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Progress Against HIV/AIDS in ThailandIn the last decade, Thailand has made significant efforts to reduce HIV/AIDS transmission and deaths, resulting in a dramatic decrease in one of the world’s most stigmatized diseases and an effective model for other countries to follow.

HIV — first identified in 1981 — is a viral infection that attacks the human immune system and spreads through bodily fluids. If left untreated, it can cause AIDS, a condition with which most people only survive a few years. There is no cure for HIV/AIDS, but there are treatments such as antiretroviral therapy that can keep the infection from progressing to AIDS.

HIV/AIDS in Thailand

The first case of HIV/AIDS in Thailand was in 1985, and the country continues to have one of the highest rates of the disease in Asia and the Pacific. An estimated 470,000 people are living with HIV/AIDS in Thailand, and 14,000 AIDS-related deaths occurred in the country in 2019.

Like in other countries, the Thai populations most at risk for HIV/AIDS are those living in poverty or otherwise on the margins of society. These circumstances can reduce access to healthcare and testing, which is made worse by the heavy stigmatization of the disease.

Progress in Thailand

However, the Thai government has made substantial progress against the virus after making it one of the country’s prioritized health initiatives. In 2006, Thailand incorporated HIV services into its universal healthcare system, and now testing and treatment are free for anyone who might need them.

Awareness campaigns have also had a large impact on the state of HIV/AIDS in Thailand. The government has partnered with civil society groups to increase public knowledge both about the disease and preventative measures. Another important aspect of these partnerships has been specific efforts to reduce the stigma associated with HIV/AIDS.

Since 2010, the rate of new infections in Thailand has dropped 65%, and AIDS-related deaths have fallen 44%. These improvements have directly resulted from the efforts to increase awareness and improve access to healthcare and testing. Of the Thai population living with HIV, 80% are on antiretroviral treatment, and 78% have suppressed viral loads preventing the infection from progressing to AIDS.

Thailand is also the first country that has nearly eliminated mother-to-child transmission of HIV/AIDS. Now, less than 2% of children test positive for HIV after being exposed. This has significantly reduced the number of children who are infected and need antiretroviral care.

Future Goals

With all of this progress, the government is in a strong position to continue reducing the prevalence of HIV/AIDS in Thailand. The country still has not met UNAIDS’ 90-90-90 targets where 90% of those HIV positive are aware of their status, 90% are on antiretroviral treatment and 90% have suppressed viral loads. However, Thailand’s efforts remain an important international model of effective policy against HIV/AIDS.

Through its focus on decreasing the number of new infections and improving access to antiretroviral treatment, the prevalence of HIV/AIDS in Thailand has decreased. Along with its prioritization of spreading information and awareness about the disease and its transmission, Thailand has created an effective method for tackling HIV/AIDS.

– Nicole Ronchetti
Photo: Flickr

Harmless HarvestHarmless Harvest is an organic coconut brand that guarantees nonpesticide, chemical or GMO supplements in its young Nam Hom coconuts, harvested from Thailand. Known to be the first brand to introduce non-thermally pasteurized coconut water in the United States, its mission is to “create remarkable coconut products through sustainable farming practices while having a positive community impact,” says Harmless Harvest CEO, Ben Mand. Utilizing organic-certified Nam Hom coconut farms, Harmless Harvest ensures growing coconuts without “persistent pesticides, synthetic fertilizers or sewage sludge.”

Fair Wages for Workers

In addition to its commitment to clean practices and natural coconut products, Harmless Harvest guarantees social accountability through its Fair for Life certification. Fair for Life certification demonstrates the organization’s efforts to provide fair wages for its workers in Thailand. Fair for Life advocates for financial resiliency for all its workers and reallocates funds to support communities of farmers to found mobile health clinics and provide dental checks and water filtration systems. The certification promises social responsibility and fair trade to all the people involved in the production, which starts with farmers that harvest in the very beginning to the consumers that take home the products. 

Regenerative Coconuts Agriculture Project (ReCAP)

In December 2020, Harmless Harvest announced its partnership with Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) to introduce a new agricultural project called the Regenerative Coconuts Agriculture Project (ReCAP). This project aims to ensure a sustainable farming model with innovative coconut harvesting and the training of farmers to maximize their overall productivity. With plans to implement new regenerative farming methodology and agricultural management training for Thailand farmers, ReCAP considers many aspects of the harvesting process other than just the coconut’s quality.

Sustainable Farming and Education for Farmers

The main aspect of the project is to reinvent coconut farming and produce more eco-friendly efficiency. Harmless Harvest aims to implement new sustainable coconut harvesting practices by utilizing cover crops, which then increases the soil’s water absorption and reduces soil erosion during heavy rainfall. Other methods such as intercropping, bee-keeping and organic inputs were included in the coconut farm regeneration in efforts to promote clean farming.

The project also seeks to provide farmers with education in farm management and innovative agricultural practices that target longevity and resistance against climate change. By teaching farmers new strategies to increase biodiversity and resilience, sustainable coconut harvesting becomes a stepping stone to transitioning modern farming to regenerative agriculture. The brand’s overall goal is to rediscover a more environmentally sustainable and resistant farming methodology while also promoting farmers’ wages by the end of 2023.

Addressing Poverty Through Coconut Farming

Harmless Harvest’s project ReCAP shifts the coconut industry and other farm-dependent brands away from chemical-laden monoculture crop farming, which is susceptible to climate change and is inefficient environmentally. The project alleviates ecological stress and utilizes a more efficient system of production, which corresponds with Harmless Harvest’s overall mission of ethical practices. ReCAP seeks to encourage new methods of sustainable coconut harvesting and aims to increase the income of farmers by 10% or more by the end of 2023. From celebrating zero coconut waste in September 2020 to up-cycling and utilizing all parts of the coconut up to the husk, the brand continues to introduce techniques to better the planet and help farmers lift themselves out of poverty.

– Linda Chong
Photo: Flickr

Southeast Asia has been reducing its poverty level as a whole for the past decade. However, the rise of automation has now put the population back at risk. One of the largest industries in terms of employment in Southeast Asia is the production and manufacturing industry. The most common type of work found in this region is in small factories. These jobs are some of the most vulnerable to the effects of automation in Southeast Asia.

Affected Industries

Automation is the process by which labor or a job that is performed by a human switches to being done by a machine. In many cases, a robot is able to work faster and more efficiently than a person with the added bonus of not having a salary and never needing time off. Thus, the prospect of a workforce full of machines is very appealing to those looking to lower their labor costs.

Automation in Southeast Asia stands to put a large number of laborers out of work. The International Labor Organization reported that 73% of Thailand’s manufacturing workforce are at high risk of having their jobs automated. On a whole, the ASEAN-5 (Cambodia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam) faces a 56% risk for employment being automated in the next two decades. The majority of workers affected will be those with both lower wages and lower levels of education. These are the types of jobs easiest to automate, which renders these workers as the most severely impacted demographic.

Further, the types of jobs created through automation, like machine operation and maintenance, require skills the lesser educated workers replaced by automation lack. In Vietnam, those with only a primary school education are three times more likely to have their job automated than someone with a secondary degree.

The Transition

These countries face an interesting problem. Through automation, they stand to gain much in the way of foreign investments and business. Southeast Asia has become a hub of global production, which provides many economic benefits. On the other hand, automation puts the lives of the working-class people in these countries in serious danger. Several countries in Southeast Asia have proposed new ideas to try and navigate through this transition.

The Indonesian Minister of Finance has proposed the implementation of a universal basic income. This has the possibility of alleviating the stress caused by job loss. The Government of Thailand has approved a tax incentive to boost automation within the country. The proposition aims to bring in foreign investors that would train Thai workers and create employment opportunities.

Conclusion

A smooth transition to automation will be crucial in keeping much of the population of Southeast Asia above the poverty line. It is fundamental to support workers in the age of automation in Southeast Asia. Most importantly, they need access to higher levels of education. Hopefully this issue will encourage these governments to provide more opportunities and training to their citizens. People can continue to work in meaningful ways in the age of automation through adequate aid.

Jackson Bramhall
Photo: Flickr

Women’s Empowerment in ThailandIn Thailand, chief executives of 110 companies have signed an important pledge that agrees to the implementation of U.N. principles regarding women’s empowerment in its economy and businesses. Some of these principles include equal pay for equal work, improved workplace conditions in terms of safety and inclusivity as well as gender equality with a heavy emphasis on executive positions.

The Women’s Empowerment Principles (WEPs)

This pledge is known as the Women’s Empowerment Principles (WEPs), which was founded by the U.N. Global Compact and U.N. Women in 2010 and is funded by the European Union. The aim is to push businesses to be responsible for women’s empowerment and gender equality. The pledge is part of a wider movement established by U.N. Women, known as the Promoting Economic Empowerment of Women at Work in Asia (WeEmpower Asia) Initiative.

The WEPs are made up of a total of seven principles. These principles encompass several key areas which include gender equality in corporate leadership, equality, respect of human rights, nondiscrimination, health and safety of all workers including women, training and professional development of women, equality through advocacy efforts and the public reporting on the progress of these principles.

WeEmpowerAsia

Currently, the movement is working towards helping private businesses and organizations increase women’s participation in leadership positions with an overall aim of gender equality. Currently, the WeEmpowerAsia Initiative is working in a number of Asian countries including India, Thailand, China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Malaysia.

Another country that is participating in the WeEmpowerAsia Initiative is Malaysia. The Initiative is being led by a company known as LeadWomen. LeadWomen’s partnership with U.N. Women has cemented its work toward increasing women’s representation in leadership in Malaysia. As per the pledge, LeadWomen will be running webinars for the 300 Malaysian companies that signed. LeadWomen will also be providing support to these companies in order to make sure that the WEPs are being implemented in all aspects. In Malaysia, over 30% of women in public sector companies are in executive positions.

In Thailand, approximately 24% of CEOs are women, which makes them the third-highest in the world in terms of the percentage of female CEOs. This is comparatively better than both the Asia-Pacific average and global average which stands at 13% and 20% respectively. Thailand also has the world’s highest percentage of female CFOs, which equates to 43%.

Female Inequality Issues in Thailand

Even though Thailand is doing well in terms of female representation in executive roles, that is not the case in government administration, including parliament and judiciary. Only about 24% of executive civil roles are filled by women. In rural areas, female equality is even worse. Many rural women, especially those that belong to ethnic minorities, deal with poverty, exploitation and discrimination, according to the Commission on the Status of Women. Employment of women in these areas is mostly in the informal sector where they hold vulnerable jobs with only a handful in senior positions. Moreover, violence against women is also prevalent in Thailand which hinders opportunities for women’s empowerment.

The Future of Women’s Empowerment in Asia

To combat these challenges and put an end to gender-based discrimination, U.N. Women introduced the Women Empowerment Principles under the WeEmpowerAsia Initiative. The Initiative hopes that by promoting women’s engagement in economic activities in Thailand, it will empower women and put an end to the discriminatory practices that remain in the country.

– Abbas Raza
Photo: Flickr

positive covid-19 storiesThe COVID-19 pandemic has undoubtedly changed the world. While many countries have been devastated, three countries have positive COVID-19 stories: New Zealand, Thailand and Vietnam. Here are their positive COVID-19 stories and the lessons they learned from their experiences.

New Zealand

The pacific island nation of around 5 million people had a couple of different strategies in its response to COVID-19. In particular, unity within New Zealand and the nation’s neighboring countries played a big role in the country’s success against the virus. New Zealand offered to help its neighboring countries to prepare for the pandemic. To do so, the country offered health training and made sure that its island neighbors had supplies to fight the virus. Importantly, this unity in New Zealand bridged across political party lines when needed. This resulted in a massive stimulus package passed just weeks after the country’s first case. The stimulus totaled NZ$12.1 billion, around 4% of the country’s GDP. Included in the stimulus package is support for businesses, support for testing and health services and payments to those who couldn’t work because of the virus.

Caution also plays a big part in New Zealand’s success against the virus. The first case of the virus was detected on 28 Feb. 2020. Even before that, however, the government took measures to limit the possible damage of COVID-19. When New Zealand only had 283 cases, the government ordered all non-essential workers to work from home to limit the virus’s spread.

Moreover, the government came up with a four-level alert system to help people know how the virus is spreading. Level one means the disease is contained in New Zealand and level four means community transmission is happening and the disease is not contained. Given how much time the country has spent in the lower levels, its represents one of many positive COVID-19 stories that the whole world can learn from.

Thailand

Thailand is one of the countries that have positive COVID-19 stories. The Asian country of almost 70 million people was designated a success by the WHO. The economy of Thailand is one that is heavily built on tourism, with one-fifth of GDP coming from the tourist sector. However, since the virus has spread, the government of Thailand has had to make economic sacrifices to protect public health. The country had to close its borders to certain travelers, including many Chinese provinces. In addition, Thailand postponed many sporting events and held them without fans to slow the spread of the virus. In particular, Bangkok was in a partial lockdown with only essential services remaining open. Slowing down activity does hurt the economy, but it eases the blow of the virus.

Thailand has also mobilized more than 1 million health volunteers to help respond to the virus. In addition, the government’s health officials have taken the side of precaution throughout the pandemic. This includes rigorous hygiene and wearing face masks at all times. Moreover, Thai people have generally followed the advice of medical professionals, which has contributed to the Thailand’s COVID-19 success story. The Thai government also has one centralized administration, which helped with communication and organization throughout the pandemic.

Vietnam

Vietnam is also among countries with positive COVID-19 stories. Vietnam’s actions to deal with the virus came early and were aggressive, taking place before the virus even entered the country. This early and decisive action is one of the measures that helped Vietnam early on and controlled the virus’s spread. In early January 2020, Vietnam was already preparing for drastic action before there was a recorded case in the country.

Vietnam enacted travel restrictions, closed schools and enacted a rigorous contact and tracing system, while also canceling public events. Governmental communication was upfront and transparent. Consequently, this helped with public compliance to slow the virus outbreak. Vietnam has been one of the best countries in regard to wearing a face mask, which helps slow the spread of the virus. A coordinated media effort throughout Vietnam has also helped the public and government be on the same page in response to the virus.

Another reason Vietnam has been successful in limiting the spread of COVID-19 is its testing. The country tests everyone in quarantine whether they have symptoms or not. This helps slow the spread of the virus, because not everyone who is infected shows symptoms. As a result, younger people who may be infected but don’t have symptoms don’t infect those who may be at higher risk of death to COVID-19. While there was no nationwide lockdown, Vietnam did impose containment on certain areas to reduce the spread of the virus. In February 2020, when a small handful of cases were in the area of Son Loi, the government sealed off the area to prevent the spread of the virus.

What We Can Learn from These Countries

These three countries show positive COVID-19 stories despite a situation that has turned negative in so many countries. A few similarities have emerged between the countries and their success. One is the unity between government and people, which is important to building communication and trust. When citizens trust their government and can easily access clear guidelines, they are more likely to comply with health measures to reduce the spread of the virus. Another similarity between these countries is that it’s better to be cautious rather than reckless. This helps to slow the spread of the virus and make it easier to track. With all the hardship and destruction brought on by COVID-19, these countries with positive COVID-19 stories show how to keep as many people as safe as possible.

Zachary Laird
Photo: Pexels

ECHOTucked away in North Fort Myers, Fla., just minutes away from a bustling downtown and warm sunny beaches, sits the Educational Concerns for Haiti Organization global farm. ECHO, as it is more commonly known, was founded in the early 1970s primarily to provide solutions directly for Haiti, particularly those that would improve the nation’s agricultural development. By 1981, ECHO began developing agricultural solutions for multiple nations and continues to carry on that mission today as it is working to fight global hunger and poverty. With better agricultural solutions, ECHO is helping farmers across the globe increase their agricultural output and understanding of more sustainable farming practices. This, in turn, helps improve the farmers’ standard of living.

Areas of Impact

Southwest Florida’s unique climate allowed ECHO, in 2001, to develop six different areas of tropical climate zones on the global farm. This allows researchers and farmers to test different growing methods and food production for different nations. Today, the farm includes tropical lowlands, tropical highlands, monsoon, semi-arid, rainforest clearing, community garden and urban garden as its areas of focus. ECHO spreads the technology it has developed through its Regional Impact Centers in Thailand, Tanzania and Burkina Faso, delivering information and improved farming practices to Asia, East Africa and West Africa, respectively.

The Importance of Seeds

Seed development and protection is a primary focus of ECHO. A heavy rain season can harm seeds for future planting and can set farmers back on producing a bountiful crop. Also, without diversifying the types of crops they grow, farmers are at risk of losing food and money without having the right seeds. ECHO in Florida is home to a seed bank that provides up to 300 different types of seeds to farmers around the world. These seeds are adaptable to different climates and terrains and help farmers diversify their crop production, allowing them to grow crops that are best suited for their environment.

Another problem that farmers face is keeping seeds dry and ready for the growing season — a difficult goal to achieve with humid climates and high temperatures. ECHO Regional Impact Center in Thailand is utilizing earthbags in its seed banks, which can keep seeds up to 16.5°C cooler than the surrounding environment. Seed drying cabinets also keep seeds dry by using heat and air circulation to keep seeds in a low humid environment so that they can be stored for a year or more.

Successful Practices

ECHO’s agricultural developments have been successfully used in communities around the world. In Togo, farmers are using resources provided by ECHO’s West Africa Regional Impact Center for the System of Rice Intensification, or SRI. SRI “reduces the need for water by half, requires only 10% of the seeds traditionally needed, and can increase yield by 20-100%.” This leads to farmers earning more than they would by using traditional farming methods. SRI is a practice that initially requires more labor and teaching to fully understand. However, with ECHO’s Regional Impact Centers, the organization is spreading the technology to help fight global hunger and poverty.

ECHO’s vital impact rests on teaching methods that farmers can share with each other. When one farmer has a successful crop, he is more likely to share the new methods he used with other farmers so that they can also have strong crop yields. This provides communities with more food, which helps to fight global hunger, and with more crops to sell, which helps lift farmers out of extreme poverty. By teaching farmers better practices that are sustainable and easily accomplished, ECHO is helping people around the world become more efficient and self-sustaining.

– Julia Canzano
Photo: Pixabay

8 Facts about Education in Thailand
While it has been successful in creating an image as a top tourist destination, Thailand faces numerous challenges. In recent years, Thailand has experienced political instability and demographic shifts, affecting its socio-economic development. A strong education system is critical for Thailand to respond to these challenges. Here are eight facts about education in Thailand.

8 Facts about Education in Thailand

  1. Declining student population: Thailand has one of the world’s most rapidly aging societies, causing a decline in the student population. The combination of this decreasing demand for education and increased competition from international universities are posing threats to the existence of Thai higher education institutions. Some Thai education experts fear that the trends could lead to the closure of up to 75 percent of higher education institutions within the next decade.
  2. Expanding basic education: Every child in Thailand has the right to receive three years of pre-primary schooling and 12 years of free basic education, regardless of their nationality or background. Approximately 95 percent of primary-school-age children attend school, but the number drops to 86 percent when it comes to the secondary school level. The majority of children who do not attend school are from disadvantaged communities, are migrants or have disabilities.
  3. Poor learning outcomes: Despite progress in expanding basic education in Thailand, the learning outcomes have not improved for Thailand. At the end of primary education, 12 percent of children do not achieve a minimum proficiency level in mathematics. Only 50 percent achieve the minimum reading proficiency and 46 percent in minimum mathematics proficiency after completing lower secondary schools. The World Bank estimates that 12 years of basic schooling for a Thai child is only equivalent to 8.6 years. This is a learning gap of 3.8 years due to under-resourced small schools.
  4.  Political repression limits academic freedom: The deep conflicts between Thailand’s traditional political establishment and the rural population majority instigated a long period of political instability in the nation, with frequent military coups in recent years. In the effort to control the chaos, the military government bans political activities and censors the media and free speech. Thai academics also have to work under strict surveillance, constantly afraid of the possibility of political reprisal and arrest.
  5. Shortage of qualified teachers in small rural schools: With falling birth rates and decreasing student populations, the number of small schools increased significantly between 1993 and 2010. These small schools are extremely costly to operate and have a hard time attracting and retaining qualified teachers. Many teachers of these institutions do not have the necessary qualifications, and the majority are inexperienced university graduates. The children receiving schooling from these institutions are often from Thailand’s poorest families and do not receive the quality education that would prepare them for a competitive workforce.
  6. Disparities between students in urban and rural areas: Thailand’s poor rural population and disadvantaged communities have significantly lower enrollment and graduation rates due to the low-performing small schools and a shortage of qualified teachers. The 2012 Programme for International Student Assessment scores revealed that students from schools in big cities made significantly greater improvements than students from small schools. Students studying science in rural areas are behind their peers in urban areas by more than a year of schooling, and more than half of the small rural school students will be functionally illiterate.
  7.  Improved training for teachers: Training used to be centralized with very few urban schools, making it accessible to a selective number of teachers. The Ministry of Education now provides online registration for teacher training courses and aims to offer online training eventually, increasing access for teachers from rural areas. The government also provides $300 worth of credits annually for teachers to register for training courses, and it is working to increase the variety of courses in more places in the country.
  8.  School consolidation plan: Thailand’s Office of Basic Education (OBEC) plans to consolidate half of the small and under-resourced schools with nearby larger schools to provide better learning opportunities for children from the most disadvantaged communities and to solve a teacher shortage. This plan will affect approximately 11,000 small schools if implemented. At least 2,700 small schools considered to be geographically necessary will not be affected and stay open.
These eight facts about education in Thailand show the achievements and challenges of the education system. Despite Thailand’s achievements in expanding access to basic education, the quality of education that the children receive remains a big issue for the nation. Investing in improving the education system is crucial for Thailand to achieve sustainable growth and harness its most valuable and powerful resource: the children.

– Minh-Ha La
Photo: Flickr

Significance of Street Food CultureThailand has refreshing somtam, Mumbai, India has bhel puri and South Africa has a snack of bunny chow. What do these diverse dishes all have in common? They are some of the most notable street foods in their respective countries and vital to the daily lives of citizens, demonstrating the significance of street food culture.

Resourceful but innovative, street foods have a long history in many countries around the world. The foods are reflective of local and traditional cultures. Around 2.5 billion people eat street food around the world. It is one of the few things yet to be significantly touched by capitalist influence.

Perceived Risks

Not everyone thinks so positively about street food and its vendors. Some government officials around the world are concerned about food safety, sanitation problems, traffic congestion and taking up physical space. The greatest fear is of diseases caused by food lowering tourism rates.

Though these risks should not be disregarded, there is much more to street food culture that should be recognized by the greater public. In 2006, the International Labour Office did a thorough report of street food vendors in Bangkok, Thailand by interviewing numerous case studies from mobile to fixed vendors. Specifically, with fixed vendors, the report says: “More than 80 percent of vendors reported that their earnings were adequate,” and “88 percent reported to be satisfied with their occupation.”

The significance of street food culture in preserving global communities is evident in the following areas of cultural empowerment, employment opportunities and accessibility.

Cultural Empowerment

A large part of the significance of street food culture is its ability to create a familial network within specific global communities and enhance levels of inclusivity. The liveliness of street food makes streets vibrant and daily routines colorful. It catches the attention of those from every social class which breaks down barriers.

Additionally, the street food industry protects traditional recipes that run through ancestry lines. Food stalls are often owned and handled by a family. This makes the business an opportunity for multiple generations in the present and the future. Current generations are able to learn about where they have come from and where their country is going, culturally and socially.

Employment and Business Opportunities

Since street food stalls are micro-businesses, it is possible for newcomers to create their own stalls with only a small amount of money. They also have the potential to earn back gains in the long run. Cooking or selling food is commonly the first job for many migrants and women, providing real-life opportunities. Vendors also aid the businesses of small farms and markets by buying ingredients from them. The street food industry has offered new positions for employment. Therefore, it has prevented vulnerable social groups from slipping further into poverty.

A city authority report in Tanzania found that the street vending industry employed more than one million people in 2014. Also, in Hanoi, Vietnam, street vending makes up a six percent share of total employment and an 11 percent share of informal total employment, making the vending sector a significant employer.

Street food is considered part of the informal sector of the economy. However, the industry has developed its own self-sufficient economy without outside assistance. The underestimated sales of street food are contributing to the economy of developing countries. This is another aspect of the significance of street food culture.

Food Accessibility

The significance of street food culture also includes improved access to food across countries, including their poor communities. In the 1990s, the United Nations recognized street food as an overlooked method of distributing food to communities. Street food provides sustenance and nutrition to major groups of the population and helps to keep food security stable.

Since the cooks have low operation and maintenance costs, street foods are low in cost. People with very little to no income depend on street foods every day to support themselves and their families.

Nonprofits like InnoAid are supporting the street vending sector. The organization co-created an educational toolkit for street vendors in India that promotes alignment with the National Act of Urban Street Vendors. It includes training materials on hygiene, collaboration and workspace improvements. Adhering to these aspects of the project will add to its sustainability and benefits for vendors. The project has already helped more than 600 vendors through these entrepreneurial activities and is in the process of implementing a large-scale development project.

With support and increased research on the significance of street food culture, assumptions and overall suspicion of the industry can be reduced. Improving the reputation of street foods could help to preserve culturally significant recipes, provide employment opportunities and supply low-cost food options.

-Melina Benjamin

Photo: Flickr

Countries being helped by the UNDPThe United Nations Development Program (UNDP) is a U.N. network that aims to eliminate poverty, increase resilience in poor communities, improve access to education and develop policies in struggling countries. One of the UNDP’s major projects is the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. This project focuses on 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) including no poverty, zero hunger, quality education, clean water and sanitation and climate action.

The UNDP works with multiple struggling countries around the globe to meet these goals. Out of the 170 countries and territories being aided, below is a list of eight countries being helped by the UNDP.

8 Developing Countries Being Helped by the UNDP

  1. Nigeria: Nigeria is home to the highest number of people in poverty in the world, making it one of the poorest countries being helped by the UNDP. Due to this, the UNDP’s main focus in Nigeria is eradicating poverty. Since a large percentage of the poor population are farmers, the UNDP is working to make agricultural progress in communities and addressing challenges faced in terms of sustainability. In addition, the UNDP is working to create more jobs and improve access to sustainable energy sources.
  2. Afghanistan: A large part of Afghanistan’s population faces issues with the quality of life. The UNDP in Afghanistan aims to fight extreme poverty and inequality for the most vulnerable. Significant progress has already been made in terms of education. In 2001, only 70,000 school-aged children in Afghanistan were attending school. Currently, eight million children are attending school. The UNDP worked with the Ministry of Economy in Afghanistan in 2015 to spread the importance of Sustainable Development Goals for the country.
  3. Nepal: Nepal is one of the poorest countries in Asia. Due in part to the UNDP’s efforts in Nepal, major progress has been made in terms of eliminating poverty. Within four years, the country has reduced the poverty rate from 25.2 percent in 2011 to 21.6 percent in 2015. Specific goals the UNDP has for Nepal include building resilience against natural disasters, improving education access and improving access to basic resources such as electricity and clean water.
  4. Côte d’Ivoire: Through the anti-poverty program that was established by the UNDP, more than a quarter of a million people’s lives have significantly improved in Côte d’Ivoire. Through this initiative, 62 community organizations received monetary donations, project funding and vocational training to help them progress and reach their goals. In terms of agricultural issues, due to this program, fishing equipment has become more easily available and affordable. In addition, crop diversity has increased, providing more income and food options.
  5. Syria: Syria is a war-torn, impoverished country. As a result, Syrian people face issues with access to basic needs. This includes housing, access to necessary services and basic needs for women and the disabled. In 2018, the UNDP introduced the UNDP-Syria Resilience Programme, that focuses on improving the livelihood of such vulnerable groups. Through this project, more than 2.8 million Syrians were able to receive aid and benefits. These interventions have also produced benefits on a larger scale, including the creation of jobs, productive assets distribution and vocational training.
  6. Thailand: A large percentage of Thailand’s population lives in rural areas. Major problems for the rural poor include human rights issues, considerable economic inequality and weak rule of law. In Thailand, the UNDP is supporting and providing aid to ongoing projects and operations dedicated to problems being faced by its citizens. A major program the UNDP is supporting is the Thailand Country Program which focuses on environmental regulation and economic development. The UNDP is also working with the Thai Royal Government.
  7. Bangladesh: One of the biggest problems faced by Bangladesh is natural disaster risk. The UNDP started a project in January 2017 which is an ongoing collaboration with the National Resilience Program, the government, the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) and U.N. Women. It aims to develop strategies to create lasting resilience against unpredictable natural disasters, shocks, and crisis, that strongly impact the poor community. Specific aims of the project include strengthening communities, improving recovery and response to disasters and local disaster management.
  8. The Philippines: Approximately 25 percent of the Philippines lives in poverty. The UNDP’s projects in the Philippines include development planning, policymaking and implementing sustainable practices. One of the main aims of the UNDP is to localize poverty reduction and increase community involvement. The UNDP is also going about development planning in a way that will include increasing the use of natural resources in a sustainable manner while reducing poverty.

– Nupur Vachharajani
Photo: Flickr

ThailandDeath from rabies has decreased significantly in Thailand from almost 200 deaths 10 years ago to only eight in 2015. With the death rate from rabies-related cases decreasing, Thailand is well on its way to reaching its proposed goal of eliminating the disease by the year 2020. Her Royal Highness Princess Chulabhorn Mahidol visited the World Health Organization’s (WHO) headquarters in Geneva this past August advocating for an end to rabies. She has contributed to promoting the mass vaccination and management of dogs and to enhanced awareness of the disease.

Rabies is a fatal but curable disease that targets rural and poor communities, predominantly, in Asia and in Africa. It can be transferrable through bites and scratches from infected animals, most commonly, dogs. Her Royal Highness’ aid in helping people become aware of the disease and how to prevent it is helping Thailand reach its goal to eliminate rabies by 2020, which is in line with the wider international initiative to end human rabies deaths by 2030. 

Eliminating a disease like rabies requires a response from the many pet owners in Thailand. Vaccinations for the disease stop disease transmission at its source, the animal. Thailand actually leads the world in developing and implementing disease control methods such as cost-saving intradermal vaccines which are also dose-saving, meaning low-income pet owners can give fewer doses with the same level of effectiveness. This is especially important when it comes to making these vaccines more widespread in poorer and more rural populations.

Education programs have been created around the world and are being used in Thailand to help communities understand how to avoid being bitten, how to learn animal behavior and what to do when in contact with a rabid animal. Programs teaching the Thai people how to take care of wounds are also being implemented and help in the fight to eliminate rabies.

Increasing mobile units to more rural areas outside of Bangkok that provide care for the people and to bring the necessary care-service to dogs is another step in ending this disease. Post-exposure prophylaxis or, PEP, is brought to these remote areas and helps ensure that at least 70 percent of dogs in the area receive the vaccination. HRH Princess Chulabhorn not only cares to help improve the health of the people but is also concerned with promoting a more humane treatment of dogs and is helping other countries adopt more sustainable and compassionate ways of treating them. She goes on to say that if any other country needs help with the elimination of rabies she is willing to lend a helping hand.

WHO is working closely with Her Royal Highness Princess Chulabhorn to help achieve the goal of eliminating rabies globally by 2030. As for Thailand, with an action plan already in place, it is up to the communities in the country to eliminate rabies by 2020. 

– Lorial Roballo

Photo: Flickr