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Zindagi Gulzar Hai
“Zindagi Gulzar Hai” is a popular Pakistani drama based on a book by Umera Ahmad. While the drama first aired on Hum TV in 2012, it is now available on YouTube and Netflix with English subtitles. Since then, the drama has captivated the hearts and minds of an international audience, winning one award after the next. While the drama is first and foremost a love story, what many fans fail to remember is that it provides great insight into poverty in Pakistan. This article aims to draw a comparison between the characters and the lives of millions of people in the country.

Plot Summary

The drama “Zindagi Gulzar Hai” depicts a love story between a lower-middle-class woman named Kashaf Murtaza and a wealthy Pakistani man named Zaroon Junaid. A single mother raised Kashaf and her two younger sisters. Their father abandoned them and remarried after their mother could not produce a male heir. This led Kashaf to distrust men from an incredibly early age, but it also gave her the incentive to receive an education and become self-dependent like her mother.

When she grew older, Kashaf received a scholarship to a prestigious university where she met a man from a wealthy Pakistani family named Zaroon. She instantly grew to dislike him due to his flirtatious and jealous nature once Kashaf outperformed him on several occasions. While Zaroon did not like her at first, he began to see wife-like qualities within her and eventually convinced her to marry him. As the drama progresses, it is clear that there are many differences between his wealthy lifestyle and her lower-middle-class background. Not only do these differences communicate the coexistence of two alternative realities in Pakistan, but they also reveal the challenges that millions of people face in the country today. Here are four aspects that the story reveals about poverty in Pakistan.

4 Aspects that “Zindagi Gulzar Hai” Reveals About Poverty in Pakistan

  1. Polygamy: In the drama, Kashaf’s father married twice because his first wife could not produce a son. While polygamy is not common in Pakistan, it is legal as long as a man obtains permission from his first wife. However, many women, especially in rural areas, do not know that their husband’s second marriage is conditional on their approval. Others fear acting against their husbands because they are economically dependent on them and because of the stigma surrounding divorce in Pakistani culture. This makes the practice problematic.
  2. Education: When Kashaf entered a prestigious university, her father insisted that her mother focus on getting their daughters married instead of having them receive an education. Unfortunately, his mindset is not uncommon in Pakistan. According to Human Rights Watch, more than 22.5 million children are not in school within the country. This includes one-third of primary school-aged girls and about 87% of girls in grade nine. Not only does this problem disproportionately affect females, but it also makes Pakistan one of the worst-performing countries with respect to education.
  3. Lack of Clean Water: When Zaroon visited Kashaf’s home soon after their marriage, the water stopped running while he was washing his face. This reflects how Pakistan is one of 36 countries in the midst of a water crisis. Currently, there are less than 1,000 cubic meters of annual water availability for every person within the country. About 80% of those living in 24 major Pakistani cities do not have access to clean water. One can say the same for 16 million people living in the slums of Karachi. This is due to an increase in population, environmental challenges, mismanagement of water systems in the agricultural sector and the overpriced cost of the water that water trucks provide. If resources within the country continue to decline at this rate, the country will be scarce of water by 2025.
  4. Electricity: When Zaroon spends his first night in Kashaf’s home, the electricity goes out. While Kashaf and her family are used to living without air conditioning in Pakistan’s heated climate, it is clear that Zaroon is not. Approximately 25,000 megawatts of electricity are necessary for Pakistan, and the need increases by more than 5% each year. However, the government has only been able to supply 20,000 megawatts of electricity so far. This has left millions of Pakistanis without electricity at any given time.

The drama “Zindagi Gulzar Hai” highlights the challenges that millions of people face as a result of poverty in Pakistan. This will inevitably spread awareness about the problem, instigate much-needed conversations and inspire the world to take action.

– Rida Memon
Photo: Flickr

Correlation Between Disability And Poverty
In many countries, disabled individuals are marginalized and given access to fewer resources when compared to their abled counterparts. When it comes to global poverty, it is crucial to understand the inequity placed upon disabled communities as they are one of the most discriminated against groups, especially in impoverished areas. Disabled communities are also more susceptible to the risks and dangers of the coronavirus and have limited access to safe care.

A Need for Accessibility

In countries such as China and Brazil, there is an 80% positive correlation between disability and global poverty. Currently, more than 85 million people are disabled in China yet are lacking medical resources, especially in rural areas. Poor infrastructure such as narrow sidewalks or overcrowded buildings hamper easy movement for people with disabilities. In China, over 300 disabled persons have co-signed a letter in allowing online maps to locate certain ramps or “barrier-free facilities” to create better mobility for these communities.

With such efforts, however, a few improvements have been made to provide equitable opportunities for the disabled. As of now, over 1,500 local governments in China have added barrier-free facilities—such as ramps, wider sidewalks, and lifts. This allowed more than 147,000 families, primarily from low-income households, to access certain facilities once inconvenient for disabled people. Consequently, more strides have been made on a digital platform, such as providing consultations for disabled communities that are limited in resources.

Human Rights Violation in Institutions

Similar to China, Brazil has previously overlooked the quality of life for its disabled population, especially in care homes with very poor conditions. In 2018, the Human Rights Watch made it a priority for Brazil to provide better care options for people with disabilities who are otherwise confined to poorly run institutions. Many of these institutions were barely even providing basic necessities to residents, such as food and hygiene care. There were no opportunities for social enrichment or personal advancement.

“Conditions are often inhumane, with dozens of people crammed into rooms filled with beds packed tightly together,” the Human Rights Watch report concluded. After interviewing over 171 disabled people living in these institutions, it was clear that improving conditions in these facilities was imperative to better quality of life for disabled residents.

However, the Brazilian government is taking multiple actions to protect their disabled population from inadequate care in these institutions. In 2015, Brazil passed a bill that has been in the works since 2003: the Inclusion of People With Disabilities Act. This bill provides clearer definitions for classifying people with disabilities, as well as allocating more resources for the disabled population. For example, at least three percent of public housing, 10 percent of taxi grants, and two percent of parking lots will be reserved for people with disabilities.

Raising Awareness and Providing Aid

Aside from China and Brazil’s strong correlations between disability and poverty, disabled communities are universally more disadvantaged and vulnerable to a lower-income status. However, many countries are dedicated to raising awareness about the intersectionality between disability and socioeconomic status. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) has been ratified in at least 177 countries and has subsequently led these countries in allocating aid for people with disabilities. Along with the convention, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development made a universal framework that provides guidelines for protecting disabled persons from discrimination in areas such as education, employment, and the workplace.

Smaller organizations have also taken on roles to improve the socioeconomic status of the disabled community. For example, the Christoffel-Blindenmission (CBM) International is an NGO organization that provides job opportunities, healthcare, and education for people with a range of disabilities. Since 1908, this organization has supported at least 672 projects across 68 countries and eventually provided resources to over 10.1 million people. Another example is the Emergency Ong Onlus, an Italian foundation that has reached over 16 million people across 16 countries with free medical care. Primarily specializing in humanitarian relief, the foundation focuses on four intervention areas: surgery, medication, rehabilitation, and social reintegration.

Issues regarding disabled victims of poverty are often neglected and met with discrimination in many countries, including the United States. However, numbers of organizations and local projects are strenuously putting effort into resolving this ongoing humanitarian problem. With the current mass mobilization, there is definite hope in the future of providing equitable opportunities to one of the most vulnerable communities.

– Aishwarya Thiyagarajan
Photo: Flickr

 

 

Philippines Incarceration System
In 2018, the Philippines held the sixth-highest prison population out of 21 Asian countries. As of 2019, the Philippines’ population rested at 108.31 million people, and 215,000 of those people were incarcerated. Therefore, the Philippines has an incarceration rate of about 200 per 100,000 citizens. There are 933 prisons running in the Philippines. Unfortunately, they are mismanaged and overcrowded. Below are five important facts about the incarceration system in the Philippines.

5 Facts About the Philippines’ Incarceration System

  1. Severe overcrowding – Rodrigo Duterte won the presidential election in 2016. He promised to end crime within six months. This promise also included the killing of 10s of thousands of criminals. Duterte’s election led to the infamous war on drugs and eventually, overcrowded prisons. Manila City Jail, the largest jail in the Philippines, is split into dorms that safely house 170 inmates. Currently, these dorms house around 500 people. Similarly, a room designated for 30 people holds about 130 in the Quezon City Jail. This severe overcrowding in prisons leads to illness and death tolls in the thousands.
  2. Pre-trial detainees – According to The World Prison Brief, 75.1% of incarcerations within the Philippines’ incarceration system are pre-trial. In 2018, 141,422 of 188,278 prisoners were pre-trial detainees. Unfortunately, many people are serving sentences without conviction. Pre-trial detention is found in judicial systems all over the world. In countries like the Philippines, people may serve time that outweighs their crimes. On average, prisoners in the Philippines are detained for nine months without being sentenced.
  3. High death tolls – About 5,200 inmates die annually at the New Bilibid Prison (NBP). According to Ernesto Tamayo, the hospital medical chief, these deaths are due to overcrowding, dirty living conditions and inmate violence. At a 2019 Philippines Senate hearing, Tamayo said that there were “uncontrollable outbreaks of pulmonary tuberculosis.” In addition to overcrowding, poor living conditions and inmate violence, NBP lacks nutritional food and basic healthcare. On account of these living conditions, Tamayo reports that at least one prisoner dies at NBP each day. Thankfully, politicians and prison employees are working to reduce overcrowding in the Philippines’ prisons. Human rights advocates have also called for the release of vulnerable inmates, hoping to protect them from poor living conditions.
  4. Vigilante justice – Duterte’s war on drugs escalated during his presidency. Jobless citizens were recruited to kill anyone suspected of dealing, buying or using drugs. This was one of few ways for some people to make money; many homeless and impoverished people joined the vigilante teams. In 2016, Duterte told the public, “If you know of any addicts, go ahead and kill them yourself.” Together, the Philippines’ police force and unidentified gunmen have killed 7,000 known drug dealers and users since Duterte’s presidency in 2016. The Philippines’ war on drugs has created the belief that extrajudicial violence and murder are necessary to fight crime. But, the Human Rights Watch has turned the narrative around on Duterte; they are publicizing information about the vigilante justice in the Philippines.
  5. Corruption – In August 2018, the public learned a former mayor may have been released from prison for good behavior. He was originally charged for rape and homicide in 1993. Similar stories of corruption in the Philippines’ prisons continued to emerge. In September 2018, the public learned that a woman was told her husband’s sentence would be shortened if she paid 50,000 pesos ($970). Later that year, senators stated that inmates could “live like kings” for a fee. This information led to further allegations: prison workers and officials were taking bribes to bring and distribute contraband to inmates. The contraband in question included cigarettes, cellphones and televisions. Supposedly, inmates can also pay for personal cooks and nurses. Inmates who cannot afford a better life within the prison are stuck in overcrowded and dirty rooms; these inmates have a higher rate of becoming ill and of death. Now that the corruption has been unearthed, officials are taking steps to weed it out, one prison at a time.

Possible Fix

With increased awareness of the Philippines’ prison system, there is hope that conditions will be improved and vigilante justice will end. It will take time to fix the Philippines’ judicial and incarceration systems. However, with the help of advocacy groups like the Human Rights Watch, a change could come sooner than expected.

Marlee Ingram
Photo: Flickr

Homeless Children in UgandaThe population of children in Uganda is one of the largest in the world. Out of 37 million people, 56% of Ugandans are under 18 and more than 52% are under 15. Unfortunately, a recent report by the Human Rights Watch revealed that the majority of the children in Uganda lack human rights. Advocacy groups, including the Human Rights Watch, find Ugandan children are facing homelessness and violence.

As of 2019, there were an estimated 15,000 orphaned and homeless children aged between 7 and 17 in Kampala, the capital of Uganda. Homelessness in Uganda is largely caused by the conflict in northern Uganda from 1987 to 2006. Other factors, such as domestic abuse and neglect are also responsible for the high numbers of homeless children in Uganda.

Mistreatment

Some Ugandans help the street children; they provide places to sleep and take care of the sick. Unfortunately, others harm homeless children because of the widespread belief that all street children are thieves. Homeless children are commonly verbally abused, kicked, slapped and spat on; however, the violence does not end there.

Interviews with street children reveal that the police are highly abusive. The police beat the children who resist arrest and extortion attempts. Tear gassing, threatening, beating with batons are just a few examples of the violent behaviors of the police.

Interviews

In December of 2013, Human Rights Watch conducted interviews of homeless and previously homeless children in Uganda.

“[The policemen] take money from us. If you do not have money they beat you so much…. Last week on Saturday, the police came in the night and beat me when I was sleeping with three other children. The policeman beat me on the thighs with a rubber whip. He then hit my knees with a baton. He beat me until I gave him 1,000 shillings ($0.40) and left me.”

—Roger P., 13-year-old, living two years on the streets in Lira

“Government should look for a better solution for street children instead of beating and arresting us. The more you beat us the more we get hardened with life and it does not solve the problem. They want us to go back home but some of us do not even have homes. Others do not know where our parents are. So when they beat us to go home, where do you want us to go?”

— Sam L., 15-year-old, lived four years on the streets in Masaka

Progress

Fortunately, there have been many efforts to decrease homelessness in Uganda. This includes a national program that targets orphans and vulnerable children. Motivated individuals and non-governmental groups are also working to end homelessness in Uganda. For example, Child Restoration Outreach (C.R.O.) focuses on bringing street children into families and helping them become self-reliant citizens. C.R.O. provides children food, medical care, clothes, education and counseling. Additionally, C.R.O. works to reconnect homeless children with their family members. In 2019, C.R.O. sponsored 28 students’ schooling and bought ten children laptops.

Street Resource is another organization dedicated to helping homeless Ugandans. Street Resource has been providing shelter for homeless Ugandans since 2017. Merry Ntungyire, the founder of Street Resource, used her own savings to recruit members to the organization. Today, Street Resource provides shelter for 17 people. 17 isn’t a big number, and the shelter only provides a small room with basic amenities; however, the work of Ntungyire and others like her is highly valued by many. Hopefully, more groups like Street Resource and the Child Restoration Outreach will join the fight against homelessness in Uganda.

Alison Choi
Photo: Unsplash

Poverty Rates in MexicoA few weeks ago, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) boarded a commercial flight with constituents on his way to meet President Donald Trump. Many viewed it as a rare presidential moment, considering the poverty rates in Mexico of 52.4 million people living in poverty. However, AMLO has justified his unique transportation method as a small gesture to those in poverty by saving government money.

Cause of Rising Poverty Rates

Unfortunately, COVID-19 continues to ravage Mexico’s globally-dependent economy and unequipped health system. Simultaneously, this massive group of people living in poverty is only going to expand. Addressing this growing crisis is not only our humanitarian duty as one of its major allies. Rising poverty rates in Mexico will also inevitably threaten the American people in two key ways.

A Persisting Opioid Epidemic

In 2017, President Trump declared the Opioid Epidemic as a national emergency, citing the rising cases of fentanyl overdose deaths. Despite the domestic focus on the problem, it has become more evident that a solution to save the tens of thousands of Americans dying in this crisis requires us to look to the source of the epidemic– Mexico. According to the acting Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) director, Mexican cartels have been responsible for the vast majority of synthetic drugs entering the U.S., including fentanyl.

Problematically, these cartels have been fueled by rising poverty rates in Mexico. In many places, economic hardship has allowed cartels to thrive. They have used protection and basic necessities as a powerful incentive to recruit historically poor populations. Also, vulnerability within many communities has allowed cartels to grow their influence through hollow gestures of aid. This turns cities towards helping their cause; because of this, despite growing civilian casualties in cartel wars, Mexican cartels have seen massive growth in influence and prowess, allowing for them to grow their opioid trade on the US-Mexican border. In order to minimize the cartel’s fueling of the Opioid Epidemic, the American government needs to do more to fight poverty within Mexico. It also needs to find a long term solution to curb the rooted influence most of these cartels have found.

Growing Human Trafficking Concern

Additionally, rising poverty rates in Mexico have pushed many Mexicans towards other illicit industries. According to the London School of Economics, sex trafficking and exploitation is incredibly profitable. As a result, rising economic inequality has pushed many Mexicans towards this industry.

Many people within Mexico have had no choice but to turn to these alternate industries to survive. This is due to a lack of opportunity. As a result, human trafficking has grown within Mexico, with 21,000 minors falling victim to this horrid industry. This problem is not an isolated one. According to the Human Rights Watch, as a result of this industry, Mexico has become one of the largest sources of human trafficking in cases in the U.S. Simply put, rising poverty rates are only fueling a major threat to the U.S. They hurt women and children alike in one of the world’s most horrid illicit industries. Action needs to be taken in order to curb the rising poverty rates in Mexico that have been paramount in causing this crisis.

Mexico has always been a critical economic and geopolitical ally to the U.S. However, as it falls into a growing poverty crisis, the U.S. cannot turn a blind eye. Luckily, positive progress is being seen. Countless organizations such as Freedom from Hunger, Un Techo para mi País (TECHO) and the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) have all been working to mitigate the crisis. In 2018, the U.S. also pledged $4.6 billion to bolster development in Southern Mexico. By continuing on this path and pushing for even more developmental assistance in the future, we cannot only effectively curb the growing poverty crisis. Instead, we can also provide a more secure America for generations to come.

 

Andy Shufer

Photo: Flickr

indigenous groups in chile
Indigenous groups throughout Latin America have a long history of fighting to preserve their land, their culture and their lives. Here are eight facts about indigenous groups in Chile and some of the struggles they face.

8 Facts About Indigenous Groups in Chile

  1. Different groups: Chile is home to nine indigenous groups. These groups include the Mapuche, the largest and most politically active indigenous group in Chile, as well as the Aymara, the Diaguita, the Lickanantay and the Quechua. Together, these nine indigenous groups account for more than 1,565,000 people or approximately 9% of the total Chile population.
  2. History: The Mapuche have continuously fought for their independence since the 1500s, first against the Spanish and continuing after Chile gained its independence in 1818. They were successful in maintaining their sovereignty until the 1860s, when the Mapuche lost nearly 23 million acres of land to the Chilean government. From 1860 to 1885, 100,000 Mapuche were killed in a joint military effort by the Chilean and Argentine governments.
  3. Poverty: Approximately one-third of the indigenous peoples in Chile live in poverty. For the non-indigenous, the rate is closer to one-fifth.
  4. Recognition and rights: Chile remains the only Latin American country to not recognize its indigenous peoples in its Constitution. However, the Chilean government did adopt the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in 2007, and a year later they ratified the International Labor Organization Convention 169. Convention 169 recognizes the human rights violations many indigenous peoples have faced at the hands of their own government. It also calls for policies to protect the language, culture and freedoms of indigenous peoples and tribes.
  5. Land ownership: Dispute over land ownership is one of the primary issues for indigenous peoples in Chile. The indigenous fight with corporations, such as the logging firm Forestal Arauco S.A.. After taking control of much of the Curanilahue region, the company stripped it of its trees. This ruined the land lived on by many indigenous peoples.
  6. Resistance: Some indigenous peoples and tribes have broken out in rebellion against the taking of their land by setting fire to trees, forestry vehicles and crops. In response, the government created anti-terrorism legislation that labels arson as a terrorist act. Resistance has continued, however. In 2017 alone, 43 acts of resistance, many of them in the form of arson against logging firms, were taken by the Mapuche in Temuco, the capital of the Araucanía region.
  7. Positive changes: There has been continuous communication between the Chilean government and various indigenous groups about the creation of a new constitution. Additionally, the Piñera administration announced plans in 2018 to invest a total of $24 billion in development projects in the region of La Araucanía, an area heavily populated by indigenous peoples. These development projects will include housing subsidies, infrastructure improvements and a dozen new hospitals. Piñera’s plans also include the creation of a Ministry and Council of Native Peoples to give them greater federal representation. His plans have not yet included any land redistribution, however.
  8. Legal victories: The Human Rights Watch reported that the murder of Mapuche activist Camilo Catrillanca in 2018 led to the persecution of four police officers directly involved. This was a small but key victory for the Mapuche. For decades, police have abused their authority to torture and kill indigenous peoples and manufacture evidence to unlawfully imprison them. In 2017, charges against several Mapuche were eventually dropped when it was brought to light that police officers had created fake WhatsApp messages to build a case of arson against them.

These 8 facts about indigenous groups in Chile illustrate some of the struggles they face. Moving forward, more work needs to be done to ensure the voices of the indigenous are heard and their rights are recognized.

– Scott Boyce
Photo: Flickr

COVID-19 in Colombia
Officials have reported 16,295 cases of COVID-19 in Colombia and 592 deaths as of May 19, 2020. In an effort to contain the virus, the government has closed all international travel. It has also recently extended its nationwide stay-at-home order through May 25. Testing is available at the Colombian National Institute of Health facilities.

Most public locations remain closed. Individuals over the age of 70 will need to self-isolate until at least the end of May 2020. Municipal authorities allow one hour per day of exercise, at prescribed times, for individuals ages 18 to 60. Though the virus poses a nationwide public health threat, here are three particularly at-risk groups in Colombia.

COVID-19 in Colombia: 3 At-Risk Groups

  1. Indigenous Peoples: With historically limited access to food, shelter and health care, indigenous communities on the outskirts of cities and towns remain unprepared for the pandemic. A scarcity of clean water and hygiene products has left many without the means to maintain personal cleanliness and prevent infection. In addition, some of these semi-nomadic groups are now at risk of starvation. Due to quarantine restrictions, indigenous communities cannot move around to access their means of subsistence. They may be unable to grow their own food or survive by working temporary jobs. Organizations such as Amnesty International (AI) are working to raise awareness about this urgent issue and garner support from Colombian authorities. Along with the organization Human Rights Watch (HRW) and the Colombian Ministry of the Interior, AI petitioned the government to deliver food and supplies to at-risk indigenous groups. In response to these efforts, Colombian officials initiated a campaign to provide indigenous communities with food and supplies. The first round of deliveries went out in April 2020 but still left many without aid. AI and partner organizations will continue working with leaders of the campaign to reach more people in future deliveries.
  2. Refugees: Venezuelan refugees are another group at high risk due to the outbreak of COVID-19 in Colombia. The virus has compounded instability from low wages and rampant homelessness. Many have lost temporary jobs as economic concerns heighten nationwide. With fear and social unrest on the rise, refugees also face increased stigmatization. Some states, for example, are forcibly returning refugees in response to the virus. The U.N. Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and the International Migrant Organization (IOM) have instigated a call to action. Eduardo Stein, joint UNHCR-IOM Special Representative for refugees and migrants from Venezuela, explained in an April 2020 statement that “COVID-19 has brought many aspects of life to a standstill – but the humanitarian implications of this crisis have not ceased and our concerted action remains more necessary than ever.” U.N. representatives are seeking out innovative ways to protect Colombia’s migrant population and provide refugees with information, clean water and sanitation. Some organizations have also set up isolation and observation spaces for those who have tested positive. Others, including the World Health Organization (WHO), are distributing food and supplies to refugees and their host communities.
  3. Coffee Farmers: As COVID-19 continues to spread throughout South America and the world, Colombian coffee farmers are grappling with new economic uncertainties. Since extreme terrain limits the use of mechanized equipment, these farmers tend to rely on manual labor. In a typical year, some farms hire between 40% and 50% of their workforce from migrant populations. Now, however, travel restrictions have left many with a shortage of manpower. Large-scale farms are seeking out unemployed retail and hospitality workers from local areas, offering pay rates at a 10% to 20% increase. On smaller farms, family members can manage the crops. However, medium-sized operations, in desperate need of labor and unable to match the wages of larger competitors, are feeling a significant strain. Even the largest farms could struggle to meet their expected harvest in 2020. Public health officials have ordered strict distancing measures in the fields, which reduces picking capacity. Though disruptive in the short term, these efforts should help contain the spread of the virus and allow farmers to resume full operation as soon as possible.

COVID-19 in Colombia has undergone rapid growth, bringing economic and social challenges in its train. Now more than ever, it is incumbent upon world leaders to support vulnerable populations in Colombia and help the nation emerge from this world crisis.

– Katie Painter
Photo: Flickr

Migrant Poultry Workers
Chicken is one of the most consumed meats in America. According to the USDA, estimates determine that the per capita American consumption of chicken will rise from 28 pounds per person in 1960 to 94 pounds per person in 2020. This is in contrast to the per capita consumption of beef in America, which projections determine will fall from 94.1 pounds in 1976 to 57.5 pounds per person in 2020. This certainly reflects the rising demand for broiler meat, or commercial chicken farmers breed and raise for meat production in the U.S. However, not many Americans wish to work in poultry processing factories. In response to this shortage of workers, many poultry companies use migrant workers to fill their processing lines. Recent reports suggest that these migrant poultry workers are in danger of harsh working conditions and labor exploitation.

Issues with Poultry Processing Plants in the U.S.

Although poultry processing plants use machinery, much of killing, deboning and packaging of chicken still depend on human hands. The processing rooms’ temperature is usually at 40 degrees Fahrenheit in order to reduce microbial growth. However, this cold temperature makes it harder for the line workers to safely use their sharp cutting tools since their hands get stiff from the cold temperature. The factories’ demand to process chicken at a faster pace further compounds this hardship. The U.S. Department of Agriculture caps the speed of these processing lines at 140 chickens per minute. However, reports suggest that many processing plants increase their line speed in order to meet their company’s quota. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ data further reflects these dangerous conditions. In addition, line workers repeat the same motion while performing their job of disassembling a chicken. Some reports suggest that 86 percent of line workers suffer from wrist pains, swollen joints and chronic pain in their hands and arms.

Migrant Poultry Workers in the U.S.

Migrant poultry workers fill the labor demand of the poultry industry. The EB-3 visa allows poultry companies to hire migrant workers. As long as a company places two want ads seeking American workers in a local newspaper and a notice on the state jobs board, poultry companies can justify hiring an immigrant instead of an American. Many migrant poultry workers, if documented, agree to what might be less-than-ideal working conditions for a promise of green-sponsorship by their employers.  Responding to this high demand, there are migration consultants outside of the U.S. who charge between $20,000 and $130,000 to help a migrant worker immigrate to America. This high fee can be a cause of poverty for many migrant poultry workers since the majority of them will make less than $20,000 a year.

According to the Human Rights Watch’s 2019 report, nearly 30 percent of meat and poultry workers were foreign-born non-citizens in 2015. Among this number, an estimated one-fourth of the migrant workers were undocumented. This visa sponsorship by poultry companies makes it harder for the migrant workers to protest against the harsh working conditions of poultry processing factories. Whether a migrant worker is documented or undocumented, the recent rhetoric of the U.S. government toward migrants is making many workers in the poultry industry nervous. In 2019, for example, accusations emerged that multiple poultry companies conspired to keep the wages down for their immigrant workforce.

Improving the Poultry Industry in the U.S.

There are many people and organizations that are striving to improve the working conditions in the poultry industry. Many human rights groups encourage the consumers to voice their dissatisfaction with the current state of working conditions in poultry processing plants. By voicing their dissatisfaction, humanitarian groups believe that this will give more power to the migrant poultry workers to voice their plights.

Tyson, one of the biggest poultry meat suppliers in the U.S., made a pledge in 2017 that it will improve the working conditions in its factories. In the pledge, Tyson stated its commitment to reduce worker injury rate by 15 percent until it reaches zero, increase employee retention by 10 percent each year and improve the transparency between the public and its factories. In 2020, the Humane Society of the U.S. and other groups sued the USDA for increasing the line speed at U.S. poultry processing plants. In its 2019 report, The Human Rights Watch encouraged the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to take charge of improving the work conditions.

The harsh working conditions and treatment of migrant poultry workers in the poultry industry certainly presents a complicated picture. Chicken is becoming America’s favorite choice of protein as it is surpassing beef in terms of per capita consumption. However, behind every piece of chicken, there are migrant workers who must face constant hardships on a daily basis. The cold temperature of the factories causes numerous physical ailments for the workers, while many forego voicing their plight in fear of deportation. The solution is not to stop eating chicken. Instead, as many human rights organizations have demonstrated, consumers must voice their dissatisfaction with the poultry industry. With the recent surge in the public interest for the working conditions of the poultry industry, many hope that better and more fulfilling working conditions are coming for the poultry workers of the U.S.

YongJin Yi
Photo: Flickr

Life Expectancy in Equatorial GuineaEquitorial Guineans (or Equato-Guineans) are people from the Republic of Equatorial Guinea (EG). EG is a relatively small country of roughly a million people that includes the Bioko Islands as well as Annobon, a volcanic island. These nine facts about life expectancy in Equatorial Guinea reflect a country in progress.

9 Facts About Life Expectancy in Equatorial Guinea

  1. For the entire population of Equatorial Guinea, life expectancy is now 59.8 years old (61.1 years for women and 58.8 years for men). The overall life expectancy has been trending upward for the last half-century and survival to the age of 65 now stands at 55.7 percent for women and 50.5 percent for men.
  2. The leading causes of death in EG are generally preventable. Some of the leading causes include HIV/AIDS, influenza and pneumonia, chronic heart disease, stroke and diabetes mellitus. While HIV prevalence was estimated at 7.1 percent of the population in 2019, the Equatorial Guinean government is committed to ending the AIDS epidemic by 2030. For example, the country has scaled up its capacity to eliminate mother-to-child transmission of HIV and the percentage of pregnant women accessing antiretroviral medication increased to 74 percent in 2014 from 61 percent in 2011.
  3. Many Equatoguineans also face chronic hunger. According to Human Rights Watch, one in four children is physically stunted due to poor nutrition. Half of the children who begin primary school never transition to secondary schools, which also affects life expectancy. At the same time, the government of Equatorial Guinea took the lead role in 2013 in providing the Africa Solidarity Trust Fund (ASTF) with $30 million to improve agriculture and food security. ASTF’s projects have especially benefitted women, family farmers and youth across the continent.
  4. Poor sanitation and ineffective infection control create a risk of exposure to diseases like diarrhea, malaria and tuberculosis. Inadequate sanitation and unhygienic conditions contribute to increased infant mortality, as 20 percent of children die before the age of 5. Equatorial Guinea is also considered the least prepared country for an epidemic, mainly due to its inability to prevent pathogens and toxins.
  5. Less than half of Equatorial Guinea’s population has access to clean water. The Clean Water Initiative is one effort to meet global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by supplying clean drinking water in 18 rural sites.
  6. Frequent and prolonged blackouts, particularly during the dry season, often result from old generators and an unreliable power supply. Electricity can be a matter of life or death in hospitals if medical equipment fails. According to reports, an infrastructure makeover has been underway since 2014 when new roads and power lines were built.
  7. From 2006-2012, a public-private partnership called the Program for Education Development of Equatorial Guinea (PRODEGE) began working with the country’s education ministry to improve the nation’s education system. A major focus on the training of teachers’ classroom skills aimed to improve the quality of teaching and learning in primary school settings. PRODEGE 2012-2017 sought to amplify the program’s initial achievements on a broader scale by focusing on students in post-primary settings. Both goals align with EG’s 2020 Plan to achieve universal primary school enrollment, which was 84.46 percent in 2012.
  8. Other barriers to longer life expectancy in Equatorial Guinea include a lack of resources such as condoms and trauma care facilities to handle emergencies. Tensions exist between traditional and modern medicine as well, which affect treatment adherence. Finally, the use of various languages across communities and lack of comprehension regarding basic medical terms also hampers communication between health care providers and patients.
  9. Interventions for malaria control and studies of incomplete adherence to TB treatment reveal both promise and peril for the country’s capacity to prevent and treat infectious disease. After eight children were paralyzed by polio in the first half of 2014, their immunity strengthened following disease surveillance and vaccination campaigns. The Global Polio Eradication Initiative recommended that further improvements such as routine immunization and community mapping were key components to preventing another outbreak.

Life expectancy in Equatorial Guinea continues a slow upward trajectory. According to UNICEF, drinking water coverage has improved over the last two decades and sanitation coverage improved as well, estimating at over 70 percent. The number of children attending school has also increased over the last five years. Deprivations remain most severe for children living in rural areas, in the poorest households, with mothers who lack education.

As a small oil economy, at a time when oil prices can fall steeply without warning, the challenges to life expectancy in Equatorial Guinea will persist. The government’s willingness to accept outside assistance from international NGOs may hold the greatest promise for its citizens.

– Sarah Wright
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts about Child Labor in Morocco
Morocco, led by the Justice and Development Party, has directly targeted poverty and led efforts to support social programs, employment opportunities and income equality. Although the real GDP of Morocco has been declining, economic growth is expected to increase by 3.3 percent between 2020 and 2021. In 2005, the Human Rights Watch released reports highlighting the relationship between child labor and the economy of Morocco. Since then, the Human Rights Watch, the United Nations and the World Bank have poured resources into Morocco in order to alleviate child labor and the economic strains which require families to push their children into labor. The Justice and Development Party has made significant progress in fighting child labor in Morocco; however, there is still work to be done. Here are 10 facts about child labor in Morocco.

10 Facts about Child Labor in Morocco

  1. Children in Domestic Work in Morocco: In 2017, 247,000 children between the age of seven and 17 had to work. Of these, 81.4 percent dropped out of school and 8 percent never attended school. The majority of these children live in rural areas. Morocco passed a human trafficking law that increased protections for children who were at risk for trafficking. This measure prohibited hazardous work for children, increased labor inspectors to enforce child labor laws and increased the criminal punishment for child labor.
  2. Legal Framework in Morocco: Many of the laws and regulations in Morocco do not meet international standards. Its 2018 laws on child labor, however, significantly improved legal protections for children. Morocco increased the minimum age for hazardous work to 18 and made education compulsory until 15 years old.
  3. Causes of Child Labor in Morocco: Poverty, poor quality education and a lack of access to education, electricity and water all impact whether or not children work. The rural population in Morocco is particularly susceptible to child labor due to the reliance of the rural economy on agriculture, rain patterns and rural-urban migration.
  4. Dangerous Forms of Labor in Rural Areas: In rural areas, 55 percent of working children work in unsafe environments. These environments include agriculture industries, forestry and fishing. Among these 154,000 children who work in rural areas, 20 percent work full time.
  5. Dangerous Forms of Labor in Urban Areas: In urban areas, the majority of children work full time in manufacturing or construction. Ninety-three percent of children who work in construction and public works work in hazardous environments.
  6. Abuse of Children in the Workplace: The Human Rights Watch reports that not only do many children participate in dangerous forms of labor, but many children are also abused in the workplace. Girls are especially vulnerable to deception regarding working conditions. Many girls work without a break for 12 hours at a time with no days off, and not enough food. Although Morocco limits workers to 44 hours per week, some girls reported working over 100 hours a week without a day off.
  7. Low Wages: Child laborers often work long hours for very low wages. The Human Rights Watch reports that on average, girls earn $61 per month, which is $261 below the average minimum wage for the industrial sector in Morocco. In Morocco, many employers provide room and board for child laborers. While this payment may seem thoughtful at first, girls report that they are often underfed and live in poor conditions. This only furthers the abuse that these children experience at the hands of their employers.
  8. Child Poverty and Child Labor: Between 2001 and 2014, the High Commission for Planning in Morocco reported that child poverty decreased by 6.2 percent per year. Because poverty is a leading cause of child labor, between 2001 and 2014, child labor also decreased.
  9. Promise Pathways Helps Decrease Child Labor: The United States Labor Department’s Bureau of International Labor Affairs funds Morocco’s Promise Pathways program, which creates a web of local individuals dedicated to working with local communities to target causes of child labor, including education quality and learning opportunities. In addition to educational programs, Promise Pathways provides alternatives to domestic work, such as classes and coaching. Since its inception, 4,300 children have been lifted out of child labor.
  10. Overall Decrease in Children in the Workplace: Although Morocco is a long way from ensuring that no children have to work, Morocco has decreased the overall number of children in domestic labor. In 1999, 517,000 children were child laborers. In 2011, only 123,000 children were engaged in domestic labor. The number of children working in domestic labor increased between 2011 and 2017 due to the decline in the economy. However, the Human Rights Watch estimates that human trafficking laws will alleviate child labor in Morocco.

These 10 facts about child labor in Morocco shed light on the difficulties child laborers face. With continued efforts by the Human Rights Watch and other humanitarian organizations, hopefully child labor will continue to decrease.

– Denise Sprimont
Photo: Flickr