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New Approach in the Netherlands

The Social and Economic Council (SEC) recommended a new approach to the government in the Netherlands to combat poverty. The Council have revealed that families in the Netherlands often do not benefit from special provisions aimed to help the poor. This is because 60 percent of children in the Netherlands who live in poverty have at least one parent with a job.

Despite recent attempts to reduce the number of poor children, such as renewed attention to poverty reduction in Dutch development policies, the number of children growing up in long term poverty has gone up 7 percent to 125,000 as of February 2019.

While the Netherlands is known as one of the wealthiest counties in the world, wealth is still not distributed evenly. Many children suffer the consequences of their family’s poverty and have less access to education and health services.

What’s Being Done Now

The Social and Economic Council said that authorities should appoint one official to try to quantify the problem and to improve the often-complicated forms which need to be filled in to apply for help.

Currently, a small poverty analysis and policy desk has been created within the Ministry with the main task of integrating attention to poverty reduction into all the activities of Dutch aid. Furthermore, in the field of aid implementation, there is an effort to make Dutch aid more demand-driven to reach the poorest areas of the country.

How It’s Affecting Immigration

The struggle to stay above the poverty line has revealed that the amount of people holding two jobs has also increased within the Netherlands to nearly half a million people. Young people are most likely to combine two jobs. Of those 15 to 25-year old’s who work at least 12 hours a week, more than 12 percent have two jobs. This raises concerns for anyone trying to find a job and creates hostility towards immigrants.

Even the most pro-Europe Dutch political parties had 53 percent of its voters considering it unwise to allow free movement of workers. Minister for Social Affairs and Employment Lodewijk Ascher has already expressed his concerns that cheap labor could flood the Netherlands and said that former British Prime Minister David Cameron’s calls for limits on EU migration were “potentially interesting.”

The Future

The first steps of improvement have already been made by acknowledging the need for change. The Dutch policies on fighting childhood poverty need to be revised according to the SER. In 2014, a total of 378 thousand kids in the Netherlands grew up in poverty, with a remarkable 219,000 of these kids living in a home where at least one parent has a paying job. According to SER chairman Mariette Hamer, these numbers prove a new approach is needed.

Mariette Hamer also pointed out that these families are earning too little and in addition, they usually deal with paying off debt. The SER’s advice includes appointing a poverty manager in each municipality. This manager can help improve the cooperation between the different institutes and simplify procedures. The manager must also help low-income households find their way to services that can help. This new approach in the Netherlands could greatly help those in need.

Why Does It matter?

Wealthier countries, like the Netherlands, provide research to help poorer countries make good decisions. While their poverty levels are not nearly as bad as other areas of the world, there is still room for improvement. The policy has to be based on evidence. Academics, development organizations and research is needed to provide evidence for what works and what doesn’t.

Poverty reduction is a moral issue, but it is also a matter of smart policy. More prosperous societies are more stable societies. By working out a new approach in the Netherlands, it could help other children living in poverty all over the world.

– Grace Arnold
Photo: Flickr

Phare Ponleu Selpak circus schoolBattambang, Cambodia
The room is dark with a spotlight and hard bleachers. One young person enters from stage left juggling three red balls. Another performer helps the juggler onto a cylinder. Barefoot, the juggler is now balancing and juggling. Soon they add another cylinder at a 90-degree angle to the first, followed by another cylinder and another. The juggler is now five feet off the ground, still balancing and juggling. Phare Battambang Circus is a human-only circus in Battambang, Cambodia with goals well beyond entertainment that involves its idea of The Brightness of the Arts.  It strives to fight poverty in Cambodia through the arts.

The Phare Battambang Circus

The Phare Battambang Circus runs through a Cambodian nonprofit, Phare Ponleu Selpak (PPS) or The Brightness of the Arts, which provides a “nurturing and creative environment where young people access quality arts training, education and social support.” Sparked in 1986 in a refugee camp on the Thai/Cambodian border, Phare Ponleu Selpak uses a whole child approach through arts, education and social support to break intergenerational patterns of poverty steeped in the long history of state-sponsored violence. While the violence of the Khmer Rouge has retreated, children in Cambodia still struggle with extensive social problems such as poor school retention, drug abuse, poor working conditions, domestic violence, illegal migration and exploitation.

Now a must-do for visiting tourists, high season at the Phare Battambang Circus means at least 150 visitors a night. About 40 percent of nightly circus revenue goes to the youth performers themselves. This income supports families around Battambang and keeps youth out of more destructive industries like human trafficking in Thailand. PPS estimates that over 1,000 lives should positively change every year through its free-of-charge artistic, general education and personalized social support. Its arts education and artistic performances are changing the lives of families living in poverty in Cambodia.

The Khmer Rouge Regime

Under the Khmer Rouge from 1975 to 1979, the party’s radical Maoist and Marxist-Leninist agenda governed all aspects of everyday life in Cambodia. In its effort to render the country a classless agricultural utopia, the Khmer Rouge asserted that only the culturally pure could participate in the revolution. As such, the Khmer Rouge “executed hundreds of thousands of intellectuals; city residents; minority people such as the Cham, Vietnamese and Chinese and many of their own soldiers and party members, who were accused of being traitors.” Recent estimates place the death toll between 1.2 and 2.8 million.

The people the Khmer Rouge found to be nonconforming went to prison camps, the most notorious being S-21 where the regime imprisoned over 12,000 people and only 15 survived. Such widespread violence forced millions into refugee camps for years after the fall of the Khmer Rouge.

At Site II, a refugee camp on the Thai/Cambodian border, a French artist and humanitarian worker named Véronique Decrop started offering informal drawing classes for the children at the camp orphanage.

How Site II Grew into PHARE

Classes at Site II grew into PHARE, a French association and acronym meaning Patrimoine Humain et Artistique des Réfugiés et de leurs Enfants (Human and Artistic Heritage of the Refugees and their Children). Communications and Marketing Coordinator for Phare Ponleu Selpak Morgane Darrasse said, “The original idea was to develop a form of art therapy for them to escape and overcome the traumas of war.” Over time PHARE grew into Phare Ponleu Selpak or The Brightness of the Arts.

When Site II closed in 1992, Veronique and nine of her students moved to Battambang to create a sustainable school for the most affected children from the surrounding area. By 1995, the school accepted its first students and to this day, four of the original founders are still active in PPS.

Thanks to state-wide violence, all founders of PPS grew up in refugee camps segregated from their own cultural traditions. When it came time to implement music and dance programs at PPS, the founders chose to spotlight Cambodian traditional music. Derasse said, “They felt it their duty to revive the dying Cambodian arts” while fighting poverty in Cambodia.

Phare Ponleu Selpak Supports Its Students

Even though drawing classes with PHARE were the first seed, Phare Ponleu Selpak now has a thriving visual and performing arts curriculum as well as a strong outreach and social work foundation to support students find job placements and networking opportunities through and after their education. In its efforts to create a sustainable arts community, PPS ensures that 100 percent of students who complete their secondary or vocational training with it achieve employment within three months of graduation. This sustainable long-term approach lessens the intergenerational hold of poverty in Cambodia.

One student, Monisovanya RY, studied visual arts and graphic design through PPS. Upon graduation, PPS hired her into the PPS communications team to coordinate product design and production. In her free time, she creates performances in local galleries to cultivate an understanding of the environmental dangers of plastic waste.

Morgane Darrasse for PPS boasts, “We provide our students with communication and life skills, and also a complete set of technical skills, a strong fundamental and cultural knowledge of the arts, and the ability to understand, analyze and respond to a given problem with professionalism and creativity.”

The organization’s graphic and animation graduates work in advertising, marketing and animation production, and all local circus instructors are graduates of the program itself. Its goal is the creation of a sustainable arts community.

PPS’s Child Protection Program

In addition to pursuing arts programming, PPS’s Child Protection Program (CPP) asserts the inherent value of children’s rights. It wants communities to be safe and to provide families with the tools to care for their children. These programs extend into the three communes surrounding Battambang.

In collaboration with 32 NGOs based in Battambang and generous international donors, CPP follows, tracks and supports students and their families through a family needs assessment process and a monthly student sponsorship program. Most PPS participants come from these local communes because of the intense time commitment their programs require. PPS established a scholarship program for its visual arts program recently, which has made it accessible to young people from other parts of Cambodia.

Phare Ponleu Selpak or The Brightness of the Arts saves lives and combats poverty in Cambodia. In 2013, PPS received a royal award of $31,000 from the Netherlands. The Dutch Ambassador said PPS gets at the heart of their award requirements “to promote the use of culture as a means of development.”

Sarah Boyer
Photo: Phare Ponleu Selpak

Common Diseases in the Netherlands
The Netherlands is located in Northwestern Europe and has a population of about 17 million. Non-communicable diseases, like in many other parts of the world, increasingly affect the Dutch and cause about 90 percent of deaths in the country. The following are the most common diseases in the Netherlands.

1. Neoplasms

The Netherlands has the 12th highest rate of cancer in the world, in part due to increased awareness and diagnosis. Thirty-three percent of deaths in the country are due to cancer. Lung cancer is the most prevalent, followed by breast cancer and intestinal cancer. Skin cancer and pancreatic cancer cases also are increasing, and, between 2005 and 2015, the mortality rate of pancreatic cancer increased by 12 percent.

During that same period, the mortality rate of lung cancer, which is especially common because of smoking, increased by six percent. The premature death rates and prevalence of lung cancer, pancreatic cancer and breast cancer are significantly higher in the Netherlands than in similar countries.

2. Cardiovascular Disease (CVD)

CVD causes 29 percent of deaths in the Netherlands. Although the mortality rate of CVD has declined since the second half of the 20th century, the burden remains. Ischemic heart disease is especially crippling to the country. In 2007, it was estimated that about 730,400 people were living with ischemic heart disease.

3. Chronic Respiratory Diseases

Chronic respiratory diseases cause six percent of deaths. Lung diseases in the Netherlands are especially prevalent because of the high percentage of smokers. About 28 percent of people in the country smoke. Because of this, there are roughly 23,000 lung related deaths per year and over one million lung patients.

In addition to lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is also prevalent in the county. Between 2005 and 2015, the mortality rate of COPD increased by 9.5 percent. The premature death rate is significantly higher in the Netherlands compared to similar countries. COPD can lead to emphysema and chronic bronchitis.

4. Mental and Behavioral Disorders

Mental health is important to recognize in the Netherlands. Depressive disorders are a leading cause of death and disability in the country. In 2014, about eight percent of the population claimed to be suffering from depression, accounting for more than one million people.

5. Alzheimer’s Disease

Dementia affects 1.47 percent of the Dutch population. In 2012, about 245,568 people lived with dementia. Alzheimer’s disease is especially common as the mortality rate increased by 18.6 percent between 2005 and 2015. Risk factors of Alzheimer’s include age, genetics, traumatic brain injury and mild cognitive impairment. Research also suggests that cardiovascular disease and education level may be linked to the disease.

Poor lifestyle choices are commonly associated to many of these diseases. Smoking, for example, is a major risk factor and something that should be recognized when addressing rates of diseases such as lung cancer and COPD. Improving health education is one step in helping decrease the rates of these common diseases in the Netherlands.

Francesca Montalto

Photo: Flickr

Human Rights in the Netherlands

The Netherlands is a modern nation located in Western Europe, between Belgium and Germany. The nation is home to more than 17 million people; three-fourths of them are Dutch. Over the years, the nation has proven itself to be a world leader by becoming a founding member of NATO and what is now the European Union. An area in which the Netherlands needs to improve, however, is its protection of human rights. While there are measures in place to protect human rights in the Netherlands, significant room for improvement remains.

According to the 2015 United States Department of State’s report on human rights in the Netherlands, there are several aspects concerning the protection of those rights that are particularly weak in the country. There has been widespread hostility and unfair treatment toward certain religious and ethnic groups; Muslim immigrants and Jewish people in particular have been afflicted. In an effort to quell the discrimination, 200 Jews and Muslims marched from a synagogue to a mosque in an effort to demonstrate solidarity. It is important to consider that the constitution forbids discrimination based on religion and that it is a crime under the law to publicly say things that promote hatred of religious groups.

Another human rights issue in the Netherlands that needs to be addressed is overcrowding in certain prison and detention centers. The prison and detention centers in the Netherlands meet international standards for the most part, but overcrowding has been a problem in Sint Maarten as a result of prison renovations.

The Department of State’s report also noticed discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) persons. However, this is one area in which the government is taking steps to combat discrimination. For instance, the law mandates that elementary and secondary schools address diversity and LGBTI issues as a method to alleviate the problem through education. Courts in the Netherlands even have the ability to provide higher penalties to perpetrators of violence against LGBTI persons who acted because of their bias against this community.

The Netherlands has made notable progress in protecting certain human rights, but hopefully they continue to make strides forward in order to improve on human rights in all areas.

Adam Braunstein

 

The Netherlands is one of the wealthiest countries in the world. The country’s gross domestic product is the 17th-highest in the world and it consistently ranks in the top 10 on the Human Development Index in the world. Hunger in the Netherlands is prevalent, even though the country contributes a very high percentage of its GDP to foreign aid. And as of recently, due to the economic crisis, more than one million of the country’s 17 million people have hit the marker for poverty.

There are many nonprofit organizations that aid in providing food to families who are in need. Foodbank Netherlands is one of these organizations that partners with food companies to donate food products to those who suffer from hunger in the Netherlands.
The government in the Netherlands has also developed a food security policy that addresses different concerns that bring about hunger in the Netherlands as well as the world. The Netherlands seeks to specifically address hunger worldwide and also focuses on the many people who suffer from hidden hunger.
While the economic downturn has seen the Netherlands own citizens experience hunger the country still focuses on foreign aid to other countries. Hunger in the Netherlands is being combated while the country still remains at the top of initiatives for its citizenry and policy reform for global hunger and poverty reduction. 
 
Hunger trends are very minute for the Dutch as unemployment is low and the country has generous social benefits that prevent the growth of poverty. The Netherlands has the lowest poverty rate in Europe next to Sweden due to government aid that subsides burden for the country’s citizenry.
The Netherlands continues to lead by example in its contributions to ending global hunger while it faces its own challenges domestically.

Rochelle R. Dean

Photo: Flickr

Water Quality in the Netherlands
Water quality in the Netherlands is high, allowing the Dutch to have universal access to a potable water supply and sanitation. However, there is still concern for future improvement. Improving and increasing the quality of water is a high priority, particularly regarding the nutrient concentrations of nitrogen and phosphorus in surface water.

 

Improving Water Quality in the Netherlands

 

Water quality in the Netherlands continues to improve through a sustainable water system and integrated water management. The Dutch have organized an international river basin level with the aid of the European Union water framework directive.

The Dutch have a water pollution control policy focusing on the polluter pays principle, aiding in maintaining water quality for the country.

Amsterdam has the highest quality of water in the country and the safest and cleanest tap water in Europe. Dutch water companies are using advanced technology to turn surface water into pure, drinkable water without chlorine or fluoride.

The Netherlands’ water pipe system has a leakage rate of three to five percent, which is below that of all other European countries. The Netherlands attributes this to proper maintenance measures and sensor technology.

Water quality in the Netherlands is different than in other countries because the Dutch government does not add chlorine to the drinking water. Many people have stated that chlorinated water tastes bad, and it is believed that chlorine contains poisonous substances, damaging to the environment.

The Dutch are very proud of their quality of water, and of the facts that it is good tasting and non-chlorinated. However, recently, some Dutch water companies have had to add chlorine to drinking water to combat bacteria that causes legionnaires disease. The Dutch use mono-chloramine, a compound of chlorine without a taste.

Water quality in the Netherlands has been praised for its non-chlorinated “super-water”, and the country is very proud to be one of the nations with the highest water quality in the world.

Rochelle R. Dean

Photo: Flickr


The Netherlands has various strategies in terms of accepting refugees. There is the Dutch Council for Refugees, which works to improve the lives of migrants in the country. Despite having an organized council, there are still problems that accompany taking in refugees and handling their living arrangements.

Close to 60,000 refugees were admitted into the Netherlands in 2015.

Refugees in the Netherlands are housed in former prisons. The country’s crime rate has dropped drastically over the last several years, causing many correctional facilities to close down. The Central Agency for the Reception of Asylum Seekers (COA) decided to use these empty prisons as temporary housing for refugees. Before they are granted asylum status, refugees are normally stuck in temporary housing for at least six months.

A report shows that the Netherlands approved 70 percent of refugee applications made in the first nine months of 2015. In comparison, EU approval averaged 47 percent.

There have been many difficult housing issues in small Dutch towns caused by an influx of refugees. Some refugees were housed in cramped cities or hastily built homes in the suburbs. Although many have been able to find temporary homes, there are many others who have struggled.

A group founded in 2012 called We Are Here helps refugees in the Netherlands find temporary shelter in unoccupied buildings in Amsterdam. The group has more than 200 members and helps those who have a hard time integrating into society.

Thankfully, there have been projects to help refugees in the Netherlands. For example, a project called A Home Away from Home allowed Dutch people to design temporary houses for refugees.

There has been some controversy regarding refugees in the Netherlands paying for their living situation. In total, refugees in the Netherlands have paid more than EUR 700,000 over the past four years. According to a regulation placed in 2008, working refugees have to pay 75 percent of their income toward food and housing.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MQE12YXR51s

Once they have been living in the Netherlands for six months, refugees are required to work at least 24 weeks per year.

Back in mid-2016, the Netherlands made an agreement with Germany. It pledged to return the last half of 900 refugees that were sent to the Netherlands after Germany could not grant them formal asylum.

The Dutch Council for Refugees works with 14,000 volunteers and a few hundred paid employees to support refugees with legal rights and the asylum process. The organization also used “NGO twinning projects,” which is a process used to facilitate work with other refugee-assisting organizations.

Emma Majewski

Photo: Flickr

Education Systems
Though no perfect educational system exists, many countries could learn from the following five countries to improve their own educational systems, resulting in better math and science skills.

    1. The Netherlands: What makes the Netherlands’ school system work is that it offers different classes for students with different learning interests. Instead of just going straight to college after high school, students can choose to go to a pre-university course. The country also requires students to learn a second language, so that students can prepare to communicate with the outside world. The school system is also not so stressful on children. Unlike countries such as the United States, the Netherlands gives homework sparingly, and the school days are even shorter with children being able to go home for lunch break and having a half-day on Wednesdays.
    2. Singapore: Although Singapore’s education has been known to be stressful for students, there are effective methods within this education system. Singapore became an independent country in the 1960s, so the country wanted to prove itself by expanding education. According to the Programme for International Student Assessment scores, Singapore has some of the best results in reading, math and science. Students are given equal opportunity and teachers are from the top five percent of graduates.
    3. Barbados: Barbados has one of the highest literacy rates in the world, estimated at 98 percent. The country has one of the oldest and most effective education systems in the eastern Caribbean. While providing a good number of schools, Barbados’s government also created the Skills Training Programme to prepare students for careers in mechanics, electronics, plumbing and other technical occupations.
    4. Finland: Like the Netherlands, Finland does not give much homework to its students, and along with Singapore and South Korea, has top scores in reading, math and science. However, standardized testing is not too demanding. Students are given more time for a break in between studies, with 15 minutes of play for every 45 minutes of class. Education is also free for everyone including Bachelor’s, Master’s and Doctorate programs.

  1. Luxembourg: Luxembourg has special trilingual education programs which can be beneficial to students who wish to communicate abroad. Almost everyone in Luxembourg is trilingual with fluency in French, German and Letzeburgesch. Teachers are also paid the highest salaries out of any country.

Emma Majewski

Photo: Flickr

Netherlands Using Technology to Fight Hunger in Developing Countries
Smallholders are small-scale farmers with less than two hectares (2.471 acres) of farmland. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the U.N. (FAO), “smallholders provide up to 80 percent of the food supply in Asian and sub-Saharan Africa.” Therefore, providing smallholders with new technologies that will enable them to increase their production and productivity, will in turn help fight hunger in their country.

Geodata for Agriculture and Water (G4AW) is a program that focuses on using satellite data to improve food security in developing countries. It is executed by the Netherlands Space Office (NSO) and is commissioned by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs. They are encouraging organizations to partner with smallholders and use technology to fight hunger, with a goal of tackling food shortages in developing countries.

G4AW aims to provide smallholders with geodata, improved and affordable mobile connectivity, and satellites to provide agricultural advice. Geodata is computerized geographical data, and it can be used to provide smallholders with information on climate, weather and hazards. Improved and affordable mobile connectivity enables businesses to obtain information from smallholders that otherwise would have been nearly impossible to reach.

G4AW has so far initiated 17 projects involving 80 organizations throughout 10 different countries. The organizations involved include banks, insurance companies, satellite data companies, as well as governmental and nongovernmental organizations. One of the projects, Geodata for Innovative Agricultural Credit Insurance Schemes (GIACIS), targets smallholders in East Africa, and offers them “a basic safety net to protect them against weather-related perils.” Another, CommonSense, targets smallholders in East Africa, and provides them with “information, such as weather forecasts, to help them make more informed decisions on farming activities.”

Netherlands’ Minister for Foreign Trade and Development, Lilianne Ploumen, has made an extra 20 million euros available for the G4AW program. At the recent Climate Change Conference in Marrakech, Morocco, Minister Ploumen encouraged businesses saying, “The great thing is that companies really don’t have to do this out of the goodness of their hearts: there’s also a very attractive business case.” G4AW hopes this newest innovation is just the start for using technology to fight hunger.

Kristin Westad

Photo: Flickr

Antibiotic Resistance in Bacteria
A few of the major issues in attempting to combat bacteria is how quickly they adapt, evolve relative to large organisms and develop antibiotic resistance.

Bacteria are able to replicate on a much greater magnitude than macro-organisms — E. Coli only takes 23 minutes to replicate — and they can adapt functional changes in a very short period of time.

For example, scientists at Harvard Medical School conducted an experiment where they grew E. Coli bacteria in a petri dish that consisted of increasingly strong concentrations of antibiotic. After eleven days, E. Coli strains emerged that could resist antibiotic concentrations that were a thousand times greater than the amount necessary to initially kill them.

As antibiotics have become more prevalent over the past century, bacteria have been evolving at a rate faster than we can keep up with. About 700,000 people are estimated to have died of infections from antibiotic-resistant bacteria last year.

If people do not take action against this problem, by the year 2050 we could have 10 million deaths a year due to resistant strains, meaning that resistant bacteria would be taking more lives than cancer.

A U.N. meeting was called on September 14 to discuss this issue. One factor contributing to the rise of resistant strains is the overuse of antibiotics in humans. Antibiotics tend to be overprescribed or simply used when they are not needed.

It is estimated that less than half the antibiotics people take are actually necessary. Unnecessarily using antibiotics contributes to the rise of resistant bacteria without achieving anything beneficial.

The overuse of antibiotics is seen even more often in the treatment of animals. According to the Huffington Post, over two-thirds of antibiotics use in the U.S. is used to treat livestock. Unnecessary antibiotic use in agriculture leads to resistant bacteria strains in humans as well.

Fortunately, action has been and will continue to be taken to reduce the rise of strains of bacteria that show antibiotic resistance. For example, the development of fish vaccines meant that antibiotics no longer had to be used in Norwegian salmon farming. Over the past six years, the Netherlands have reduced their animal antibiotic use by 56 percent.

Additionally, avoiding infection initially will reduce the need for antibiotics. Hospitals could make it a policy to discharge babies sooner before they have time to be exposed to potential infectious diseases.

Educating mothers on the important role of breastfeeding in building up babies’ immune systems could also contribute to preventing the onset of infection.

According to the World Health Organization, even those of us living among the general populace can take action on this issue. We can practice better hygiene to prevent infections.

We should also be careful not to use antibiotics unless specifically prescribed by health professionals and make sure that we take the full course of antibiotics once they are prescribed to us.

Edmond Kim

Photo: Flickr