making good on their word. Many citizens never see a profit from these non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

This exploitation leads to climate change and environmental degradation in the country and increases its vulnerability to natural hazards. Further, Papua New Guinea is often used as a source, destination and transit country for individuals subjected to human trafficking — particularly for prostitution and forced labor.

However, progress is being made. The Asia Development Bank (ADB) has proposed supporting poverty reduction in Papua New Guinea by aiding the country in improving internal and external transport links and enhancing energy access. The ADB also seeks to remove core infrastructure blockages to provide economic opportunity and access to basic social services.

The organization wants to boost job creation as well as work with small businesses to increase profits. ADB will also continue to promote participation by women in the workplace and attempt to mainstream gender equality in all projects they have a hand in.

Internally, in early 2013, the government of Papua New Guinea introduced a fee-free education policy up to the ninth grade to expand access to basic education. It also implemented a free healthcare policy. The National Health Plan (2010 – 2020) aims to fight high infant and maternal mortality rates.

Kayla Provencher

Photo: Flickr