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AVERT Averting HIV & AIDsFor far too long, HIV and AIDS have been a detrimental part of our world. However, with organizations like AVERT that have been at the forefront of the HIV response, there is some hope that this epidemic can be controlled and lives can be saved.

Since 1986, AVERT’s aim has been to “share knowledge, empower people to protect themselves and others from infection, reduce stigma and improve HIV programs globally.”

What makes AVERT’s efforts deserving of recognition is that they are able to reach thousands of people across the world every day — and their partnerships work to ensure that the lives most in need are the ones changed. The organization works particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa, a region whose  history shows limitations in promulgating policies, initiatives and laws.

AVERT’s most important initiative is its role in promoting education as power and using this tool as a way to reduce new infections. By working with community-based organizations, AVERT helps to build the local response to HIV and AIDS in some of the most affected countries in sub-Saharan Africa.

In tackling HIV and AIDS, some of the organizations AVERT collaborates with will include the Umunthu Foundation in Malawi, Sisonke in South Africa, Phelisanang Bophelong in Lesotho and the Bwafwano Integrated Services Organisation in Zambia. Furthermore, AVERT’s global website, AVERT.org, provides a wealth of information for people looking to protect themselves from HIV and to spread awareness of the vital work currently in progress in the field.

The website “supports the global HIV response by providing a well-researched resource on the global epidemic.” With 12 million visitors viewing their website in 2015, 69,500 people receiving HIV tests since 2010 and 20 rural communities receiving support to build networks of elderly carers, AVERT is surely making a dent in battling HIV and AIDS.

With campaigns such as Stand Up to HIV, AVERT is able to highlight the impact of the HIV stigma on one’s health and also aims to empower people to test for HIV. Their animation “Why am I so scared of HIV?” creates a platform for their messages about HIV and AIDS to be shared across the globe. This important initiative has the power to raise awareness and enlighten the masses.

The organization especially touches the lives of the illiterate in impoverished areas, by educating them on the importance of staying protected and protocols to avoid the progression from HIV to AIDS. AVERT is steadily working to ensure that HIV is no longer a death sentence.

The improvements made in battling the HIV and AIDS epidemic have increased tremendously thanks to organizations like AVERT. As the Executive Director of UNAIDS stated in 2011, “a few years ago, we could only dream of a day when there would be zero infections and deaths caused my HIV and AIDS…but today we know we can make it happen.” Today, there is hope because of organizations like AVERT.

Vanessa Awanyo

Sources: AVERT, UN
Photo: Flickr

Poverty_In_Nepal

In the past, Nepal has been regarded as one of the poorest countries in the world. Poverty in Nepal is caused by poor infrastructure, health, education and economy. The country is also susceptible to natural disasters due to its location. However, thanks to the people who have been dedicated to improving conditions in Nepal, there is good news: extreme poverty have been reduced by 50 percent in the last 20 years.

How did this happen? Innovative developments are being introduced to the country, and Nepal is already benefiting from them.  The newborn mortality rate has already dropped 34 percent since a disinfectant gel to rub on the umbilical cord—rather than the traditional usage of oil, ash and even animal droppings—was presented to Nepalese mothers.

Other strides are being made by implementing different programs for the Nepalese people, like a nutrition program called “Suaahara” that educates families on proper farming and hygiene. Another program prioritizes improving the literacy rate of children. If the population of Nepal becomes 10 percent more literate, this can boost their economy by 0.3 percent.

Important changes are being made in Nepal’s legal system and government, too.  Organ selling has only recently become illegal and efforts are being made to help and protect a large number of human trafficking victims. According to USAID, 15,000 Nepali women and girls are trafficked out of the country per year, while 7,500 are trafficked domestically for sexual exploitation.

One of these efforts is the Combating Trafficking in Persons Project, carried out in Nepal to prevent, protect and provide justice for human trafficking victims. Now that the victims are a focus, traffickers are beginning to face legal consequences.

Nepal is also still working on becoming a democracy after having been a monarchy for so many years. This means that citizens of Nepal will get the chance to vote for the first time in 16 years.  At this rate, the country is expected to be rid of extreme poverty by 2030. What was once a country full of people living on one dollar a day is now a country with a bright future.

Melissa Binns

Sources: U.S. Department of State,  USAID 1,  USAID 2

Photo: Flickr

ways haiti has improved
Haiti has recently been highlighted for making strides in the fight against cholera, with the number of new cases this year down 74 percent. Looking beyond this progress in the Haitian health sector, Haiti is experiencing successes in several other areas. According to a report published by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) last month, the country reached many of the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) ahead of the 2015 deadline.

Based on statistics from this U.N. report, here are five ways Haiti has improved and is climbing the ladder of global development.

1. Education

The rate of primary education among Haiti’s youth has increased from 47 percent in 1993 to almost 90 percent today. There is equal participation in education between boys and girls, giving all children an opportunity to learn.

2. Earthquake Recovery

In 2010, a devastating 7.0 magnitude earthquake left Haiti in shambles, with 200,000 people killed and billions of dollars in damages. After four years of work, the UNDP reports that 97 percent of debris from the hard-hitting earthquake is gone from the streets of Haiti, 11,000 displaced families are back in their homes and more than 4,000 meters of river bank have been protected against flooding.

3. Clean Water

More households are using safe, clean water. The U.N. reports, “Nearly 65 percent of households now have improved access to water, compared to 36.5 percent in 1995.” The increased availability of hygienic water is key to fighting cholera, acute diarrhea and other waterborne diseases. This progress will continue, especially in rural areas, thanks to the country’s newly launched “Total Sanitation Campaign.”

4. Infant Mortality

The health of Haiti’s youth is improving, with infant mortality ranking lower than the global average, down 44 percent since 1990. Additionally, the number of underweight children under the age of 5 has been cut in half, meeting the MDG three years ahead of schedule.

5. Gross Domestic Product (GDP)

The Haiti MDG report boasts a rise in per capita GDP from $1,548 in 2009 to $1,602 today. Extreme poverty has stabilized at 24 percent since 2012.

Although Haiti is on the path to success according to MDG indicators, there are undoubtedly aspects of the country that still need attention. More children than ever are attending school, but there are still far too many kids dropping out and repeating grades. Clean water access has improved, but in order to eradicate cholera entirely there needs to be more widespread sanitation reform, especially in rural areas.

But without a doubt, the aforementioned successes are extremely commendable. With a sustained push, a Haiti without extreme poverty could be on the horizon.

– Grace Flaherty 

Sources: New York Times, UN, World Bank
Photo: UN

Poverty in Senegal, Africa
Senegal is a geographically and culturally diverse country with 5 languages, a desert in the north and tropical climate in the south. This all exists within a country about the size of South Dakota. Praised as one of the most successful democracies in Africa, Senegal is making progress on many of the World Bank indicators of decreasing poverty. Yet, poverty in Senegal persists.

Challenges
Senegal still faces many of the challenges that are commonplace on the continent. Extreme weather causes crop failures, impacting the strategic economic sector of groundnuts. A ban on street beggars has taken the only source of income from many families, essentially hurting those the ban was supposed to help. Former dictator Chad Hissène Habré awaits trail, accused of ordering thousands of political killings in the 1980s.  Additionally, a “long-running, low-level separatist war in the southern Casamance region” impacts the residents and detracts from the political cohesion needed to tackle a wide range of health and education problems. These are just a few of the high-level political and economic challenges facing this country.

Improvements
Despite the difficult political, economic, social and geographic terrain facing this country, there has been steady progress over the last few years. According to World Bank data, primary school enrollment has been steadily increasing to 86%. CO2 emissions are slowly but steadily decreasing. Also, the percentage of the national population living below the national poverty line is at a 10 year low.

Poverty facts and figures
A segment of the Senegalese population suffers from chronic poverty. Chronic poverty is defined by the Chronic Poverty Research Center as poverty lasting many years and possibly over multiple generations. The chronically poor are “often multi-dimensionally deprived and may experience preventable deaths early (and so are not even counted).” In Senegal, chronic poverty has marred the last 80 years of progress. There are more chronically poor than transitional poor (people who move in and out of poverty) or the non-poor. A report by the Chronic Poverty Research Center found that not only are 60% of households “poor or vulnerable” but that there is a possibility that the poverty will be passed on to the next generation.

Events such as “loss of harvest, conflict, theft, flooding, divorce, loss of spouce, and/or loss of capital” drastically increase vulnerability. While there is little mobility between life-stages, the youth are more likely to escape poverty. Additionally, “older women [are] less likely to live in chronic poverty than their male counterparts.”

There are several other strongly correlated factors. First is an ethnic correlation. The minority ethnic groups Pulaar and Sereer are at an 83% risk of poverty, with the Dolar face an 80% risk of becoming chronically impoverished. The results on the geographic correlation to poverty yield that rural households are more likely to suffer from chronic impoverishment. Lack of education and child-labor are also strongly linked to poverty, particularly chronic poverty in Senegal.

Strategies
Social networks are an important social safety net in Senegal. Households often include multiple families who share resources and risks. The Chronic Poverty report suggests that the social network must play a key role in “developing human capital, agricultural investments, and improving food security, particularly in rural areas.” Entrepreneurship needs to be enabled via “endogenous development” in order to link development from villages to national level. A multi-sector inclusive approach is necessary because of the currently limited economic base.

Despite the uphill battle Senegal faces in reducing poverty, progress is being made and the momentum is being put to good use. Strategies for reducing poverty are being implemented by the World Bank and the United States Peace Corps with measurable results.

Katherine Zobre

Sources: CIA World Factbook , BBC, Huffington Post, World Bank, NPR, Human Rights Watch, Chronic Poverty Research Center, Chronic Poverty Research Center
Photo: Chronic Poverty in Senegal