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Cervical Cancer in Thailand
Cervical cancer is one of the greatest threats to women’s lives globally. With an estimated 570,000 new cases in 2018, it ranks as the fourth most frequent cancer in women. In the South-East Asia region, it is the third most common type of cancer. Last year, there were an estimated 158,000 new cases and 95,766 cervical cancer-related deaths in the region alone. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has urged the countries in this region to speed up their efforts to eliminate cervical cancer by 2030. Thailand, one of the countries in the South-East Asia region, has made great strides towards eliminating the disease in the past two decades. Here are seven facts about cervical cancer in Thailand.

7 Facts About Cervical Cancer

  1. Twenty years ago, cervical cancer was the most common cancer for women in Thailand. Currently, it is the second most frequent cancer among women in Thailand behind only breast cancer. It is estimated that every year 8,622 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer in Thailand and that 5,015 die from the disease.
  2. According to amfAR, the human papillomavirus (HPV) causes nearly all cervical cancer cases. This makes HPV the leading cause of cervical cancer among women in Thailand. Other factors that could cause cervical cancer are smoking, HIV and hormonal contraceptive use.
  3. In the last decade, cervical cancer in Thailand has seen the largest decline in incidence compared to the other four leading causes of cancer deaths for women. One can largely attribute this to the Safety, Acceptability, Feasibility and program implementation Effort (SAFE) which Thailand adopted in 2000.
  4. The SAFE approach is a single-visit method in which patients receive screening for cervical cancer and obtain treatment if necessary. This makes it cheaper than other screening methods since it does not require advanced equipment. The ease of implementation has seen 32 Thai provinces take up the SAFE approach.
  5. One reason the SAFE method yielded such great results was that nurses in the country were tasked with doing cryotherapy. This was important because, at the time, the ratio of doctors to patients was low at about one doctor per 60,000 people. As of 2018, that ratio had improved to one doctor per 2,000 people.
  6. In June 2018, the U.N. awarded Thailand with the UN Public Service Award for its initiative to provide cervical cancer treatment to women in rural areas.
  7. Another measure taken to prevent cervical cancer in Thailand is the provision of the HPV vaccine to girls aged between 10 and 13 years. Thailand is one of four countries in the South-East Asia region to have introduced the HPV vaccine nationally.

It is quite possible that Thailand will meet the WHO’s request to eliminate cervical cancer by 2030. The country is a good example to other low and middle-income countries on how they can deal with the disease.

– Sophia Wanyonyi
Photo: Pixabay

Poverty Level
The word poverty is common in discussions of politics, global issues, health and education around the world. Although many organizations are working to put an end to poverty, the general public often has many questions surrounding this prevalent topic. What does it mean to be in poverty and what is the poverty level?

The most recent poverty level set in 2015 stated that an adult making less than $1.90 a day is in poverty. People could questions surrounding the poverty level from a variety of perspectives. Politicians often use it around the globe to allot aid and develop economic policy, but mathematicians can also use it to compare the rates of poverty among countries and solution-oriented NGOs can use it to understand the root causes of poverty. In today’s era, one hefty debate revolves around the impacts of globalization on poverty-ridden countries. This is just one context in which the poverty level is a useful tool in decision making and analysis.

Who Determines the Poverty Level?

The World Bank sets the international poverty line and it fluctuates over time based on how the cost of living changes around the world. To calculate a shared poverty level internationally, the World Bank takes the poverty threshold from each country and converts it into a common currency. It does this using Purchasing Power Parity (PPP), which creates equilibrium among currencies so that the same basket of goods in two different countries will receive the same pricing in each country. PPP is an economic theory that allows the World Bank to put each country’s income and consumption data in globally-comparable terms to ensure that the same quantity of goods and services receive equitable pricing across countries.

Why is it Important to Measure Poverty Levels?

Developed nations, such as the U.K., debate the costs of living and raises in income. In low-income countries, analyzing poverty levels is important for targeting development initiatives and evaluating economic progress over time. For instance, The Rural Support Programmes in Pakistan work to identify needs in rural communities and improve the delivery of basic goods and services in these areas. These programs use poverty levels to evaluate their work and support development initiatives in the area.

Who Lives in Poverty?

The U.N. estimates more than 700 million people live in extreme poverty around the world, struggling to fulfill the basic necessities of life. About 70 percent of these people live in Southern Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, however, these issues affect developed countries as well. Estimates determine that there are 30 million children growing up near or below the poverty line in the world’s richest countries.

What are the Causes of Poverty?

The causes of poverty are diverse and far-reaching, but they often include unemployment, social exclusion, conflict, natural disasters, disease and other phenomena that prevent them from accessing the resources they need to be productive and make a living.

With an estimated four million people living in extreme poverty, the Democratic Republic of the Congo currently has one of the highest poverty rates in the world. Although the country has access to many natural resources, political unrest has plagued it in recent years. The Democratic Republic of Congo has suffered through continual corruption of political officials that has stifled development so that it remains nearly impossible to easily access or extract any of the country’s natural resources. Therefore, it remains difficult to make a living, or even have access to the basic necessities of food and water.

Despite the dismal numbers, some organizations are making huge strides in overcoming global poverty. Organizations like Oxfam International have made it their objective to reduce worldwide poverty. Working in over 90 countries and directly reaching millions of people each year, Oxfam primarily tackles issues of inequality and discrimination. It also provides direct aid in times of crisis and educates the world’s poor in an effort to impact the root causes of poverty at the political level.

Groups like Oxfam often utilize the international poverty level to assess and direct their efforts. Unfortunately, there is no magic solution to such a widespread problem. In order to solve the issue, though, everyone must first understand its causes. By implementing the poverty level system, the world should be on the right track to eradicate extreme poverty.

– GiGi Hogan
Photo: Flickr

Venezuelans Fleeing
As the beneficiary of the world’s largest oil reserves, Venezuela was once the wealthiest nation in Latin America. However, in 2014, the economy began to collapse. The Bolivar, its currency, has gone into free fall, leaving millions unable to afford even the most basic necessities. According to Bloomberg’s Café con leche index, a cup of coffee today costs the same as 1,800 cups in January 2018. As food and health care become more difficult to come by, many Venezuelans are faced with the decision of struggling to get by or fleeing the country.

Why Flee?

Every day, thousands of Venezuelans leave their country in search of safety and stability, many of them arriving in Colombia. The International Rescue Committee has been supporting families in need in Cúcuta, a border city, since April 2018.

Venezuela is millions in debt while the only commodity that the country relies on is oil. Unfortunately, the value of oil has plummeted. In 2014, the price of oil was about $100 a barrel. Then several countries started to pump too much oil as new drilling technology could dredge up what was previously inaccessible, but businesses globally were not buying more gasoline. Too much oil caused the global price to drop to $26 in 2016. Today the price hovers around $50, which means that Venezuela’s income has been cut in half.

At the same time, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s hostility towards foreign business has created a corporate exodus. Companies such as United, General Motors and Pepsi have left entirely and unemployment in Venezuela could reach 25 percent this year. To try and keep up, Maduro has raised the minimum wage three times in 2019 in order to provide a little short-term relief to the poor. Currently, the minimum wage is at 18,000 bolivars per month, which is around $6.70 U.S.

How Many Venezuelans Have Left?

According to the U.N., more than three million people have already left Venezuela since the crisis began, and that number is increasing at a rapid rate. Approximately one million people, several lacking official documentation, have gone to neighboring Colombia. However, Peru is the second most popular destination country for Venezuelan refugees, with over 500,000. Ecuador follows, with over 220,000, Argentina with over 130,000, Chile with over 100,000 and Brazil with 85,000 immigrants.

By the end of 2019, the number of Venezuelans fleeing the country should reach 5.3 million. Nearly 300,000 children have fled the homes and lives they once knew, and approximately 10 percent of the country’s total population has already left.

The Way Out

The majority of those fleeing Venezuela do so on foot, and the road begins close to Cúcuta. Many people pay smugglers to use a trocha, which is an illegal border crossing through a river. On the Colombian side of the border has become a huge open-air market for all the things that people cannot get in Venezuela anymore. Vendors advertise medicines and cigarettes, candy and phone minutes for people to call home.

Sadly, some do not make the journey on foot. In Cúcuta, the temperature can hit 90 degrees Fahrenheit. However, on other parts of the route, the road climbs to 10,000 feet above sea level and temperature can drop below freezing. Walking this route takes approximately 32 days. The mountain pass, La Nevera, translates to the Refrigerator. Aid groups and residents have opened their homes and set up shelters along the path. However, the number of Venezuelans fleeing the country has surpassed the number of shelters available along the way, making space for only the lucky few.

The Impact

The emotional wellbeing of children who have fled Venezuela is of high concern. Sometimes traveling alone, boys and girls disrupt their education and are in great danger of falling behind in school and never catching up again. On the contrary, some parents leave their children behind when they leave the country. These children often gain material benefits from their parents’ migration, because sending hard currency to relatives provides greater access to food, medicine and other lacking necessities.

Furthermore, tensions between Venezuelans fleeing the country and citizens of other countries is often high. Colombia has had to reach out to the international community for help in dealing with the influx of migrants. Hospitals and elementary schools in Cúcuta have been overwhelmed, and administrators complain about the central government’s failure to reimburse them for the cost of caring for migrants. The national government has suspended the issuance of temporary visas, and the U.S. Agency for International Development, or USAID, has promised $30 million in assistance.

In Ecuador, anti-immigrant sentiments reached a highpoint when a Venezuelan allegedly stabbed to death his pregnant Ecuadorian girlfriend, Diana Ramirez Reyes, in front of police and scared residents of the city of Ibarra. Since then, President Lenin Moreno decreed a tougher immigration policy that requires incoming Venezuelans to present a document certifying they had a clean criminal record in Venezuela. However, such documents are costly to obtain in Venezuela.

Similarly, Peru and Chileans have developed hesitation toward Venezuelans fleeing the country. People cannot renew work permits in Peru and as of 2018, the country decided to stop issuing them. A recent survey in Chile found that many natives disapprove of the number of immigrants coming in. Seventy-five percent of those responding to the survey thought that the number of immigrants was excessive.

Who is Helping?

Since April 2018, the IRC has been working in Cúcuta supporting Venezuelans and vulnerable Colombians with specialized services for women and children, cash assistance and health care. Aid organizations and families are also working to help immigrants along the route. The Colombian Red Cross has a small aid station on the outskirts of Pamplona, a city in Colombia’s Norte de Santander region.

The U.S. government has also helped by providing about $200 million in humanitarian aid to address the crisis in the region. Most of this money has gone to Colombia as do the majority of Venezuelans fleeing the country.

UNICEF has appealed for $69.5 million to meet the needs of uprooted children from Venezuela and those living in host and transit communities across the LAC region. It is working with national and local governments, host communities and partners to ensure access to safe drinking water, sanitation, protection, education and health services for Venezuelans fleeing the country.

– Grace Arnold
Photo: Flickr

 

Rescued Child Soldiers
At the age of seven, Judith became an accomplice to a murder. The Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) raided her village and forced Judith to participate in the killing of her mother. The LRA then kidnapped Judith and her siblings and forced them to serve Joseph Kony. Thousands of children share Judith’s story. Today, the rescued child soldiers in Africa are finding healing and restoration through art.

The Rise of Joseph Kony and the Lord’s Resistance Army

The World Economic Forum found that poverty, social marginalization and political disenfranchisement were fertilizers for extremist groups to take root and grow. In the 1980s, poverty, social marginalization and political disenfranchisement hit Uganda hard. Estimates determined that one-third of the population lives below the poverty line.

Uganda government officials did little to improve the dire situation. As a result, rebel groups and organizations began to pop up throughout the country. The Holy Spirit Movement, a militaristic and spiritual rebel group, formed to fight against the oppression of the people in northern Uganda. Joseph Kony joined the movement in the mid-1980s. After the Holy Spirit Movement’s defeat in 1988, Kony kept the organization. He renamed the group the Lord’s Resistance Army. Kony used religion and traditional beliefs to continue the support of the people living in northern Uganda. His operation expanded to the nearby countries of South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Central African Republic. The tactics Kony and the LRA used became more violent over time.

Kony and the LRA caused the displacement of more than 1.9 million people. Authorities issued a number of arrest warrants for Kony and leaders of the LRA on counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity. The LRA raided villages, burned down homes and murdered or mutilated thousands of people.

Child Soldiers in Africa

Kony lacked support for his cause and army. As a result, he abducted children and forced them into his service. Estimates state that the LRA kidnapped between 30,000 and 60,000 children. The LRA trained males to be child soldiers and females to be sex slaves. Fear was a major driver for children to remain in the LRA. Many children, like Judith, had to kill their parents and other loved ones for survival.

Art Is Restoring Peace to Rescued Child Soldiers

The U.N. called the LRA crisis the “most forgotten, neglected humanitarian emergency in the world.” A 29-minute film became the most effective tool in mobilizing the world into taking action against Kony and the LRA.

Art and social media were the key components of the success of the film “KONY 2012.” The U.S. advocacy group, Invisible Children, launched a digital campaign with the release of the film. The campaign’s goal was to make the infamous warlord famous in order to mobilize world leaders to stop him. The film garnered over 100 million views in six days. Public outcry and celebrity support increased the pressure for global leaders to take action against Kony. Eventually, authorities sanctioned a universal manhunt to capture Kony and put an end to the LRA. People have rescued many of the child soldiers in Africa but Kony still remains at-large. Today, the LRA has reduced to a group of fewer than 300 members.

Art has also been an effective tool for healing and restoration for the child victims of the LRA crisis. For many of the rescued child soldiers in Africa, there were some elements in their story that were too painful to put into words. Art became an avenue for those children to confront the past and face the future. Exile International, a nonprofit organization, has been providing healing to war-affected children through art-focused trauma care since 2008.

Recently, Exile International partnered with award-winning photographer and artist Jeremy Cowart to share the faces and powerful stories of child survivors. The Poza Project utilized the children’s art and Cowart’s talent to create a healing opportunity for the children to tell their own story of survival. Unique photographs and mixed art media created by the children were available for purchase. All the proceeds helped provide art therapy and holistic rehabilitation to children survivors of war. The Poza Project showcased a dozen children including Judith.

Judith spent nearly two years in captivity before being rescued. Today, she is back in school and working to become a psychiatric doctor. With the help of The Poza Project, Judith is one step closer to her dream of helping the other victims of Kony and the LRA.

– Paola Nuñez
Photo: Flickr
10 Facts About Child Labor in Mali
Mali, the eighth-largest country on the African continent, is home to approximately 18 million individuals, more than half of which are children. Historically, Mali has suffered economically due to excessive conflicts between multiple military coups and rebel groups. With 67 percent of the population under the age of 25, children have become the most vulnerable in a nation growing with violence and slavery. These 10 facts about child labor in Mali will detail the country’s history of child labor and how it is combatting it.

10 Facts About Child Labor in Mali

  1. Approximately half of the Malian population live in absolute poverty making children most vulnerable to hereditary slavery. Mali is one of the 31 landlocked developing countries and one of the 49 least developed countries in the world according to the United Nations (U.N.). The U.N. describes Mali as the “poorest and weakest segment of the international community.” Due to such poverty, children have little to no opportunities that ensure the practice of basic human rights and often become child laborers as a result.
  2. One of the most important of the 10 facts about child labor in Mali is that Malian children often become child laborers in an effort to bring financial support to their families. Today, 56 percent engage in child labor. The earliest age of a typical Malian child laborer is five while the most common age group is between the ages of seven and 14.
  3. The Malian government is making an effort to monitor child workers through the implementation of various social programs. The indication that children as young as five have worked, however, proves that the country has inadequately enforced such programs. Some of these programs are the National Policy for Promotion and Protection of Children and a new five-year plan that the  Malian Ministry of Justice that Mali adopted in February 2019. The five-year plan will combat trafficking in persons and assimilated practices.
  4. One in three Malian child labor victims must work in hazardous conditions where they may become exposed to accidents and diseases. According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of International Labor Affairs, the most common industries for Mali’s child laborers are agriculture and gold mining.
  5. Only a mere 54 percent of all Malian children attend school and as a result, most Malian child labors are illiterate. Organizations like UNICEF and Save the Children provide the protection and knowledge these children need to overcome extreme impoverishment. Although Save the Children’s primary focus in Mali is on “revising curricula and enhancing quality in the classroom” for students, it has implemented other effective programs that work with adolescents, primary-school learners and early childhood as well.
  6. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the Malian government has been unsuccessful at fully implementing the National Plan to Combat Child Labor and other social programs due to insufficient funding. These initiatives were to examine the root problems of slavery in the nation. Moving forward, the government plans to reorganize its funding tactics of several enforcement agencies. The Ministry for the Promotion of Women, Children and the Family (MPFEF) is one of few agencies in Mali responsible for protecting vulnerable children and monitoring any violations of child labor laws.
  7. Child laborers, boys and girls alike, are often victims of sex trafficking. Approximations state that people sell thousands of Malian children and exploit them within multiple industries across the nation.
  8. To avoid others from determining Mali a Tier 3 nation, the Malian government agreed to implement more effective programs to help at-risk children from slavery in 2014. This was after failing to distribute anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts in 2012. This effort was not successful as the  Mali government failed to prosecute and convict perpetrators of injustice nor did it identify a sufficient number of trafficking victims. Tier 3 nations are countries that do not comply with the minimum standards of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) of 2000 which is monitored by the U.S. State Department’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons.
  9. In 2016, the American Bar Association Rule of Law Initiatives (ABA ROLI), with support from the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, resumed its work in Mali and began programming to combat child labor. Through special training in Timbuktu, lawyers and civil representatives received tools to properly protect potential victims of slavery. Many lawyers and attendees of the training indicated no previous knowledge of the statistics pertaining to forced labor.
  10. In 2017, Mali raised the overall minimum wage worker’s age to 15 in order to combat child labor according to the U.S. Department of Labor. By doing so, Mali now complies with international standards. Before this transition, Mali had no permanent standards for child workers’ regulations.

Mali continues to struggle as one of the world’s poorest nations. These 10 facts about child labor in Mali illustrate how extreme poverty has driven slavery within the nation. Despite numerous failed attempts to control child labor, Mali has seen some advancement in recent years.

– Danyella Wilder
Photo: Flickr

Global Illiteracy
The ability to read and write is one of the few skills with the power to completely change a person’s life. Literacy is vital to education and employment, as well as being incredibly beneficial in everyday life. Global illiteracy is extensive. As of 2018, 750 million people were illiterate, two-thirds of whom were women. 

In 2015, the United Nations set 17 goals for sustainable development, one of which included the aim to “ensure that all youth and a substantial proportion of adults, both men and women, achieve literacy and numeracy” by 2030. Though this is an admirable goal, current progress suggests that global illiteracy will remain a substantial problem in 2030 and beyond, due to challenges such as poverty and a lack of trained teachers in some areas. While eliminating global illiteracy by the 2030 deadline seems out of reach, companies and organizations around the world are taking steps toward improving literacy rates, often with the help of technological innovations.

  3 Organizations Fighting Global Illiteracy

  1. The Partnership-Afghanistan and Canada (PAC), World Vision and the University of British Columbia have collaborated to create a phone-based program aimed at improving literacy rates among rural women in Afghanistan. Women in remote areas who lack local educational resources learn from daily pre-recorded cell phone calls, which teach them how to read and write in Dari, a Persian dialect widely spoken in Afghanistan.  The lessons require only paper, a writing utensil and cell phone service, which are widely available throughout the country.

  2. The World Literacy Foundation operates many literacy-boosting programs, one of which is its SunBooks project. The project provides solar-powered devices through which students can access digital content and e-books while offline. The SunBooks initiative, intended to boost literacy rates in sub-Saharan Africa, helps young people overcome barriers to literacy such as limited access to books, a lack of electricity and limited internet access. Only 35 percent of schools in sub-Saharan Africa have access to electricity, so traditional e-books are not a viable solution to a lack of books. SunBooks’ content is available in local languages and in English.

  3. A collaboration between Pearson Education’s Project Literacy Campaign, the World Bank and All Children Reading: A Grand Challenge for Development has resulted in a project called EVOKE: Leaders for Literacy. EVOKE is a series of lessons on problem-solving, leadership and the importance of literacy, styled as a video game in which the student plays a superhero. EVOKE aims to empower young people to be literacy advocates in their own communities, and more than 100,000 people have participated in the program.  The project has shown promise in getting young people excited about reading and writing.

People generally understand literacy as a necessary part of education and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights established it a human right in 1948. Yet still, hundreds of thousands of people cannot read or write. Literacy rates are improving, but not quickly enough to meet U.N. targets. These organizations are making valuable contributions toward fighting global illiteracy so that every person can be empowered.

– Meredith Charney
Photo: Pixabay

Girls' Education in Swaziland
In Swaziland, a relatively small, landlocked country in Southern Africa, a surprising trend has emerged: girls are receiving education at a higher rate than boys. According to the latest count on gross enrollment rate, the percentage of girls at every level of schooling has been higher than boys. However, due to the high rate of poverty, the HIV/AIDS epidemic and teenage pregnancies, the education of girls in Swaziland still has a lot of room for improvement.

Girls’ Education in Swaziland

Currently, although 97 percent of girls enroll at some point into primary school, only 37.7 percent of them continue into secondary education. Beyond that, only about 5.5 percent enroll in tertiary education.

One of the biggest obstacles in the way of girls’ education in Swaziland is poverty. Primary education in Swaziland currently operates under the Free Primary Education grant, launched in 2010, which stipulates that families send all children to public primary schools up to grade seven from the ages of six to 11. As of 2014, this program has enrolled about 80 percent of primary school-aged Swazi children. However, schools charge annual top-up fees, averaging at $76 per year, to cover running costs. With 58.9 percent of Swazis living below the national poverty line, defined as $2 or less per day, higher education becomes out of reach for many girls. This has resulted in many families withdrawing from educational programs in order to pay for the ever-growing costs of basic necessities such as food and medications.

Health Care, HIV/AIDS and Pregnancy

Next, the health care issues that have plagued Swazis for decades often disproportionately affect girls. The country experiences a significant HIV/AIDS gender gap which has been widening in recent years, with girls between the ages of 10 and 14 being almost twice as likely to have contracted HIV/AIDS than boys of the same age. HIV/AIDS inhibits children from attending schools as income initially used for school fees often becomes redirected toward medications.

Premature parental deaths caused by HIV/AIDS has also led to record-high numbers of orphans in the country. With few institutions in place to cope with the crisis, many of these minors, especially girls, become heads of families. As a result, they must forfeit their education in order to care for their siblings.

In addition, the country has a high rate of teenage pregnancies, many of them resulting from sexual abuse by close male relatives. One in three girls report having experienced sexual violence before the age of 18. With less than 30 percent of sex occurring with contraceptives, many of these sexual relationships result in teen pregnancies. Although there are no explicit laws in the country to exclude pregnant students from schools, local communities often ridicule and stigmatize these young mothers, which, often in combination with the needs of their children (schools rarely offer childcare or support), frequently results in them dropping out. The numbers indicate this because although 98 percent of Swazi children enroll in primary school at some point in their lives, only 27 percent enroll in secondary school.

UNICEF, Children’s HopeChest and mothers2mothers International

There is, however, much hope for the future for girls’ education in Swaziland. For example, UNICEF is currently actively collaborating with the Swazi government as well as the U.N. to decrease teenage pregnancy and to eliminate mother-to-child transmission of HIV. The organization has dedicated human resources to Swaziland starting in 1968 and has since then engaged the Parliament to adopt better legislation regarding health and education issues and have supported strategies reducing the spread of HIV/AIDS through changes in community behaviors. Many NGOs are also invested in the issue, including Children’s HopeChest, which has been working to empower orphans in Swaziland by constructing housing and other facilities for them. Since 2004, the organization has impacted over 7,000 children. Furthermore, mothers2mothers International operates in Swaziland with the goal of preventing mother-to-child transmission of HIV as well as providing support for individuals and families who have contracted the disease. Between its inaugural year of 2008 to its last data count in 2017, the program has enrolled 68,796 clients.

Conclusively, although the girls’ education in Swaziland still has many obstacles to overcome, including poverty, the HIV/AIDS epidemic and teenage pregnancy, there is much hope on the horizon. Today, over 95 percent of female Swazis are literate and that number should grow. With new educational and health programs being put in place by both the government and NGOs, teenage pregnancy and HIV rates are almost certain to decrease within the next decade.

– Linda Yan
Photo: Flickr

Top 10 Facts About Overpopulation in Asia
Asia is home to almost 60 percent of the people living around the globe. It is the world’s largest and most diverse continent and occupies more than four-fifths of the Eurasian landmass. The majority of Asia’s 48 countries have populations of between 10 and 100 million. Here are the top 10 facts about overpopulation in Asia.

Top 10 Facts About Overpopulation in Asia

  1. Asia is the largest continent in the world and nearly 60 percent of the world’s current population inhabits it. It has the highest rate of growth with its population increasing four times in the 20th century.
  2. Asia constitutes roughly one-third of the world’s land area and is home to just over half of its population. The continent includes the two most populous countries, China (1.39 billion) and India (1.35 billion). Some of the other overpopulated countries in Asia include Indonesia (267 million), Pakistan (212 million), Japan (126.5 million), Vietnam (95.5 million) and Turkey (82.3 million).
  3. Many expect Asia’s population to grow by 750 million to reach 5.2 billion by 2050. In addition to this, India may surpass China as the world’s most populous country, increasing to 1.7 billion people from the current 1.35 billion. India might record the largest population increase of any single country over the next 33 years.
  4. More than half of all people around the globe (3.97 billion) live in just seven countries, according to a U.N. estimate and four of these countries are in Asia. Other than India and China, Asian countries like Pakistan and Indonesia have large populations too.
  5. South Asia has the highest prevalence of overcrowding in the developing world. A third of its urban population resides in houses that lack sufficient living areas. South East Asia follows with over a quarter of the urban population living in overcrowded housing. Asia’s developing cities are focussed on building freeways and skyscrapers which do not leave enough residential space and contribute to overcrowding in the continent.
  6. The Asia Pacific region is urbanizing rapidly which brings enormous challenges to landscapes and lifestyles. Urbanization causes inequalities between the rich and poor and prompts the poor to live in slums and hinders economic growth. According to the World Bank, inadequate infrastructure, as well as a failure to deal with environmental issues like pollution and water shortages causes people to struggle with congestion pressures and leads to a failure of a country’s economy.
  7. Urbanization in cities like Mumbai, Kolkata, Bangkok and Jakarta also demonstrates a lack of infrastructure. People migrate to cities in search of better jobs because rural areas do not offer them. However, these individuals have to move to informal settlements like slums due to a lack of adequate living spaces. These places usually lack proper water supply, electricity, sanitation and transportation and make living conditions difficult.
  8. There is a significant relationship between overpopulation and medicine. Due to the advancement in medicine, mortality rates have gone down which has led to a population explosion. In addition, there is a lack of food supply which causes deficiency diseases and starvation in overcrowded areas.
  9. The dramatic growth in the population of Asia is the result of an increase in the number of people surviving the reproductive age. Population growth accompanies changes in fertility rates due to better education about birth control. According to the World Bank, the aging population and low fertility rates are to blame for the increase in population as 36 percent of the world’s population over 65 currently live in East Asia. The World Bank projects that the 211 million people living in East Asia will rise over time.
  10. Many countries in Asia have relied on their young population, however, with changing demographics, they may lose around 15 percent of their working-age population by 2040. Higher incomes and better education have not only led to longer life expectancy and lower fertility rates but have also caused families to move and changed social values.

Overall, overpopulation in Asia is rapidly on the rise and is a cause for concern. It has a serious impact on the socio-economic fabric of this region and can lead to issues like instability of economy and poverty.

– Isha Akshita Mahajan
Photo: Flickr

Living Conditions in Turkmenistan
Central Asia displays memories of ancient ruins and powerful empires. Turkmenistan is no exception due to its most recent invasion by the Russian Empire (1881-1998) which is what shapes most of its modern history. Today, the world knows the country for its natural resources, dictatorial leader and marble cities. Here are the top 10 facts about living conditions in Turkmenistan.

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Turkmenistan

  1. Authoritarian Media
    The close eye of Presiden Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow administers daily life in Turkmenistan. The government oversees all media outlets to determine what can and cannot be published. Only 17.9 percent of the population uses the internet due to the high expense. People have access to little online information as authorities ban websites against the government. Since 2006, the government imprisoned two journalists (Sapardurdy Khadjiyev and Annakurban Amanklychev) for not complying with government media regulations.
  2. An Ongoing Economic Recession
    Turkmenistan was the poorest nation during the USSR. Today, the country’s GDP per capita is $6,587 and 10 percent of 5.8 million Turkmen live in extreme poverty. However, this is a massive stride for the nation. In 1990, more than a third of the country lived in extreme poverty (less than $1.90 per day) making 10 percent the lowest poverty rate the nation has ever seen.
  3. Developing Education
    Nearly 100 percent of Turkmenistan people are literate. The country has a 12-year educational system, however, the average student drops out of school after 10 or 11 years. The government has partnered with UNICEF to continue the development of its education through the Child Friendly Schools (CFS) model. This framework aims to help children not only in terms of education but also in terms of their well being.
  4. Gender Equality on the Rise
    Only 40 percent of women in Turkmenistan will attend tertiary school. Women often marry by the ages of 20 or 21 and will thus have few opportunities to obtain a higher education or career. Luckily, the United Nations has aided in the recent 2017 presidential decree of Turkmenistan’s first national action plan on gender equality. This plan includes improved legislation, equal access to health services and data collection to monitor progress.
  5. Poor Health
    The state does not widely fund health care. Turkmen are likely to spend more money on health care than the government. In 2017, the average citizen spent $2,052 on health care in comparison to the government which only spent $741. The lack of accessible public health care leads to an average life expectancy of just 67.8 years, with the highest cause of death being lower respiratory infections.
  6. Urban vs. Rural Life
    There are 5.8 million people living in Turkmenistan and 49.2 percent of that population living in urban areas. The sale of cotton, silk, Karakul sheep and homemade carpets and rugs are essential to rural development. Ashgabat remains the capital city and is the center point for business and government officials. Cars and railways connect the cities and towns within the country.
  7. Jail Brutality
    Prisoners within Turkmenistan and political prisoners especially are often abused. The exact number of political prisoners held by the government is not public knowledge, however, Prove They are Alive, an international organization fighting to reduce disappearances within Turkmenistan, states that 121 people remain forcibly disappeared. Ovadandepe is the most infamous jail and was the point of death for former government official Begmurad Otuzov. Mr. Otuzov’s body was returned to his family weighing just 99 pounds after having been missing for 15 years.
  8. Natural Resources and the Economy
    Turkmenistan’s economy is largely dependent upon hydrocarbon resources. The country leads as the world’s fourth-largest natural gas distributor and had 265 trillion cubic feet of natural gas reserves in 2016. Its largest customers include China, Russia and Iran. Petrofac is one of the largest energy producers in the country and employs 1,700 people across the nation.
  9. Environmental Resolutions
    Turkmenistan has no renewable energy sources and 13.9 percent of the population does not have access to clean water. However, UNICEF developed a strategy in 2017 to help the country promote sustainable practices. The project aims to raise awareness around environmental sustainability through education in schools.
  10. A Housing Crisis
    In 2015, the government evicted 50,000 people from their homes in the capital. The government forcibly removed people from their houses so they could build new buildings for the Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games. Forced evictions are a common and recurring issue within Turkmenistan. Amnesty International is combating this housing crisis by publicizing homes that continue to be demolished.
  11. Low Unemployment Rate
    Last on the list of the top 10 facts about living conditions in Turkmenistan is employment. The country maintains a low GDP and a minimum wage of just 535 Turkmenistani ($152.55) per month. However, it also maintains a rather low unemployment rate. Only 3.8 percent of the country was unemployed in 2018, even lower than the United States’ unemployment rate of 4 percent.

Turkmenistan, like any country, has its challenges. As displayed in these top 10 facts about living conditions in Turkmenistan, the government’s high levels of surveillance and poor infrastructure can make life challenging at times. On the other hand, several NGOs such as the U.N. and Amnesty International are fighting to create a more equal society. Overall, the country has seen progress and today it maintains an improved education system as well as higher employment rates.

Photo: Flickr

 

10 Facts About Corruption in AfghanistanWar has plagued the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, a South Asian nation of approximately 35 million people, for 40 years. The near-constant state of conflict produced immense corruption, which persists during the extended NATO mission there today. Listed below are 10 facts about corruption in Afghanistan.

 10 Facts About Corruption in Afghanistan

  1. Afghanistan is one of the 10 most corrupt nations in the world. According to Transparency International, it ranks 172 out of 180 total countries and accompanies Sudan and North Korea near the bottom of the list. There are some signs of gradual improvement, but Afghanistan has a long way to go to ascend the list.
  2. Afghan government corruption reduces the effectiveness of American reconstruction aid. The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) reported to the U.S. Congress in April 2019 that corruption was the foremost issue dooming restoration efforts. Unfortunately, through the government’s anti-corruption campaigns, the SIGAR also discovered that certain international standards are not always met, such as cooperation between agencies.
  3. Corruption significantly impacts business development in Afghanistan. The World Bank interviewed 410 firms in 2014 and 16.2 percent stated that corruption was the largest impediment to business. It ranked only below political instability in the survey, a telling indicator of its prevalence. Gifts became fundamental for businesses wanting to grow. Acquiring a government contract necessitated bribes 46.9 percent of the time, and 79.3 percent of plumbing requests required bribes.
  4. The 2010 Kabul Bank Theft. Bank executives stole millions of dollars of Afghans’ money and crippled Afghanistan’s already shaky financial system. Kabul Bank’s CEO, Khalilullah Ferozi, and its founder, Sherkhan Farnood, led the fraudulent money laundering operation until the bank’s near collapse. The SIGAR states that this extensive corruption scandal cost the Afghan government an $825 million bailout, an expense which consumed five to six percent of the nation’s GDP. Although the country imprisoned both Ferozi and Farnood, their scam’s repercussions continue. Afghanistan’s government is still repaying debts after the bailout to save the systemically vital institution.
  5. Public services routinely fall prey to gifts as well. Transparency International reported that 50 percent of Afghans requesting aid from government agencies in 2012 paid a bribe to have their needs met. Bribery demands handicapped the distribution of benefits to all Afghan citizens. According to a U.N. study on the issue, for every five Afghans who paid a bribe, one Afghan could not pay due to lack of funds. As a result, impoverished households received less assistance than wealthier families who could afford bribes.
  6. Afghanistan’s universities are not immune to the corruption prevalent in the government and banks. Colleges rely on paper records and lack digital verification systems essential to preventing deceit. As a result, the U.N. found that there are approximately 20,000 “ghost students,” or registered students who do not actually exist, in the university system. The Afghan government, believing the students are real, grants loans for education, which university staff steals. U.N. statistics display that university-related scams cost the government 40 percent of potential tax revenue.
  7. By virtue of their position, Afghanistan’s police force is especially prone to corruption. The U.N. found that 22 percent of bribes that people paid in 2012 were to police, and disturbingly, 24 percent of the bribes people offered to police were to prevent arrest. Falsifying evidence and ignoring drug offenses had similar negative effects on police integrity. The police have personnel verification issues as well. Reuters recently reported that there are 800 “ghost officers” in Zabul province whose salaries disappear into unknown hands.
  8. Community Based Monitoring (CBM). A civil society organization named Integrity Watch Afghanistan operates several CBM programs to maintain governmental accountability. One of these programs, CBM-Trials, aims to combat corruption by encouraging citizen involvement in public trials and monitoring adherence to procedural rules. Implementation of CBM-Trials included electing monitors who would attend public cases and educating local populations on court procedures with mock trials. From a humble start in two provinces, CBM-Trials expanded to seven provinces by 2014 and managed to monitor 5,019 trials and 775 cases. These numbers exceeded the 1,000 trial a year goal set by the program in 2011. The program continued into 2018 after 50 successful Theater of the Oppressed performances, in which audience members participated in theatrical critiques of court corruption.
  9. Anti-Corruption Justice Center (ACJC). On May 2016 President Ashraf Ghani’s established the ACJC, which signaled renewed devotion to combating corruption. The ACJC is a special court system that prosecutes corruption cases in the government and military. Most recently, it found success in prosecuting Colonel Abdul Hamid for an $80,000 scam. It is a significant step towards rule of law, even if, according to the SIGAR, ACJC officials still fear the act of prosecuting the most powerful political figures.
  10. The Afghan government also promotes grassroots efforts to reduce corruption. A February 2019 Hack4Integrity event in Kabul, run by the U.N. Development Programme and Blockchain Learning Group, challenged tech-savvy Afghan youth to develop programs that would fight graft. Over 100 youth participated in the 19 team competition. Officials awarded $30,000 in prize money to the five winners and hope youthful energy will help end a nationwide problem.

The above 10 facts about corruption in Afghanistan portray a long, fraught road toward halting persistent abuses of power. However, they also provide hope for Afghanistan’s future. Progress is slow, but Afghanistan’s civil society, President Ghani’s ACJC and youth programs have opportunities to stamp out corruption. The new commander of Afghanistan’s police force, General Khoshal Sadat, has energetically devoted himself to legitimizing police activities as well. Corruption abounds, but Afghans understand that it does not have to.

– Sean Galli
Photo: Wikipedia Commons