humanitarian aid to IraqOver three million people are without safe, stable homes. Thousands are crowded in one place either because they have nowhere else to go or they are too frightened to move, and all they want is a chance to catch their breath. That is what life is like every single day for the people of Iraq.

In 2014, ISIS launched a siege. Ten or more Iraqi cities fell under ISIS control. Families fled to find safety in neighboring lands and people huddled together in an attempt to survive.

Such unity comes with a price. People in Iraq are suffering from a lack of food and shelter. If water is accessible, it may not be safe to drink. People all over the country are in need of medical assistance. Women and girls silently call out for protection and understanding, and there does not seem to be enough of anything to go around.

But despite these circumstances, organizations have successfully provided humanitarian aid to Iraq. Since 2003, the Internal Rescue Committee (IRC) has put forth efforts to relieve the burdens of the people. Legal aid is provided to those needing help by recovering identification documents lost to them. The IRC also gives cash donations. It is estimated that as much as $400 is granted to individual families. In addition to general education, the IRC offers parenting classes that actively discourage violence towards children. Mobile teams are put in place to protect and provide necessities to women and girls who are forced to live in refugee camps.

The IRC has been so successful in their quest to provide humanitarian aid to Iraq that they now operate in 13 different provinces. The organization receives funds from others who have a common concern for humanity and have set up their own fundraising campaigns to donate money to the cause. Rescue gifts are often received from outsiders, and volunteers devote their lives to helping the IRC deliver the bare necessities to the Iraqi people.

Another organization, the Iraq Foundation (IF), was successful in its efforts to teach 365 men and women how to read as well as teach them computer skills. The Mdaina Education Project generated the opportunity for income.

The IF also started a leadership program for women called Empowering Returnee Women. The goal of this project is to encourage women to be spokespersons for their communities and people in need. These women are offered a chance to learn skills in communication, advocacy and negotiation.

The IF is always open to donations. Funds acquired go towards civil development, establishing democracy and education on human rights.

When it comes to monetary donations to Iraq, Australia and the U.S. are leading the way. The Australian prime minister pledged $110 million towards humanitarian aid to Iraq in April 2017. This brings the total amount of aid provided by Australia to $180 million. The funding provides food, medical treatment and clean drinking water.

In July, the United States became the largest donor of humanitarian aid to Iraq. Announcing a promise to send an additional $119 million, the total amount donated rose to $1.4 billion. More food and clean water will be made accessible to refugees, as well as protection and shelter. These funds will also go to support three field hospitals that administer medical treatment to those in need.

There is still work to be done. Cities and homes need rebuilding. Communities need fostering. Men, women and children need simple, basic necessities. But as humanitarians around the world succeed in answering the call to aid, the amount of people suffering significantly dwindles.

– Tamara Luckett

Photo: Flickr

poverty in FrancePoverty in France is rising once again, creating a larger financial gap between citizens. The poverty rate in France is around 14 percent, totaling 8.7 million people, according to a COMPAS study in 2012. Border towns are seeing percentages closer to 49 percent, while wealthier cities have rates as low as 7 percent.

In 2012, some metropolitan areas saw higher rates of poverty. The inequality gaps were most obvious in Paris, Hauts-de-Seine and Haute-Savoie. Single parents, large families and young family households had the highest rates of poverty in France.

This escalation of poverty in France is concerning in regards to the percentage of children that are living under the poverty line. 8.8 percent of children are living in a household that makes less than 50 percent of the national median income. This is an increase to three million children in France living under the poverty line.

Education, health and social and professional integration are areas of concern regarding children in France. Migrant children are deprived of most of these basic rights, living in slums and experiencing more severe discrimination and no ability to gain French aid. Children in these impoverished households in France lack a way out of poverty, leaving it up to the state to provide aid.

In 1989, France adopted the Human Rights Council’s (HRC) resolution which drew a link between extreme poverty and human rights. Through this council, principles were adopted to reduce and eradicate extreme poverty by looking at how to respect, protect and realize the human rights of people living in extreme poverty.

While the HRC exists, many of the French aid programs do not specifically target poverty and the need to reduce domestic poverty. France participates in foreign aid policies and programs, such as the Development Assistance Committee of OECD, but domestic aid by the state is left mainly to the Human Rights Council and a few other organizations.

The organizations that are combating poverty in France are mainly grassroots foundations. One foundation is the Action Contre La Faim, or Action Against Hunger, founded in 1979 by French intellectuals to eradicate hunger worldwide after seeing the issues caused by the emergency in Afghanistan. Another French charity, Antenna Technologies, works locally and internationally to simplify technologies to make them more accessible to the most underprivileged populations, while also fighting malnutrition and supplying access to drinking water.

People within France are taking action through organizations to fight poverty. Through these efforts, malnourishment, water scarcity, sanitation and education are being addressed and progress is being made. Their continued work can help improve the lives of those most in need in France.

– Bronti DeRoche

Photo: Flickr

In August of 2016, Typhoon Lionrock struck the northeast region of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea). The massive flooding washed away over 30,000 homes, took the lives of hundreds of people and destroyed thousands more lives. The aftermath of the typhoon also left food sources more depleted than they already were. Humanitarian aid to North Korea came in truck-loads, providing shelter relief, food, non-food items and health care supplies to residents.

According to the 2016 Global Hunger Index, 41 percent of North Korea’s residents are undernourished. Along with that, 70 percent of the population relies on food aid. The communist country, unfortunately, has a recurring issue with hunger. In the 1990s, North Korea faced its most deadly famine that resulted in hundreds of thousands of deaths.

Since the decade-long famine, the United Nations has reported that humanitarian aid to North Korea has been able to relieve some of the hunger problems, yet natural disasters continue to jeopardize the progress. The flooding North Korea faced from Typhoon Lionrock was declared “the worst disaster” the country had seen since World War II. Without humanitarian aid, the affected parts of the country would be left in ruins.

The United Nations World Food Program was one of the first organizations to enter the country on an emergency food assistance operation. They delivered food to more than 140,000 survivors. The Red Cross also joined in the efforts by providing water purification supplies along with tools and tents to build shelters.

Altogether, the U.N. and NGOs contributed $43.78 million in funding in 2016. Almost $35 million was spent on nutrition and food while the remainder was spent on sanitation services and various other aid-functions.

In September of 2016, as a response to the recent catastrophe, the U.N. and the North Korean government came to an agreement called the United Nations Strategic Framework (UNSF). This framework’s strategy, which was officially put into place in January 2017, is to reduce the need for humanitarian aid by solidifying investments into communities to better prepare them in responding to disasters such as Typhoon Lionrock. This is a five-year plan prioritizing food and nutrition security, social development services, resilience and sustainability and data and development management.

The framework’s overall strategy theme is “sustainable and resilient human development.” It will develop a new kind of approach to recovery and rehabilitation of North Korea. Within the four priorities, UNSF seeks to pursue environmental sustainability, increase the resilience of North Korean people and localize new Sustainable Development Goals in accordance with what is currently happening in North Korea.

For example, there will be plans put in place to know how to respond if another typhoon strikes. As North Korean residents will be more prepared for future disasters, they will rely less on humanitarian aid.

According to the framework, humanitarian aid to North Korea will reduce by 2021. In the meantime, as the country now faces a serious drought jeopardizing its renewing crops, humanitarian aid to North Korea will continually be a hopeful source.

– Brianna Summ

Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Bangladesh
Although Bangladesh has existed as an independent state for less than 50 years, the cultural and linguistic roots of the Bangla, or Bengali, people are believed to have been established in the seventh century. Despite this rich cultural history, 31.5 percent of the population lives below the poverty line in Bangladesh today. The following 10 facts about poverty in Bangladesh give further context to this nation’s economic struggles.

Poverty in Bangladesh Facts

  1. At 31.5 percent, Bangladesh has the highest percentage of its population living below the national poverty line in South Asia. Nepal, India, the Maldives, Bhutan and Sri Lanka all have poverty rates lower than 25 percent.
  2. Between 1947 and 1970, Bangladesh was a part of Pakistan and was referred to as East Pakistan. For various socio-cultural and political reasons, West Pakistan (which is just Pakistan today) practiced economic discrimination against East Pakistan. Between 1947 and 1970, East Pakistan received only 25 percent of the country’s industrial investments and 30 percent of its imports, despite producing 59 percent of the country’s exports.
  3. When a Bengali independence movement began to gather momentum in 1970, West Pakistani leaders initiated a massacre of Bengali people. Now acknowledged as genocide, this massacre has become known as Operation Searchlight. It is estimated that anywhere between 500,000 and 3 million Bangladeshi people were killed during the genocide.
  4. The oppression and tragic violence that heralded the nation’s inception made for a particularly tough economic starting place. Since 1996, however, the Bangladeshi economy has grown by roughly 6 percent every year despite such roadblocks as political instability, poor infrastructure and slow implementation of economic reforms.
  5. Almost half of Bangladeshis are employed in the agricultural sector, where rice is the most important product. Expert analysts at the World Bank asserts that a “shift in production from rice to higher-value crops will significantly reduce malnutrition, trigger more rapid growth in incomes and create more and better on-farm and non-farm jobs, especially for women and youth.”
  6. Garment exports are the backbone of the Bangladeshi industrial sector, accounting for over 80 percent of the country’s exports in 2016. The sector continues to grow, though the industry has been troubled by highly-publicized garment factory accidents that have claimed the lives of more than 1,000 workers in recent years.
  7. Although the official unemployment rate is listed as 4.1 percent, it is estimated that about 40 percent of the population is underemployed. Many individuals who only work a few hours a week for very low wages are officially considered employed, despite the highly insubstantial means available to them.
  8. The Bangladeshi economy is highly dependent on remittances. Remittances from Bangladeshis working overseas accounted for about $15 billion and 8 percent of GDP in 2015.
  9. Though the rates of poverty in Bangladesh are still far from ideal, steady progress towards its production has been shown. Between 2000 and 2010, poverty declined at a steady average of around 1.8 percent.
  10. The World Bank’s Bangladesh Poverty Assessment determined that the falling poverty rate could be attributed to growth in labor income and changing demographics, namely the decline in the birth rate. The resultant lower dependency rates meant increased average income per capita and poverty reduction.

Expert analysis of the Bangladesh Poverty Assessment indicates that poverty in Bangladesh will continue its slow but steady reductive trend with the implementation of several key economic reforms, which include investment in the skills development of its rapidly expanding workforce, coordinating multi-sector development and consolidating safety net programs to be better timed and tailored to the needs of the poor. Following through on these reforms will ensure that fewer people in Bangladesh are living in poverty in the future.

– Savannah Bequeaith

Photo: Flickr

BRICS Summit
The BRICS nations—Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa—account for a massive 30 percent of world’s GDP and a high proportion of international growth. These nations are key players on the world stage. The annual BRICS summit has helped galvanize a wide array of infrastructure projects, trade and poverty alleviation initiatives to ensure equitable and sustainable growth. BRICS is bolstering the capacities and capabilities of rising markets by tapping into their potentials.

The New Development Bank (NDB) and Contingent Reserve Arrangement is contributing much to improving social security nets, bettering infrastructure networks and regulating governance. Each country is dedicating a fixed proportion to the BRICS Development Bank. The NDB has allocated over $1.4 billion to support four projects each in China, Russia and India. Over the course of 2017, more than $30 billion will be channeled toward supporting projects in other key realms.

Similarly, the BRICS Business Council helps strengthen cooperation among BRICS countries in e-commerce, technical development and agenda-setting.

The BRICS bloc works to integrate a number of global, national and regional development projects and agendas together, like the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals and the African Union 2063 Agenda.

BRICS countries are capitalizing on their positions to encourage trade liberalization within the bloc, especially in regards to increasing efficiency and overcoming red tape and bureaucratic weaknesses often associated with free trade.

The BRICS bloc strengthens positions of countries in Eurasia. In 2017 alone, it was reported that levels of trade between BRICS nations increased exponentially. Shipments to and from countries are reaching record heights. The growth of the manufacturing sector and e-commerce has increased exponentially.

The bloc is also working collaboratively towards safeguarding the future by securing employment in the manufacturing sector and cushioning technology.

The recent 2017 BRICS Summit held in Xiamen, China covered issues ranging from employment, commerce and finance, innovation and technology to reforms of the United Nations Security Council and improving counter-terrorism measures.

As the BRICS bloc often invites many non-BRICs members to observe annual proceedings, it could possibly lead to the inclusion of more developing countries in future. For the recent BRICS summit, China invited countries such Tajikistan, Mexico, Thailand, Kenya and Egypt. The bloc wants to expand its potential and scope in future.

However, even within BRICS nations, there are differences in aspects such as wealth distribution, growth rate and population control. China and India boast exponential growth rates, while countries such as Russia have been experiencing slower growth rates at present.

As a host to this year’s BRICS Summit, China pledged $76.4 million for a BRICS economic and technology cooperation agenda. President Xi Jinping also pledged $4 million to the NDB. China’s Belt and Road Initiative was an important part of the discourse, seeing as it has gained much traction globally since its inception.

South African President, Jacob Zuma, focused on the implementation of the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals 2030 to eradicate poverty at the 2017 BRICS Summit.

Zuma spoke about the work of the African Union (AU) in this realm. The AU recently announced the opening of the African Regional Centre. Moreover, Zuma is also confident about the progress of the 23rd Conference of the Parties to the U.N. Framework Convention of Climate Change.

At the BRICS Summit, Prime Minister Narendra Modi was particularly concerned with tackling poverty and corruption, bolstering clean energy sectors, and ensuring gender parity. India recently joined the Shanghai Cooperation to ensure more social stability and economic security.

Prime Minister Modi unveiled 10 “noble commitments” concerning key aspects like counter-terrorism, cybersecurity and disaster management. The BRICS commitment could also bring India closer toward normalizing relations with China, especially after the Doklam border conflict.

Russia and India agreed to collaboratively work toward easing the War in Afghanistan. The leaders also focused on fortifying energy efficiency, tourism and improving youth exchanges, bilateral trade, and boosting investment in an integrated manner.

Furthermore, Brazilian President Michel Termer aimed to secure more foreign investment during the course of the BRICS summit this year to possibly counter Brazil’s current period of languid growth. Termer expressed his wish to channel investment toward infrastructure projects and diversifying markets.

Overall, future BRICS Summits will pave the way for pioneering global development initiatives and will be an important framework for governance and policymaking in the future, as it is essential that developing superpowers be immune to economic headwinds. It will also be the foundation for future agendas in the evolving world dynamic.

Shivani Ekkanath

Photo: Flickr

Why is Thailand PoorEven though Thailand is considered a development success story, it is still in the category of a developing nation. Between the 1980s and 2015, poverty in Thailand has greatly declined from 67 percent to 7.2 percent. However, the country’s growth slowed between 2005 and 2015 to an average of 3.5 percent. Currently, 10.5 percent of Thailand’s population is living below the poverty line.

Why is Thailand poor? The reason that Thailand remains poor is imbalanced development. Due to the critical poverty rate of Thailand in the 1960s, emphasis was put on industrialization to boost the economy. This industrialization caused rapid economic growth and poverty reduction, but development was not widespread. To support industrial production, resources were centralized to the capital and surrounding urban areas, thus depriving rural areas. Because of this, 80 percent of poor people living in rural areas as of 2014.

Concentration of development in urban areas means a lack of investment in rural Thailand. For example, Bangkok houses only 10 percent of the population, but it contributes more than 50 percent of Thailand’s GDP. Highlighting the inequality, rural areas have a poverty rate of 13.9 percent compared to 7.7 percent in urban areas.

In answering the question “Why is Thailand poor?” one must look at the disparity between development in urban and rural areas. Poor people living in rural areas have very limited access to public services that could help them out of poverty. To gain access, rural poor persons must be able to afford both the service and transport to urban areas.

Education is an example. Many rural poor people cannot afford education more than the six years of compulsory schooling. The enrollment rate for “tertiary education” was reported as 18 percent in rural areas compared to 39.5 percent in urban. Due to lack of education, many rural poor people are under-qualified for higher paying positions, perpetuating a vicious cycle.

In recognition of the disparity, Thailand has created a 20-year economic plan to bring the nation to developed country status. The reforms aim to bring economic stability, equal economic opportunities, competitiveness and effective government bureaucracies. To reach its goal, Thailand needs to overcome what is constraining growth in rural areas and maintain widespread growth.

Poverty in Thailand, despite its success in development, reveals the need for further research into poverty alleviation. Approaches to ending global poverty should keep in mind the complexity of the problem.

Haley Hurtt

Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Nepal
Poverty in Nepal has experienced a steady decline since the 1990s. The country’s efforts to further reduce poverty will build off existing success, population growth control and using sustainable development goals to promote development.

Between 1995 and 2015, Nepal’s poverty rate declined by an estimated 2.2-3.2 percentage points each year. The national poverty rate in 1995 was 41.8%, a figure that was reduced to 21.2% in 2015. The main drivers of Nepal’s poverty decline are remittances from migration, more diverse labor income and slowed population growth.

Migration remittances increased from less than 1% to 29% of Nepal’s GDP between the late 1990s and 2014. Remittances have caused wage increases within Nepal and driven demand for non-food items and services, generating employment in more diverse industries.

Population growth control has been a main fixture of the government as a means to combat poverty in Nepal. The country’s population doubled between 1960 and 1990 and was expected to double again between 1990 and 2015. However, beginning in the 1990s, the average number of births for a Nepali woman dropped from six in the 1970s to two in 2014, slowing population growth.

Population growth still hinders progress in Nepal’s more rural regions, where the number of births has not declined. In Nepal’s mountains, hills and Terai plains regions, there is insufficient land to accommodate the livelihoods for an increasing number of people. The Nepali government is continuing to make population growth control a central tenant of its poverty reduction plans by promoting a two-child family as the norm.

While progress is underway, natural disaster hinders Nepal’s growth. The 2015 earthquake pushed 700,000 Nepalis under the poverty line. Recovery is ongoing and can appear slow. Distribution of aid is often uneven and cash grants needed for reconstruction have been distributed slowly and in small increments.

While there are areas of recovery in need of improvement, international support programs show hope for regrowth. The U.N. Development Program has implemented cash-for-work programs and supported the restoration of micro-enterprises, both of which build individual recovery and community resilience. Sustained commitment to the SDGs will facilitate earthquake recovery and continued poverty reduction in Nepal. Two main objectives of earthquake recovery are poverty eradication and gender equality, both of which align with the SDGs.

In order to promote sustained growth, Nepal must frame its commitment to the SDGs in a national context. “What works for Bolivia might not work for Nepal,” says UNDP resident representative in Nepal, Valerie Julliand. Identifying the precise ways in which the SDGs can benefit Nepali citizens will facilitate their implementation and enable further poverty reduction.

Between the Nepali government’s plans and programs enacted by international organizations, Nepal is progressing towards sustained economic growth and poverty reduction. Poverty in Nepal has experienced a steady decline in recent decades and continued commitment to earthquake recovery and the SDGs proves promising for the country’s development.

McKenna Lux

Photo: Flickr

Germany and Its Dedication to Improving Welfare EffortsAlthough Germany is experiencing record low unemployment and the economy has been improving over the years, overall poverty in Germany is increasing. Since Germany’s reunification in 1990, the poverty rate has never been higher than its current state. Ulrich Schneider — chief executive of Germany’s Equal Welfare Organization — was quoted in an article by the “Deutsche Welle” saying “Poverty has never been as high and the regional disunity has never run as deep.”

In 2013, a survey titled “Living in Europe” released results showing that 16.2 million people in Germany were victims of poverty. That astounding number makes up 20.3 percent of the German population. As previously stated, poverty in Germany has been increasing over the years and the statistics only support that fact. The percentage of the impoverished German population has ranged from 19.6 to 21.9 since 2008. The poverty issue in Germany has affected men and women alike, but it has affected children more than anything.

In 2014, there were an estimated 1.9 million minors growing up in impoverished households in Germany. Surprisingly, that number shot up by 52,000 in the span of one year. This horrific statistic will haunt the lives of many for years to come. Statistics show “that 57.2 percent of children between the ages of seven and 15 had been supported by basic welfare for a period of at least three years.” Anette Stein — an expert working at the Bertelsmann Foundation — knows from work experience: “The longer that a child lives on welfare, the worse the consequences are.”

The consequences of welfare are horrible because welfare dependent children are not just affected financially, but also physically and socially. Welfare dependent children have higher chances of struggling in social situations, struggling with health issues and struggling with education.

How Germany is Trying to Appease Poverty

Schneider is aware of Germany’s current status and has proposed to appease the situation by increasing welfare rates and creating more employment opportunities. It was decided in 2015 that in order to create thousands of new jobs for poverty-stricken German citizens, a substantial amount of money would have to be spent. Andre Nahles — a German Labor Minister — stated Germany “will use 2.7 billion euros ($3 billion) from the European Social Fund, plus 4.3 billion euros from within Germany.”

This plan will create 26 different programs within Germany and run until the year 2020. The German labor industry claims that almost 40 percent of the money will be invested in “the promotion of social integration and the battle against poverty.”

Although Germany is currently in a poor position, their current state does not come as much of a surprise. Statisticians have reported that the European Union as a whole is in worse shape than Germany. Twenty-four point five percent of the EU’s population is facing poverty and social exclusion. Additionally, “16.7 percent of the population was at risk of poverty, 9.6 percent significantly material-disadvantaged and 10.7 percent were living in households with very low labor market participation.”

Germany has a lot of improvements to make before it can get back on track as a country, but it is attacking its problems head on. The Germans have not shied away from improving welfare efforts and have implemented plans for progression. With Germany’s economy on the rise and the unemployment rate on the decline, it should only be a matter of time before poverty in Germany takes a turn for the better.

Terry J. Halloran

Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Uzbekistan
Poverty in Uzbekistan is dropping. Though rarely seen making headlines, the country of Uzbekistan has seen sustained growth over the past several years. If trends continue, the country is expected to be on its way towards becoming a successful, developed country free from extreme poverty in the near future. Below are ten facts about poverty in Uzbekistan and the progress to alleviate it.

10 Facts about Poverty in Uzbekistan 

  1. In a population of just over 31 million, 13.7 percent live below the poverty line. This is down from nearly 30 percent in 2001.
  2. While Uzbekistan has experienced increased urbanization in recent years, 75 percent of those living in extreme poverty in Uzbekistan still live in rural areas.
  3. Child health remains a hurdle to overcome with 34 out of every 1,000 babies dying before their first birthday. In comparison, only six babies die in the first year of life on average in the U.S.
  4. Poverty in Uzbekistan is contradicted by the overall economic growth of over eight percent in the past five years.
  5. In 2011, The World Bank reclassified Uzbekistan from a low-income country to a lower-middle income country. This indicates the country is making sustained progress toward development.
  6. Between 2001 and 2013, real wages doubled as job prospects improved.
  7. Education, often a prerequisite for growth and poverty reduction, has risen to 99.8 percent as of 2013.
  8. Foreign trade has quadrupled in the past 15 years, helping to improve household incomes across the country.
  9. Recent investment through The World Bank has provided more than 60,000 farmers with training in improved crop protection and pest control. This has allowed farmers to improve their crop yield, thereby increasing their income and reducing poverty.
  10. To further reduce poverty in Uzbekistan and improve living conditions, the country has set a goal of becoming an industrialized, upper-middle income country by 2030.

With steady growth and economic improvements, Uzbekistan has positioned itself to become a successful, developed nation in the near future. As these improvements continue, poverty in Uzbekistan is anticipated to decline and living standards should significantly improve across the country.

Sara Christensen

Photo: Pixabay

How Small, Simple Actions can Lead to Poverty Alleviation
For people who live in extreme poverty and do not have access to clean water, sanitation, health services, education or regular food supplies, any form of help can make a big difference. For example, building a well can greatly improve the standards of living of a whole community. There are other affordable and simple acts that can lead to poverty alleviation.

The following three examples illustrate how even the most humble form of aid can help a community develop and advance:

1. MALAWI – William Kamkwamba: Poverty Alleviation in the Form of a Book

When Kamkwamba was 14 he decided to build an electricity-generating windmill to power his family home in the village of Masitala. After the success of the first windmill in powering four lights and two radios in his house, Kamkwamba began to build bigger windmills in order to power more houses and pump water for irrigation.

Currently, Kamkwamba runs an NGO called Moving Windmills Project. The organization is involved in multiple projects from building labs for developing farm tools to providing secondary school scholarships.

All that was needed to create the first windmill were spare parts, scrap and a rented library book. The book that began it all was “Using Energy” from the NGO-run community lending library. Something as simple as building a library and providing access to books therefore led to great improvements in Kamkwamba’s community.

It was because of a single book and an individual willing to do something that a village that had formerly run on kerosene for power was able to obtain electricity. Imagine what would be possible if someone like Kamkwamba was given access to good building materials instead of scrap from the beginning.

2. INDIA – Joe Madiath: Poverty Alleviation in the Form of Instruction

Madiath is the founder of Gram Vikas, which means “village development organization.” The organization focuses on providing water and sanitation, community health, education and renewable energy to marginalized areas in India. TED Ideas Worth Spreading describes Madiath’s programs as “helping villagers help themselves.”

One of Gram Vikas’ most important programs targets water and sanitation. Madiath says the lack of toilets and infrastructure for waste disposal are “the cause for 80 percent of the diseases in rural areas.” As such, it is the lack of clean water and sanitation that prevents poor people from gaining the level of health that will allow them to break out of poverty.

The basic idea is very simple: Better toilets will lead to better lives. The methods for turning this idea into reality are also simple. Gram Vikas organizes and helps a village to build toilets, showers, an elevated water reservoir and the piping that will take water to taps in every household.

Materials for construction include rubble, sand, cement, steel and the actual toilet seat. Most materials can be found locally and the government helps with whatever the village does not have. This means that at the end the community covers around 60 percent of construction costs for sanitation. In other words, it is the villagers who improve their community. All they receive is training and instruction from Gram Vikas.

In the 1,200 villages that have participated in the program, 400,000 people have benefited and waterborne diseases have gone down 82 percent. This shows that something as simple as providing training and know-how to people in poverty is enough to greatly raise standards of living.

3. MEXICO – Pablo de Antuñano: Poverty Alleviation in the Form of Opportunity

Antuñano works for Suma, an NGO that searches for talent in marginalized areas of Mexico City. The organization seeks to integrate youth into theater, cinema, sports, music and art.

By enabling youth who grew up in the street to participate in movies as paid actors, Suma prevents boys and girls from joining gangs or delving into the drug world. One Suma success story is Jonathan Monroy.

Monroy told Reforma newspaper he would never have known he was a good actor if it was not for Suma’s program. He gets inspiration from his experience growing up in the streets of one of the most dangerous areas of Mexico City.

Acting gives Monroy something to be proud of as he looks forward to the future.

The three examples above show that aid does not necessarily have to take the form of large sums of money or massive construction projects. Acts as simple and humble as providing books, a running toilet or an opportunity to act in a movie can transform a person’s life for the better.

Christina Egerstrom

Photo: Flickr