Kuwait Poverty RateKuwait is a small country in the Middle East. Although healthcare rarely makes headlines in articles discussing the Middle East, Kuwait’s healthcare system helps its citizens in many ways. Still, some shortcomings remain. Here is what you need to know about healthcare in Kuwait.

5 Facts About Healthcare in Kuwait

  1. Heart disease and stroke are the top causes of death in Kuwait. In both 2007 and 2017, heart disease and stroke ranked as the first and second most common causes of death. In 2016, cardiovascular diseases were responsible for 41% of deaths, and cancer was responsible for 15%.
  2. Kuwait offers free but low-quality healthcare. All Kuwaitis are entitled to free healthcare and medical treatment at government facilities. However, some services, such as X-rays and specialized tests, are not free. These services usually come at significant additional cost and many are not offered at government facilities. As a result, patients need to go to the private sector or, in extreme cases, go to North America and Europe. Wait times for healthcare in Kuwait can be extreme. The wait time is so long for the public sector that those seeking immediate medical attention often go to the private sector. To make matters worse, Kuwaiti hospitals are drastically under-supplied for their growing population. As of 2016, Kuwait had two hospital beds per 1,000. The Ministry of Health launched projects expanding hospitals and adding critical supplies like beds, operating rooms, and clinics. The Kuwaiti government plans to meet its goals by 2030.
  3. Children’s health in Kuwait meets many goals. About eight infants die per every 1,000 live births. Of these children, about 91 percent receive three doses of the DTP vaccine, fighting diphtheria, pertussis and tetanus, and 94 percent receive two doses of the measles vaccine. As the children grow older, they still have very good odds of surviving and staying healthy. The under-five mortality rate for females is 7 deaths per 1,000 children; for males, it is 9 deaths per 1,000 births. Children enjoy adequate education, sanitation clean water.
  4. Life expectancy in Kuwait is 75.31 years. This number is greater than the life expectancy in India, Russia and Mexico and it is comparable to those of China and the United States. Kuwait’s life expectancy is so high in part because of economic prosperity fueled by its petroleum industry. High economic status is closely linked to high life expectancy — since many people in Kuwait benefit from the petroleum industry, more Kuwaiti citizens enjoy a happy, long life.
  5. Kuwait’s citizens struggle with obesity. Around 33% of males and 44% of females over the age of 18 are obese. The same study also shows that 26% of males and 20% of females aged 10-19 are obese. These numbers are troubling as it shows that over 75% of the adults and over 45% of the children in Kuwait are obese. To make matters worse, the WHO projects the numbers will rise in the coming years. As of 2016, “according to the Global Burden of Disease Study, Kuwait is the fourth most obese country in the world.”

Kuwait is still considered a developing country despite its many advancements in medicine, science and technology. Access to public healthcare that covers an average amount of medical expenses should be applauded. Much remains to fix wait times and medical supplies, but this will build on the inspiring work already completed.

– Kate Estevez
Photo: Flickr

Education in Kuwait
Kuwait has an extensive public and private education system. The state provides free education through the secondary level. Almost 500,000 students are enrolled in Kuwait schools, which is equivalent to 30 percent of the population. Both public and private schools are regulated by the Ministry of Education.

Education in Kuwait has been provided to all Kuwaiti citizens, children of Ministry of Education employees and residents of Kuwait since before 1960. The Bidoon, a stateless group which lives within Kuwait, also has access to Kuwait’s free education.

Kuwait has compulsory enrollment for children aged six to 14. There are many free public and private preschools for children aged four to six. Following preschool, students enter elementary school and then intermediate school. These follow set curriculums with little variation. Students learn English starting in second grade.

If students wish to continue their education they can go to secondary school for four years. These programs are free but not compulsory. After four years, students take a national exam.

Kuwait has one state university and several vocational schools. These universities were mainly created for Kuwait citizens, but a few spots are reserved for non-Kuwait citizens. The Ministry of Higher Education is in the process of allowing some private universities to open within the country.

Approximately 40 percent of students are enrolled in private schools. Many of these are international schools and are sponsored by foreign donors. The state funds many subsidies for students to attend private schools. Many families seek a private education because they question the adequacy of state schools, they feel the English language is a useful skill or they desire a more advanced curriculum.

The Private Education Department accredits all private schools in the country. It regulates various elements of the facilities and controls the fees for the schools. International schools have a great deal of leeway to design their curriculums, and they often mimic their international counterparts. However, all private schools must incorporate elements of the local culture and language into the curriculum.

The Ministry of Education also ensures free education for students with special needs. Students with slight learning disabilities are often incorporated into the classroom and given Individualized Education Plans. There are three schools for students with more severe special needs.

The World Bank has partnered with the Kuwait Ministry of Education and National Center for Education Development to make reforms to the state education system. The five-year program, which began in 2015, hopes to improve the quality of the teachers and the learning experience. They are seeking to improve the curriculum, school leadership and develop national education standards for education in Kuwait.

Sarah Denning

Photo: Unsplash

Water Quality in Kuwait
Despite sitting just off the coast of the Persian Gulf, most of Kuwait’s water resources come from groundwater. Although limited rainfall and hot summers in the desert country threaten water reserves in underground aquifers, by using a sophisticated desalinization process, water quality in Kuwait is one of the best.

With Kuwait’s main water supply coming from groundwater, it puts the country at an extremely high water risk: the country only experiences about 121mm of rainfall each year, and only a small percentage of that reaches aquifers. Because of this, the country relies heavily on its desalinated seawater and treated municipal wastewater.

Due to the high risk of contamination and harmful bacteria that harbors in wastewater, between 2005 and 2014, the Kuwaiti government invested approximately $5.2 billion in the water sector. Kuwait allocated around $3.4 billion to water treatments to guarantee adequate water quality in Kuwait.

To ensure that the distillation plants, constructed in 2013, would create enough clean water for the entire country, Khalid Al Barrak, the head of KISR’s Water Science Department, advised the country to monitor and cut down its level of water consumption. Barrak stated that “such a consumption level was irrational and that it was eroding the government’s efforts to prevent the ominous waste of the invaluable resource.”

Barrak’s claims could help protect not only the water quality in Kuwait, but also help preserve the limited natural freshwater resources available in a country, which was recently reported as the highest water consumer in the world. Additionally, cutting down consumption could save the country about $28 million annually.

By cutting down consumption and continuing the construction of desalination projects, the water quality in Kuwait will continue to see improvements and will provide more resources to people who live in the more arid desert areas of Kuwait.

Amira Wynn

Photo: Flickr

Mohammad Al-Jabri, Minister of Municipal Affairs, announced that Kuwait is in full support of the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) as it seeks the elimination of international hunger and poverty.

According to Kuwait Times, Jabri made this announcement in Rome during the 40th Session FAO Conference on July 3, 2017. Jabri solidified Kuwait’s efforts to cooperate with FAO by signing an agreement for the agricultural development, which will help enhance Kuwait’s food and nutrition security while developing human and natural resources to eliminate hunger in Kuwait.

Additionally, a representative of Kuwait announced Kuwait’s preliminary approval of two projects including the DNA project for agriculture and the project of agricultural waste recycling. The increasingly high temperatures of Kuwait’s regional waters and immense environmental pollution put the country, specifically fisheries, in danger of climate change, which has a notoriously negative impact on hunger in Kuwait.

Climate change imposes a number of threats on the people of Kuwait. Without proper modern technology to combat the rising temperatures, a large portion of the country’s food supply is being compromised. Additionally, potable water is diminishing at rapid rates due to the lack of proper technology necessary to clean local water.

The amount of potable water is diminishing as the water supply is getting smaller and smaller in a country that is getting hotter and hotter. With this destructive climate change comes the lack of water needed to cultivate crops. Thus, leaders of Kuwait are teaming with FAO in an attempt to save the scarce water supply via water harvesting, drip irrigation and wastewater treatment.

Rising temperatures make land that was once fertile incapable of producing the food that the people of Kuwait rely on. Only approximately 0.3 percent of the country is utilized for crop production. According to FAO, the land that is used for the cultivation of crops is frequently unreliable as it is very poor in the organic nutritional matter, so there are limited opportunities to alleviate hunger in Kuwait.

The Center of Kuwait is one of the few areas that possess rich, sandy soil that allows for the transfer of air and water, making crop production much more possible. However, this small area of the country is unable to produce enough food for the entire population of Kuwait. With the desert-like climate of Kuwait that is constantly increasing in temperature, this already limited farmable area is rapidly diminishing.

A country constantly battling poverty and hunger, Kuwait is pursuing joint Arab action to help people in Kuwait. By tackling economic, humanitarian, educational and media objectives, leaders of Kuwait are uniting to protect Arab societies and interests. And at the forefront of these is, as it long has been, hunger.

With massive economic issues, an outbreak of diseases, poverty and famine, Kuwait is struggling to fight the inevitable consequences of living in a world of immense poverty and hunger. Jabri and the rest of Kuwait are hopeful that by partnering with FAO, these issues can be stopped in their tracks and eventually hunger in Kuwait will be reversed entirely.

Kassidy Tarala

Photo: Flickr

Between Saudi Arabia and Iraq lies the country of Kuwait. Kuwait has the sixth highest GDP per capita in the world and has a thriving industrial economy. With the country being in such a great position to help, what is it doing to tackle global poverty in emerging markets?

On July 1, Kuwait reaffirmed its support for the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), which encourages globalization, cooperation among nations and environmental sustainability. Acting director-general of Kuwait’s Public Authority for Industry (PAI) Abdulkarim Taqui addressed the 45th session of the UNIDO’s Industrial Development Board (IDB).

According to the Arab Times, Taqui’s address included asking UNIDO to do more in stopping the negative outcomes resulting from liberating the international trade and “dumping.” Dumping in international trade is when a country’s businesses lower the sales price of its exports to gain an unfair market share in the consuming country. Taqui proposes to create systems that can make sure pricing stays fair in both the exported country and country of origin to combat dumping in international trade.

Dumping seems to be a severe problem according to Taqui, as he goes on to say “The UNIDO must set a host of projects and programs that are likely to develop practical and realistic solutions to remedy such practices that have been causing colossal damage to the industrial sector in many countries.”

This instance isn’t the first time that Kuwait and the UNIDO have teamed up together. The Public Authority for Industry and the UNIDO have started a project that will increase the export competitiveness of small Kuwaiti companies (SMEs) from the chemicals, rubber and plastic sectors. This project will hopefully counter dumping in international trade.

Taqui stresses that Kuwait will continue to cooperate with the United Nations and encourages other nations to not pull out of the UNIDO. He says that organizations like the UNIDO are necessary in maintaining a balanced world economy, and social stability.

When it comes to solving complex issues related to lifting people out of squalor, Kuwait seems to be on top of its game, without even taking center stage in the fight against global poverty.

Vicente Vera

Photo: Flickr

Several of the 10 richest countries in the world are also leaders in foreign aid and charitable donations to organizations that fight poverty both at home and abroad.

According to Global Finance Magazine, which utilized data provided by the International Monetary Fund, the 10 richest countries in the world by GDP per capita are Qatar, Luxembourg, Macao, Singapore, Brunei, Kuwait, Ireland, Norway, the United Arab Emirates and San Marino.

Number five on the list with a per capita GDP of $71,263, Kuwait has a history of offering humanitarian aid to developing countries, particularly in the Arab world. The Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development has provided a total of $18.5 billion in loans to 104 countries in support for education, health services and agricultural development since the fund’s establishment in 1961. Part of the fund is also put aside to assist Kuwait’s citizens in finding housing.

Kuwait is also known for providing humanitarian relief in the wake of natural disasters and violent conflict. The country recently provided $500 million to Yemen and pledged another $500 million to Syria. In 2015, Kuwait’s contribution to foreign aid was 2.1 percent of its GDP, more than twice the U.N. Official Development Assistance target.

The United Arab Emirates (UAE)
Ranked ninth on the list with a per capita GDP of $67,696, in 2013 the UAE was recognized as the top humanitarian donor of the year, having contributed nearly six billion dollars in aid to over 140 countries to provide food, shelter and education to vulnerable populations, particularly in countries such as Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Jordan, Lebanon and the occupied Palestinian territories. Dubai, the UAE’s largest city, is also the location of the International Humanitarian City, which houses more than 50 commercial companies and nongovernmental organizations instrumental in the delivery of aid to areas of the world in need.

Ireland is the seventh richest country in the world and has a GDP of $69,374. In 2013, 49 of the top Irish companies donated over 24 million euro to local groups and organizations that focus on issues such as homelessness, education and disability services. The country increased its foreign aid budget, offering 640 million euro for developmental assistance in 2016, a seven percent increase from the previous year. Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Charles Flanagan defined the fight against poverty and hunger worldwide as being “at the core of Irish foreign policy.”

Just behind Ireland with a GDP of $69,296, Norway allocates large amounts of aid money toward global education and health. It spent the third-highest percentage of gross national income on foreign aid in 2016 out of all the countries in the U.N., placing it just behind the UAE. Norway has recently proposed to double its support for renewable energy and is working with Kenya through the Oil for Development program to help Kenya protect its natural resources while gaining a foothold in the petroleum sector.

These nations, four of the 10 richest countries in the world, give back for a variety of reasons. The UAE claims that the humanitarian element is the single deciding factor in its policy on foreign aid, citing an Islamic belief that it is an obligation to help the less fortunate. Others see foreign aid as a means to strengthen its own political, diplomatic and economic positions. According to Dr. Hessah Al-Ojayan, assistant professor of finance at Kuwait University, Kuwait uses foreign aid to achieve “smaller ‘wins’ in the day-to-day global political arena.” Similarly, Norway’s partnership with Kenya, which the government has called “an engine of economic growth in Africa” and “increasingly important for Norwegian interests,” has the potential to be mutually beneficial.

Several of the 10 richest countries in the world have also made it to the Charities Aid Foundation (CAF) World Giving Index top 20. The rankings are determined by three criteria: the percentage of people surveyed from that country who say that they have helped a stranger, donated money or volunteered time. These statistics show that not only the governments of these countries, but also the citizens themselves, are generous to the less fortunate. Ireland ranks ninth on the list, followed by the UAE at 10th, Norway at 14th and Kuwait at 19th.

Emilia Otte

Photo: Flickr

Kuwait is located on the Arabian Gulf and sits between Iraq, Iran and Saudi Arabia. According to the World Travel Guide, Kuwait has a number of tourist attractions, even though its location might hinder it from topping the list for many travelers. Kuwait sits on a beautiful coastline and has many impressive buildings and eateries. As with any other destination, travelers should take the necessary precautions to avoid contracting the top diseases in Kuwait.

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that all travelers to Kuwait get vaccinated for hepatitis A and typhoid. Both diseases can be contracted through contaminated food or water, and thus it is important for travelers to be careful when choosing where to eat. Luckily, the World Travel Guide lists many restaurants known for both safety and fine dining, including Pepper Steak House and Ayam Zaman Restaurant. The CDC recommends using available resources such as this guide to determine where it is safe to eat to avoid contracting the top diseases in Kuwait as a traveler. The CDC also warns that travelers staying with family or friends or in more rural areas are at a greater risk of catching typhoid.

Another pervasive disease in Kuwait is Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS). MERS is a respiratory virus unlike any other known viruses, according to the CDC. It causes a fever, cough, shortness of breath and, in some cases, can be fatal. The first case was reported in 2012 in Saudi Arabia, and it is quickly becoming one of the top diseases in Kuwait. A fatal case of MERS was reported to the World Health Organization (WHO) in September 2015. The WHO issued a warning which states that individuals who have diabetes, renal failure, chronic lung disease or are immunocompromised have the greatest risk of contracting a MERS infection. The report cautions those at risk against contact with animals, especially camel,s and recommend good hygiene practices, along with avoiding the consumption of raw milk and undercooked meats.

In 2015, the WHO did not recommend any travel restrictions for Kuwait, as there is no evidence that indicates MERS can be transferred through person-to-person contact. However, in May 2016, the CDC issued a level two alert after cases of MERS were seen in several countries around the Arabian Gulf. These cases occurred in travelers and also in people they had been in close contact with. The CDC does not discourage travel to these areas, but they recommend that travelers consult with a doctor to determine risk factors and if additional precautions are necessary.

Helen Barker

Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Kuwait
Is there poverty in Kuwait, or isn’t there?

Statistical tables published by organizations such as UNICEF, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the CIA World Fact Book don’t show any measurable poverty in Kuwait. In addition, Nations Encyclopedia flatly states that “poverty is almost non-existent” in Kuwait. Anecdotal evidence, though, suggests that there is at least some poverty in Kuwait. For example, one set of anecdotes comes in response to a question on Quora: “what is life like for poor people in Kuwait?”

Respondents said, first of all, there is poverty in Kuwait, even if it goes unacknowledged. They counted among the poor: laborers, shepherds working in deserts, illegal immigrants and maids, some of whom were abused by their sponsors and employers. The common denominator for many of the poor is that they are non-citizens. They frequently come from tribal families who settled in the country only in the last 30 years. Many of these relatively recent arrivals were not granted citizenship, and as non-citizens they often face serious economic challenges.

Kuwaiti citizens, on the other hand, have greater access to the wealth of the country that comes from its oil. For example, around 90% of citizens work in the public sector which is largely funded by oil revenues. All citizens are eligible for help from the country’s extensive social services. These services include care for the needy, direct transfers to widows and students and help for families in a variety of circumstances — divorce, old age, disability, parental death, illness and financial difficulty.

For most of its young history — it won its independence in 1961 — Kuwait could afford generous state welfare because it is sitting on 6% of world oil reserves. Oil makes up 95% of its export revenues and 95% of government income. With the collapse of oil prices worldwide, down 60% since 2013, Kuwait had to do some belt-tightening. Like other Arab states, Kuwait has taken steps to reduce spending and increase revenues.

Kuwait has said it is prepared to lower subsidies for fuel and public utilities. The country said it would freeze, or at least slow, the growth of wages in the public sector. Kuwait also has other means to handle the shortfall in oil income in the short-term. Like the other Gulf states, Kuwait has extensive sovereign funds at its disposal. In total, the Gulf states manage $2.5 trillion in assets; that’s 37% of total assets of all sovereign funds in the world. Kuwait can use these if it needs to, though the long-term solution for Kuwait’s economy is to diversify its sources of income and grow the private sector, according to economists.

All in all, then, life in Kuwait looks like it should be pretty good, even with the oil price problem. Or, maybe not. Three years ago, before the belt-tightening, a blogger in the Kuwait Times, Thaar Al-Rasheedi, claimed that 90% of Kuwait’s citizens led poor and miserable lives. Even with apparent high salaries, Al-Rasheedi said, “there is hardly a citizen who still has a single dinar by the 15th of the month.” He went on to say that the problem is that rents are too high, installment loans are too high and there are in general “soaring prices right under the government’s nose and with its consensus.” “In fact,” Al-Rasheedi concluded, “we are experiencing intentional poverty on the last 15 days of each month!”

Is there poverty in Kuwait? It could depend on who you ask.

Robert Cornet

Photo: Flickr

On April 3, the Middle East honored Arab Orphans Day with university campus-based movements to honor abandoned children. Students in Cairo held an event in which individual participants would treat an orphan like a younger sibling for a day, while Kuwaiti Minister of Planning and Development Hind Al-Sabeeh touted the legislation of protective laws

Orphans in Kuwait are one of the most disadvantaged groups in terms of legal protections. In addition to the initial injury of parental abandonment, these children suffer the stigma of “illegitimacy.”

Many in the Middle East discriminate against children born to unwed parents. Often, they base their prejudice on a misinterpretation of the Qur’an. Their choice can have deleterious effects, ranging from overt displays to more subtle denials of academic and job opportunities.

That said, Kuwait has made some significant strides. Abandoned children are first sent to social care facilities for 30 days while the Ministry of Social Affairs attempts to find their parents.

If and when the children are not found, they become wards of the State. In Kuwait’s case, state guardianship grants the orphans Kuwaiti nationality, free health care, fiscal stipends, and free housing.

Kuwait treats its orphans well. According to UNICEF, life expectancy for these orphans was 74.2 in 2012 and approximately 93.9 percent of orphaned youth are literate. The high literacy rate is largely due to a high enrollment rate in primary schools, which UNICEF estimates to be around 98 percent.

The disadvantage, though, lies in the wards’ legal inaccessibility. Once Kuwaiti orphans are declared as wards of the State, only Kuwaiti citizens can adopt them.

This is a particularly problematic law in part because of the popularity of non-White orphans among adopting couples in developed countries. Most of these adoptive parents are financially secure and outfitted to accommodate fewer children at a time, ensuring that the lucky adoptee gets the personal attention and care that she needs.

Kuwaitis may be generous with their aid to orphans, but no amount of generosity can replace parental love. The nation often acts as a mecca for wartime orphans, but its people usually cannot restore a child’s birth parents.

Furthermore, little is reported regarding the care of orphans once they age out of the institution. According to the ILO, the Middle East has some of the highest youth unemployment rates worldwide, with an average of one in four young adults out of work.

This statistic places additional pressure upon Kuwaiti citizens, who have to pay for orphan care through taxes. Kuwait’s economy may enjoy high incomes across the board, but as long as its neighbors suffer, the nation will be operating upon heightened political risk. If it becomes involved in its neighbors’ conflicts, the country’s orphans may very well become the first victims.

Evidence of orphan victimization has already made the news. In 2011, an anonymous blogger commented on a story run in Al Qabas about Kuwaiti orphanages that had been turned into brothels where rape, drugs, smoking, and prostitution were rampant.

While exaggeration by the media is not improbable, orphans remain one of the most frequently vulnerable groups. Kuwait, like its neighbors, is still in development and its media may not always be trustworthy. In any event, it is imperative that the reader checks the validity of news sources. Conditions in Kuwait may not be as rosy as recent propaganda may imply.

– Leah Zazofsky

Sources: KUNA, Middle East Eye, Muslim Observer, SOS USA, The Aggressor, UNICEF
Photo: Flickr