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mauritius oil spillMauritius is an island nation off the east coast of Africa with a population of fewer than 1.3 million people. In 2019, less than 1% of the population of Mauritius lived below the international poverty line. On July 25, the Japanese-owned oil tanker, the MV Wakashio, ran aground and leaked more than 1000 metric tons of oil into the waters at Pointe d’Esny near “two environmentally protected marine ecosystems and the Blue Bay Marine Park reserve.” As the international community comes together to assist in clean-up efforts, human hair could be a potential solution to the Mauritius oil spill.

Why the Mauritius Oil Spill Needs Urgent Aid

The economy of Mauritius relies heavily on tourism and ocean activities. The tourism industry makes up almost a quarter of the GDP, and another 10% comes from activities reliant on the water, such as fishing. Tourists visit the island nation for its beaches and marine life.  Since the waters surrounding the country are now polluted with oil, the MV Wakashio spill poses a serious threat to the economy of Mauritius as well as the natural environment.

The Science and History a Surprising Solution

Hair was first studied as a solution after the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska in 1989. After noticing that hair absorbed oil at the salon he owned, Phil McCrory of Alabama began studying human hair as a potential tool for cleaning up oil spills. He was awarded two patents for devices made of human hair that sucked up oil from water.
Hair is highly absorptive and has been shown to take in up to nine times its weight in oil. While hair is a potential solution to the Mauritius oil spill, this is not the first time it’s been used for this purpose. Human hair specifically has been used as a clean-up tool after other oil spills. Hair-stuffed nylon stockings were also successfully used in 2010 to assist in clean-up efforts following the Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

A study released a week before the Mauritius oil spill found human hair to be as effective as synthetic materials in clean-ups. A study conducted by the University of Technology Sydney comparing plastic-based materials commonly used to clean up oil spills to organic materials found that hair is successful at absorbing oil from ocean and solid land environments. According to this study, hair is as good as synthetic materials when it comes to absorbing oil from land and hard surfaces.

How Human Hair Can Help in Mauritius

Hair salons around Mauritius have been offering free and discounted hair cuts in order to donate the trimmings to clean-up efforts. Volunteers stuff the hair into stockings and use it to both corral the oil, preventing its spread, and absorb it from the water. Hair donations from around the world are also being shipped to the country to provide additional assistance.

Human hair is a potential solution to the Mauritius oil spill and is a useful tool in clean-ups after any future spills as it is in constant supply, affordable and natural and therefore more quickly biodegradable than synthetic materials such as the plastics traditionally used in clean-ups. The country’s economy relies heavily on the Indian Ocean surrounding it for both tourism and fishing, so finding affordable and sustainable means of absorbing the spillage from the MV Wakashio, such as human hair, is necessary to maintain the economy of the country and prevent the spread of devastation and poverty.

Sydney Leiter
Photo: Pixabay

Eradicating Poverty in MauritiusHome to approximately 1,265,800 people, the Republic of Mauritius is an island located off of the south-east coast of Africa in the Indian Ocean. Mauritius has a complicated history of colonization by the Dutch, French and British, though it gained independence in 1968. Previously, the economy of Mauritius was built solely on sugar production. However, exports, tourism, agriculture and financial services are key pillars of the today’s economy as the successful efforts to diversify since 1980. With a successful economy, less than 1% of the population of Mauritius were living on less than $1.25 per day in 2012. This means extreme poverty in Mauritius is rare.

Poverty Rate

The middle class is shrinking as relative poverty rates have been steadily increasing over time from 8.5% in 2007 to 9.8% in 2012. Additionally, it is important to note that within the Republic, Rodrigues Island has high rates of poverty. About 40% of the inhabitants live in poverty. This is due to its lack of exportable resources as well as the fact that it is not able to participate in the tourist industry.

Plans to Eradicate Poverty in Mauritius

The Social Integration and Empowerment Bill is in place in an effort to eradicate social exclusion and poverty. From 2017 to 2020 the Mauritian government has allocated $63 million to implement the plan from which the bill originated from.

The three features of the Social Integration and Empowerment Bill are as follows:

  1. The School Completion Premium is a cash incentive to keep disadvantaged young people from dropping out of school before finishing their secondary education. This program also specifically focuses on young people on Rodrigues Island, where poverty rates are higher than the rest of the Republic.

  2. Social protections have been put in place which target the poor. For example, universal pensions for all and subsidies for the elderly and students. These protections include universal basic pensions, free health services, free public transportation and free education. Without these protections, the poverty rate would have increased greatly. It is estimated that the 2017 poverty rate of 9.6% would have been 23% without any protections. In addition, the rate will be 16.1% without government-funded education services alone.

  3. The plan directs resources towards modernization by connecting the poor with mobile phones. As a result, this will give them access to a wider range of information and opportunities.

Other features of the Marshall Plan include the empowerment of women and youth. This will increase the human capital of the Republic and environmental protections which benefit the poor. The government’s commitment to ending poverty in Mauritius through policy and reforms reflects the resilience and spirit of the beautiful. With continued reforms and expansion of policies, poverty in Mauritius will likely continue to decrease.

Meg Sinnott

Photo: Flickr

Common Diseases in MauritiusLocated in the Indian Ocean off the coast of Southern Africa, Mauritius is an archipelago that is only about 500 miles east of Madagascar. At almost 11 times the size of Washington D.C., Mauritius was first explored by the Portuguese in the 16th century and subsequently settled by the Dutch. With a life expectancy of 74 years for the country’s 1.2 million inhabitants, the most common diseases in Mauritius that are life-threatening are non-communicable.

According to Commonwealth Health, “non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in Mauritius accounted for an estimated 87 percent of all mortality in 2008.” The most common diseases in Mauritius are cardiovascular diseases, which accounted for 36 percent of total deaths across all age groups in 2008. Diabetes, cancers and non-communicable variants of respiratory diseases contributed 23 percent, 12 percent and five percent to total mortality, respectively.

Cardiovascular diseases, “diabetes, urogenital, blood and endocrine diseases”, and cancer are considered the deadliest overall, with ischemic heart disease, diabetes and cerebrovascular disease in the lead.

Ischemic Heart Disease, also known as coronary artery disease, involves a decreased blood flow to the heart. It was considered one of the deadliest common diseases in Mauritius in 2015. In 2014 alone, the diseases caused 1,148 deaths. Cerebrovascular disease, caused by damage to the brain from interruption of blood supply, was the third most common disease in 2015. Fortunately, the disease has decreased in prevalence by 9.5 percent since 2005.

Diabetes, a disease of permanently altered insulin levels and blood sugar was the second-highest cause of death in Mauritius as of 2015. In 2005, diabetes was only the third most common cause of death, but throughout the decade, deaths from the disease have increased in prevalence by a staggering 65.1 percent. This is due, in part, to recent changes in dietary habits with the introduction of fast food and lack of exercise as well as genetic predisposition.

Obesity, caused by diet and lack of exercise, can also play a role in diabetes. The prevalence of obesity has increased from 16 percent in 2009 to 19.1 percent in 2015, with approximately 398,417 Mauritians being overweight or obese.

Conscious of the growing health concern, the Mauritian government has established a National Service Framework for Diabetes. The goal of the organization is to lay out strategies for prevention and standards of care to be implemented.

The common diseases in Mauritius can be found in any country. While some diseases are unfortunately hereditary, there are ways of managing health to reduce the risk of non-communicable diseases. By making conscious lifestyle changes, such as exercising and maintaining a healthy diet, the risk of diseases such as heart disease and diabetes can be effectively reduced.

Stefanie Podosek

Photo: Flickr

Help People in MauritiusThe Republic of Mauritius is an Indian Ocean archipelago that is located just off the south coast of Africa and is usually seen as a model of stability and economic prosperity in the region. Since becoming independent, Mauritius has developed from a low-income country with an economy based around agriculture to a middle-income country with an economy that is much more diversified. Many general improvements have come with this economic development, such as a drop in the infant mortality rate. Other improvements include universal access to health care, the elimination of polio and malaria and nearly the entire population having access to clean drinking water.

Despite this, there is still poverty and a significant need to figure out how to help people in Mauritius. Along with poverty still being present on the island, there are still issues of violence against women, children losing parental care due to poverty and the social exclusion that affects children with disabilities. With the island seeming more like a tropical paradise at times, it is important to keep in mind that there is still a great deal of disadvantaged and poor people in Mauritius, particularly in rural areas.

Another factor in Mauritius’ poverty situation is that there is no official poverty line in the country. They use a relative poverty line that is defined as “half median monthly household income per adult equivalent.” The poorest households usually satisfy three basic conditions: households that have difficulty obtaining daily basic food, households that consume government rice and households that buy food on credit.

Now we must consider the best ways of how to help people in Mauritius, allowing us to address these issues and achieve a better standard of living for the poor. The first solution undertaken by the government was implementing a social welfare program that aims to bridge the gap between the poor and the non-poor. The program focused on the distribution of social aid to needy people, subsidies on basic food items, improving the level of education, microfinancing small and medium enterprise and female empowerment in the labor market.

Social policies such as this are essential for combating poverty and for pinpointing how to help people in Mauritius effectively. Anthony Giddens, a British sociologist who is renowned for his theory of structuration and his holistic view of modern societies, said: “Although being poor does not necessarily mean being permanently mired in poverty, effective social policies which maximize the power of human agency will be a key part of any solution.”

In 2017, Mauritius instituted the Marshall Plan Against Poverty, an ambitious reform aimed at addressing persistent pockets of poverty and social exclusion in the country. Though the plan refers to the official number of poor households as 33,600, the government is focusing on the absolute poorest, equaling about 10,000 households. So far, the plan has committed approximately 2.2 billion rupees, or $63 million, over the next three years as they continue to implement the Marshall Plan.

There are several other solutions that can help us find how to help people in Mauritius, such as introducing legislation for a national minimum wage for workers and taking an initiative in creating more jobs in the manufacturing sector and other industries. The minimum wage of a worker should be equal to or more than the revised figures published by the Household Budget Survey of Statistics Mauritius, as it is necessary to reduce income inequality and to help the poor find a decent life using their own efforts. Similarly, as other countries around the world have shown, there is a working-class population that will largely never earn a degree, prompting the need for an increase in jobs for the working class.

Drew Fox

Photo: Unsplash

Causes of Poverty in MauritiusMauritius is a little paradise island that flourishes in its diverse culture and tradition. A closer look reveals a complex history of this archipelago — once colonized by the Dutch, French and finally, the British. Mauritius gained its independence in 1968 and has since transformed itself from a low-income economy mostly dependent on agriculture and fishing to an economy thriving on industrial, financial and tourism growth.

Indeed, a success story.

What is commendable is that the country has achieved this in spite of many roadblocks like remoteness from the world market, racial inequality and high population growth. Of note, between 1977 and 2008, the Mauritius economy averaged a 4.6 percent gross domestic product (GDP) growth rate, thanks to sound and pragmatic development strategies adopted by the government.

Less than 1 percent of its population lives on $1 a day or less — which means that extreme poverty is almost non-existent. At the same time, the percentage of people living in relative poverty (set at half the median monthly household income per adult equivalent) stood at 9.4 percent in 2012.

Here are five causes of poverty in Mauritius:

  1. The island of Rodrigues, a part of the Republic, has 40 percent of its population living below the poverty level. This is because the island does not form part of the tourist attraction nor does it produce any resources to add to exports.
  2. As the focus of economic development has shifted to export, industries and tourism, the rural households that depend on agriculture as their source of income have become more vulnerable to poverty. Environmental deterioration is one of the biggest cause of low yields of agriculture.
  3. Women in rural areas are especially prone to poverty as they often have low levels education and have not acquired professional skills. Families that depend on these women for their financial needs are at a higher risk.
  4. Modernization and industrialization boosted the economy but also led to greater income inequality. This has resulted in high indebtedness in poor households.
  5. Most important among the causes of poverty in Mauritius is the “triple trade shock” that the country experienced in 2005, referring to losses in trade preferences for textiles and sugar and rising energy prices. The government has brought in many reforms to overcome this crisis. But it is still an ongoing process.

The government has also undertaken the ambitious reform plan known as The Marshall Plan Against Poverty to address the above causes of poverty in Mauritius. Its first goal is to reach the 10,000 households living in absolute poverty. The focus is on social inclusion through education, adhering to the principle of “no one left behind.”

Here are the policy measures adopted to alleviate poverty:

  • Housing support
  • Community development projects
  • Child welfare programs
  • Family empowerment
  • Training for employment

The government’s commitment to these bold reforms, along with global partnerships could signal that the “Mauritius Miracle” is here to stay.

Tripti Sinha

Photo: Flickr

Water Quality in Mauritius tap waterThe Republic of Mauritius is an Indian Ocean archipelago nation just off the southeastern coast of Africa. The country is home to many ethnic groups, races, languages, religions and cultures. With such diversity, the country is perceived as a melting pot. The water quality in Mauritius is mostly safe, but it is not always up to international standards.

More than half of the water supply in the country is sourced from groundwater, and the rest is derived from reservoirs and lakes. Freshwater emanates from the country’s 92 rivers, 13 natural and man-made lakes and groundwater sources.

Surface water courses through water basins, while five main aquifers provide water for both domestic and irrigation use. About 99.4 percent of the population has access to safe drinking water, with per capita consumption reaching up to 190 liters of water per day.

Because tap water quality in Mauritius is reportedly dependent on the village locale, tourists are advised to avoid tap water altogether in favor of bottled water. However, a closer look at the country’s commitment to water security and safety shows that many steps have been taken and many are underway.

 

Improving Tap Water Quality in Mauritius

 

The Central Water Authority (CWA) of Mauritius is tasked with providing safe drinking water – or potable water – to all Mauritians. Water for irrigation purposes is regulated by the Irrigation Authority, while the Waste Management Authority (WMA) is responsible for managing wastewater.

In order to meet the nation’s water needs for all sectors up to the year 2040, the nation’s Water Resources Unit has worked out a plan to harness additional water resources. Construction of storage dams, diverted run-off from river streams and the development of ground water sources have all been explored in the plan.

Water resources are constantly monitored to check for the presence of contamination. Two laboratories in the country monitor the quality of the treated water supply to ensure compliance with World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines for potable water, as well as the quality of raw water resources. This has included testing of the physical, chemical and microbiological perimeters of the potable water. In this way, good water quality in Mauritius is ensured.

In an effort to promote more sustainable use of water, water resource infrastructure is being improved. This has included an analysis of canals, storage dams and dikes to minimize water losses and identify any necessary rehabilitations to the existing infrastructure.

Additionally, monitoring is conducted in the coastal zones due to the nation’s reliance on subsistence fisheries. Ground and lagoon water is checked for contamination and standards have been established for wastewater management.

As a melting pot, Mauritius brings many people together. This spirit is reflected in the archipelago nation’s existing legal and institutional framework in maintaining water security and cleanliness for all Mauritians.

High management of water quality in Mauritius ensures that proper water sanitation is maintained. With the implementation of future projects, Mauritius aims to accept present challenges, overcome constraints and supply water for all.

Mohammed Khalid

Photo: Pixabay


In the Indian Ocean, located just northeast of Réunion and east of Madagascar, lies the archipelago of Mauritius, a land mass totaling just half the size of Rhode Island. Previously held by the British, French and Dutch, Mauritius gained independence in 1968 and has since grown from an agriculturally-based, low-income economy to a diversified, middle-income economy. As of 2015, life expectancy for the country’s 1.2 million inhabitants has reached 74 years, and only non-communicable diseases are now the most common causes of death. Here are the top diseases in Mauritius:

Ischemic Heart Diseases

A disease that involves a decreased blood flow to the heart, ischemic heart disease, also known as coronary artery disease, was the deadliest of the top diseases in Mauritius in 2015. This has been a pattern for the past ten years. In 2014 alone, the disease took 1,148 lives. Fortunately, the disease had decreased in prevalence by 9.5 percent since 2005.

Diabetes

Diabetes, a disease of permanently altered insulin levels and blood sugar, was the second highest cause of death in Mauritius as of 2015. In 2005, diabetes was only the third most common cause of death, but throughout the decade, deaths from the disease had climbed in prevalence by a staggering 65.1 percent, most likely due to a combination of recent changes in dietary habits after the introduction of fast food, lack of exercise and genetic predisposition.

Conscious of the growing health concern, the Mauritian government has established a National Service Framework for Diabetes. The goal of the organization is to lay out strategies for prevention and standards of care to be implemented.

Cerebrovascular Disease

A disease of cerebral circulation, deaths by cerebrovascular disease in Mauritius had dropped from the second most common cause of death in 2005 to the third most common cause of death in 2015, as the disease had decreased in prevalence by 9.5 percent.

In the newly industrialized economy, deaths by both ischemic heart disease and cerebrovascular disease have decreased. At the same time, diabetes, the disease that has rapidly picked up speed, is being addressed by the Mauritian government. The country, therefore, is quickly becoming a foreign aid success story, with a responsive government ready to address the top diseases in Mauritius.

Shannon Golden

Photo: Flickr


The Republic of Mauritius is a tiny island in the Indian Ocean, located just east of Madagascar and the African continent. It gained independence from Great Britain in 1968 and became a Republic in 1992. Education in Mauritius is still in its early stages, in a former British colony, mirrors the British system of education.

Much like other places around the world, the island nation’s educational system offers primary and secondary education. Children begin their primary education at the age of five. There are six elementary school years, at the end of which students take the Certificate of Primary Education (CPE) examination. The next step is admission into a secondary school.

Like primary education, attendance at secondary school in Mauritius is compulsory, until age 16. Students attend for five to seven years, depending on exam scores that keep them on an academic track or transition them into vocational programs. Those who stay the full seven years take additional exams for the opportunity to move on to post-secondary and university education.

Many children ages three through five attend pre-primary schools. According to Statistics Mauritius for 2016, nearly 29,000 students were enrolled in such schools. Almost 100 percent of the population of 4 to 5-year-olds attended pre-primary schools. More than 97,300 (97 percent) students enrolled in 318 primary schools for the 2016 school year. While the number enrolled in secondary school grew to over 110,000, only 72 percent of students eligible attended.

The problem with education in Mauritius is retention. Attendance drops 25 percent from primary to secondary school. There needs to be a bigger focus on retaining students as they progress through secondary education and beyond.

One key indicator of success is the educators themselves and how many are teaching the children. A lower student/teacher ratio is critical to obtain the best possible education for each student. With more students per teacher, some students are overlooked and do not get the attention they require to learn. In Mauritius, the ratio improves the older students get, from 24 in primary education to 13 in secondary schools. Unfortunately, this is because of secondary school attrition.

While the Republic of Mauritius is very young, school enrollment has been high. Although education in Mauritius has produced students who are achieving better scores, there remains room for improvement and growth. A stable foundation has been laid, and quality is only going to increase.

Brendin Axtman

Photo: Flickr

Ethical Vacation Destinations
Recently becoming the world’s largest industry, travel is one of the hottest commodities on the market. With a trillion-dollar annual footprint, the travel business has major economic and political power. However, not all destinations are created equal. Where you, as a traveler, choose to journey can either encourage best practice behavior from mindful countries, or support the harmful tourist industries of their irresponsible counterparts.

Ethical Traveler is an all-volunteer, nonprofit organization that seeks to use tourism to protect human rights and the environment. Every year, Ethical Traveler compiles a list of 10 developing countries with vibrant tourism industries that will put your traveling expenses to good use.

The countries that made the list are those that scored best in the categories of support of human rights, preservation of the environment, social welfare and animal welfare. According to Ethical Traveler, “Each country selected as a Best Ethical Destination also offers the opportunity to experience unspoiled natural beauty, and to interact with local people and cultures in a meaningful, mutually enriching way.”

This year’s winners may surprise you; the majority of these unusual destinations are off the beaten path, but promise an outstanding vacation with values you can feel good about. Here are the 10 most ethical vacation destinations.

The Bahamas

These islands prioritize conservation and sustainability, as shown by the efforts to establish new Marine Protected Areas and the expansion of a number of protected acres in a major National Park. The Bahamas made great strides to combat human trafficking this year, with the first prosecution under human trafficking law.

Barbados

Cited by Ethical Traveler as a “best practice model for the Caribbean,” Barbados promotes sustainable tourism while protecting its coastline. The child mortality rate in Barbados is particularly low, and this nation received the highest possible score in the categories of Political Rights and Civil Liberties –higher even than some developed countries.

Cape Verde

This country has the goal of making energy 100 percent renewable over the next two decades. Cape Verde is also an outstanding example of an African country with stellar attention to political and civil rights, with laws that prohibit discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation, and holding its first Gay Pride Week this year — the second to take place in all of Africa.

Dominica

This island boasts unspoiled forests and native species. An emphasis on protecting wildlife includes the preservation of native frog and iguana populations, along with a valiant effort to save endemic mountain chickens, which only inhabit two islands in the world. Dominica has expanded solar power across the island, and has the goal of being energy-independent and carbon negative by 2020.

Latvia

Of the winning destinations, Latvia scored the highest in environmental protection. This nation has been acknowledged as one of the top performers in the world in both environmental public health and ecosystem vitality. Not only does this country have a pristine environmental record, it is the highest ranked of the 10 countries in gender equality.

Lithuania

Like Latvia, Lithuania is a leader in environmental and animal protection. Lithuania made strides in social welfare this year by reaching it’s Millennium Development Goal for under 5 mortality rate, which has dropped by a whopping 52 percent since 2000.

Mauritius

This year Mauritius announced an impressive renewable energy goal, aiming for 35 percent renewable use over the next two decades. The U.N. praised Mauritius for having made ‘substantial progress’ in social welfare this year, due to their improvements in property rights and labor freedom.

Palau

In Palau, 28.2 percent of precious marine and terrestrial area is protected – the highest percentage out of all the countries on this list. Press freedom in Palau is impressive; this country prides itself on exemplary freedom of press for a developing country.

Uruguay

Uruguay is in the process of building 21 wind farms, and is working toward the goal of 90 percent renewable electricity by 2015. Uruguay dominates the category of human rights, with laws passed this year allowing marriage equality and the legalization of steps toward ending unsafe abortions. This country’s equality ranking was second only to Chile.

By visiting the destinations on this list, travelers can reward developing countries for their promotion of sustainable tourism and ethical laws. The additional economic support from tourism will allow these nations to continue improving their countries, and protect the valuable natural resources that make them such appealing places to explore.

Grace Flaherty 

Sources: BBC 1, BBC 2, Ethical Traveler
Photo: BBC

africa-seychelles
Though African countries may not be the most traditional tourist destinations for the average Westerner, the World Economic Forum’s Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Report 2013 ranked five African countries in the world’s top twenty-five most welcoming places to travel. This report, which evaluates destinations according to their “attractiveness and competitiveness,” also indicated that several African countries are frequent destinations for business trip extensions. While these measures cannot wholly encompass the subjective factors that draw people to specific tourist destinations, the WEF’s report highlights the burgeoning role of African countries in the global economy and encourages people to travel to Africa for their next trip abroad. Here are the top 5 countries to visit in Africa:

1.  Seychelles – Ranked as the top country for travel and tourism competitiveness in Africa, the Republic of Seychelles is a group of 115 islands located off the east coast of Africa. The islands’ scenery is replete with luxury hotels, sandy beaches, and palm trees, vastly different from the diverse climates of continental Africa.

2.  Mauritius – Mauritius came in second on the WEF’s list of Africa’s most competitive travel destinations, ranked highly because of its high safety and security ratings and desirable island environment. Located to the east of Madagascar, Mauritius is a popular destination for golf and deep sea fishing and is home to countless resorts and spas.

3.  South Africa – South Africa has become an increasingly popular tourist destination due to its historical significance, outdoor activities, and cultural opportunities. Listed as the third most competitive travel destination in Africa by the WEF, South Africa’s visitors embrace the country’s climactic and cultural diversity.

4.  Morocco – Ranked third in the world on the WEF’s list of the most welcoming nations for tourists, Morocco is home to many sites of cultural and historical significance. Visitors flock to the country in pursuit of its grand architecture, exciting bazaars and monumental cities such as Casablanca.

5.  Rwanda – Placed third on the WEF’s list of the African countries most recommended for business trip extensions, Rwanda is finally moving past the days of its 1994 genocide to become a popular travel destination. The country boasts mountainous scenery, hidden beaches, and extensive rainforests, a prime destination for visitors wishing to experience Africa’s beauty without traveling to its more frequented sites.

Katie Bandera

Sources: How We Made It In Africa, WEF, Lonely Planet
Photo: Vacation Rental Times