Posts

hunger in fijiFiji, a country bordering both Tonga and Futana, has faced increased obstacles with food security. It is estimated that amongst the population of 926,276 citizens, over 250,000 individuals are battling poverty and hunger. However, increased efforts have been made to combat this rise in hunger in Fiji.

Problem in Numbers

It is estimated that over 35% of Fiji’s population is below the national poverty line. With the income of households drastically declining, thousands of families do not have the proper resources to thrive.

Fiji children are also heavily impacted, further contributing to the increased rate of hunger in Fiji. It has been recently estimated that over 40% of Fiji’s children are malnourished. A majority of children in Fiji suffer from “protein-energy malnutrition”, meaning that they do not consume enough vital and nutritious foods for their bodies.

The Causes

The lack of food distribution in Fiji points towards a variety of factors. A primary cause is due to Fiji’s political instability and corruption. Additionally, with tourism making up a majority of Fiji’s GDP, the COVID-19 pandemic has led to decreased budgets and widespread unemployment.

Climate change has also affected hunger in Fiji. Cyclones have led to massive agricultural losses, resulting in widespread losses of income and the destruction of food that would be derived from the agricultural crops.

Another cause contributing to the hunger in Fiji is the increased dropout rates among children. With the majority of Fiji’s population battling poverty, children are often instructed to leave school in search of work. From grueling street work to harsh agricultural labor, children earn very little over the years.

In 2016 it was estimated that over 55% of children at primary school age were not attending school. This low schooling rate leaves many children uneducated, unskilled and closed off to stable job opportunities which in turn leaves them unable to afford basic necessities as adults.

The Road to Change

However, despite the increased rates of hunger among the Fiji population, organizations have stepped up to aid the needy. A prominent organization is Moms Against Hunger, which has dedicated itself to providing food for the individuals battling poverty. Moms Against Hunger has recruited numerous volunteers and has delivered over 250,000 food packages to families in need. Under the COVID-19 pandemic, hundreds of families received enough food to last several months.

Another impactful organization is HELP International, which looks to empower and educate individuals in need. HELP International focused its efforts in the nutrition sector, teaching individuals nutritional guidelines, financial literacy and the importance of schooling. Through these efforts, thousands of families can learn to manage a budget, eat well and pursue higher education.

Additionally, Aggie Global seeks to educate farmers on sustainable practices. Under a team of various volunteers, Aggie Global hosted workshops to teach farmers about crop control, production tricks and sustainable solutions. After conducting these workshops, hundreds of farmers were able to boost production, increasing the amount of food distributed to the public.

The Future

Despite organizations looking to aid those in need, Fiji continues to face problems in feeding the entirety of its population. The efforts from nonprofit organizations provide short-term relief but Fiji is in great need of government assistance to see great and lasting change.

For Fiji to see an immense reduction in its hunger rate, the government must act alongside nonprofit organizations to provide for families. In addition, the Fiji government must prioritize the youth and support and encourage the pursuit of higher education. With increased positive influence and support from Fiji’s government, poverty-stricken families all over Fiji would benefit, lowering the overall hunger rate.

Aditya Padmaraj
Photo: Flickr

Project LoonInnovative 21st-century technologies have motivated NGOs and tech companies around the world to develop apps and other online ways for people in developing areas to stay connected. Information provided on the internet or transmitted through SMS assists people worldwide with acquiring resources and employing techniques to advance education, healthcare and agriculture. Unfortunately, some areas remain untouched by the benefits of staying connected because their remoteness prevents internet availability — at least until now. Google’s sister company, Loon, is rising to the challenge of providing internet to remote populations in Africa and recovering populations affected by natural disasters using solar-powered 4G balloons with Project Loon.

Project Loon

Project Loon, which became one of Google’s “moonshot projects” in 2011, began launching balloons by 2013 and partnered with Telkom Kenya in 2018. Following this deal, the solar-powered balloons were tested on 35,000 customers covering over 50,000 square kilometers. The goal was to provide adequate connectivity to underserved and disadvantaged communities, beginning with Kenya. Loon executives stress that providing creative, low-cost solutions is the greatest way to help people, particularly those in rural areas where connectivity could be life-changing. Their passion stems from an intense desire to “challenge the status quo” by “[relying] on knowledge and empathy to make wise decisions.” Initial findings suggest that Loon balloons cover up to 100 times more area than typical cell towers and deliver wifi strong enough for video callings, surfing the web, watching YouTube videos, downloading apps and messaging other users.

How it Works

Loon 4G balloons are essentially flying cell phone towers but they are much lighter and more durable. They have the ability to withstand temperatures below -90°C and to remain steady amid violent winds. After being launched in the United States and traveling through wind currents across the world, the balloons begin their 100-day stays in Kenyan airspace, providing internet download speeds up to 18.9 megabits per second in partnership with AT&T.

Although the balloons heavily depend on wind currents as guides, they also have specially designed, state of the art Flight Systems that consist of three main parts: the balloon envelope, bus and payload. The envelope, made of polyethylene plastic, forms what people typically recognize as a balloon. The bus holds solar panels where the battery is charged, the altitude control system that navigates winds using GPS and the safety gear (parachute) for landing. The payload is the internet provider that houses the LTE antenna and the gimbals which liaise between the balloon and the ground. The balloons also depend on lift gas to loft them 20 kilometers into the air and to assist during the descent alongside local air traffic controllers. Loon specifically designates predetermined landing zones where the balloons are either recycled or prepared for reuse by on-site recovery teams.

After the balloons are collected, they are closely analyzed for holes and tears, allowing examiners to alter their designs and make the balloons stronger if necessary.

Disaster Preparedness

Resilient balloons can go a long way in addressing disaster preparedness and this also presents a significant opportunity for Project Loon to make a difference. Natural disasters often wipe out infrastructure, leaving populations disconnected when communication is more vital than ever. Because Loon balloons fly at such high altitudes and do not require activation within close proximity, there is greater potential for connectivity.

For example, Loon’s balloons were deployed during an earthquake in Peru where they covered nearly 40,000 square miles and were used following a devastating hurricane in Puerto Rico. The company’s role in connecting families in the wake of disaster “is a lifeline” for those affected and can have a life-changing global impact.

Loon Chief Executive Alastair Westgarth has expressed concern about the effects of COVID-19 on disconnected populations. Because the virus has obstructed normalcy, connectivity could be the only way to continue education in developing nations. There are numerous agriculture, healthcare and education resources that, with internet connection, can preserve progression, one of Loon’s immediate goals.

Future Flights

To date, Loon has launched 1,750 4G balloons that have spent more than 1 million hours in the stratosphere and connected over 35,000 users, with the most successful balloon remaining aloft for 300 days and counting. The ultimate goal is to maintain a permanent 35-member fleet over eastern Africa in the hope of connecting and empowering developing nations.

– Natalie Clark
Photo: Flickr

Artificial Intelligence and Disaster ResponseNatural disasters are a phenomenon that affects countries around the world. The World Health Organization reports that more than 160 million people are affected by natural disasters annually. Estimates from the World Bank also suggest that 26 million people are forced below the poverty line annually due to natural disasters. Technological advancements with artificial intelligence (AI) aiding natural disasters may help countries with their response to such catastrophic events and help reduce these detrimental effects.

Natural Disasters Contributing to Poverty

Across the globe, poorer communities are more negatively affected by natural disasters than wealthier communities. Natural disasters have the potential to cause a major loss of income due to damage to infrastructure, crops, or a decrease in demand and tourism. This loss of income is more significant for those in the low-income category as they have fewer resources to begin the rebuilding process, potentially causing long-term poverty.

History shows that major natural disasters widen income inequalities. After the 2011 floods in Australia, low-income individuals lost an average of $3,100 AUD ($2,141 USD) per year. This lower income was typically maintained for five years after the natural disaster. Contrastingly, middle and high-income individuals gained over $3,300 AUD ($2,280 USD) annually for those five years. This was because emergency aid was more oriented to businesses rather than households, and the wealthy are more likely to own businesses. This example illustrates how low-income individuals are more vulnerable to being pushed into poverty due to a natural disaster.

The U.N. reports that, globally, the largest loss of life due to natural disasters occurs in poor communities. This may be a result of the fact that low-income individuals tend to live in geographical areas that are more prone to natural disasters. Additionally, those who are low-income tend to live in poorly constructed, fragile housing. This was observed in 2010 when an earthquake hit Haiti, where the largest loss of life was in a fragile and over-crowded housing facility, located in a poor community.

Artificial Intelligence Improving Disaster Response

AI is skilled at analyzing and tracking weather patterns to help predict the course and severity of natural disasters. However, technology has previously struggled to accurately predict earthquakes. Geophysicist Paul Johnson has assembled a team to use machine learning to predict these natural disasters. Machine learning uses technology to track data and identify similarities and patterns that occur prior to an earthquake. AI technology will then be able to analyze these characteristics to preemptively detect earthquakes. Johnson’s team has successfully used AI to predict earthquakes in a controlled laboratory setting. This technology would allow the opportunity for civilians to evacuate prior to an earthquake, decreasing injury and loss of life.

The application of this technology will resultingly allow for improved personnel and resource management once the natural disaster is detected. AI technology can now use geospatial observations to identify locations where people may move to during the natural disaster. This will allow officials to accurately complete rescue missions and send supplies to people who have relocated.

This technology will also help model which areas will be most affected by a natural disaster. AI can predict which buildings and roads will sustain the most damage throughout the disaster. This knowledge allows officials to re-route resources and response personnel to more appropriate areas. AI modeling will result in faster response times and more strategic access to affected areas.

McKinsey and Co. is an organization that uses technology to aid disaster relief efforts as a part of its Change That Matters initiative. McKinsey and Company’s AI uses satellite data and an algorithm to assess the damages sustained to a certain area. This allows for the responsible distribution of resources to help rebuild vital community services such as schools and medical facilities.

AI and Poverty Relief

AI is a tool that can be applied to many areas of life. The use of technology and AI is crucial in predicting natural disasters and improving aid responses after the disaster. These abilities and their effects lead AI to have the potential to play a major role in decreasing the number of people who are forced into poverty due to natural disasters.

– Laura Embry
Photo: Pixabay 

Pakistan is located in South Asia and controls part of Kashmir. The nation was first founded in 1947 during the partition of India, leading to lasting tensions between the two countries. Due to an ethnic civil war in 1971, East Pakistan became the country of Bangladesh. Today, Pakistan is one of the most populated countries worldwide. It has a robust reputation, as well as cultural and religious history. The nation relies on many natural resources for economic growth. These include minerals and oils, as well as traditional textiles that are known worldwide. Even with natural resources, there is rising homelessness in the country. Here are seven realities of homelessness in Pakistan.

7 Realities of Homelessness in Pakistan

  1. Pakistan is one of the top seven most populous countries: Currently, Pakistan is estimated to have a population of 220 million. With a growing population, the nation faces limitations to shelters and standards of living. The gap between those who are homeless and those living well off in urbanized areas only seems to be increasing. Researchers categorize 20 million people as being homeless in Pakistan. Statistics show that 35% of the total population live under the poverty line, while many barely stay above the poverty line. The conditions of homelessness in Pakistan disproportionately affect women and children because of malnutrition, healthcare and access to education.
  2. Homelessness in Pakistan disproportionately affects women and children: Of the population that is without stable shelter, women and children are the most affected. While living in temporary housing and slums, the homeless population is not receiving proper nutritious food. This leads to health issues, especially for young children who don’t have access to proper healthcare. Additionally, women and children aren’t going to school because they spend their day finding short term work, protecting their shelter and selling goods on the street.
  3. Natural disasters have a lasting effect: Over the past two decades, Pakistan has felt the effects of multiple natural disasters, from the lasting effects of an earthquake to yearly flooding. In 2005, northern Pakistan was dealing with the aftermath of a 7.6 magnitude earthquake, leaving 3.5 million people homeless, generating severe damage to the whole region. Even with the government’s help, many of those affected by the earthquake were left searching for employment and moving into temporary shelters/slums. Additionally, in 2010 Punjab felt the devastating effects of flooding that displaced at least 10 million people. Following the 2010 natural disaster UNCHR was quick to provide relief via materials for tents, food, etc. The region is still recovering from the damage and experiencing floods yearly. Damages from the floods sweep away temporary shelters, slums and require those without a home to constantly relocate.
  4. Multidimensional poverty is a factor for homelessness in Pakistan: In 2016, an official report by the Ministry of Planning, Development and Reform was released on multidimensional poverty being a factor in the poverty index, concluding that 39% of Pakistanis are living in multidimensional poverty. The percent has decreased over the past decade, but the progress is disproportionately effective from urban to rural regions. This index pertains to not only income and wealth but includes healthcare, education, living standards, etc. The report creates a path to understand how those in poverty may remain under the poverty line or become homeless due to outside factors. By creating these index factors, the government plans to help determine where the need lies for improvement throughout Pakistan.
  5. Imran Khan’s initiative for shelter homes: The current prime minister of the country had led his campaign on bettering situations for those under the poverty line and creating adequate housing situations for those suffering from homelessness in Pakistan. The goal of his initiative ‘Panagah’ (shelter homes) is to create shelter for the homeless and those in poverty across the country. The initiative is still underway, with multiple shelters that have been built or bought. His plan describes a five-year timeline and the initiative was first accepted in 2018. But many regions are waiting for those promised accommodations for the homeless population to reach their regions of Pakistan.
  6. FINCA international organization: FINCA is a nonprofit organization that is headquartered in the USA. The organization works on market-based solutions for people who are homeless or living in poverty internationally. Its work to uplift communities is prevalent in countries such as Pakistan with solutions provided from three categories: microfinance, social enterprise and research. As of recently, the organization has given small loans and savings accounts for 1,128,248 homeless/poverty clients to successfully create financial stability with reasonable and successful planning. Introduced to Pakistan in 2017, a mobile money platform called “SimSim” is an impactful tool for change. It allows quicker depositing, transfer and organization of money for those creating stable work for themselves. It has also provided donations to The Institute of Public Health in Punjab to help diagnose and combat COVID-19 via kits in poor communities. FINCA can be found in South Asia, Africa, Latin America, the Middle East and Eurasia. The organization works to aid families to become educated and create self-sustaining work for themselves and their communities.
  7. Save the Children: Save the Children is an international nonprofit organization that focuses on providing a healthy start and opportunity in life for vulnerable children. In Pakistan, the group supported children who were displaced during the natural disasters and conflicts of 2005 to 2010. The nonprofit’s goal is to provide shelter kits, food, education and medical aid to children for over 30 years. It works with local authorities to rebuild communities of poverty. Save the Children has rebuilt 102 schools and 181 temporary learning centers in Pakistan. The nonprofit also protects and supports the basic needs of over 600,000 children.

Even with an abundance of natural resources, Pakistan still suffers from a large homeless population. The country is working to better their living standards. Natural disasters and the poverty index are key to understanding the factors involved in the displacement of families living in poverty. These seven realities of homelessness in Pakistan bring context to the issue. They also highlight where the country and organizations are putting forth efforts for change.

– Sumeet Waraich
Photo: Flickr

The Dominican Republic has a population of more than 10.5 million. Hunger remains a pressing issue for many people in this region, and the situation has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 outbreak. In 2020, the country’s annual GDP growth rate fell to -8%, in part because of COVID-19. This drastic drop has the potential to bring poverty rates up and leave many more families food insecure. Here are five facts affecting hunger in the Dominican Republic in the post-COVID-19 era.

5 Facts About Hunger in the Dominican Republic

  1. Hunger is more prevalent in the Dominican Republic than in neighboring regions. In Latin America and the Caribbean combined, 42.5 million people suffer from hunger, according to a Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations report. This means that 6.5% of the regional population goes hungry. In the Caribbean alone, however, which is where the Dominican Republic is located, this percentage is significantly higher: 18.4% of the population is undernourished.
  2. Over 2 million people in the Dominican Republic suffer from poverty, making for a national poverty rate of 21%. This is a relatively high poverty rate. Since poverty and hunger go hand in hand, to solve hunger in the Dominican Republic, we also need to reduce poverty. Some progress has been made in this area. The poverty rate is on the decline. In 2014, the World Bank reported that the middle class outnumbered the poor for the first time ever. This progress is a sign that poverty in the Dominican Republic can be lessened significantly through further action.
  3. The limited access to healthy food that some families experience in the Dominican Republic contributes to the country’s high rate of anemia. Anemia affects 28% of children under five. The most common type of Anemia is Iron Deficiency Anemia, which is caused by a shortage of iron in the body, according to the Mayo Clinic. This type of anemia is often caused by a diet lacking in iron-rich foods. While the rate of children with anemia is still high, the World Food Programme and the government of the Dominican Republic have been able to drastically reduce this rate in the last few years. In 2010, the rate of children between 6 and 11 months diagnosed with anemia was 74.8% in 2010. By 2013, that rate had decreased to 27.3%.
  4. The Dominican Republic’s economy could crash in the near future, causing a surge in hunger. The Dominican Republic has decreased its tourism dramatically in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19. According to the US Embassy in the Dominican Republic, the government of the Dominican Republic has suspended all cruise arrivals and set up roadblocks that deter international travel, among other preventative measures. Much of the Dominican Republic’s economy relies on tourism, and it may be damaged badly by the new rules that have been put in place in response to the virus. This damage to the economy could also cause a rise in hunger.
  5. Hunger in the Dominican Republic is perpetuated by natural disasters. Natural disasters are common, and they contribute to hunger. The Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery classifies the Dominican Republic as a “hotspot” for natural disasters. Between 1980 and 2008, almost a quarter of the population was affected by natural disasters. Natural disasters perpetuate hunger because they destroy the livelihoods of many people, leaving them without a source of income and therefore less access to food.

Solutions

While hunger in the Dominican Republic is a serious issue, there are many organizations that are working to help solve it. For example, Food for the Hungry sponsors children through donations to make sure that they are able to eat. To date, the organization has sponsored 7,225 children. In the past, Food for the Hungry also helped provide aid to the country after natural disasters, such as Hurricane David and Tropical Storm Federico.

Another organization fighting hunger in the Dominican Republic is Food for the Poor. In 2019, the organization sent 50 truckloads of supplies to the Dominican Republic. These shipments included food as well as other necessities like educational supplies.

Conclusions

Hunger certainly isn’t a new problem in the Dominican Republic, but it is one that history shows can be ameliorated through focused humanitarian action. COVID-19, however, poses new problems and exacerbates some established ones. Economic instability and the curtailment of tourism have the potential to increase poverty rates that are already fairly high in the region. Hunger in the Dominican Republic is particularly hard on the region’s children, whose growing bodies are hardest hit by lack of nutrients. In order to assure a successful future for the Dominican Republic after COVID-19, attention needs to be given to the problem of hunger and malnutrition today.

Sophia Gardner
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in GrenadaGrenada, an island country in the Caribbean Sea, is known for its beautiful tourist attractions and flourishing spice trade. Unfortunately, poverty in Grenada affects almost one-third of its 107,000 residents.

The World Bank estimates that 32% of Grenada’s residents live below the poverty line. In addition, 13% of the population is considered “extremely poor.”

Dr. Elinor Garely of eTN notes that Grenada’s poorest residents are located in the rural regions of the country. She explains that this is due to inadequate access to the mainstream economy.

The mainstream economy is based on tourism and spice exportation, among other products. Grenada also depends on foreign aid. Without suitable access to the main cities and these economic opportunities, the rural communities suffer.

Youth in Grenada

Grenada’s demographic is quite young, with one-fourth of the population under the age of 14. The poverty in Grenada impacts youth most of all. In fact, Garely explains that 66.4% of the poor are under 24 years of age.

Due to a lack of birth control resources, there are high numbers of teen pregnancy, which often correlates to violence against children.

Physical and sexual abuse have emerged as the main issues facing the children of Grenada. More than one-third of children in Grenada have suffered from sexual violence. Women and children experience significant abuse due to the lack of laws against physical punishment.

Causes of Poverty in Grenada

Poverty in Grenada is linked to a number of different factors. With inadequate defenses against natural disasters, ineffective education and unprepared workers, poverty is “entrenched in the very fiber of the country.”

Natural disasters, such as hurricanes, frequently threaten the small island. The last two hurricanes occurred in 2004 and 2005. Hurricane Ivan hit first and devastated the majority of Grenadian homes. A year later, Hurricane Emily swept through the area, furthering the damage not yet repaired from Hurricane Ivan. However, significantly fewer lives were lost, as the Grenadian people took important precautions that had been neglected during Hurricane Ivan.

Education and unprepared workers are two other causes of poverty in Grenada, and they go hand in hand. Without proper education, the youth do not have the necessary skills to get jobs that offer livable pay. The jobs that are available, mainly agricultural, do not appeal to the youth because of “perceived instability, [the youths’] lack of interest in physical labor and very low wages,” according to Garely.

It would be more beneficial for the Grenadian youth to work in the tourism sector, but, unfortunately, it requires skills that many residents lack.

Efforts to Reduce Poverty in Grenada

The government is making strides to alleviate many of the issues that stem from or cause poverty in Grenada.

While it currently lacks enough funds to be effective, Grenada does have “a system to place orphans and children with domestic problems with other families.” In addition, laws are in place to protect girls from sexual assault. However, boys still remain vulnerable.

The country has taken important steps to defend against natural disasters. Creating a plan for natural disasters became a priority after the devastation of Hurricane Ivan and Hurricane Emily. The change was seen immediately in how the people of Grenada reacted differently to Hurricane Emily after experiencing Hurricane Ivan; “the rush contrasted with the attitude before Ivan, when Grenadians took few precautions.”

While Grenada is still improving its ability to defend against natural disasters and internal issues such as violence, it has wonderful potential.

Abbey Lawrence
Photo: Flickr

natural disastersWithin the past few years, natural disasters have been occurring more frequently with increasing intensity. Examples of natural disasters include hurricanes, floods, droughts, landslides and earthquakes. The greater the impact, the higher the mortality rate. This results in a higher level of destruction and trauma for those in the region. It is estimated that natural disasters cost the government around “a third of a trillion dollars” to rebuild communities and provide resources for the public.

Natural Disasters in Developing Countries

Natural disasters affect developing countries the most because many lack the resources and funding to protect their communities adequately. Families in developing countries do not live in homes prepared to withstand such disasters. As a result, many face displacement under these tragic circumstances.

Although natural disasters damage communities and put many people through challenging situations, several organizations prioritize bringing relief to these communities. UNICEF, Habitat for Humanity and International Relief Teams are some that focus on bringing resources to developing countries.

3 Organizations Bringing Aid to Developing Countries

  1. Habitat for Humanity: With more than 40 years of experience, Habitat for Humanity focuses on building safe and affordable housing for those affected by natural disasters. Its disaster preparation plan focuses on disaster risk reduction training, disaster-resistant construction and community preparation. In Puerto Rico, 99% of homes do not have flood insurance. In 2017, hurricanes destroyed 90% of the homes there. The organization created 2,000 solar panels, 2,000 solar lanterns and 2,000 shelter repair kits to provide residents with essential repairs. In a partnership with World Vision, Habitat for Humanity also repaired and built homes for 2oo families in the Dominican Republic.
  2. UNICEF: When natural disasters occur, UNICEF is one of the first responders. It provideswater purification tablets, vaccines and nutritional supplements for children and nursing mothers.” It also supplies school kits, temporary shelter and trauma counseling. The organization helps displaced children who may have lost their way looking for shelter reunite with their parents. After Mozambique’s country was swept over by a cyclone in March 2019, UNICEF assisted many families with urgent needs, focusing on malnutrition prevention and locating children who may have been left orphaned. It also helped get children back into school. Within a month, UNICEF gave cholera vaccinations to 900,000 people and restored Beira’s water supply for 500,00 people. It also helped fight malaria by providing 500,000 mosquito nets.
  3. International Relief Teams: In September 2019, category 5 hurricane Dorian devastated the Bahamas before heading towards the United States. In the Bahamas, 43 people died. During this time, the International Relief Teams provided the Bahamas with 5,000 tarps for temporary shelter, 21,024 ready-to-eat meals. It also set up 158 generators and 2,000 solar lights. The hurricane also destroyed around 45% of homes in Grand Bahama and Abaco. With the help of donations, however, the organization hired local laborers to help rebuild more than 100 homes.

During trying situations and natural disasters, humanity has a miraculous gift of coming together and taking care of one another. Whether providing critical resources or rebuilding homes, many organizations go out of their way to help others.

Paola Quezada
Photo: Flickr

disasters and homelessness in Haiti
In January 2010, Haiti’s capital city, Port-au-Prince, was in the epicenter of a magnitude 7.0 earthquake. Concrete buildings were reduced to rubble, homes were destroyed and more than five million people were displaced. As one of the poorest countries, the fight against disasters and homelessness in Haiti is a continuous uphill battle. Here are six facts about the link between natural disasters and homelessness in Haiti.

6 Facts About Disasters and Homelessness in Haiti

  1. Haiti needed around 300,000 houses before the 2010 earthquake, and over 500,000 afterwards. At the time of the 2010 earthquake, 70% of Haiti’s population was living below the poverty line. As a result of frequent natural disasters, political unrest and the high dependency on agriculture for livelihood, the country fell behind in development.
  2. Buildings in Haiti were not built to withstand powerful earthquakes. Before 2010, there were no proper building codes for houses in Haiti. Over half of the population lives in rural areas with their homes consisting of mud walls and palm leaves woven together for a roof. In the cities, most live in overpopulated slums with no enforced safety regulations. This leaves a majority of the population vulnerable to losing their homes if a natural disaster strikes.
  3. Those who lost their homes in the 2010 earthquake had to go to internally displaced persons (IDP) camps. There, they lived in makeshift tents of sheets and tin, had no direct access to running water, no electricity and no security. However, countries around the world banded together in an effort to help the displaced by sending supplies, along with doctors and relief workers. Donors of Direct Relief provided up to $7 million for rebuilding in Haiti.
  4. Continuous natural disasters delay the recovery process. In 2016, Hurricane Matthew struck Haiti as a category 4, damaging the south end of the country. Once again, countries and organizations like World Vision continued to supply relief well into 2018. The Red Cross also funded livestock replacement and vet clinics that brought benefits to 5,000 families. Collectively, it raised a total of $5.2 million to help those in Haiti who had been impacted by the hurricane.
  5. IDP camps are still in use today. Of the 1.5 million people who lived in IDP camps in the summer of 2010, there are 50,000 that remain. Those who were able to leave the camps had either raised enough money to rebuild their home or received rental subsidies from the government. There are also hundreds of non-profit organizations, such as Homes for Haiti, Build Change, Build Abroad and the Red Cross, providing volunteers to build shelters for the homeless in Haiti.
  6. A cholera outbreak took place in one of the camps after the earthquake. However, along with the foreign aid and continuous construction of houses, the country has been successful in containing the cholera outbreak that overtook the camp after the earthquake. Haiti’s last confirmed cholera case was in January 2019, and has not seen any since.

There is hope for homelessness in Haiti. Recovery from disasters in poor countries like Haiti take time, but with coordinated efforts between humanitarian organizations, Haiti can continue to rebuild.

– Molly Moline 
Photo: Flickr

Straw-bale homesNatural disasters push 26 million into poverty each year, impacting the most impoverished demographics. Due to extreme poverty, new technological innovations in earthquake architecture remains inaccessible to many earthquake-prone areas. Utilizing ancient building practices, particularly straw bale houses, and teaching these techniques to the local populace has produced promising results.

What are Straw Bale Homes?

The earliest evidence of straw bale homes can be dated back to the Paleolithic period in Africa, but it continues to be used throughout the world. Straw bales are relatively cheap, provide excellent insulation and are naturally fire-resistant. When the plaster is applied to the straw structure, its relatively thick walls become an impenetrable fortress to sound, moisture and fire. Another benefit of this type of construction is its ability to resist the stresses of tectonic activity. The width of the bales themselves creates a wide solid footprint for the structure. The organic makeup of the bales allows for maximum absorption of seismic forces. Researchers built a full-scale straw bale based home for a series of shake table tests and applied forces twice the amount of what was measured during the 1994 Northridge, California earthquake. The structure, while damaged, still showed no signs of collapse.

Straw is widely available and cheap, often the byproduct of many agricultural processes. Thus, it is the perfect material to be used in impoverished areas where earthquakes are prevalent. Pakistan is located in a highly active seismic area, experiencing hundreds of earthquakes per annum. It is also a region where nearly 40 percent of the population experiences multidimensional poverty. Homes are built cheaply and lack structural components necessary to combat seismic tremors. This ultimately creates a death zone when large tremors strike.

Importance of Straw Bale Homes

The most devastating incident was in 2005 when a 7.6 earthquake rocked the Kashmir region, killing 80,000 people and leaving another 4 million homeless. This disaster led to the founding of the organization Pakistan Straw Bale and Appropriate Building (PAKSBAB). PAKSBAB has trained 70 people in straw bale construction. These people continue to build seismically-safe, affordable and sustainable homes that house micro-to-small-income families.
In April 2015, the citizens of Kathmandu, Nepal nearly suffered its own catastrophic earthquake. The earthquake destroyed 600,000 structures and killed 9,000 people. The tremors were felt as far as Tibet. In an effort to curb destruction in such an earthquake-prone country, the Institute for Social and Environment Transition (ISET) has been researching the benefits of straw bale construction, such as the material’s flexibility and cost-effectiveness. In 2018, Builders Without Borders and the Kevin Rohan Memorial Eco Foundation collaborated to build the first straw bale home in Nepal. They continue to raise funds to acquire straw and balers.

Structures built of straw bales will be essential in minimizing destruction in areas of the globe most vulnerable to earthquakes. This material will bend rather than break during an earthquake. It also allows for a greater possibility of escape in the event of collapse compared to other available alternatives such as concrete and steel. In areas that are already struggling under the burden of poverty, the affordability of straw bales is a major appeal. Thanks to the work of organizations like Builders Without Borders and PAKSBAB, people will continue to save lives and house families thanks to this ancient practice.

Tiernán Gordon

Healthcare in Nepal
Nepal remains one of the world’s poorest countries as well as one of the most prone to natural disasters. The country suffers from the effects of climate change and population increase, which further increases the damage caused by natural disasters. Landslides and floods are particularly common, especially during the monsoon season. These catastrophes kill more than 500 people a year. The healthcare in the country is often unequally distributed, with healthcare resources centralized around the country’s major urban centers. This unequal distribution hinders the quality and accessibility of healthcare provided in Nepal. Here are 10 facts about healthcare in Nepal.

10 Facts About Healthcare in Nepal

  1. The 1978 Alma Ata Declaration: In an effort to improve healthcare, Nepal was influenced by the 1978 Alma Ata Declaration. The declaration emphasized community-oriented preventive, promotive and curative healthcare services. Nepal also took steps to improve the lives of its citizens by establishing a network of primary healthcare facilities. In addition, the nation deployed community healthcare workers to provide healthcare at the community level.
  2. Life expectancy: As a result of improving healthcare in Nepal, life expectancy has seen a dramatic increase. According to the Nepali Times, life expectancy went up 12.3 years between 1991 and 2011. Currently, the country has the second-highest life expectancy in South Asia, largely due to the fact that the country has seen a sharp decrease is birth rate mortality. The Central Bureau of Statistics reported that 295,459 Nepalis were more than 75 years old in 2001 and in 2011 that number increased to 437,981.
  3. Accessibility: Most of Nepal’s healthcare resources are located in or around Kathmandu, the capital city of Nepal. This centralization leads to other areas of Nepal being neglected. In 2015, however, Nepal’s government formed a Social Health Security Development Committee as a legal framework in an effort to start implementing a social health security scheme. The program’s goal was to increase the accessibility of healthcare services to Nepal’s poor and marginalized communities. It was also aimed to increase access to people who live in hard to reach areas of the country. Problems, however, remain with financing the effort.
  4. Healthcare as a human right: In 2007, the Nepalese Government endorsed healthcare as a basic human right in its Interim Constitution. Despite this, only 61.8 percent of Nepalese have access to healthcare facilities within a 30-minute radius. Nepal also suffers from an inadequate supply of essential drugs and poorly regulated private healthcare providers. Statistically, Nepal also only has 0.67 doctors and nurses per 1,000 people. This is less than the World Health Organization’s recommendation of 2.3 doctors, nurses and midwives per 1,000 people.
  5. Lack of basic health facilities: Around 22 percent of Nepalis do not have access to basic health facilities. The groups who lack healthcare in Nepal tend to be the Dalits from Terai and Muslims. However, there has been a 19 percent increase in the usage of outpatient care by Dalits.
  6. Common diseases in Nepal: The top diseases in Nepal are ischemic heart disease, COPD, lower respiratory infection, diarrheal disease, stroke and diabetes.
  7.  Oral health: More than half of adults in Nepal suffer from bacterial tooth decay. Bacterial tooth decay can lead to chronic pain, heart disease and diabetes. Many in rural villages do not have access to tooth filling, toothpaste or water. There is a belief among some Nepalese that tooth extraction causes blindness.
  8. Maternal and child mortality rates: There has been a reduction in maternal and child mortality rates.  The rates have decreased from 539 per 100,000 to 281 per 100,000 live births in 2006, according to the DHS survey. The 5 and under mortality rate decreased in rural areas from 143 per 1000 to 50 per 1000 live births in 2009.
  9. Earthquakes: The earthquakes that hit Nepal in April of 2015 are one of the greatest natural disasters in Nepal’s modern history, destroying over 1,100 healthcare facilities. Possible Health.org, a global team of people committed to the belief that everyone deserves access to quality healthcare without financial burden, signed a 10-year agreement with their government partners to attempt to rebuild the healthcare system in the Dolokah district, which suffered the destruction of 85 percent of their healthcare facilities.
  10. Government corruption: While there are efforts to improve the lives of Nepalis, corruption exists, according to the Himalayan Times. The Corruption Perceptions Index ranks Nepal 124 out of 175 countries worldwide. This corruption leads to a lack of resources dedicated to healthcare. The Nepali government only allocations 5 percent of its national budget toward healthcare, not enough to create significant improvements.

These 10 facts about healthcare in Nepal illustrate the challenges the nation has faced, as well as the progress that has been made. To help improve healthcare, the European Union provides continual support. In 2019, they gave 2 million pounds of assistance to the country. Moving forward, continued work by humanitarian organizations and the Nepali government is needed to continue improving healthcare in Nepal.

Robert Forsyth
Photo: U.N. Multimedia