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Poverty in Sub-Saharan Africa
The World Bank estimates that more than 69 percent of the population of Sub-Saharan Africa lives on less than $2 per day, making it one of the poorest regions in the world. Though the region has experienced strong economic growth during the last two decades, poverty alleviation remains a pressing issue for African leaders.

The numbers appear promising. In its latest African Pulse analysis, the World Bank says that Sub-Saharan Africa’s economic growth should grow to more than 5 percent over the next three years. Foreign investment, rising commodity prices and global economic recovery will all contribute to the region’s rapid development.

Punam Chuhan-Pole, a lead economist in the Bank’s Africa department, said: “If properly harnessed to unleash their full potential, these trends hold the promise of more growth, much less poverty, and accelerating shared prosperity for African countries.”

But questions remain as to whether the region’s economic growth will help mitigate poverty. Statistically, economic growth does not automatically reduce poverty; many resource-rich countries, such as Gabon and Nigeria, have fared worse in terms of poverty reduction than neighboring nations with fewer resources. So, how can Sub-Saharan Africa convert economic gains into poverty reduction?

According the World Bank report, “Better governance will need to underpin efforts to make growth more poverty reducing.” Better governance means more efficient mineral and wealth management, agricultural development and methods for controlling urbanization. It must also include strategies to deal with the region’s growing income inequality, which likely stems from systemic government corruption and a weak middle class.

In 2010, six of the ten most inequitable countries in the world were in Sub-Saharan Africa. In Mozambique, the poorest 20 percent of the population earns 5 percent of total income while the richest 20 percent take home more than 50 percent. The World Bank points out that Mozambique’s oil and gas reserves will be huge economic drivers over the next few years, but, as it stands now, the neediest will benefit the least from any economic gains.

It is difficult to cast economic growth in a negative light. However, Sub-Saharan Africa’s recent expansion has done little to improve poverty and income inequality in the region. Without responsible government and a strong, participatory middle class, economic gains will continue to enrich a small segment of the population. The rest of the people will continue finding ways to subsist on $2 dollars a day.

Daniel Bonasso

Sources: World Bank, UNDP, Overseas Development Institute

Mozambique_Flood_Protection
This past January, Mozambique experienced massive flooding which took the lives of 70 people, left hundreds homeless and impoverished, washed away bridges, and left little soil to grow corps. This was the worst flooding in 13 years.

“I helplessly watched all my cattle disappear into the red sea of rushing floodwater while our family house was collapsing, leaving us with the clothes on our backs,” said Rofina Mathe, a mother who lives off sustenance farming. “Now we are wondering what the future has in store for us.”

The Climate Investment Funds’ Pilot Program for Climate Resilience (PPCR) has provided funding to Mozambique in the amount of $91 million. PPCR is helping Mozambique prepare for future extreme weather. The hope is that the money will go towards enhancing infrastructure that will help the people of Mozambique be more prepared when a flood occurs.

PPCR efforts aim to upgrade 7 meteorological stations and 52 hydrological stations this year. By 2015, the number of stations should increase to 35 and 71 respectively. There will also be policies to enable hydrological and weather data, as well as allow information to be shared among agencies and farmers. Furthermore the funds will go towards improving the early warning systems that warn locals about coming floods.

Since the floods, the government has increased the amount of Climate Investment fund money allocated to developing flood protection efforts and improving hydrological and meteorological services to $15 million from $10 million. The Norwegian government is providing an additional $4.5 million.

“It will be a big step (towards) climate resilience. We are moving towards investment where we want to prove that climate resilience is achievable,” said Xavier Chavana, coordinator of the program at the Ministry of Planning and Development. “The funding is coming at the right time because people will learn and be able to deal with climate change.

– Catherine Ulrich

Sources: Alertnet, IRIN Africa
Photo: ASEM

senegal-nutrition-health
Over 925 million people are currently undernourished worldwide, and 3.5 million children under the age of five die from malnourishment every year. The problem is especially prevalent in Eastern Africa, where 23 million children will grow up stunted and likely permanently impaired. Most diets in these areas consist of simple grains and very few fruits and vegetables which contain key nutrients that are needed for proper mental and physical growth.

In the past, poverty alleviation efforts have been focused on increasing the quantity of food produced by farmers, rather than the quality. But recently, more attention has been paid to what kinds of foods are reaching those in poverty , and how the crops can help them not just survive, but actually improve their quality of life. The Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN) has created a unique plan for making nutritious foods a possibility for farmers to grow, and for consumers to buy.

The Marketplace for Nutritious Foods, which was started up with a $2.1 million grant from USAID, is up and running in both Kenya and Mozambique, with plans to go to Tanzania as well. The Marketplace works by searching for businesses that can provide affordable nutritious foods upon receipt of help from the organization in the form of funding for seeds, technical assistance, business support and networking opportunities. After receiving numerous applications, GAIN selectively chooses organizations that fit the program, and gives them everything they need to get nutritious foods to the consumers. The final product, which is anything from dairy products to sweet potatoes, is fully nutritious and reaches the local markets at an affordable price for the public to consume.

As a result, the public is not only given more access to nutritious foods, but the farmers also gain an opportunity for income. The Marketplace provides the incentive farmers need to produce the healthy foods necessary for the population to thrive.

– Emma McKay

Sources: USAID

Obama Electrify Africa
According to the International Energy Agency, all developing nations lack adequate access to electricity. This amounts to 1.3 billion people living in the dark worldwide. According to the same source, an investment of $1 trillion USD would be needed to remedy this. Currently, poverty and hunger take center stage. Food is of more use to a starving child than is a night light, but Westerners often take for granted how valuable the power of light can be to a community in poverty.

Not only does electricity make lives easier on a personal level, it helps to mechanize farming operations, which can be a great boost to a company’s agricultural productivity. Natural disasters often become less deadly when people are warned about them ahead of time, which can be accomplished with electric monitoring systems. Socially, populations are less marginalized with improved means of communication and information.

President Barack Obama said during his recent trip to South Africa, “Access to electricity is fundamental to opportunity in this age. It’s the light that children study by, the energy that allows an idea to be transformed into a real business. It’s the lifeline for families to meet their most basic needs, and it’s the connection that’s needed to plug Africa into the grid of the global economy.” President Obama then pledged almost $7 billion USD to help provide electricity for Africa.

The White House stated that The Export-Import Bank will carry most of the financial weight of the program, donating $5 billion, and the U.S. Oversees Private Investment Corporation will provide another $1.5 billion.

The funds will go toward preventing the frequent blackouts that plague the Sub-Saharan part of the continent, as well as helping the 85% percent of people in the region without electricity gain access to it. Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, Liberia, Nigeria, Tanzania and Mozambique will be the first countries to benefit from the program as it is developed at preliminary stages.

The investment is a great step toward solving the problem, but in all, Africa alone will need $300 billion to achieve universal electricity by 2030. The Alliance for Rural Electrification, a non-government organization, is another ally in combating this issue. As champions of universal electrification, ARE focuses on renewable energy such as solar, which much of Africa is a strong candidate for. This is especially relevant for areas that are geographically isolated where extending the reach of an existing power grid is not feasible.

– Samantha Mauney

Source: ARE, Scientific American, CNN
Photo: Business Insider

Poverty in Mozambique
Like many countries in Africa, the country of Mozambique was a European colony before achieving independence from Portugal in the late 20th century. The country is situated on the east side of Africa (directly to the west over the Indian Ocean from Madagascar), and it borders Tanzania, Malawi, and Zambia to the north and west; Zimbabwe to the west; and South Africa and Swaziland to the south.

Poverty has been a major challenge for Mozambique since independence in 1975, when the country was listed as one of the world’s poorest. Even today the country ranks among the lowest in human development, life expectancy, and inequality, ranking 165 out of 169 on the Human Development Index. Dramatic improvements have been achieved in Mozambique’s economy in the last thirty years, but 40% of Mozambique’s 2012 budget came from foreign assistance. The year 2012 also saw over half of Mozambique’s population under the poverty line. Even though the country has rich farmland in its northern regions and vast, untapped sources of coal and natural gas, Mozambique is suffering for a number of reasons.

 

4 Leading Causes of Poverty in Mozambique

 

1. Civil war aftermath. The major obstacle to development in Mozambique after independence was the Mozambican Civil War, which lasted from  1977 to 1992. The first Mozambican government was founded on Marxist principles and received support from the Soviet Union and its allies.  Within two years a civil war broke out, one often seen as a “proxy war” that coincided with the ongoing global Cold War between the United States and the USSR. For twenty years the pro- and anti-communist groups (FRELIMO and RENAMO, respectively) fought a bloody war that killed almost a million people and displaced five million civilians before peace was achieved in 1992. This war stunted Mozambique’s development past subsistence agriculture and halted regional economic activity that could have made the country prosperous.

2. External debt. By 1998, six years after the Mozambican Civil War ceased, foreign debt was over $5 billion. In 1999, the government paid four times more to creditors than they spent on health and education. Even though Mozambique was the first African country to receive debt relief from the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank through the Heavily Indebted Poor Country (HIPC) Initiative, Mozambique still has billions of dollars in external debt. Restructuring and forgiveness of these debts has alleviated some of the pressure, allowing Mozambique to go from $8 billion in 1998 external debt, to $4 billion in 2010, but external debt stocks measured 43.8% of gross national income that same year. External debt service payments take away much-needed funds from infrastructure and health care projects, retarding education and quality of life development.

3. Workforce dependence on agriculture. Because only twenty years have passed since the fighting in Mozambique ended, sectors other than agriculture have taken a while to catch up. Subsistence agriculture remains the largest sector by work force, but productivity is considerably poor, and less than 7% of Mozambique’s land is arable. The future of Mozambique’s economy has long been said to be in the hands of foreign investors who can tap into Mozambique’s vast natural resources of coal and natural gas, but these foreign investors often cause more problems than they claim to help solve.

4. Lack of quality health and social service access. According to the CIA Factbook, the degree of risk for major infectious diseases such as malaria and tuberculosis is very high in Mozambique. Lack of improved water sources is a major issue for both urban and rural populations, with less than half of the population with access to running water. More than half of Mozambicans must walk more than an hour to reach the nearest health facility, according to the Global Health Initiative. Meanwhile, 15% of the population between 15-49 years of age are infected with HIV/AIDS. Only 8% of the government’s budget is allocated for health spending, and of that health budget 70% comes from external resources or donor support. Sexual health and education programs are also difficult to spearhead because of Mozambique’s literacy rate of 56%.

On the whole, Mozambique faces severe challenges, but its vast natural resources pose a great opportunity for responsible foreign investment — responsible being the key word. IRIN News asserts that “mega-projects” (foreign-financed projects that make investment more attractive) must be accompanied by smaller projects that individually address poverty in rural areas. But Andre Olivenca of How We Made It in Africa argues that many of the “mega-projects” serve as experience-building for domestic development: “Improving the country’s export capacity will lead to increased government revenues which can then be reinvested into other infrastructure sectors across the country,” Olivenca says. The potential is certainly there for Mozambique to capitalize on its many resources, but foreign assistance — both large- and small-scale — may be the key to ensuring this capital helps Mozambicans themselves.

– Naomi Doraisamy

Source: CIA World FactbookHow We Made It in Africa,Instituto de Estudos Sociais e Económicos,IRIN News,The New York Times,UNICEF,World Health Organization
Photo: Links

Land Rover
Mozambique is quite the paradoxical nation. It ranks 185th out of 187 countries on the United Nations Human Development Index, making it a country with some of the poorest people in the world. Yet, if you walk the streets of the city of Maputo, you’ll see skyscrapers, Land Rovers, sophisticated bars and restaurants, and expensive homes and apartment buildings. Despite the fact that 55% of people in the country live in poverty, it appears that Mozambique has expensive tastes. Who can afford these luxuries?

There is a huge wage gap in the country, with the average worker earning about $100 per month, and the few, super-rich who can afford $230 aftershave and $320 champagne. Many of these upper-class citizens are government ministers, relatives of the ruling party, and business people. Mozambique’s hotels are regularly crowded with business people from around the world looking to invest in the oil and natural gas the country has to offer.

Mozambique has an incredible economy, with one of the highest GDP growth rates in the world, but the problem is that money is not being distributed among the rest of the country. The theory of trickle-down capitalism is not working here, because the rich who are making the most money are not investing it in their nation, they’re keeping it for themselves. Many people are upset about the corrupt practices in Mozambique, and that business interests often take precedence over the health and safety of citizens.

Experts argue that one of the biggest problems is a lack of a middle class. The nation is developing quickly, thus pushing some people to the very top of the class and leaving the rest at the very bottom. By investing in cheaper travel to encourage new growth that will build a middle class, they claim that the country can pull many of those living in poverty above the line. They also explain that the people of Mozambique need to begin to take charge and speak out against the corruption to become the change the country needs.

Katie Brockman
Source: allAfrica
Photo: Land Rover

Ami_Vitale_Guinea_bissau_life_expectancy_photography_international_Affairs_USAID_disease_global_health_opt

In the United States, the average person will live to be 78 years old. In that time, they’ll likely get married, have children of their own, have a long career and then spend roughly 13 years in retirement. For most of us, this seems like the natural progression of life. In many places around the world however, many people won’t live to see the day they become grandparents and the idea of retirement is just a pie in the sky.

What does low life expectancy tell us?

The World Bank defines life expectancy at birth as the number of years a newborn can be expected to live, assuming no change in the living conditions of the country present at birth. When life expectancy in a country is low, it indicates a lack in some of the basic necessities required to live a long, healthy life.

This often includes things such as clean drinking water, nutritious food, hygienic living conditions and adequate health care. But in some cases, it is far more complicated than that. AIDS related deaths in sub-Saharan Africa for example, have been driving down average life expectancy for decades. Conflict, war and genocide also contribute to a shorter average life span.

The following is a list of 10 countries with the lowest life expectancy numbers on the planet, the 10 worst places to be born. For comparison, life expectancy in the United States was 48 in the year 1900.

10. Mozambique

Life expectancy: 50 years

9. Chad

Life expectancy: 50 years

8. Zambia

Life expectancy: 49 years

7. Afghanistan

Life expectancy: 49 years

6. Swaziland

Life expectancy: 49 years

 5. The Democratic Republic of the Congo

Life expectancy: 48 years

 4. Central African Republic

Life expectancy: 48 years

3. Guinea-Bissau

Life expectancy: 48 years

 2. Lesotho

Life expectancy: 48 years

 1. Sierra Leone

Life expectancy: 48 years

These figures express the importance of global health initiatives undertaken by the World Health Organization (WHO), the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and other health actors on the world stage. Many government health ministries and non-governmental health organizations are also stepping up to meet these challenges. These efforts are imperative for global development and their continued persistence can eventually lead to long and healthy lives for people in these countries.

– Erin N. Ponsonby

Sources:World Bank, Washington Post, Berkeley
Photo:Alexia Foundation

UNICEF SMS Health Blog_opt
The problem of disseminating health related information to impoverished communities is consistently at the forefront of humanitarian aid. On March 27,  Mcel, a mobile telecommunications provider in Mozambique, along with UNICEF and the Ministry of Health signed a partnership which enables all Mcel customers to receive educational text messages.

This project, dubbed “SMS for Life,” spreads information to all Mcel users free of charge. The topics addressed in the text messages go over disease prevention, injuries, violence against children, and the importance of using health facilities. The program is scheduled to last three years and contributes to the national effort to achieve Millennium Development Goals four and five established by the UN. These goals focus on reducing child mortality rates and improving maternal health.

While the use of mobile phones in Mozambique isn’t as common as in the United States, Mcel’s subscribers cover all social groups – this project alone is predicted to reach nearly five million people.

One of the interesting aspects of this partnership is the use of the private sector in contributing its resources and support to public health and national goals. This type of success includes low involvement from external countries and simply aids the nation’s own companies and people in addressing national problems.

-Pete Grapentien
Source: UNICEF

HIV_Mozambique
In Mozambique, 11.5% of 15 to 49-year-olds are HIV positive, and half of untreated children who are HIV positive die before they reach the age of two due to delays in diagnosis and treatment. Now, new technologies to help diagnose and assess rural, poor citizens of Mozambique are being used by three different aid organizations.

UNICEF, along with the Clinton Health Access Initiative and Médecins sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders), have been administering new tests that will rapidly increase the speed of diagnoses in children and also test other patients’ immunity levels. The new tests do not require a high level of technology, making it easier for health workers to administer the tests in rural areas, and are able to tell workers when a patient needs to switch antiretrovirals.

Normally, the HIV tests used in Mozambique take a spot of dry blood for testing with results taking nearly two months, with some patients never returning to find out the results. In addition to taking much longer, these older testing techniques are much less accurate than the current tests. The new technology takes no longer than an hour to determine if a patient is HIV positive.

Although the new technology helps the speed of return time of diagnoses, determining whether children in Mozambique are HIV positive is still a challenge as two types of tests are needed to determine if the antibodies of a newborn are from the mother or in the child’s blood itself. Aid groups hope to increase health infrastructure in the country to have the ability to offer both types of tests to patients.

Christina Kindlon

Source: The Guardian

Mozambique_Mosquito_Nets_USAid
Many foreign aid organizations assist developing countries not by sending money, but by providing health and educational equipment for impoverished people. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) is among the organizations who employ this method. A case in point is that since 2007, USAID has delivered 20 million insecticide treated mosquito nets to Mozambique.

The impact of these mosquito nets has been invaluable, says Polly Dunford, the interim USAID Director in Mozambique. The nets have decreased the number of malaria cases in the country, most notably in cases of children.

USAID partnered with the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) to fight malaria in Mozambique. PEPFAR uses aid money from USAID to distribute the mosquito nets and insecticide spray, counsel pregnant women about malaria prevention, and produce more effective malaria drugs.

In addition to providing assistance to reduce cases of malaria, USAID has been focusing on helping farmers become more successful. Given Mozambique’s ocean accessibility, it has the potential to become a regional food supplier, says Dunford. USAID has been supporting the agriculture sector through training programs that educate farmers on how to more productively sell their food products.

Mozambique receives about $500 million from USAID annually and a majority of that money goes towards health sector, like PEPFAR and other malaria prevention programs. The country has high levels of experienced economic growth, however, many people are still living in poverty. With the help of USAID, the number of impoverished and those dying from malaria in Mozambique will continue to decrease.

– Mary Penn

Source: AllAfrica
Photo: World Vision