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positive covid-19 storiesThe COVID-19 pandemic has undoubtedly changed the world. While many countries have been devastated, three countries have positive COVID-19 stories: New Zealand, Thailand and Vietnam. Here are their positive COVID-19 stories and the lessons they learned from their experiences.

New Zealand

The pacific island nation of around 5 million people had a couple of different strategies in its response to COVID-19. In particular, unity within New Zealand and the nation’s neighboring countries played a big role in the country’s success against the virus. New Zealand offered to help its neighboring countries to prepare for the pandemic. To do so, the country offered health training and made sure that its island neighbors had supplies to fight the virus. Importantly, this unity in New Zealand bridged across political party lines when needed. This resulted in a massive stimulus package passed just weeks after the country’s first case. The stimulus totaled NZ$12.1 billion, around 4% of the country’s GDP. Included in the stimulus package is support for businesses, support for testing and health services and payments to those who couldn’t work because of the virus.

Caution also plays a big part in New Zealand’s success against the virus. The first case of the virus was detected on 28 Feb. 2020. Even before that, however, the government took measures to limit the possible damage of COVID-19. When New Zealand only had 283 cases, the government ordered all non-essential workers to work from home to limit the virus’s spread.

Moreover, the government came up with a four-level alert system to help people know how the virus is spreading. Level one means the disease is contained in New Zealand and level four means community transmission is happening and the disease is not contained. Given how much time the country has spent in the lower levels, its represents one of many positive COVID-19 stories that the whole world can learn from.

Thailand

Thailand is one of the countries that have positive COVID-19 stories. The Asian country of almost 70 million people was designated a success by the WHO. The economy of Thailand is one that is heavily built on tourism, with one-fifth of GDP coming from the tourist sector. However, since the virus has spread, the government of Thailand has had to make economic sacrifices to protect public health. The country had to close its borders to certain travelers, including many Chinese provinces. In addition, Thailand postponed many sporting events and held them without fans to slow the spread of the virus. In particular, Bangkok was in a partial lockdown with only essential services remaining open. Slowing down activity does hurt the economy, but it eases the blow of the virus.

Thailand has also mobilized more than 1 million health volunteers to help respond to the virus. In addition, the government’s health officials have taken the side of precaution throughout the pandemic. This includes rigorous hygiene and wearing face masks at all times. Moreover, Thai people have generally followed the advice of medical professionals, which has contributed to the Thailand’s COVID-19 success story. The Thai government also has one centralized administration, which helped with communication and organization throughout the pandemic.

Vietnam

Vietnam is also among countries with positive COVID-19 stories. Vietnam’s actions to deal with the virus came early and were aggressive, taking place before the virus even entered the country. This early and decisive action is one of the measures that helped Vietnam early on and controlled the virus’s spread. In early January 2020, Vietnam was already preparing for drastic action before there was a recorded case in the country.

Vietnam enacted travel restrictions, closed schools and enacted a rigorous contact and tracing system, while also canceling public events. Governmental communication was upfront and transparent. Consequently, this helped with public compliance to slow the virus outbreak. Vietnam has been one of the best countries in regard to wearing a face mask, which helps slow the spread of the virus. A coordinated media effort throughout Vietnam has also helped the public and government be on the same page in response to the virus.

Another reason Vietnam has been successful in limiting the spread of COVID-19 is its testing. The country tests everyone in quarantine whether they have symptoms or not. This helps slow the spread of the virus, because not everyone who is infected shows symptoms. As a result, younger people who may be infected but don’t have symptoms don’t infect those who may be at higher risk of death to COVID-19. While there was no nationwide lockdown, Vietnam did impose containment on certain areas to reduce the spread of the virus. In February 2020, when a small handful of cases were in the area of Son Loi, the government sealed off the area to prevent the spread of the virus.

What We Can Learn from These Countries

These three countries show positive COVID-19 stories despite a situation that has turned negative in so many countries. A few similarities have emerged between the countries and their success. One is the unity between government and people, which is important to building communication and trust. When citizens trust their government and can easily access clear guidelines, they are more likely to comply with health measures to reduce the spread of the virus. Another similarity between these countries is that it’s better to be cautious rather than reckless. This helps to slow the spread of the virus and make it easier to track. With all the hardship and destruction brought on by COVID-19, these countries with positive COVID-19 stories show how to keep as many people as safe as possible.

Zachary Laird
Photo: Pexels


New Zealand, a Pacific island country known for its beautiful waters and unique wildlife, is more than just a tropical paradise. By a recent estimate, New Zealand has the 48th highest GDP per capita in the world. Plus, the average New Zealander leaves school when they are between 18 and 19 years old, whereas in many other countries children leave school before they reach the age of 12. New Zealand also puts a relatively high proportion (9%) of the overall government budget toward healthcare.

Though New Zealand is by no means an impoverished country, thousands of women still suffer from a lack of access to sanitary products. An estimated 95,000 young girls in New Zealand don’t go to school during their period because they don’t have access to the necessary sanitary products. However, the government is currently working to move closer toward New Zealand’s solution to period poverty.

New Zealand’s Sanitary Product Problem

A lack of access to safe sanitary products during menstruation is defined as period poverty. Studies have shown that across the globe, one in four women struggle to purchase the products necessary to deal with their menstruation. When women don’t have access to tampons and pads, it can lead to devastating situations. Some women are unable to work or leave the house, or are even shamed for what their bodies are going through. This makes education, employment and other aspects of life very difficult for women — for about a week every month.

In New Zealand, close to 12% of school-age girls between the ages of 12 and 18 have difficulty or are unable to purchase sanitary products. More than that, close to 10% of girls reported that they had skipped school because they didn’t have access to tampons or pads.

The Plan

The number of school-age girls who were missing out on educational opportunities due to their menstrual cycle led New Zealand’s prime minister to take steps towards eradicating period poverty. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern declared that period products were not a luxury but in fact a necessity for female students. In light of this, New Zealand’s government is using NZ$2.6 million to help relieve period poverty. Eventually, New Zealand hopes to eradicate period poverty, but funds will first go toward making sanitary products free for girls in 15 New Zealand schools.

New Zealand’s Future

The hope for this government initiative is that it will lead to having free sanitary products in all state schools by 2021. While this would be a huge step toward New Zealand’s solution to period poverty, there is still a long way to go. Dignity, a local organization that focuses on women’s rights and access to sanitary products, has voiced its appreciation and support for the government’s efforts to support women’s access to menstrual products.

However, Dignity also pointed out that there is still work to be done. Women throughout the country need access to sanitary products, not just girls in primary and secondary schools. Moreover, Arden’s period poverty initiative is just one part of a plan that aims to halve childhood poverty in the next 10 years. While it may not address every aspect of period poverty or childhood poverty, New Zealand’s plan is moving the country one step closer toward eliminating period poverty.

Lucia Kenig-Ziesler
Photo: Flickr

Girls' Education in Fiji
Fiji is currently in the midst of altering their education system to better incorporate girls and empower them to lead more fulfilling lives. About 83 percent of students in Fiji — both male and female — complete their compulsory education; however, it has been found that girls’ education in Fiji lacks STEM subjects and menstrual health.

Fijian Culture and Views About Women

The culture of Fiji has remained traditional, and until the early 2000s, still viewed its women as inferior to its men. The World Bank reported that in 2012, young girls — although educated — were often domesticized directly after completing their compulsory education.

It was noted in the same World Bank report that boys are more likely to focus their attention on making money, while girls are expected to live almost solely within the home. As of 2016, 41 percent of women and 76 percent of men work in the labor force of the Fiji Islands.

To change the outcome of girls’ future, the Fiji government is encouraging young girls to engage more with nontraditional, ‘non-female’ education tracks like math, physics and science. Leadership works to accomplish such prioritization through altering education systems to index young girls’ early education towards these STEM subjects. However, the World Bank found that in 2013, only 3.88 percent of the country’s GDP is spent on education.

Changing the STEM Status Quo

Nevertheless, Fiji’s government has promised to alter its education budget so that primary and secondary education facilities throughout Fiji receive proper funding for STEM subjects. The purpose of pushing these subjects is to encourage young girls (and later women) of Fiji to pursue careers in technological, mathematical and scientific fields, which have historically been dominated by men.

This gender disparity in STEM fields can be seen at the Water Authority of Fiji (WAF), an organization formed by the Fiji government to provide a sustainable and effective water system for the country. As of 2017, only four percent of the engineering and technical staff and about 25 percent of the entire staff of WAF are female.

This gender imbalance at WAF can be traced back to gender stereotypes that dominate much of Fiji’s culture, and discourage women from entering male-dominated fields.

Finding Empowerment Through Education

To combat much of the traditional gender segregation embedded in the mindset of Fiji’s society, The World Bank suggests that Fiji begin to teach courses on gender, like the empowerment of women, in schools.

Fiji also has struggled to teach young girls about menstrual health and hygiene due to shaming. Fiji’s education board classifies menstrual health as a ‘women-only’ issue and therefore does not educate male students about the subject. This separation has created a divide in education amongst the students and thus the society.

Moreover, labeling menstrual health as a ‘women-only’ issue has made the subject taboo for men in Fiji. This restriction often translates to the shaming women for their education of the topic. UNICEF’s menstrual health and hygiene assessment found that the number one reason girls are dissuaded from continuing with education in menstrual health is that of the taunting they receive from their male counterparts.

Female Under-Representation in Leadership

As a result of the inadequate girls’ education in Fiji, there remains a major under-representation of women in senior positions of power — in parliament, managerial roles, deans of education and many others. The Human Rights Commission found that in 2016, only 16 percent of Fiji’s parliament was made up of women.

Moreover, as of 2004, only five percent of directors of publicly listed companies were women, 14 percent of legal partnerships were held by women, and about 15 percent of professors and associate professors at universities in New Zealand were female.

Much of the inconsistencies amongst genders comes from the cultural norms of New Zealand. The norm of New Zealand is that the woman cares for the home and the children, while the man works. As a country, New Zealand has struggled to shake the idea of the “domestic woman” and the “working man” from its public perception. Consequently, women’s jobs, girls’ education and overall female opportunities have suffered.

Attaining Equality for Girls’ Education in Fiji

Fiji has strived for equality and has recognized that their major setbacks — particularly in girls’ education — are hindering them from reaching such a goal. These setbacks are large and are deeply rooted in the cultural norms of the country.

Nevertheless, the fight for girls’ education in Fiji has remained firm in ensuring that the government’s promise — to provide female students with equal opportunities — is pushed through to completion. It remains to be seen, however, how Fiji’s government will further drive the equality agenda, and how much of a priority equal education will continue to be.

– Isabella Agostini
Photo: Flickr

Water Quality in New Zealand

A Brief Background
A series of battles between 1843 and 1872 took place between Britain and the Polynesian Maori living on the island of New Zealand. This culminated in a British victory, marking the beginning of the island’s involvement with Western history. The newly- founded colony gained independence from Britain in 1907. New Zealand then participated in numerous wars alongside Britain until modern day. Currently, the nation has a nonpermanent seat on the UN Security Council.

Water Quality In New Zealand
The water quality in New Zealand is high when compared to other countries around the world. The rivers, lakes and wetlands provide the environment necessary for a wide variety of plants and animals to flourish. Rural areas today have seen no issues with the water quality.

The urban regions, however, suffer from having a substantially lower water quality when compared to the country’s more rural areas. In recent years, increased land use has caused its water to become increasingly polluted. Another reason for the increased land use concerns the nation’s agricultural sector. The beef and dairy industries in New Zealand have little regulation and companies involved often do not take efforts to ensure its waste does not contaminate local water supplies. This increased land use has disastrous implications for the aquatic life, drinking water supplies and water-based recreation in New Zealand’s economy.

As the water quality in New Zealand continues to decrease, so does the country’s available amount of sanitized drinking water. This negatively impacts the nation’s section of its economy that relies on fresh water.

The Plan For 2040
Prime Minister Bill English has created a new action plan to make 90 percent of the country’s waterways swimmable by 2040. The government hopes to accomplish this goal changing its water quality guidelines. Another method being implemented involves increasing subsidies to farms that are not polluting nearby water sources by $2 billion in the next 23 years.

Overall, the water quality in New Zealand is high in its rural regions; however, in more urban areas, increased land use and environmentally dangerous farming practices have reduced its water quality significantly. Nevertheless, the future looks bright for this country as long as the Prime Minister continues his action plan to improve the quality of water in New Zealand.

Nick Beauchamp

Photo: Pixabay

Poverty in New Zealand
Unlike other countries, New Zealand does not use an official poverty line. Generally speaking, the understanding is that with an income level set at 60% of median household disposable income after housing costs, it is reasonable to expect that this will prevent the worst effects of poverty.

It is also generally understood that poverty in New Zealand can entail hunger and food insecurity, poor health outcomes, reduced life expectancy, debt and poor housing. One in seven households in New Zealand experiences poverty, which includes about 230,000 children overall.

Māori and other Pacific peoples represent the majority of people living in persistent poverty in New Zealand, along with beneficiaries and single parents. Welfare benefits in New Zealand are not enough for someone to live on, much less with dignity.

Emergency assistance resources are stretched, and housing assistance is not always adequate. The gap between the rich and the poor is still large and not shrinking anytime soon.

One of the prevailing myths in New Zealand and other places is that those on welfare or other benefits have an inherent lazy character and lack a work ethic. While unemployment remains high, many jobs available to those on benefits are insecure and do not pay as well as full-time permanent jobs. Furthermore, those on benefits often deal with outside factors, like health issues and disabilities, that make working a job difficult.

The approximately 230,000 children living in poverty in New Zealand may add economic and social cost to New Zealand society later on because their problems were not addressed. Many are at risk for further health problems both physical and mental and have a higher risk of having to be involved in the justice system. Currently, this costs $2 billion or so every year.

Child poverty in New Zealand remains the most pressing issue of social justice. However, if there are people willing to help, there is still reason for hope.

Ellen Ray

Photo: Pixabay


The small number of refugees New Zealand takes in ranks them 90th per capita in resettlement. After making adjustments considering wealth and population, the ranking falls to 116th. Many countries in Europe are critical of the small number of refugees New Zealand takes in. Here is a look at 10 facts about New Zealand refugees that may be a surprise.

  1. The New Zealand government works with the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) to offer refugees permanent resettlement in New Zealand.
  2. In 2016, after more than 30 years, New Zealand increased their refugee quota from 750 to 1000.
  3. New Zealand accepts refugees from the following major groups: Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Colombia, Myanmar, Rohingya and Syria.
  4. Refugees undergo background checks before being allowed to live in New Zealand.
  5. The needs and services required by refugees are determined prior to their arrival.
  6. Refugees must complete a six-week reception program at Auckland’s Mangere Refugee Resettlement Centre (MRRC). The program helps refugees build social and coping skills and provides information regarding work and employment expectations.
  7. The Refugee Resettlement Strategy has five goals:
    · All refugees of working age have a job and income or are supported by a family member with a paying job.
    · All refugees actively participate in life in New Zealand and have a keen sense of belonging.
    · Ensure the health and well-being of refugees and their families.
    · Refugees can speak English well enough to allow them to participate in school and daily activities.
    · Refugees live in homes that are safe, secure, clean and affordable without assistance from government housing.
  8. Refugees settle in six regions: Auckland, Hamilton, Manawatu, Wellington, Nelson and Dunedin.
  9. Family reunification is when a refugee living in New Zealand applies for a family member to receive a visa. Refugees coming to New Zealand on a Refugee Family Support Category visa do not receive financial assistance from the government or any of the resettlement assistance provided to refugees.
  10. Refugees who fear serious harm or cruel treatment if they return to their country of origin can apply for asylum. In 2013-14 New Zealand granted refugee status to 69 asylum seekers — a dismally low number when compared to countries such as Hungary (129, 203) and Sweden (228,601).

The Syrian refugee crisis in addition to 59.5 million people forced to flee their country of origin have drawn the attention of the world and highlighted the woefully small number of refugees New Zealand is willing to take in. These 10 Facts about New Zealand refugees make it clear that they have a strategy that helps refugees make a smooth transition from living in their country of origin to living in New Zealand. Sadly, it also highlights the unwillingness of New Zealand to stand with their international partners and do their fair share.

Mary Barringer

Photo: Flickr


New Zealand ranks high in health status and social connections. It’s at the top among developed nations for its quality of life. However, poverty in this country is excessive among inhabitants and it is mainly affecting the children. Sadly, child poverty in New Zealand is at its all-time high.

According to UNICEF, child poverty is a harsh reality in New Zealand. About 295,000 children are currently living in poverty. Children who grow up in poverty live in overcrowded homes, do not have adequate clothes for the weather and go hungry for days at a time. This can lead to doing poorly in school, not acquiring jobs, having poor health and turning to a life of crime.

“It’s cut-throat in New Zealand. If you’re struggling you get left behind,” says a New Zealand mother, who was living in a small motel room with her husband and six children. They were living in this room for about two weeks, while the family waited to be placed in a state house. The mother has to deal with two of her children whom are disabled and need to attend special education school. However, the placement of these schools is extremely competitive and hard to secure. Therefore, they are confined to homeschooling with only two picture books. This is the case for many families in New Zealand, who are living below the poverty line.

Child poverty in New Zealand has become a real problem. According to the former head of the University of Auckland pediatrics department Innes Asher, “We have, every year in New Zealand, about 40,000 children… admitted to hospital for diseases that are potentially preventable by solving poverty, housing and great access to healthcare. There’s a lot we could do.”

In 2015, the National-led government budget gave $25 extra to low-income families. However, Asher says this amount is very low, and “certainly does not make up for the $72.50 in tax credits three-child families without parents in paid work are missing out on.”

Children and families have been specifically deprived by the government. Despite this fact, there are organizations out there looking for solutions to alleviate the child poverty in New Zealand, like UNICEF, who is raising money to change children’s life.

Solansh Moya

Photo: Flickr

Cook Islands

The Cook Islands is a sovereign island nation in free association with New Zealand. The main island, Rarotonga, is home to 70% of the nation’s estimated 17,800 people. Rarotonga is a small island, measuring approximately 26 square miles, with only one airport to accommodate its primary source of income: tourism.

Tourism constitutes more than half of the nation’s GDP and is the main stimulant of economic growth. However, it also contributes to the growing problem of waste management in the Cook Islands.

Waste collection is provided to all households Monday through Saturday by two private contractors operating in conjunction with the Ministry of Infrastructure Cook Islands (ICI). Businesses are responsible for disposing of their own waste in the sanitary landfill located in Avarua, the most populous district of Rarotonga and the nation’s capital.

The governments of Australia and New Zealand, along with support from the private sector, provide aid to improve the conditions of waste management in the Cook Islands. The Waste Management Facility, managed by ICI, employs three staff members at the landfill and another five at the recycling center. The sanitary landfill was designed in 2006 with an intended lifespan of 15 years but has now reached its capacity.

Avarua is also home to four operational incinerators used to burn garbage, two of which are used solely for airline waste and medical waste and none of which possess emissions control technology. In addition, open burning in backyards and public spaces is a common practice amongst Cook Islanders.

This is a problem, as open burning and the resulting emissions can be detrimental to human and environmental health. Open burning has been proven to emit significantly more harmful pollutants than municipal incinerators, releasing twice as many furans, 17 times as many dioxins and 40 times more ash, as well as carbon monoxide and dioxide, lead, arsenic, mercury, acid vapors and carcinogenic tars.

This not only because is there no emission control, but because open fires burn at lower temperatures, inhibiting complete combustion of the waste being burned. They also operate closer to the ground, increasing the risk of exposure to harmful effects.

Tourism is a major contributor to the abundance of refuse which has made it exceedingly difficult to control in the Cook Islands. However, the income generated from tourism is needed to stimulate the growth of the waste management system. After all, the standard set for tourists has been the principal catalyst for discussion over the development of waste management in the Cook Islands. The government is looking to break this waste cycle by improving facility quality.

Jaime Viens

Photo: Flickr

 

New Zealand Education
Beyond its stunning landscapes, New Zealand education is among the best in the world. The New Zealand Herald claims New Zealand falls within the top 10 education systems of the world. Therefore, New Zealand is what is called an “education superpower.”

According to statistics from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), New Zealand has the highest total public expenditure on education out of 32 countries. The public school system is extremely well funded and education is free until the last year of high school for citizens and permanent residents.

New Zealand Now says New Zealand education is also extremely good because of Kiwi culture. Kiwi is a term that refers to the people of New Zealand. In Kiwi culture, it is important to give everyone a fair chance and access to the same opportunities — including education.

New Zealand Educational Institute spokesman Paul Goulter told the New Zealand Herald that for Kiwi teachers, “The profession is about teaching children and doing it not for the pay, but for them.” This outlook on education has reaped success. In the 2015 Expat Explorer Survey by HSBC, 70% of parents said their children were more confident and well-rounded after studying in New Zealand.

Education in New Zealand also promotes acceptance and respect for different cultures. According to the New Zealand government, “Our education system reflects our unique and diverse society. We welcome different abilities, religious beliefs, ethnic groups, income levels and ideas about teaching and learning.”

Unlike education in Hawaii, where native languages and culture were not an integral part of the education system until recently, New Zealand promotes the conservation of Maori culture. The Maori people make up 14.6% of New Zealand’s population and can attend Kura Kaupapa Maori.

The Kura Kaupapa Maori are schools that teach in Maori and provide an education based on Maori culture and values. These schools have their own curriculum that focuses on Maori philosophies. Students who graduate from Maori schools then have the opportunity to attend Wananga (Maori teaching and research institutions).

Education in New Zealand is a success story. Schools are not only excellent and accessible to all; they also promote multiculturalism and diversity by emphasizing the importance of maintaining Maori culture. Other regions of the world where multiple cultures coexist should learn from New Zealand’s success.

Christina Egerstrom

Photo: Flickr

Child Poverty in New ZealandChild poverty in New Zealand remains a major issue, with over 300,000 children affected. This is an increase of 45,000 from last year and is double the number of impoverished children in 1984.

A recent study conducted by Auckland University found similarly troubling information that 20 percent of the country’s high school students live in poverty. Looking at ethnic groups, one-third of Maori students and nearly half of Pacific students struggle with poverty.

To rectify this situation, New Zealand’s government has announced the foundation of the Ministry for Vulnerable Children. As the name might imply, this organization hopes to give the government concrete responsibility for the welfare of these students.

The study’s definition of poverty was obtained by looking at various indicators in students’ lives, such as concerns about and lack of food, technology and stable living situations. If students reported two or more of the indicators, they were defined as experiencing poverty.

Unsurprisingly, higher rates of poverty correlated with higher rates of depression and smoking. This is due to growing up in families who face the stress of poverty, then having to face those stresses themselves.

The Ministry for Vulnerable Children hopes to combat these issues. Yet despite its positive mission, there has already been some controversy surrounding the ministry’s announcement. Some people believe that the government should be concerned with all children, not just vulnerable children as the ministry’s name implies.

However, the Ministry of Vulnerable Children may still be poised for success. This is because the most recent report on income and poverty in New Zealand shows that there have been no increases in either. In fact, incomes have risen by nearly 12% overall since 2011.

This increase in income is sure to help offset the very high cost of housing that much of New Zealand faces. For some families, 60 to 70% of income is spent on housing and there is little money left to cover other expenses.

Hopefully, the Ministry for Vulnerable Children can take advantage of rising incomes and improve quality of life for all those affected by child poverty in New Zealand.

Nathaniel Siegel
Photo: Flickr