the children of the landfills
Let’s face it, the world produces a lot of waste. In 2016 alone, the world produced approximately 2.01 trillion tons of waste. This is an astronomical number that, by 2050, is expected to increase by 70 percent, according to the World Bank. East Asia and the Pacific region are the world’s largest producers of waste, producing 23 percent or 468 million tons of waste each year. A majority of this waste ends up in landfills. In developing countries, such as those in East Asia and the Pacific region, 90 percent of waste is burned or thrown in unregulated dumps.

This waste disproportionately impacts the poor. In many middle- to low-income cities, nongovernmental companies control waste management and are backed by many of the governments of each country. These companies employ a large percentage of children under the age of 18. Moreover, East Asia and the Pacific region have more working children than anywhere else in the world. The United Nations Environmental Programme states that in cities such as Phnom Penh, Cambodia, the percentage of working children is as high as 51 percent. These children are the children of the landfills.

The Children of the Landfills

These children who work in these toxic waste fills are among the most vulnerable and impoverished in the world. They often have to miss school to work in landfills, contributing to their families’ income. This subsequently contributes to a cycle of poverty, as there is a direct correlation between the amount of education a person receives and their level of poverty. If a child is not given the tools they need to succeed in the modern world, then they are forced to succumb to the depths of poverty as that is all they have ever known.

In many of these countries, the vast majority of landfills are unregulated dumps in which toxic waste is present in alarmingly high amounts. Health symptoms, such as fatigue and headaches, are commonly reported, along with low birth weights and stunted growth in children. These hazardous materials also expose the children who work in these dumps to an increased risk of a variety of cancers including, leukemia, lung cancer and brain cancer.

A Uniquely Dangerous Environment

Sadly, for the children of the landfills, toxic waste is merely one of several hazards they are exposed to on a daily basis. Children must be cautious of where they step due to broken glass and other sharp objects. They also must be wary of water-filled sinkholes hidden by the plastic waste that floats on its surface. If a child were to fall in, they would likely never be found again.

The most dangerous hazard for the children is trash avalanches, caused by workers in bulldozers moving trash as the children collect scraps. The World’s Children Prize tells the story of a 14-year-old girl named Kean who witnessed the dangers of working near the bulldozers. She explains that a young boy was crushed to death by a pile of trash, as the bulldozer operator was oblivious to the child’s presence.

The West and China

East Asia and the Pacific region’s waste problems have recently become exacerbated by China’s decision in 2018 to stop importing most recyclable waste. For 25 years, China was the world’s largest importer of recyclable waste. This sudden shift in the recyclables market prompted the West to redirect it’s waste to countries such as Thailand and Malaysia. These countries have since become overwhelmed with waste, greatly amplifying the plight of the children of the landfills.

The Good News

Fortunately, the United Nations and nonprofits have a plethora of initiatives aimed at fighting poor waste management. In particular, the Gates Foundation works with the governments of East Asian countries to improve sanitation and waste management by implementing more efficient waste management systems.

Organizations, such as the World’s Children Prize, help empower the children of the landfills through education, so they can break free from the cycle of poverty. Similarly, the International Labor Organization fights for the rights of children in these developing countries.

More importantly, the best way ordinary people can help these children is by decreasing individual waste footprints. This can be accomplished in a wide variety of ways. To do so, easy changes can be made, such as using refillable water bottles, declining to use plastic straws and silverware. Bigger changes involve changing one’s diets and methods of transportation. Whether one makes small or big changes, the children of the landfills rely on them to fight for a better future.

Shane Thoma
Photo: Pixabay


The Connection Between Sand Mining and Poverty in Cambodia
The practice of sand mining has spelt disaster for fishing communities in Cambodia. For more than a decade, sand mining in Cambodia has contributed to the collective poverty of fishing communities as well as displacement. Although Cambodia officially banned the export of sand in 2017, the connection between sand mining and poverty in Cambodia is a lasting one.

Southeast Asian Expansion

Singapore has enlarged its landmass by almost a quarter its size since its independence in 1965, going from 224 to 277 square miles. Singapore considers reclamation a key strategy for accommodating its growing urban population. In fact, the country has artificially expanded the size of its land mass with sand, thus making the Southeast Asian nation one of the world’s largest sand importers.

After Indonesia, Malaysia and Vietnam grew tired of feeding Singapore’s insatiable appetite for sand; sand mining in Cambodia then took off in 2007 after Indonesia banned sand exports in the same year.

Cambodia, Poverty and Sand Mining

In 2007, the government of Cambodia begun granting private companies concessions to mine rivers for sand. From 2007 to 2017, the U.N. reports that Singapore imported more than 72 million tons of sand from Cambodia. In 2015, Cambodia was number 7 on the top 20 list of sand exporting countries, to the tune of more than $53 million.

A practice called ‘dredging’ sucks up sand a few feet below the marine floor, disturbing the water. Even temporary increases in turbidity interfere with spawning and suffocate coral reefs. Over-dredging in waterways can lower stream bottoms and disrupt the natural sedimentary processes, leading to the erosion of riverbanks.

Environmental Impacts

Environmental groups report that the dredging industry has threatened several species of endangered dolphins, turtles, otters and mangrove forests. Sand mining in Cambodia has also led to the destruction of Cambodia’s only natural protection against riverbank erosion, rising sea levels, tsunamis and hurricanes.

The connection between sand mining and poverty in Cambodia is seamless. The known dredging concessions were in Koh Kong and Preah Sihanoak provinces on Cambodia’s western shore. People in the fishing villages were not consulted by the companies or informed by local authorities before operations began. In the village of Koh Sralau, sand dredging has ravaged the ecosystem that thousands of families depend on for their livelihood.

Detrimental Dredging

According to Global Witness, every month in 2010 dredgers extracted more than 850,000 tons of sand from Koh Kong province alone. In 2010, residents of Koh Sralau told Global Witness that the fish catch had declined by 50 percent since the dredging ships arrived. In 2016, residents of Koh Sralau told the Thomas Reuters Foundations that the sand dredging industry had sent their once prosperous fishing community into poverty. One man said that before the Vietnamese sand dredgers occupied the area, he could expect to earn $50 a day fishing for crab; alternatlely, in 2016 he was only seeing $10 and was unable to afford to send his children to school.

Sand mining in Koh Sralau has incurred a wave of displacement. Since the sand dredging began, every family in Koh Sralau has lost a family member, which forces such people to migrate to other places and other countries to find work. People are quite literally losing the land they live on — banks along the rivers in both provinces have become so eroded that people have lost their homes, farms and shops due to landslides.

River Reclamation & Ban on Sand

After years of community organizing and protests by environmental groups, the fishing communities of Cambodia have their rivers back. In July 2017, Cambodia placed a permanent ban on sand for construction and sand mud exports. In addition to this good news for the fishing communities of Koh Kong and Preah Sihanoak, sand from Cambodia will also no longer be sold to Singapore, putting Southeast Asia in a stronger position for environmental and economic sustainability.

– Sasha Kramer

Photo: Flickr

Why Is Cambodia Poor
Cambodia is a country in Southeast Asia that is home to nearly 16 million people. The following statistics outline the poverty rate and socio-economic state of the country in order to help to answer the question: “Why is Cambodia poor?”


5 Answers to the Question “Why is Cambodia Poor?”


  1. According to data collected this year, 14% of the Cambodian population sits below the National Poverty Line. This makes it the fourth poorest country in Southeast Asia.
  2. According to an economic overview by the CIA World Factbook, Cambodia has experienced strong economic growth over the last decade. Between 2000 and 2010, the GDP of Cambodia grew at an average annual rate of more than 8%.  It has had a growth rate of at least 7% since 2011. Such improvements are due to the tourism, garment, construction, real estate and agriculture sectors, all of which have provided hundreds of thousands of individuals with new jobs.
  3. Despite recent achievements, Cambodia remains one of the poorest countries in Asia. Further economic development is hindered by the nation’s deep-rooted corruption, with most of the workforce throughout rural Cambodia unseen, toiling away in factories or subsistence farming. Limited human resources and high-income inequality are other influential factors of poverty in Cambodia. According to a study conducted in 2012, about 2.66 million only utilize $1.20 per day to survive. Worse still, 37% of Cambodian children under the age of five suffer from chronic malnutrition.
  4. The necessary infrastructure to lift millions out of poverty has not been a priority for the Cambodian government.  Only 24% of Cambodians have access to electricity, 64% to clean water and 31% to adequate sanitation. Hospitals are also low-quality, and the impoverished cannot receive proper care and treatment.
  5. Another possible answer to the question “why is Cambodia poor?” has to do with the quality of education made available to the country’s population. While private schools have become more available and affordable, public schools are so ill-equipped that 75% of high-school students failed their graduation exams in 2014. This adds to the cycle of poverty already permeating the population.

Cambodia struggles due to ongoing corruption, a lack of adequate education and limited opportunities for employment. However, the Cambodian government has been working with donors such as the Asian Development Bank and the World Bank to address the country’s pressing needs. Over time, to tackle major economic challenges, Cambodia must work to create an environment in which the private sector can produce enough jobs for its people and move forward from there.

Mikaela Frigillana

Photo: Flickr

Laos Refugees
Laos is one of the poorest countries in Asia and one of the last remaining communist nations. The Indochina War, which lasted for over 20 years, displaced about a quarter of the entire population resulting in major refugee migration.

Top 10 Facts about Laos Refugees:

  1. They are ethnically diverse. Laos has approximately 100 ethnic minorities. Many of these groups were cultivators who moved around regularly. They were disproportionately affected by the war.
  2. They come from the most heavily bombed country in the world. Between 1963 and 1974, the United States dropped two million tons of bombs on the Michigan-sized country. This is more than the amount dropped on Germany and Japan combined during World War II.
  3. They are the victims of a “secret war.” The conflict in Laos was the CIA’s largest paramilitary operation. It was conceived as a way of “bypassing” the Geneva Accords. The Indochina War thus set the precedent for future large-scale secret wars.
  4. Many were first relocated to Thailand. When the U.S. removed military support in May 1975, it transported thousands of refugees into Thailand. By the end of that year, more than 40,000 other refugees had also fled to Thailand.
  5. Some have been living in Thai camps for over a decade. Many have chosen to make Thailand their new home, while some are still waiting for assurance of safety to return to Laos. Others are anticipating a reunion with family members before moving on to finally resettle in another country.
  6. Some were forcibly repatriated to Laos. Thailand began instituting increasingly restrictive measures for people to claim refugee status so that many would be obliged to return to Laos.
  7. They constitute the majority of Hmong refugees in the United States. Many of the Hmong were recruited by the CIA to serve as spies against the communists. As a result, when the communists seized control, many of the Hmong were forced to flee the country for their anti-communist involvement. Approximately 90% of Hmong refugees have resettled in the United States following the Indochina War.
  8. Most speak White or Green Hmong. White Hmong is considered more proper and is the basis for Hmong writing, but it is understood by Green Hmong speakers.
  9. They are traditionally animistic. Hmong religion centers around the Txix neeb or shaman. They believe that the body is home to a number of souls.
  10. Most have resettled in California and the Midwest. Approximately 40% of Hmong refugees are living in California, while another 45% reside in either Minnesota or Wisconsin.

These 10 facts about Laos refugees are a useful starting point for learning about refugees, but every individual has a unique story. Meaningful understanding of Laos refugee problems only comes through building relationships with them.

Rebecca Yu

Photo: Flickr

Water Quality in Vietnam
Vietnam’s 3,260 km coastline and extensive river networks have given the country an economic and industrial advantage. However, the exploitation and resulting pollution of the rivers has severely limited people’s access to clean drinking water. Despite efforts taken to improve water quality in Vietnam and limit the unmindful disposal of factory waste, polluted water still causes up to 80 percent of illnesses nationwide.

Vietnam has one of the highest child malnutrition rates in Southeast Asia, and as many as 44 percent of Vietnamese children fall ill with whipworms, hookworms or roundworms. Other common water-borne illnesses in Vietnam include Hepatitis A, Hepatitis E and Typhoid Fever, all of which are most commonly spread by fecal contamination of drinking water.

The pollution most profoundly impacts those living in central and southern Vietnam, where the majority of waterways are used for farming and power. Although water quality in Vietnam‘s upstream rivers such as the Red River remains acceptable, those living downstream or in urban areas are at greater risk of contracting water-borne illnesses.

According to the National Center for Water Resources Planning and Investigation, water samples from Binh Chanh, Cu Chi and District 12 contain unsafe levels of ammonia and manganese. Arsenic contamination in water has also been a threat to the entire nation.

Untreated industrial waste is the primary cause of poor water quality in Vietnam, as fifty industrial zones discharge 105 million liters of largely untreated wastewater into the Saigon every day. International water resource organizations recommend limiting river flow exploitation to 30 percent, but, according to a report in the Voice of Vietnam online journal, the Ninh Thuan province exploits as much as 80 percent. This has degraded the basins in the Red River, the Thai Binh River and the Dong Nai River.

Hydropower plants have been built on all 13 big river networks, as well as on small rivers. The power plants have cut the river networks into artificial water reservoirs and have upset the river’s water storage. This not only devastates the forests and water life, but it makes people living downstream from these areas particularly vulnerable to pollution from farming pesticides, fertilizer, factory runoff, fish farms and wastewater.

Vietnam is developing its hydropower infrastructure to keep up with its increasing demand for energy. While the existing administrative and legal framework for pollution control is substantial, the problem, according to Nguyen Thi Kim Oanh, a professor at the Asian Institute of Technology in Thailand, is law enforcement. “We need to have strong punishments,” Oanh says, especially with larger power plants. He also says that people need to be aware of the issue so that they do not contribute to the pollution themselves.

Some of the greatest problems regarding pollution control are low fines, vague criteria for identifying polluters, low monitoring capacity, little willingness to enforce regulations and inadequate funding. Legislation passed in the last decade, however, has made provisions for harsher sanctions against polluters, such as the 2005 revised Law on Environmental Protection.

Funding for pollution control has also increased over the last ten years on both the national and provincial levels. For example, the HCMC Waste Recycling Fund targets waste management firms, while the Vietnam Environmental Protection Fund targets pollution control in urban areas, craft villages and hospitals.

Flexible funding, effective audits and knowledge as to who polluters are should reduce the waste going into Vietnamese rivers. The benefits of these changes will protect future generations from serious illnesses, and ultimately prepare the country for more sustainable economic development.

Liliana Rehorn

Photo: Flickr

Separation of the Philippines
Relations between the United States and the Philippines date back to a time when the U.S. had a special interest in Southeast Asia for military strategy. Despite a rocky start, the Philippines became one of the closest allies of the U.S. after fighting side by side in World War II against Japan.

To facilitate better relations in Southeast Asia, the Obama Administration developed the “Pivot to Asia.” Shifting American foreign policy from the Middle East, without fully withdrawing, getting more involved in an area with closer ties to China.

As a result, the U.S. provided $175 million for development assistance and $50 million in foreign military financing to the Philippines in 2015. The number for military funding is set to more than double in 2016, with around $120 million intended just for the Philippines.

Despite this long partnership and recently increased support, Filipino President Duterte hints at a separation of the Philippines from the U.S. for growing stronger bonds with China. Many in the U.S. Government are deeply troubled by this news as it could radically change the relationship between the two nations.

As recently as 2011, Clinton was in Manila to verbally affirm American support of the Philippines during a dispute with China over ownership of islands in the South China Sea. Senior Diplomat Daniel Russel is set to travel to Manila for clarification on this separation of the Philippines.

President Duterte is known for erratic behavior, leading many to question whether he can follow through on these claims. With such a large portion of the Filipino population still supporting continued relations with the U.S., a divide between the government’s affairs and the will of the Filipino people could be problematic.

The reality may be that this is the beginning of a Chinese plan to remove American military presence in the region by taking the Philippines out of a partnership with the U.S, in hopes that Vietnam and Malaysian would soon follow suit.

Aaron Walsh

Photo: Flickr

Numerous 'Neverthirst' Projects Enhancing Water Quality in Cambodia
In many regions around the world, millions of people lack access to improved water sources and billions are without proper sanitation materials. In order to combat these harsh realities and situations, many organizations are focused on bringing clean water to those who need it. One of these groups is Neverthirst, an international nonprofit dedicated to providing clean and living water solutions throughout North Africa and Southern Asia. To accomplish this, the organization creates numerous projects, and currently, its focus is on the improvement of water quality in Cambodia.

Located in Southeast Asia, the country and its inhabitants are faced with a distressing problem. The issue of water quality in Cambodia is truly a serious one, but with the assistance of Neverthirst, water quality for all Cambodians can be enhanced. But what projects are being implemented, and how do they improve water quality in Cambodia?

Cambodia Biosand Filter and Latrine Project

The Cambodia Biosand Filter and Latrine Project addresses the issue that although many people have access to water, the quality of the water makes it unsafe and often unsuitable for necessary actions such as consumption.

Drinking unsafe and dirty water can potentially lead to devastating health problems, including diarrheal diseases. Diarrhea alone kills more than 800,000 children under five annually, or about 2,200 children every day. This initiative strives to slow the transmission and development of further diarrheal diseases, thus reducing the number of deaths in children under five in Cambodia.

Cambodia Well Project

Some Cambodians have access to clean water, however, transporting water can be extremely difficult. Usable water is usually located a great distance from the community, making it nearly impossible to carry a significant amount of water per trip.

Through the Cambodia Well Project, Neverthirst hopes to improve accessibility and availability of clean water substantially by installing high-quality hand pumps that can last up to 10 years. In addition to the installation of hand pumps, the organization also gives the communities and villages further funds for any required repairing of the hand pump in the future and instructs users on how to maintain it over time.

The creation and use of these pumps will greatly increase the water quality in Cambodia that is received and utilized by the various communities.

Cambodia School Project

In the immense province of Mondulkiri, many schools and children don’t have access to safe drinking sources. For a portion of schools in the region, schools’ only source of water is a shallow well. Neverthirst, through both the Cambodia School Project and the School Rain Tank Project, is attempting to instill a two-step process that will greatly improve schools’ access to clean water.

First, the construction of a concrete rain tank will collect and provide water for an average of 250 students per school. After the completion of the rain tank, education on safe drinking water is next. Teaching children the importance of clean drinkable water is important to the prevention of future disease outbreaks.


Overall, Neverthirst has created a massive 5,537 projects, serving more than 390,000 people in a total of five countries. Currently, the organization has projects established in Sudan, South Sudan and India.

Each year, more than three million people die from water-related causes, including inadequate sanitation and poor hygiene. With the assistance of Neverthirst, countries, communities and villages like those in Colombia can be aided in its rebuilding efforts and enhance its water quality and safety.

Water quality in Cambodia is just one issue, and Neverthirst is dedicated to helping in all corners of the world.

Jordan J. Phelan

Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Cambodia
In May 2016, the World Bank Board of Executive Directors approved a $130 million grant to help reduce poverty in Cambodia and improve the lives of poor Cambodians.

The Royal Government of Cambodia and the World Bank signed an agreement on June 9, 2016. This agreement details the four major projects funded by the International Development Association (IDA), the World Bank’s lending arm for the world’s poorest developing countries.

There are 3 million Cambodians living in poverty. However, poverty in Cambodia has steadily decreased over the past 8 years. Currently, 17.7 percent of the Cambodian population is living below the poverty line, compared to 34 percent in 2008.

Needless to say there is still work to be done in Cambodia. The World Bank agreement has created projects that target four specific areas of development to help alleviate poverty in Cambodia.

Health Equity and Quality Improvement ($30 million)

Life expectancy in Cambodia is 68.2 years, while the average life expectancy of developing countries in East Asia and the Pacific is 74.

The Health Improvement plan has two primary focus areas for funding Cambodia’s health care system. The Health Equity Fund helps to provide reliable financing for health facilities as well as cover costs for low income families, in order to reduce out-of pocket spending.

The second focus area applies to redesigned Service Delivery Grants working to improve the quality of health services. It places an emphasis on bettering health-facility management and staff in addition to enhancing coverage of health services.

Mekong Integrated Water Resources Management ($15 million)

Some of the most intensive freshwater fisheries are located in Cambodia. Fishermen catch 2.6 million metric tons of fish in the Mekong basin annually. However, Cambodia’s growing population and overfishing are causing the depletion of fish stocks in Cambodian waters.

The Water Management project aims to improve the oversight of fisheries and water resources specific to the Mekong River Basin.

Road Asset Management ($60 million)

Road condition surveys conducted in 2005 indicated that 60 percent of roads in Cambodia are in poor or bad condition.

This infrastructure development project is projected to supplement 218 kilometers (135.459 miles) of roads. They will also install flood resistant measures. The road improvement will allow for faster travel and better connectivity between the Preah Sihanouk, Kampot, Tbong Khmom, and Kratie provinces.

Land Allocation for Social and Economic Development Project ($25 million)

Agriculture has become increasingly vital for the Cambodian economy and fight against poverty.

Over the past decade, positive developments in agriculture have lifted 4 million people out of poverty. However, as farmland diminishes and global food prices decline, Cambodia is in need of new pathways to promote future agricultural growth.

The Land Allocation Project will provide more than 5,000 land-poor or previously landless families across five provinces with agricultural livelihood support. This project will also include the education and implementation of better farming practices.

In a World Bank press release article Ulrich Zachau, the Country Director of the World Bank for Southeast Asia, made a statement on the day of the signing: “The four projects signed today all contribute to improving the lives of poor Cambodians, and we are glad to support them.”

Kristyn Rohrer

Photo: World Bank

What do you think of when you think of NASA technology? “Space” is probably going to be the answer most people give, unless they’ve heard of SERVIR, the result of a partnership between NASA, USAID, the World Bank in Washington, and several other organizations.

Daniel Irwin, the director of the program, knows this better than anyone. “When people think of NASA,” he says, “they think of Mars Exploration Rovers or finding water on the moon, but a big part of our mission is to study earth from space, to advance scientific understanding and meet societal needs.”

SERVIR is actually not an acronym – it is taken from the Spanish word meaning “to serve,” because the goal of the initiative is to do just that.

By combining NASA’s technology and humanitarian groups’ understanding of what areas need what resources and what would benefit people the most, SERVIR is able to better serve the needs of populations.

The NASA website says that the resources developed by SERVIR can help governments and other agencies to more effectively “respond to natural disasters, [improve] food security, safeguard human health, [and] manage water and natural resources.”

SERVIR has hubs at locations throughout the globe, ad just this August, SERVIR-Mekong was launched in Bangkok, Thailand.

The Mekong river is located in Southeast Asia that acts as a major trade route to China. Depending on the seasons, the Mekong sometimes floods the surrounding area, leaving the residents of the Mekong area in severe need.

This is one of the reasons why Mekong was chosen as a location for this SERVIR project.

The Mekong center in particular was the result of NASA and USAID partnership with the Asian Disaster Preparedness Center (ADPC.) This is a partnership that will work to make land use more sustainable and to monitor and (hopefully) decrease the effects of climate change.

For example, the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) is something that can be monitored with NASA technology. It is an indicator that comes from the amount of light reflected off of the surface of the earth based on the quantity and quality of plant life.

Areas that have lots of healthy vegetation will have a high NDVI and vice versa. Understanding the NDVI of an area can provide everyone from small farmers to forestry service personnel a better understanding of where to plant crops, develop urban centers, and more carefully preserve vegetation.

The power to help individuals and populations all over the world better respond to the effects of climate change extends to areas of food security and water resourcing as well. It truly is a remarkable innovation.

NASA technology can also be used to chart the course of natural disasters. For example, in the past, during hurricanes, it has allowed scientists to map out the paths of mudslides, which allowed them to understand which areas would be most affected and need the most help.

SERVIR’s track record has been vastly successful. Its team has worked with over 200 institutions in over 30 countries to develop local solutions, and to link local offices all over the globe in a network of ideas and innovations. Over 40 custom tools have been developed through the work of SERVIR.

It’s an excellent example of many of the tenets of humanitarianism: utilizing technology, creating partnerships, thinking big (even beyond the global scale) and dedicating existing resources towards a worthwhile cause.

As Irwin says, NASA technology and USAID’s resources together are helping to create “real time, real world applications that are changing the lives of people where they live.”

Emily Dieckman

Sources: USAID, NASA, Servir Global, Washington Post
Photo: AmericaSpace

Universal_Health_Care in_Asia
Universal health care (UHC) is not easy to measure. It is a set of defined protocols that are usually recognized when a combination of population coverage, services and financial protection work together to provide for people.

With China rapidly increasing its coverage since 2009, data shows that Southeast Asia contains more people without coverage than any other region survey by the World Health Organization (WHO).

For example, India currently has 40 million pushed into poverty each year due to health care costs. Hospitals in the country are known to simply not give health to those in need unless payment is made up front. In Indonesia, only 0.9 percent of the GDP is used to finance the public health sector.

Furthermore, only people pre-identified as being poor are entitled to be covered. This has left millions of people impoverished each year because they just aren’t able to afford adequate coverage and don’t qualify for universal health care for expensive treatments.

However, coverage varies depending on the nation. South Asia has some of the most celebrated examples of countries that have worked hard to achieve UHC. Bangladesh and Nepal have received international recognition for their expansion of coverage of cost-effective health services.

Another country that has offered universal health care in Asia is Thailand, where health care coverage has taken the name of a program called Universal Coverage Scheme. The plan was introduced in 2002 by pressure from civil society and is financed solely from general tax revenue.

The scheme covers 74.6 percent of the population as of 2007 estimates. The benefits package is a comprehensive package of care, including both curative and preventive care. Public hospitals are the main providers, covering more than 95 percent of the insured. About 60 private hospitals joined the system and register around 4 percent of the beneficiaries.

A large factor of success seems to be based on the level of government spending. The better-off countries have seen their governments’ increase in public financing to fund services for previously uncovered groups. These governments have also increased awareness among citizens and have encouraged their people to use the facilities because they are in adequate condition.

For the five top countries in Southeast Asia, government spending has only averaged to 2.9 percent of the GDP. For nations that are trying to build their educational institutions and economy, healthy workers are necessary.

The United States and other wealthy nations must continue to support Southeast Asia through education and funded public health works projects. Many developed nations will be able to import American goods once their people have a healthy standard of living.

Adnan Khalid

Sources: Health Market Innovations, WHO, The World Bank
Photo: Pixabay