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 Mental Health in Rwanda Rwanda is a small country in sub-Saharan Africa. Rwanda has struggled to become a stable country economically and politically since it became independent in 1962. As a developing country, Rwanda is still trying to develop its healthcare system. With years of conflict and instability, people especially struggle with mental health in Rwanda.

5 Facts About Mental Health in Rwanda

  1. The Rwandan Genocide plays a significant role. Roughly 25% of Rwandan citizens struggle with PTSD and one in six people suffer from depression. The reason why so many Rwandans have mental health conditions can be explained by one key event in Rwandan history. During the Rwandan genocide of 1994, members of the Hutu ethnic majority murdered as many as 800,000 people, mostly of the Tutsi minority. The mass genocide caused severe trauma to survivors who still suffer from mental health issues 26 years after the event.
  2. Rwanda has very few resources. According to the World Health Organization, Rwanda has only two mental health hospitals, zero child psychiatrists, and only 0.06 psychiatrists per 100,000 people. With a large amount of the population plagued by mental health issues, Rwanda needs more resources to help the mentally ill.
  3. Suicide rates have greatly decreased in Rwanda. In 2016, the suicide rate in Rwanda was 11 deaths per 100,000 people. This is a great improvement compared to the 24.6 suicides per 100,000 people in 2000. An increase in mental health resources contributes to the lowering of the suicide rate in Rwanda.
  4. Increased mental health funding is essential. The average mental health expenditure per person in Rwanda is 84.08 Rwandan francs. Most citizens of Rwanda do not have the financial resources to afford mental healthcare. The government currently uses 10% of its healthcare budget on mental health services. Considering how large the mental health crisis is, the government should increase its expenditure to address the crisis. Since citizens cannot afford to pay for mental health resources, the government will need to help provide more free or affordable resources.
  5. The Rwandan Government is updating policies to address mental health. In 2018, Rwanda’s updated strategic plan for its health sector set new targets for expanding mental health care services. Its purpose is to help increase access to mental health resources by decentralizing mental health and integrating it into primary care. Also, this plan calls for a decrease in the cost of mental healthcare and an increase in the quality of care. The plan hopes to accomplish strategic goals by 2024. If successful, this plan may be used as a method to help other countries establish a quality mental health plan.

The Road Ahead for Rwanda

Considering Rwanda’s violent history, it is no surprise that the population struggles with mental health. Over the years, progress has been made with regard to mental health in Rwanda. However, many more resources are needed to help address the mental health crisis in Rwanda. With Rwanda’s updated strategic plan to address the issue and an increase in expenditure, the well-being of Rwandan’s will be positively impacted.

Hannah Drzewiecki
Photo: Flickr


There is an inextricable link between the commodity dependence of developing countries and their susceptibility to poverty. The tie to poverty in nations that heavily rely on one or two products to boost their export revenue may be closer than current research demonstrates. This phenomenon, which will hereafter be referred to as “one product poverty,” needs additional study.

The extreme reliance on select commodities is especially harmful at the household level. This is in large part due to price volatility. Price volatility refers to fluctuations in worth resulting from unanticipated supply and demand that is reflected in a commodity’s price. In recent years, commodity price volatility has increased as a partial consequence of the 2008 global financial crisis.

Some of the effects of price volatility must be taken as a given. In a free market, supply and demand are the driving mechanisms that affect commodity prices. However, price volatility is especially harmful to one product countries. It creates barriers in economic markets and discourages entrepreneurship by heightening the risk of investment. Commodity dependency and price volatility, then, are a recipe for one product poverty.

The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development’s 2014 State of Commodity Dependence report shows that high commodity dependence is concentrated in impoverished regions of the world. Sub-Saharan Africa and Western Asia, for instance, have the highest percentage of commodity exports in relation to gross domestic product (GDP). Some of the poorest countries in the world, such as Mozambique, have some of the highest percentages of commodity exports as a percentage of GDP.

The instinctual solution to one product poverty is variance in commodities. In other words, developing countries should strive to increase their revenue-making operations from one commodity to two and then three. These countries should stay away from over-specialization.

By doing so, developing countries can lessen the vulnerability of their commodities to fluctuating markets, which would benefit their economies and encourage individual initiative and entrepreneurship. Households can then take a final step out of poverty as self-sustaining business owners.

The role of developed countries in this equation is to encourage sustainable development. Policies that promote the broader production of commodities, stabilize prices and increase exports must be considered as solutions for one product poverty.

Rebeca Ilisoi

Photo: Flickr

The Resource Curse?
A strange correlation between natural resource-rich countries and human rights abuses has emerged over the past decade.

In 2001, Michael Ross discovered that the majority of states who are high oil-exporters also employ undemocratic policies.

An oil-rich state is classified by dividing total oil exports and by the total population of the country. To be considered a long-term oil-rich state, a country must produce over $100 per citizen for two-thirds of its sovereign years.

Ross found that oil-exporting states enjoy the “rentier effect”, which allows authoritarian regimes to use the revenue collected from oil sales to levy lower taxes. Consequently, the reduced taxes enable regimes to operate without accountability to its people.

The resource curse also has other negative consequences. According to Oil Change International, oil states employ a “repression effect”, which is the violation of human rights through the appropriation of land, forced migration and brutality on its citizens.

An example in which the resource caused human rights abuses in Nigeria. During the mid-1990s Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight other Ogoni leaders were executed for their roles in a successful campaign to remove Shell from the oil-rich Niger Delta.

Burma in the late 1990s also was a victim of the resource curse. The Burmese army and Unocal corporation were caught “clearing routes for the pipelines, including forced relocation, forced labor, rape, torture, and murder”. In 2005, Unocal offered conciliatory compensations to local villagers in lieu of a lawsuit engendered by Earthright International and the Center for Constitutional Rights.

Beyond authoritarian rule and the oppression of its people, the resource curse is linked to internal conflict. The Natural Resource Governance Institute (NRGI) found that over the past 26 years, oil-rich states have been twice as likely to experience civil war compared to their non-oil-rich counterparts, using the example of oil-rich states the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Niger Delta, Iraq, Libya and Angola.

Similarly, the NRGI coined the term “petro-aggression” to define oil-rich states’ heightened likelihood to engage in an inter-state conflict such as Iraq’s invasion of Iran and Kuwait.

The resource curse also bears a direct relationship with the restriction of gender parity. Research has demonstrated that oil-rich states have fewer women in the workforce and government. Additionally, oil-rich states often have higher rates of HIV/AIDS, a consequence of the influx of male mine workers that travel from one oil-rich country to another.

An indirect consequence of the resource curse is the Dutch disease, which is the process of eliminating all non-oil industries. Consequently, states are dependent on a volatile market, undermining the stability of their economies.

The resource curse has incontrovertible and severe consequences. It is incumbent on democratic leaders to encourage good governance and strict adherence to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Additionally, democratic states must continue to encourage the diversification of oil economies through foreign assistance.

Adam George

Photo: Flickr

ForestsOn March 21 of every year, the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) of the United Nations celebrates the International Day of Forests.

Forests play a key role in maintaining the water resources and overall equilibrium on Earth. The following are seven important facts about forests as stated by the FAO:

1. Wetlands and streams running through forests supply 75 percent of the human population’s fresh water.

2. About one-third of the world’s largest cities rely on forested areas for their drinking water.

3. Almost 80 percent of the global population is living in area that is threatened by water security.

4. Forests act as water filters, trapping pollutants and reducing sediment in rivers and wetlands.

5. Trees are very important in the climate change arena. Not only do they have a cooling effect on the environment but they also regulate water flow and influence the availability of water resources.

6. Unless conservation strategies are enacted, by 2030, the world will see a 40 percent deficit in water resources.

7. Forests have a vital role in reducing natural disasters such as landslides and avalanches, as well as in strengthening resistance to erosion.

People living in poverty often lack access to clean drinking water sources. They also tend to be the hardest hit by natural disasters such as severe storms and floods. While trees can help keep drinking water sources clean and mitigate the effects of natural disasters, illegal logging is a fact of life in many parts of the world.

According to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), “illegal logging accounts for 50 to 90 percent of all forestry activities in key producer tropical forests, such as those of the Amazon Basin, Central Africa and Southeast Asia, and 15 to 30 percent of all wood traded globally.”

In an article on the WWF website, the organization says that increased demand for forests products has brought some financial benefits for poor people living in or near forests. “But there is also evidence to show that usually, poor communities who are completely dependent on forests lose out to powerful interests, logging companies and migrant workers who reap most of the benefits.”

Often poor communities that are dependent upon forests for harvesting wood for fuel for cooking, heating and occasionally for selling lumber lose all control of the forest when powerful outsiders come in and strip the land for the lumber or for agricultural interests.

To combat illegal logging and drive improvements in the forest products sector, the WWF created the Global Forest and Trade Network (GFTN) to help keep track of where wood products come from. It was created in 1999 and now works with TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network.

Governments that maintain control of large areas of forests can take advantage of this vital resource by managing forests sustainably, selling the lumber and taxing the products. If governments do not exact control over their forests, Marianne Fernagut writes in GRID-Arendal Publications that the “loss of revenues as a result of illegal logging can cost governments and economies millions of dollars each year.”

In countries where a fair tax system has been put in place, the resources can be used for schools, or other infrastructure. For example, in Bolivia 25 percent of monies made from forest resources is kept by the government.

In another article in GRID-Arendal by David Huberman and Leo Peskett, the authors posit a mostly theoretical framework called ‘Reduce Emissions for Deforestation and Degradation’ (REDD), in which developing countries can be paid to keep their land forested. “Under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) regime, substantial amounts of money could be transferred to developing countries: some estimates suggest more than USD 15 billion per year would be available, a figure which dwarfs existing aid flows to the world’s forest regions.”

Rhonda Marrone

Sources: FAO, Panda 1, Panda 2, Grida 1, Grida 2
Photo: Flickr


Poverty in Zimbabwe seems like a fact of life. However, Zimbabwe used to have some of the best health and education statistics in Sub-Saharan Africa.  However, political and economic crises in recent years have exacerbated poverty and brought with it a host of social problems.  Between 1990 and 2003 the poverty rate rose from 25 % to 63%.  Deterioration of infrastructure has isolated rural communities and led to a high poverty rate in these rural areas.  This isolation has also contributed to a decrease in farm income and production as a result of inaccessibility to markets.  As such, food shortages  in the country are rising.  HIV infection, though declining, remains at 18 percent, one of the highest rates of infection in the world.

As a result of the poverty in Zimbabwe, which is concentrated in the Matabeleland North where 70 percent of inhabitants are classified as poor, migration of male heads-of-household has increased the number of female-led families.  Since women typically have less access to economic opportunity and credit, these households are incredibly disadvantaged, as many of them are also in arid areas without irrigation.

Before independence and the shift towards smallholder agriculture in the country, Zimbabwe relied upon two sectors of agriculture: large scale commercial cash crops and small scale food production.  But land reforms by the government have forced a transition to small scale agriculture across the board, which has led to much unemployment and a difficult changeover process.  Capital investment is almost nonexistent in Zimbabwe because of sanctions and economic crises, further hindering economic growth.

One key to fighting poverty in Zimbabwe is stimulating agricultural growth through investment in basic infrastructure.  Nearly 40 percent of the country’s roads are in poor condition; fixing them will provide rural areas with better access to water, seeds, fertilizer and other basic agricultural supplies. Such a move would also give the country’s farmers better access to markets.  Other infrastructure investments along this line could include irrigation systems, water sanitation, and railway access.

Like several other countries in sub-Saharan Africa, Zimbabwe needs to become more politically and economically stable if any progress is to be achieved in the region.  Ultimately, if political stability is achieved there, new investments in infrastructure could be made, stimulating economic growth and helping to decrease poverty rates. Western markets could also begin to reap the benefits of raw materials from one of the most resource-rich regions in the world.

– Martin Drake

Source: Rural Poverty Project, World Bank
Photo: Action Aid

school2
A proper education is often regarded as the gateway to success and esteem, particularly for impoverished students who lack close social connections with esteemed individuals or a family legacy of wealth to fall back on. However, achieving a proper education necessitates educational facilities to provide adequate funding and a successful allocation of resources to students. Oftentimes, the communities that need adequate educational institutions the most are the very same communities that are most deficient in them.

As one of the wealthiest nations in the world, the United States’ Department of Education has allocated a total budget of $24.8 billion for the 2013-2014 school year, approximately 5.7 percent of its GNP. However, accounting for pensions and service costs, the actual operating budget is $19.8 billion. The operating budget must pay for standardized tests, transportation, safety, school meals, supplies, and school utilities, just to name a few conditions necessary to maintain an educational institution.

On the other hand, Kenya allocated approximately 6.7 percent of its GNP on education in 2010. Although this percentage ranks higher than the percentage of GNP that the U.S. puts forth towards education, Kenya still retains a lower GNP and thus provides less overall educational funds. This inadequacy in resources has significant implications on the number of Kenyans who are able to achieve an adequate education.

For instance, in the U.S., roughly 75 percent of the population, the highest percentage within the last four decades, graduates from high school. In contrast, a whopping 60 percent of residents are unable to attend secondary school, perpetuating the cycle of illiteracy and reliance. Although the dropout rate is high for all Kenyans, it disproportionately affects young girls who are trapped into early marriages and motherhood. Oftentimes, Kenyan children are unable to pay school tuition, which includes covering the cost of supplies and uniforms, and are forced to stay home to support their family.

Furthermore, in Kenya, the majority of educational funds, approximately 80 percent are given towards tertiary education, which typically only individuals from more-advantaged backgrounds are able to achieve in the first place. There is great speculation that the Kenyan education system may be improved by shifting the allocation of funds towards lower-tier education enabling less advantaged students to obtain an adequate education and break through poverty. Unless resources are not only expanded but also allocated properly, this discrepancy in educational achievement will continue to exist not only in Kenya but worldwide.

– Phoebe Pradhan

Sources: NYC Department of Education, Global Education Fund, The Atlantic, The Guardian, Nation Master
Photo: Vintage 3D

Location_of_Syria_Map_Importance
The conflict that has ravaged Syria since March 15, 2011 has had worldwide ramifications. The civil war started as a response to the Arab Spring, government corruption, and the abuse of human rights. The government responded to this uprising with lethal force, and as of June 2013 the death toll has been suspected to surpass 100,000 casualties. By late April 2013, President Bashar al-Assad began launching full-scale military operations upon city enclosures, officially opening the country for civil war. The Middle Eastern country’s conflict could potentially rock the entire world, and for one seriously misunderstood fact: the location of the country.

The location of Syria holds significance not because of the country’s resources, but of the countries located around it. The Middle East is the oil production giant of the world, and is a sensitive spot for intervention. The location of Syria brings out legitimate reasons to be wary of intervention, as the civil war must be contained at all costs. The addition of a foreign power may allow the war to spill over into neighboring countries, inciting a deadly Middle Eastern war that would be devastating.

Not only is Syria close to the Middle Eastern oil titans, but the continent of Africa lays not far away. Africa is one of the most vulnerable places on earth, one rocked by poverty, hunger, and disease. The feeble economies of the poverty-stricken Africa could not take the outcome of a war spilling into its borders. Containing the war to the country of Syria is a precaution that must be taken carefully. If the conflict somehow spreads to Africa, the continent and its emerging countries will face the fallout of a war they had no stake in.

The majority of citizens in the United States do not support military intervention in Syria. Citizens do not want another drawn-out affair like the wars of the previous Bush administration. Whether military intervention is agreed upon or not, the effects of the decision upon Syria could be monumental. The civil war has reached a deadly number, as evidenced by the 100,000 casualties already listed. This number could exponentially increase, regardless of intervention. If the United States does intervene, it could potentially lose control of the situation, or allow the other Middle Eastern to beef up their weaponry with Western troops in such cl0se proximity. But by leaving the conflict to fester on its own, the United States takes any convincing power out of its hands. Not having a say in which way the conflict heads could be as potentially dangerous as being directly involved. By not intervening, the neighboring countries and poverty-racked Africa could be left in the fray.

The Syrian situation has become one of great interest. Understanding the location of the country, and what ramifications the location could have, is crucial to fully comprehending the condition. Not only will the war have complications upon the Syrian government, the neighboring countries and Africa could become involved. Stay tuned, because the land is hot with anger and strife, and only time will tell where these emotions will take the warring country.

– Zachary Wright

Sources: dailyprincetonian, Maps of World
Photo: Al Hdhod

The Effect Global Poverty has on Wildlife

The debilitating effects of extreme poverty on the citizens of afflicted countries are well-documented. Poverty leads to illness, shame, violence, and overpopulation. Yet poverty is not only detrimental to the human populations of the countries in which it exists, but also the animal populations which coexist alongside it.

It is well known that the earth cannot produce the resources to adequately sustain the current human population, much less at its current rate of growth. We are currently stripping our planet of all its available resources, with little room to maintain ourselves, much less wildlife. The situation is at its most dire in poor, rural villages where people are caught in an uncomfortable co-existence with native wildlife.

Those who still survive by a hunter-gathered lifestyle get food, clothing, and medicine from their surroundings. A research paper by the Department for International Development’s Wildlife and Advisory Group states: “We estimate that wildlife plays a significant role in the lives of up to 150 million poor people. Of the estimated 1.2 billion people who live on less than the equivalent of one dollar a day, about 250 million live in agriculturally marginal areas, and a further 350 million live in or near forests. Wildlife plays some role in the lives of many of these people, and is thought to be a primary livelihood asset in the lives of up to one-eighth of them. Where wildlife is declining or access to wildlife is denied, poor people adapt, but often at a cost to their livelihoods in terms of reduced income, fewer diversification opportunities and increased vulnerability.”

Resources are not the only problem, but also direct competition. Many are often forced into destruction of wildlife, not for a willful hatred of animals themselves or for recreational purposes, but out of sheer necessity. Tigers in India are often killed by rural communities which fear losing irreplaceable livestock. Poaching is a result of a desperate need for money, as ivory and other endangered animal parts often fetch handsome prices. Better education and greater opportunities for the individuals committing these acts would be far more effective than punishing a crime that the current system inevitably forces them to commit.

What this means is that the existence of poverty and conservation of our wildlife are mutually exclusive. One, by necessity, prevents the other. To conserve wildlife is to rob poor communities of the few resources they have, and to not intervene means the inevitable destruction of our environment and the creatures in it.  We have created a system where, if we do not act, we are choosing to destroy either our fellow humans or our fellow creatures. We cannot currently sustain both.

– Farahnaz Mohammed

Sources: Wildlife and Poverty Study
Photo: Jukani