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Crops That Are Fighting PovertyAcross the world, agriculture remains one of the primary sources of income for those living in poverty. A 2019 report by The World Bank reported that 80% of those living in extreme poverty reside in rural regions, and a large majority of these individuals rely upon agriculture for their livelihood. The World Bank also notes that developing agriculture is one of the most effective ways to alleviate poverty, reduce food insecurity and enhance the general well-being of those living in a community. Potatoes in China, cassava in sub-Saharan Africa, rice in Sierra Leone, pearl millet in India and bananas in Costa Rica are five examples of crops that are fighting poverty.

5 Crops That Are Fighting Poverty

  1. Potatoes in China: In 2019, China was the world’s number one potato-producing country. With a rural population of 45.23%, the nation greatly relies upon agriculture to provide food as well as income to its citizens. In Ulanqub, otherwise known as the “potato city” of China, potato farming is one of the primary means for farmers to rise out of poverty. Due to the fact that viruses have the potential to destroy up to 80% of potato crops, potato engineers in Ulanqub have developed seeds that are more impervious to viruses. These engineers place a sterile potato stem into a solution filled with nutrients to create “virus-free breeder seeds.” The seeds are then planted and produce potatoes of higher quality, ensuring that farmers are able to generate sufficient income and climb out of poverty.
  2. Cassava in sub-Saharan Africa: Cassava is a principal source of calories for 40% of Africans. This crop has traditionally been important during times of famine and low rainfall because it is drought-resistant, requires easily-accessible tools and is easily harvestable by one family. The organization NextGen utilizes genomic technology to isolate beneficial cassava traits that increase plant viability, root quality and yield quantity. By analyzing crop DNA and statistically predicting performance, NextGen is creating cassava crops that are fighting poverty.
  3. Rice in Sierra Leone: Agriculture accounts for 57% of Sierra Leone’s GDP, with rice reigning as the primary staple crop. However, in 2011, the nation was a net rice importer due to struggles with planting efficiency. The System of Rice Intensification (SRI) was developed to increase rice crop yield and decrease the labor necessary for upkeep. This method requires the use of organic fertilizers, tighter regulations for watering quantities, greater spacing between seeds to decrease plant competition and rotary hoes for weeding. As of 2014, 10,865 individuals had implemented this strategy in Sierra Leone. SRI has enabled rice to become one of the crops that is fighting poverty by increasing crop production from two to six tons per hectare.
  4. Pearl Millet in India: In India, agriculture employs 59% of the nation’s workforce, with 82% of farmers operating small farms that are highly susceptible to the negative impacts of climate change. As temperatures rise to a scorching 114℉, crops that are able to survive extreme heat are becoming necessary. Wild pearl millet, a relative of domestic pearl millet, is one crop that can withstand such temperatures. Researchers in India are breeding wild pearl millet seeds with domestic pearl millet in order to enhance resistance to heat and the common “blast” disease. With breeding innovations, pearl millet is one of the crops that are fighting poverty.
  5. Bananas in Costa Rica: One out of every 10 bananas produced in 2015 hailed from Costa Rica, the globe’s third-largest banana producer. This industry generated $ 1.1 billion in 2017 and provides jobs for 100,000 Costa Ricans. However, approximately 90% of banana crops across the nation are at risk of nutrient deprivation from a pest known as nematode, which has the potential to obliterate entire plantations. An article by CropLife International reported that a sustainable pesticide has been created by plant scientists in order to mitigate poverty-inducing crop loss and provide environmentally-conscious methods for banana farmers to ward off pests.

Developing crop viability and agricultural technology is important for poverty alleviation as agriculture possesses twice the likelihood of creating financial growth than other economic sectors. Innovations in crop production that decrease the likelihood of failure from drought, disease and changing weather patterns are important for the well-being of rural communities across the globe. Potatoes, cassava, rice, pearl millet and bananas are just five examples of crops that are fighting poverty, but improvements in different facets of agriculture have the potential to enhance the livelihoods of those who provide the world’s food.

Suzi Quigg
Photo: Flickr

South African PovertyThe battle against poverty has always been a difficult one, but the novel coronavirus pandemic has presented many new challenges. Actions currently being taken to combat South African poverty and COVID-19 have proven that, with new options and renewed commitments, there is still much that can be done to alleviate poverty. Impoverished people around the world need aid now more than ever.

An Ongoing Struggle

Historically, South Africa has struggled to aid its most economically vulnerable citizens. According to the most recent government analysis, almost half of the adult population is living under the poverty line—an alarming figure. It seems apparent that this South African poverty crisis would be seen on nearly every level of society. Sadly, this widespread poverty has had a notable impact on which necessary resources are available to people. While electricity infrastructure is fairly widespread, between 28% and 30% of poor households lack access to water and sanitation services. As is relatively common in cases of inequality, the most vulnerable frequently lack access to basic necessities, making their struggles far more urgent.

COVID-19 Developments

The 2020 COVID-19 pandemic is poised to exacerbate South African poverty. The World Bank has predicted that while the pandemic will increase poverty worldwide, the hardest-hit region will be Sub-Saharan Africa. Although South Africa has been relatively spared from the worst of COVID-19 on a health level, the poverty-inducing effects of the pandemic are daunting—it is projected that some 23 million South Africans will be pushed into poverty in 2020. Beyond the immediate tragedy, this decline will present new challenges. In order to protect them, governments will need to find new ways to offer meaningful support throughout the crisis.

Innovation Brings Hope

Fortunately, the government of South Africa has begun to take steps to properly aid its impoverished citizens during this time. They have rolled out a new, easily accessible digital tool called HealthCheck in order to provide self-assessment resources. Members of the public can download the program, which will ask them a few simple questions and then provide a COVID-19 risk prediction along with a pertinent guideline and suggested actions.

While HealthCheck is designed to be available to the entirety of the South African populace, it aids low-income South Africans in particular. Although only a third of the population uses smartphones, feature phones enjoy more widespread use, so a lack of hardware is not necessarily an issue. For many impoverished people in South Africa—and across the world—receiving the proper healthcare needed to determine a risk of infection may be difficult or outright impossible.

Partnerships Increase Access

To further alleviate this issue, the South African government has coordinated with network operators MTN, Vodacom and Telekom, to have facilitate free access to the USSD line. This way, South Africans who could not typically afford cellular or wi-fi services can make use of the HealthCheck tool. As a matter of fact, they have—authorities have reported that so far, over one million members of the public have used HealthCheck.

The digital tool has been utilized in conjunction with NGOs like Doctors Without Borders.  The NGO has worked to fill the gap in fighting South African poverty by creating impromptu field hospitals in otherwise-ignored townships. In Khayelitsha, it has opened up 70 additional beds in a basketball arena in order to serve as many people as possible in the area. This was part of a broader government plan to have over 1,400 extra beds ready as needed. Providing aid such as this is an important part of the battle against poverty.

Just a Start

The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the growth of the continental African economy, and threatens its growing middle class. Across the entire continent, nearly eight million people are predicted to fall into poverty, in many cases due to the lack of a social safety net. By providing essential resources, NGOs like Doctors Without Borders are working to limit the economic burden that falls on the South African populace.

While it’s just a start in terms of supporting the impoverished population, these initiatives have clearly provided accessible ways for low-income citizens to keep themselves and their loved ones safe and healthy. There are still many hurdles to overcome in the fight against South African poverty, but these recent initiatives have shown that we can still work to effectively aid the poor.

Aidan O’Halloran
Photo: Flickr

Pest ControlAgriculture is often crucial to the economies of lower-income nations. In Sub-Saharan Africa, more than 60% of the population is smallholding farmers and about 23% of the GDP comes from agriculture. Because of the importance of this industry, pest control can become a major issue in a lot of countries.

Influence of Pesticides

When pests are not properly handled, produce is damaged, which leads to reduced yields and profits. If crops are drastically damaged, it can lead to a decrease in food supply and an increase in prices. When pesticides were first introduced to farmers in Africa, it seemed to be a quick and easy form of pest control to fix their infestation problems. Pesticides increased yields, which led to higher household incomes and more trading. However, pesticides present their own set of obstacles. When mishandled, pesticides can be very dangerous. Many farmers lack the proper knowledge and equipment to safely administer the chemicals. This can cause health problems among farmers, contaminate soil and water sources, and result in pesticide-resistant insects.

Pesticidal Pollution in Kenya

A study conducted in 2016 that tested the water quality of Lake Victoria in Kenya revealed the negative impact pesticides had on the environment in the area.In May 1999, the European Union imposed a fish import ban on all fish from Lake Victoria when it was discovered 0rganochlorine pesticides were being used to fish in the lake. This ban resulted in an estimated $300 million loss for Kenya.

Organochlorine pesticides are mostly banned in high-income nations, but they are still used illegally in East Africa. Sometimes organochlorine pesticides are also used in East Africa for “public health vector control,” meaning to control the population of pests that spread diseases. The continued use of these pesticides is cited as a reason why pesticidal pollution was still found in Lake Victoria in 2016. Testing the water revealed that the pesticide concentrations in the lake were higher during the rainy seasons compared to the dry seasons. This led to the conclusion that the pesticides were entering the lake from contaminated runoff from surrounding farms. Those conducting the study concluded that the lake contaminations presented an immediate danger to the animals and humans relying on the lake as a food and water supply, due to the pesticide bioaccumulation entering the food chain.

Integrated Pest Management (IPM)

Cases such as Lake Victoria’s are why the government, academic and public agricultural agencies have been promoting the use of IPM. IPM is a system that aims to decrease the need for pesticides by “incorporating non-chemical techniques, such as pruning strategies or soil amendments that make plants less inviting to pests, using insect traps that monitor pest populations so growers can be more precise with chemical sprays or adopting pest-resistant crop varieties.” The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) have all supported the IPM process. Still, IMP has been slower to spread to the low-income nations of the world.

Whereas pesticides are made to be harmful and heavy-handed, IPM requires more finesse and care. IPM requires farmers to possess significant pest management knowledge in order to be effective. They must closely monitor their crops and keep detailed records. This is a difficult change for a farmer to make, especially when failure can have dire consequences, as they rely on their farms for food and income. However, with proper training and knowledge, IPM can present a good alternative for pest control to farmers who lack easy access to pesticides or can’t afford them.

The FAO has been using the Farmer Field School program to try to teach IPM and other sustainable farming practices to farmers in low-income nations. Programs like these are likely the most effective way to teach farmers about alternatives to pesticides. They may be able to help farmers in low-income nations find the resources necessary for safe and successful pest control.

Agriculture is often very important to the economies of lower-income nations. Improper use of pesticides, due to a lack of resources, can end up negatively impacting the environment in those areas where people are trying to grow crops. Programs like the Farmer Field School Program may be able to help lower-income nations transition to safer pesticide methods, such as IPM.

– Lindsey Shinkle
Photo: Flickr

Ending Child LaborDespite a 38% global reduction of child labor between 2000 and 2016, hundreds of millions of children remain in exploitative labor conditions. Work deprives children of their formative childhoods and educational experiences, while potentially harming them physically and psychologically. So, how are people and organizations working to end child labor around the world?

Living in poverty is the main reason children work, whether by circumstance or force. However, child labor creates a cycle of poverty. Some children have to work to survive and help support their families. These children, therefore, do not have the time to receive an education. Education is considered a key to escape poverty; without it, children do not have many options other than continuing to work.

Most child labor is in agriculture; more than 75% of child laborers work the fields, but others work in factories or the service industry. Out of the 170 million child laborers, 6 million children are forced into labor. These children often become child soldiers or are sold into prostitution or slavery. The United Nations calls for an end to child labor in all forms by 2025, a mere five years away. Here are three U.N. solutions to achieve their goal to end child labor:

3 UN Solutions to End Child Labor

  1. 2021 is the International Year for Ending Child Labour. The United Nations General Assembly wants to draw attention to the millions of children working in fields, mines and factories during 2021. Member states of the International Labor Organization (ILO), a specialized agency of the U.N., will raise awareness of the importance of ending child labor and share successful projects. These projects include initiatives to reduce poverty, educate children, offer support services and enforce minimum age requirements, among other solutions. As the steady decrease in child labor tapered off in 2016, the hope is that this effort will renew the global community’s interest in eradicating child labor.
  2. The Clear Cotton Project plans to have sustainable cotton industries without child labor. With the rise of fast fashion, cotton is one of the most valuable supply chain commodities. Because of its high demand, the cotton industry is notorious for its use of child labor, now embedded into the supply chain. Children work long, often excruciating, hours picking cotton, weeding and transferring pollen in the fields. In factories and workshops, child workers spin the cotton and have various tasks, from sewing buttons to embroidering fabric. All of this work is often underpaid if compensated at all. The Clear Cotton Project wants its partner countries of Burkina Faso, Mali, Pakistan and Peru to create sustainable cotton industries without child labor. The program, which started in 2018 and will end in 2022, has two strategies aimed at ending child labor. The first includes editing, strengthening and enforcing policy, legal and regulatory framework against child labor in accordance with ILO standards. The second strategy works to support local governments and public service providers. This strategy aims to increase access to education, create youth and women employment schemes and strengthen worker unions so workers can both recognize their rights and monitor their working conditions
  3. Ending child labor in African supply chains is receiving special attention. While the rest of the world saw a decrease in child labor between 2012 and 2016, Sub-Saharan Africa observed an increase. Child labor is most prevalent in supply chains, especially in cacao, cotton, gold and tea. In the tea industry alone, around 14% of children are working as laborers in Uganda. Even more children work in Malawi—38% of all children from ages 5-17. Producing tea is labor-intensive, from preparing the land for planting to harvesting to preparing the leaves for export. Children are involved at every level. To combat this, ACCEL Africa, a four-year program, began in 2018 to “accelerate action for the elimination of child labor in supply chains.” Partnered with the Netherlands, Côte d’Ivoire, Egypt, Mali, Malawi, Nigeria and Uganda, the program aims to address the problems that cause institutionalized child labor in supply chains. These countries will also improve their child labor policies and legal framework and enforce the revisions to stop child labor.

While the U.N. has set a challenging goal, with increased awareness, commitment and cooperation, the global community can succeed in its programs, ending child labor by 2025. With a real childhood, education and a brighter future, these children will have a chance to step out of the vicious cycle of poverty.

Zoe Padelopoulos
Photo: Unsplash

Himalayan Cataract ProjectIn 1995, Dr. Geoff Tabin and Dr. Sanduk Ruit launched the Himalayan Cataract Project to eliminate curable and preventable blindness in under-resourced Himalayan communities. The two founded their innovative campaign after recognizing that cataracts account for 70% of unnecessary blindness in Nepal. Cataracts, or cloudy, opaque areas in the eye that block light entry, occur naturally with age. Poor water quality, malnutrition and disease tend to exacerbate the issue in developing countries.

For years, Dr. Tabin and Dr. Ruit had seen Nepalese villagers take blindness as a death sentence. “It was just accepted that you get old, your hair turns white, your eyes turn white, you go blind and you die,” Dr. Tabin told the Stanford Medicine magazine. But after Dutch teams arrived in Nepal to perform cataract surgery, he explained, “People came back to life. It was amazing.”

The Strategy

The Himalayan Cataract Project delivers sight-restoring cataract surgery at a low cost. Dr. Ruit’s groundbreaking procedure lasts 10 minutes and costs just $25. Today the organization has succeeded in providing permanent refractive correction for well over 500,000 people.

In an effort to leave a more sustainable impact, the project works from a “train the trainer” model that empowers community health providers and enhances local eye care centers. Rather than simply treating patients in need, specialists introduce new methods and technology to strengthen the practices of existing clinics.

As a result of these and other advances, the blindness rate in Nepal has plummeted to 0.24%, similar to that of Western countries. The Himalayan Cataract Project now operates in India, Tibet and Myanmar. Dr. Tabin has also initiated training programs in Sub-Saharan Africa, particularly in Ghana and Ethiopia. He hopes to see the same successes here as achieved in Asia.

The Link Between Blindness and Poverty

Addressing blindness is a critical step in the fight against poverty. Blindness prevents able-bodied workers from supporting themselves, shortens lives and reduces the workforce. Children of blind parents often stay home from school as they scramble to fulfill the duties of household caregivers and providers. In short, blindness worsens poverty, while poverty magnifies the risk of blindness.

The Himalayan Cataract Project aims to break the cycle of blindness and poverty. Studies have shown a 400% return on every dollar that the organization invests in eradicating curable and preventable blindness. Their procedures stimulate the economy by helping patients get back to work.

Individual success stories continue to power the organization. Adjoe, a 40-year-old mother from Togo, traveled to Ghana for surgery when she determined that her blind eye was hurting business. As a street vendor selling beans, she saw customers avoid her stand for fear of contagion. She consulted Dr. Boteng Wiafe, a partner of the Himalayan Cataract Project, who performed oculoplastic surgery and gave her a prosthetic eye. Carefully matching the prosthetic to the size, color and shape of her good eye, Dr. Wiafe ensured that Adjoe could return home to provide for her family once again.

Response to COVID-19

In recent months, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought a halt to live clinical training and elective surgeries, but the backlog of blindness continues to grow worldwide. Meanwhile, concerns about the virus may dissuade blind patients from seeking treatment for the next several years.

While eye care has been suspended, the Himalayan Cataract Project is using this time to redesign and restructure their programs so as to emerge even stronger than before. The organization is also working to equip partner clinics with information and resources to keep their patients safe. Some communities have even taken part in the shift to remote education and implemented a virtual training system.

Despite the uncertainty of the months ahead, the Himalayan Cataract Project remains firm in its commitment to fighting blindness and poverty. Its partner clinics around the globe have been tireless in their efforts to affirm that the poor and vulnerable will receive the eye care they need once patients can receive in-person treatment again.

Katie Painter
Photo: Flickr

Women Empowerment Organizations in Sub-Saharan AfricaWomen’s empowerment is a critical component in achieving development and sustainably reducing poverty. It increases the quality of life for men and women globally. Gender parity would allow for a $28 trillion increase in the global GDP. In addition, women typically invest in their families and communities more than men. This will contribute to overall economic and social growth. Sub-Saharan Africa is a rapidly developing region. However, there are serious challenges when it comes to gender equality in terms of education, economic rights, leadership opportunity and access to healthcare. Gender parity in sub-Saharan Africa will specifically allow for $721 billion in growth to the GDP. For the region to develop and grow to its full potential, the gender gap must be addressed. Many women’s empowerment organizations are working to address gender gaps. Here are four gender empowerment organizations operating in sub-Saharan Africa

4 Gender Empowerment Organizations

  1. Africare: Africans and Americans founded Africare in the 1970s. Africare is a non-governmental organization with the mission of improving the quality of life of people in Africa. Since its beginning, Africare has provided more than $1 billion in assistance to tens of millions of people across the African continent. The organization does this by addressing Africa’s development and policy issues. In addition, Africare partners with African people in an effort to build sustainable communities. Africare’s approach includes community engagement, capacity building, locally-driven behavior change and innovative public-private partnerships. Africare is a women’s empowerment organization that believes providing resources to African women is beneficial to African societies. Additionally, as women receive education and higher legal status, they are able to provide their households with better nutrition and access to healthcare. Moreover, Africare works to provide greater leadership opportunities for women by working with local partners. Africare provides leadership coaching, literacy training, business training and market access for African women.
  2. Make Every Woman Count (MEWC): Make Every Woman Count is an African, women-led organization that works in mobilization, networking, advocacy and training African women. The organization helps build women’s leadership capability and works towards changes in policy to be more supportive of women. The work is largely online, using the potential of the internet to reach out to women in Africa. In addition, MEWC plays a huge role in information proliferation. They give guidance to other organizations and grassroots movements operating to empower women in Africa. In addition, the organization also provides a platform for women to exchange ideas and create networks to “establish female leaders in Africa.” Furthermore, MEWC’s major goal is to make sure that African women “have a strong voice in governance institutions.”
  3. Asante Africa Foundation: The Asante Africa Foundation is primarily an educational organization. Its mission is to educate and empower the next generation of agents of change. In 2018 alone, the organization was able to impact 23,085 lives. Moreover, it understands the specific challenges that face women and girls in aspects of access to education in sub-Saharan Africa. In addition, the foundation has programs that are female-centric to aid in these issues. The foundation pioneered the Girls’ Advancement Program. This is one of the women’s empowerment organizations that centers around the idea that using girls’ education promotes development and economic growth. Moreover, the Girls’ Advancement Program takes a holistic approach by taking into account the “cultural, social and health factors.” All of these factors are relevant and correlated to the gender gap in education. The program aims to do this by creating safe spaces, educating in reproductive health, building peer support and mobilizing women as mentors in their communities.
  4. Men Engage: Non-governmental organizations along with U.N. agencies formed Men Engage in 2004. The organization works to engage men and boys in the struggle for gender equality. The coalition is made up of organizations like the Family Violence Prevention Fund, International Planned Parenthood Federation, WHO, UNDP and so forth. The understanding that men play an important role in achieving gender equality is essential to the alliance. In addition, the alliance is working at the national level in many African nations through its MenEngage Africa section to create a dialogue with key individuals, policymakers and advocates working locally to make gender equality a reality. Its sub-Saharan African Regional Symposium brought together delegates from 25 countries, resulting in the MenEngage Africa Declaration and Call to Action.

These women’s empowerment organizations are doing important work in addressing gender inequality and building capabilities. Women’s empowerment is a necessary focus on creating sustainable development and reducing poverty in sub-Saharan Africa and globally.

Treya Parikh

Photo: Flickr

Eldercare in Sub-Saharan AfricaThe world is experiencing rapid demographic aging. In sub-Saharan Africa, a population of 165 million people above the age of 65 is expected by the year 2050, a number more than three times greater than today’s demographics in the region. The care needs of the elderly are much greater in developing countries than in developed countries. However, the WHO works to create sustainable, organized, affordable and accessible long-term care infrastructure that will protect the rights and dignity of vulnerable elderly people. Implementation of universal health coverage, which will make quality eldercare feasible, is its biggest priority in this regard.

The most successful models for eldercare in sub-Saharan Africa are collaborative and meet the rights, needs and preferences of individuals while encouraging their purposeful participation in society and their independence to the greatest extent possible. Oftentimes, this effective care allows for the elderly to remain in the home of a relative but with in-home care visits and access to a variety of supportive programs that meet their basic needs and also combat loneliness and isolation. A few innovative programs in sub-Saharan Africa meet the long-term care needs of the elderly. The study of these models facilitates their recreation for greater numbers of elderly citizens.

Examples of Successful Models for Eldercare in sub-Saharan Africa

  • Ghana: Care for the Aged Foundation provides organized, in-home care visits and assistance with personal care errands. Volunteer workers receive free health care in exchange for their service. Trust has grown in the community for this type of care and there is a long waitlist to participate.
  • Kenya: Private Nursing Agency [name protected per WHO policy] is a private company also providing individualized, in-home care from professionals. This efficient model is growing in popularity, but it is inaccessabile for those without insurance due to the cost.
  • South Africa: Rand Aid is a nonprofit organization with a retirement village model. Residents have security, a high quality of life and care as needed. The returned equity for their spot in the village (as with a condo as opposed to non-returned rent or nursing home expenses) draws people in. Care focuses on freedom of choice and autonomy, translating to the best quality of life.
  • Tanzania: HelpAge International works to improve access to in-home health care services to combat symptoms of poverty and alleviate long-term illnesses. HelpAge implements the Better Health for Older People in Africa program funded through U.K. aid. The program is widespread, individualized and collaborative with families. The program assists physical, emotional, spiritual, social and even the economic wellbeing of the clients.

These programs have the following characteristics in common:

  1. Involvement of family members in plan implementation
  2. Taking into consideration the preferences of the elderly person in care
  3. Adequate training of the caregivers
  4. Integration of comprehensive healthcare services
  5. Equitable access
  6. Quality of conditions for care providers
  7. Financial sustainability of programs

Filial Piety in sub-Saharan Africa

Currently, in sub-Saharan Africa, tradition and societal norms, as well as the lack of large-scale organized infrastructure, dictates that children of the elderly carry out the majority of eldercare in their homes, known as filial piety. The overwhelming burden of long-term care falls on girls and women. Most elderly requiring long-term care (those who no longer live independently) receive that care in an unregulated manner. This strain can prolong the cycle of poverty for far too many households.

In addition, the quality of care can be highly inconsistent leaving room for neglect and lack of basic needs being met. Girls and women who care for the elderly may miss out on education or employment opportunities because of this expectation. Furthermore, their own physical and mental health may suffer.

Continued research will increase understanding of the dynamics of eldercare globally. A Health and Retirement Study in the U.S. has expanded to several international sister studies and the World Health Organization is conducting a longitudinal study collecting data on adult health and aging.

What Can Be Done?

In order to meet the needs of the elderly in sub-Saharan Africa and establish integrated long-term care systems in the decades to come, several steps are needed according to the WHO:

  1. A comprehensive understanding of how people age and what their needs are.
  2. Analysis of deficits in current care models as well as the burdens placed on others.
  3. Close mapping of successful models and how to replicate them.
  4. Sharing of information and best practices cross-culturally and cross-nationally.
  5. Nurturing cultural acceptance of effective models that may differ from current practices.
  6. Coordinating and establishing national efforts, including funding; build infrastructure. Training and monitoring of caregivers are essential to this structure.

– Susan Niz
Photo: Wikimedia

Keeping Girls In School
Right now, 130 million girls ages 6 through 17 are not in school. Fifteen million girls will never receive any kind of education. The international community has recognized the importance of rectifying this problem, including the elimination of gender inequality in education as a target of the Sustainable Development Goals. Despite the significant hurdles which remain, the number of girls in school has increased dramatically in recent decades indicating progress.

Between 1970 and 2017, the global average number of years a girl spends in school increased from 6.7 to 12.5. South Asia experienced the most amount of progress, tripling the average length from 3.8 to 12.

South Asia

Several countries in South Asia have implemented programs that target keeping girls in school. Efforts in India largely drove the increase in rates, where average years of schooling jumped from 4.1 to 13, exceeding the 12-year target. Many nonprofits have worked to improve the educational attainment of Indian girls. For instance, ConnectEd brings education to girls at home when their parents do not allow them to attend school. Additionally, the nonprofit organization CARE has worked with the Indian government to provide educational programs for girls who have dropped out of school and to strengthen early childhood education. CARE also advocates for the bolstering of legislation and policies which ensure safe and secure access to education.

Bangladesh has also made significant strides in keeping girls in school. Secondary school enrollment for girls went up from 39 percent in 1998 to 67 percent in 2017. In 2008, the government of Bangladesh initiated the Secondary Education Quality and Access Enhancement Project (SEQAEP) with the help of the World Bank. This program provides stipends and tuition payments to impoverished children, especially girls. Teachers have received additional training and incentives to ensure that at least 70 percent of their class passes. Additionally, Bangladesh has taken steps to improve sanitation and water facilities at schools. Before the implementation of SEQAEP, 50 percent of children completed primary school and only one-fifth of these went on to complete 10th grade. Now, 46 percent of students graduate from secondary school, including 39 percent of children from impoverished backgrounds. Girls have experienced a rise in enrollment rates in particular due to a number of specially targeted stipend programs. Between 2007 and 2017, the gender parity ratio for grades six to 10 improved from .82 to .90.

Sub-Saharan Africa

Sub-Saharan Africa also made significant gains in the number of years girls spend in school, more than doubling the average from 3.3 years to 8.8. However, this region remains the worst in terms of keeping girls in school. In many countries in the region, girls never even get a chance to attend primary school. In the Central African Republic, Chad, Mali and Niger, two-thirds of primary school-aged girls do not enroll in school. In Liberia, this number is 64 percent, while in South Sudan it reaches a staggering 72 percent.

Nigeria has driven the current progress. Since 2007, the Nigerian government partnered with the World Bank to distribute grants and resources to school systems in particularly struggling areas. Programs that provide free meals and uniforms have incentivized families to allow their girls to obtain an education. Additionally, resources such as textbooks and expanded class space have made class time more effective for students and assisted in graduation rates. In one state, primary school completion rates for girls rose from 17 percent to 41 percent.

These statistics show that change is possible. Advancements in these countries show that even small investments in girls’ education can drastically improve their prospects.

Clarissa Cooney
Photo: MaxPixel

Global Snakebite StrategyThe World Health Organization (WHO) members gather annually at the World Health Assembly in Geneva, Switzerland. This year’s diverse topics included snakebites.

The WHO is not always known for speedy results, due to the massive, worldly scale that this organization deals with. But snakebites was a topic that was quick to strike back. Just one year after the World Health Assembly urged resolution to this issue, WHO has launched a new strategy for snakebites and the venoms that cause potentially deadly harm to its victims.

Symptoms of Snakebites

According to the WHO, snakes bite an estimated 5.4 million people around the world each year. Of those estimated, approximately 138,000 people die each year. This new strategy looks to cut 50 percent of snakebite deaths and disability by the year 2030.

Snakebites are a common occurrence in regions such as sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, and Latin America. This is a commonly neglected public health issue, especially in impoverished areas of all countries listed above. The only known validated treatment for a snakebite is passive immunotherapy with the specific and effective animal-derived antivenom. These antivenoms are not always accessible, nor readily available in developing areas of these countries.

When a venomous snake bites, the victim has less than half an hour to receive the antivenom, without serious consequences. Serious adverse effects include swelling, pain, and bruising around the bite area, numbness, elevated heart rate, constricted airway, blurred vision, nausea, diarrhea, convulsions, fainting, tissue necrosis, and death. All of these listed symptoms can be from the bite of a venomous snake.

The Global Snakebite Initiative

The global snakebite strategy, or the Global Snakebite Initiative lead by the World Health Organization sets a multicomponent strategy in place in order to improve the availability of safe and effective antivenoms at a global level. The initiative is based on four key steps needed in order to improve these conditions caused by venomous snakes, according to the WHO.

  1. Preparing validated collections of specific venom pools from the most medically dangerous snakes in high-risk regions of the world.
  2. Strengthening the capacity of national antivenom manufacturing and quality control laboratories, and establishing new facilities in developing countries through technology transfer.
  3. Getting established laboratories to generate antivenoms for various regions of the world.
  4. Getting government and relevant health organizations to give snakebite envenoming recognition within national and international public health policy frameworks.

According to the WHO, there should also be actions to improve health information systems, accessibility of antivenoms, proper training of medical and nursing staff, and community-based education. This multicomponent strategy would involve stakeholders on many different levels and would improve antivenom availability globally.

This global snakebite strategy targets countries and communities that are heavily affected by snakebites. The program will work with the affected communities to ensure that through their health systems, safe and effective treatments will be offered to all community members. Complete cooperation, collaboration, and partnership between all levels of government and health organizations will accomplish this.

A Solid Foundation

A 28-member panel of global experts in relations with WHO regional offices, science and research communities, health foundations, advocacy groups and stakeholders developed this strategy. Viewing this issue at a global level improves community education and first response. This strategy also commits to engaging communities in order to achieve these goals.

WHO will work with specific countries to strengthen health systems geared towards improving health and well-being and reducing inequity for community members. The main objective for this global snakebite strategy is to ensure accessible, affordable, and effective treatments using the antivenoms.  A streamlined method of supplying and distributing of antivenoms will be prioritized. Along with all of these steps, WHO will encourage research on new treatments, diagnostics, and health device technology that can improve the treatment outcomes and make for quicker recovery times.

WHO’s global snakebite strategy has implemented multiple factors in order to achieve the goals set forth. Commitment from around the world including health, government, and scientific organizations alike, will need to work together through various aspects for the Global Snakebite Initiative to be effective immediately. Following the steps laid out by the WHO, paralyzation and deaths caused by snake envenoming can be reduced in high-risk countries, and ensure its community members safe, efficient, and effective treatments.

– Quinn McClurg
Photo: Flickr

E-Commerce Markets in Africa
Africa holds less than 2 percent of the global e-commerce market, but an increase in participation could benefit the continent on a massive economic scale.

In fact, it has been shown that e-commerce allows consumers to connect to businesses as well as to other consumers in order to exchange goods via the Internet. E-commerce benefits global markets by improving efficiency in distribution channels and creating a more prominent market presence for individuals or businesses trying to sell products. For developing countries in Africa, one of the main obstacles in gaining access to e-commerce markets is limited access to banks.

Mobile Money

Globally, roughly 1.7 billion adults remain without access to a financial institution.

In order to alleviate this problem, mobile banking services focus on the high percentage of adults who have mobile phones in Africa. In South Africa, about 90 percent of the adult population owns a mobile device; whereas, Tanzania has the lowest with only about 75 percent of the adult population owning a mobile device.

The integration of mobile banking companies has increased dramatically over the past decade with 135 live mobile monetary services available in 2017. In fact, the number of subscribers in sub-Saharan Africa hit 44 percent in 2017. Mobile banking is attractive to people who do not physically have access to a bank or who do not have a permanent home address. It allows them to set up an account and protect their money electronically while giving them the freedom to interact financially on a global scale through e-commerce.

The Problem of Rural Communities

A smaller density of people lives in rural areas so there is a lower prospective income for operators who wish to set up mobile services in these regions. Roughly 20 percent of the population of sub-Saharan Africa is spread over 70 percent of the land. Consequently, operators in rural communities only secure a revenue of about one-tenth compared to those who work in urban areas.

Since many individuals rely on mobile banking to engage in the global market, reducing this barrier is essential to the continued development of e-commerce markets in Africa. As a result, in 2018, Uganda’s Communications Commission decided to pair with satellite firms Intelsat and Gilat in order to help increase access for those living in two rural communities.

The Prospective Value of E-Commerce Markets in Africa

A study by the McKinsey Global Institute estimates 3.7 trillion dollars (6 percent of GDP) could be added to the developing world’s collective GDP by 2025 due to a growing digital finance sector. It is 80 to 90 percent less expensive for financial institutions to provide mobile banking services than it is to create new physical branches. This method allows financial institutions to penetrate more of the population in developing and rural areas.

The e-commerce market has the potential to grow enormously over the next five years. Although access to financial institutions is an obstacle that many less privileged individuals face, an increase in mobile money services is helping to create parity. Financial inclusion means an upward trend in the global market participation, and through the development of internet-based trade, the global economy will experience more consumers, products and efficient distribution.

Tera Hofmann
Photo: Flickr