Closing the Gap for Children with Disabilities in VietnamChildren with disabilities are one of the many marginalized groups in the world that often face discrimination. In many countries, cultural beliefs dictate that disabilities arise from the influences of past lives, supernatural forces or the past actions of a parent.

Education is one of the most effective ways of not only breaking these myths, but also breaking the cycle of discrimination experienced by children with disabilities. According to information gathered from the Global Disability Rights Now, approximately 5.8 percent of Vietnam’s population, 5,203,180 people, are living with disabilities. Of these, 23.3 percent are children with disabilities in Vietnam under the age of 19.

Disabled children are less likely to finish or even begin school for many reasons, including gaining little to no access to adequate learning materials, having a lack of trained professionals who understand their needs and having no proper facilities to attend school. Denying these children the right to education not only impacts their learning, but also any hinders any chances of employment opportunities and social and personal development. In order for all children to benefit from basic human rights without facing prejudice, disability inclusion needs to be integrated into all policies and plans devised by a country.

The World Bank has shown support for integrating inclusive education practices for children with disabilities through lending projects and activities. One of the programs implemented for children with disabilities in Vietnam is the Vietnam Intergenerational Deaf Education Outreach Project (IDEO). Under the IDEO, sign language is taught to deaf children and their families in the comfort of their own homes by a mentor who is hearing impaired, a sign language interpreter and a teacher who can hear.

Evaluations documented and recorded from the project showed that using sign language helped to improve deaf children’s language and cognitive development and also their ability to communicate with others. The outreach project has also helped more than 50 deaf adults become mentors to children who are hearing impaired, trained approximately 200 hearing teachers to use sign language in order to effectively support deaf children and instructed more than 50 hearing people as communication facilitators or sign-language interpreters.

The implementation of the IDEO project has strengthened school involvement and organizations in backing the education of deaf children, and has also opened a new method to teaching sign language for these children with disabilities in Vietnam. With the support of similar projects being integrated in the near future, the gap for achievement for disabled children will hopefully decrease.

– Zainab Adebayo

Photo: Flickr

The Overlooked Issue of HIV Stigma
HIV is known as a widespread and dangerous disease. Discussions of possible solutions often focus on discovering more effective medical treatments. However, an overlooked factor in combating the disease is the stigma associated with HIV.

According to AVERT, in 35 percent of surveyed countries, more than 50 percent of people admitted to having a discriminatory attitude toward people who are HIV-positive.

HIV stigma exists for a number of reasons. Misconceptions about the methods of HIV transmission can lead people to falsely believe HIV-positive people are a direct danger to them. Some believe an HIV diagnosis is the result of immoral action or irresponsibility. And HIV stigma can have not only social consequences but medical consequences for patients as well. For example, on average one in eight people diagnosed with HIV is denied healthcare resources. Such findings are disturbing, considering that health care providers should be treating and reducing cases of HIV.

In an attempt to dodge the stigma , patients sometimes refuse HIV and tuberculosis testing for fear of positive results. Because an HIV diagnosis correlates to a greater risk of contracting tuberculosis, this stigma leads not only to reduced diagnoses of HIV but also to reduced diagnoses of tuberculosis. In 2015, one-third of HIV-related deaths were a result of tuberculosis.

Solutions to combat HIV stigma include educating the public and conducting awareness training for healthcare workers. Organizations such as Malteser International are training individuals to provide support to those in their communities who are HIV-positive. Lydiah Litunya, a Kenyan woman and HIV patient, used to try to hide her diagnosis to avoid HIV stigma. She managed to get treatment and after being trained by Malteser International, she dedicated herself to helping other HIV patients and reducing the stigma surrounding HIV. This kind of vocal advocacy is exactly what HIV patients around the globe need.

Edmond Kim

Photo: Flickr

Poverty has many causes. While some factors exacerbate poverty, there are five predominant causes of poverty: social inequality, conflict and political instabilities, education, debt and environmental conditions. Here is a closer examination of three of these causes.

Social Inequality

The United Nations Social Policy and Development Division reports that “inequalities in income distribution and access to productive resources, basic social services, opportunities, markets, and information have been on the rise worldwide, often causing and exacerbating poverty.” Countries where inequality is rampant display poor social indicators for human development, insecurity and anxiety. Inequality keeps the poor from moving out of their socioeconomic status.

Inequality limits access to opportunities that can provide the means to escape poverty. In a speech by Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund, Kahn explains that Adam Smith, often considered the founder of modern economics, “recognized clearly that a poor distribution of wealth could undermine the free market system.” An example of this is the former apartheid government in South Africa.

Apartheid laws assign rights and space to individuals on the basis of race. In South Africa this meant that while one group was persecuted and forced into poverty, the other group was given access to opportunities that allowed them to advance economically. This increased the gap between economic classes and the amount of people in poverty.

Environmental Conditions

Environmental degradation is the decline in the quality of the natural environment through its atmosphere, land, oceans and lakes. Indigenous groups are among the worsetaffected by such degradation. These groups often depend on the environment to survive and easily fall into poverty when that environment is harmed. A major cause of environmental degradation is climate change.

One of the outcomes of climate change is hunger. The changing climate is responsible for the destruction of harvests and other resources critical to survival. Michael Oppenheimer, professor of geosciences and international affairs at Princeton University explains, “crop yields have detectably changed. As time goes on the poor countries that are in the warmer and drier parts of the planet will feel the crop yield decreases early.” In Oxfam’s report Suffering The Science: Climate Change, People, and Poverty, the organization warns that “Without immediate action 50 years of development gains in poor countries will be permanently lost.”

Recent U.N. reports on climate change noted that “for the first time” that climate change is a threat to human security. The UN notes that the increased migration and the decrease in food are conditions that lead to conflict. The reports warn also that unless the issue is addressed, “nobody would be immune to climate change.” The report reads, “Climate change can indirectly increase risks of violent conflicts in the form of civil war and inter-group violence.” Environmental degradation can not only result in poverty, but can also lead to war.

Lack of Education

Education has lifted people out of poverty and empowered communities to grow economically. A lack of education could maintain or create poverty. Senior Fellow of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities Jared Bernstein explains, “economists may disagree a lot on policy, but we all agree on the ‘education premium’—the earnings boost associated with more education.”

According to the Network for international policies and cooperation in education and training, a main priority for poverty reduction is primary education. In developed countries almost all children have access to primary education, while in regions such as sub-Saharan Africa approximately 40 percent of children do not attend primary school due to poverty and a lack of access to education. Many people living in poverty in undeveloped countries must give up an education in order to make “a minimal living.” Furthermore, many families cannot afford school fees to send their children to school. This limits skill development and opportunities to escape poverty and create generational poverty.

There are many situations that lead to poverty. As we understand the causes of poverty, we can eradicate it more strategically. These are only three of many causes that must be understood to successfully meet the goal of eradicating extreme poverty by 2030. We created poverty, so we can eliminate it as well.

– Christopher Kolezynski

Sources: Poverty at Large, The Borgen Project, Oxfam, The American Prospect, The Guardian, NORRAG
Photo: The Daily Star

On October 1, the European Union (EU) passed a resolution ending caste-based discrimination. Calling for action at multiple levels, the resolution demanded that the governments of the affected countries work to end discrimination towards people in lower castes, as well as limit the dangerous workloads often given to lower-caste employees.

Castes differentiate members of the population into different social groups, so that those in lower castes are often looked upon as “unclean,” and forced to work in unpleasant and dangerous conditions that activists say resemble slavery.

The EU’s statement helps to define caste systems as an issue that affects not only South Asian countries, but the international community as well.  The initiative has the European community, as well as South Asian human rights activists, hoping that talks on the issue of caste will proceed between the EU and caste-based nations such as Nepal, India and Sri Lanka.

According to the International Labor Organization, most of the people put under situations of forced labor in South Asia belong to lower castes. This kind of treacherous work occurs in many different sectors including agriculture, mining and retail production. The companies who subject their employees to this kind of work often supply products to multinational corporations, making caste discrimination an international problem.

Some South Asian nations have taken steps to solve the human rights issues inherent in current caste systems. For example, India has affirmative action initiatives to support Dalits, Indian citizens who belong to the lowest castes and who are subject to bonded labor.

Unfortunately, caste systems are still prevalent throughout Asia. Experts estimate that about 260 million people are affected worldwide.

Despite the EU’s recent attempt to tackle the issue, many government officials do not think the organization is doing enough, citing the high numbers of people still affected by caste discrimination as an indication of the EU’s failure. These officials stress the importance of specifically briefing the European Parliament on caste-based discrimination, so that the EU can take appropriate steps. Such measures would also aid the effectiveness of parliament members visiting South Asian countries on business, economic and development trips.

– Elisha-Kim Desmangles
Feature Writer

Sources: The New York Times, The Guardian
Photo: Live Science