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Hunger in Poland

Every day in Poland, almost 120,000 children go to school hungry. More than half of these children rely almost entirely on meals supplied by their school or another type of government-funded meal program. Hunger in Poland is one of the most pressing issues facing the nation, and despite the alarmingly high number of hungry Polish children, the Polish government’s plan to address this crisis is to spend 550 million zloty (roughly $153 million) per year on food programs. When you do the math, this equates to less than $70 per child per year.

Poland ranks third in the European Union on the list of the most children living in poverty, behind only Romania and Belarus. Poverty, hunger and limited access to education all go hand in hand, and today the children of Poland are facing a crisis of epic proportions.

The foundations of hunger in Poland can be traced back to the nation shifting from a planned to a market economy in 1989. This created a sort of vacuum in terms of economic control, and it allowed a wealthy minority to capitalize on the shift while the poor grew poorer. The economic shift marked the beginning of a steady increase in economic inequality in Poland. Ensuing conditions in the years since 1989 led to spiking levels of unemployment, emigration and labor strikes.

Poland is a Second World, former socialist state still reeling from economic turmoil created decades before. In 2017, the repercussions of the radical shift in the Polish economic system can be seen in the faces of hungry children. But given the necessary assistance, Poland can rebound and develop into a balanced, self-sustaining economic power in Eastern Europe.

There are a number of charities of a variety of sizes and origins currently working in Poland. They range from the Red Cross, which provides aid around the world, to the local Emaus Lubin charity, based in Lubin, Poland, which helps hungry Poles by supporting food systems and social welfare programs.

The humanitarian crisis in Poland needs to be combated with the full efforts of the international aid community. The children of Poland who wake up and go to school without breakfast are depending on our help, and today is the day to implement the change to stop this cycle of poverty and hunger in Poland.

Ty Troped

Photo: Flickr

Common Diseases in PolandThe World Health Organization (WHO) reports noncommunicable diseases are one of the major health and development challenges of the 21st century. Low and middle-income countries suffer the most from these diseases, but even high-income countries such as Poland are affected. According to the Institution for Health Metrics and Evaluation, ischemic heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease and lung cancer are some of the most common diseases in Poland.

Ischemic Heart Disease
The American Heart Association identifies ischemic heart disease as a condition in which heart complications develop due to the narrowing of heart arteries. As a result, heart attacks, strokes and other life-threatening problems can occur. Cardiovascular disease is the number one cause of death worldwide. Over three-quarters of those deaths take place in low and middle-income countries. In 2015 alone, approximately half of the deaths in Poland resulted from heart-related diseases.

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) states that the reasoning behind this large statistic could be caused by Poland’s lack of partaking in risk-reducing behavior. The adult smoking rate in Poland is 23.8 percent. This is higher than the OECD average of 20.9 percent. The reported prevalence of high blood pressure is also high at 37.2 percent; this is 11 percent over the OECD average.

Fortunately, 2013 marked the year 193 UN member states joined the WHO to reduce preventable noncommunicable diseases. Targets include a 25 percent decrease in the global occurrence of high blood pressure and the prevention of heart-related complications. Each country’s progress is set to be assessed in 2018.

Alzheimer’s Disease
Alzheimer’s is a manifestation of dementia that causes problems with memory, thinking and behavior. Symptoms usually develop slowly and get worse over time. The 2016 World Alzheimer Report claims that approximately 47 million people globally are living with dementia. As subsequent populations continue to live longer, this number is expected to rise.

Regrettably, people living with Alzheimer’s have poor access to adequate healthcare. Even in high-income countries, such as Poland, a mere 50 percent of people living with dementia receive a diagnosis. In low and middle-income countries, these numbers are worse – less than 10 percent of cases are properly identified.

Poland, specifically, has seen an increased rate of Alzheimer’s over the past decade. The Institution for Health Metrics and Evaluation marks a rise of almost 38 percent. Luckily, the WHO and the OECD have noticed the issues associated with dementia and have decided to take action. Policies introduced include better care, early diagnosis, implementing innovation in science and technology and having open access to data.

Lung Cancer
The uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells in one or both lungs is the definition of lung cancer. These irregular cells fail to make healthy lung tissue and can interfere with the function of the lung. Symptoms include coughing, chest pain, shortness of breath and coughing up blood. The WHO states that cancer is the second leading cause of death globally, with lung cancer being the most common type of cancer in the world.

North America and Europe have the most cases of lung cancer, with Poland being in the top 20 countries. Smoking is connected to 85 percent of all lung cancers. Men dominate this percentage, landing Poland another spot in the top seven countries. The OECD says the adult smoking rate in Poland is about 40 percent for men, which is about 16 percent higher than the OECD average. As a consequence, the rate of lung cancer – specifically in men – is exceptionally high, keeping Poland as one of the most-affected countries. The country has experienced a 2 percent rise over the last decade.

In response to these numbers, the WHO’s Global Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of Noncommunicable Diseases aims to reduce the overall mortality rate from cancer by 25 percent. Objectives include prevention, control, high-quality research and evaluation. The decrease in cancer cases is set to be achieved by 2025.

Recognizing common diseases in Poland is critical to improving the well-being of its citizens. All of these noncommunicable diseases share increased prevalence, inadequate health care or preventable behavior. The WHO Global NCD Action Plan will use this information to create and monitor progress. Once this is completed, we will hopefully see a decrease in these diseases.

Emilee Wessel

Photo: Google

Human Rights in PolandPoland has been a liberal democracy ever since it transitioned from communism in 1989. It is a nation that enjoys free and fair elections and civil liberties protections; however, there is a strong partisan divide in Poland. The Law and Justice Party has become skeptical of the efficacy of liberal democracy; it has enacted a number of authoritarian reforms, enhancing the power of the party and undermining checks and balances enshrined in the Polish constitution. Here are seven facts about human rights in Poland:

  1. Speech is free in Poland, but there are some limitations. A person with a public platform can be fined and even jailed for promoting anti-government activity, amorality and disrespect for religion. However, these restrictions are rarely enforced.
  2. Freedom of the press is a constitutional human right in Poland, but recent laws enacted by Poland’s governing party have limited that freedom. Starting in 2017, journalists must be pre-approved in order to interview legislators in the halls of Parliament. The Law and Justice Party has also made moves to have more influence on public media. The party amended Polish law so that the treasurer has the power to choose the heads of public media, rather than an independent board. Polish public media officials were quickly replaced with Law and Justice party officials after the amendment was passed.
  3. Roma, LGBT and Muslim communities experience frequent discrimination in Poland. In 2016, violent hate crimes rose by 40 percent and most of these attacks targeted Muslims. Despite this, Poland has shut down its Council for the Prevention of Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia, and Related Intolerance.
  4. Women have equal rights in Poland, but domestic violence and sex trafficking are still significant issues. The Polish government recently defunded the Women’s Rights Center, which had played a major role in aiding female victims of domestic violence. Polish officials have claimed that they shut down the institution because it did nothing to help the male victims of domestic violence.
  5. Poland has been going through a constitutional crisis, as the Law and Justice Party has taken steps that increase the power of the party and reduce the power of the Constitutional Tribunal – the nation’s highest court. The crisis began when the Law and Justice Party refused to seat five judges appointed to the court by the previous ruling party, and instead nominated their own. The tribunal ruled this act unconstitutional, but the government refused to release the ruling, making it technically non-binding. The Polish government has passed several laws designed to make the tribunal run less efficiently, and has appointed party ally Julia Przyłębska to be president of the tribunal. These actions have raised concerns among the EU and the U.S. that the Polish government is eroding democratic checks and balances.
  6. In 2016, Poland passed a counter-terrorism law that gives the government far-reaching surveillance powers. The law allows for the government to wiretap and monitor the communications of people the government fears might be involved in terrorism-related activities. The government has the power to continue these activities for three months without oversight, as well as use illegally obtained evidence in court and detain suspects for up to two weeks.
  7. Polish prisons fail to meet the standards set by other European countries. The minimum legal size of a jail cell in Poland is 32 square feet, which falls below the internationally recognized standard. Many prisons are in need of renovations and lack adequate healthcare and accommodations for prisoners with disabilities.

Though the Polish ruling party is encroaching on the nation’s civil liberties, there are still actions that can be taken to protect human rights in Poland. Poland still has free and fair elections, and if that remains unchanged, the Polish people have the power to democratically reject these illiberal reforms by voting in candidates that promise to restore power to the Constitutional Tribunal. The EU also has the power to sanction Poland if it goes too far – something it threatened to do last month in the face of efforts to stack the Constitutional Tribunal with even more party allies. Both of these situations should bring hope to the people of Poland, as it makes the improvement of their human rights a very possible outcome of the future.

Carson Hughes


The quality of water in Europe is often taken for granted by travelers, and there are some countries where it is best to stay on the safe side and use bottled water. Poland is one of many European countries with conflicting reports about tap water quality. Some sites such as TripAdvisor have multiple people vouching for the safety of the tap water, with some even saying that it tastes better than the water in many other European countries such as France and the U.K. Other travel sites have warnings about Polish tap water, claiming that it is unhealthy to drink and tastes horrible. For this reason, it can be difficult for travelers to understand the true water quality in Poland.

According to Poland’s Department of Economics and Management, about 60 percent of Poles are wary of the water quality before boiling it. They fear general pollution, and many are concerned that the smell and taste of the water, which is cited from mildly unsettling to disgusting, could be an indication of unhealthy drinking water. However, despite so many doubts from the locals, the government notes that more than 90 percent of the water in all areas meets the necessary health standards and is safe to drink, and any water that does fall below the safety line only barely fails to meet proper requirements. For the areas where the water quality is not up to the proper levels, water filters can easily improve the quality, both in terms of safety and taste.

Though the government assures that the water quality in Poland is safe to drink, many Poles and tourists use bottled water, especially mineral water, instead of tap water. Poland has a large bottled water industry, and some locals believe that this is one of the reasons that tap water is so distrusted. Since there is a great deal of advertising for natural mineral bottled water, it is easy to imagine why people would avoid the soft tap water in favor of the crisper bottled water.

However, in Poland and many other countries, more than 25 percent of bottled water is just treated tap water. Bottled water is often nothing more than expensive tap water run through a filter, something that can be done in any home for a much smaller cost than buying bottled water. Bottled water is also an environmental burden. The bottles are usually used once then thrown away.

Since the tap water is safe to drink, especially with a filter, it makes little sense to continue to rely on bottled water, especially when considering the economic and environmental costs of bottled water. Despite mixed reports, there is good water quality in Poland, so it is safe to go ahead and drink up.

Rachael Lind

Photo: Flickr

Hunger Within Poland
One of the main challenges Poland faces today is malnutrition. Hunger in Poland is an issue every third child between the age of 7 and 15 suffers from, according to research done by Poland Human Resources.

In Warsaw, over 23,000 children suffer from malnutrition.

When diet fails to supply the body with the essential nutrients it requires, malnutrition results. This lack of nutrition exists predominantly in developing nations, but malnutrition is also an issue in developed nations. Protein-energy malnutrition, for instance, generally occurs in underweight children. In Poland, this type of malnutrition is seen in 1 percent of men, more than 3 percent of women and in 13 percent of children.

Poverty is the main cause of malnutrition and hunger in Poland. Nearly 7 percent of the Polish population lives below the poverty line. As a result, many of the poor have unhealthy diets, causing deficiencies in vitamin D, folate, vitamin C, calcium and iodine. Infants, teenaged girls and women are particularly vulnerable. Iron deficiency is also a problem in Poland, seen in about one-quarter of children and pregnant women.

The Polish Central Statistical Office recently released a report which reveals deteriorating living conditions for the working class. The report shows that more than half a million children suffer from hunger in Poland, as well as severe malnutrition. Other highlights from the report:

  • In 2009, 2.2 million Polish people lived in conditions of extreme poverty.
  • Over 170,000 Polish children suffer from malnutrition, which has slowed their growth and development.
  • More than 260,000 children start their days without breakfast. Additionally, more than 70,000 children only eat what they receive at school because they lack food at home.
  • One in five Polish children is malnourished.

These statistics are particularly relevant in small villages, where there are high rates of unemployment and social helplessness. Most of the children suffering from hunger and malnutrition have families that are at the edge of poverty.

The Polish government has focused on improving economic conditions for its people in recent years. It must do more to eliminate hunger and malnutrition for its children.

Yana Emets

Photo: Flickr


The refugee crisis is one of the biggest impacting the world, Europe in particular. With a prominent history of accepting refugees after the collapse of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (U.S.S.R.), Poland today is playing a surprisingly limited role. Here are 10 facts about Poland’s refugee efforts.

  1. Poland has been turning away refugees. Asylum seekers from Chechnya, an increasingly repressive part of Russia, have been being denied entry into Poland, even though the Terespol border became an entry point for Chechens, Tajiks and other citizens of former Soviet Republics when the U.S.S.R. dissolved.
  2. Terespol border guards rejected 85,000 attempts to cross the border from Belarus in 2016. Only 25,000 were turned away in 2015, illustrating a major change in the Polish perspective of refugees.
  3. Lack of refugee support reflects a lack of Polish influence in the EU. Poland’s anti-liberal shift has resulted in Poland losing a great deal of negotiating power with other European powers.
  4. “There is no mechanism that would ensure safety,” explained Jaroslaw Kaczynski, who leads Poland’s ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party. The PiS party takes a nationalist and right-wing stance. It is very vocal in opposing housing and feeding refugees from Syria and others in humanitarian crisis.
  5. The EU has suggested that countries should have a quota of refugees, or pay €250,000 ($280,188) for each asylum-seeker they turn away. The money would go to countries that have a disproportionately high number of refugees, such as Greece, Germany and Italy.
  6. Poland’s stagnation isn’t good for its politics. Such stubbornness could lead to less power and credibility with other European nations while also questioning the relationship it has with Europe on the one hand, and on the other hand, Russia.
  7. Human rights groups have been covering and warning the EU about Polish actions, but the EU has failed to reprimand or sanction Poland. An EU executive was even quoted as “closely following the situation” regarding Poland’s refugee efforts, but no follow-up has been taken.
  8. Chechens trying to go to Poland are in great danger. Trying to cross the border, Chechens risk getting sent to detention centers in Belarus.
  9. The most obvious solution is for Poland to respect the EU’s concept of “effective solidarity.” However, with the right-leaning government and anti-liberal views running through Poland, this seems the most unrealistic solution.
  10. Poland may be breaking the law. Chechens denied refugee status are sent back to Belarus and fear deportation to Russia. According to Polish law, however, the Office for Foreigners, not the Border Guard, is to evaluate applications for refugee status. Some refugees have applied more than 70 times and been denied each time.

Poland’s refugee efforts, or lack thereof, have led many nations to questions the future of Poland’s power and influence in the EU. Additionally, Poland’s relations with Russia will remain in question until Poland becomes active in the refugee crisis.

Mary Waller

Photo: Flickr

Education in Poland
Over the last two decades, public education in Poland has been seriously reformed, and today it is one of the best-performing educational systems in Europe and across the world.

Education in Poland began changing in the late 1990s, after Miroslaw Handke took on the role of Poland’s minister of education. Amanda Ripley reports that Handke publicly announced his plans for change, stating, “We have to move the entire system– push it out of its equilibrium so that it will achieve a new equilibrium.”

Through a modernized core curriculum and regulated standardized testing, allowing school administrators to recognize areas of improvement and identify struggling students, this new equilibrium was achieved. Teachers were granted more freedom in implementing their own curricula and choosing textbooks, so long as they tailored their courses to meet national requirements.

Also, the transition of students into vocational schools was delayed by a year. This places a stronger focus on the general curriculum compared to specialized skills. Reading, writing and arithmetic are the focal points of education, as well as studying a foreign language.

There has been a change in jurisdiction from central government to local government in regards to education. This provides local authorities with increased control over budgeting. The development of new schools resulted in increased learning opportunities for more students.

Today, Poland ranks 13th in reading, 18th in mathematics, and 22nd in science worldwide, according to a 2015 OECD education report known as PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment). Student performance in these subjects has significantly improved since 2003, when the country either matched or fell below the OECD average.

Surprisingly, Poland has been able to accomplish all this by spending only five percent of its GDP, or roughly $5,000 per student annually. The U.S., by contrast, spends about three times as much, yet still ranks below Poland.

Despite these advancements, there is still room for progress. The OECD reports indicate an educational gap between students of lower classes and those of higher classes, which could be improved through more early childhood public education programs. In addition, there is a need to strengthen students’ capacity to problem-solve. By building on its achievements, education in Poland will continue to improve, serving as a global model.

Genevieve T. DeLorenzo

Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Poland Facts
Poland is not a poor country by any means, but the region has historically possessed little wealth due to occupation, wartime and political mistreatment. As such, alleviation of the poverty in Poland has been a focal point of recent Polish governments. Discussed below are the leading facts about poverty in Poland, and how the issue is addressed at the national and international level.

 

7 Key Facts About Poverty in Poland

 

  1. Poverty in Poland has been steadily decreasing since 2004. Over the past decade, the country has cut the population of people living on less than $5 a day in half, from 20 percent to 10.
  2. Poland’s government spends heavily on social resources, with a quarter of the nation’s GDP spent on pensions, public health care, public education and other social services.
  3. Compared to other parts of the world, poverty in Poland is shallow. There are very few people living in dangerously extreme poverty or hunger. Less than a tenth of the population live on $2 a day or less.
  4. Income inequality in Poland is also relatively low. In a World Bank ranking of income inequality, Poland scored significantly better than the United States and Russia with stratification levels near the U.K. and France.
  5. While they are rarely in extreme poverty, many young people in Poland live on very little due to a lack of employment. Overall unemployment in Poland is at 14 percent, but is 25 percent for those who primarily seek industrial jobs.
  6. Poland’s heavily industrial economy is something of a double-edged sword. GDP growth was mildly hindered by the 2008-9 global economic downturn when compared with other European nations. This growth, however, has proven slow with an average of a one percent annual increase.
  7. Poland seeks to both decrease rural poverty and increase its economic productivity by improving the agricultural sector. The EU has been a major benefactor in this cause, revamping the nation’s agricultural policy in 2004 and annually contributing large sums of money. In 2014, Polish farmers received three billion euros in direct payments from EU funding.

These facts about poverty in Poland only begin to scratch the surface of such a complex region. This eastern European nation exudes fiscal prosperity amidst underlying unemployment and rural poverty, a conundrum that needs to be solved.

John English

Photo: Flickr

Pawel
Before change must come awareness. Polish cartoonist Pawel Kuczynski has been using his talent for the past decade to do just that. His satirical illustrations evoke grim emotions and cause his viewers to think about the current state of the world. Things are not as they appear and Kuczynski is literally showing the public what they do not know about politics.

Kuczynski’s drawings expose the irony of everyday occurrences by taking them out of context and juxtaposing these normal events with harsh reality. Topics range from political disillusion, pollution, child labor and income inequality. Kuczynski seems to be asking the public to realize the true nature of their place in the world, not only as puppets of a larger global system but also as players in an unbalanced field.

The image above touches on harsh labor, the global economy and inequality. Kuczynski plays on the story of Santa Claus and as homes in the West are filled with gifts, they are completely oblivious as to where these toys are made. The morning sun is replaced by the Chinese Communist Party banner which hangs over child and impoverished laborers as they slave away to make affordable, consumer-friendly products. Ultimately, Kuczynski is criticizing our world’s affection for material goods and our incredible ability to ignore human suffering because it is far away.

We are constantly told the cost of war and how much of our tax dollars are dedicated to defense. Instead of beads on an abacus, soldiers are counted as this businessman tallies up his profits. Even though it costs tax dollars and human lives to sustain a war, money is still to be made. Weapons manufacturers watch their profits soar as wars drag on, and companies on the winning side sit on the edge of their seats to gain a new market. Kuczynski points out that war requires more than dollars – human lives are spent just as quickly – and in the end, it’s all business.

Visit http://pawelkuczynski.com/ for more.

– Alessandra Luppi

Sources: Visual News, Visual News

Every non-profit has an honorable start to their missions, but Robert C. Macauley, founder of AmeriCares, has a particular focus. On April 4, 1975, a United States jet carrying 243 Vietnamese orphans crashed in the jungle outside of Tan Son Nhut. The U.S. was unable to reach them within 10 days, and when Macauley heard this news, he did what any good-hearted American would dream of doing. He chartered a plane and brought them to the U.S. within 48 hours.

Macauley was a paper broker in Connecticut at the time, he and his wife took out a mortgage on their house to pay for the $10,000 down payment for the Boeing 747. His dislike of bureaucratic red tape cost him his home, but gave him a calling.

Macauley’s calling gave rise to one of the largest non-profits in the world, AmeriCares. Currently, the organization works in over 90 countries and has supplied over $10 billion in aid, both foreign and domestic. Here are just three examples of their impact:

1. Relief Aid in Poland – 1981

Before AmeriCares, official conception, Robert Macauley had donated his time and money to a number of causes, but his action in Vietnam brought good media. News spread quickly of Macauley’s actions and in 1981, Pope John Paul II asked for his assistance. At the time, Poland was under martial law and in desperate need of medical supplies. By 1982, Macauley had gently wrestled $1.5 million in medical supplies from over a dozen companies. March of that year, he was able to airlift the supplies to Poland. This was the first official act of AmeriCares and an impressive one at that.

2. The Darfur/Sudan Conflict – 2011

In 2004, AmeriCares began a long-term relief effort in Sudan by delivering medical aid in order to support health services for the survivors on the Sudan conflict. With South Sudan’s independence in 2011 came a rush of refugees and native South Sudanese returning to their homes. Most were in need of shelter and medical assistance.

AmeriCares began supporting the efforts of Relief International in their health outposts and camps. In Renk, funds were used to rehabilitate three health clinics and installations of emergency medical modules. This helped with treatment of diarrheal diseases, medical waste management, sanitation and health education. The health clinics also saw installations of exam tables and benches in waiting rooms. These clinics served 14,000 survivors at Renk and another 13,000 in the Gendrassa camp. AmeriCares replenished low stocks of first aid supplies in Gendrassa.

3. Hurricane Sandy Relief – 2012

The most recent natural disaster seen in the United States was Hurricane Sandy in October of 2012. More than 80,000 residences were damaged and 8.5 million people were left without shelter or power. AmeriCares has provided over $6 million in aid that has benefited more than 465,000 people. Skilled in crisis relief, AmeriCares has supplied medicine, insulin and vaccines, enough bottled water for $75,000 people, diapers for 17,000 and much more for those in need. $2.5 million went to fund programs that provide displaced citizens with emergency warmth, disaster clean up and mental health counseling in Staten Island, Brooklyn, and New Jersey.

Currently, AmeriCares is looking for grant proposals from groups who are starting projects to help with the health needs of Sandy survivors. On July 14, New Jersey was awarded $200,000 in grants to help the elderly, disabled and low-income residents recover.

– Jordan Bradley

Sources: AmeriCares, The NY Times, Darien News, Queens Chronicle
Photo: Forbes