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Global Infancia Global Infancia is a nongovernmental organization (NGO) that specializes in protecting children from abuse in Paraguay. It was founded in 1995, “Global Infancia works towards creating a culture which respects the rights of children and adolescents in Paraguay.”

It has attempted to promote the human rights of children in a myriad of ways, ranging from creating a branch of the government tasked with protecting children to founding a news agency focusing on children’s rights. Global Infancia represents the blueprint for a successful NGO because of its ability to form partnerships with governments, influence local communities, and follow through with its goals.

Partnerships with Governments

Studies have estimated that roughly 60 percent of children in Paraguay have been victims of violence. Faced with this fact, Global Infancia worked with the National Secretariat for Childhood and Adolescence along with the Paraguayan Government to pass a law stating “all children and adolescents have the right to be treated properly and with respect for their physical, psychological and emotional well-being. This includes protections for their image, identity, autonomy, ideas, emotions, dignity and individual values”.

Additionally, Global Infancia spearheaded the forming of Municipal Councils for the Rights of Children and Adolescence who have become instrumental in protecting children’s rights throughout Paraguay. Global Infancia’s work is proof of how a successful NGO can form fruitful partnerships with local governments.

Integration into the Local Community

Since the end of authoritarian rule in Paraguay, it has been working to integrate itself into local communities and promote the recognition of children’s rights. In the town of Remansito, Global Infancia is providing supplementary nutrition and school support to over 1,000 children. Approximately 22 percent of Paraguayans live below the poverty line. The child labor force of participation with a rate of 25 percent, shows that the conditions for many children in Paraguay are not ideal.

However, Global Infancia recognized these problems and has created national media campaigns to raise awareness for children’s rights and used training forums around the country to educate the public that violence against children will no longer be tolerated. Finally, Global Infancia has harnessed the power of local communities by “installing an alert system which reduces the demand for childhood labor”. These actions illustrate how a successful NGO employs the power of the communities they are working in.

Accomplishing Goals

At its inception, it was primarily focused on fighting the trafficking of babies and children. Today it has evolved into a children’s rights organization with a bevy of goals. Whether it be their success at establishing legal rights for children in Paraguay or the founding of CODENIS bodies which protect children throughout the country today, Global Infancia has had a considerable impact on Paraguayan society. In a 2017 report by the United States Department of Labor, experts found significant advancement in Paraguay’s fight to end child labor.

However, the current situation still puts many children in danger, requiring more resources to fully end child labor. With the help of Global Infancia and the multitude of other successful NGO’s, there are no doubts that Paraguay will continue to see improvements to children’s rights.

Overall, Global Infancia is a perfect example of how a successful NGO operates. From its crucial government and community partnerships to their impressive track record of accomplishing its goals.

Myles McBride Roach

Photo: Flickr

Water Relief in Haiti

Political corruption and unstable governments can be a huge problem for organizations trying to bring aid to a developing country. On top of the already difficult logistics, corrupt governments can heap on restrictions, red tape and, at times, cause violence. The 2008 Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index ranked Haiti at number four of the most corrupt nations in the world. This same Index also ranked Haiti as the most corrupt country in the Caribbean region in a 2013 study. This political corruption was the main difficulty faced by Brian Merriam and his Rotary Club Chapter when they tried to aid efforts for water relief in Haiti in 2014.

The Rotary Club’s Contribution

For more than 110 years, Rotary Club International and its 1.2 million members have prided themselves in bringing aid to impoverished countries around the globe. With more than 35,000 chapters, Rotary Club is able to make a lasting worldwide change. Brian Merriam, a third-generation member of Rotary Club International, discussed his initial motivation and the challenges involved in helping Haiti.

Merriam took to heart something that his father always said, “find the greatest problems in your community and find a way to solve them.” It was this motto that led him to first visit Haiti in 1999 with the Episcopalian organization, Food For The Poor. What Merriam saw shocked him, “I traveled the world when I was fifteen,” said Merriam “I’ve seen poverty but never the amount of Haiti.” With 59 percent of the country surviving on less than $2 a day, Haiti it the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.

A Lack of Clean Drinking Water

After a few more visits to the country, Merriam knew something had to be done. Getting everyone from his Rotary Chapter to help was the easy part. Having been to Haiti several times Merriam knew the problems facing the nation and how to help. “Haiti isn’t lacking water,” said Merriam, “it’s lacking clean drinking water.” More than 90 percent of the country has been deforested, leading to poor soil quality. This combined with the country’s predominantly porous limestone bedrock makes the water that comes up from the earth unfiltered and unhealthy to drink.

The condition of the water supply is made only worse by the nation’s poverty. People wash themselves and their clothes in Haiti’s waterways, further contaminating the water. With more than two-thirds of the population unemployed, many families can’t afford bottled water. They are forced to drink from these polluted bodies of water instead. With this in mind, the Rotary Club Schenectady Chapter brought filtration systems to the community of Matogou in 2014 in order to boost water relief in Haiti.

Political Instability

Along with the many natural factors, an increase in political protests and the proceeding violence have further crippled the country’s ability to distribute aid. This has made it more difficult for organizations to facilitate water relief in Haiti. Large mobs, vandalism and blocked roads make it harder to get basic goods out to Haiti’s most needy.

The tumultuous protests are a reaction by the Haitian people to both the corruption of President Jovenel Moise’s and the ineptitude of the Haitian parliament. According to Haiti’s senate, President Moise and his predecessor, Michel Martelly, embezzled as much as $2 billion. That money was supposed to go to Haiti’s poor to improve their infrastructure, health and education systems. Adding to the instability, the Haitian parliament failed to ratify a government or appoint a new Prime Minister after the ousting of their last one, Jean-Henry Ceant.

Merriam knows firsthand the difficulties this kind of political instability can cause. The largest problem for the Rotary Club was not financial, nor was it logistical. Getting the water filtration systems to the intended people intact was the real difficulty. Merriam recalls having to sneak the filtration systems past customs, “We have to smuggle them into the country. Not cause they’re illegal but because I’ll get extorted at the airport if they know I have them.” After getting the filtration systems past customs, Rotary Club was ready to bring them into the communities that desperately needed water relief in Haiti.

One Success Story

The Rotary Club Schenectady Chapter has changed lives for the better by increasing water relief in Haiti. The water filtration systems Rotary installed have a shelf life of 10 years and can filter out 99.99 percent of bacteria from 1,000,000 gallons of water. Each system can provide clean water to 40 people per day. The organization shows communities how to maintain and clean the filtration systems. Rotary club exceeded its goal in providing 24-hour clean water to Matogou.

It is Merriam’s belief that people born into good fortune have to social obligation to help those less fortunate than themselves. “We are on this one globe and if we don’t make it better, we’ve squandered it,” said Merriam. It is this attitude that has led him to fight for the people of Haiti for 20 years. His actions through the Rotary Club have provided much-needed water relief in Haiti.

– Henry Burkert
Photo: Wikimedia

Rape Epidemic in India
The rape epidemic in India garnered international attention in 2012, when several men brutally raped and beat a woman, Nirbhaya, on a bus. The event immediately spread across the globe and sparked massive international outrage. This pushed the government to promise new laws. However, it did not make any tangible changes. A minor positive change was a social shift resulting in more women finding the strength to report cases of sexual assault. Perhaps the most gruesome fact from this brutal event is the regularity of gang-rape in India. Nirbhaya’s case, while one of the most horrifying stories of rape, is only one among thousands.

Solutions in Bangladesh

There is a precedent for solutions to these types of problems. One solution is for the law to change in a way that punishes those who physically or sexually abuse women. Bangladesh has effectively lowered its acids attacks on women to just 75 in 2014 whereas it was previously 492 cases in 2002. It accomplished this by mandating the death penalty as the crime for acid attacks. Since Bangladeshi men now fear the severe ramifications for an acid attack, they refrain from hurting women with this method. However, if Bangladesh and India enacted rigorous laws for all types of abuse on women, then at the very least, those particular men would not be able to abuse women at as drastic of a level as they are currently.

Snehalaya Provides Aid to Abused Women and Children

Women who suffer abuse can still have hope since many NGOs are actively working to support the victims and help them get back their dignity and return to a normal life. One example is Snehalaya, which provides a safe space for women and children who are suffering abuse, and helps over 15,000 people per year. Snehalaya strives to use “grassroots outreach and education” to lower the amount of domestic abuse and violence that occurs in India. Women who are victims of sexual abuse can count on Snehalaya to provide the proper support group to push them towards a normal life, which is even more important because sometimes a woman’s parents may not accept her after she has become a victim due to social stigma.

Another solution for the rape epidemic in India is women’s empowerment through properly educating women, which is what Sayfty strives to do. It strives to provide women the tools to be safe from acts of sexual violence and to teach women how to defend themselves. While the first solution provides a legal means for female empowerment and the second provides a way to help them after they become victims, Sayfty is essential because it empowers women to stand up for themselves while suffering abuse or at least provides them with knowledge of how to get away from predators and get help.

The efforts of millions of women who are finding the bravery to call out abusers are defeating the rape epidemic in India. The laws in India are slowly changing to match modern social attitudes. NGOs are empowering women to lead their own fight. Though change is slow, it is inevitable, and more women are getting the justice they deserve every day.

Anish Kelkar
Photo: Flickr

 

Health Costs of The Syrian Civil War
The Syrian civil war, which began in 2011, has led to a monumental refugee crisis, hundreds of thousands of deaths, the rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and destabilization in the Middle East. Yet another devastating effect of the war is the health consequences for people still living in Syria. Civilian doctors and nurses in active war zones face significant challenges not encountered in peacetime. These include a massive amount of trauma victims, shortages of medical equipment and personnel, infectious disease epidemics and breaches in medical neutrality. Here are 10 health costs of the Syrian civil war for the Syrian people.

10 Health Costs of the Syrian Civil War

  1. Because of the war, Syrian life expectancy has plummeted by 20 years from 75.9 years in 2010 to 55.7 years through the end of 2014. The quality of life in Syria has also worsened. As of 2016, 80 percent of Syrians are living in poverty. Moreover, 12 million people depend on assistance from humanitarian organizations.
  2. The civil war devastated Syria’s health care infrastructure, which compared to those in other middle-income countries prior to the war. By 2015, however, Syria’s health care capabilities weakened in all sectors due to the destruction of hospitals and clinics. The country faced a shortage of health care providers and medical supplies and fear gripped the country.
  3. The Syrian Government has deliberately cut vital services, such as water, phone lines, sewage treatment and garbage collection in conflict areas; because of this government blockade, millions of Syrian citizens must rely on outside medical resources from places like Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey. In 2012, the Assad regime declared providing medical aid in areas opposition forces controlled a criminal offense, which violates the Geneva Convention. By the following year, 70 percent of health workers had fled the country. This exodus of doctors worsens health outcomes and further strains doctors and surgeons who have remained.
  4. The unavailability of important medications presents another health cost of the civil war. Due to economic sanctions, fuel shortages and the unavailability of hard currency, conflict areas face a severe shortage of life-saving medications, such as some for noncommunicable diseases. Commonly used medicines, such as insulin, oxygen and anesthetic medications, are not available. Patients who rely on inhaled-medications or long-term supplemental oxygen often go without it.
  5. A lack of crucial medications has led to increased disease transmission of illnesses, such as tuberculosis. Furthermore, the conditions Syrians live in, for instance, the “tens of thousands of people currently imprisoned across the country… offer a perfect breeding ground for drug-resistant TB.”  Indeed, the majority of consultations at out-patient facilities for children under 5 were for infectious diseases like acute respiratory tract infections and watery diarrhea. According to data from Médecins Sans Frontières-Operational Centre Amsterdam  (MSF-OCA), the largest contributor to civilian mortality was an infection.
  6. In addition to combatant deaths, the civil war has caused over 100,000 civilian deaths. According to the Violation Documentation Center (VDC), cited in a 2018 Lancet Global Health study, 101,453 Syrian civilians in opposition-controlled areas died between March 18, 2011, and Dec 31, 2016. Thus, of the 143,630 conflict-related violent deaths during that period, civilians accounted for 70.6 percent of deaths in these areas while opposition combatants constituted 42,177 deaths or 29.4 percent of deaths.
  7. Of the total civilian fatalities, the proportion of children who died rose from 8.9 percent in 2011 to 19.0 percent in 2013 to 23.3 percent in 2016. As the civil war went on, aerial bombing and shelling were disproportionately responsible for civilian deaths and were the primary cause of direct death for women and children between 2011 and 2016. Thus, the “increased reliance on the aerial bombing by the Syrian Government and international partners” is one reason for the increasing proportion of children killed during the civil war according to The Lancet Global Health report. In Tal-Abyad’s pediatric IPD (2013-2014) and in Kobane Basement IPD (2015–2016), mortality rates were highest among children that were less than 6 months old. For children under a year old, the most common causes of death were malnutrition, diarrhea and lower respiratory tract infections.
  8. The challenges doctors and clinicians face are great, but health care providers are implementing unique strategies that emerged in previously war-torn areas to meet the needs of Syrian citizens. The United Nations (the U.N.) and World Health Organizations (WHO) are actively coordinating with and international NGOs to provide aid. The Syrian-led and Syrian diaspora–led NGOs are promoting Syrian health care and aiding medical personnel in Syria as well. For instance, aid groups developed an underground hospital network in Syria, which has served hundreds of thousands of civilians. These hospitals were “established in basements, farmhouses, deserted buildings, mosques, churches, factories, and even natural caves.”
  9. Since 2013, the Médecins Sans Frontières-Operational Centre Amsterdam (MSF-OCA) has been providing health care to Syrians in the districts of Tal-Abyad in Ar-Raqqa Governorate and Kobane in Aleppo Governorate, which are located in northern Syria close to the Turkish border. The health care MSF-OCA provided included out-patient and in-patient care, vaccinations and nutritional monitoring.
  10. New technologies have enabled health officials to assist in providing aid from far away. For instance, telemedicine allows health officials to make remote diagnosis and treatment of patients in war zones and areas under siege. One organization that has used this tool is the Syrian American Medical Society, which “provides remote online coverage to nine major ICUs in besieged or hard-to-access cities in Syria via video cameras, Skype, and satellite Internet connections.” Distance learning empowers under-trained doctors in Syria to learn about disaster medicine and the trauma of war from board-certified critical care specialists in the United States.

Conditions on the ground in Syria make it more difficult for Syrian citizens to receive vital medical aid from health care workers. Many people and organizations are working diligently to help injured and sick Syrians, however. These 10 health costs of the Syrian civil war illuminate some of the consequences of war that are perhaps not as storied as the refugee crisis. While aiding refugees is an undoubtedly worthy goal for international NGOs and governments, policymaker’s and NGOs’ agendas should include recognizing and alleviating the harm to those still living in Syria.

Sarah Frazer
Photo: Flickr

Poverty Level
The word poverty is common in discussions of politics, global issues, health and education around the world. Although many organizations are working to put an end to poverty, the general public often has many questions surrounding this prevalent topic. What does it mean to be in poverty and what is the poverty level?

The most recent poverty level set in 2015 stated that an adult making less than $1.90 a day is in poverty. People could questions surrounding the poverty level from a variety of perspectives. Politicians often use it around the globe to allot aid and develop economic policy, but mathematicians can also use it to compare the rates of poverty among countries and solution-oriented NGOs can use it to understand the root causes of poverty. In today’s era, one hefty debate revolves around the impacts of globalization on poverty-ridden countries. This is just one context in which the poverty level is a useful tool in decision making and analysis.

Who Determines the Poverty Level?

The World Bank sets the international poverty line and it fluctuates over time based on how the cost of living changes around the world. To calculate a shared poverty level internationally, the World Bank takes the poverty threshold from each country and converts it into a common currency. It does this using Purchasing Power Parity (PPP), which creates equilibrium among currencies so that the same basket of goods in two different countries will receive the same pricing in each country. PPP is an economic theory that allows the World Bank to put each country’s income and consumption data in globally-comparable terms to ensure that the same quantity of goods and services receive equitable pricing across countries.

Why is it Important to Measure Poverty Levels?

Developed nations, such as the U.K., debate the costs of living and raises in income. In low-income countries, analyzing poverty levels is important for targeting development initiatives and evaluating economic progress over time. For instance, The Rural Support Programmes in Pakistan work to identify needs in rural communities and improve the delivery of basic goods and services in these areas. These programs use poverty levels to evaluate their work and support development initiatives in the area.

Who Lives in Poverty?

The U.N. estimates more than 700 million people live in extreme poverty around the world, struggling to fulfill the basic necessities of life. About 70 percent of these people live in Southern Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, however, these issues affect developed countries as well. Estimates determine that there are 30 million children growing up near or below the poverty line in the world’s richest countries.

What are the Causes of Poverty?

The causes of poverty are diverse and far-reaching, but they often include unemployment, social exclusion, conflict, natural disasters, disease and other phenomena that prevent them from accessing the resources they need to be productive and make a living.

With an estimated four million people living in extreme poverty, the Democratic Republic of the Congo currently has one of the highest poverty rates in the world. Although the country has access to many natural resources, political unrest has plagued it in recent years. The Democratic Republic of Congo has suffered through continual corruption of political officials that has stifled development so that it remains nearly impossible to easily access or extract any of the country’s natural resources. Therefore, it remains difficult to make a living, or even have access to the basic necessities of food and water.

Despite the dismal numbers, some organizations are making huge strides in overcoming global poverty. Organizations like Oxfam International have made it their objective to reduce worldwide poverty. Working in over 90 countries and directly reaching millions of people each year, Oxfam primarily tackles issues of inequality and discrimination. It also provides direct aid in times of crisis and educates the world’s poor in an effort to impact the root causes of poverty at the political level.

Groups like Oxfam often utilize the international poverty level to assess and direct their efforts. Unfortunately, there is no magic solution to such a widespread problem. In order to solve the issue, though, everyone must first understand its causes. By implementing the poverty level system, the world should be on the right track to eradicate extreme poverty.

– GiGi Hogan
Photo: Flickr

Health Care in Ghana

The West African nation of Ghana is a vibrant country filled with natural beauty and rich culture. However, like many of its neighbors in sub-Saharan Africa, Ghana suffers from a high poverty rate and lack of access to adequate health care. In fact, according to the Ghana Statistical Service, 23 percent of the total population lives in poverty and approximately 2.4 million Ghanaians are living in “extreme poverty.” That being said, many organizations and groups — both national and global — are working to improve health care in Ghana.

Malaria in Ghana

A disease transmitted through the bites of infected mosquitoes, malaria is a common concern throughout much of West Africa, including Ghana where it is the number one cause of death. In fact, according to the WHO’s most recent World Malaria Report, nearly 4.4 million confirmed malaria cases were reported in Ghana in 2018 — accounting for approximately 15 percent of the country’s total population.

All that in mind, many NGOs, as well as international government leaders, have taken up the mantle to eliminate malaria in Ghana. This includes leadership from the United States under the President’s Malaria Initiative or PMI which lays out comprehensive plans for Ghana to achieve its goal of successfully combating malaria.

With a proposed FY 2019 budget of $26 million, the PMI will ramp up its malaria control interventions including the distribution of vital commodities to the most at-risk citizens. For instance, the PMI aims to ensure that intermittent preventative treatment of pregnant women (IPTp) is more readily accessible for Ghanaian women. Progress has been made, too, as net use of IPTp by pregnant Ghanaian women has risen from 43 percent to 50 percent since 2016. This is just one example of the many ways in which PMI is positively contributing to the reduction and elimination of malaria in Ghana.

National Health Care System

National leaders are also doing their part to positively impact health care in Ghana. In 2003, the government made a huge step toward universal health coverage for its citizens by launching the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS). As of 2017, the percentage of the population enrolled in the scheme declined to 35 percent from 41 percent two years prior. However, 73 percent of those enrolled renewed their membership and “persons below the age of 18 years and the informal sector workers had significantly higher numbers of enrolment than any other member group,” according to the Global Health Research and Policy.

It is difficult to truly understand Ghana’s health issues without considering firsthand perspectives. In an interview with The Borgen Project, Dr. Enoch Darko, an emergency medicine physician who graduated from the University of Ghana Medical School, commented on some of the health issues that have plagued Ghana in recent decades. “A lot of problems that most third world countries, including Ghana, deal with are parasitic diseases such as malaria and gastroenteritis. Though health issues like diabetes and hypertension still remain in countries around the world, and even the United States, the difference is that some diseases that have been eradicated in Western countries still remain in countries like Ghana,” Darko said. “Many people in Ghana simply do not see a doctor for routine checkups like in the United States. Rather, most people will only go to see a doctor when they are feeling sick. As a result, lesser symptoms may go unchecked, thus contributing to the prevalence and spread of disease and infection. Combined with the fact that many Ghanaians in rural communities may not have sufficient money to afford treatment or medicine, this becomes a cycle for poor or sick Ghanaians.”

That said, it is hoped that with continued support from international players as well as government intervention, the country can continue to make strides in addressing health care for its citizens.

Ethan Marchetti
Photo: Flickr

 

Convoy of Hope is Making an ImpactFounded in 1994, Convoy of Hope is a faith-based, nonprofit organization that works domestically in the U.S. as well as internationally in more than 120 countries around the world. Convoy of Hope as a rating of 96.46 from Charity Navigator and has also made its way to Forbes’ list of the 100 largest charities. The organization has reached millions of people through its focus on disaster relief, children’s feeding programs, women’s empowerment and more. Here are five ways Convoy of Hope is making an impact.

5 Ways Convoy of Hope is Making an Impact

  1. Convoy of Hope provides meals to more than 200,000 children in 14 countries while monitoring the health and growth of these children each day. The organization partners with various food companies and also has its own campaign, feedONE. The goal of providing these meals is to create a starting point to build strong communities, healthy living environments, education and eventual career opportunities. Convoy of Hope is also committed to providing clean water and filtration systems so that these communities are able to access safe drinking and cleaning water.
  2. Through an agricultural program, piloted in Haiti in and now used in eight countries, the organization trains and educates farmers to grow their own crops and has helped schools, churches and orphanages around the world to start their own urban gardens. For instance, since 2012, the on-the-ground team has trained more than 5,000 farmers in “best management practices for culturally relevant agriculture.” Convoy of Hope proudly notes that in 2018, the team provided some 1.2 million meals through its school feeding program — locally grown by the farmers the organization trained.
  3. The organization is also focused on empowering women through Convoy:Women by providing training and education programs covering topics like finance, nutrition, literacy, cooking and health. Since 2011, almost 17,000 women across four countries have been trained through these programs, receiving the help and empowerment needed to make independent life choices. Importantly, the organization also provides start-up capital as a way to promote entrepreneurship and economic empowerment. In addition, there is also a spin-off program called Empowered Girls that focuses on young girls in various schools and communities. More than 4,000 participants are enrolled in this program which covers topics like self-esteem, gendered violence and gendered cultural beliefs.
  4. Convoy of Hope prides itself on being one of the first relief programs to respond to natural disasters around the world. The organization offers on-the-ground response teams as well as shipment of relief supplies from their distribution center in order to bring both immediate and long-term relief and recovery to affected areas. Convoy of Hope has also responded to 379 disasters so far, helping more than one million people in 2018 alone. The organization has also offered help to refugees in the Middle East and Europe since 2014, providing meals, supplies and finances.
  5. Convoy of Hope has partnered with Dr. Kerri Miller, CEO of Make People Better, LLC, in order to provide “reiimmune” to thousands of children. Re:iimune is an “oral hydrobiotic therapy” full of probiotics used to treat dehydration and provide intestinal support to help children absorb important nutrients and medications effectively. To date, Convoy of Hope has distributed 80,000 doses of reiimmune.

It goes without saying that Convoy of Hope has made strides helping those dealing with poverty around the world, with more than 115 million people receiving various forms of assistance since 1994.

– Jessica Winarski
Photo: Flickr

healthcare systems in Togo

Togo, a country located in West Africa is occupied by eight million people and currently faces a healthcare crisis. Nations across the globe have been successful in transforming inadequate healthcare systems into those that successfully prevent and treat ailments. That said, according to a 2017 story by Development and Cooperation, Togo is often referred to as having the worst health systems in West Africa.

Many factors contribute to the sub-par healthcare systems in Togo, including insufficient staff, outdated medical instruments and practices, and ineffective financial and insurance resources. These components combine to create the current healthcare system in Togo.

Despite this complicated health matrix, efforts have been made by the government in tandem with non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to reduce the burden of disease and to improve the healthcare systems in Togo.

Diagnosing the Problem

According to a story run by Deutsche Welle (DW), a German international broadcaster, Togo only sports three healthcare workers for every 10 thousand residents, which DW claims is approximately a quarter of the number of healthcare workers per 10 thousand residents for Ghana. Insufficient staff across the nation – not only in the larger centralized hospitals of Togo, contribute to the poor health systems present.

Inadequate staffing at clinics and hospitals alike can escalate quickly. Lack of properly trained and licensed doctors, nurses and medical personnel often leads to overcrowding in emergency and waiting rooms alike, which complicates matters further. Keeping patients awaiting treatment in confined places increases disease transmission between patients, especially those that can be transferred via skin contact and via the air. Furthermore, the same 2017 Development and Cooperation story recounted several instances where patients tragically passed away while awaiting treatment in some of Togo’s largest hospitals.

In addition to overwhelmed and insufficient staffing, the hospitals themselves are not properly stocked with the supplies necessary to diagnose and treat incoming patients. Outdated medical instruments and practices also have the potential to contribute to inadequate healthcare systems in Togo. Equipment may become faulty over time, or the technology used may simply just not be correct.

While outdated medical technologies are certainly lacking, hospitals also appear to lack basic amenities such as beds. In 2011, Togo only sported seven hospital beds per 10,000 population.

Insufficient staffing and medical supplies seemingly stem from one arena, however: lack of financial resources available. As of 2015, over 55 percent of Togo’s population lived under the global poverty line – approximately four million people. Because of this extreme poverty, patients cannot afford the necessary treatments which leads to a lack of funding for hospitals, resulting in smaller staff and inadequate supplies.

As of right now, healthcare systems in Togo seem to operate on a “pay or die” approach, according to the Development and Cooperation story. Patients and loved ones of those who have fallen ill often have to borrow money in an effort to receive treatment for diseases and ailments. Even then, sometimes it is not enough.

Current Remedies

Global efforts have been to improve the inadequate healthcare systems in Togo. Currently, Togo is in the midst of a five-year project aimed at ending neglected tropical diseases (NTDs). This integrated NTD control currently receives funding from The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, The Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, and both the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) among others.

This funding goes directly to combatting and administering diagnoses and treatments for neglected tropical diseases present in Togo. Furthermore, a significant portion of the funds dedicated to reducing the burden of these NTDs in Togo is allocated toward the training of health workers, hopefully providing stability in the healthcare sector for years to come.

Aside from these efforts to combat NTDs, other global institutions have made efforts to improve Togo’s healthcare system in general.

The International Association of National Public Health Institutes (IANPHI), an institution set on improving healthcare systems and structures using peer-to-peer models, has begun to lay the groundwork for strengthening the healthcare systems in Togo. Much of IANPHI’s work goes toward strengthening disease surveillance, as well as equipping Togo’s Ministry of Health with laboratory and research facilities, hopefully promoting new science and health-related job opportunities.

Moving Forward

The healthcare systems in Togo have a significant and difficult path in front of them. The issues of staffing, supplies and financial insecurities must be addressed in order to increase health promotion and disease prevention in the country. That said, significant progress has been made in laying the groundwork of the future of Togo’s healthcare systems, hopefully paving the way for significant reform and a brighter future.

– Colin Petersdorf
Photo: Flickr

sub-Saharan witchcraft accusationsThe sub-Saharan region in Africa includes 46 of the 54 countries that make up the continent. While numerous cultural and political differences show variance between the sub-Saharan nations, many of them share a paranoid commonality: children are often accused of witchcraft. These sub-Saharan witchcraft accusations show that the fear of mystic powers is not a superstition of the past, but that it exists and is growing even in the 21st century.

The origins of these witchcraft accusations are unclear. UNICEF records that these accusations are falsely believed to be a piece of African tradition, and this phenomenon is the symptom of social, economic and political struggles.

Who’s Accused?

There are three categories of children who are at risk for the sub-Saharan witch accusations. All of them represent a marginalized category in which noticeable difference leads to suspicion.

The urban myth of the “child witches” is the first. Accusations are most often cast towards the most vulnerable children in a community, such as orphans and those with a physical or learning disability. Children with behavioral oddities are also targets, including those who are talented, precocious or rebellious.

The second group of individuals at risk are babies who experience a peculiar birth. This can mean that they were born premature or were delivered facing an abnormal way.

Thirdly, children with albinism are often accused of witchcraft and believed to contain magic power within certain organs.

Many of these “bewitched” children believe their families, pastors and instructors when they are told they are agents of evil magic.

A Human Rights Violation

The sub-Saharan witchcraft accusations lead to negligence of international laws protecting children. In the countries where accusations are most rampant, police and judicial forces are inefficient in upholding national law.

Accusations manifest in a number of ways. Violence, abandonment, sexual exploitation and even murder are acts leveled against witch children. Some victims view these aggressions as rituals to release evil spirits. It is recorded that about 81,000,000 African children suffer from severe psychological issues due to the punishment they have endured.

As the accusations of witchcraft have escalated in recent years, the U.N. has expressed concern for the issues and has been pressing awareness and regulation. The U.N. Refugee Agency records that the abuse endured by these children is somewhat responsible for the uptick in displaced individuals around the world.

Efforts to Hinder the Problem

The Democratic Republic of the Congo is one sub-Saharan country that suffers abundantly with witchcraft accusations. The nation has an inordinate number of vulnerable orphans living in impoverished conditions due to its recent civil war. As such, many NGOs focus their attention on this particular country in the sub-Saharan region.

The International Catholic Child Bureau (BICE) is one NGO that is specifically fit to deal with this humanitarian issue in the DRC. The organization is involved in a mission to incorporate a child’s rights into state law. Sub-Saharan witchcraft accusations in the DRC have been hindered by BICE’s local activities across the country. The group has established rehabilitation and learning centers. These work to eradicate the notion that child witches are responsible for societal ills, as well as to reintegrate banished children into their communities.

BICE has been active in the DRC since 1996 and continues to work with the central government to better protect Congolese children.

More Needs to be Done

While the U.N. and its partner NGOs have worked to bring attention to and provide for the children suffering from the sub-Saharan witchcraft accusations, the issue is unlikely to disappear in the near future.

The belief that child witches are plaguing society is one that results from what UNICEF calls the “multi-crisis” pressuring many African nations. Left behind in the journey to modernization, many African communities have carried the weight of failed political systems and unfulfilled economic promises. If the sub-Saharan region is to leave behind ancient superstitions of witchcraft, international actors must aid these countries on the pathway to development.

– Annie O’Connell
Photo: Flickr

child labor in Ghana

Ghana, a small African country nestled between Togo and Ivory Coast, is one of the highest achieving nations in the sub-Saharan region. It is the world’s second-largest producer of both cocoa beans and gold, and this generative economy has propelled much of the Ghanaian population out of poverty.

While ahead in some regards, Ghanaian children are still subject to human trafficking. According to the United Nations’ International Labour Organization, over 152 million children around the world are forced into the workforce. Africa is among the worst offending areas, and as such, brings child labor in Ghana to international concern.

Child labor is a National Issue

Currently, one out of every six children is involved in child labor in Ghana. Offending sectors are numerous and widespread; 88 percent of children work in agriculture, typically harvesting cocoa beans, while 2.3 percent are fishermen. Others are subjected to domestic or sexual work.

Many Ghanaian children participate in child labor due to desperation and ignorance. While free public education is available in Ghana, many families cannot afford the uniforms and books required to enroll in school. Poverty is, therefore, cyclical in these circumstances – much more than cheap labor is being exchanged. A child is also selling his or her childhood, dignity and future potential to their traffickers.

Lake Volta Region

Lake Volta is the largest man-made lakes in the sub-Saharan region. It is notoriously known as an area where the worst forms of child labor prosper. Here, one-third of children between the ages of seven and 14 work full-time.

Children are valued workers on Lake Volta because their labor is affordable and efficient. Recently, the lake’s fish population has decreased considerably. Fishermen, therefore, do not have the financial means to accommodate other sources of labor. Furthermore, children provide the nimble fingers needed to untangle fish from the minuscule-sized holes in fishing nets.

Aside from posing as a serious human rights violation, work on Lake Volta is quite dangerous for Ghanaian children. Nets often get stuck on objects underneath the surface. This forces children to go diving in order to prevent tears in the nets. Drowning is a concern, as well as contracting several illnesses including bilharzia and guinea worm.

Government Effort

The central government made several, moderate efforts to control the unbridled child labor in Ghana. In 2017, the National Plan of Action for the Elimination of Human Trafficking was enacted. With it, the government identified itself as an entity against the exploitation of its young generation. Children working in mines are a specific concern for the government, as mercury poisoning is prevalent among workers in this sector. Feeding programs have also been instilled in schools and refugee camps in order to protect children from malnourishment.

These efforts, while well-intentioned, are not efficiently enforced in the country. This leaves many children in enslavement, or at risk of falling into this dark reality.

International Action

Child labor is a human rights violation to which the international community has responded with animosity and vigor. There are countless organizations working to end all forms of child labor and trafficking.

APPLE is just one NGO that specifically works to hinder the growth of child labor in Ghana. This organization has stationed itself in fishing villages around the Lake Volta region. Their efforts to eliminate child labor compromises of immediate and long-term solutions. The banning of nets with small holes is believed to decrease the value of children on the lake, and education is provided in order to warn families of the calamities that human trafficking inflicts.

While the sub-Saharan region is not the only area that violates international human rights laws, child labor in Ghana is on the rise. Efforts to protect the most innocent collection of the population need to be mobilized with the utmost zeal. These children need aid in order to liberate, educate and relocate those displaced by this practice.

– Annie O’Connell
Photo: Flickr