Light in the PhilippinesKerosene 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 Disasters
In 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

Philippine Education ReformsPhilippine President, Rodrigo Duterte, has signed a bill that will grant free tuition to students attending state universities. Free higher education could prove to be a much-needed step out of the poverty trap for the 42 percent of Filipinos living on less than $2 a day.

The law, which was signed August 3 against the recommendation of the Duterte’s economic advisers, is estimated to cost nearly 100 billion pesos – roughly $2 billion US – per year. Some senators have claimed that when the plan is fully implemented it will only cost a quarter that much. The challenge for Duterte is the full implementation throughout the country’s 112 state schools.

There are some strings attached. Free tuition will only be available to students who maintain high grades throughout secondary education. In addition to that, all students – even those in private higher education institutions – will be required to pass drug screenings to attend school. The latter requirement is an extension of the recent crackdown on drug usage by the Duterte regime.

This bill is just the latest of many Philippine education reforms. In 2012 and 2013, the Kindergarten Act and the Enhanced Basic Education Act extended the formal education timeline by three years, from 10 to 13. Around the same time, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) became involved with the Philippine education reforms.

In 2011, after the launch of the U.S. led Partnership for Growth project, USAID began working closely within the Filipino school system, helping the nation reach its literacy goals and foster new partnerships between each nation’s higher learning institutions.

Even with the help of the U.S., the price of education has been a consistent problem for people in the Philippines. Unable to cover the costs of schooling equally in its 13 districts, the government has historically chosen to focus efforts and money on primary schooling. Duterte’s new law is the first of its kind to focus on higher education. Only time will tell whether his Philippine education reforms are financially feasible, but many Filipino lawmakers realize the importance of investing in human capital.

Education is commonly seen as being one of the steadfast ladders out of poverty. This tuition bill is just a piece of Duterte’s promised grand social spending plan– the regime hopes to add more skilled workers to its labor pool who are ready to take on the changing demands of a highly technological economy.

Tj Anania

Help People in the PhilippinesThe Philippines has had a tumultuous history rife with military conflict. Such conflict seems to go hand in hand with widespread According to the Philippine Statistics Authority, as of 2015, 21.6 percent of the country’s population lived in poverty. While this is a daunting number, it is comforting to know that it is significantly lower than previous years. Still, people must continue to help in order for the Philippines to progress. Here are just a few ways to help impoverished people in the Philippines:

1. Help build classrooms, libraries and other essential structures in rural areas. There are several organizations committed to building these structures across the Philippines. Two examples are the Philippine Business for Education – a nonprofit funded by top CEOs in the Philippines to better the country’s education – and the Kabayanihan Foundation, which works to improve the lives of Filipinos through fundraising and volunteering.

2. Fund a child’s education. Sponsoring a child as they strive for a quality education is one of the best ways to help change an individual person’s life in the Philippines. World Vision Philippines, for instance, offers an easy way to either completely sponsor a child or share a sponsorship.

3. Help people in the Philippines find business and livelihood opportunities. The Commission on Filipinos Overseas (CFO) is an organization started by native Filipinos living around the world; their goal is to help people in the Philippines by offering work and enterprise opportunities. To support the CFO, follow the organization on social media and spread the word.

4. Help build homes for homeless families. This can be done through direct action or through donation, and Habitat for Humanity-Philippines is a great place to start.

5. Support accountability and transparency in the government. This has been a longtime struggle for the Philippines and continues to be an issue. If the government is not accountable and honest to its citizens, it becomes much more difficult to end the cycle of poverty. To support efforts to make the government more accountable, reach out to the Movement for Good Governance in the Philippines – a group of people who have been advocating for a more honest and responsible government.

6. Buy Filipino products and visit the Philippines. Tourist dollars are incredibly important to the country’s economy, as are the profits from the country’s main exports including electronic equipment, copper, petroleum, coconut oil and various fruits. The Philippines also boasts an incredible landscape, from the beautiful and dramatic capital city of Manila to the white sand beaches of Boracay.

The Philippines is a country of both immense problems and immense potential; it is already on its way to improving the quality of life of its citizens. By making use of these six simple steps to help people in the Philippines, it may become much easier for the country to grow and reach its full potential.

Audrey Palzkill

Photo: Unsplash

Female Workers in the PhilippinesThe Philippines has emerged as an equality leader among Asian countries, promoting female workers in the Philippines in recent decades. While many female workers in the Philippines still deal with the same struggles as other female workers worldwide, including unequal income and inequality, much more have entered the workforce than any other Asian countries. This marks a distinct shift in culture within Asian countries, which infamously used to prevent women from entering the workforce. This has slowed the ability of many to lift themselves out of poverty.

The Philippines ranked first in the MasterCard Worldwide Women’s Advancement Index among Asian countries with a score of 70.5 percent. Major Asian powers such as China, Japan and Korea scored 61.5, 48.1 and 49.7 respectively. Access to education appears to be the driving cause for the surge of women in the workforce in the Philippines. The Philippines also ranked ahead of all other Asian countries in the percentage of women with secondary and tertiary education.

While women have gained a substantial place in the Philippines workforce, they face issues regarding advancement to more skilled professions and gaining further statues beyond base level employment. Unfortunately, many overqualified women effectively become trapped in entry level positions. Like many Asian countries, male workers typically fill managerial roles, mainly due to gender biases ingrained in societal expectations.

Numerous policy initiatives have been put in place to promote women in managerial level roles, including: the broad policy statements embodied in the Philippines Constitution of 1973, policy instruments embodied in the Letter of Instructions 974 and 1066, and the U.N. World Plan of Action for the Integration of Women in Development.

Despite these policy efforts, a lot of work still remains to promote female workers in the Philippines; it is an issue that should continue to demand attention.

Garrett Keyes

Photo: Flickr

Nearly two months have passed since the conflict with Islamic State terrorist groups began in the Philippines city of Marawi, but its government has hope for a conclusion soon. In the last month, major nations, including Australia, China and South Korea have made large contributions of aid to Marawi aimed to assist the civilians affected by the violence.

South Korea announced on July 5 that it would be giving aid in the form of $1 million to the victims in Marawi City. In a statement regarding the donation, Korean Ambassador Kim Jae-shin stated, “On behalf of the Korean government, I would like to extend my sympathy to all evacuees of Marawi City. Our donation, even if it’s not big…is a token of our friendship with the Philippines.”

With a death toll that recently topped 500 and over 183,500 individuals forced from their homes, the crisis is far from over.

On June 27, China donated $3 million in relief funds to the besieged city. The money was directed to the city’s health and social development department in hopes of helping those who have been displaced or whose homes have been destroyed.

Australia also made contributions totaling approximately $7 million. In a statement on June 20, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop firmly stated that the Australian government will stand strong beside the Philippines to fight terrorism. The donated aid packages included items such as food, sleeping mats, mosquito nets and sanitary supplies.

The conflict began on May 23, after government troops found the hideout of an ISIS leader, Isnilon Hapalon, in the city. When his men called for backup from the Maute, another radical Islamist group, a gunfight began.

The United States became involved in the conflict at the beginning of June as well, providing technical assistance and military aid to Marawi. According to a recent report, American forces are not currently engaged in combat in the city.

Emily Trosclair

Photo: Flickr

Heart ailments are still the most fatal and most common diseases in the Philippines, according to the country’s Department of Health.

Called the “silent epidemic” by former Health Undersecretary Teodoro Herbosa, cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) have topped the list of most common diseases in the Philippines over the past few years, responsible for 15 to 20 percent of reported deaths annually. In some years, these numbers are significantly higher. In 2012, the National Statistics Office reported that half of the country’s deaths stemmed from cardiovascular causes.

The most common of these ailments is coronary heart disease. Other heart ailments such as angina, atherosclerosis, hypertension and congenital heart disease have also been rampant among Filipinos.
Heart diseases can lead to other complications in vital organs, which makes the commonness of heart conditions alarming.

The Department of Health has estimated an increase in the number of kidney disease incidences from 10 to 15 percent annually starting in 2013. The trend coincides with increases in reported hypertension cases. Hypertensive patients are more likely to develop kidney complications.

Analysts trace the cause of these diseases to two main factors: growing urbanization and a general unawareness of public health issues. As cited in a 2015 study by the Philippine Institute for Development Studies, the quick development of high-paying industries and subsequent rapid economic growth have given Filipino consumers more purchasing power than ever before. Yet this growth has not always necessarily translated to a shift toward healthier options or an awareness of healthier food alternatives. Fast food consumption is higher than ever before, with 25 percent of Filipinos eating out at least once a week according to Nielsen.

The Filipino government acknowledges the prevalence of cardiovascular diseases among the citizenry and has put in place several strategies and plans to combat the increase in cases. The Health Department has begun its efforts to remove CVDs from the top of the list of the most common diseases in the Philippines by targeting the most basic of social groups, schools, as a starting point for training, research and propagating information regarding the possible consequences of unbalanced diets and unhealthy life choices. The agency hopes that the chances of Filipinos adopting high-risk behaviors and habits that lead to the development of cardiovascular diseases will be diminished by informing citizens in their early years.

Other Health Department actions include the continued development of a framework for an integrated chronic non-communicable disease (NCD) registry system, which enables patients to access government programs more easily, and training national hospitals for its operation. It has also established a national coalition on the prevention and control of NCDs. Its future plan of action involves the full implementation of the integrated NCD registry system and the development of service packages for patients, among many others.

Bella Suansing

Photo: Flickr