Child Poverty in RwandaJust over 20 years ago, the country of Rwanda suffered a devastating civil war and genocide, with more than 800,000 dead in 100 days. The children that suffered and survived the horrors are now adults, but what implications does this dark history have on Rwandan children today? Rwanda’s economic, political and social climates have entirely shifted since these tragic events. Of note, from 2001-2015, the country’s overall extreme poverty rate decreased by almost 24%. But more work is needed to help address the prevalence of poverty among the country’s youngest inhabitants. To that end, the national government has implemented the National Strategy for Transformation, aiming to halve the child poverty rate by 2030 from 39% to 19.5% or less. Here are five facts about child poverty in Rwanda.

5 Facts About Child Poverty in Rwanda

  1. Urban/Rural Divide. The provinces located in the West and South of Rwanda’s geographic landscape are significantly more rural, making child poverty disparities extremely visible compared to their urban counterparts. There are many different forms of poverty, but significant aspects affecting Rwanda’s rural youth include lack of sanitation and lack of health services. Currently, 20% more children under the age of 2 in rural areas experience greater than one form of poverty relative to those living in urban areas.
  2. Health. There have been significant health improvements for children in Rwanda, including the 70% reduction in child deaths over the last decade. However, health and healthcare are still lacking for Rwandan youth, as nearly 40% of children who die before the age of 5 are infants less than one month old. Though the rate of child deaths is alarming, Rwanda has significantly decreased its HIV/AIDS transmission rate between mother and child to 2% during the last three years.
  3. Education. Around 27% of secondary school-aged children did not attend in 2014 and more than half of Rwandan youth did not complete primary education in the same year.
  4. Child Rights. The median age in Rwanda is very young, standing at about 18.8 years old, due to the country’s genocide decades earlier. The young demographic has caused an increased awareness of child rights in the country, which has led to the passage of a bill that created a National Commission of Children. Children’s rights are now openly advocated for in the country as a result of the commission’s efforts, which address children’s rights to education, health and non-discriminatory practices.
  5. COVID-19. Rwanda experienced a period of economic growth and improvement prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. Fortunately, the World Bank Group provided funding of $14.25 million to help the country improve its COVID-19 response. Children in Rwanda have suffered by losing financial security and job access. Still, young farmers in the region have successfully adapted to the pandemic by adjusting the market for crops to save their lands and maintain a profit.

– Josie Collier
Photo: Wikimedia

Slums in Ghana

As the urban population of Ghana grew, so did the number of people who live in slums in Ghana. In 2014, according to the World Bank approximately 37.4% of people who live in Ghana’s urban regions lived in slums. After Ghana’s independence in 1957, its urban population grew because many people moved from rural communities to urban regions. The country’s urban community has grown from approximately 36.4% in 1990 to approximately 56.7% in 2019, making it one of the most urbanized countries in Africa. A slum is defined by the UN as a contiguous settlement where the inhabitants are characterized as having inadequate housing and basic service.” With approximately 5.5 million people living in slums in Ghana, non-government organizations are working in the community to help address some of the problems that the people face such as sanitation and evictions from the government.

Ghana’s Housing Crisis

As young people move into the city to look for jobs and other opportunities, they end up moving to informal settlements because living in formal settlements may be too expensive. Housing in Ghana can be unaffordable to the “urban poor” because the cost of both land and building materials can be too expensive for people to invest in affordable housing. In addition, the government has been slow to respond to the growing need for housing in Ghana. However, in 2015 the government created a new National Housing Policy to address Ghana’s housing needs.

How does the government view the slums?

Old Fadama, one of the largest slums in Accra, is nicknamed by the Ghanaian government and some members of the public, as “Sodom and Gomorrah.” These two biblical cities were destroyed due to their sinful actions. To the people of Old Fadama, the nickname is hurtful because they see it as the government painting a doomed picture of the city to justify evictions. The image also ignores the fact that many people have made a living there. Some residents have recycled electronic waste to make a living. Local organizations, like the Slum Union of Ghana and its international partners such as the Slum Dwellers International, continuously advocate against evictions.

People Living in Slums Face Evictions

Slums, like Akwatia line and Old Fadama in Ghana, are prone to evictions because of the location they are built-in. During evictions, the government often does not provide people living in the slums with alternative housing. In April of 2020, the government ordered the demolition of houses in Old Fadama, one of the oldest slums in Ghana. Approximately 1,000 people were evicted. The reason for the demolition, according to local news sources, was to remove sediment from the lagoon to reduce the risk of flooding.

This is not the first time demolitions have happened. Demolitions between 2003 and 2006 left more than 7,000 people without homes. The demolition that took place this year received criticism because it occurred during COVID-19 when people were asked to stay at home and practice social distancing. Amnesty International has condemned the government for its actions. The treat of demolition makes it difficult for people who live in slums to invest in the places that they live because they may be evicted.

Lack of Sanitation

Another major problem that slums in Ghana face is the lack of adequate sanitation.  Many people who live in slums do not have a bathroom in their place of residence, so they often depend on using public bathrooms. The lack of private or individual restrooms in Ghana does not end with slums. Places of residence and schools can be built without restrooms.

To solve this problem, groups such as the Media Coalition on Open Defecation in Ghana are advocating that the government work toward limiting the number of public defecations. The lack of adequate sanitation increases the risk of getting diarrhea and diseases like cholera. Although the lack of private bathrooms impacts a community negatively, the need for restrooms has provided entrepreneurs with new business ventures because they can charge money for the use of public bathrooms. According to Water and Sanitation for the Urban Poor (WSUP) the use of public toilets has become part of the culture in Ghana. Currently, 60% of households in slums use public toilets.

To solve the problem of limited bathrooms in the slum community, WSUP works with Ghana’s Ministry of education to provide schools with “toilet blocks.” Furthermore, one of the innovative ways that the organization has helped is by building toilets that are not connected to sewer systems. These toilets store human waste in cartridges that are taken to a waste treatment facility by a clean team whose job is to then send the waste to a plant and replace the cartridge. The clean team is paid a monthly fee to remove the waste.  The toilets can be placed in residential areas where some people may find it difficult to access a public restroom.

Although the housing crisis in Ghana may look bleak, the government, citizens and non-government organizations are passionate about solving the problem. In 2019, the government of Ghana entered into an agreement with the UN to build 100,000 houses by 2022, a project that would also provide jobs to people in the community.
-Joshua Meribole
Photo: Flickr

India-Most-Unsanitary-PlaceHow exactly did the country of India suffer from extremities relating to insanitary conditions? Since the beginning of this year, controversy has erupted over data analysis of an air pollution crisis so drastic that life expectancy has been reduced by an average of 3.2 years.

According to the latest World Health Organization (WHO) data report, India is the number one country in terms of having the most catastrophic levels of outdoor air pollution. This is an issue that has not been met with proper treatment. What’s more, 13 out of the 20 most polluted cities in the world are located in India.

For decades, the issue has reportedly derived from a culmination of treacherous chemical particles; “smog” is included among them as the leading pollutant. However, a 2014 BBC News report by Shannti Dinnoo argues that the issue of unsanitary conditions probably stems from cultural causes.

As noted in Dinnoo’s findings, open defecation is a socially accepted daily ritual. When children learn how to walk and talk for the first time, their parents also teach them how to defecate out in the open, and that doing so is acceptable.

The normalized practice most frequently happens among financially-deprived families: toilets are luxuries usually only available to wealthy people. However, as was unearthed in an accompanying BBC News reading, it was found that these people fail to properly sanitize their toilets.

Last year, UNICEF used the phenomenon of public defecation to structure a theory in which the organization correlated the insanitary issue with the prevalence of malnutrition, which alters growth and immunity in children under the age of five.

Children are not the only sufferers of the extreme consequences caused by the horrendous air and hygiene issue.

As documented in Dinnoo’s BBC report, outdoor defecation places women at risk, because they are more likely to be in a susceptible state of sexual assault. This is especially concerning when one considers the rapid rate of rape crimes within the country.

Additionally, the lack of sanitation has potentially inflicted adverse effects among pregnant Indian women, where premature births and low birth weight are more likely to occur.

At the time, with minimal assistance in aiding India’s pollution issue, various individuals have spoken out to produce public awareness in encouraging Indian governmental powers to sustain quality air control. Mohammed Kamal Professor of Public Policy Rohini Pande, alongside University of Chicago collaborators, addressed the public a few months ago and strongly recommended the Indian government to enforce stricter regulations.

Other individuals stepping up to promote awareness include economist Michael Greenstone, who shared suggestions with Internet website on tactics India should follow, such as the proposal of an effective emission trading system alongside the idea of penalizing citizens who purposely pollute (a factor that is rarely enforced, let alone rarely considered).

On February 21, 2015, United States Secretary of State John Kerry confirmed the launch of a program called AirNow. This would monitor foreign countries’s air quality, specifically that of India, to assist foreign service officers and U.S. military personnel by providing them with information about the air they’re breathing in efforts to “mitigate some of the harmful impacts,” according to The Indian Express.

Already, a small form of action has made a difference for children between the ages of 11 and 15. On July 7, 2015, The Indian Express revealed that UN efforts in alleviating India’s climatic disaster have reduced open defecation by 25 percent.

This reduction has been attributed to the enforcement of stricter regulations and federal emission standards. Overall, people hope to improve respiratory functions for adolescents and young teenagers because that general age is considered the “critical period” of vital lung development.

– Jeff Varner

Sources: The Indian Express 1, BBC News 1, The Indian Express 2, Harvard Kennedy School, VOX, The New York Times, BBC News 2
Photo: Global Press Journal