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Poverty in the PhilippinesThe Philippines has a fairly high poverty rate with more than 16% of the population living below the poverty line. Because of the many people reliant on agriculture for an income and inequality in wealth distribution, about 17.6 million Filipinos struggle to afford basic necessities. From 2015 to 2020, the rate of poverty declined from 21.6% to 16.6%. Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte aims to reduce the rate of poverty to 14% by 2022. Through its strategy, AmBisyon 2040, the Philippine government plans to eradicate extreme poverty by 2040. Furthermore, the government has implemented various programs and reforms to reduce poverty by targeting education, healthcare and the overall economy. Here are five ways the program is combating poverty in the Philippines.

Combating Poverty in the Philippines

  1. Greater Access to Education: A factor of systemic poverty is a lack of access to education in impoverished areas. People gain basic skills and increased job opportunities through education, which can help to combat poverty in the Philippines. Therefore, the Philippines signed the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act in 2017 to encourage more people to enroll in higher education and to address the issue of education inequality. The government subsidizes the cost of tuition for State Universities and Colleges (SUCs) students as well as other expenses such as school supplies. Private institutions also have access to a tuition subsidy. The Act aims to decrease the number of dropouts in higher education and promote the idea that higher education is available to all.
  2. Greater Access to Healthcare: In an effort to improve the healthcare system, President Duterte signed the Universal Healthcare Act in February 2019. The UHC Act provides access to the full spectrum of healthcare by enrolling citizens in the National Insurance Program and granting health coverage to all. While healthcare is not completely free, those in poverty will have more access to health services. To ensure the effectiveness of healthcare, the Act will form the Health Technology and Assessment Council (HTAC). The Council will consist of health experts who will assess health developments, such as technology, vaccines and other advancements. Additionally, the Philippines will allocate more funds to PhilHealth, which will improve the quality of service and lower the cost of medicine.
  3. Family Aid: To further efforts to support citizens, the government implemented the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) in 2007. The 4Ps is is a conditional cash transfer program for impoverished households. The program gives households grants so long as they meet certain requirements, including keeping the children in school, having regular health check-ups and having parents or guardians attend Family Development Sessions. The 4Ps program benefits about 20 million Filipinos, 9 million of whom are children. Therefore, the program reaches about 20% of the population with the goal of greater poverty reduction.
  4. Economic Improvement: With the goal of reducing poverty by strengthening economics, President Duterte signed the Rice Tariffication Law in February 2019, amending the Agricultural Tariffication Act of 1996. The Law places a 35% tariff on imported rice with the goal of prioritizing local rice production for the population by stabilizing the supply. The tariff also aims to benefit local farmers by creating a more efficient and competitive agricultural system.
  5. Build, Build, Build: Additionally, the Duterte administration created the “Build, Build, Build” infrastructure plan in 2017. The initial goal of the program was to complete 75 projects, but Duterte revised the plan to instead target finishing 100 projects. Some projects include new public transportation and airport renovations. The government has put about 34% of the projects into action and is expecting to complete 56% by 2022. By 2019, the government had completed two of the initial 75 projects. With support from loans, the Philippines will rely on Build, Build, Build as a strategy to aid the country in recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic. The government’s hope is that combatting the effects of the pandemic by improving the country’s infrastructure will stimulate the economy and create more jobs. However, the program has received criticism due to its slow execution as a result of underspending.

Unfortunately, poverty is expected to increase in the Philippines because of the coronavirus crisis. This will lead to a decrease in consumption growth and further income losses. Therefore, greater efforts are necessary to combat poverty in the Philippines amid the pandemic, which has hit the impoverished the hardest.

Zoë Nichols
Photo: Flickr

Natural Disasters in the Philippines
Every year, hundreds of natural disasters are reported worldwide. In 2019, 409 natural disasters occurred, many in the Asian Pacific region. Natural disasters in the Philippines are quite common and they pose great difficulties for islands with large populations and vulnerable infrastructure.

Geography of the Philippines

The Philippines is one of highest-risk countries for natural disasters. The nation’s location exposes it to storms that lead to floods, mudslides and typhoons. Additionally, the presence of offshore trenches such as the Manila Trench puts the Philippines at risk for tsunamis. Unfortunately, the list does not end there. The Philippines is also on top of the Ring of Fire, a path in the basin of the Pacific Ocean where there is a high risk for earthquakes and active volcanoes.

Infrastructure

The Philippines is made up of 7,107 islands, which poses many challenges to improving infrastructure. Natural disasters also disproportionately impact infrastructure in poverty-stricken areas. That being said, in the past decade, the Filipino government made strides to improve infrastructure and make the nation more disaster-ready.

In 2020, nearly a quarter of the Filipino government’s budget was allocated for infrastructure. President Rodrigo Duterte hopes to allocate 6% of the nation’s GDP to infrastructure by 2022. His “Build, Build, Build” program has played a large role in this increase of funds, which will be allocated to projects such as the Manila subway and other modes of transportation, water resources and energy.

The Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR) has outlined $2.5 million in funds being used for infrastructure projects in the Philippines. GFDRR focuses on understanding and reducing disaster risk, strengthening governance and improving recovery, rehabilitation and reconstruction. GFDRR currently has three active projects in the Philippines. First, the “Support to the Sustainable, Inclusive, and Resilient Tourism Project” is set to be complete in June 2021. The second project is “Philippines Disaster Risk Financing,” scheduled to be complete in August 2020. Finally, the “Support to the Earthquake-Resilient Greater Metro Manila Program” is set to be complete in September 2021.

Poverty Reduction

According to the World Bank’s October 2019 report, the Philippines is expected to sustain its progress in poverty reduction. The Philippines’ GDP growth was roughly 5.8% in 2019 and is expected to reach 6.2% by 2021. Many believe this growth is tied to transportation infrastructure among the Filipino islands. According to the 2013 Philippines Human Development Report, economic integration will be key to creating sustainable growth throughout all of the Filipino islands and reducing poverty in rural areas.

The main production sectors in the Philippines are electronics assembly, garments, footwear, pharmaceuticals, food processing, petroleum refining and fishing. Agriculture is also a significant sector; however, self-employed farmers are the most susceptible to geographic hardships from natural disasters. Additionally, many farmers struggle due to a lack of insurance, inadequate post-harvest facilities, inadequate irrigation techniques and limited access to the market as a result of poor transportation services.

To address these problems, the Philippine Development Plan for 2017-2022 plans to expand economic opportunities for those engaged in the agricultural sector, especially small farmers. This plan aims to get rid of irrigation fees for small farmers, pass the National Land Use Act to protect important natural lands, implement the Agrarian Reform Program to distribute land to landless farmers.

Conclusion

The Philippines is still considered at third world country according to its GDP, human development index, life expectancy and infant mortality rate. However, while the Philippines still has many structural issues inhibiting its growth, its progress over the last decade has been momentous. Equipping islands to handle natural disasters in the Philippines and supporting farmers are two key ways the country can reduce poverty and improve livelihoods.

Danielle Forrey
Photo: Flickr

Disaster Response in the PhilippinesAnnually, about 10 tropical storms develop in the Philippines, with averages of eight to nine reaching land. These numbers do not include other disasters the country faces such as typhoons, earthquakes, monsoons and so on. Despite being one of the most disaster-prone countries in the world, efficient communication with technology in the Philippines allows social media, Google Person Finder and satellites, to provide the best relief efforts. Keep reading to learn more about the top three ways technology helps disaster response in the Philippines.

3 Ways Technology Helps Disaster Response in the Philippines 

  1. Social Media: Social media is indeed a connecting source and finds its strength in aiding the response to disasters with quickly spreading information that is, in turn, easily accessed. Popular media sites such as Facebook, WhatsApp and Twitter updated by disaster area residents offer real-time updates about the current on-ground situation.

    Thanks to organizations such as the Standby Task Force, established in 2012 by Andrej Verity, these social media updates become pillars for relief and rescue. For example, in its use for supertyphoon Haiyan in 2013. These updates transform traditional on-ground humanitarian efforts into digital humanitarian efforts with online volunteers.

    Through a streamlined process, volunteers tagged Haiyan-related social media posts. Then, sifting through them for relevancy, otherwise known as digital micro-tasking. Finally, submitting them to the U.N.’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs to compile a crisis map. With the widespread information thanks to social media, digital humanitarians take a hands-on approach to affecting the on the ground situation. Given that the combined concentration of thousands of volunteers provide time efficiency, a necessity when it comes to saving lives quicker.

  2. Communication Technology: Other communication technology such as Google Person Finder assists in finding missing persons in the Philippines. For instance, in 2012, monsoon floods from Typhoon Saola caused increased landslides and flash floods; flooding at least 50 percent of the country and creating severe rescue conditions with strong currents. There were at least 900,000 affected families and 11 individuals missing.

    For those looking for the missing or stranded, Google’s free Person Finder tool comes in extremely handy as all one needs to do is input the individual’s name. At the same time, Google cross-references entries from other websites with information about missing persons to ping and locate leads.

  3. Satellite Technology: After Haiyan, most of the traditional methods of mobile communication infrastructure diminished, thus requiring the need for something more reliable, such as satellites. Learning from the Haiyan damage, the nation’s most high-risk disaster areas now have mobile satellite equipment for easy deployment. This new tech brought forth by Inmarsat and the United Kingdom Space Agency, provides a reliable and sustainable communication method for the worst disaster days expected.

    Another example is the Tacloban Health Cluster which utilizes satellites to canvas and coordinates public health response in the worst disaster-stricken areas, allowing better tracking of diseases and medical conditions throughout disaster times in hospitals and clinics. This data collection does not only help respond in real-time. Additionally, it is beneficial for understanding health trends after a storm to allow for a more proactive approach following the next impending storm the islands are known to face.

Elizabeth Yusuff
Photo: Flickr

Education in the Philippines

The Philippines is a growing nation with a population of over 108 million people. The island nation is struggling to teach its young students. There are shortages and dropout rates that are the norm throughout the country and are harming the countries wellbeing. Here are some statistics about education in the Philippines.

By the numbers

The Philippines has 45,973 public schools throughout the country, of which, 38,503 are elementary schools, and 7,470 are high schools. There are a total of 27.7 million students in the Philippines with 22.9 million going to public schools and 4.8 million going to private schools. Funding for education in the Philippines as of 2018 is 672.41 billion Philippine pesos or 12.8 billion USD. This funding is among the lowest budgeted among the Association of Southeast Asian Nation (ASEAN) countries.

Dropouts

The Philippines currently has the highest dropout rates among all of the ASEAN countries, with a dropout rate of 6.38 percent in elementary students and 7.82 percent of secondary school students. There are a number of reasons for the high dropout rate, but the top three reasons seem to be:

  1. Hunger, students will skip class to find something to eat when there is no food at home or at school.
  2. Work, to help provide for their families students will stay at home and work on family farms or businesses.
  3. Conflict, this problem is primarily in the southern regions of the country in Mindanao where there have been insurgents disrupting life for the past 50 years.

Today, there are currently 1.4 million students who are out-of-school in the Philippines.

Shortages

There is a significant lack of supplies and teachers throughout the country. The number of students in the classrooms is a ratio of one teacher for every 31 students at the elementary level with one teacher for every 36 students at the secondary level. These numbers are down from a year ago where the ratio was one teacher for every 45 students. This has a negative impact on the students in the classroom who do not receive the attention needed to learn. There is also a shortage of supplies in the classroom. Along with the increased number of students comes the lack of chairs, textbooks and even drinking water for the students, particularly in the cities. Classrooms will sometimes have two or even three students sharing a single textbook. According to the Philippines Department of Education, the country needs 60 million textbooks, 2.5 million chairs and over 80,000 sanitation facilities for the schools throughout the country.

The Good News

The future of education in the Philippines does have a positive outlook. The Philippines currently enjoys a literacy rate of 97.5 percent, an increase from 92.3 percent in 2000. There is a program called the 1,000 Teachers Program aimed at giving scholarships to high performing, but underprivileged high school students. The program is aimed at relieving some of the pressure that the school system is facing to gain more teachers for the classrooms.

With many problems with education in the Philippines, there are significant hurdles to meet if the country wants to improve its system. More teachers, supplies and money are needed to help the students who desperately want to learn and improve their lives.

– Sam Bostwick
Photo: Wikimedia

rice farmer povertyRice is a universal food staple, featured in dishes from across the globe, feeding the rich and poor alike. It has the second-largest cereal market in the world, only second to corn. Over 470 million tons of rice were harvested in 2017, and that number continues to grow, with a harvest of 495.9 million tons predicted for the 2019 season.

Despite the massive rice market, many rice farmers live in poverty. Nine hundred million of the world’s poor depend on rice either as a consumer or producer, with 400 million directly engaged with growing rice. The majority of these farmers are based in Asia, the heart of the global rice market.

Technological Improvements Reduce Rice Farmer Poverty

The rice crop is notoriously demanding on the environment, requiring an immense volume of water, especially when grown at high intensity. Rice farming consumes over half the freshwater in Asia. Much of the focus on improving rice production lies in reducing the amount of water used. Organizations, such as the CGIAR Research Program, have advocated the use of alternate planting systems, such as the Alternate Wetting and Drying system (AWD), which can reduce water consumption by up to 30 percent.

Greater water efficiency means greater productivity for farmers. Production costs are lower, so farmers profit more from their harvest and can afford to sell their crop for less, allowing those in deep poverty to afford rice. AWD has been shown to increase farmer income by 38 percent in Bangladesh, 32 percent in the Philippines, and 17 percent in Vietnam.

Not Just Rice

Even in areas with a booming rice market, rice farmer poverty continues. The Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) spans six Asian countries, including China and Vietnam, and accounts for 44 percent of global rice exports. The six countries, save China, of these nations are net producers—they produce and export more rice than the nation can consume. Despite this, poverty stands at 19 percent across the GMS, and 15 percent of the population is malnourished.

There has been much improvement. GMS-member Cambodia, for example, has undergone a 35 percent decrease in poverty since 2004. However, much of it is unstable. Past expansions in the GMS rice-production have relied on favorable weather conditions, massive increases in farmland, and far-reaching use of fertilizer. These conditions are not favorable for agricultural or economic growth, with increases in land production outpacing that of productivity, 8.7 percent to 3.4 percent between 2004 and 2012.

The GMS and other rice-producing regions are now changing policy to focus on diversifying crops. The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) encourages farmers to convert rice-rice and rice-wheat plants to rice-maize plants, which will allow farmers to optimize their resources, widen their range of income inputs, and reduce the risk of crop disease. Studies have shown that planting disease-vulnerable rice crop and disease-resistant crop together results in 89 percent greater yield.

This measure may also be needed in the more distant future. Though rice will always be a world staple, Asian consumers may begin to purchase more vegetables and meat as they grow wealthier, decreasing the world demand for rice.

Genetic Modifications

With rice featuring so heavily in the global diet, rice developers have prioritized the quality of rice grown, both in resilience, and health benefits. The Research Program on Rice and IRRI both work to improve the quality of rice seeds provided to rice farmers. In Africa, AfricaRice has lifted 8 million out of poverty with their improved seed quality.

By using a greater variety of improved seeds, farmers of 16 sub-Saharan countries were able to vastly improve their yields. Forty-five percent of farmers saw themselves lifted out of food insecurity following the 2008 food crisis.

Improvements in agriculture and the betterment of rice farmer poverty go hand in hand, and as one improves, the other will, as well. There’s been significant progress already, with the rice market acting as an escape from food insecurity for millions. There is still much work to be done, but organizations like the IRRI make steady progress to a healthier, wealthier world.

– Katie Hwang
Photo: Flickr

Light in the Philippines

Kerosene lamps are used all throughout the developing world as a way to have light at night. Unfortunately, these lamps produce carbon dioxide and sulfur dioxide which harms the lungs and could cause asthma and even cancer. These lamps also produce black carbon, a major contributor to global warming. The harmful effects of kerosene lamps are why Sustainable Alternative Lighting (SALt) is focused on bringing light to the Philippines.

Aisa Mijeno, engineer, co-founder and CEO of SALt, lived in the Philippines and through her time with the tribes, she found that they relied heavily on kerosene lamps to see at night. She knew that these lamps are harmful to your health, which is why she looked for a solution that could work easily for tribes in the Philippines. Mijeno realized that the Philippines have an abundance of saltwater, which allowed her to create a lamp powered by the saltwater surrounding the Philippines or through a glass of water and two scoops of salt.

The technology behind the lamp is actually quite simple, and it allows for less maintenance than a typical kerosene lamp. The lamp has two metal rods inside that are the electrodes, and when saltwater, the electrolyte, is added to the lamp, it creates light and electricity for eight hours. SALt lamps only last for six months, because the metal rods will wear out, but once these are replaced, the lamp is back to its working function.

Kerosene lamps are harmful to people and to the environment, and they also don’t last very long. These lamps can provide light for four hours at the most, half the time SALt lamps can run for. SALt lamps also provide electricity for the eight hours, as it has a USB port that can charge any kind of device.

SALt has called itself a social movement, as it looks to empower others to donate. Through their website, you can learn about different communities needing light in the Philippines and see how many lanterns they are in need of. This allows for anyone to be able to impact an entire community by providing safe and more efficient alternative to kerosene lamps.

Although 93 percent of Filipinos have access to electricity, there are still millions of people in rural areas like Mindanao and other surrounding islands that are left without this crucial necessity. By making and providing saltwater powered lamps, SALt is providing a solution for millions of Filipinos that reduces emissions and is safe for their health. Through the use of these natural resources in the Philippines, it allows for less maintenance than a kerosene lamp that can last twice as long, allowing them access to light and electricity throughout the night.

– Ian Scott
Photo: Flickr

town planning and poverty

Also known as city or urban planning, town planning is an interdisciplinary and dynamic field that seeks to understand how policies change in response to community needs, population growth, lifestyle changes and the needs of a changing population. Contemporary urban and regional planning techniques for survey, analysis, design and implementation developed from fields such as architecture, civil engineering, public health, economics and geography to further comprehend the welfare of people, control land use, design urban environments and enhance the natural environment. Urban areas will house 70 percent of the world’s population by 2050, getting town planning right is vital to ensuring that future areas are safe and resilient places, especially for the poorest of residents.

A Multi-Faceted Approach

Planning has and will play an important role in improving the quality of life in urban areas. It is also a critical support for tackling poverty. With its potential to expand accessible services and economic opportunities, informed city planning can help regenerate connection among persons, bring public health amenities and promote social justice. It should not be forgotten that the planning movement sprang from the public health movement and the Victorian slums in the 19th century. Planning went beyond the basic drive to deliver more homes in a sanitary environment to include community design and social separation. Thereby offering people a better way of life after both world wars.

Nevertheless, in order for planning to focus on poverty eradication, Kate Henderson, the chief executive of the Town and Country Planning Association said, “Planners must have the skills and opportunity to increase their understanding of places and how their work affects how people live their lives.”

How Does Town Planning Eradicate Poverty?

Different factors contribute to determining poverty levels in deprived neighborhoods such as unemployment, high housing costs, low education, health inequalities and low level of participation in public life. Despite the social separation that the planning movement has brought about, proper planning policies have the ability to bring about the interconnectedness between municipalities and authorities to reduce the social and spatial differences between people and groups. For instance, by decreasing the distance at which rich and poor individuals live with one another, URBinlusion has shown that social stability can be increased as well as the competitive power of cities.

Town Planning in Calicut, India

In Calicut, India, a city with a population of 437 thousand, people depend on the city for employment, education, healthcare and commercial needs. Along with municipalities, the Asian Development Bank has identified poverty reduction as a key sector for development. With a shortage of land for low-cost housing, social exclusion of the poor from decision making and increasing incidences of crime, a poverty reduction program that focuses on sustainable city development was implemented. By 2020, Calicut will be slum-free.

Sustainable town planning is the backbone of poverty reduction through slum improvement in Calicut. They did so by improving basic infrastructure and services in all slums, improving shelter conditions and improving human resource capability of the urban poor. Interventions included expanded coverage of ongoing poverty alleviation programs and strengthening and capacity building of local NGOs.

Town Planning in Caloocan, Philippines

Similar can be said about Caloocan, Philippines, a city with a population of over 1 million. Of this total population, 23 percent is unemployed. In 2002, the city government, along with many urban planners, launched a City Without Slums (CWS) Program that aims to provide low and middle-income families an opportunity to acquire decent housing at affordable costs.

The CWS program was launched with the support of the World Bank and U.N.-Habitat. It has led to the expansion of resources for the urban poor by improving the coherence of effort among on-going urban programs in Caloocan. The program is committed to improving the living conditions of the urban poor by promoting City Development Strategies (CDS) and city-wide slum upgrading.

Town Planning in Da Nang, Vietnam

Da Nang is a key economic area of central Vietnam with a population of 740 thousand persons. 80 percent live in the urban area. Nevertheless, substandard housing penetrates through the city of Da Nang.

Therefore, the Asian Development Bank along with the government and city planners aim to develop new infrastructure and upgrade their water supply system to promote stable urban management. Apart from this, they have launched programs focusing on poverty reduction and hunger eradication, through more jobs and appropriate solutions to pressing social concerns such as subpar health services. The city is currently facing budget constraints on their development, however, it is certain that their urban areas will be free from slums and promote social good for its citizens.

These examples of town planning and poverty display the benefits of a positive relationship between these two social factors. Town planning done right can contribute significantly to the worldwide fight against poverty.

Monique Santoso
Photo: Flickr

zero extreme poverty
The Philippines ranks on the top twelve list of the most populous countries in the world. Yet, in 2015, the number of Filipinos living under the poverty line made up over 21 percent of an already large 100 million people. While this rate indicates improvement, in 2006 the rate was 5 percent higher, NGO leaders such as Armin Luistro and Reynaldo Laguda knew that more could be done.

Specifically, operational changes for NGOs Philippine Business for Social Progress (BSFP), Habitat for Humanity Philippines and Peace and Equity Foundation had to be made. These NGOs rolled out plans dedicated to special and long-term interventions that targeted extremely impoverished Filipino families. The focus of these plans centered on rural fishing and agriculture communities, as well as marginalized indigenous peoples.

The Zero Extreme Poverty Goal

In 2015, 17 NGOs unified to form The Philippines’ Zero Extreme Poverty Goal (ZEP PH 2030). Together, they strive to lift at least one million Filipino families from extreme poverty by the year 2030. This is the year that the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals are due which adds momentum to the cause.

Beginning as a coalition of a handful of NGOs, ZEP now houses corporations who wish to join the Filipino fight against poverty. Indeed, ZEP prides itself in maintaining a diverse team made up of groups with unique strengths. Different members and partners of the coalition are organized into eight different clusters. They are as follows:

Various Programs

  1. Education seeks to ensure that youth have access to education and employment opportunities. ZEP aims to ensure that two million youth are employed by 2030.
  2. Health supports the health of Filipinos in impoverished communities. The program conducts awareness campaigns on maternal, child health and nutrition in target areas to promote health policy advocacy.
  3. Livelihood is led by the Peace and Equity Foundation within ZEP, and with fellow committee members, ensures the coalition’s ability to provide assistance to the extremely poor.
  4. Environment works to maintain and improve upon ecosystem services within The Philippines in order to sustain healthy communities. They aim to guarantee a number of benefits to the country, like a 10 percent increase in agricultural areas by 2028.
  5. Agriculture and Fisheries seeks to bring complete self-sufficiency to small fisheries and farms by 2030, through initiatives such as market empowerment and accessible support services.
  6. Housing and Shelter provides safe and sufficient homes with basic facilities to extremely impoverished families. Involved organizations within the cluster, including Habitat for Humanity, also work with local governments to implement social housing programs and projects.
  7. Partnerships for Indigenous Peoples helps build self-sustaining indigenous peoples communities, whether it be through advocacy means or by establishing community-based plans. Implemented programs include promoting women and children’s rights.
  8. Social Justice serves as the overarching cluster and theme of ZPH, in which the coalition’s diverse private and public groups align in the Filipino fight against poverty. By engagements with local governments and through policy programs, ZPH aims to end conditions within the Philippines that prevent the poor from finding self-sufficiency.

A Personal Approach

A primary strategy used by ZEP in order to maximize their efficiency is community consultation. Participating NGO programs employ a personal approach. They ask local Filipinos for their experiences and stories to truly understand the needs of poor communities. Organizations within the community can then easily refer to other member organizations of ZEP, whether they be businesses or NGOs, who specialize in the community’s needs.

In one case study, ZEP assisted an indigenous father of two in the foundation of a basket business. His business has since expanded, employing dozens of workers. ZEP reports that 63 families have benefitted in the process. In another case, ZEP assisted a single mother of seven children in improving her family’s living conditions. Moreover, the education cluster is supporting the families oldest child to pursue her academic career. Stories like these illustrate the promise of the ZEP goals.

Hope for the Future

By December of 2018, the coalition had implemented poverty-reduction programs in 109 cities. 10,000 families were provided with aid and assistance. However, ZEP’s Filipino fight against poverty is far from over. They continue to relentlessly assist communities in need as well as work to further expand themselves as a coalition. Nevertheless, the Zero Extreme Poverty goal coalition always stays true to its core values of social justice, service and diversity.

Breana Stanski
Photo: Flickr

Vaccines in Egypt On March 14, 2019, the vaccination company Pfizer, in partnership with Gavi, The Vaccine Alliance reduced the price of the pneumococcal vaccine (PCV) to $2.90 per dose for eligible countries. Gavi’s mission since 2000 has been to “improve access to new and underused vaccines for children living in the world’s poorest countries”. Public and private sectors fund the creation and distribution of important vaccines in 73 developing countries partnered with Gavi.

The Benefit of Price Drops

In 2017, the price of a single dose PCV was $3.30. However, as a result of negotiations between Pfizer and Gavi there have been three pneumococcal vaccine price drops since January 2017. It is expected to save developing countries $4.1 million this year. Dr. Seth Berkley, the CEO of Gavi says “pneumonia remains the single largest cause of death for children worldwide and [the] pneumococcal vaccine is one of our largest weapons against it”. The price drop comes at a pivotal time.

PCV is a Priority

PCV takes as long as 15 years to reach developing countries that need it the most. Whereas the vaccine is already easily accessible and widespread in industrialized nations. Vaccines have not been easily accessible in developing nations. They are expensive and difficult to distribute effectively in nations lacking funds and resources. The focus is on different areas. For example, the proportion of developing countries’ exports that is needed to service their overseas debt rose from 11 percent in 1970 to 18 percent in 1996, while overseas aid from the U.S. plummeted $14 billion. With the drop in PCV pricing, developing countries can invest in their public health.

The value of vaccines as a long-term investment for developing countries is leading to pneumococcal vaccine price drops. Vaccinating the youth population of developing countries, according to Gavi, creates a “virtuous cycle”.

The Cycle Follows This Order of Cause and Effect

  • Children have vaccines before the age of two
  • These children are likely to be healthier and live longer
  • Children have fewer and less serious illnesses
  • This leads to lower care costs for health systems and family
  • Which means more family money available to spend or save
  • Children will attend school more, fueling better outcomes
  • A family’s economic outlook will strengthen based on these outcomes
  • Birth rates drop and mother’s health improves
  • A community becomes more economically stable and productive
  • Contributing to politically and economically stable countries

By looking at the cost-benefit analyses for vaccinations, scientists are able to see this “virtuous cycle” in action. A study, conducted by the Cebu Longitudinal Health and Nutrition Survey in 1975, took data from a sample of Filipino children. Researchers compared test scores of children who received six vaccines in their first two years versus those that did not. The study reveals the association of immunization with improved IQ scores, language and mathematics tests. Untreated childhood illness can impair cognitive development.

Developing countries often have large obstacles to face such as food scarcity, a lack of widespread education and low GDPs. Investing in vaccines is a long-term solution that will benefit the economic, health, societal and governmental sectors of these nations. With the pneumococcal vaccine price drops, this seems to be an attainable reality for developing countries.

– Meredith Breda
Photo: Flickr

Philippines Responds to Natural DisastersIn response to being one of the most vulnerable countries to earthquakes and typhoons, the Philippines’ catastrophe risk insurance program was created. The Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) will provide the government and 25 participating provinces with catastrophe risk insurance.

The World Bank estimates that 20 typhoons each year cause landfall in the Philippines, bringing with them $3.5 billion in losses. As part of the government’s disaster risk finance strategy, the new insurance program strengthens the country’s financial protection and disaster risk reduction management.

The International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD), part of the World Bank Group, and the U.K. Department for International Development support the program.

The new Philippines’ catastrophe risk insurance program ensures governments fast cash in an emergency. The transactions $206 million investment protects the national government’s assets from typhoons and earthquakes, as well as that of the 25 participating provinces.

Natural disasters weaken infrastructure and inhibit economic growth and development in poorer areas. Forty percent of the population survives on less than $2 per day, and many of these people live in high-risk areas. Approximately a third of the nation’s workers are in the agricultural sector, which is vulnerable to severe weather.

The Philippines’s new insurance program is related to the Insurance Development Forum (IDF), a public-private partnership closing the protection gap between insured disaster losses and the economic costs of disasters. With support from the World Bank Group and the United Nations Development Programme, IDF improves risk management capabilities and economic resilience for vulnerable people, communities, businesses and public institutions.

According to Joaquim Levy, Managing Director and Chief Financial Officer of the World Bank Group, “this new insurance program illustrates how the World Bank Group can leverage capital from the market…to sustain essential services in times of crisis, empowering local governments to more effectively assist their citizens.”

Protecting the nation’s financials and empowering local governments, the Philippines‘ catastrophe risk insurance program advances development and poverty reduction, even in the hardest-hit places.

Sarah Dunlap

Photo: Flickr