poverty in ghana
Overall poverty in Ghana has declined and Ghana has positioned itself as one of the more developed nations in Sub-Saharan Africa. The proportion of Ghanaians described as poor in 2005/06 was 28.5%, falling from 39.5% in 1998/99. Those described as extremely poor declined from 26.8% to 18.2%.Ghana is on track to meeting the Millennium Development Goals for income poverty, hunger, primary school completion, gender parity at school and access to water.

However challenges still exist. Rural, subsistence agricultural farmers are among the poorest socio-economic groups in Ghana. Most of these farmers reside in the northern region of Ghana and do not have access to the same infrastructure and services as do their urban southerners. At present, agriculture constitutes the dominant sector of the economy, although the developing oil industry shows promise in the near future.

Ghana’s Human Development Index stood at 0.558 in 2012. On a scale between 0 and 1, with 1 being the best possible HDI and 0 the worst. The HDI is a composite measure of health, education, and income which helps assess the standard of living. The 2012 average HDI in Sub-Saharan Africa stood at 0.475. Ghana may have the best HDI in the region, but on a global scale, it falls far behind most countries. Out of 186 countries surveyed in the 2012 HDI, Ghana placed 135th.

Ghana still aspires to reach a middle-income country status. It has one of the most stable governments in the region and one of the fastest growing economies thanks to the recent discovery of offshore oil in 2007. Per capita income is projected to reach at least US$1,035 by the end of 2013 with a projected average real GDP growth rate of 7-9%, annually.


Rate of Poverty in Ghana

At this rate, Ghanaians could achieve and sustain per capita income levels of at least $3,000 USD by the year 2020. Oil, gold, and cocoa are Ghana’s main industries. Ghana is Africa’s biggest gold miner after South Africa and is the world’s second largest cocoa producer after Côte d’Ivoire. The challenge is to make sure the wealth generated from these industries trickle-down to every Ghanaian.

One important factor to eradicating poverty in Ghana is to control population growth. As of the 2000 census, 44% of the population consists of children below 15 years of age with those above 65 accounting for only 5%. This presents a very large dependent population requiring huge investments in education and health care. Underemployment and unemployment is a concern among many young adults as well.

While the oil industry develops, agriculture still remains a major part of the economy.  Ghana’s agriculture is dominated by subsistence small holder production units with weak linkages, low-level technology and productivity, and un-competitiveness. The small-scale farmer who practices rain-fed agriculture, applies little or no fertilizer, and uses little technology is vulnerable to the unpredictable changes in the weather. Lack of land ownership rights also undermines the small farmer’s ability to invest in land improvements and farm expansion. Unless these issues are remedied, smallholder farmers will remain in a poverty trap.

In general, a broad-based human development strategy is recommended in order to keep Ghana on track for reducing its poverty. This includes improving the quality and access of education and healthcare for the young and the old. It requires providing micro-credits and financing to farmers and small businesses.

The development of the oil industry should translate to better infrastructure and more jobs for the average Ghanaian – and not be exclusively held in an enclave of the rich. Further, more women should be empowered to become leaders and entrepreneurs. And considering that Ghana’s current pattern of development puts a lot of stress on the environment – resulting in an economic cost of over 10% of Ghana’s GDP – Ghana needs to fix their environmental and sanitation management. More importantly, the disparities between those that live in the poorer north of the country and those that live in the privileged south should be bridged in order to eradicate extreme poverty out of Ghana once and for all.

– Maria Caluag

Sources: IMF, UNDP, BBC News

Located in Central Africa, Chad is ranked near the bottom of the United Nations Development Programme’s (UNDP) Human Development Index, 184th out of the 187 countries studied. Heavily affected by internal conflict and economic strife, Chad’s fragile government has experienced incredible difficulty in increasing access to primary education.

Due to severe economic disparities, there are a number of problems in Chad’s education sector, particularly in a lack of adequate supplies and tools necessary to create a functioning school environment. Many of the existing schools are simply structured, overcrowded with students, and understaffed, also lacking desks, chairs, or textbooks.

In 2012, the United Nation’s Human Development Reports revealed that only 62 percent of primary school educators in Chad were even qualified to teach. Additionally, the youth literacy rate for boys, ages 15-24, was 53.6 percent in 2012, while girls lagged behind with a literacy rate of only 42.2 percent. However, these numbers are an improvement from the past decade.

Chad’s government recently teamed up with an existing triple partnership between the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), the Global Partnership for Education (GPE), and Educate a Child (EAC), with the intention of ameliorating its education problem.

The plan for development involves two main components: restoring and improving the physical learning environment, and increasing the quality of instruction through providing necessary materials (textbooks, blackboards, desks, etc.).

EAC’s website states, “The Revitalizing Basic Education in Chad project works in targeted primary schools in the regions of Guéra, Ouadai, Sila and Logone Occidental, to supports the Government of Chad’s efforts to increase primary school completion rates from 37 percent in 2011 to 80 percent in 2020.”

GPE alone has donated $47.2 million to aid the project, providing ample funds to revamp schools across the country.

With the combined effort of these three organizations, 246,500 children will be able to enroll in and complete a quality primary education.

According to GPE, “Chad’s education sector has progressed slightly in recent years. The percentage of out-of-school children decreased from 43 percent in 2002 to 36 percent in 2011. The primary completion rate increased from 30 percent in 2006 to 35% in 2012. In terms of gender parity, 62 girls finished primary school for every 100 boys in 2012, improving slightly from 53 girls for every 100 boys in 2006.”

Not only is this partnership working in Chad, but also Comoros, Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, and Yemen, where it is getting 2.5 million children a quality education. If Chad’s current success is magnified, the lives of hundreds of thousands of children will be changed for the better.

– Hanna Darroll

Sources: UNICEF 1, UNICEF 2, Global Partnership for Education, Educate a Child
Photo: Relief Web

Third World Country
“Third World country” is a phrase used all the time in discussions of impoverished/under-developed nations, but what does this designation actually mean? Many of those who reference a supposed third world country have no conception of the origin of the phrase and unknowingly use it incorrectly.

The term was first coined during the Cold War era and referred to the nations that were aligned with neither the U.S. nor the U.S.S.R. Most often, these were the developing nations of Africa, Asia and South America.

The “First World” was made up of the democratic-industrial nations within the sphere of American influence. These countries were capitalist and came out of World War II with similar political and economic interests; examples include Japan, Australia and the countries of Western Europe.

The “Second World” was the Eastern bloc of communist-socialist, industrial states in the territory of the U.S.S.R. Today this descriptor would apply to Russia, Eastern Europe (i.e. Poland), some of the Turk states and China.

The three-quarters of the global population that was left over became known as the “Third World.” The countries are not a very cohesive group, including capitalist and communist economies like Venezuela and North Korea, as well as rich and poor countries like Saudi Arabia and Mali.


History of the Third World Country


The exact origin of the terminology “third world” is unclear. In 1952, a French demographer named Alfred Sauvy wrote an article in a French magazine, L’Observateur, that ended by comparing the Third World with the Third Estate of pre-revolutionary France. Sauvy may have been the first to use the phrase, remarking “this ignored Third World, exploited, scorned like the Third Estate.”

The modern descriptor has moved away from its original definition. Today, various indicators, which are have nothing to do with Cold War alliances, are used to classify “Third World” countries. These include political rights and civil liberties, Gross National Income (GNI), Human Development (HDI), as well as the freedom of information within a country. The concept of the “third world” has evolved to describe countries that suffer from high infant mortality, low economic development, high levels of poverty and little to no ability to utilize natural resources.

“Third World” nations tend to have economies dependent on the economic prosperity of the developed countries and, as a result, tend to have a large foreign debt. A common factor is the lack of a middle class — “third world” income distribution is made up of impoverished millions and a very small elite upper class controlling the country’s wealth and resources. Because their economies are lacking, these countries generally cannot support their high levels of population growth. The nations of the “Third World” often have unstable governments and are pervaded by illiteracy and disease.

Although useful as a descriptor for a select group of countries, many exceptions make the geopolitical term seem hugely outdated. For example, Saudi Arabia, as previously noted, is technically a “Third World” country, but it obviously does not meet the qualifications mentioned above. The three worlds additionally do not take into account the emerging economies of countries like Brazil and India. The phrase has expanded to describe sections of affluent countries that are impoverished compared to richer areas but maybe not so destitute with regard to levels of global poverty.

The world of the 21st century is much more complex than it was during the Cold War period; First World countries have third world qualities and vice versa. Calling countries developing nations versus non-developing nations might be a better option, but it is unclear what the exact distinction here is either. Very real modern global problems are not well-served by wishy-washy generalizations.

– Katie Pickle

Sources: Nations Online, Policy.Mic
Photo: Funding Gates

Throughout its long history, Djibouti has served as an important part of international exchange. Located in the center of the Horn of Africa, Djibouti has been a principle port of trade, exchange and shipping for nations like Saudi Arabia, France and China.

Yet, in spite of its historical significance, Djibouti’s small population of 886,000 people, most of whom are urban residents, cannot afford food or proper dietary provisions. This number includes children, approximately 109,000 under the age of five, who are at risk of stunted growth, improper mental development and death due to malnourishment. It is estimated that 29.8 percent of children under the age of five in Djibouti are underweight.

In recent years, severe drought has caused the traditionally pastoral society of Djibouti to lose up to 70 percent of its livestock. With less than .10 percent of Djibouti’s land considered arable, it is difficult to maintain sustainable agriculture or for families to feed themselves. Due to a combination of high communicable disease infection, low crop production and extreme poverty, child mortality rates are increasingly high, with 81 of every 1,000 live births resulting in death. Though child mortality has declined considerably in the last 24 years, children continue to suffer greatly in the region.

Djibouti has one of the world’s highest rates of chronic child malnourishment. The latest statistics provided by WHO show that 18 percent of children suffer from malnutrition and 5.6 percent face severe acute malnutrition. Djibouti currently ranks at 165 of 187 countries in the United Nations Development Program’s Human Development Index, indicating poor development and improper nutrition throughout the average Djiboutian’s lifetime.

In an effort to combat malnutrition and child mortality rates in Djibouti, a number of international organizations have developed programs and assistance intended for the ‘under five population’ and mothers. In June of 2014, the World Bank announced a $5 million dollar credit to the Social Safety Net Program, which provides food assistance and cash-for-work incentives to mothers with young children. It emphasizes the ‘first 1000 days’ of a child’s life as being critical to developing proper nutrition and health.

In 2011, UNICEF installed a therapeutic feeding center in the Balbala community in Djibouti, offering treatment and nutritional supplements to malnourished children. The feeding center also offers resources to mothers in order to prevent future cases of malnutrition. The World Food Programme has also been a leading contributor of food and health assistance in Djibouti. Its assistance in Djibouti has helped over 90,000 people in Djibouti, especially children.

The WFP said, “WFP also helps fight against malnutrition by providing fortified food to children under five, as well as to pregnant and nursing mothers at health centres in both urban and rural parts of the country.”

Additionally, The World Bank, WFP, UNICEF and other organizations have helped Djibouti become self-sufficient by aiding in efforts focused on education, environmental sustainability and useful crop production. These efforts have contributed to the ongoing decline of malnutrition throughout Djibouti.

Candice Hughes

Sources: The World Bank, UNICEF 1, UNICEF 2, WHO 1, WHO 2, World Food Programme
Photo: Flickr


Friends and family members of Kevin Surr can sleep a little easier tonight. The USAID official was freed earlier this week after having been arrested at a pro-democracy assembly in Democratic Republic of the Congo.

That does not mean, however, that the conflict at the center of his detainment is over. The reality is far from resolution. Along with Surr, Congolese security personnel arrested about 40 others at the same conference where dozens of journalists, activists and reformers were in attendance.

The problem began when Congolese intelligence erroneously informed security that the press conference was a meeting for political insurrectionists. In fact, it had been presented as a meeting point for African civil society groups.

The political climate in the DRC is currently tense with the nearing end of current President Joseph Kabila’s tenure. Many suspect that supporters of Kabila are devising tactics to keep him in office.

Included among the arrests was a member of Balai Citoyen: a grassroots political organization from Burkina Faso that was influential in protests that ousted former president Blaire Compaoré.

This is not the first time that an American diplomat has been endangered or harmed while mediating overseas. A grand total of eight American ambassadors have been killed in the line of duty.

The latest death was Chris Stevens in Libya. Stevens met his tragic demise on the 11th anniversary of September 11, when Islamic militants waged an attack upon the diplomatic compound in which he was staying.

With the recent memory of Stevens’s death in mind, Surr’s release comes as a tremendous relief to the general public. Americans rightfully tend to get up in arms whenever another American is captured or detained overseas.

The problem is that the media hand picks which cases of detainment to focus on. This means that most people who are captured or detained are never given that level of attention.

What set Surr and Stevens apart were their statuses as political celebrities. A dead civilian is a tragedy; a dead politician, often, is a scandal.

Throughout all of this, Africa does not become any less politically unstable or corrupt. Ironically, given its name, Democratic Republic of the Congo is not a safe haven from the well-publicized threats of disease, starvation, war or terrorism.

Indeed, given that its final reinstatement as a “democratic” nation occurred when former President Laurent Kabila dictatorially named himself the new leader, it was easy to see that the DRC would likely fail to live up to its name.

If the Congo’s score of 0.338 on the Human Development Index is accurate, then the nation’s people have a great deal of work cut out for them. Developed by economists Amartya Sen and Mahbub ul Haq in 1990, the index measures variables such as life expectancy at birth, mean and expected years of schooling and GNI per capita. When combined, the three measurements produce a single score between 0.2 and 1.0.

With a score that low, it is imperative that the Congolese have help to improve their national security, since secure nations have fewer incidences of major miscommunications that lead to unwarranted arrests such as Surr’s. By helping, first-world countries can make the world a safer place.

Leah Zazofsky

Sources: Associated Press, Greenwood Publishing Group, The Guardian, United Nations Development Programme, United States Senate
Photo: USAID

Since the landmark 1995 Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action that increased attention on women empowerment and women’s rights on the international stage, the movement towards gender equality has continued to expand. Women’s empowerment is a central key to reduce poverty and promote development around the world.

The Gender Empowerment Measure (GEM) was developed in 1995 by the United Nations Development Programme to measure the relative empowerment of women in a specific country. The GEM supports the Human Development Index (HDI) by adding another measurement index to evaluate development.

The HDI is the leading composite index to measure a country’s social and economic development. This is a single statistic, which combines together a country’s life expectancy, education and income. This was developed to measure development as not just economic advances and increases in income, but to measure the improvements in the human condition. However, the HDI is limited because development contains a wide number of other factors that can measure human well-being.

Similar to the HDI, the GEM is a single statistic that focuses on three indicators: proportion of parliamentary seats held by women, percentage of women in economic decision making positions and income level. Although this statistic conveys the percentage of women in economic and political decision making roles, it does not reveal other more meaningful factors that measure women’s empowerment. Women’s empowerment is multi-dimensional and complex and requires a wider framework.

Measuring women’s empowerment can be broken down into five dimensions: economic, social and cultural, legal, political and psychological.

Economic empowerment includes having control over income and family resources, ownership of assets, opportunity for employment and access to markets and representation in economic decision-making roles. With economic empowerment, women can gain financial independence, enter the workforce, and have equal opportunity to gain positions of economic power.

Social and cultural empowerment includes absence of discrimination against females, control over their own bodies, freedom from sexual and domestic violence, having access to family planning services, greater visibility in social spaces and shifts in cultural norms that place women subservient to men. Social and cultural empowerment is essential to not only giving women control over their own bodies, but also providing them with education opportunities to better their lives.

Legal empowerment provides the framework for legislation that expands knowledge and awareness of legal rights. This will expand the opportunity for individuals to mobilize for increased women’s rights laws, utilizing the judicial system to create reform from above.

Political empowerment includes having the right vote, having knowledge of and the ability to be involved with the political system and being represented in local and national governments. Political empowerment creates female representation in the political system, while voting, lobbying and mobilizing empowers women to support policies and causes that they believe in.

Psychological empowerment involves self-worth and psychological happiness. Psychological empowerment comes with the acceptance of women’s rights and their inclusion in society.

There is no single indicator to measure how far women have come, and how much more women still have yet to go to achieve gender equality. Understanding the different dimensions of women’s empowerment is important to develop policies that will enhance gender equality and begin the shifts in cultural norms to promote women’s rights.

– Sarah Yan

Sources: Agrigender, La Follette
Photo: LitStack

WaterAid America
Water sanitation is an issue in development that receives minimal coverage when compared to its impact. Only recently the importance of access to clean water has gained international attention.

A lack of clean water not only makes basic tasks like washing, cooking, and drinking more difficult but also leads to widespread disease. Healthy members of the family are then burdened by taking care of the ill. Livelihoods are often impacted, with women often having to travel long distances to carry water back to their homes, missing out on education or economic opportunities and forcing children to take on responsibility roles in the household.

Established in 1981, WaterAid America works exclusively to provide safe water to at-risk communities globally. It currently works in 27 countries which are among the poorest countries in the world. A country must be on the lower end of the UNDP’s Human Development Index is a criteria for Wateraid to begin work.

The organization works with governments and other international NGOs, receiving funding from the U.S. and U.K. governments to carry out their work. They offer training to foreign departments which lack the resources or background to adequately handle their countries’ crises, thereby creating a sustainable solution rather than a short term intervention.

WaterAid’s impact was documented in Pulitzer Prize winning author Tina Rosenburg’s essay “The Burden of Thirst.” In it, she describes the immense difference made by having access to clean water. Hours previously spent gathering water are instead spent on gathering food or raising animals, diseases plummet and as such, families are no longer forced to care for sick relatives. Girls who previously bore the burden of fetching water are now free to spend their time getting an education.

The problem of unsafe water remains prevalent throughout the world. According to their website, today, 768 million people lack access to clean water and even more, 2.5 billion, lack sanitation.

Farahnaz Mohammed

Sources: The Burden of Thirst

Angolan children in Uige Angola
Though Angola is one of Africa’s leading exporters of oil, the country ranks 148 out of 187 countries on the United Nations Human Development Index. More than a decade has passed since a 27-year civil war displaced millions of Angolans and killed thousands more.

While the violent conflict involving three liberation movements and several foreign interventions has come to an end, many of Angola’s people continue to live in poverty.

Angola’s GDP has improved significantly since the war ended in 2002, growing 12 percent in 2012. Despite this progress, 67.4 percent of the country’s population lives on less than $2 a day, down from 70.2 percent in 2002. This reduction shows that poverty rates are decreasing, but the economy is growing at a much faster rate.

Foreign investors have provided funds for a national reconstruction program to rebuild the infrastructure destroyed during the civil war. The slums to which many fled during the war are being made over, and landmines are being cleared from formerly uninhabitable areas of the countryside.

While economic indicators seem to tout Angola’s transformation from a war-stricken wasteland to an up-and-coming African power, social indicators reveal that poverty remains an issue yet to be addressed.

President Jose Eduardo Dos Santos and the ruling MPLA party fiercely protect Angola’s image, controlling everything from the country’s economy to private media, but the peaceful image they project is far from the reality of most Angolan citizens.

While Angola’s investors and leaders enjoy immense material wealth, the country remains one of the most undeveloped states in the world. One in five children die before reaching the age of five, and almost 66 percent of people live in slums. Life expectancy hovers at around 51 years.

As Angola becomes an important part of the global economy, millions of its citizens continue to suffer from the long-lasting effects of a brutal civil war and a government focused more on abstract economic measures than true social change.

– Katie Bandera

Source: BBC, United Nations, Rural Poverty Portal
Photo: Reuters

The Republic of Guinea-Bissau is a tiny country in West Africa that borders Senegal, Guinea, and the Atlantic Ocean. Its population is estimated at 1,600,000 people.

Guinea-Bissau is regarded as one of the poorest countries in the world as it has one of the lowest GDP per capitas compared to other nations. In 1998 alone, the GDP per-capita of Guinea-Bissau was only $173 compared to the per-capita GDP of the US at $29,683.

Today, the GDP per-capita of Guinea-Bissau has risen to $625.55. However, this level is still amongst the lowest in the world. Consequently, the population of Guinea-Bissau as suffered with a life expectancy of only 48 years in 2012.

Furthermore, Guinea-Bissau has one of the lowest Human Development Index scores. The poor nation ranks 176th out of 185 countries in 2013.

The economy of Guinea-Bissau relies primarily on agriculture, fish, and groundnuts as exports. In particular, the cashew nut exports have been vital to Guinea-Bissau. Yet in recent days, the exports have been on the decline. Cashew nut farmers have been unable to sell their produce as India, the prime importer of the nuts, has slashed its import size. Farmers are left holding tons of  unsold cashews.

Guinea-Bissau’s economic depression is largely the result of a long period of political instability. The nation was a Portuguese colony until its declaration of independence on September 24, 1973. Guinea-Bissau was officially recognized as a country the following year following a socialist-inspired military coup in Portugal. From then on the country would be embroiled in civil unrest and several uprisings. Even now ,the coup-prone country is severely embattled. In November 2008, the President of Guinea-Bissau was assassinated, following the death of head of Joint Chiefs of Staff. In 2012, President Raimundo Pereira was deposed in yet another coup d’état.

Guinea-Bissau has yet to recover complete stability and its political chaos has severely affected its economic situation. Due to this very recent coup d’état, the country’s GDP has contracted 1.5% according to the African Development Bank Group.

However projections for the future of Guinea-Bissau are not as grim as real GDP growth is expected to recover to 4.2%. Inflation, which had previously been at 5%, is expected to ease to 2.1%. Food imports are expected to decline with a rise in production and export of cashews for 2013.

– Grace Zhao

Sources: IRIN, African Development Bank Group, Info Please, Encyclopedia of the Nations
Photo: Wiki Spaces


Benin is a small country in West Africa with a population of roughly 10 million people. Once the site of Dahomey, a West African kingdom that thrived because of its involvement in the slave trade, Benin has been stricken by widespread poverty since gaining independence from France in 1960. Though Benin has a relatively stable democratic government, it remains one of the poorest countries in Africa. Listed below are ten facts about poverty in Benin.

1. Almost 40 percent of Benin’s population lives below the poverty line.

2. Initiatives supported by the IMF and the World Bank have helped Benin’s economy to grow an average of 4.0 percent annually over the past ten years, raising its national per capita income to $780 in 2011.

3. Benin’s economy relies mostly on the cotton trade, and agriculture is the main source of income for 70 percent of the country’s workforce.

4. Benin’s economy is vulnerable not only because it is based primarily on agriculture but also because re-export trade with Nigeria makes up roughly 20 percent of its GDP.

5. There are an average of 58.54 deaths per 1,000 live births in Benin, giving it the 27th highest infant mortality rate in the world.

6. 44.1 percent of Benin’s population is fourteen years old or younger.

7.  The life expectancy in Benin is 56.5 years, shorter than the life expectancies of 165 other countries.

8. Benin ranks 166th on the UN’s Human Development Index out of the 187 countries and territories evaluated.

9. Benin’s hospitals provided .5 beds per 1,000 people in 2010.

10. Extreme poverty has caused human trafficking to increase in recent years. Children can be sold to rich families in neighboring countries for as little as $15.

Katie Bandera

Sources: World Bank, UNDP, The World Factbook, ABC News
Photo: Voice of Russia