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Martial Arts in Brazil
Brazil’s strength lies in its globalization: soccer and its telenovelas, for instance, are instantly recognizable to the international gaze as part of the country’s cultural brand. The same can be said for martial arts. The practice of martial arts in Brazil has existed since the 16th century, but the nation didn’t globally influence the field until the 20th century. Today, martial arts is a tangible and widely known element to Brazil’s landscape that is steadily being used to empower the upcoming generation.

Martial Arts

Martial arts is not just a combat sport; it is a codified system that permits the individual to learn more about oneself internally and externally. Many, if not all, forms of martial arts strive to improve the body, mind and spirit in equal precedence. Its cultural eminence and exploration of one’s limits make martial arts an excellent teaching enhancement for children in Brazil.

This is doubly true for those born in favelas – Brazilian slums where youth options are often limited to criminality, drug trafficking and sex trade. Families are increasingly enrolling their children in martial arts classes to keep them off the violent and poverty-ridden streets. The safe and controlled practicum of martial arts provides a fresh approach to life; children that would have otherwise continued to churn the cycle of poverty are able to build trust, strength and companionship while training with others.

Fight for Peace

Located in Complexo da Maré, a dangerous complex of favelas in Rio de Janeiro’s North Zone, is the organization Fight for Peace. The organization’s mission is upheld by their Five Pillars methodology. The First Pillar is to teach boxing and martial arts to local youth in order to boost self-esteem, discipline and respectful camaraderie. The other Four Pillars are education, employability, support services and youth leadership. These include opportunities such as vocational courses, home visits, education for those with learning difficulties and individual mentoring.

Children are encouraged to maintain an education and thereby continue their martial arts training until at least the age of schooling. By employing a multi-disciplinary approach that starts with martial arts in Brazil, Fight for Peace emboldens young individuals in disadvantaged communities to realize and pursue their potential.

Jose Aldo Fight School

Another valuable resource in Maré is the Jose Aldo Fight School, founded by UFC Featherweight Champion, Jose Aldo. As someone who came from an impoverished background with limited opportunities, Aldo has turned his success into a platform that paves the way for others.

So far, Aldo’s school has trained 534 students between the ages of 6 and 22 in judo, jiu-jitsu and boxing. The school aims to provide a strong and supportive community where children won’t feel that their only option out of hardship is to resort to crime.

Empowering the Youth

“Here, we replace a gun for a kimono,” says Marcelo Negrão, a jiu-jitsu teacher at Jose Aldo Fight School. Martial arts in Brazil have enabled its impoverished youth to harness the formative power of sport and use that confidence to create new paths for themselves.

Going forward, this medium of empowerment will hopefully continue to gain traction within the nation and as a global practice.

– Yumi Wilson
Photo: Huffington Post

poverty and dictatorship
Among the 10 dictatorship countries profiled, poverty is endemic. Poverty alleviation in these 10 dictatorship countries is in some cases associated with human rights abuses, violent crackdowns on the political opposition and indigenous people. In the last two decades, however, some of these countries have moved towards embracing democracy, which has brought an influx of government institutions, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and foreign investment working to promulgate poverty alleviation.

The State of Poverty in 10 Dictatorship Countries

  1. Cambodia – In June of 2018, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen was officially qualified as a military dictator by Human Rights Watch. Through an environment of fear, Cambodia has been littered with human rights abuses, crackdowns on the opposition, coercion and repression of the media. In September of 2018, the United Nations Development Program stated that 35 percent of all Cambodians are still poor regardless of the decline in the Multidimensional Poverty Index. In 2006, the Ministry of Planning established the IDPoor Programme to guide government services and NGOs to provide target services and assistance to the poorest households. As of December 2017, The IDPoor Programme has assisted 13 million people and has covered 90 percent of Cambodians.
  2. Cameroon – Current Prime Minister, Paul Biya, seized control of Cameroon from his fellow despotic predecessor in 1982. Biya has since ruled the central African country with an iron fist. In 2014, 37.5 percent of the people were living in poverty. However, a development NGO called Heifer Cameroon has been playing a positive role in alleviating the strains of poverty for Cameroon’s most poor and vulnerable communities. Heifer Cameroon has assisted 30,000 families by spurring job creation among the rural poor through focusing on the dairy industry along with other livestock.
  3. Eritrea – Eritrea gained its independence from Ethiopia in 1993. The President of Eritrea, Isaias Afwerki, took power after its independence and has since entrapped his citizens in a cloud of fear. Furthermore, the nation was rocked by internal war, drought and famine. According to estimates of The World Bank, 69 percent of Eritrea’s population lives below the poverty line. Despite these conditions, Eritrea has drastically improved its public health conditions. Indeed since its liberation, life expectancy has increased by 14 years to 63 years. And over 70 percent of the population now has access to clean water, compared to just 15 percent in 1993.
  4. Ethiopia – In 2000, Ethiopia had one of the highest rates of poverty in the world, but by 2011, the poverty rate had fallen by 14 percent. In 2018, Ethiopia became Africa’s fastest growing economy in the sub-Saharan African region. However, some of the country’s development schemes have been wildly unpopular, such as the mass land-grab that is displacing Ethiopians so the government can lease out the land to foreign investors. On the other hand, some developments have actually made improvements in average household health, education and living standards.
  5. Madagascar – Madagascar has experienced a long period of political instability since its independence in the 1960s. Current President Hery Rajaonarimampianina was democratically elected in 2014. Rajaonarimampianina has prioritized recovering Madagascar’s relationship with foreign investment agencies, like The World Bank, IMF and The African Union. Unfortunately, in 2018, 75 percent of Madagascar’s population are still living under the poverty line.
  6. Myanmar – From 1966 to 2016, Myanmar existed under a military dictatorship that bore multiple wars spurred out of hatred and persecution of Rohingya Muslims and Christians. The crackdown and ethnic cleansing created a major refugee crisis. Today, Myanmar is reportedly inching towards democracy, but the military, headed by Gen. Than Shwe, still has major sway. In 2015, 35 percent of the population of Myanmar lived in poverty.
  7. Rwanda – Rwandan President Paul Kagame’s regime is often associated with maintaining peace and stability since the Rwandan genocide in 1994. However, critics of Kagame cite numerous human rights abuses and fear that the President is leading the country towards dictatorship. Still, Rwanda has taken major strides in addressing and decreasing the poverty rate. Between 2000 and 2010, the poverty rate declined by 23.8 percent. Recent economic growth within the country has been evenly distributed and pro-poor, with the majority of the Rwandan population benefiting from this economic growth.
  8. Sudan – President al-Bashir came to power in 1989 and reigned with a brutal dictatorship in Sudan until his exile in 2015. Poverty in Sudan is endemic. In 2018, 2.8 million were in need of humanitarian aid and 4.8 million were food insecure. Such high rates of poverty engender low literacy levels, crumbling infrastructure, little to no access to health services and high rates of food insecurity.
  9. Tunisia – President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali headed Tunisia’s dictatorship until 2011 when he was ousted by a people’s revolution. However, that stability was maintained by the military, which performed countless human rights abuses. However, poverty reduction strategies have rung successful as the poverty rate in Tunisia fell by 10 percent from 2000 to 2015.
  10. Zimbabwe – Robert Mugabe, who was the President of Zimbabwe for 37 years until 2017, had long been seen as a dictator and is attributed by The Economist as “ruining” Zimbabwe. Mugabe’s policies led to hyperinflation and an infrastructure system in disrepair. Build Zimbabwe Alliance claims that 72 percent of the population still lives under the poverty line. The main causes of poverty in Zimbabwe are the economic recession of 2008 and global warming’s impact on agriculture.

These 10 dictatorship countries have taken strides in increasing access to education, healthcare and economic growth. Such programs have been most successful in regards to pro-poor poverty reduction. The political outlook of some of these countries is improving, but there is still a lot of work needed to improve poverty in all of the countries listed.

– Sasha Kramer

Photo: Flickr

Everything You Need to Know About Girls' Education in Samoa and PrincipeGirls’ education is an important facet of an impoverished country. An educated female population lowers birth rates, improves children’s well being, grows the size of the country’s workforce and increases household incomes. This impact holds true in the small island countries of Samoa and Principe. While both countries are making improvements, there are still obstacles that face girls’ education in Samoa and Principe.

Statistics of Girls’ Education

According to UNICEF data, a majority of females between the ages of 15 and 24 in Samoa and Principe read. In Samoa, the literacy rate for young females is 99 percent. Comparatively, the rate of literate females in Principe is 77 percent.

While the majority of females attend primary school in Samoa, the case is not the same for secondary school. Eighty-nine percent of Samoan females enrolled attend primary school, which is roughly 1 percent higher than male attendance. In secondary school, only 69 percent of girls enrolled attend class. In addition, the gap between male and female participation grows; girls’ attendance in secondary school is 19 percent higher than boys.

In Principe, a drop off in secondary attendance for girls is also seen. However, it is much more dramatic. Roughly 85 percent of females enrolled in primary school attend a school which is at parity with the male population. In secondary school, female attendance drops to 30 percent while male enrollment drops to 29 percent.

Child Marriage

There are many reasons that girls do not seek education beyond primary school. One of these is child marriage, which affects both Samoa and Principe. In Samoa, seven percent of adolescent females are married, and in Principe, almost 20 percent of adolescent females are married. Child marriage ends a girl’s education since she is expected to take care of the household. Once a girl gives birth, the responsibility of a child makes it even more difficult for her to return to school.

Poverty

The largest obstacle to girls’ education in Samoa and Principe is poverty. In Samoa, the per capita income has risen to 5,038 talas or roughly $2,000, meaning the country has moved out of the least developed country category. However, the country’s infrastructure and the economy are vulnerable to natural disasters. In 2009, Samoa was hit by a tsunami that affected its economy and destroyed four primary schools and one secondary school, leaving over 1,000 children without a classroom.

Poverty poses a larger problem for girls’ education in Principe. Roughly 29 percent of the country’s population is reported to live in extreme poverty. In Principe, there is a severe lack of opportunity for its people, which discourages education. In 2015, the country’s human development index was .574, which placed it 142 out of 188 countries. In addition, the unemployment rate was roughly 13 percent.

Geography

Geography also affects girls’ education in Principe. Girls who live in urban areas are more likely to go to secondary school than girls who live in rural areas. Roughly 19 percent of girls who live in urban areas attend secondary school. Comparatively about 7 percent of girls who live in rural areas attend secondary school.

Improving Girls’ Education

Despite roadblocks facing girls’ education in Samoa and Principe, there are several organizations working in both countries to help improve conditions, including the World Bank. In Principe, the World Bank Group approved the Quality Education for All project. The goal of this million dollar project is to improve the quality of education that students receive. Since the project was approved in 2014, the number of qualified primary teachers has risen from 0 to 372. In addition, 50 percent of female students in primary school have benefited from the program.

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) is another group aimed at improving girls education in Samoa. After the tsunami in 2009, UNICEF and the Samoan Ministry of Education worked to move displaced children to host schools. UNICEF provided tents to the host schools to use as classrooms since the schools were receiving an influx of new children. Teachers also received psycho-social training from UNICEF to help students recover from any trauma that was a result of the tsunami.

The Government of Samoa has also taken action to improve girls’ education. In 2015, the Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi opened National Literacy Week, which encourages parents to read to their children and for children to take their education seriously. The week also includes reading and writing competitions and a book fair. Students from all over Samoa represent their schools in four zones and compete against each other in order to promote reading inside and outside the classroom.

Girls’ education in Samoa and Principe faces many challenges, including child marriage and poverty. However, a majority of females in both countries are literate and attend primary school. There are also several organizations in both countries working to improve the quality of education girls receive and that natural disasters do not get in the way of girls attending school. Organizations like UNICEF and the World bank give girls in Samoa and Principe hope for a brighter future.

– Drew Garbe
Photo: Flickr

Paraguay Successfully Eliminates MalariaParaguay has successfully eliminated malaria, making it the first country in the Americas to accomplish such a feat in nearly 50 years.

Victories Against Malaria

The country’s success has been attributed to its ability to detect malaria cases in a timely manner and discern whether or not the cases had been spread inter or intranationally. Between 1950 and 2011, Paraguay developed and implemented programs and policies meant to both control and eliminate the disease; the country registered its last case of P. Vivax Malaria, the most frequent cause of recurring malaria, in 2011.

After 2011, a five-year program focusing on case management, community engagement and public health education was launched in order to prevent transmission and prepare for official “elimination certification.”

Since the program’s completion in 2016, the Ministry of Health has launched a three-year initiative meant to further train Paraguay’s healthcare workers in regards to malaria. This prioritization will inevitably strengthen the country’s ability to promptly detect, diagnose and treat new malaria cases, as well as address the ongoing threat of “malaria importation.” The country has also prioritized controlling and minimizing mosquito populations within its borders.

New Directions and Prioritizations

The elimination of malaria provides economic leverage for Paraguay’s impoverished population. The significant financial burden of approximately $5 a day per malaria case, according to a study published by the U.S. National Library of Medicine, will no longer plague Paraguayan families. Such relief will help enable them to direct their money towards other essentials, such as food and education.

Poverty affects almost 40 percent of Paraguay’s rural population, as opposed to only 22 percent of its urban population. Peak malaria infection often coincides with harvesting season, severely impacting the amount of food rural families are able to produce.

Malaria cases are typically concentrated in said rural areas, where many lack the resources and public health education to adequately detect or treat the virus. The immediate situation of these rural communities is only impacted by instances of extreme flooding, which act as a breeding ground for mosquitos (potential carriers of the virus).

Points of Impact

Malaria primarily occurs in poor, tropical and sub-tropical regions of the world, most of which don’t have adequate access to primary care facilities – in many of the countries it’s present, malaria is the primary cause of death.

The virus is the result of a parasite carried by mosquitos. The most common symptoms of malaria include chills, fever and other flu-like symptoms. Left untreated, the disease can be fatal.

The groups most vulnerable to high levels of malaria transmission include young children and pregnant women. Malaria caused approximately 216 million clinical cases and over 440,000 deaths in 2016 alone.

Future Goals to Successfully Eliminate Malaria

The success of these programs provides a blueprint for other countries to successfully eliminate malaria themselves. Paraguay’s situation contrasts with those of other countries within the Americas, where the increase in malaria cases is greater than in any other region of the world. In fact, nine different countries reported malaria case increases of at least 20 percent between 2015 and 2016.

As a whole, however, Latin America witnessed over a 60 percent decrease in malaria cases between 2000 and 2015. As treatment and surveillance progress, many other countries will follow Paraguay in eliminating the virus. Argentina is expected to be certified later this year, and other malaria-free Latin American countries include Ecuador, El Salvador and Belize.

Katie Anastas
Photo: Flickr

Urbanization in IndiaIndia is a country in the midst of huge changes. As a developing nation with a GDP ranked 7th globally and a population of 1.3 billion people, India has seen a massive amount of improvements in recent years. However, as the nation’s population continues to expand, India suffers from overpopulation in metropolitan areas, a dynamic known as urbanization.

Urbanization in India affects the nation’s economy and quality of life, but most of all, this process harms poor individuals living in slums. Despite the negative aspects of urbanization, there are several non-governmental organizations in India providing relief and hope for those living in these areas of abject poverty.

The Facts

Slums in India commonly share the following characteristics:

  1. Lack of access to running water sanitation, adequate shelter, and medicine
  2. A poor population isolated by socioeconomic status and/or metropolitan developments that force slum residents into densely concentrated living conditions
  3. A high population growth rate, despite negative factors that decrease life expectancy
  4. A high percentage of young people, i.e. New Delhi where 47 percent of slum residents are under 15 years of age
  5. The presence of child labor; in India, 23 million children, ages 5-14, are believed to be active in the workforce illegally

The Reality of Urbanization

In India, urban slums are home to the poorest living in the cities. The abject poverty present in these locations gives little opportunity for individuals and families to improve their quality of life. Rapid growth in metropolitan areas tends to underutilize the amount of space available in a city, and slums are often isolated both financially and geographically from the progress being made across India.

Despite the low quality of life present in slums, the population of Indians living in slums continues to increase annually. This is due to the fact that many Indians are leaving rural villages to seek better paying jobs in larger cities. Every minute, 30 Indians move from a rural area to a city. However, those leaving rural areas often do not have financial freedom or the education that allows them to gain higher wages, leaving them no choice but to live in India’s many slums.

Those living in slums often find themselves facing religious persecution. In India, Muslims often face the brunt of this discrimination. They are denied housing or jobs because of their religious beliefs, offering little chance for them to leave the slums.

NGO’s Alleviating Urban Poverty

There are several non-governmental organizations across India seeking to alleviate the suffering of those living in urban slums.

  1. Asha: This organization provides medical training for women living in the slums of Delhi. These trained individuals can provide aid for their community members and watch over infants as well as the sick and elderly. Asha also funds medical facilities in slums, where residents can seek affordable treatment for their ailments. In addition, Asha cooperates with India’s Ministry of Finance in order to allow slum residents the ability to apply for low interest loans that help them improve their lives.
  2. Kriti Social Initiatives: This NGO helps to empower women by providing them with the opportunity to improve their lives and the lives of their family members. Working within five interconnected slums with over 4,000 households, Kriti has helped women find jobs and has provided scholarships to over 300 children in the Film Nagar area.
  3. Sammaan Foundation: The Sammaan Foundation campaigns to improve conditions for individuals working low-income jobs, mainly rickshaw drivers and street vendors in Kishanganj and the Araria districts of Bihar.

As the amount of Indians living in slums continues to rise, the effects of urbanization in India prove to be a challenge and a benefit for this developing nation. If the divide between the wealthy and poor can be diminished both socially and geographically, then the vast improvements taking place will be enjoyed by all Indians.

–  Jason Crosby

 
Photo: Flickr

Facts about Poverty in Spain
Spain is a simultaneous representative of both the success and the struggles of twenty-first
century Europe. The Spanish economy was hit particularly hard by the 2008 recession that sent shockwaves throughout global markets. As a result, Spain, along with Greece and Italy, has often been cited as an example of the straining of Eurozone economics. Though Spain remains firmly a developed country, the country’s struggle with poverty should not be overlooked. Here are nine important facts about poverty in Spain.

Nine Facts About Poverty in Spain

  1. Over one-quarter (26.6 percent) of the Spanish population is at risk of poverty or social exclusion as of 2017. These results do also show, however, that this number has fallen from a peak of 29.4 percent in 2014.
  2. Spain has the highest youth poverty rate (.221) in Western Europe. According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, an intergovernmental economic organization, Spain sits ahead of both its neighbors, Portugal and Italy, and is even ahead of its Mediterranean counterpart Greece. 
  3. Nearly 40 percent of Spain’s youth labor force were unemployed in 2017. This number is compared to a 9.2 percent in the Euro Area. 
  4. Poverty in Spain is concentrated in rural areas. A chart published by a Spanish statistical website compares the different regions of Spain based on their per capita GRP (gross regional product) or PIB in Spanish. In general, the more rural provinces, such as Extremadura, Castilla La Mancha and Andalucía, have a lower GRP than the Basque country, Madrid and Catalonia. The poorest households in Spain are those of young, inexperienced foreigners who live in southern Spain. 
  5. The migrant crisis has put a strain on Spanish support systems. The New York Times reports that over 20,000 migrants have reached Spain by sea in 2018. This has put added pressure on the migrant support systems and increased the population of those in need of assistance. 
  6. About 34.4 percent of Spanish households were unable to afford a week-long vacation in 2017 according to data compiled by the National Statistics Institute, a Spanish government agency. This is down, however, from 45.8 percent when the study began in 2013. 
  7. Unemployed Spaniards are gaining employment via temporary or part-time jobs. Now that Spain’s economy is rebounding, many new jobs have been created and, although temporary, they may help ease the poverty of previously unemployed Spaniards. 
  8. Spanish youths are the beneficiaries of the European Commission’s Youth Guarantee program. This program has the mission of ensuring that all of Europe’s young people have “a good quality offer of employment, continued education, apprenticeship and traineeship within a period of four months of becoming unemployed or leaving formal education.” This program, among others like it, hopes to reduce youth unemployment and a more employed workforce may mean a reduction in poverty.
  9. Spain is now recovering well from the 2008 recession. According to a 2017 article by the New York Times, the economy of Spain is growing roughly at three percent, is producing goods for export and “is restoring a sense of normalcy” to the country. With this growth, the unemployment rate is expected to decline as per the European Commission’s forecast for 2018.

In Spain, the reduction of poverty and economic recovery in the wake of the 2008 recession represent great strides for a long-troubled economy. These facts about poverty in Spain show that more people in the country are working, and there are more and more jobs being created. These strides must not be undervalued. However, continued efforts in Spain are needed to reduce poverty and improve the quality of life for all.

– William Menchaca

Photo: Flickr

Facts About Poverty in SwedenScandinavian countries such as Sweden can often be seen as the golden standard of the struggle against poverty. With such low levels of poverty, Sweden has implemented many successful strategies to eradicate poverty. However, a deeper look into the reality of poverty in Sweden reveals that the country is not the utopia it is often made out to be.

Six Facts About Poverty in Sweden

  1. While Sweden prides itself on transparency, the country’s poverty statistics have been called into question. Although recent government reports have indicated zero absolute poverty, a recent Sweden City Missions report suggests that many basic poverty interventions still involve delivery of essential food and clothing needs. According to Sveriges Stadsmissioner, 62 percent of Sweden’s 200,000 basic interventions still focus on providing basic sustenance.
  2. According to the Swedish government, programs addressing poverty in Sweden take a multifaceted approach. They include long-term benefits such as pension, healthcare and expansive family benefits. These programs do an excellent job of addressing poverty, not with a one-size-fits-all solution, but with various approaches adapting to different beneficiaries.
  3. Despite these programs, a recent University College study suggests that many of those who receive short-term, “get back on your feet” benefits, which are designed for short-term empowerment, use these benefits for anywhere from 5 to fifteen years. The National Board of Health and Welfare indicates that a third of short-term benefit recipients end up receiving these benefits for longer than intended.
  4. Statistics portraying poverty in Sweden can also ignore citizens that qualify for benefits but do not receive them. This is one of the downfalls of the nation’s robust welfare state. With such a massive bureaucracy to navigate, many citizens are simply unable to complete the necessary forms to receive the benefits they qualify for.
  5. Poverty in Sweden is not just limited to its citizens. With nearly 1,500 refugees entering Sweden every week, the government’s welfare system is being stretched. If the current rate of immigration continues, nearly 2 percent of the Swedish population will soon be refugees. In desperate need of help, these refugees have completed arduous journeys often stretching for thousands of miles and many months. Since they have little to begin with, refugees who settle in Sweden need welfare to assist with nearly every facet of life.
  6. Sweden measures its poverty in terms of absolute poverty (income of $2 per day), rather than relative poverty (less than 60 percent of median income). This means that those who are making barely enough to eat two meals a day are not considered to be in absolute poverty. While a zero absolute poverty level is commendable, statistics portraying poverty in Sweden do not necessarily discuss those who live in relative poverty – many of these people cannot afford much more than a single bottle of water.

Sweden can be looked to and praised for its expansive welfare state and statistical lack of poverty. However, poverty in Sweden still exists, and the country’s official statistics often fail to reflect the reality.

– Sam Kennedy
Photo: Flickr

How the Media Misrepresents Azerbaijan
May 28 marked the 100th anniversary of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic (ADR). With its independence in 1918, the country was poised for great progress, which included female suffrage and its democratic government.

The ADR was short-lived, however. In 1920 Azerbaijan became part of the Soviet Union and would not regain independence until the Soviet Union’s fall. Since its independence, Azerbaijan has faced an often difficult history, struggling with human rights and a war with neighboring Armenia.

Human Rights

While Azerbaijan may not frequently be the focus of attention in the media, often the media misrepresents Azerbaijan by strictly focusing on its human rights record. In addition to discrimination of the Talysh and Armenian ethnic minorities, Azerbaijan has been known for suppressing the media and persecuting journalists and bloggers.

Yet, this depiction of Azerbaijan as a country with a poor track record for allowing free speech and media access is not unwarranted. With news outlets, including The Guardian as well as human rights advocacy groups, are barred from entering the country, the current Azerbaijani regime is made ripe for international criticism. The groups and people targeted—namely journalists and human rights activists—are the very people who report the country’s reputation.

Thus, beneath the excitement of the 100th anniversary, people, including Rep. Chris Smith, have been keen to remind the world of Azerbaijan’s tricky situation. In an article for The Hill, Smith called the Azerbaijani president, Ilham Aliyev, a “dictator” and argues that its citizens are not members of a free society. Smith specifically points to Aliyev’s lengthy tenure as president, from 2003 to 2025, and cited concerns with the lack of power in Azerbaijan’s other governmental institutions.

Poverty in a Wealthy Nation

Serving to reinforce the already abundant human rights issues and an overly powerful president, the country, while wealthy from its oil reserves, is mired by issues with corruption and poverty. Thus, Azerbaijan occupies the public’s consciousness in almost contradictory extremes – it’s a country of wealth, yet one with the majority of its population living in poverty.

The depiction of Azerbaijan as a hub of human rights violations, and as a place oscillating between extreme poverty and excess, does, perhaps, ignore the movement to the future. This is how the media misrepresents Azerbaijan—it focuses on Azerbaijan’s economic and political issues, without addressing the hope and shifting dynamics within the country.

The Future

The rhetoric of Azerbaijan surrounding the 100th anniversary is decidedly not pessimistic. Looking backward one century provides the chance to look forward as well as to move in the direction of that early progress that defined the country in 1918. A statement from the Azerbaijani Ministry of Foreign Affairs expresses an intent and desire to bring “into the reality the aspirations and ideals” of the ADR.

With trade between Azerbaijan and other European markets increasing over the last few years, the progressive aims expressed on the 100th anniversary may soon be on the horizon and may, one day, be a reality. And, with the European Union and the UN Development Programme’s (UNDP’s) continued support of education, through the EU’s “Modernising Vocational Education and Training (VET) Centres in Azerbaijan” plan, an emphasis is placed on transitioning Azerbaijan into a knowledge-based economy, thus pushing the country further into the future.

Of course one must not forget—surrounding the 100th anniversary of the ADR—writers, like the aforementioned Rep. Smith, have noted that expressing the optimism and excitement surrounding the country is, itself, how the media misrepresents Azerbaijan. A full view of the country, therefore, takes into account both the hope for the future as well as the current skepticism.

It might be the case that Azerbaijan actually isn’t misrepresented in the media, at least not now. The country does have human rights violations, its citizens do suffer from poverty and questions surrounding the efficacy of the government should be raised. Yet, with the shifting conditions in the country, this representation may be how the media misrepresents Azerbaijan in the future.

-William Wilcox
Photo: Flickr

ban on trans fatThe World Health Organization is fighting against trans fat in an effort to save thousands of lives. On May 14, WHO announced that it plans to ban trans fat from the global food supply by 2023. The reason behind this ban on trans fat is to reduce the number of those who die from cardiovascular disease.

Why the Ban on Trans Fat is Important

While this global charge has been in effect in other countries such as Denmark and the United States, it has been harder to implement in the developing countries of North Africa, the Middle East and South Asia. Cardiovascular disease is the number one cause of death globally, averaging 500,000 premature (under the age of 70) deaths every year. Over 75 percent of this number takes place in low and middle-income countries.

Cardiovascular disease is linked to an unhealthy diet, lack of exercise, smoking and being overweight. While all of these may be linked to cardiovascular disease, an unhealthy diet generates a greater risk than the other three. An unhealthy diet accounts for an estimated 11.3 million deaths annually. One of the greatest contributors to an unhealthy diet is trans fat.

How Trans Fat Disproportionately Affects the Poor

Since many vegetable oils and fats are relatively cheap, there is a greater increase in fat consumption in low-income countries. Along with trans fat and certain oils being cheaper for those in low-income countries, it is also one of the most common ways food is cooked in these regions.

There is a correlation present in these developing nations that with the increase in trans fat consumption, there is an increase in cardiovascular disease. This becomes even more detrimental in that at least half the world does not have access to essential health coverage. There are also about 100 million people falling into extreme poverty because they have to pay for health care.

For example, the probability of dying before age 70 in Iran for males was 47 percent and for females, 39 percent; a majority of this has to do with cardiovascular disease caused by unhealthy diets. In Iran in 2004, 12 percent of the calories consumed were from hydrogenated vegetable oil, which is the main source of trans fat.

Because of this hefty consumption of food cooked in trans fat, Iran, at one point in the past decade, had the second highest cardiovascular death rate in the entire world. Iran then made it a goal to cut down its trans fat consumption to less than one percent. To work toward this goal, it found ways to replace hydrogenated vegetable oil with a different type of vegetable oil.

As Iran has worked with reducing its consumption of trans fat, it is closer to following WHO’s goal and initiative with the ban on trans fat to reduce premature mortality from noncommunicable diseases. One way WHO is implementing its ban on trans fat in other countries is by using the acronym REPLACE. This six-step strategy allows others to make the steps toward a healthier lifestyle.

The following is each step of the REPLACE method that is seen on the World Health Organization’s website:

  1. RE: Review dietary source of industrially-produced trans fats and the landscape for required policy change.
  2. P: Promote the replacement of industrially-produced trans fats with healthier fats and oils.
  3. L: Legislate or enact regulatory actions to eliminate industrially-produced trans fats.
  4. A: Assess and monitor trans fat content in the food supply and changes in trans fat consumption in the population.
  5. C: Create awareness of the negative health impact of trans fats among policymakers, producers, suppliers and the public.
  6. E: Enforce compliance with policies and regulations.

Working Toward a Healthier Future

Noncommunicable diseases are closely linked with poverty. Those in developing countries have a greater risk of being exposed to unhealthy dietary practices with limited access to healthcare.

The only way to go about reducing the number of noncommunicable deaths is to look at the risk factors head-on. With this ban on trans fat, lives will be saved, not just those in higher social positions and economically well off, but those in low-income countries with inadequate health care as well.

– Victoria Fowler
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Afghanistan facts
In recent memory, people often think of Afghanistan as the nation of the Taliban, who provided sanctuary to terrorists like Osama bin Laden. However, they do not tend to think about how a country falls into the grip of such extremism. Often, when poverty is widespread, terrorism and instability take hold. Poverty in Afghanistan has been a serious problem for nearly three decades, starting with the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979.

This instability can make poverty alleviation an uphill battle. According to the World Bank’s 2017 Poverty Status Update Report regarding socioeconomic progress in Afghanistan, the 15 years of growth that the country has seen are now jeopardized by a recent rise in insecurity. The World Bank Country Director for Afghanistan, Shubham Chaudhuri, explains that with poverty rising from 36 to 39 percent of the Afghan population, there need to be reinforcements to guarantee that economic growth reaches Afghan families. For further information about the living conditions of the Afghan people, here are 10 facts about poverty in Afghanistan.

Top 10 Facts About Poverty in Afghanistan

  1. According to Aryana Aid, poverty in Afghanistan stems from two factors: “food insecurity and the lack of a social security net.” As a result, 50 percent of Afghan children are stunted and 20 percent of Afghan women of child-bearing age are underweight.
  2. Food is distributed unequally throughout the country, going mainly to areas where there is heavy fighting. This puts more strain on people in other areas and contributes to the ongoing food insecurity,
  3. Furthermore, half of the people living in both rural and urban regions have no access to clean water.
  4. The government’s strategy to address food insecurity has been to focus on adequate calorie intake, but this has left people susceptible to food price shocks, meaning they lower the quality of their diet in order to afford food.
  5. The war in Afghanistan is one of the main contributing factors to poverty; 55 to 75 percent of the Afghan population is living in poverty in the worst-hit regions, whereas as other regions have lower poverty rates.
  6. According to Center for Strategic and Regional Studies, the poverty rate in Afghanistan has remained stagnant since the outbreak of war in 2001, even with increases in foreign aid.
  7. Only 28 percent of the entire Afghan population 15 years and older is literate.
  8. Because of the lack of water and other necessities, Afghanistan has the highest infant mortality rate in the world.
  9. Approximately 70,792 Afghan families are taking refuge in unclean makeshift camps; 25 percent of those families have been living there for more than ten years.
  10. Unemployment is a significant challenge in relocating these and other internally displaced people, as they are reluctant to return to rural areas where there are no jobs available.

To help bring some relief to these issues, Aryana Aid has been providing food packages to the people of Afghanistan since 2009. In early 2018, USAID’s Office of Food For Peace provided $25 million to the World Food Programme; an estimated 547,000 malnourished Afghan people were provided with emergency aid from local and regional marketplaces.

The World Bank projected economic growth for Afghanistan in 2017, by 2.6 percent compared to 2.2 percent in 2016. The progression is predicted to continue in 2018 with a 3.2 percent growth, which will help cure the many problems listed on the top 10 facts about poverty in Afghanistan.

– Christopher Shipman

Photo: Flickr