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One cannot peg conflict in Africa to a sole cause. In fact, a multitude of causes has paved the way for the world to form a generalized opinion of the continent as an area that is inherently dangerous and violent, a faulty but dangerous conclusion that gives cause not to tackle an issue that the nature of the continent itself causes. Although conflict is an inevitable course of human interaction and an undiplomatic resolution to conflicting interests anywhere, such as in Africa, Mexico, Peru and Guatemala, it is unlikely to bring stability to Africa.

Causes of Conflict

Incompetent leadership, corruption, poverty and colonial influence each have their role in the conflict that reverberates across the African continent. European powers’ 19th-century colonialization saw the arbitrary boundary setting that split ethnic groups and placed rival ethnicities within proximity of each other. The Akan-speaking people lived in Ghana and the Ivory Coast. Embezzled funds by leaders play a significant hand in the conflict in Africa by petrifying efforts towards political integration and socioeconomic stability, compelling enough of an issue that the Second Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the Union adopted the “Africa Convention on Preventing and Combatting Corruption” in 2003. Weakness, corruption and lack of sufficient patriotism characterize leadership in much of Africa, resulting in civil wars in African countries such as, but not limited to, Sudan, Algeria and Liberia.

Poverty’s Role in Conflict

Desertification in Africa speaks of its harsh environment and plays no small role in poverty and has caused notable famines in countries like Ethiopia and Mali, bringing the number of people living in extreme poverty up from 217 million to more than 300 million people between the years of 1987 and 1998. Poverty is a cause of conflict. Conflict in Africa, and anywhere, stalls socioeconomic development and ensures that poverty statistics improve only marginally if at all. Conflict brings down the physical infrastructure of an affected area and likewise destroys the social fabric that takes its forms in loyalty, patriotism and mutual relations. The world has seen time and time again the fruitful reconstruction of an area that war plagued, with the condition that those reconstructing come to a common aim. These conflicts also raise unemployment levels due to a lack of education and economic empowerment.

The Challenges of the Fertility Rate in Africa

A total fertility rate of 4.8 births per woman complicates poverty reduction efforts by complicating a demographic shift that can lead to fewer youths, which means more investment per youth for the development and fulfillment of economic potential. It also offsets poverty reduction progress by increasing the number of people being born into poverty. For example, extreme poverty decreased considerably between 1990 and 2015 inclusive, yet the number of poor people increased to 413 million people from 278 million people.

Solutions to Conflict in Africa

Finding solutions to conflict in Africa is pressing, but poverty eradication and better leadership should be a part of them. A common denominator in developed countries and fueling conflict in Africa is economic and political inclusivity, something lost on developing countries that tend to rule more authoritatively, benefitting those near them at the expense of the rest. Donald Duke, who was a former governor of Cross River State in Nigeria likened the leadership dynamic in Nigeria to that of a pilot who flies a plane but has never been to pilot school. Duke stated that “when the plane crashes, everyone blames the pilot.” Duke also remarked that the question is where are Africa’s leadership “flying schools?”

The disconnect between leaders and the populace is an additional factor, and the age is a subfactor with most African leaders being 55 years of age at minimum, prompting calls for youth inclusion, championed by programs such as the United Nations Population Fund Global Youth Advisory Panel and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, although this only scratches the surface when speaking about total youth involvement.

Youth leadership would benefit Africa greatly, which would require courage on the end of the youth, and understanding and support from older leaders. Youth-led movements such as Y’en a Marre and Balai Citoyen in Senegal and Burkina Faso respectively speak of the youth capacity to instate programs and policy, even at ground level.

– Mohamed Makalou
Photo: Flickr

HIV and AIDS in Kyrgyzstan
Human rights groups and legal organizations are working to protect the rights of Kyrgyz living with HIV and AIDs. As it currently stands, in a country already plagued with poverty and inequality, those with HIV and AIDs in Kyrgyzstan experience discrimination and violence, and have inadequate access to state services. Organizations aim to change this.

Kyrgyzstan’s HIV and AIDs Epidemic

Beginning in 1996, but growing immensely in 2001, HIV and AIDs in Kyrgyzstan rapidly spread throughout the nation. The virus was especially prevalent among the impoverished, which at the time, around 2003, affected 68% of the population. Fueled by poverty and unemployment, prostitution and injected drug use promoted the spread of HIV and AIDs.

Despite all the aid Kyrgyzstan received during the HIV/AIDs epidemic, such as when the World Health Organization (WHO) provided affordable antiretroviral drugs to the country, the government did not handle the overall HIV/AIDs crisis well. For instance, the government failed to adhere to a 2005 law passed per “international norms of eligibility” guaranteeing “social protection for people living with HIV/AIDs and social security assurance” for citizens living with HIV and AIDs in Kyrgyzstan. Instead, these people live in constant fear of losing their homes and jobs, face deportation and illegal detention as well as violence and stigma simply because of their HIV/AIDs affliction. These people need help in the form of improved access to treatment and equality.

Besides the discrimination that Kyrgyz with HIV and AIDs endure, the government did not take advantage of the WHO’s support with care protocols and control and prevention measures. The government also mismanaged the millions of U.S. dollars received from the Global Fund to Fight AIDs, Tuberculosis and Malaria, the United States Agency for International Development, the United Kingdom Department for International Development and the World Bank. This is evident in the rising number of children and adults living with HIV, with less than 500 people in Kyrgyzstan living with HIV in 2003 in comparison to 9,200 as of 2020.

Taking Action

Adilet, “the largest human rights and legal services organization in Kyrgyzstan,” and an NGO called The Public Foundation “Positive Dialogue,” are doing a lot to help people living with HIV and AIDs in Kyrgyzstan. The organizations protect their rights and provide them with legal services for free.

For example, Adilet lawyers and activists convinced the country’s Constitutional Court to allow people with HIV to adopt children and become parents. Additionally, in July 2021, they won a case for a child infected with HIV in a Kyrgystan medical institution in the mid to late 2000s, getting the child more than $20,000 in compensation.

The 10-10-10 Targets

To make further progress in the HIV/AIDs arena and to create a more “enabling environment for ending AIDs,” global organizations have presented the 10-10-10 targets:

  • “less than 10% of countries have punitive legal and policy conditions that prohibit or restrict access to services.”
  • “less than 10% of key populations and people living with HIV face discrimination and stigma.”
  • “less than 10% of women, girls, people living with HIV and key populations face violence and gender inequality.”

Organizations are hoping to reach these targets by 2025. Hopefully, with the help of groups like Adilet, Kyrgyz affected by HIV/AIDs can look to a brighter future.

– Jared Faircloth
Photo: Unsplash

Vector-borne diseasesDisease and poverty are two deeply interconnected issues affecting many countries across the world, particularly those in Africa. Among the most pressing diseases are those that are vector-borne, (illnesses caused by pathogens and parasites in the human population) such as malaria and dengue fever. Unfortunately, these diseases foster ideal conditions for poverty, given their effects on the working population. Moreover, poverty also creates conditions that foster vector-borne diseases, such as underdeveloped healthcare, a lack of information and poor living conditions.

About Vector-Borne Diseases in Africa

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), malaria is the most deadly vector-borne disease. It leads to approximately 1.2 million deaths annually. A 2017 report from the WHO shows that 90% of the roughly 219 million global malaria cases are found in Africa. Dengue fever is also a particularly concerning vector-borne disease. As of May 2021, dengue is endemic in more than 100 countries. Dengue fever can develop into a lethal form of the illness, called severe dengue.

Impact on Poverty

In order to eradicate poverty, there must be a working population that can sustain itself. With the devastating symptoms of diseases like malaria and dengue, many are forced out of work, unable to sustain themselves. According to a 2019 study in BMC’s Malaria Journal on a farm in Zimbabwe, absenteeism among those affected by malaria was between 1.4 to 4.1 business days during the 5 month study. This is especially concerning given that in 2019, 15 countries in both Sub-Saharan Africa and India carried 80% of the world’s malaria burden. This means that in African countries where malaria is prevalent, millions of workers are unable to sustain themselves as they fight for their lives.

Current Solutions

Many non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are aiming to combat vector-borne diseases on both domestic and global scales. Initiatives by the CDC and WHO are invaluable ways to mitigate this health crisis. Even with this, one of the most influential solutions is foreign aid. As one of the most powerful and influential countries in the world, the U.S. can distinctly impact the global disease burden.

Malaria is one of the biggest health priorities of USAID, with funding going toward research and the development of vaccines and insecticide tools. USAID also collaborates with other groups and organizations, like the RBM Partnership to End Malaria and The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. There is also the U.S. President’s Malaria Initiative, which is led by USAID and includes 27 different programs in Africa and Asia aimed toward building treatment capacity for malaria and other vector-borne diseases.

Aid Looking Forward

Despite this funding into research, African countries desperately need more aid. As of 2019, nearly 95% of malaria deaths were in Africa. It is evident that current aid is useful, yet the gravity of the current disease burden requires further U.S. commitment. Research funding, treatment capacity building and development in African countries are crucial initiatives. Organizations like USAID are important vessels to create necessary change.

While initiatives solely targeted toward poverty reduction are necessary, they cannot completely eradicate poverty. This is largely because poverty is such a multifaceted issue.

As vector-borne diseases create conditions for poverty, poverty exacerbates vector-borne diseases. Therefore, they must both be approached in tandem, with further aid and support from the United States.

– Samuel Weinmann
Photo: Unsplash