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10 Shocking Facts About Fidel Castro As the political leader of Cuba from 1959 to 2008,  Fidel Castro, nicknamed El Comandante, was the “face of left-wing totalitarianism”. Though Castro’s educational reforms significantly improved the system of education in Cuba, they often came at the hand of communist policies that left its citizens impoverished as well. While most of Castro’s reforms proved harmful, a few paved the way for advances in Cuban health and education. Here are eight shocking facts about Fidel Castro.

8 Shocking Facts about Fidel Castro

  1. Castro eradicated Cuban illiteracy. Through the implementation of the Cuba Literacy Campaign of 1961, Cuba met the Millennium Development Goals set forth by the United Nations and the country’s literacy rate rose from 60 to 100 percent. In one day, the program opened 10,000 classrooms, guaranteeing education for all Cuban citizens. Overall, more than 700,000 Cubans became literate in just one year. Castro’s relentless fight for universal education brought the issue to the forefront of Cuban challenges and successfully improved literacy among its people.
  2. Castro established Cuba’s universal health care system. By nationalizing Cuban health care, Castro’s policies not only expanded public health care but improved it. With the establishment of the Rural Medical Service and the Declaration of Alma-Ata, Castro brought medical services to rural locations, opened family clinics and made free medical care accessible for all. Cuba’s health care successes also include completely blocking the transfer of HIV and syphilis from mother to child and providing the first vaccine for meningitis B, which is still the only available vaccine for the disease today. Castro not only provided health care for the Cuban people by improving prevention, equal coverage and access but his policies also advanced the quality of care as well.
  3. Castro punished those who thought differently than himself. By jailing political opponents and closing down newspapers with alternative political perspectives, those who thought differently than Castro were not safe during his reign. The native-born Cuban leader limited his citizens’ free speech and punished those who valued their voice more than their safety. Castro did not limit his punishments to speech; he also legalized physically abusive tactics on politically divergent individuals. Those who questioned or criticized the way Castro ran his government were often imprisoned, denied access to medical care, suffered beatings and entered solitary confinement. In 2003, Castro executed his methods on a larger scale when 75 people, human rights activists, journalists and trade unionists, received his abusive tactics following their outspoken criticism of the Cuban government.
  4. Castro limited economic freedom. Life under Castro’s rule was economically suffocating. With the creation of The First Agrarian Reform in 1959, Castro intended to improve the economy by redistributing land among the classes. The law, however, was more prohibitive than inclusive. It placed limits on the amount of land individuals could own, abolished private business and nationalized foreign land ownership. With The Second Agrarian Reform of 1963, these limits only became more restrictive. The new law gave Cuba ownership over two-thirds of national farmland, and by 1998, the country owned 82 percent of it. With such limited freedom over their own economic choices, hundreds of thousands of middle-class Cubans fled their homes for a better life in the U.S.
  5. Castro plunged Cuba into an economic downfall. During his rule, Castro made sugar Cuba’s main source of income. The growing of Cuban sugarcane relied on imports of fertilizers, pesticides and technology from the Soviet Union. So when the USSR fell in 1989, Cuba was no longer able to produce its main source of income, and its economy consequently collapsed. As a result, the country’s GDP fell by 35 percent, which propelled Cuba into a time of economic struggle known as the Special Period. Marked by food and housing shortages, increased unemployment and reduced public services, Castro’s economic decisions resulted in the impoverishment of his own people.
  6. Castro did not let human rights organizations enter Cuba. Castro treated many people inhumanely and he refused human rights organizations entry into the country. Without access to the country, organizations, such as the International Committee of the Red Cross, were unable to work toward improving the harsh realities of the Cuban people and inhumane practices went on without consequence.
  7. Castro refused to hold elections while in office. Castro remained in power for almost five decades and this was partly due to his refusal to leave power. Nobody was legally able to run against Castro unless they shared his political perspective because he placed a ban on multiparty elections after self-proclaiming himself a socialist. This meant that he was able to enforce his inhumane policies for decades and the economic strain was long-lasting.
  8. The Cuban government still uses Castro’s abusive methods. Abusive tactics introduced during Castro’s reign, such as arbitrary arrest and detention, beating, acts of repudiation and government surveillance, are still used in Cuba today according to the Human Rights Watch. While Raul Castro, Castro’s brother and Cuba’s current leader, has hinted towards reconsidering the country’s abusive methods, he has taken no real action, and the country’s citizens continue to suffer abuse. For example, in 2016, the arrests of 9,940 Cuban citizens led to harassments, beatings and the subjection to acts of repudiation.

These eight shocking facts about Fidel Castro cannot encapsulate 49 years of supremacy, though they can provide a glimpse into Cuban life under his rule. While Castro passed away in 2016, his death cannot erase the influence his policies had on Cuba. However, organizations, such as CARE and the Foundation for Human Rights in Cuba (FHRC) are implementing programs to increase living conditions in Cuba.

Organizations Working to Rebuild Castro’s Cuba

CARE, an organization that began working in Cuba during the Special Period, is doing great work to reinstate the food security Cuba lost during the fall of the Soviet Union. With projects such as the Strengthening Dairy Value Chain Project (SDVC) and the Co-Innovation Project, CARE is working with Cuban farmers to improve agricultural practices. CARE made Cuban food security a national priority by providing rural farmers with access to new farming technologies, helping them in diversifying their food supply and figuring out ways to make food products more accessible at the local level. While Castro’s rule limited non-governmental farmland ownership to 18 percent, Cuba now allows its citizens 66.29 percent of farmland ownership, meaning that Cuba now has the ability and freedom to achieve its food security goals.

FHRC uses non-violence to protect the rights of Cuban citizens. Through the Cuban Repressors Program, the FHRC has created a safe place for Cuban citizens to report violent Cuban government officials. The program provides Cuban activists with cameras and smartphones that allow them to record inhumane activity. It also distributes photos and pamphlets with images of repressive perpetrators to communities and posts identified repressors on the internet. Since the launch of the program, these methods have identified 93 repressors, and with the number of reported repressors decreasing each month, the FHRC is succeeding in attaining justice for the Cuban people.

U.S. Relations with Cuba

Years after Raul Castro took over presidential responsibilities from his brother, President Obama announced that the U.S. and Cuba would restore its diplomatic ties in an effort to normalize relations between the two countries. Obama began to ease U.S. trade and travel restrictions with Cuba that were upheld for decades due to Castro’s abusive policies. However, the Trump Administration is making efforts to roll back Obama’s policies and enforce new economic sanctions on Cuba. With Cuba’s newly elected president, Miguel Díaz-Canel, only time will tell how the U.S.- Cuba relationship will develop.

– Candace Fernandez
Photo: Flickr

Living Conditions in Papua New Guinea

With hundreds of ethnic groups indigenous to Papua New Guinea, the nation is made up of predominantly rural villages with their own languages. These top 10 facts about living conditions in Papua New Guinea gives an insight into what life in these communities is like.

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Papua New Guinea

  1. Papua New Guinea’s vast natural resources are being threatened. While 80 percent of Papua New Guinea is covered in forest, the resources are predicted to be used up in a generation, possibly just a decade. Home to what conservationists call “the last rainforest,” Papua New Guinea is home to massive resources loggers are rushing to exploit due to it being one of the last nations to legally permit the exportation of raw logs. As Vincent Mutumuto, a local of rural Papua New Guinea told the Gazette, the foreign logging is destroying many tiny farms such as his banana tree and watermelon farm, which brings in his family of 16’s only income. While loggers are thriving on the nation’s resources, Papuans and the economy of their nation are suffering from it.
  2. Papua New Guinea has failed to meet the Millennium Development Goals. With an average life expectancy of 62.9 years, the nation is ranked 157 out of 187 countries on the Human Development Index. Healthcare, water and sanitation, civil unrest and education are all behind this statistic. The nation is one of only a handful to not reach these goals.
  3. Tuberculosis incidences are highest in the region. Humid air and weak immune systems due to malnutrition allow the disease to stay strong. While much of the world sees tuberculosis as a thing of the past, it remains one of the most infectious killers in Papua New Guinea. The region of Daru Island in the country has been called by the World Health Organization (WHO) as a “global hotspot” for drug-resistant tuberculosis. The World Bank has contributed $15 million in the form of aid in screenings and programs diagnosing and treating the disease. Results of this multi-nation effort have proved positive thus far, and the programs are seeing expansion.
  4. Vaccinations aren’t accessible. For the population of 8.25 million, vaccinations must be helicoptered into the remote areas many locals live, if they are available at all. The World Health Organization has been sending aid to the authority on vaccinations in Papua New Guinea, the 1981-born Expanded Programme on Immunization (EPI) in the form of cleaner injections, safer waste disposal, accessible screening processes and setting up effective domestic production. Additionally, the WHO sent a score of important immunizations, such as those for maternal and neonatal tetanus, measles and hepatitis B.
  5. Water is a luxury. Many towns across Papua New Guinea have no central water supply system. Children must travel long distances to lug jugs back to their families. According to data from the World Bank, Papua New Guinea’s increase in accessible drinking water increased by an insignificant six percent while its overall sanitation index decreased by one percent, and that overall Papua New Guinea has the lowest water and sanitation access indicators among the 15 developing Pacific Island nations. Furthermore, the lack of water is impacting children’s education. As one teacher explained to World Bank, “I have seen that the problem of water is a major problem that affects many of our students in learning especially during the dry season.” Students are sent home early (around 12 p.m.) in order to help their parents gather water. During the dry season, students often miss school for days at a time.
  6. Violence is a side effect of poverty. Physical and sexual abuse are common in Papua New Guinea, and many occurrences committed by the police themselves. According to Human Rights Watch, police beat 74 men and slashed their ankles after a street brawl in the capital of Port Moresby this past May.
  7. Papua New Guinea is living in the dark. Only 20 percent of the nation’s population had access to electricity as of 2017. While PNG Power Ltd, the company running the nation’s electricity, is working with rural communities to provide power, development is still necessary.
  8. Businesses are improving. Rural wellbeing is being raised by a ‘bottom-up’ approach. This entails private sector involvement in isolated villages, focusing on improving family businesses such as local farms where the majority of citizens make their livelihood. This is not only generating entrepreneurship but also improving living conditions for the communities. Roberta Morlin is leading the trend of young entrepreneurs in Papua New Guinea. She said, “When I first started in 2015, I had 30 different ideas and I had to validate (reduce) those ideas down to 15. I had to further validate over the next 15 months down to four, which I am currently working on.”
  9. Papua New Guinea is experiencing economic growth. With abundant national reserves and improving family businesses, Papua New Guinea has experienced 14 years in a row of positive GDP growth. Between 2003 and 2015, the nation’s economy grew and proved that with the right involvement the country can develop further.
  10. People are migrating to Papua New Guinea. A new trend for Australians to move to the country is bringing Papua New Guinea hope. According to People Connexion, the decision is due to the slower pace of living and sense of community present there. This new trend to move and work in Papua New Guinea could hopefully greatly boost their economy.

As Papua New Guinea strives to meet future Millennium Development Goals, there must be an improvement in the economy, education and healthcare. Attention must be focused on locals, preserving natural resources, and helping improve productivity within small businesses in order to improve overall living conditions in Papua New Guinea.

– Maura Byrne
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

PA 10 facts About Life Expectancy in Madagascar
Madagascar, the fourth largest island in the world, is also one of the poorest countries in the world. A lacking healthcare system, malnutrition and prevalent diseases all lead to one question: how long do people live in Madagascar? Here are 10 facts about life expectancy in Madagascar.

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Madagascar

  1. The latest WHO data reports the life expectancy in Madagascar to be 65.1 years for males and 68.2 for females, making the average life expectancy 66.6 years. Madagascar is currently ranked 175th in life expectancy out of 223 nations measured, according to the CIA.
  2. The life expectancy rate has increased exponentially from 1960 to today. The World Bank reports that in 1960, the average life expectancy was 39.96 years, and by 2016, it had grown to 65.93 years.
  3. According to Health Data, diarrheal diseases, lower respiratory infections, neonatal disorders and stroke are among the top causes of death in the country. The causes have persisted since the conduction of the study in 2007; however, there has been a change in the number of deaths for each cause.
  4. The Healthcare Access and Quality Index measures healthcare access and quality. In 1990, Madagascar received a score of 20.6 on the index, and in 2016, the country received a 29.6. Compared to leading nations like Iceland, with a score of 97.1, Madagascar’s performance on this index demonstrates the room for improvement.
  5. In 2015, a total of $78 per person was spent on health in Madagascar. The breakdown of the expenses is as follows: $5 from prepaid private spending, $17 out-of-pocket spending, $33 government health spending and $22 development assistance for health. The country is expected to increase the per capita amount to $112 by 2040.
  6. Madagascar has introduced a number of initiatives to move towards the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), specifically, the goal to reduce extreme poverty by half.  However, in 1993, 67.1 percent of the population was living below $1.25 per day, while in 2010, that number increased to 87.67 percent.
  7. One such initiative working to reach the MDGs was approved by the World Bank in June 2017. The new Country Partnership Framework aims to improve governance and strengthen finances, as well as reduce poverty, particularly in rural areas. Living in poverty is linked to a variety of issues, but studies have shown that those living in poverty are more likely to have a lower life expectancy.
  8. Due to the new Country Partnership Framework, improvements in the country can be seen in areas of health, education and private sector development. Preventative treatment for tropical diseases such as bilharzia and intestinal worms has been distributed to 1.8 million school-aged children over the past few years (with Bilharzia receiving 100 percent coverage in the country).
  9. In 2017, 6.85 million people received treatment for neglected tropical diseases (NTDs), a decrease compared to the 8.73 million people who received treatment in 2016. Madagascar ranks 37th out of the 49 countries when it comes to treatment. There are some diseases that receive 0 percent coverage, such as elephantiasis, while other diseases receive partial coverage, such as intestinal worms.
  10. UNICEF is working to improve healthcare access in Madagascar, and it has been expanding integrated health services with a focus on newborns. Due to their efforts, poliomyelitis was eradicated and 43 percent of the population (which includes 3.5 million children) experienced an improvement in their access to health services.

Madagascar’s lacking healthcare system is being tackled from a variety of angles, as illustrated by these 10 facts about life expectancy in Madagascar. The country is working to reduce poverty and better the lives of its citizens in every regard; however, there is room for progress.

Simone Edwards

Photo: Flickr

Maternal Mortality in ChadChad has one of the highest rates of maternal mortality in the world. Out of 15 women in Chad, one will die due to complications while giving birth. This makes a rate of 6.7 percent, which is dangerously high. In 2010, only 23 percent of women had help from someone medically qualified to do so while giving birth. Every couple of minutes, a woman in Chad dies due to birth complications.

Maternal mortality rates, along with child mortality are a good indicator of the status of health care in the country. Higher rates imply the lower quality of and access to health care. Lack of personnel and training prevents women from getting the help they need during childbirth. An increase in health care professionals and proper training will raise the likelihood of saving the lives of the mother and the child.

Chad Mother and Child Health Services Strengthening Project

In 2014, The World Bank approved funding of almost $21 million for the Chad Mother and Child Health Services Strengthening Project. The money comes from the Health Results-Based Financing Fund that is supported by the U.K. and Norway.

The Project targets regions that have particularly high rates of child and maternal mortality in Chad. Increased funding will go to health care services in the areas with low access to resources and higher indicators of maternal mortality. The Project provides care for the woman throughout her pregnancy, helps with deliveries by professionals and even immunizations for the newborn.

The Services Strengthening Project is set to conclude its goals by 2020. The Project is trying to reach 80,000 pregnant women and provide them with antenatal care during a health care visit. This number was exceeded in 2018 since the people of the Project reached 82,117 women by this year. Additionally, they are hoping to achieve 35,000 births with the help of skilled medical professionals by 2020. As of 2018, they are well on their way with 29,500 births. As for its other goals, that include child immunization and health personnel training, the Project is also right on track.

Education of Mothers in Chad

Community awareness is just as important in preventing maternal mortality in Chad as providing access to services. Women have extremely limited opportunities when it comes to education, and four out of five women in Chad between the ages of 15 and 24 are illiterate. Having limited knowledge of antenatal care, hygiene and disease greatly influence the likelihood that a mother or child will not survive the pregnancy.

Levels of HIV in women also contributes to maternal mortality in Chad. Only 10 percent of women aged 15-24 have a thorough knowledge of HIV prevention. Without education on HIV, women easily contract it and spread it to their children. Training provided by programs like the Chad Mother and Child Project can significantly mitigate this issue simply through education and increase of awareness.

Training for health care professionals and midwives in the region, in addition to education for the mothers, lays the foundation for a long-term solution to maternal mortality in Chad. Lack of proper care for expecting mothers not only leads to deaths, but to abandoned families and children without mothers. This repercussion leads to an even longer lasting impact on communities as a whole.

Chad, in particular, is in desperate need of change and improvement in its health care for mothers. Many developing countries have improved their rates of maternal mortality in recent decades, but Chad’s only increased by 10 percent between 1980 and 2010. One of the Millennium Development Goals was to see a 75 percent decrease in pregnancy and childbirth-related deaths, but Chad has yet to reach this goal.

Trained staff on hand, proper medical tools and educated mothers can make the world of difference in decreasing the deaths of maternal and child mortality in Chad.

– Amelia Merchant
Photo: Google

Maternal Health in Eritrea
The United Nations’ Millennium Development Goal (MDG) Five, improving maternal health, has two components: First, reduce maternal mortality by two-thirds between 1990 and 2015, and second, achieve universal access to reproductive healthcare by 2015.  Eritrea is one of the few countries in which these goals were fully achieved.

The maternal mortality ratio—which the U.N. defines as “the ratio of the number of maternal deaths to the number of pregnancies,” calling it “an indicator of the risk of dying that a woman faces for each pregnancy she undergoes”— was 1,700 deaths per 100,000 births in Eritrea in 1990. The goal for 2015 was to cut that number to 425 deaths per 100,000 births. In 2013, Eritrea not only met but surpassed this goal, with a maternal mortality rate of just 380 deaths per 100,000 births.

Eritrea saw almost as much success in its efforts to achieve universal access to reproductive healthcare. In 1991, just 19 percent of women had any prenatal care. By 2013, that number had risen to 93 percent, a nearly fivefold increase.

What Has Worked

From 1990 to 2015, maternal mortality declined 45 percent globally and 49 percent in Sub-Saharan Africa. Although this is a marked improvement, it is still considerably less than the MDG goal of a two-thirds decrease. As such, many are wondering what contributed to Eritrea’s huge successes.

Since the establishment of the MDGs, the government of Eritrea has been committed to engaging all people with its new development programs. It strove (and continues to strive) to build a national healthcare system that offers universal coverage that truly does reach everyone, no matter how poor or remote.

Efforts by the government, the U.N. and NGOs working to improve maternal health in Eritrea have reflected this emphasis on the universal and the importance of reaching all Eritrean women. Clinics that are mobile and transitory pop up in a community temporarily, and, after a period of time, move on to the next town. This allows more women to receive healthcare without necessitating more resources or medical personnel.

Empowering Women

Likewise, there has been a strong focus on improving gender equality in Eritrea. The government has outlawed both child marriage and female genital mutilation and is continually working to promote gender equality in education and in the labor force. Today, it is estimated that women in Eritrea make up between 35 and 45 percent of the workforce. This means that women are more visible, more engaged in society politically and socially and better able to advocate for their rights.

Despite Eritrea’s considerable successes, challenges remain for the East African nation. Eritrea has a long history of violence. After 30 years of brutal civil war, it gained independence from Ethiopia in 1993. Conflict with Ethiopia resumed between 1998 and 2000 and, even during times of peace, Eritreans live until a strict authoritarian government. Continued improvements in maternal health in Eritrea will be predicated upon future peace and stability in the region.

The Future of Maternal Health in Eritrea

Access continues to be the main challenge. Women who lack money often struggle to find affordable healthcare. Despite the efforts of mobile health clinics, antiquated infrastructure, old roads and limited public transportation opportunities mean that traveling to a clinic still proves difficult for many women.

Furthermore, although 93 percent of women received at least some prenatal care in 2013, only 55 percent of women had a trained medical professional at their child’s birth. That is a huge improvement from 1991, when only 6 percent of babies were born under the care of a medical professional, but room for improvement remains.

Eritrea’s success in reaching and surpassing MDG Five ought to be applauded. Other countries should follow its example and commit to focusing on universal access to maternal and prenatal care. Despite considerable success regarding lowering the maternal mortality rate and achieving near-universal access to reproductive healthcare, Eritrea should continue to strive to increase the accessibility of healthcare. Eritrea, and the global community supporting women’s health and equity there, can continue to improve the availability of and access to affordable maternal and prenatal healthcare.

– Abigail Dunn
Photo: Flickr

Welfare Programs in Ethiopia
Policy in Ethiopia has overwhelmingly been focused on combating and eliminating poverty in recent years. Many programs in Ethiopia have helped to further the country’s station in terms of poverty reduction. Programs such as the Productive Safety Net Programme (PSNP), the Sustainable Development and Poverty Reduction Program (SDPRP) and the Plan for Accelerated and Sustained Development to End Poverty (PASDEP) have been implemented recently to help Ethiopia meet its short and long-term goals. These goals, known as the United Nations Millennium Development Goals, are to:

  1. Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger
  2. Achieve universal primary education
  3. Gender equality and women empowerment
  4. Reduce child mortality
  5. Reduce maternal mortality
  6. Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases
  7. Ensure environmental sustainability
  8. Develop a global partnership for development

Correspondingly, according to the United Nations, the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development in Ethiopia report, the World Health Organization and the World Food Programme, Ethiopia has worked towards these goals for several years now and is on track to achieve six of the eight goals listed above so far. The goal of reducing child mortality has already been achieved, and progress is being made on many of the others thanks to the work of the welfare programs in Ethiopia.

Goal One: Eradicate Extreme Poverty and Hunger

Ethiopia is on course to reduce extreme poverty in the country by half. The percentage of people living under the poverty line has decreased from 45.5 percent in 1996 to 29.6 percent in 2010. The welfare programs in Ethiopia have contributed to this progress in different ways. The PSNP has helped families avoid food shortages. The SDPRP focuses on increasing water resource utilization to ensure food security. The PASDEP strengthens human resource development, manages risk and creates employment opportunities.

Goal Two: Achieve Universal Primary Education

The net enrollment ratio for education in grades one through eight has increased from 77.5 percent in 2006 to 85.4 percent in 2011. The attendance ratio has also risen from 30.2 percent in 2001 to 64.5 percent in 2010.

Goal Six: Combat HIV/AIDS, Malaria and Other Diseases

Ethiopia has achieved a greater decrease in disease prevalence than anticipated. In 2010, the prevalence of HIV/AIDS was an estimated 1.5 percent, lower than the Millennium Development Goal of 2.5 percent.

Goal Seven: Ensure Environmental Sustainability

With the Climate Resilient Green Economy strategy, Ethiopia has taken necessary steps towards integrating the principles of sustainable agricultural development. The SDPRP has aided the progress of governance and the transformation of society by improving the framework and provisions enabling environmental and private sector growth. It also focuses on agricultural research, water harvesting and small-scale irrigation.

Goals three and five of the Millennium Development Goals lack progress and are struggling to be realized. Entrenched traditional views of women in the nation are among the obstacles that these programs encounter. However, on the whole, the employment of these programs in Ethiopia has decreased the overall issue of poverty and have moved the country forward in terms of development.

– Lydia Lamm

Photo: Flickr


In the United States, the summer months often mean one thing: mosquito season. With their annoying buzzing and itchy bites, mosquitos are definitely a nuisance, but they are not a life-threatening issue.

Mosquitos and Malaria

For almost half of the world’s population, however, mosquito season means something entirely different: malaria. Malaria, a disease transmitted by mosquitos in many parts of the world is a dangerous and often life-threatening problem. Becoming familiar with the top 14 facts about malaria is crucial to the understanding of the disease and its implications.

Although entirely preventable and treatable, malaria is a fear that continues to persist in the 21st Century for billions of people. Often rampant among the poorest countries of the world, here are the top 14 facts about malaria and what is being done to fight the disease.

Top 14 Facts About Malaria

  1. Malaria is caused by five different parasites species and is transmitted through bites from infected mosquitos. One of the types of mosquitos in question is Anopheles, which are mosquitos bred in areas of clean, unpolluted water such as swamps, the edges of rivers or temporary rain puddles.
  2. Children under five and pregnant women are particularly susceptible to malaria. Of the deaths that occur from malaria, 70 percent of them are among children under the age of five. This is because children, in particular, are prone to infection and illness.
  3. Although it was eliminated from the United States in the early 1950s, mosquitos carrying malaria are found on every continent except Antarctica. In places where the disease has been eliminated, re-introduction of the disease is still a possibility.
  4. Malaria mortality rates are falling. Since 2010, global malaria mortality rates have fallen by approximately 29 percent and 35 percent among the age group of children under five.
  5. Insecticide-treated bed nets have been shown to reduce malaria illness. Bed nets are barriers put around people to prevent mosquitos during sleep. Bill Gates is an avid supporter of eliminating malaria and works with his charity to provide netting to countries where the risk of malaria is high.
  6. Two billion people remain at risk of malaria, roughly half of the world’s population.
  7. Sub-Saharan Africa has an extremely high malaria presence. It is estimated that 90 percent of all malaria deaths occur in this region.
  8. Cooperation among organizations working to fight malaria has proven to be successful. Addressing malaria is at the forefront of the international community’s thoughts with support from the United Nations, the World Bank, and a variety of other non-governmental organizations. Reducing the world’s burden of malaria was one of the first eight Millennium Development Goals introduced by the United Nations.
  9. Malaria is treatable if caught quickly and appropriately. Early diagnosis of the disease is key to treating it, and catching the disease quickly also helps reduce the transmission of malaria.
  10. Indoor residual spraying is another way countries are fighting malaria. This method works by spraying insecticide indoors and is currently effective for 3 to 6 months.
  11. Malaria impedes economic development in countries where it is extremely prevalent. In some African countries, GDP falls by 1.3 percent per year due to malaria’s economic consequences. Malaria also discourages investment from outside countries and impairs many children’s ability to go to school.
  12. The World Bank is very dedicated to controlling malaria. In previous years, the organization has contributed nearly $1 billion to the cause.
  13. Malaria-related deaths have decreased by 50 percent since the disease’s peak in the early 2000s.
  14. In 2018, the World Health Organization plans to pilot a project of a first-generation malaria vaccine. The project will be targeted in sub-Saharan Africa.

Road to Improvement

The universal elimination of malaria is possible in the 21st Century. The cooperation, funding and persistence to find solutions to the disease exist in ways never before thought possible.

– Sonja Flancher

Photo: Flickr

AngolaA nation that has been in political turmoil since its independence from Portugal in 1975, Angola has had major concerns formulating a stable, unified country free of conflict. Despite it being Africa’s second largest oil exporter and producer behind Nigeria, poverty has plagued the nation that has suffered internally due to political corruption, instability and other factors. So, why is Angola poor?

According to CountryWatch, income inequality remains high and poverty has been declining only slowly. Angola has attempted to mitigate poverty by placing strenuous efforts in the oil reserve industry in order to boost economic growth. Unfortunately, the income inequality gap is still wide, and infrastructure is in a volatile state due to the country’s insufficient skills that are needed to improve human development. The International Monetary Fund (IMF), an organization that provides support for both developing and developed countries during periods of financial crisis, has warned Angola that they are vulnerable to stay trapped in such a cycle unless they allocate their resources appropriately.

According to a report by AllAfrica, Angola has successfully managed to reduce, by over half, the number of people underfed, thus achieving the first target of the U.N.’s Millennium Development Goals. Although it missed the original target by about two years, the current situation in the country is “satisfactory,” according to an official who was speaking on World Food Day, on October 16th, 2017.

An annual report, the Global Hunger Index, could encourage a more optimistic outlook on the country’s future, and could help citizens in answering questions like, “why is Angola Poor?” In the report, it states that hunger has fallen significantly in countries where civil wars have ended in the 1990s and 2000s, such as in Angola in 2002. Additionally, global hunger itself has fallen by 27 percent since 2000.

One of the more obvious explanations that could aim to clarify the poverty rate in Angola may be the lack of education that Angolans receive. According to the C.I.A. World Factbook, over 40 percent of Angolans live below the poverty line, with only 70 percent of them being literate.

People in Need (PiN), a Czech nonprofit focused on development projects, has stepped up in the campaign toward alleviating poverty by improving education for half a million children. With school expectancy hovering at around 10 years of age, and only 60 percent of females who are literate, such initiatives represent hope and prosperity for a country that ranks 146th on the Human Development Index.

PiN has contributed by building schools, engaging in specialized training for teachers and providing necessary teaching materials for students to receive a quality education while reducing illiteracy among adults. Its work has seen tremendous results, with over 450,000 Angolan children and 1,200 adults learning to read, write and do simple math.

Nevertheless, the advancements in the oil production sector should receive some credit, as it has drastically stimulated Angola’s economic growth and improved the standard of living for many. However, other social issues continue to persist in a country that only nine years ago held its first parliamentary election.

Accountability, transparency, focusing on human rights and deterring domestic violence are all setbacks which present a peril to a nation striving to become a developed country. To answer the question, “why is Angola poor,” Angola must first make the necessary changes through strong governance programs in order to see positive results. Improved education can lead to reduced income inequality, but without stringent measures to allow for human capital to prosper efficiently, the people will continue to suffer from this vicious poverty cycle.

– Alexandre Dumouza

Photo: Flickr

Why Samoa Has Poverty

In comparison to some of its neighbors in the Pacific region, the Samoa is largely successful and has a relatively strong economy. However, that is not to say that poverty does not exist in Samoa. There are a number of reasons why Samoa has poverty.

It is true that Samoa does not have extreme poverty. However, it does have large concentrations of working poor. 20 percent of Samoans live below the poverty line.

One of the biggest reasons as to why Samoa has poverty is its geography. Samoa is a small country with limited resources. Its soil is fertile but vulnerable to erosion. Natural disasters, such as volcanic activity and cyclones, have always been a threat to the nation. Samoa is also particularly susceptible to the effects of climate change, including the resulting loss of biodiversity and rising sea levels. The areas most threatened by these phenomena are generally rural and poorer. Furthermore, recovery from cyclones and other disasters can take a long time.

At the same time, fishable marine life is decreasing and the human population is increasing, creating a strain on the economy.

Another explanation for why Samoa has poverty is the high cost of living. Samoan citizens have complained about the fact that one can easily spend $100 in one day for basic necessities, when $100 is often what rural Samoans make in a week. It is not unheard of for Samoans to operate side businesses or do additional work to make ends meet, such as selling coconut oil or selling plates of food.

Despite the apparent inaction of the Samoan government, as well as the multiple possible explanations for why Samoa has poverty, there are some glimmers of hope. Some Samoans have turned to livestock farming, particularly lambs, which until recently was uncommon. Many Samoans turn to their churches not just for spiritual guidance, but for community support.

Additionally, Samoa has made strong progress in meeting the Millennium Development Goals set forth by the World Health Organization, having made social progress on a number of fronts and virtually eliminating extreme poverty. Samoa certainly has its ongoing struggles, but if its people and past are any indication, it has the potential to improve.

Andrew Revord

Photo: Flickr

Poverty in BruneiBrunei, a high development country that benefits from a wealth of natural resources, has one of the highest gross domestic products in the world. While there is no reported poverty line, all signs point to a very successful population and a government structure that could act as a model to the world. In other words, poverty in Brunei is not nonexistent, but it is minimized. Unfortunately, even though Brunei is highly developed and their infrastructure is smoothly run and effective, the nation is a special case, and thus their model cannot be applied to the rest of the world that does struggle with high levels of poverty and strife.

The government of Brunei has not only set up an excellent infrastructure, but the population is also highly educated and benefits from not having to pay income taxes or for medical care. Yet, the government can only afford this social system because of the breadth of natural resources they have at their disposal. Brunei refines crude oil, which is then exported to economic powerhouses around the world such as Japan, which is the primary export market. Since the natural resources are so abundant for the time being, Brunei does not have to worry about them running out, leading to a recession or worse.

Yet, despite the strength of industry, the nation does struggle to make modern adjustments, raising the possibility of a future where poverty in Brunei could become an issue. The recent decline in oil prices has made this concern more plausible, and officials have made it a priority to diversify industry and bring in more foreign investment. The wealth of the country allows them to fix problems before they begin, and the threat of a “resource curse” is one such issue.

Another concern lies in the very small level of poverty in Brunei. While the country has no official measurement of a poverty line, the UN Millennium Development Goals report in 2011 indicated that 5.04 percent of the population is impoverished. The government is already taking steps to deal with the issue, creating a Poverty Issue Special Committee and drafting an action plan for eradicating poverty. While this committee has not led to an official poverty line, it does show that the government of Brunei is proactive and willing to fight for their citizens’ interests.

While Brunei does not struggle with a high percentage of poverty, they still remain an example on how to combat poverty through government action. Creating a committee to deal with this issue before it becomes too problematic and planning to diversify industry and modernize makes the government of Brunei an idealistic, forward-thinking country to observe and emulate.

Rachael Blandau

Photo: Flickr