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Top 10 Facts Living conditions In Kenya
Kenya is a culturally rich country located in Eastern Africa along the equator and is one of the most significant places for paleontological discoveries about human’s ancestors. The presence of ethnic diversity within a population of 48.5 million people has amplified its cultural and linguistic wealth but, sadly, it has also been a source of conflict.

Despite the reoccurring security issues, including terrorist attacks by Al-Shabaab, Kenya has been achieving some tremendous changes in the political, structural and economic spheres through various reforms. These reforms were a result of a change in the constitution that took place in 2010 and has overall played a key role in the sustained economic growth and social development. The nation continues the deal with some pertinent issues such as poverty, inequality and climate change.

These top 10 facts living conditions in Kenya portray the living conditions in Kenya through the positive changes occurring as well as the challenges the country faces.

Top 10 Facts Living Conditions in Kenya

  1. The 2010 constitutional changes meant a significant part of changing the gears toward development for Kenya as it addressed historically rooted issues such as geographic, demographic and human rights issues that have been an obstacle for the progress of the nation.
  2. As a result of the changes, three years after the constitutional improvements took place, Kenya had a peaceful election for the offices of the National and County Government with demands for fair resource allocation and accountable service delivery.
  3. Kenya has made some commendable achievements including the fulfillment of some of the Millenium Development Goals such as the decrease in child mortality, universal primary school enrollment and the lessened gender gap in education.
  4. Kenya is considered to be one of the fastest growing economies in Africa with a growth rate near 5.8 percent, despite the setbacks caused by the 2008 global economic recession.
  5. Although the overall economy in the country is increasing, the gap between the rich and poor have been growing immensely. Almost 42 percent of the country’s population continues to live below the poverty line.
  6. Due to this great gap between the rich and poor the achievement of Millenium Development Goals, social security, in particular, have been a point of debate as the large part of the society still does not have sufficient access to basic services such as health care, education and clean water.
  7. The Kenya 2030 Vision development programme has the potential to change the lack of access for the larger part of the population through devolved health care as well as free maternal care that could greatly improve health care outcomes.
  8. In December 2017, President Uhuru Kenyatta announced what he called the “Big Four”, four pillars that will be most important in his last term as president and that are: manufacturing, universal health care, affordable housing and food security.
  9. There have been some security issues in recent years with a growing number of attacks due to the Islamist militant Al-Shabaab movement that has set camp in the neighboring country, Somalia. Some of the most infamous ones include the devastating attack in 2013 Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi and the attack on Garissa University in 2015.
  10. In recent years, Kenya has been dealing with a humanitarian issue as a result of the influx of refugees coming from Somalia that have reached over 500,000 people, while refugees immigrating from South Sudan amount to over 30,000 people.

As a country with a tremendous number of young people, skilled labor, a revised constitution and infrastructural resources, Kenya has the potential to be one of the leading nations in the Eastern African. In order to reach such heights, however, it is essential that the country produces and implements sustainable solutions for its security, social and political problems while putting efforts to alleviate poverty.

Bilen Kassie
Photo: Flickr

Remembering Kofi Annan: A Leader in the Fight Against Global Poverty
In his ten years as the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan was a beacon for diplomacy, peace and unity in the international community. Annan held this already highly scrutinized position in a time when global terrorism and political instability were occurring in almost every corner of the world.

As head of a United Nations’ peacekeeping operation that failed to prevent genocides in Bosnia and Rwanda, Annan erroneously received personal blame and scrutiny throughout tumultuous times in his career. Yet, the manner in which he carried himself and pushed forward to fix his shortcomings, mold the institutional legitimacy of the U.N.

His work on curtailing the global poverty and human rights abuses earned him unprecedented praise from world leaders and representatives of poor and rich nations, as well as a Nobel Peace Prize in 2001.

Remembering Kofi Annan’s fight against global poverty is very important since it serves as a model of the amount of commitment, patience and humanity that are needed to make a difference.

Early Years: The Birth of an Advocate

Annan was born in what is now Kumasi, Ghana, in 1938. Being that he was the grandson and nephew of Asante chiefs, rulers of his home nation of Ghana at the time, Annan’s exposure to the world of politics came at an early age. His formal education also coincided with the Ghanaian independence movement that saw the nation become the first nation in Africa to gain independence from Britain.

The independence movement left many people in Ghana feeling that anything is possible. His vision of what the world could be, but most importantly, his pursuit of that vision demonstrates that he bought into this idea as well.

Millennium Development Goals

During his tenure at the United Nations, Annan was responsible for instituting some of the most pivotal developmental reforms priming the organization for the role it now holds in international affairs. Annan changed the United Nations from an institution that was once passive into the one that now promotes the norm of humanitarian intervention and advocacy. His advocacy and reforms often manifested themselves to protect those facing extreme poverty.

One of the most notable projects in Annan’s fight against global poverty was the Millennium Development Goals, at the forefront of which was the goal of halving extreme poverty, defined as people living on income less than $1.25, by the year 2015.

“For many countries, it will be necessary to take concrete steps to ensure that faster and more pro-poor economic growth is achieved between now and 2015 if they are to have a real chance of meeting the 2015 target,” Annan said back in 2001.

But he did not simply urge member countries to solve the problem. Rather, he presented a framework that would allow states to embed poverty reduction strategies into their plans for national development and policy. He also used his political prowess to bargain and incentivize richer nations to increase spending on development aid to 0.7 percent of their national incomes, a portion that can be described as low even today.

Annan’s United Nations also pushed for innovative ways to reduce poverty, including increasing access to renewable energy. Ultimately, the Millennium Development Goals would be dubbed as the most successful anti-poverty movement in history, just barely missing out on a goal of reducing extreme poverty levels by half.

Remembering Kofi Annan’s Impact on the Fight Against Poverty

Annan was a champion of world development and poverty reduction, particularly in his native continent of Africa. He was a chairman of the Africa Progress Panel after his second and final term as United Nations Secretary-General. The Panel, now subsumed by the Africa Progress Group, advocates for the equitable and sustainable development of African nations through international collaboration and engagement in global politics.

Annan helped to establish the annual Africa Progress Report that, among many things, analyzed and reported on the progress that African nations were making toward the Sustainable Development Goals.

He also founded the Kofi Annan Foundation that served as a catalyst for lasting peace and inclusive governance by anticipating looming threats security, development and human rights.

Kofi Annan’s commitment to the world’s poor never faltered throughout the duration of his career. As Secretary-General of the United Nations Annan faced many difficult and discouraging moments. But the spirit that emboldened Annan’s vision of a more effective United Nations and a more equitable world allowed him to carry on.

Annan’s fight against global poverty was immense. He showed the world what it means to be a dedicated advocate. But most importantly, he showed us that no vision is too big to be attained. Remembering Kofi Annan and his efforts in eradicating the world’s poverty are very important to cherish. Annan’s legacy lives on through his family, The Kofi Annan Foundation, the Africa Progress Group and the United Nations.

But it also lives on through the people that continue to dedicate themselves and their lives to the fight against global poverty.

– Isha Kakar
Photo: Flickr

Strategies for Economic Growth and Sustainability in Ghana
In a monumental accomplishment, Ghana has triumphed in its Millenium Development Goal of cutting poverty within the nation in half. In the 1990s, half the population was subject to living standards below the poverty line, but by 2013 this figure was down to less than a quarter.

The country now gears up for the U.N.’s first Sustainable Development Goal of completely ending poverty in Ghana. With this new goal in mind, Ghana is challenged to address the lagging segment of the population and stimulate growth and greater equality.

Agriculture in Ghana

From 2007 to 2016, Ghana managed to stimulate economic growth at a rate above 7 percent. However, the agricultural industry only grew by 3.5 percent, lagging much behind the economy. In fact, the African Development Bank reported that Ghana’s agricultural sector would need to achieve a 7 percent growth in order to initiate poverty reduction.

The reason agriculture is a crucial area of improvement to end poverty in Ghana is that more than half of its population works in this industry. Over 90 percent of employment in rural areas is based in agriculture, and these areas also comprise the poorest of the poor in the entire country.

Opportunities For Development

Fortunately, the means for development stems from the agricultural sector and would significantly contribute to Ghana’s growth and overall poverty reduction. The following is a condensed list with strategies and areas of improvement that would help achieve economic growth in the agricultural sector and ultimately push ahead ending poverty in Ghana:

  1. Incorporate mechanization and other technology
  2. Advance beyond rainfed agriculture
  3. Promote security in the land tenure system
  4. Stimulate interest and investment in agriculture
  5. Improve storage and management of post-harvest yields
  6. Make policy that focuses on progressing agriculture beyond subsistence farming

Sustainable Growth and Energy

Ghana faces other challenges in infrastructure that hinder economic growth and poverty alleviation; however, the U.N. Development Program supported Ghana in its transition to greater infrastructure in a sustainable way. Energy, for instance, appears to be one of the key focus areas for infrastructure improvement.

The U.N. provided adaptation and mitigation strategies in Ghana’s development policies and programs. Moreover, this cooperation between the U.N. and Ghana also contributed to Ghana’s mission to diversify energy sources, greatly incorporate renewable energy and develop more efficient energy.

Secretary General’s Sustainable Energy for All Initiative

One such collaborative effort between Ghana and an international organization to secure poverty reduction and economic growth is the Secretary General’s Sustainable Energy for All Initiative (SEforALL). SEforALL works to advance energy systems, end energy poverty and promote prosperity. In fact, the three main objectives are as follows:

  1. Provide universal access to up-to-date energy services
  2. Double the global rate of energy efficiency
  3. Double the renewable energy inclusion in the global energy mix

Efforts to End Poverty in Ghana

Ghana has advanced and grown significantly over the past two decades; poverty is cut by more than a half of what it was before the turn of the century. Ghana stands as one of the few countries that achieved the Millennium Development Goal.

Fortunately, there are numerous strategies, focus areas and initiatives occurring today to end poverty in Ghana once and for all.

Roberto Carlos Ventura
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Poverty in Rwanda

Small, landlocked and with a densely packed population of approximately 11.9 million people, Rwanda has become one of the fastest growing economies in Central Africa. Since the 1994 genocide that left 800,000 dead, Rwanda has seen over two decades of uninterrupted economic growth and social progress.

However, even with these great strides, more than 60 percent of the population continues to live on less than $1.25 a day. The government has guarded its political stability since the genocide and has prioritized long-term developmental goals to assure that its economy continues to grow and poverty falls. Here are 10 important facts about poverty in Rwanda.

10 Facts About Poverty in Rwanda

  1. Rwanda’s global income ranking has improved from the seventh poorest in 2000 to the twentieth in 2015. This is due to the government’s commitment to strong governance and the principles of market economy and openness.
  2. Although more than 60 percent still live in extreme poverty, Rwanda has reduced the percentage of people living below the poverty line from 57 percent in 2005 to 45 percent in 2010.
  3. The decline in poverty can be attributed to three main reasons: an increase in farm productivity, an increase in non-farm employment and an “increase in the number of livelihood activities in which an individual engages, such as running small businesses,” according to United Nations Rwanda.
  4. The country’s Vision 2020 is a strategy that aims to “transform the country from a low-income, agriculture-based economy to a knowledge-based, service-oriented economy with middle-income country status by 2020,” the World Bank reports.
  5. To achieve Vision 2020’s goals, the government has developed a medium-term strategy, the second Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Strategy (EDPRS 2). This showcases its overarching goal of growth and poverty reduction through four areas: rural development, economic transformation, government accountability, productivity and youth employment.
  6. Inequality measured by the Gini coefficient fell from 0.49 in 2011 to 0.45 in 2014.
  7. Almost 64 percent of parliamentarians are women in Rwanda, compared to just 22 percent worldwide. This has enabled women to advance economically.
  8. As it continues to rebuild after the genocide, foreign aid still contributes to 30-40 percent of the Rwandan government’s revenues.
  9. Economic growth fell by 4.7 percent in 2013 after some donors withheld aid over a 2012 U.N. report that alleged the government was backing rebels in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
  10. At the end of 2015, Rwanda had met most of the U.N.’s Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). With a two-thirds drop in child mortality and near-universal primary school enrollment, the country saw strong economic growth accompanied by substantial improvements in living standards.

These facts about poverty in Rwanda demonstrate the current programs and priorities. With a strong focus on homegrown policies and governmental initiatives like Vision 2020 and EDPRS 2, Rwanda has contributed to significant improvements in access to services and human development. The country’s Growth Domestic Product (GDP) grew eight percent each year from 2001 to 2014 and continues to see improvements in life expectancy, primary school enrollment, literacy and healthcare spending.

However, economic growth has been slowing down recently and remained subdued in 2017. Although the country still has some ways to go, these 10 facts about poverty in Rwanda are meant to show a glimpse into the remarkable growth the country has seen already.

– Aaron Stein
Photo: Google

 NamibiaNamibia gained its independence from South Africa in 1990. However, it is still dealing with the result of socioeconomic inequalities that came from the apartheid system during colonization. The government has achieved the UNDP Millennium Development Goal of cutting its poverty rate in half, but has unfortunately failed to eradicate hunger in Namibia.

Namibia has a Global Hunger Index (GHI) of 31.4, as reported by the International Food Policy Research Institute. This shows an alarming level of hunger in Namibia. What makes it more serious is the fact that Namibia has the lowest percentage reductions in GHI scores since 2000. Though child stunting, child wasting and child mortality have declined, undernourishment has increased to 42.3 percent. The factors that lead to hunger in Namibia include frequent droughts and flooding, putting pressure on the country’s agricultural and livestock production.

Chronic droughts, lack of agricultural land and water shortages result in crop failure. This means that agricultural production is severely low, even though about 70 percent of the population depends on the agricultural sector for their subsistence.

15.8 percent of Namibia’s population lives on less than $ 1.25 per day. Its economy is largely dependent on extraction and limited processing of minerals like diamonds, gold and zinc. It is also one of the largest producers of uranium in the world. However, only 10 percent of the labor force is employed in the mining sector.

Poverty is the most important of the causes of hunger in Namibia, limiting access to food. Another problem is that Namibia is heavily reliant on food imports (60 percent of all its food requirements), which means it is subject to high prices. The proportion of food insecure individuals was estimated at 25 percent in 2016.

Recently, the World Food Programme and Namibia’s National Planning Commission launched a five-year Country Strategic Plan (CSP) with an aim to end hunger in Namibia. The CSP is aligned with the Fifth National Development Plan and the Zero Hunger Roadmap, meant to achieve two strategic wins: enabling the vulnerable population to meet their food and nutrition requirement and ensuring government policies and programme designs are more informed of hunger issues. The support includes implementation of food-based safety net programmes, food management and monitoring system as well as capacity development to sustain the improvements and achieve zero hunger in Namibia.

Tripti Sinha

Photo: Flickr

The South Asia region is home to over 1.7 billion people, 31.5 percent of whom are children. Across South Asia, up to one in four children is under-immunized or goes without vaccination. Since 1990, the region’s governments have made significant progress in increasing vaccination in South Asia as part of the United Nations Millennium Development Goal 4, which centers on strengthening routine immunization. Despite this, many barriers stand in the way of increasing immunization, such as a lack of funding, inadequate healthcare materials and a lack of consistent and reliable data on children’s vaccination needs.

In 2012, South Asia was one of many regions to adopt the Global Vaccine Action Plan in order to maximize the benefits of vaccination and aimed to achieve 90 percent of diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis (DTP3) coverage. Though progress has been made, with countries like Nepal and Bhutan achieving over 90 percent coverage, overall, South Asia lags behind other regions. Certain regions in Afghanistan and Pakistan have dangerously low immunization coverage and struggle with treatable illnesses such as meningitis and typhoid fever.

One of the main organizations trying to reverse these trends by increasing coverage in South Asia is Gavi, The Vaccine Alliance. Gavi has committed nearly $10 billion in funding for increasing immunization and vaccination in South Asia between 2000 and 2020. These funds are going towards vaccine development and implementation, especially in areas where refrigeration and effective vaccine delivery are not certain. One of Gavi’s most impactful developments was the introduction of a childhood pneumonia vaccine in Pakistan in 2012, making Pakistan the first country in the region to implement such a vaccine. Gavi has worked alongside UNICEF and the government of Pakistan, and they are still partnering to ensure the continued distribution of vaccines like this one.

Mixed success stories have been prevalent in the last decades when examining the efforts towards vaccination in South Asia. Bangladesh is one of the biggest success stories in the region; they heavily invested in health infrastructure and training after launching an Expanded Program on Immunization in the late 1980s. Since 1990, DTP3 has increased in Bangladesh by over 20 percent.

While certain South Asia countries struggle to implement uniform immunization measures, countries like India and Pakistan are changing things on a local level. Several districts in both states have implemented a system to recognize under-immunized communities and adopt corrective solutions. A recent breakthrough in India was the addition of a measles-rubella vaccine to their universal vaccination program.

As a region, South Asia lags behind other countries in terms of immunization and vaccination coverage, though certain countries have made great progress in the last decades. Thanks to the work of organizations like Gavi, the vaccine alliance, the future is brighter for South Asian children.

Nicholas Dugan

Photo: Flickr

Malaysian GovernmentMalaysia is currently on the rise as far as its economy. The country is now considered an upper-middle income economy that has become a leading exporter of electronic appliances, electronic parts and components, palm oil and natural gas.

Malaysia has been successful in eradicating most poverty in the country with less than 1 percent of households living in extreme poverty. The states of Penang, Selangor, Malacca and the federal territories showed marked improvements in 2012 with no extreme poverty in these regions.

“This is proof that the Federal Government’s initiatives to eradicate poverty have succeeded and been of benefit to the rakyat regardless of differences in political ideology,” Malaysia’s economic planning minister Tan Sri Nor Mohamed Yakcop said.

The Malaysian government has done an admirable job of exceeding the Millennium Development Goals which were introduced in 1990. Malaysia succeeded in halving the number of people living on less than a dollar a day much before the 2015 expectant date.

“This is a result of rapid economic development and the effectiveness of poverty eradication programs carried out by the government,” Yakcop said.

According to the Malaysian government, fewer than 110,000 people were living in poverty and that the poverty statistics had nearly been halved within the span of three years. According to this information, the overall poverty rate in Malaysia dropped to 1.7 percent in 2012 which is a significant change compared to the 3.8% in 2009.

The fall in poverty rates was felt in both urban and rural areas. In urban areas, the number of impoverished people fell to just 1 percent in 2012 compared to 1.7 percent in 2009. In rural areas, the numbers were staggering. Poverty rates dropped from 8.4 percent in 2009 to 3.4 percent in 2012.

The focus of the Malaysian government has shifted toward the well-being of “the bottom 40” or poorest 40 percent of the population. Between From 2014 the average household of “the bottom 40” grew at 11.9 percent a year compared to 7.9 percent from 2009 for the total population.

Income inequality still remains a major issue in Malaysia compared to other East Asian countries but the disparity is gradually declining. According to its Gini coefficient, a measurement of income inequality where 0 and 1 indicates perfect inequality, Malaysia scored around 0.49, one of the highest in the region.

Though Malaysia still has some significant work to do as long as income equality, state programs have been put in place to alleviate much of the disparity. With the help of its own government, Malaysia stands as a significant example of a success in the region.

Drew Hazzard

Photo: Flickr

Closing the Gap in Global Education
Debates about education often center on the quality of public schools, diminishing budgets, scarce resources and technological provisions in the United States. While a focus on domestic educational issues is commendable and necessary, there is a grimmer picture across the world. According to the World Inequality Database on Education, fewer than 50 percent of the poorest children have completed primary school in 39 out of 88 countries. The economic productivity and social quality of life of any country depends on its educated population, and closing the gap in global education is the key to global prosperity, safety and stability.

Indeed, education can eliminate bigger problems such as poverty, inequality, insecurity and disease. Equal access to a quality education, including access to content and means of delivering instruction and following a set curriculum, remains an unrealized dream and a struggle for many.

The last two centuries have seen an exponential increase in the number of children attending primary school globally, from 2.3 million to 700 million today. What is troubling is that children in the poorest households of developing nations, those arguably most in need of educational opportunities, are four times as likely to be out of school as those in the wealthiest households.

It is going to take another 100 years for children in developing countries to reach the education level of their counterparts in developed countries.

Access to a quality education remains a basic building block to success. Current approaches to educational equity necessitate a fundamental rethinking in that they must take into account that many children are unable to go to school because schools simply do not exist in parts of developing countries.

If schools do exist, teachers may lack proper training and simply be incapable of handling the demands of a classroom setting. Furthermore, barriers inherent in certain areas, such as societal demands and expectations, can hamper learning outside the classroom.

Technological tools and resources ignite curiosity and promote more efficient, up-to-date learning. A huge growth in social media platforms can certainly be aligned with classroom activity and curriculum, establishing more innovative ways for students and teachers to learn about global issues.

Though technology makes learning opportunities more widely accessible by decreasing the significance of geographical boundaries, a lack of technological infrastructure means that many children are deprived of the digital educational resources taken for granted in developed nations. For these students, the difficulty of closing the gap in global education comes with an additional cost: loss of productivity.

In 2015, the United Nations heavily promoted the Millennium Development Goals to achieve free universal primary education for all children by the year’s end.

Although it was unfortunate that the pace of improvement by countries could not keep up with the desire to have universal primary education, the primary school net enrollment rate did reach over 90 percent, and the number of out-of-school children fell from 100 million in 2000 to 57 million in 2015 . Movement toward closing the gap in global education is signified by the fact that not a single country in the world today is completely without a schooling system.

Today’s economy is knowledge-based and highly competitive. Schools in developed nations are entrusted with students who lack neither skills nor talents, but educational opportunities.

Some factors are beyond students’ control, such as where they were born and what their financial means are. But with the recent advancements in educational models, global education disparity can meaningfully be addressed and mitigated.

Mohammed Khalid

Photo: Flickr


It is no secret that health care in developing countries is abysmal. Inhabitants in these countries suffer from unclean water, poor sanitation conditions and a high risk of contracting infectious and severe diseases. In the 1970s, the World Health Organization set a goal to have universal health care across the globe by the year 2000. It is now 2017, and that goal is nowhere near being achieved. Much of the disparity centers on health inequities between and within countries, especially in those less developed.

Low-income countries not only suffer from a lack of technology and education, but they also lack in the number of skilled professionals working in communities, where the result is people dying from treatable diseases like diarrhea. Another problem is that little research and development is conducted on diseases that affect such areas. Most global research spending on health care goes toward the prevention and curing of diseases suffered in the developed world, leaving little behind for developing countries.

This being said, there has been a recent shift towards bringing health care to developing countries. First, the United Nations acknowledged the health disparities and the lack of health care systems. To resolve these disparities, the Millennium Development Goals were created, with the Sustainable Development Goals following close behind. Each set of goals attempts to improve health care in less-developed countries using the resources available to the world’s more-developed nations. Strategies were formulated under the belief that “leaders in health care have an important stewardship role across all branches of society to ensure that policies and actions in other sectors improve health equity.”

The global health care crisis comes down to the cooperation of all nations working in concert to assure adequate health care in developing countries. This means using the resources of developed countries to research and set up prevention plans based on factors experienced in developing countries. It also means educating those in less-developed nations on safe sanitation practices and simple prevention methods.

To achieve universal health care, a team effort is required.

Taylor Elgarten

Photo: Flickr

Global Development: It’s Better Than You Think
Despite global victories in disease eradication, hunger and poverty reduction, the majority of Americans perceive the rest of the world to be in terrible shape. According to a recent study by the Barna group, 84 percent of Americans are unaware of the rising global development. In fact, 67 percent believe that global poverty has been rising since the 80’s. With regard to global health, 50 percent of Americans think child mortality is on the rise, and 35 percent believe that HIV/AIDS-related death has increased in the last five years.

It’s easy to make these assumptions when news headlines tend to focus on negative statistics. While it’s true the global community has a lot of work left to do, it’s also necessary to recognize the very tangible victories in humanitarian efforts over the last 50 years.

For instance, by 2010, the global community successfully lifted one billion people out of extreme poverty, reducing the world’s poorest population by half and achieving the U.N.’s first millennium development goal five years ahead of schedule. In developing regions, the population of undernourished people has decreased by nearly 50 percent since 1990.

Many economic and health-related improvements are directly tied to successful USAID programs. Every year, USAID saves more than 3 million lives through global vaccination efforts. More than 50 million couples worldwide use USAID sponsored family planning services. USAID has also played a major role in the global reduction of infant mortality by 10 percent through various child survival programs, as well as the U.N.’s Drinking Water Supply and Sanitation Decade, which gave 1.3 billion safe drinking water and 750 million people sanitation for the first time.

Still, there are widespread misconceptions about foreign aid and its effects on global development. The majority of Americans believe that 25 percent of the federal budget goes toward foreign aid and want that number reduced to ten percent. In reality, less than one percent of the federal budget is allocated for foreign aid. The gap between perception and reality isn’t just an American problem. A recent study by Dutch research firm Motivaction found that out of 26,000 people in 24 different countries, 87 percent of respondents said that extreme poverty had not improved over the last two decades. Just 1 percent were aware that extreme poverty has actually been cut in half.

But if global efforts are as successful as the data shows, does public perception even matter? Martijn Lampert, research director at Motivaction, explains: “If you don’t see it happen, you don’t believe it.” Motivaction’s research certainly supports the notion that seeing is believing, after the most optimistic survey responses, came out of emerging economies in India, China and Indonesia, where people witnessed tangible improvements. Even more telling, 50 percent of people in those regions correctly said that global poverty had been reduced by half, compared to 8 percent of Americans and Germans.

Perhaps if more Americans were aware of the real-life impact that foreign aid has made, there would be greater support for USAID programs. With that support, lawmakers and advocacy groups could face fewer challenges in passing legislation to immediately improve the living conditions of the world’s poor. Better understanding begins with the facts. Thanks to work done by the U.N., USAID, Motivaction and countless other groups, new data shows that global development is on the rise.

Jessica Levitan

Photo: Flickr