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Poverty in the Maldives
People might know the Maldives for its clean blue waters, luxurious resorts and the millions of tourists that visit the archipelago but may not know that the small island nation continues to tussle for its economy and against poverty. Poverty in the Maldives dates back to the early 1980s when it became part of a list of the 20 poorest countries in the world. The 2004 tsunami further weakened the economy of the island nation, which consists of 1,192 tropical islands. A global financial crisis emerged in 2008, putting the country in a vulnerable position.

Current Scenario

Statistics from the Asian Development Bank state that the GDP in the Maldives rose to $4.51 billion in 2018 from a mere $42.46 million in 1979. Wealth inequality does not persist in the Maldives and poverty rates vary across geographic locations. As the World Bank expected, the GDP growth slowed down from 6.7 percent in 2018 to 5.2 percent in 2019. Poverty in the Maldives is no longer a crisis, but the risks remain high.

Sustainable Development Goals

The country has been victorious in achieving a few of its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Observations have determined that the annual rise in GDP is around 5 percent. The tourism industry, fisheries and other sources have played a significant role in strengthening the economy and employment rate. Half of the economy of the island nation comes from tourism and another 12 percent comes from the fisheries across the islands.

There might be people with very low incomes but there are no urban beggars or slum dwellers, even with an increase in the rural-urban migration rates. Recently, literacy rates in the Maldives have reached around 100 percent. There are no major causes of diseases and infections in the Maldives. The starvation rate is zero as well.

Unemployment

In 2018, the unemployment rate was 6.1 percent, with youth unemployment making up 15.3 percent. More than half of the working strata of people are employees in the tourism sector or fisheries, which often makes them fall sick. About 8.2 percent of the total population falls below the national poverty line.

Life Span

The life spans of citizens have increased considerably thanks to the rapid and drastic expansion in economy and infrastructure. According to the World Bank, the Maldives’ life expectancy in 2018 reached 77.2 years. Meanwhile, life expectancy was only 69.2 years in the year 2000. The increase in life expectancy has been considerable. However, there is a certain limitation to that as well since the island nation has limited infrastructure and resources.

Although the GDP increases every year, this pattern in economic growth is quite irregular. New establishments in the tourism industry and infrastructure should bring the GDP to 5.5 percent in 2020.

There is no denying that the country has made drastic improvements to help the situation of poverty in the Maldives. However, the situation continues to be fragile and vulnerable. If the Maldives continues to grow its tourism industry and infrastructure, it should be able to continue to reduce poverty in the future.

Astha Mamtani
Photo: Flickr

Sanitation in Zimbabwe
Zimbabwe is a landlocked country in southern Africa that lies between the Limpopo and Zambezi Rivers with a population of 14.86 million. In the 20th century, Zimbabwe’s sanitation infrastructure was quite stable, but due to economic collapse resulting from the loss of public sector and donor investments in the early 2000s, the country’s sanitation development came to a halt and it began to degrade. Thousands of people living in Zimbabwe’s urban and rural areas lost access to not only clean drinking water, but also proper sanitation. Zimbabwe’s constitution states that every person has the right to “safe, clean, and potable water,” but the country still has a lot of work to do to make that statement come true. Here are 10 facts about sanitation in Zimbabwe.

10 Facts About Sanitation in Zimbabwe

  1. Water coverage has been increasing since Zimbabwe’s independence in 1980. Water coverage has increased from 32 percent to 56 percent in the 20 years after the nation gained independence. This increase in coverage has also directly improved overall sanitation access, from 28 percent to 56 percent. Two main elements propelled the growth of the country’s sanitation infrastructure: interest in urban and commercial farming and implementation of innovative technologies by the Integrated Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Program (IRWSSP). Both endeavors helped drive urban sanitation coverage to 90 percent up until the late 1990s when the economic crisis caused the coverage to decline.
  2. The rural sanitation infrastructure is still vastly underdeveloped. When comparing the rural system to the urban infrastructure of sanitation in Zimbabwe, flushing toilets, running water and access to clean drinking water is uncommon in rural areas. The World Health Organization (WHO) shows that 66 percent of the population in more affluent areas of Zimbabwe has access to basic sanitation, while only 13 percent of the population in poor areas has basic sanitation access. Further, while Zimbabwe’s population does receive a small number of subsidies from the government to improve sanitation, 80 percent goes to the urban, more wealthy areas.
  3. Studies prove sanitation in Zimbabwe’s rural areas is significantly worse. According to a 2017 report by the Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency (ZIMSTAT), 91.5 percent of urban households have properly flushing toilets, while just 36.8 percent of households in rural areas are without toilets. These rural areas do not have reliable access to water pipelines, and therefore, most of the population relies on open defecation. A Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey study estimated that 42 percent of the rural population in Zimbabwe still uses open defecation. In order to bring the rural areas up to the standards of the urban areas, the government would need to spend $90 million per year on sanitation hardware.
  4. In 2010, the Zimbabwe National Action Committee created its Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) Sector. WASH has helped to combine Zimbabwe’s urban and rural sanitization efforts to gain a more organized action plan on how to improve sanitation, restore leadership throughout urban and rural areas, institutionalize government responsibilities and support sector development. So far, WASH has aided in the doubling of water production in 14 small towns, worked with UNICEF to drill boreholes, creating access to more water. The WASH program has also worked on the Participatory Health and Hygiene Education (PHHE) initiative, supporting 432 sanitation action groups and 388 health clubs.
  5. Sanitation in Zimbabwe currently aims to align with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The government recently approved a gender-sensitive Sanitation and Hygiene Policy that aims to ensure Zimbabwe is defecation free by 2030. To achieve this goal, the Sanitation Focused on Participatory Health and Hygiene Education (SafPHHE) has been implemented throughout 45 rural districts in Zimbabwe. SafPHHE will produce a framework to improve sustainable and reliable sanitation services. By spreading awareness of good hygiene behavior and increasing sanitation coverage, open defecation rates should reduce in accordance with the SDGs.
  6. Australian aid has been supporting efforts to improve sanitation in Zimbabwe. CARE, an Australian-based international aid organization, works around the world but is also helping communities in Zimbabwe to build toilets and hand-washing facilities. About 6,671 students now have access to 2,870 new toilets with handwashing facilities in schools and villages in Zimbabwe.
  7. Feminine hygiene and sanitation in Zimbabwe are sub-par. Many girls and women in Zimbabwe, ages 15 to 29 years old, do not have access to proper sanitary wear, or Menstrual Hygiene Management (MHM). This lack of feminine hygiene poses health risks not only to women but also to their communities. Girls miss four to five days of school because of menstrual cycles, according to CARE. According to an article published by Jamba, MHM is clouded in cultural taboos, constraints and unhygienic practices that further cause health-related dangers for women and girls. 
  8. Households in Zimbabwe rely on donor-drilled boreholes for the water supply. While these boreholes do supply water, they are typically highly unsanitary. Specifically, cholera broke out in 2018, killing 30 people. Further, people sometimes use the boreholes as extortion for financial gain, or otherwise access the water.
  9. Local and national corruption further exacerbate the issue of sanitation in Zimbabwe. In the capital city of Harare, the water management system charges residents for water even though the water does not run properly and is contaminated. Further, the government admits that it does not use the revenue to maintain and improve the quality of the water. The Export-Import Bank of China provided Zimbabwe’s government a $144 million loan with no results in sanitation improvements. According to the Human Rights Watch, solutions include the government using a sliding-scale for the residents’ water supply cost and investing in sanitation and water strategies, such as building toilets, pit latrines and uncontaminated boreholes.
  10. In 2014, Zimbabwe’s government made a public pledge to create and sustain a sanitation and hygiene policy. The government anticipates improvements aligned with the SDGs by keeping rural water supply functioning long-term, improving the reliability of the urban water supply, rehabilitating public latrines, emptying the latrines when they are full and reusing wastewater. It was the plan to achieve the goals by 2015, but with clear corruption and without proper funding, it may take some time for Zimbabwe to reach its goals.

Zimbabwe has an intense need for sanitation improvements in both urban and rural areas of the country. These 10 facts outline the current reality of sanitation in Zimbabwe. In aiming to achieve the SDGs and more, the country can change in a way to allow people to lead healthy and safe lives.

– Marlee Septak
Photo: Unsplash

Sanitation In Africa
Sub-Saharan Africa has 52 countries, all of which have large swaths of their population’s using toilets that encourage disease, or worse, relying on open defecation as the only way to dispose of waste. With 1.094 billion people on the continent, there is plenty of room for improvement. Here are 10 facts about sanitation in Africa.

10 Facts About Sanitation in Africa

  1. Socioeconomic Status: sub-Saharan Africa’s sanitation issues correlate with an individual’s socioeconomic status. Essentially, the poorest individuals are 18 times more likely to practice open defecation, which amounted to over 220 million people in 2015.
  2. Improved Sanitation in Uganda: In Uganda, 45 percent of the rural population and 27 percent of the urban population need to walk over 1 km to access an improved sanitation facility. Improved sanitation facilities include “flush or pour-flush to a piped sewer system, septic tank, pit latrine; ventilated improved pit (VIP) latrine, pit latrine with slab, [or] composting toilet.”
  3. The Millenium Development Goal (MDG) for Sanitation: Western Africa, Eastern Africa, Southern Africa and Central Africa were not on track to meet the Millennium Development Goal for sanitation in 2008. In fact, out of 52 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, only one allocated 0.5 percent of its GDP to sanitation measures. Budgets have 0.5 percent as the minimum for sanitation. Goal 7 of the Millennium Development Goals was to ensure environmental sustainability, and that included climate change aspects in conjunction with improved drinking water access and improved sanitation access. When looking at the sustainable development goals, out of the 52 counties, the vast majority are reaching stagnation. Reaching goal 6, which is for clean water and sanitation, will require internal mobilization and increased funding from external sources to meet the 2030 deadline.
  4. Return on Sanitation: When governments allocate funding for improved sanitation options, it tends to be lower than necessary because they do not consider it an economic venture that will have a monetary return. This is especially the case for developing countries because they often want as much money as possible for investments to receive large returns and get the most value from their dollars. The World Health Organization estimates that the return on sanitation spending is 550 percent or in other words, $5.50 for every $1 that a government invests in improved sanitation methods in Africa.
  5. The Loowatt Toilet: Loowatt provides a toilet made of horse dung that is perfect for use in developing countries. It is a waterless system, which is fantastic for drought-stricken countries and regions. Additionally, it turns human waste into energy biofuel at a reliable rate if people use it regularly. The best part is that it has a low cost of 12 Euros as a deposit and a 3 Euro monthly service fee. In the country of Madagascar, it went beyond proof of concept, and the company was maintaining over 100 toilets that serviced over 800 people in 2017. Since then, over 100,000 customers in both the U.K. and Madagascar have used Loowatt toilets.
  6. South Africa: South Africa determined that access to water is a right in 2002 and it set the supply to 25 l/c/d or 6 kiloliters per connection a month. However, South Africa has just recently made the transition from supply to sanitation access. For both rural and urban sanitation, over 50 percent of the annual and per capita investment requirements are unavailable due to a lack of ability to provide the full $1.218 billion the country requires.
  7. Ghana and Open Defecation: No district in Ghana has a 0 percent open defecation status, and three out of 10 rural households practiced open defecation. Over 81 percent of the Ghanaian population lack access to improved sanitation. Organizations are trying to bridge the gap between the people who cannot pay upfront to build the improved sanitation facilities by providing WaterCredit. WaterCredit is essentially a way for the poor to get water and sanitation loans. Currently, Water.org has facilitated $2.4 million through its partners in microloans for water and sanitation purposes in Ghana.
  8. Peepoo: With the creation of the Peepoo, those with communicable toilets can access safe sanitation and prevent others from getting the disease they may be infected with. Peepoo is a biodegradable bag that sanitizes human feces and allows it to become fertilizer in about a month. It attacks the problem of sanitization at the source by giving an alternative to open defecation that does not require a sizable investment to build a toilet. Peepoo sales have mainly occurred in Kenya, where the company continues to do research and build the foundation for easier use. A study that Peepoo conducted with a grant examined 37 schools with about 6,500 students to determine the effectiveness of Peepoo sanitation and deworming, both independently and combined. The results in 2016 included improved attendance and overall improved health due to the reduction in diarrheal diseases in the school children.
  9. Open Defecation in Urban Areas: The number of those practicing open defecation is increasing in urban areas due to the rapid size increase of the overall area, without proper permits for building or a focus on providing latrines and washrooms. Additionally, including cost as a factor, urban slums are sometimes cheap and an affordable option for the poorest individuals. In particular, open defecation in the Kampala Slum is at about 28 percent while estimates determine that 1 percent of Uganda’s urban population openly defecates.
  10. The Leave No One Behind Pledge: The Sustainable Development Goals emerged to replace the Millennium Development Goals, and goal 6 of providing clean water and sanitation aims to “Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.” These goals also focus on helping those furthest behind first through the Leave No One Behind pledge. The pledge itself is a way to ensure that those facing the worst of poverty end up at the forefront of progress by confronting the inequalities as a method of reducing the number of individuals living in extreme poverty. This pledge is an overarching goal for all of the sustainable development goals and encompasses the fact that those worst off should be a primary focus in order to achieve the goal at hand. Even with this pledge, it is likely that about 60 percent of the countries will not reach the target of full implementation by 2030. However, Uganda is a leading example of the potential countries that may achieve goal 6, thanks to its national development plan which includes policy in line with the sustainable development goals but with adaptations to reflect cultural and national contexts.

Sanitation in Africa, specifically Sub-Saharan Africa, is still vastly below the goals, although the continent is making progress. With the continuing improvements and government’s investments into sanitation, African nations could see increased levels of productivity and return on their investments. Northern Africa had met the Millennium Development Goals and continues to increase its standard of sanitation. As the world progresses towards 2030, it can expect to see dramatic sanitation improvements after the completion of thorough research regarding the investments and implementation of sanitation techniques.

– Cassiday Moriarity
Photo: Pixabay

10 Disturbing Facts about Hunger
Hunger is not simply a lack of food. It is also the sustained physiological and psychological changes in a human body from the persistent unavailability of nutritious meals at least three times a day. Achieving zero hunger across the world by 2030 is the second of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals. Here are 10 disturbing facts about hunger.

10 Disturbing Facts about Hunger

  1. One in nine people around the world goes to sleep hungry every night. At present, 25,000 people die of hunger each day which translates to around 9 million deaths annually. This is equivalent to the number of people living in the state of Virginia. Most of these deaths are preventable.
  2. The number of people suffering from acute hunger rose from 80 million in 2016 to 120 million in 2018. The highest rates of hunger are in Africa and South Asia. Among the 119 countries that the Global Hunger Index scores, the Central African Republic ranks last with a GHI score of 53.7, which is alarming. The global average GHI is 20.9.
  3. Hunger is gender-biased in many food-insecure households. Most of this has to do with the fact that many societies around the world encourage paternalism. In such households, sons and other male members are better fed than daughters and other female members. This bias in food insecurity between both sexes most prominently exists in Africa, followed by Latin America and Asia.
  4. When listing 10 disturbing facts about hunger, it is important to discuss food waste. Humans waste roughly one-third of the total food the world produces. North America and Oceania together waste the highest amount of food. Estimates show that food wasted in rich countries is equal to the total food that sub-Saharan Africa produces. The amount of food wasted in a year can feed 2 billion people for a year. Hence, the problem of hunger is not due to inadequate food production but rather the inefficient distribution of food to the world’s population.
  5. Poverty is the biggest cause of hunger. Other causes of hunger include war and conflict, political instability, poor infrastructure and food policies, population increases, rising urbanization, unstable economic conditions and climate change.
  6. Changing weather patterns are destroying agricultural land through acidification, desertification, flooding and rising sea-levels. Climate change reduces the crop yield due to erratic rain and drought seasons, which cause an increase in crop diseases and extreme heat. Global warming and rising levels of carbon dioxide also reduce the nutritional quality of food, meaning that people have to eat more to gain optimum levels of nutrition.
  7. Hunger forces people (especially in countries like Haiti and Cameroon) to eat mud. Mud cakes are a delicacy for the poorest earthquake survivors of Haiti. People mix mud, salt and margarine together and dry it in the sun. It is the cheapest way to assuage hunger in children and pregnant women who also believe it to be a source of calcium to help their growing fetus. Experts have determined that this is not true and that mud cakes have no nutritional value.
  8. Poor health and hunger form a vicious cycle. People suffering from chronic hunger also suffer from debilitating health conditions, including severe malnutrition and anemia, lowered immunity causing recurring infections and chronic health conditions such as heart diseases and diabetes. People who cannot afford food are also unlikely to access any health services. Their circumstances render them unable to go out and work leading to continuous poverty, bad health and hunger situations.
  9. Hunger damages the health of children irreversibly. Children born to undernourished mothers have lower rates of survival beyond 5 years of age. Data from UNICEF attributes half of all under-5 deaths to malnutrition which means that around 3 million children die of malnutrition every year. Such kids lose the opportunity to go to school. Children suffering from malnourishment lose up to 160 days of school. Some 66 million children in primary schools go to school hungry.
  10. Unfortunately, 80 percent of the families that face hunger are farmers. This is because although these people produce food for the world, most of the time they do not own the land they work on. Those who do own land are often not able to earn profits from their yield due to high input costs such as fertilizers, seeds and machines. These farmers also often do not have the means to store and transport their products.

These 10 disturbing facts about hunger may paint a grim picture of the world but all is not lost. Countries can fight hunger by adopting climate-smart agricultural practices, empowering women, donating food through food banks and creating an efficient food distribution network. With consistent political will, the zero hunger goal of the United Nations is achievable.

Navjot Buttar
Photo: Flickr

The World Economic Forum and Global Poverty
In the realm of international relations, there are countless organizations that have complex acronyms and unclear operations. The biggest and best-known organizations are the International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank, World Trade Organization (WTO) and Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) which often obfuscate lesser-known organizations, such as the World Economic Forum. The World Economic Forum and global poverty link which this article will explore while addressing the organization’s purpose.

What is The World Economic Forum?

The World Economic Forum is an international organization that emerged in 1971, congregating leaders in politics, business, culture and society to address issues and facilitate solutions on a global, regional and industrial scale. The pinnacle of the organization occurs every January in the form of an annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland at the organization’s headquarters. Global elites gather at the Swiss ski resort and discuss all manner of topics, ranging from the latest in technology and innovation to critical issues like rising global income inequality and global poverty generally.

Despite its standing as an independent nonprofit, people often confuse or associate the World Economic Forum with the United Nations, partially due to its focus on the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). These ambitious objectives range from broad, borderline idealistic ones such as No Poverty and End Hunger to Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure and Reduced Inequalities.

What Does The World Economic Forum Do?

In places like the World Economic Forum, world leaders and officials access the progress of the SDGs and evaluate what their statuses are and what they need for the future. For instance, a September 2018 article emphasized the success of the World Economic Forum’s initiative in reducing poverty, reducing the total amount of people living on less than $1.90 a day to 655 million people, or about 9 percent of the world’s population. The article cautions against too much hope, however, forecasting that the goal of ending poverty by 2030 will fall 480 million people short, or about 6 percent of the population. These figures come from a World Bank report portioning some of the blame on many countries failing to meet a U.N. target of 0.7 percent of economic output on aid, a sentiment that the London-based Overseas Development Institute supports.

How does the World Economic Forum intend to combat this shortcoming? In an October 2019 announcement, the forum proclaimed a theme for the January 21-24, 2020 meeting: Stakeholders in a Cohesive and Sustainable World. Reinforcing its commitment to the SDGs and the Paris agreement of 2015, participants will solidify a meaning to ‘stakeholder capitalism,’ a principle that companies should meet the needs and requirements of all of its stakeholders, including the general public. The World Economic Forum will emphasize six areas including Ecology, Economy, Technology, Society, Geopolitics and Industry, in an application of this philosophy. All of this will align with the forthcoming Davos Manifesto 2020, mirroring the Davos Manifesto of 1973, which founder and Chairman Klaus Schwab believes will “reimagine the purpose and scorecards for governments and businesses.”

Conclusion

Some criticize the World Economic Forum for being an aloof, exclusive assortment of billionaires and powerful people, exactly the kind of people global inequality directly benefited. Participants at Davos do seem to be aware of this, identifying rising inequality, protectionism and nationalism as byproducts of the globalization that they supported. Klaus Schwab, The World Economic Forum’s founder, realizes that globalization created many winners, himself included, but that the losers now need recognition and assistance. It can be difficult to attribute any direct action to the World Economic Forum, as its participants act mostly independently of it, though informed by discussions and insights gained at it. However, given the overall rhetoric and specific support of the Paris Agreement and Sustainable Development Goals, the World Economic Forum and global poverty clearly intertwine as the organization positions itself as a beneficial actor for the entire globe.

– Alex Meyers
Photo: Flickr