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Kurdish Comeback in Iraq
The Kurds are an ethnic minority in the Middle East that occupy a region known as Kurdistan. An area that spans parts of Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran. Though they were not given a country at the end of WWI, the Kurds have held on to their strong identity and still speak their own language. Caught in the middle of conflicts in both Iraq and Syria, they played an integral role in fighting back ISIS, seeing off 16 assaults on the city of Kirkuk. After several years of economic woes, there are finally some signs that northern Iraq, or Southern Kurdistan for the millions of Kurds that occupy the region, is beginning to recover. More importantly, the poorest Kurds have rebounded significantly. Here are five facts about the Kurdish comeback in Iraq.

5 Facts about the Kurdish Comeback in Iraq

  1. The U.S. government has provided more than $350 million in aid to Northern Iraq as a part of the Genocide Recovery and Persecution Response initiative. Approximately $90 million of the aid is going directly to the most immediate needs and improving access to basic services, job access, small businesses and infrastructure. 
  2. The poverty rate fell to 5.5 percent in 2019. The most encouraging figure about the Kurdish comeback in Iraq might be the poverty rate. Iraq suffered a recession between 2014 and 2016 with Iraq’s GDP falling to 2.7 percent. Unemployment had risen to 25 percent by the end of 2014. The cause was falling oil prices and the height of the conflict with ISIS. Oil revenue makes up half of the country’s GDP and 90 percent of the government’s revenue. Adding to the economic strain, leaders were forced to cut new investments. Foreign oil companies like Russia’s Lukoil, Royal Dutch Shell and Italy’s ENI also withdrew investments. They saw Iran as a safer economic option than northern Iraq. All of this culminated in a 12.5 percent unemployment rate by 2016. 
  3. Kurdish interests were well represented in the 2018 election in Iraq. Overall voter participation was down, but the Kurdish voice was heard. They helped elect new Prime Minister Abdul Mahdi. The prime minister reciprocated by restoring budgetary support to the region, amounting to around 12 percent of the central governments budget. Regular federal reserve installments of $270 million per month helped stabilize the KRG oil sector.
  4. Oil production has rebounded, reaching 400,000 bl/d in January of 2019. Of course, there
    is always concern over the long term effects on climate change; however, over the short term, oil production
    has coincided with the low poverty rateThe U.S. played a role by brokering a deal that helped to restart production in the Kirkuk oil fields. Exports of petroleum to Europe may begin by 2022.
  5. Local investment increased while foreign investment decreased. According to local businessman Abdulla Gardi, this is typical during times of relative stabilityTotal investment increased to $3.67 billion in 2018 from 48 licensed investors. This is up from just $712 million in 2017. Most of the investment in 2018 was made by local investors who hope the KRG cabinet will prioritize a variety of different sectors. Local businessmen believe that, in turn, they can help the local Kurdish region become more prosperous.

There are many factors that lead to the Kurdish comeback in Iraq. Firstly, the end of the conflict with ISIS provided much needed yet tentative stability in the region. As a result, local investors felt more emboldened to invest in the oil industry. Politically, the election of Prime Minister Abdul-Mahdi was a major win for the Kurdish economy and provided additional support to the oil industry to restart stalling production. Furthermore, U.S. aid is helping to improve lives for lower-income Kurds. More than $90 million of that aid is going to immediate needs including but not limited to shelter, healthcare services, food rations and provisions of water. There are reasons to be optimistic about the future in Kurdish Iraq.

Caleb Carr
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

10 Facts About the Recession in Iran

Iran, a southwest Asian nation of over 81 million people, currently struggles with a dire recession. Iranians face a combination of inflationary pressures and economic stagnation, known as stagflation. Listed below are 10 facts about the recession in Iran:

10 Facts About the Recession in Iran

  1. Sanctions – The recent resumption of U.S. sanctions has taken a large toll on Iran’s economy. Sanctions contributed to a gross domestic product contraction of 3.93 percent in 2018 after a GDP growth of 3.73 percent the previous year. The sanctions particularly target oil exports, Iran’s primary revenue stream. A BBC report states that Iran’s oil trade has lost $10 billion in the past six months because of sanctions.
  2. Oil Dependency – Iran contains the fourth most crude oil reserves in the world, which has led to a volatile economy based on petroleum. Oil was a boon to Iran’s economy in 2016, a year in which the country witnessed a 12.52 percent GDP growth. However, as the World Bank notes, this success rapidly diminished to approximately 3.8 percent growth in 2017 as petrodollars became rarer.
  3. Ambiguous Poverty Line – Poverty is difficult to fight because Iran’s government cannot decide on a poverty line. The Iran Observer stated in 2017 that various government representatives define absolute poverty differently. Iranian Vice President of Economic Affairs Mohammad Nahavandian estimated 10 million Iranians live in poverty while, Parviz Fattah, head of the Khomeini Relief Foundation, claims the number is closer to 20 million.
  4. High Unemployment Iran currently suffers from an unemployment epidemic, particularly among the educated youth. A mere 14,000 new jobs appeared yearly for the 700,000 youth entering the market between 2006 and 2011. Now, the Brookings Institution reports that college-educated men aged 25 to 29 years have a 34.6 percent unemployment rate, and women of the same group have a 45.7 percent rate.
  5. Emigration – One result of Iran’s employment dilemma is the mass emigration of skilled labor from the country. There is a surplus of skilled labor without the necessary demand, so educated Iranians flee the country for new opportunities. CNN Business reports that Iran’s Science Minister, Reza Faraji Dana, admitted 150,000 skilled Iranians had fled the nation in 2014 for this reason.
  6. High Cost of Living – The cost of living in Iran between 2018 and 2019 has skyrocketed alongside rapid inflation. According to the BBC, the Iranian rial has lost 60 percent of its value in the past year. Housing costs and medical attention have risen by 20 percent and especially harm the poorest individuals.  In March 2019, a Statistical Centre of Iran report also showed a 57 percent increase in white meat prices and a 37 percent uptick in dairy costs for average citizens.
  7. Increasing Poverty – As employment and affordable goods become scarcer, more Iranians fall into poverty. The Brookings Institution estimates that poverty remained at roughly 10 percent nationally in 2011, but it has risen since then. Research by the Foundation for Defense of Democracies found that it rose as high as 38 percent in the Sistan and Balouchistan provinces between 2016 and 2017. The threat of insulated urban areas succumbing to poverty displays the problem’s magnitude. Qom, the renowned traditional center of Islamic clerical training, suffered from a 30 percent poverty rate in 2017.
  8. Relief International Helps – Relief International is one nongovernmental organization mitigating the recession’s effects and preventing the economic crisis from deepening. Originally founded by Iranian-Americans in 1990 as “The Iran Earthquake Relief Fund,” RI focuses on cash assistance for flood victims and training local NGOs. The floods in the Golestan province have exacerbated hard times, and RI’s instant cash assistance will help 2,000 families from slipping into poverty. RI also hopes to have an indirect effect on poverty reduction by training 20 Iranian NGOs in efficient service to the poor.
  9. Amenities Expanded – Despite the recession, most Iranians have access to basic amenities due to government efforts post-1984. The Brookings Institution charts that in 1984, below 80 percent of citizens had electricity or plumbing. The government realized the issue stemmed from underdeveloped rural areas and immediately provided funding. It was an incredibly successful campaign that brought Iranians universal electricity and plumbing by 2000. These efforts continue today, spawning progress in the midst of recession and delivering baths to nearly 100 percent of Iranians by 2017.
  10. Improving Efficiency – Iran’s government is acting to make the economy more efficient, and there are many recommendations available for enhancing fiscal stability. An International Monetary Fund consultation with Iran in 2015 congratulated the government on widening the revenue stream by implementing simple direct taxation. Recommendations included expanding employment for women and increasing privatization, both of which should unlock new productivity for the economy.

The above 10 facts about the recession in Iran show that many hurdles still block the country’s growth. However, the steady increase in access to amenities displays economic progress within the recession and the IMF’s recommendations provide viable solutions to stagflation. Continued improvements will service the poor and provide a path to Iran’s economic stability.

Sean Galli
Photo: Flickr

Causes of Poverty in IranWith a population of more than 79 million people, Iran is a large country in Western Asia, bordered by Turkmenistan, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Armenia. Sadly, of the millions of citizens in this country, 18.7 percent live below the poverty line. There are many causes of poverty in Iran, but two major causes have caused a crisis in the country during the last several years.

Unemployment
Iran’s economy began to struggle in 2014 when a subsidy program adjusted the prices of fuel, the country’s largest export. In 2015, the economy somewhat improved in the first half of the calendar year and the oil and fuel sector prospered. Meanwhile, unemployment in other job sectors increased. By 2016, the unemployment rate reached a three-year high of 12.7 percent, though labor participation increased from around 35 percent to about 40 percent since 2014. An unemployment gender gap was noted in 2016 as well, as unemployment rates for men and women were 21.8 and 10.4 percent respectively.

In 2014, however, Iran saw the height of the unemployment crisis when the rate of unemployed women was estimated to be 46 percent and youth unemployment was twice that of general unemployment.

Additionally, the standard monthly income for families averaging five people per household is about $600, which is considered significantly below the poverty line. In 2014, Parliament’s Plan and Budget Committee announced that 15 million Iranians were living below the poverty line, or 20 percent of the population, and seven million of those people did not have access to any services that might offer them support or assistance.

Internal Corruption
In 2014, news broke that a merchant with close ties to the Iranian government facilitated many oil and gold transactions through the Turkish People’s Bank and embezzled a significant amount of money, putting the country into serious debt. Later, many other fraudulent investors were reported to be active in the oil industry, and though over $1 billion in debt was reported, the guilty were not punished. Between 2013 and 2014, 4,000 cases of embezzlement and theft were reported, most of them being cases of illegally importing luxury cars, hidden monopolies and smuggling, to name a few, but no names of the guilty parties were ever disclosed.

In 2014, Iranian president Hassan Rouhani took office with the determination to develop an effective strategy to reduce poverty for Iranians. Rouhani established a three-part policy to assist the most vulnerable populations and curb inflation, which ended two years of negative growth. Officials under the Rouhani administration provided food aid to about seven million citizens in poverty. Though many aid projects under the administration were criticized for potentially adding to the budget deficit, such policies and programs seek to give immediate help to those living in absolute poverty, and the administration continues to fight for the poor and make food security its number one priority.

These causes of poverty in Iran have led to justified tension and fear among the public and the government that conditions and employment rates will deteriorate further if changes to the subsidy program do not go into effect, and if eliminating government corruption is not made a higher priority. Those changes are key to improving Iranian lives.

Olivia Cyr

Photo: Flickr

The Islamic Republic of Iran is a bit of a paradox. On the one hand, it is a theocratic state and a heavily sanctioned international pariah ruled by a supreme Ayatollah. On the other, it is the heart of the former Persian Empire, and has been a trading hub between the East and West for millennia. Because it is the second largest economy in the Middle East with growing ambitions, infrastructure in Iran has become a major point of focus for the country’s public and private sectors.

The 2015 nuclear deal that was reached between Iran, the U.S., and several European nations including Britain, France and Germany lifted crippling economic sanctions against Iran. In return, Iran has agreed to reduce its centrifuges and enriched uranium and render its nuclear program useless for producing weapons. The lifting of sanctions has sparked the interest of foreign investors and companies looking to do business in Iran. In turn, this has also presented new challenges and opportunities for infrastructure in Iran.

China, in particular, has designs on Iran. Chinese workers have been working in eastern Iran to build up its rail infrastructure, modernizing railroads and standardizing track gauges. This will connect Iran by rail to Turkmenistan and Afghanistan. To the west, Iran is doing the same thing to its railroads, which will be connected to Turkey, and ultimately Europe. China has also been busy building factories, mines, and highways in Iran as part of its increasing investment in the country.

The government of reformist president Hassan Rouhani has been just as involved in ramping up infrastructure in Iran. In addition to the rail projects linking Iran to its eastern and western neighbors, Iran is also in the process of building railways linking its five provincial capitals and its southern port cities to the national capital, Tehran. The Iranian private sector has spent 11 billion dollars in domestic development projects, while the government has spent 9.6 billion dollars on infrastructure in Iran since Rouhani took office in 2013.

Infrastructure in Iran will still need to be developed further to meet the increased foreign investment demands that have been brought on. Yet overall, things are looking bright for Iran, a country known as an ancient crossroads of trade.

– Andrew Revord

Photo: Flickr

Women's Empowerment in IranIran has made notable progress in women’s education and health, including an increased ratio of literate women and girls. Women make up more than half of all university students, as reflected in the 2009 Gender Development Index of 0.770. The Iranian Parliament has adopted “The Charter on Women’s Rights and Responsibilities”, which emphasizes the use of social insurance to provide support to female-headed households and bring about women’s empowerment in Iran.

Unfortunately, the participation of women in the community and social development programs is very low. Women lack any social decision-making power and suffer from low confidence and self-esteem. Iran has not yet acceded to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women due to opposition from its Guardian Council, who believe that the convention is incompatible with sharia law.

Women’s empowerment in Iran does not have much-needed support from its government, and social barriers continue to restrict women at every step. This is lack of support is partly due to the political ideology that demands women do not stray from their roles as mothers and wives.

Iranian law considers the husband as the head of the household with complete control over his wife’s choices. For example, a husband can prevent his wife from working (some employers even ask for the husband’s written consent) and can even forbid her from traveling abroad and from obtaining a passport. Women’s rights are obstructed to the point that they are not allowed to watch men’s sports in stadiums. An Iranian woman can even be killed by her husband for adultery, according to Iranian law.

Women are not allowed to hold leadership offices like the Presidency or the Supreme Leadership. In fact, according to the 2010 Freedom House report, current laws are more conservative and discriminating than customary practices.

Under the Gender Inequality Index, empowerment is measured by the share of parliamentary seats held by women and by attainment of primary and secondary education by each gender, whereas economic activity is measured by labor market participation. Women’s empowerment in Iran can thus be understood by looking at simple statistics. Only 3.1 percent of women hold seats in Parliament and only 66 percent have gone through secondary education. As for economic activity, female participation in the labor market is a meager 16.2 percent.

UNDP, along with the government of Iran, introduced the Carbon Sequestration Project to help achieve women’s empowerment in Iran. Thanks to the project, women are able to showcase their work and talents, which include handicrafts and traditional culinary skills, at exhibitions.

The government has also implemented projects to enhance Iranian women’s knowledge of information and communication technology (ICT):

  • Establishing a specialized women’s digital library
  • Providing ICT training for women, especially housewives
  • Designing the Presidential Center for the Participation of Women (CPW) website to disseminate the Islamic Republic of Iran’s official information
  • Training the staff of the CPW
  • Establishing the Iranian Genius Women’s Bank for identifying scientifically superior women within professor, assistant professor and lecturer ranks, instant access to necessary information and better usage of outstanding women’s work and providing better-quality services for the country’s scientific and educational geniuses.

Education is a vital part of women’s empowerment in Iran, which the government has recognized. To continue what it has started, changes need to happen on a cultural level, including the elimination of gender stereotypes in textbooks and seeking men’s participation in protecting women’s rights. Continued work can ensure that all women have the opportunity to reach their full potential.

– Tripti Sinha

Photo: Flickr

Causes of Poverty in IranIn 2016, about 80 percent of people in Iran were impoverished. Poverty in Iran can lead to a variety of other issues, including negative effects on the mental health of the country’s youth. Mental health issues in Iranians are found to be linked to a plethora of factors, economic pressure being one of them. Due to the poverty faced by many, suicide is becoming a more common issue.

In addition to affecting the mental health of young people in Iran, the country’s high poverty rate also impacts people’s physical health. With how negatively poverty has affected the people of Iran, it is essential to consider what the causes of poverty in Iran are.

Top Causes of Poverty in Iran

  1. Sanctions in Iran are cited as a cause of the country’s high poverty rate. These sanctions have affected multiple groups, one of which is Iran’s millions of Afghan refugees. Statistics have demonstrated that Afghans who are able to find work are self-sufficient and actually better the economy of Iran.
  2. Inflation is another cause of poverty in Iran. In early 2013, Iran’s inflation rate stood at nearly 40 percent. The depreciation of the country’s money has lead to an increase in the unemployment rate, which has driven many Iranians into poverty. A solution to this issue that the government of Iran has sought in the past was rationing, which prevented the country’s impoverished populations from being as affected by inflation.
  3. Besides sanctions and inflation, another cause of poverty in Iran is high medical costs. Each year, 7.5 percent of Iranians are driven into poverty because of their medical expenses. Among the top three most common illnesses to affect Iranians is cancer. Many times, the cost of treatment for families is so high that those affected by illness are not able to complete their treatment.

The high poverty rate in Iran has affected millions of Iranian citizens and has taken a toll on the mental health of the country’s youth. Among the most prominent causes of poverty in Iran are sanctions, inflation and medical expenses. As of mid-2017, the government of Iran is working toward implementing a reform agenda, which aims to help businesses and labor markets. The reform agenda is targeted at Iran’s overall goal of reducing its poverty rate. Though they face hard times as a result of their medical and economic status, children and families remain hopeful for the future.

– Haley Rogers

Photo: Flickr

Medical Education in IraqSince the conclusion of the Iraq War, the relationship between border countries Iran and Iraq shifted into a new era of close diplomatic and economic relations. In a recent press release, Iran agreed to construct Iraq’s first foreign University of Medical Sciences after nearly two decades of destruction.

The relationship between the two countries has not always been cordial. Turmoil severely increased during the Iran-Iraq War from 1980 – 1988. During the Bush administration, United States Special Operations Forces conducted cross-border operations within southern Iraq. The demise of Saddam Hussein in 2003 created civil conflict and political unrest, severely affecting the medical education in Iraq and causing conflict between neighboring countries.

The tension between Iraq and Iran further increased in 2007, when the U.S. Congress agreed to fund up to $400 million for increased covert operations designed to destabilize Iran’s religious leadership and gather information about the country’s nuclear-weapons program. Iraq was unintentionally caught in the dispute between the US and Iran.

The Iraqi government depended on the 140,000 US troops stationed throughout the country, but its Kurdish and Shia leaders had strong alliances with Iran. Frequent threats and deadly attacks caused a mass departure of senior medical professors from Iraq. The exodus of Iraq’s healthcare workforce adversely impacted the medical training programs, leadership, and mainly, educational system. By the end of 2011, U.S. military forces were completely withdrawn from Iraq, officially ending the Iraq War.

Seven months after U.S. influence declined, Syria, Iraq and Iran signed a natural gas agreement which allowed for the construction of a $10 billion pipeline connecting Iraq and Syria directly to Iraq’s natural gas fields. The pipeline took six years to build and was officially completed in 2016.

Recently, Iran publicly announced its agreement to begin exporting natural gas to Iraq for $3.7 billion per year. The relationship between the two countries continues to strengthen as U.S. involvement decreases.

On Thursday, the Iranian Deputy Health Minister Dr. Bagher Larijani and Iraqi medical officials met in Tehran to discuss joint projects. The group achieved initial agreements to collaborate on various educational and scientific programs, This includes the establishment of Iraq’s first foreign University of Medical Sciences. Iran’s Ministry of Health will supervise the project. The Tehran University of Medical Sciences, the largest medical university in Iran, will construct it.

“This project is being pursued in earnest by the educational department of Iran’s Ministry of Health,” Dr. Larijani stated, “(and it is) in line with the development of medical science education in Iraq.”

The Deputy Health Minister also mentioned that the two countries discussed collaborative teacher/student transfer programs and the creation of “joint scientific networks” in medical research and scientific production. The unification between border countries has propelled Iraq into a positive direction after nearly two decades of civil destruction. According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), during the Iraq War “approximately 61 universities and college buildings were war damaged and 101 college buildings were looted.”

Currently, there are 24 certified medical colleges in Iraq, all of which are governmental and operate under the Iraqi Ministry of Higher Education. The medical education in Iraq faces numerous challenges. Both the curriculum and teaching methods are outdated, and there is a lack of suitable facilities. The colleges are focused on increasing student attendance rather than updating old curriculum and forming universal guidelines between medical schools.

Beyond the partnership with Iran, Iraq’s strategic plan to reconstruct and progress the medical education in Iraq is unclear. The Iraqi Ministry of Higher Education has not released a project proposal or curriculum plans yet.

Madison O’Connell

Photo: Google

Women in IranOn May 19th this year, Iranians held presidential and local elections in their country. This particular election saw an increase in registered women candidates, along with the number of elected women officials, bringing hope and giving voice to women in Iran at both the national and local level.

In some parts of the country, there was a 34 percent decrease in the number of women elected compared to 2013; however, although the number decreased in 16 provincial capitals, 3 remained the same, while 11, including Tehran, saw increases in women being elected to councils. Iran’s Sistan-Balochistan province—an underdeveloped and impoverished area in the southeast of Iran with the highest percentage of illiterate girls and women in the country—saw a total of 415 women elected to office. In a village called Afzalabad located in the province’s Khash district, all of the 10 elected candidates were women.

Some of the concerns that women in Iran campaigned on included women’s civic engagement, citizens’ rights, employment, education, health and social security and welfare.

Recently, Iran’s newly reelected president Hassan Rouhani has been under pressure to appoint female ministers to his cabinet. During his last term, his all-male list of ministers disappointed his followers, even though he appointed a number of women to vice-president positions. Despite this, Shahindokht Molaverdi, Rouhani’s vice-president for women and family affairs, has won support among women’s rights advocates in Iran.

Ghonchech Ghavami, a leading women’s rights activist based out of Tehran, has said that “this structure has eliminated women on the excuse of meritocracy and experience but it looks like that main criteria for them is being male. That’s why appointing female ministers is symbolically important and would send a powerful signal in a country where politics still originates from men.”

One may find it surprising, though, that Iran as a whole has near-universal female literacy: women make up the majority (60 percent) of university students, as well as the majority of graduates earning degrees in science (68 percent). Furthermore, women in Iran are consistently outperforming their male counterparts.

Workplace biases in general are very much alive for women in Iran, and these biases often compel employers to hire male workers that are of identical or even lesser qualifications than their female counterparts. Although women in Iran have been as whole increasing their political participation within their government, they clearly still have a long way to go before achieving true gender equality.

Sara Venusti

Photo: Flickr/span>

Common Diseases in Iran
Iran, one of the largest countries in the Middle East, has a population of just more than 82 million. Although 92% of the population has access to clean drinking water and 90% of the population has access to sanitation facilities, Iran suffers from a number of common and prevalent diseases. Common diseases in Iran are transmitted through mosquitos or contaminated food or water.

Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever
Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever is the most widespread tick-borne viral disease of humans throughout the world, according to research done at the University of Texas Medical Branch. The first case of a human diagnosis was discovered in 1999. Since then it has been classified as a “viral zoonotic disease” which is endemic in Iran. Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever can be transmitted through the bite of a tick or contact with infected animal blood or tissues.

The disease is most commonly found among agricultural and slaughterhouse workers. Early-onset symptoms can include sudden fever, headache and muscle aches. As the disease progresses patients display hemorrhaging in the bowels, urine, nose and gums. The mortality rate for Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever is approximately 30 percent.

Typhoid fever
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 26 million cases of typhoid fever are reported annually worldwide. Human contact is the sole source of the infectious bacteria, transmitting the disease through contact with fecal matter through the consumption of contaminated food or water. The most common symptom is a sustained high fever, and if untreated, the mortality rate can be 20%. Typhoid fever has caused major public health problems over the course of the last five decades in Iran. Luckily, as a result of development throughout the country, the number of cases has drastically declined.

Tuberculosis
In 2015, the World Health Organization estimated there had been 13,000 cases of tuberculosis throughout Iran. The tuberculosis-specific bacteria most commonly affect the lungs but are known to spread throughout the body to areas such as the kidneys, spine and brain. The disease is spread through air contact with an infected individual. People near the infected person may breathe in the bacteria and become infected. Often the bacteria will lay dormant, not showing any signs or symptoms within the infected person but will still be able to spread to those around them.

Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommends being vaccinated for hepatitis A and hepatitis B before traveling to the Middle East, due to it being one of the most common diseases in Iran. Hepatitis A, a liver disease, spread by consuming contaminated food or water, can cause fever, tiredness, nausea, vomiting, stomach pain and yellowing of the eyes. Hepatitis B is a contagious virus, transmitted through blood and other bodily fluids. Similar symptoms are seen as with hepatitis A.

In research conducted in 2009, in mid-endemic areas, such as Iran, the lifetime risk of hepatitis B infection is 20-60% across all age-groups. A vaccine was introduced in Iran through a National Immunization Program in 1993, required for all individuals under 18 years old. Despite efforts, hepatitis A and hepatitis B remain common diseases in Iran.

Iran’s population is categorized in the CIA World Factbook of having an “intermediate risk” of contracting an infectious disease. With focused programs from government and international organizations, some of this risk can be mitigated and the population can move toward universal prosperity.

Riley Bunch

Photo: Flickr

Can Re-Elected President Hassan Rouhani Help Fix the Poverty in Iran?
During Iran’s recent presidential election, one issue was on the minds of most citizens: how is the new president going to end poverty in Iran?

In 2016, Iran’s unemployment rates reached 70 percent in at least 1,200 towns. Fifteen million Iranians are deprived of even the most basic social services. Much of this unemployment and consequent poverty suggests that the assets gained from the suspension of economic sanctions from the 2015 nuclear deal did not reach the population. The new president has the power to dictate whether Iran becomes a bigger part of the global economy. This led to the deal which passed, rather than pursuing the traditional economic isolation that the country previously had.

With all this going on in Iran, poverty was on the minds of many during this election. Candidates Mostafa Aqa-Mirsalim and Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf both pledged to tackle corruption and poverty in Iran should they be elected. Qalibaf criticized the former Iranian president, Hassan Rouhani, on his economic performances. “There are many poor people with low incomes in a country rich in both natural and human resources,” Qalibaf said in an interview with PressTV. “We have made plans to salvage the economy by the agency of the very people. The country has the capacity, but this cannot come about through traditional, conservative and rent-seeking-based management styles.”

In the elections, held on May 19, Hassan Rouhani won re-election by a landslide with 57 percent of the vote. Despite poor economic conditions, the people of Iran have decided to give Rouhani a second chance to deliver on his promises of alleviating poverty and reforming the government. Iran’s current government is run by a religious leader, with the president playing a big role in foreign affairs and other political decisions.

However, many Iranians want a government that supports more human rights and social freedoms. While Iran now has more access to social media and the internet, activists and journalists are still being jailed for speaking out against the government.

With Rouhani in office, the people of Iran hope that he will take the uphill climb to help Iran’s economy and social situations.

Kelsey Jackson

Photo: Flickr