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Living Conditions in Poland
Situated in Central Europe, Poland neighbors Slovakia, Ukraine and the Czech Republic to the North, Russia, Lithuania and the Baltic Sea to the South, Belarus to the East and Germany to the West. Home to the eighth largest economy in the European Union, 30 percent of the nation’s landscape is covered with forests partially due to the national reforestation program. While the nation has begun to gradually reduce poverty, nearly 15 percent of the Polish population face poverty. Listed below are the top 10 facts about the living conditions in Poland.

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Poland

  1. Poland boasts one of Europe’s best education systems with a 96.8 percent primary school enrollment rate leading to a 99.7 percent adult literacy rate. The nation has taken part in education reforms stemming from the 1990s which have led to positive improvements on students’ educational performance. Twelve Poles have won the Nobel Prize, causing Poland to be ranked 17th for the number of wins in the world.
  2. Young people in Poland face high unemployment and when employed, often take temporary jobs. Temporary positions employ 66 percent of young Poles leading to layoffs in the 2009 economic downturn. To combat the rising rates of youth unemployment, the Tripartite Commission, a labor relations forum in Poland, introduced an anti-crisis package that focused on increasing minimum wage and co-financing training. Polish trade unions highlighted the importance of equal treatment of different contracts and implementing the same tax rates.
  3. The average earnings of high earners (earning greater than 90 percent of workers) is 4.7 times greater than a low earner (earning less than 90 percent of workers) in Poland. This high-to-low ratio is among the highest in the European Union. Three primary factors impacting wage dispersion include the disparity in pay due to levels of education, low levels of compensation (often below minimum wage) and low density of trade unions in the nation. Polish people have seen a decrease in social inequality due to a focus on reforms regarding the tax-benefit system and family allowance system as well as a fall in wage dispersion.
  4. Poland is one of 58 countries worldwide to offer its citizens universal health care. Treatment of sudden illnesses and emergencies is typically free. Costs in the private medical sector are higher than in the public medical sector.
  5. One in four Polish children faces poverty, one of the highest childhood poverty rates in Europe. This particularly affects large families and single-parent families. In 2016, the Polish government introduced the Family 500+ program which provides a monthly payment of 500 Zlotys ($130.00) for every child after the first until the age of 18. The first child in families whose income is below a defined threshold receives this benefit. The program predicts that it will initiate a significant decrease in childhood poverty.
  6. Poland’s national minimum wage increased from 2,100 Zlotys ($548.66) in 2018 to 2,250 Zlotys ($587.85) in 2019. The nation’s annual variation rate of the Consumer Price Index increased 1.2 percent, granting Poles buying power in the economy. The cost of living in Poland is 44.9 percent lower than the United States.
  7. Ranked 189 out of 200, Poland’s fertility rate is among the lowest in the world. The nation is in the first stages of initiating a family policy.
  8. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development suggests that Poles are less than satisfied with their lives as they rank their life satisfaction an average of six which is less than the average of a six and a half. Particular noteworthy factors within Polish lives include strong personal security and education, and below average health status and income.
  9. According to the World Health Organization in 2016, Poland’s life expectancy stood at 78 years old. Women have a life expectancy of 82 years while men have a life expectancy of 74 years. Looking over the past several years, Poland’s life expectancy has seen a minimal decrease. Researchers from the Medical University of Lodz divided the major causes of death into three groups. The first group was comprised of infectious diseases, diseases related to childbirth/pregnancy and malnutrition which are the least common causes of death. Chronic noninfectious diseases such as cancer or heart disease made up group two which are the most common causes of death in Poland. External causes of death such as accidents and suicide contribute to 15.7 percent of male lives lost and 5.3 percent of females. External causes of death have seen a decrease.
  10. World Bank Data shows that Poland’s GDP growth has reached 5.1 percent in 2018, improving the Polish economy. Challenges still face the Poles in “shortage of labor in the economy, procyclical government policies encourage by the political calendar, and adverse global factors.” These issues could weigh on the continuance of Poland’s GDP growth.

The Eastern European country finds itself prospering economically amidst below average life satisfaction, high unemployment in young adults and low fertility rates. The good fortune of the Polish people is a central interest of the government. These 10 facts about living conditions in Poland indicate that contributions to the sustainment of the country are helping as literacy rates are on the rise, the minimum wage has increased and poverty has waned in recent years.

– Gwendolin Schemm
Photo: Flickr

Malala Visited Pakistan

The story of Malala Yousafzai’s survival is widely known around the globe. Recently, Malala visited Pakistan for the first time since 2012 when she was shot in the head by the Taliban.

Returning to Pakistan

In 2018, Malala returned to Pakistan and, under security protection, visited her home in the northwest town of Mingora. Back in 2012, Mingora was controlled by the Taliban under the rule of Mullah Fazlullah. At the age of 15, Malala was already vocal about female education, something that wasn’t supported under Taliban rule.

The Attack and Recovery

One day, Malala was traveling on a school bus with other students when it was stopped by men who were part of the Taliban. They boarded the bus, asking for Malala by name. When her friends turned to look at her, the trigger was pulled and she was shot in the head. 

Malala was rushed to the hospital, where her recovery was difficult. Within the first 72 hours of being shot, her brain swelled and she got an infection. She was transported to England to receive rehabilitative care at the Queen Elizabeth Medical Center, which specialized in emergency and rehabilitative care. Malala survived her attack after various surgeries but was left with some facial paralysis and deafness in her left ear.  

Continuing the Fight for Education

After recuperating, Malala continued her fight for the education of girls. She became the youngest Nobel laureate in 2014 when she received the Nobel Peace Prize for her “struggle against the suppression of children and young people and for the right of all children to education.” 

Malala has a foundation in her name, which is set up to support groups in Pakistan, Nigeria, Jordan, Syria and Kenya that support education. Apple has also partnered with Malala and the Malala Fund to help girls get an education.

According to 9 to 5 Mac, Apple will help the Malala Fund reach its goal of providing secondary education to more than 100,000 girls who would otherwise be unable to attend school.

Since the murder attempt in 2012, Malala has become the biggest advocate for girls education in Pakistan. She has become a beacon of hope. After Malala’s last visit to Pakistan, she hopes to return to live there after she finishes her studies in England.

– Valeria Flores

Photo: Flickr

Aziz Sancar
Aziz Sancar is one of the three recipients of the 2015 Nobel Prize in Chemistry. Currently, he serves as a professor of biochemistry and physics at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine.

Though he has been teaching and researching at UNC since 1982, Sancar’s education began in his native Turkey. He grew up in a large family in a predominantly Kurdish region of Turkey.

His early life taught him that education for women and men in Turkey was not equal, particularly in the Kurdish areas of Turkey, where girls often married at the age of 13. In an interview with Yahoo, Sancar noted that education for girls was not emphasized as a priority.

Even as a whole, the Turkish nation seems to give less attention to girls’ education. UNC Global states that, per the World Economic Forum’s most recent Global Gender Gap Report, the illiteracy rate is 1.9 for males in Turkey, but 9.4 for women.

Sancar told UNC Global, “As someone from rural Turkey, I understand the power of education. I know what it has done in my life. I want all girls in Turkey and around the world to have the same opportunity I had.”

To this end, Sancar recently launched a program in cooperation with the Harriet Fulbright Institute called Girls in STEM Project. The initiative is designed to increase female students’ interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

UNC Global shared that the project would span seven Turkish cities and host a series of three-day conferences, with both Turkish students and Syrian refugee students participating.

The project’s website details that 700 girls in 6th grade will participate, at no cost, by registering online. The first 100 girls to register in each city involved will be accepted.

Sancar told UNC Global, “We hope this is a beginning,” Aziz Sancar said. “We want to close the gender gap in education and in the workforce in Turkey, and this is one way we can encourage that to begin, to inspire girls to get involved in STEM.”

Katherine Hamblen

Photo: Wikimedia

nobel_prize_in_medicineFor the past 43 years, a lifesaving treatment for malaria, perfected by pharmacologist Tu YouYou, has received little recognition until winning the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine on Monday, Oct. 5. This long-known remedy has already demonstrated its efficacy through its use in southern Asia; however, the issue still remains as a staggering 90 percent of deaths caused by malaria occur in sub-Saharan Africa.

In 1967, Mao Zedong established a secret project dubbed “Project 523” in order to develop a cure for the widespread disease that disabled thousands of soldiers and civilians. Tu Youyou was selected to work on the cure after the group failed to create a synthetic medicine that proved effective.

Tu Youyou, then a student at the China Academy of Chinese Medical Sciences, began her search in 1969 for any herbal cure to the issue. She collected 2,000 possible remedies before cutting her list to 380 and testing her compounds on mice.

It wasn’t until 1972 that Tu Youyou successfully produced chemically pure artemisinin, which was then assessed by a group of scientists; despite their efforts, the artemisinin weakened as the chemists’ trials continued. After discovering a method in “Emergency Prescriptions to Keep Up One’s Sleeve,” an ancient text on Chinese medicine, Tu Youyou procured another solution that worked 100 percent of the time on primates and rodents.

Tu Youyou tested the medicine herself and human trials began; artemisinin treatments became the fastest-acting antimalarial medicine. Despite this, it wasn’t until 2011 that Tu Youyou’s discovery earned a Lasker prize as its first award.

Tu Youyou’s find has held promise for the eradication of malaria since its discovery, being rewarded with a Nobel Prize in Medicine on Oct. 5, 2015. New drug-resisting malaria vectors, however, have drastically altered the reception of antimalarial therapy across the world. A prominent example is that of sub-Saharan Africa.

The most recent number calculated by the WHO records that in 2013 there were an estimated 198 million cases of malaria worldwide. Malaria is the cause of about 450,000 deaths per year and 90 percent of these occur in sub-Saharan Africa, with 77 percent being children at the age of 5 and younger.

Despite the drug-resisting vectors, mortality rates have fallen 47 percent globally since 2000, with a drop of 54 percent in the WHO’s African region. The WHO also suggests halting production and marketing of artemisinin-based monotherapies until variations of the treatment are developed.

Although no specificity is provided on when other alternatives will be available, the WHO launched an emergency response in April 2013 with the hopes of containing and managing any known outbreaks, continuing today as the WHO emphasizes that “urgent actions now will deliver significant savings in the long run.” It has since received aid from the leaders of the East Asia Summit and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

For now, we must enjoy “[the] gift for the world’s people from traditional Chinese medicine,” Youyou said after winning the Lasker prize in 2011.

Emilio Rivera

Sources: CNN, Columbia, Vox, WHO                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts You Should Know About the Nobel Peace Prize
It is a prize that is both coveted and renowned worldwide. As the date of announcement grows closer, here are ten facts to know about the Nobel Peace Prize.

  1. This year the Nobel Peace Prize will be announced at 11:00 AM on October 9, 2013 by Thorbjørn Jagland, Chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee.
  2. Every year, the Nobel Prize (including the Peace Prize) is awarded in Oslo, Norway and administered by the Nobel Foundation in Stockholm, Sweden for achievements in physics, chemistry, physiology or medicine, literature and for peace.
  3. There is a 50 Year Secrecy Rule in regard to the prize nominees and the grounds they were selected. The Committee does not announce the names of nominees to either the media or the candidates themselves.
  4. Since 1901, the Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded 93 times to 124 laureates. It was not awarded on 19 occasions: in 1914-1918, 1923, 1924, 1928, 1932, 1939- 1943, 1948, 1955-1956, 1966-1967 and 1972.
  5. The Nobel Peace Prize 2011 was awarded jointly to Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Leymah Gbowee and Tawakkol Karman “for their non-violent struggle for the safety of women and for women’s rights to full participation in peace-building work”.
  6. Of the 100 individuals awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, 15 are women. The first time a Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to a woman was in 1905, to Bertha von Suttner.
  7. The work of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has been honored the most – three times – by a Nobel Peace Prize.
  8. The Vietnamese politician Le Duc Tho, awarded the 1973 Nobel Peace Prize jointly with US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, is the only person who has declined the Nobel Peace Prize. They were both awarded the Prize for negotiating the Vietnam peace accord. Le Doc Tho said that he was not in a position to accept the Nobel Prize, citing the situation in Vietnam as his reason.
  9. The oldest Nobel Peace Prize Laureate to date is Joseph Rotblat, who was 87 years old when he was awarded the Prize in 1995.
  10. To date, the youngest Nobel Peace Prize Laureate is Tawakkol Karman, 32 years old when awarded the 2011 Peace Prize.

– Kira Maixner
Source: Nobel Prize
Photo: Essence

patriciaamira_opt

Africa produces some of the most brilliant artists, athletes, and activists worldwide.  From the media industry to the political stage, these African celebrities are working to improve lives.  The Borgen Project presents the top 10 African celebrities to follow.

1. Patricia Amira, Nigerian, TV Personality

Patricia Amira is a self-proclaimed “optimistic realist” and “closet artist.”  She is the “Oprah” of Africa and hosts one of the continent’s most popular talk shows.  The Patricia Show transcends national boundaries and identities.  The show focuses on achievements across Africa and aims to create social and cultural transformation. The Pan-African talk show is broadcasted in over 45 African countries and averages over 10 million viewers.  She currently serves as the Director of the Festival of African Fashion and Arts.  The festival encourages collaboration among designers and emphasizes the importance of artists.  Amira is also a spokesperson against human trafficking.

2. Nneka, Nigerian, Musician

Nneka is a soul musician of Nigerian-German descent.  Investigative journalism and philosophy inform her music, and she often writes about poverty, war, and and social justice issues.  Nneka emphasizes the importance of understanding balance and harmony.  “It’s important that you recognize yourself as part of the system, too, and that the only way we can make things work is by realizing we are part of the same entity,” Nneka said.

3. Didier Drogba, Ivorian, Soccer Player

Didier Drogba was a leading striker for England’s Chelsea football club and head captain of the Cote D’Ivoire national team.  His performance on the field is impressive, but he made headlines at the 2006 FIFA World Cup for something much greater.  Drogba begged on live television for a cease-fire on the Ivory Coast.  The warring factions subsided within one week.  The Telegraph reporter Alex Hayes noted that Drogba is “the face of his country; the symbol of a new, post-civil war Ivory Coast.”  He also created the Didier Drogba Foundation, a foundation “to provide financial and material support in both health and education to the African people.”  The foundation recently partnered with United Against Malaria (UAM) to help fight malaria.

4. Wole Soyinka, Nigerian, Playwright

Wole Soyinka is a playwright, author, and political activist from Nigeria.  Soyinka entered the political stage after lobbying for a cease-fire during Nigeria’s civil war.  “The greatest threat to freedom is the absence of criticism,” Soyinka said.  This led to his imprisonment for 22 months.  He was released in 1969, and he began publishing again.  Soyinka became the first African to win the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1986.  His novel The Interpreters analyzes the experiences of six different African intellectuals.

5. Neill Blomkamp, South African, Movie Director

Neill Blomkamp is a movie director known for his documentary, handheld cinema style.  He blends natural and computer-generated elements effortlessly.  Blomkamp co-wrote and directed District 9.  The film focused on extraterrestrial refugees in a South African slum.  The title derived from real events during the apartheid era at District Six, Cape Town. The film received international fame, and box office sales totaled $200 million.  Time magazine named Blomkamp one of the “100 Most Influential People of 2009.” 

6. Binyavanga Wainaina, Kenyan, Author

Binyavanga Wainaina founded the first literary magazine in East Africa, entitled Kwani?.  The magazine is known as “the most renown literary journal in sub-Saharan Africa.”  Wainaina created the magazine after winning the 2002 Caine Prize for African Writing.  The Caine Prize is an annual literary award for the best original short story by an African writer.  He is known for authoring “How to Write About Africa.”  The short story is known as one of the most satirical pieces ever written about Africa.

 7. Genevieve Nnaji, Nigerian, Actress

Genevieve Nnaji skyrocketed from a middle class upbringing to Nollywood stardom.  She is one of the most popular African celebrities.  Nnaji grew up in Lagos, Nigeria as one of eight children.  Nnaji began her acting career at eight years old on Ripples, a Nigerian soap opera.  She is now one of Africa’s most popular actresses.  At only 32 years old, she has starred in over 80 feature films.  She is one of the best paid actresses in Nollywood—Nigeria’s feature film industry.   “I have always maintained that when they [Hollywood directors and actors] are ready for a young African woman to take part in a project that they will come looking for us,” Nnaji said.

8. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Nigerian, Writer

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is one of Africa’s leading contemporary authors.  She is the author of the novels Purple Hibiscus and Half of a Yellow Sun.  Adichie delivered a popular TED Talk after publishing The Thing around Your Neck, a collection of short stories.  She warns against judging a person or country based on limited information.  “The single story creates stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story,” Adichie said.  Nigerian history and tragedies inspire her literature.  She is one of the most notable authors of disaporan literature.

9. Rokia Traoré, Malian, Musician

Rokia Traoré became famous in 1997 with the release of her first album Mouneissa.  Malian singer Ali Farka Touré helped Traoré develop her sound, and she later earned “Best African Discovery” from the Radio France Internationale.  Traoré’s father was a Malian Diplomat, and she traveled extensively as a child.  Her travels in Algeria, Saudi Arabia, France, and Belgium influenced her music.  Traoré joined the 30 Songs/30 Days campaign in September 2012.  The campaign supported the Half the Sky movement, based on the book by the same name.  The movement focuses on sex trafficking, sexual violence, and female education.

10. Alek Wek, Sudanese, Supermodel

Alex Wek is a supermodel, fashion designer, and political activist.  Wek fled Sudan at the age of 14 to escape the civil war. She moved to London, England with her parents and eight siblings and was later discovered at an outdoor market.  Ford Models, one of the world’s top modeling agencies, signed her in 1996.  By 1997, she was the first African model to appear on the cover of Elle magazine.  Wek continues to model but is also a member of the U.S. Committee for Refugees’ Advisory Council.  Wek works with World Vision to combat AIDS.  She is also an ambassador for Doctors Without Borders in Sudan.  She belongs to the Dinka ethnic group

– Whitney M. Wyszynski

Source: Forbes