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 EducationDebates 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

Facts about Child Mortality
Since 1990, the world has almost cut infant mortality rates in half. Where the number of neonatal deaths in the first 28 days was once 5.1 million in 1990, there were just 2.7 million in 2015. Although this progress is heartening, it does not meet the Millennium Development Goal of a two-thirds decrease in the mortality rate for children under five.

In fact, over 17,000 children under five years old continue to die every day of treatable conditions. This is evidence that we must focus on this problem more heavily, and that child survival must be made an ongoing priority. Here are 10 facts about child mortality:

  1. About 99 percent of newborn deaths transpire in low and middle-income countries.
  2. Africa and South Asia currently have the highest rates of infant mortality and show the least amount of progress in combating it.
  3. In 2015, 5.9 million children died before their fifth birthday. This is equivalent to 11 child deaths every minute.
  4. Approximately 2.7 million child deaths occur within their first month of life. Nearly 50 percent of these deaths occur within the first 24 hours, while 75 percent occur within the first week.
  5. A child’s risk of mortality is highest in the neonatal period. This period occurs in the first 28 days of a child’s life.
  6. Leading causes of child mortality in children under 5 years include preterm birth complications, pneumonia, birth asphyxia, diarrhea and malaria.
  7. Roughly 45 percent of all child deaths are at least in part due to malnutrition.
  8. Children who have lost their mothers are ten times as likely to die prematurely than children whose mothers are present.
  9. In 2015, low-income countries saw one child in every 13 dies before the age of five. In wealthy nations, this occurred in only one child of every 143.
  10. About 3 million of the 5.9 million children who die each year can be saved at a low cost to wealthy nations.

There are things that can be done to help. Access to affordable health care has proven effective against child fatality in developing nations. In fact, more than half of child fatalities worldwide are due to conditions that can be easily treated or prevented should mothers and children be given access to simple and affordable care.

The 48 hours following birth are the most important, as this is when the mother and child are most vulnerable. It is also important that mothers and their children receive follow-up care to both prevent and treat illness.

The bipartisan Reach Every Mother and Child Act (H.R. 3706) is one such solution that works toward ending preventable deaths of mothers and young children in developing countries. If the bill should pass, it would mandate a multi-year strategy to combat maternal and infant mortality, part of which would entail establishing a permanent United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Maternal and Child Survival Coordinator.

The job of this coordinator would be to find and implement a strategy that will bolster the most effective treatments and interventions making them available or scaled up in target countries. It would also require the executive branch of the United States government to develop a fiscal framework to get commitments from non-profit organizations, the private sector, ally countries and global organizations.

Infant mortality is a problem in this world. However, by working together to lobby congress and by donating to global organizations such as UNICEF it is one that we can work to alleviate.

You can make a difference by asking your members of Congress to support the Reach Every Mother and Child Act here.

Kayla Provencher

Photo: Flickr

Hunger in Chile
Chile is a coastal country in South America housing 17.65 million people, with an estimated 2.5 million living under the poverty line.

Those living below the poverty live and inevitably those experiencing hunger in Chile, have been the recipients of governmental and international aid. In 2014, Chile was recognized by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), as having reached the first Millenium Development Goal to reduce the number of those facing hunger in Chile by half since 1990.

Statistics show undernourishment was reduced from 4.3 percent between 1990 and 2015. Currently, 2.5 percent of the population is undernourished.

These reductions are a result of the government-sponsored “Fondo Chile Contra el Hambre y la Pobreza,” or the Chile Fund against Hunger and Poverty. This organization, as well as the UNDP, has funded programs targeting the South-South Cooperation (SSC) and consequently Millennium Development Goals.

The SSC is defined as a developmental program among southern countries to promote, “multi-stakeholder approach, including non-governmental organizations, the private sector, civil society, academia and other actors…”

Through communication and integration, the SSC enables countries to enhance economic, social and scientific potentials.

As the Fund’s handbook stated, this organization encourages Chilean economic prosperity through, “multilateral perspective; which was acknowledged as one of the Millennium Goals, specifically reflected in Goal eight: developing a global partnership for development.”

Central to Chile, however, the issue of hunger has escalated to a triple issue involving undernutrition, obesity and income. Mark Hyman explains this phenomenon, “These foods [processed foods] crowd out more nutrient-dense foods because they are inexpensive and convenient.”

The price difference forces low-income, rural citizens to buy unhealthy foods. When only able to buy and consume unhealthy food, more people will sink into the undernourished population.

To combat this issue, FAO has implemented priority themes, all of which are part of the DRE, decent rural employment promotion. It focuses on “employment-centered responsible agro-investments, gender and age-disaggregated analysis, decent work conditions in agriculture,” and advocacy for natural disasters.

These priorities centralize on the Chilean Fund’s initiatives such as “Malnutrition, Food Security Fostering Employment and Decent Employment, Design of Social Programs…”

These organizations and their programs promote the job market for many men and women who in turn, will receive higher incomes and be able to provide themselves with healthier food.

The already visible success is a positive trend for those living in hunger in Chile. Such achievements will help reduce the number of those living below the poverty line and those who are undernourished.

Kristen Guyler

Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Kazakhstan
In the early 1990s, Kazakhstan gained autonomy from the Soviet Union but was faced with a steeply deteriorating economy and an increasing poverty rate. Over the course of the following two decades, however, the nation’s government has worked with international organizations to successfully reduce poverty in Kazakhstan to acceptable levels.

Experts claim that Kazakhstan’s poor economic performance and high poverty rates during the ’90s was due to the country’s sudden declaration of independence. Kazakhstan simply did not have the infrastructure or stable government needed to smoothly transition into self-governance.

The fledgling country was forced to confront these structural and political problems while dealing with a poverty rate so high that one-third of their population lived on less than two dollars a day.

Though it began in a less-than-ideal circumstance, Kazakhstan made a rapid turn-around. In less than a decade, the poverty rate declined from a 30 percent peak in 2001 to a low of 1.1 percent in 2009. Though the poverty rate has since risen by a number of percentage points, it experienced less major fluctuations. New institutions are also currently being created to eradicate its causes.

The methods used by the Kazakhstani government to eliminate poverty within the country were simple but effective. During the country’s greatest time of need, leaders made the influential decision to adhere to the Millennium Development Goals (MDG’s), which aim to reduce poverty. The country committed to decreasing poverty in the long-run and created a program that lasted for over a decade.

Another key factor that helped reduce poverty in Kazakhstan was the heavy involvement of international humanitarian organizations like the United Nations Development Program (UNDP). Between 2002 and 2007, the UNDP organized a dozen major projects in an effort to bring down poverty rates throughout the nation.

Kazakhstan has shown unwavering dedication to United Nations (UN) improvement programs and policies, especially those that focus on social and economic development. Together with the UN, Kazakhstan has engaged in MDG Plus—a program that extends the Millennium Development Goals. The nation will concentrate specifically on increasing sustainable development and gender equality. They will additionally work to reduce unemployment and poverty.

Economic experts have recently become concerned about Kazakhstan’s high dependency on oil—73 percent of exports from the country come from petroleum products. This fact, combined with falling oil prices, has led authorities to predict that Kazakhstan will register its first annual GDP loss in almost two decades. This is likely to negatively impact poverty and slow the process of social development.

The IMF created a brief report after its regional director, Masood Ahmed, visited various senior officials in Kazakhstan. Ahmed commented on the hard work that the government was putting in, and their determination to make their fiscal plans succeed. Though faced with a recent impediment, Kazakhstani politicians were determined to find new ways to stimulate the economy by selling petroleum.

This speed bump is frustrating, but not debilitating. Poverty in Kazakhstan has decreased and is still decreasing. Furthermore, experts claim that by 2020 the country will experience vast improvements in many social development factors. Kazakhstan’s past and present economic growth illustrates how committed individuals will always find ways to make progress happen.

Preston Rust

Photo: Pixabay

Childhood poverty awareness
UNICEF recently released a video showing how people react to children based on the types of clothes they are wearing. The video was in conjunction with the State of the World’s Children Report of 2016, sending a strong message to society about childhood poverty awareness.

The social experiment video that UNICEF released in company with the State of the World’s Children Report of 2016 has sparked an overdue societal reaction. The video has ignited conversations about what can be done to increase childhood poverty awareness.

UNICEF’s message following the video was that the world must invest in poor children before the world becomes more divided and unequal. It is a call to action motivated by a sense of urgency and the conviction that a better world is possible.

In the video, the production team dresses a little girl named Anano in very nice clothes. As she stands alone on the sidewalk, people consistently ask her if she is lost and try to help her. When the production team changes Anano’s appearance, dressing her in scrappy clothes with soot on her face, a drastic change occurs. Looking as if she is stricken by poverty, those passing by ignore her. She is left alone in the street without anyone giving her a second glance.

In the second experiment, the production team has Anano enter a restaurant using the same set-up. When she was dressed in stylish clothing, many customers are very friendly towards her and are willing to entertain her. When her appearance changes, she is greatly ignored. As she walks past tables, women move their purses out of range and suggest that she be taken out of the restaurant. Anano became so upset after this scene that production had to halt the video.

What is clear is the heart-wrenching message that UNICEF is trying to portray with the release of this video. Although reading a report may strike a chord, visual images often evoke stronger reactions.

The emotions that society feels while watching the video are the emotions that UNICEF would like everyone to feel knowing that there are millions of children around the world living in extreme poverty. It is not enough to feel for just Anano; as a society, it is imperative that these reactions are put into actions and are carried out throughout the world.

In the 180 pages of the State of the World’s Children Report of 2016, UNICEF notes that childhood poverty awareness must be increased today in order to achieve the Millennium Development Goals by 2030. If these goals are not met, 167 million children will live in extreme poverty by that time. In addition, 69 million children that are now under the age of five will die before 2030 and 60 million children of age to attend primary school will not attend.

The report covers child health, education, poverty and equality. It urges society to strengthen the principles of increasing child poverty awareness by allowing the public to have access to information about the number of children living in poverty. The report also suggests ways to accelerate the processes of investing in equity and creating innovative ways to finance the poorest of the poor.

One disparity that UNICEF reports on is the lack of health providers in poor countries. Sub-Saharan Africa has 1.8 million fewer health workers than its population needs. With women facing a 1-in-36 chance of dying from pregnancy-related complications, UNICEF urges that child survival begins with women’s health.

The report concludes that the futures of millions of impoverished and vulnerable children will be endangered unless the world advances the pace of the developments that are being made in mitigating childhood poverty awareness.

Kimber Kraus

Photo: YouTube