Impact of the Turkey-Syria Earthquakes
As of February 27, 2023, the Turkey-Syria earthquakes, which struck Southern Turkey near the Syrian border on February 6, 2023, have directly affected 9.1 million people. As with all natural disasters, marginalized communities face the harshest impacts. The impact of the Turkey-Syria earthquakes on women and girls is detrimental, with ActionAid reporting that the situation has become “increasingly alarming” for women and girls in the aftermath of the 7.8 and 7.5 magnitude earthquakes.

Increased Vulnerability of Women and Girls

The United Nations Development Programme reports that in the event of a natural disaster, “women and children are 14 times more likely than men to die.” Pre-existing structural gender inequalities often make females more vulnerable when a disaster strikes, putting them at a far greater disadvantage than their male counterparts. Women and girls across the globe already face greater challenges when accessing health care. Additionally, females often take on primary caregiving responsibilities, which leave them unable to easily evacuate disaster zones, and are at greater risk of abuse and violence in situations of crisis.

Before the Turkey-Syria earthquakes struck, women and girls in the affected regions already lived in vulnerable circumstances. With countless women and girls internally displaced by the conflict in Syria and others living as refugees in Turkey, female victims of the disaster already struggled with crises brought on by 12 years of war. The impact of the Turkey-Syria earthquakes on women and girls has only increased the uncertainty already felt by many, pushing females further into hardship and poverty.

The Aftermath of the Turkey-Syria Earthquakes

The well-being of women and girls from low-income backgrounds in the aftermath of the Turkey-Syria earthquakes is of particular concern. The earthquakes, which have claimed the lives of more than 46,000 as of February 19, have left an unprecedented number of women homeless and without families to support them. Many displaced women and girls are at risk of sexual exploitation and child marriages as they struggle for survival.

Pregnant women are also particularly vulnerable, with the United Nations Population Fund stating that 356,000 pregnant women in earthquake-torn regions of Turkey and Syria need urgent help. The widespread destruction caused by the disaster has rendered more than 15 hospitals inoperative, according to the Turkish Ministry of Health, leaving pregnant women unable to access urgent medical services.

The U.K. has acknowledged the need for women and girls to receive particular support as Turkey and Syria grapple with the effects of the earthquakes. In a press release on February 15, 2023, the U.K. announced a £25 million ($30.2 million) additional aid package for the affected regions, with a “particular focus on protecting women and girls.” The U.K. included provisions to reduce the risk of gender-based violence within displaced communities along with medical support to aid in childbirth and midwifery.

Work of NGOs

Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are stepping up to provide for women’s needs amid growing concerns about inadequate support for females who are menstruating, pregnant or breastfeeding. Vanessa Zammar, co-founder and project coordinator of Jeyetna, a Lebanese NGO dedicated to tackling period poverty, explained to Al Arabiya English that “gender-blind responses to emergencies and policymaking in general overlook menstruation because it is still considered something to be dealt with by women on an individual level in private.”

In response to the crisis, NGOs across the globe, such as the International Rescue Committee (IRC), are asking people to donate supplies to help vulnerable people impacted by the disaster, especially women and girls. The IRC is also providing “dignity kits” to those in need of feminine hygiene products and has set up a number of safe spaces to help women and children that the earthquakes affected.

The impact of the Turkey-Syria earthquakes on women and girls is devastating. While nations and NGOs have already taken some measures to ensure that women and girls receive protection and support, it is of utmost importance that they remain at the forefront of recovery efforts and humanitarian endeavors.

– Priya Thakkar
Photo: Flickr

Period Poverty in Lebanon
In a world where many people within underdeveloped nations struggle to afford even their next meal, the issue of period poverty runs rampant. In Lebanon, specifically, a country experiencing what the World Bank describes as “one of the world’s worst financial crises since the 1850s,” the issue of period poverty in Lebanon is a growing concern.

What is Period Poverty?

The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) defines period poverty as “the struggle many low-income women and girls face while trying to afford menstrual products.” However, one can also use the term in a more broad and all-encompassing way. Period poverty also refers to any increased financial vulnerability a group of people may face strictly due to menstruation. As the country of Lebanon sinks deeper into economic and financial turmoil, period poverty in Lebanon has reached an all-time high. According to local Lebanese organization Dawrati, as much as 66% of adolescent Lebanese girls cannot afford menstrual products to properly manage their menstruation.

Overall Poverty in Lebanon

The official Lebanese currency, the Lebanese pound, is facing severe devaluation due to several factors such as corruption, crippling debt and the lack of foreign currency circulation in the country. This financial issue plunged the Lebanese population further into poverty. According to the Observatory, “the cost of food has soared by 700% over the past two years” with the potential to increase further in 2021.

The United Nations indicates that the Lebanese multidimensional poverty rate has drastically increased from 42% of the population in 2019 to 82% in 2021. Now, a significant portion of the Lebanese population earns unlivable wages, leaving most families stuck below the poverty line.

As necessities such as food and medicine become scarce and more difficult to afford, people who menstruate view menstrual products as luxuries they simply cannot afford. Due to inflation, the price of menstrual pads and products increased by 500%. This increase, in addition to the severe decrease in the value of incomes in Lebanese households, makes period poverty in Lebanon a major issue.

The Challenges Lebanese Girls and Women Face

By attempting to substitute menstrual products with more accessible alternatives, Lebanese girls and women put themselves at risk of infections and health complications. With more than 66% of girls and women in Lebanon unable to afford menstrual products, this substitution is a common reality. More than half of women in Lebanon have reduced their consumption of pads, opting for less sanitary options to manage their periods.

Lebanese women are increasingly replacing menstrual products with children’s diapers, old pieces of cloth or fabric and even newspapers. In addition to health concerns brought about by unsanitary methods of managing periods, period poverty in Lebanon also impacts the education of girls. Many adolescent girls skip school due to a lack of menstrual products, impacting their overall education and prospects for future success.

Taking Action Against Period Poverty in Lebanon

Even though the situation concerning period poverty in Lebanon is challenging, organizations are rallying to support Lebanese people who menstruate. “Dawrati,” which translates from Arabic into “menstruation cycle,” is one of the most prominent non-governmental organizations addressing period poverty in Lebanon.

Dawrati began in May 2020 and its efforts include distributing thousands of menstruation kits, maternity kits and first-time period kits to Lebanese people in the nation’s most vulnerable areas. The organization participates in many collaborative projects with other non-governmental organizations to ensure access to menstrual kits countrywide. The organization is partnering with the Zovighian Partnership to gather data on precise period poverty statistics in Lebanon. This comprehensive research will inform Dawrati’s lobbying efforts and “help Dawrati finalize its policy proposal to end period poverty in Lebanon.”

Looking Ahead

As Lebanon’s economy continues to deteriorate, it remains important to focus on addressing period poverty as issues affecting girls and women often go overlooked by governments. Period poverty in Lebanon is a serious concern, however, many individuals and organizations continue to support the country’s most vulnerable people with the resources they need to properly manage their menstrual cycles.

– Nohad Awada
Photo: Flickr

Period Poverty in KenyaPeriod poverty in Kenya, or poor access to menstrual hygiene facilities, products and education, marginalizes women. In the year 2016, “a report funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation” noted that about half of Kenyan girls could not openly talk about menstruation due to a negative societal response to the topic. However, organizations and initiatives aim to combat menstrual stigma and fight period poverty in Kenya.

5 Solutions to Fight Period Poverty in Kenya

  1. Increasing Access to Sanitary Products. To fight period poverty in Kenya, it is important to ensure free or affordable access to sanitary products for all young girls. Access to menstrual products can keep girls in school, which will reduce the disproportionate dropout rates between boys and girls when transitioning into high school. In May 2021, a Kenyan citizen filed a petition to have the Kenyan government provide sanitary products in schools for free.
  2. Proper Policy Implementation. The government must properly implement policies that aim to combat period poverty. In 2017, the government of Kenya passed a law that would have seen all girls receive sanitary products for free while enrolled in school, but this law was not properly implemented. In addition, the government, where possible, must allocate more state funds to ensure more girls can access sanitary products regardless of economic status.
  3. Private Sector Involvement. Procter & Gamble, the company that produces the Always menstrual brand, created the Always Keeping Girls in School program to address period poverty in African countries. Since 2008, this program has donated more than 13 million pads to more than 200,000 girls in Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa. Similarly, Bayer employees have shown initiative by providing free menstrual cups to girls in Kenya. Involving the private sector in the fight against period poverty would also help the Kenyan government implement its policies better.
  4. More Education Initiatives. Innovative programs focused on key populations have emerged to fight period poverty in Kenya. For example, the United Nations Population Fund partnered with a grassroots organization called This-Ability Trust, which has been providing menstrual education to those with disabilities. Puberty education is also crucial. Currently, only about 50% of girls are willing to openly discuss menstrual health matters in family settings. Breaking the silence by educating pubescent teens and adolescents on the importance of menstrual health will encourage them to approach their teachers, parents and guardians for further guidance.
  5. Support During the COVID-19 Pandemic. Lastly, aid is needed to help Kenya recover from the socioeconomic impacts of the pandemic, which had indirect effects on period poverty. Quarantine measures in Kenya meant that women and girls could not access health services that provide sanitary products for free. Economic stresses also meant girls and women could not afford sanitary products. Organizations like Plan International have been able to lend a helping hand to girls who live in slums. Plan International distributed almost 3,000 sanitary products to women in Kenya’s Kibera slum in partnership with the Kenyan organization ZanaAfrica. Since 65% of women and girls in Kenya are unable to access sanitary products due to economic reasons, these humanitarian efforts help fight period poverty in Kenya.

Looking to the Future

By focusing on such solutions to fight period poverty in Kenya, the Kenyan government and nonprofit organizations can empower and uplift impoverished Kenyan women. Reducing period poverty in Kenya ensures that the lives of girls and women are not disrupted simply due to the inability to afford menstrual products.

– Frank Odhiambo
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Child marriage in MoroccoChild marriage in Morocco is still widely prevalent in 2021, though there are efforts to expand girls’ rights and empower women. A worldwide issue, child marriage is an issue Morocco has long struggled with because of various legal frameworks. But, there is hope for the country’s girls as activists and groups work to reform laws and curb child marriage in Morocco.

Child Marriage and Poverty

There are many reasons why child marriage in Morocco is so prevalent. Most significantly, it is a longstanding cultural tradition as well as a widespread practice in Islam. Once a girl starts menstruating, according to Moroccan society, she has reached “the marriageable age.” Additionally, girls in rural Morocco must preserve their virginity until they become wed. Since the act of reproduction is so signifcant, families marry off their daughters at early ages because it “allows young women to have more children than those married later.”

Child marriage also enforces economic and social stability as marriage comes with money, status and property. Often, these girls come from families suffering in poverty. Because girls get married off early, they miss out on educational opportunities, making them completely dependent on their husbands. Consequently, poverty and illiteracy are driving factors in the girls’ futures, exacerbating cycles of poverty even further.


According to Morocco World News, Morocco’s Family Code, also known as Moudawana, is the root of the problem in permitting child marriage. In 1958, Morocco established Moudawana, a traditional family law that permits practices such as “polygamy and forced marriage.” The traditional family law was the main legal framework responsible for legitimizing forced child marriage.

However, the Family Code was officially reformed in 2004 to raise the minimum marriageable age of girls to 18 and provide more rights to women in marriages. This includes rights to inheritance and the sharing of marital property. While the law still permits polygamy, it is legal only under strict conditions. Activist groups like the Moroccan Women’s Rights Movement have been advocating for these changes to allow more rights to women and girls. Nonetheless, challenges persist.

Looking at the Numbers

According to Reuters, 16% of Moroccan girls younger than the age of 18 marry illegally, despite the revised Family Code law prohibiting this. Since the 2004 reform, the number of underage marriages surged by almost 50% by 2016, though some activists claim this statistic should be higher. Families get around the Moudawana through loopholes in the law, allowing them to marry off their daughters at earlier ages. According to Morocco’s Ministry of Justice, in 2019, 98% of requests for marriage to underage girls came from rural regions. This exemplifies the difference in ideology and practice between rural and urban areas as well as how circumstances of poverty increase the likelihood of child marriage.

Hope for the Future

Despite these statistics, there is hope for combating child marriage in Morocco. In 2020, the National Council for Human Rights and the United Nations Population Fund partnered for “a collaborative effort to end child marriage and promote sexual and reproductive health in Morocco.” Through education and awareness, the organizations’ joint missions will ensure poverty is alleviated alongside ending child marriage.

Additionally, the Moroccan organization called Droits & Justice is also working to end child marriage in the country. The organization launched the Combatting Underage Marriage through Legal Awareness (CUMLA) Project in 2014. The initiative educates young girls, parents and entire communities about the severe consequences of child marriage.

By partnering and collaborating with local associations, Droits & Justice hopes to increase local awareness and create large-scale change. With these methods, the organization is hoping to get closer to eradicating child marriage in Morocco. Droits & Justice “has succeeded in educating more than 500 women, including 250 underage girls.” The organization also helped with almost 30 child marriage cases.

Although child marriage has been a longstanding issue in Morocco, legal reform and the efforts of activist groups are encouraging. These are signs that Morocco is approaching a culture free of child marriage, and consequently, a future free of poverty.

– Laya Neelakandan
Photo: Unsplash

The Netherlands' Foreign Aid
The Netherlands leads in refugee advocacy, COVID-19 relief and environmental protection and occupies a significant place on the world stage because of its commitment to foreign aid. The Netherlands is the world’s seventh-largest donor country, spending 0.59% of its gross national income, or $5.3 billion, on official development assistance (ODA) in 2019. The Dutch government plans to increase ODA by $2.7 billion between 2019 and 2022 to compensate for budget cuts the previous administration made and increased its development budget by $354 million in September 2020 in response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The Netherlands aims to assist unstable regions of West and North Africa and the Middle East through a focus on four major priorities: law and security, water management, food security and reproductive health. The Netherlands’ foreign aid is a key aspect of the country’s public policy and shapes its reputation for philanthropy worldwide.

Human Rights in the Netherlands

Human rights are a cornerstone of the Netherlands’ foreign aid. The country has a commitment to increasing protection for marginalized communities both at home and abroad. The Netherlands welcomed 94,430 refugees and asylum seekers in 2019 and more than 100,000 each of the preceding three years. The government has also taken steps to support refugees, allocating $453 million, or 9% of the ODA budget, to refugee housing costs in 2021. Additionally, the Netherlands allocated additional funding to fight the root causes of poverty, migration, terrorism and environmental challenges in Africa and the Middle East. The Netherlands hopes to address the root causes of these problems in their countries of origin to reduce the number of refugees and improve the quality of life for the global impoverished.

The Netherlands leads the world in advocacy for gender equality and sexual health through funding for international organizations such as the United Nations Population Fund, UNAIDS and the Global Financing Facility. These organizations work to prevent infant and maternal mortality, end HIV/AIDS and end child marriage and female genital mutilation in developing countries. For example, the Global Financing Facility provides high-quality affordable health care to women and children focused on ending infant and maternal mortality and providing necessary health services to children and teenagers. Since its founding in 2015, GFF has made significant strides in advancing health care in its partner countries. Tanzania improved from an average of 35.8% of pregnant women receiving antenatal care visits in 2014 to 64.1% in 2018.

COVID-19 Relief in the Netherlands

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Netherlands’ foreign aid is important in protecting global health in vulnerable regions. The Netherlands has taken the initiative to allocate pandemic relief aid to the world’s most impoverished countries, joining other EU states to contribute $459 million to COVAX, which helps ensure universal access to the COVID-19 vaccine. COVAX aims to distribute 2 billion COVID-19 vaccines to developing countries by the end of 2021, ensuring global protection against the virus. The country also donated $590 million to global COVID-19 relief efforts in 2020 and plans to contribute a further $548 million from its budget for the upcoming years.

In January 2021, the Netherlands announced it would donate a further €25 million to COVID-19 relief following an appeal by the World Health Organization (WHO). Together, the WHO and its global partners will earmark $5 billion to ensure the distribution of 1.3 billion vaccines in countries with limited or insufficient funds. Development minister Sigrid Kaag emphasized the responsibility of the Netherlands to help more vulnerable countries by providing vaccines, diagnostic tests and medicine, which will also help to protect Dutch interests. The €25 million will come from the development cooperation budget and will cover 5 million vaccine doses.

The Netherlands uses its global platform to advocate for marginalized communities, particularly at-risk populations in North and West Africa and the Middle East. Foreign aid is a cornerstone of Dutch foreign policy that has grown the wealthy country’s reputation for philanthropy. By welcoming refugees, advocating for human rights and funding global efforts to combat COVID-19, the Netherlands affirms its commitment to foreign aid and funds solutions for some of the most pressing global problems.

– Eliza Browning
Photo: Wikipedia Commons

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Serbia
The Republic of Serbia gained independence following the breakup of Yugoslavia in 1992. Although birthed from the aftermath of a bloody civil war and a subsequent period of violence and civil unrest, Serbia is a progressive nation with a high quality of life standards. Here are 10 facts about life expectancy in Serbia.

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Serbia

  1. Trends: Life expectancy in Serbia continues to trend upwards. The current average life expectancy is 76.05, a 0.18 percent increase from 2019. U.N. statistical projections anticipate that life expectancy rates will grow to 80.21 by 2050.
  2. Leading Causes of Death: A 2018 report from the WHO identified the leading causes of death in Serbia as coronary heart disease, which accounted for 21.39 percent of deaths. In addition, around 14.92 percent of death are from strokes.
  3. Infant Mortality: Serbia’s infant mortality rate is steadily improving. In 2000, there were approximately 13.5 deaths per 1,000 live births. Today, the metric stands at only 4.6 deaths per 1,000 live births. Additionally, U.N. data predicts that infant mortality rates will drop even further by 2050 to just over two deaths per 1,000 births.
  4. Health Care: Serbia underserves health care to around 20 percent of Serbian citizens. However, Serbia, in general, has an inclusive and effective health care system. Pregnant women, infants, college students and children 15 or younger all receive free health care. Furthermore, mental health services and treatment of infectious diseases are free for all.
  5. Access to Medical Facilities: The post-World War II Serbian government invested heavily in the territory’s medical schools. Eventually, it hopes to correct its problematic lack of trained medical professionals. As of 2016, there were 3.13 doctors per 1,000 citizens. That same year, Serbia recorded health funding equivalent to 9.1 percent of the national GDP.
  6. Birth Rate: Serbia’s population is shrinking. The estimated fertility rate in 2020 is 1.46 children born per woman. This place Serbia at 211 out of 228 nations. As a result, the population should decline by an estimated 0.47 percent.
  7. Violent Crime: Serbia’s murder rate has significantly declined over the past decade. In 2007, there were 1.9 homicides per 100,000 citizens. By 2017, the number dropped to 1.1. However, Serbia is a strategic corridor in the international drug trafficking trade. This means that multiple organized crime syndicates operate there.
  8. Women’s Health: In general, Serbian women live longer and healthier lives than their male counterparts. Women live on average around five years longer than men. Estimates determine that Serbia’s maternal mortality rate is 12 deaths per 100,000 live births. It places Serbia in the upper half of global maternal mortality figures.
  9. Sexual/Reproductive Health: Serbia is a highly religious nation. In addition, citizens typically hold conservative attitudes towards sex and relationships. Contraceptive prevalence is a comparatively low 58.4 percent. Only 18.4 percent of married or committed women use modern contraceptive methods. The United Nations Population Fund is in the midst of a campaign to ensure universal access to contraception and family planning services.
  10. Ethnic Minorities: Hungarians, Romani, Bosnians and other ethnic minorities comprise 16.7 percent of the Serbian population. Historically, Serbia’s relationship with the rest of the Balkans has been volatile both within and outside national borders. Additionally, this contributed to unequal access to health care, particularly for the Roma population. In concert with UNICEF, the Pediatric Association of Serbia is engaged in improving pediatric care for minorities and children with disabilities.
These 10 facts about life expectancy in Serbia attest to the nation’s rapid recovery from the tragedies of the 1990s and early 2000s. Serbia’s health care system and quality of life standards should improve even further in the coming years.

Dan Zamarelli
Photo: Flickr

Census Technology in GhanaGhana is a country with a complex history and a rich culture. Located on the west coast of Africa, it carries the distinction of being the first sub-Saharan country to achieve the milestone of halving their extreme poverty rates by the year 2015, the number one mission of the Millennium Development Goals plan proposed by the U.N. It has consistently been moving up the poverty index list as well, currently sitting at 133 out of 181 on the World’s Richest and Poorest Countries list in 2019.

Why Change is Needed

With the clear and strong strides that Ghana is making towards achieving economic stability, the country is developing innovative ways in which to continue the positive progression of change. One of their first and foremost goals is to achieve an accurate nationwide census by 2020. Census technology in Ghana has up to this point been nonexistent with data collection previously done through written surveys by hand. Hosting a quickly growing population of over 30 million people, the process has been tedious and error marked, leaving out up to three percent of the country’s citizens during every effort attempted.

It is impossible to assess a country’s population and effectively distribute help without knowing exactly how many people are in need of aid. Recognizing the true necessity of new census technology in Ghana, the country’s government has allocated a budget of $84 million towards the project and begun investing in brand new technology that will gather data about the population.

How It Will Help

The new census technology in Ghana primarily involves the use of tablets and satellite imagery to accurately survey residents. The information collected will provide a more accurate assessment of population demographics, a vital tool in poverty aid and assistance. In addition to information on age, gender and income status, the data will be used to assess general access to basic needs such as water, housing and educational resources.

This data-based development strategy will not only give Ghana more resources to fight extreme poverty but to hopefully tackle economic inequality as well. Accurate household financial data allows for government tax programs and welfare opportunities to be put into place, benefiting the country’s poor. Ghana’s Vice President Mahamudu Bawumia asserts the importance of balancing the population’s economic status overall, “We must count everyone, and make everyone accountable to pay their fair share in taxes that would be used to target assistance to those who may not have had access to critical social services previously.”

Census Technology and The Future

Census data and technology is slowly becoming a more prevalent tool in the fight against poverty. The U.N. Population Fund considers census data and population statistics to be a major resource, calling it “critical” in the development of remote countries. With access to a country’s statistical data, aid of all kinds can be more efficiently and effectively distributed. Census data is not only the wave of the future but a true testament to the good that can come from technology. Census technology in Ghana is one of the tech pioneers, finding a new and innovative way to fight—and hopefully end—the war on global poverty.

– Olivia Bendle
Photo: Flickr

maternal mortality rates tajThe Republic of Tajikistan is a country located in Central Asia. In 1991, when Tajikistan became independent it was the most poverty-stricken country of the Central Asia republics. A civil war hurt Tajikistan’s economic and social growth, which led to a decline in overall health in the region. One of these health issues is that Tajikistan has had a very high maternal mortality rate. However, in the last decade progress has been made and maternal mortality rates for women in Tajikistan are dropping.

Tajikistan currently has a rate of 32 maternal deaths for every 100,000 live births. This number has significantly decreased since 1990 when the rate was 107. There are multiple factors that are responsible for the decline in maternal mortality rates. One of the dangers had been the fact that many women have their babies at home. In fact, at least 15 percent of women still give birth without a doctor or midwife present.

Hospitals and Healthcare Facilities

A project by the name of Feed the Future Tajikistan Health and Nutrition Activity (THNA) is spreading information about the dangers of giving birth at home. They also teach women in the country about the benefits of delivering in a hospital or other health care setting. Funded by USAID, THNA is working alongside hospitals and healthcare centers in different locations throughout the country to talk about the three main factors that lead to increased chances of maternal mortality, also known as the three delays:

  1. Seeking maternity care
  2. Reaching a healthcare facility
  3. Receiving high-quality care once at a healthcare facility

In 2016, THNA partnered with the Ministry of Health and Social Protection of the Population to further understand the problem. The duo conducted 14 in-depth assessments of hospitals in the region. They found out that many healthcare facilities did not have proper medical supplies, lacked adequate equipment and were understaffed. The duo worked together and provided the healthcare centers with new equipment and supplies.

The partnership also taught more than 1,400 people in the community to be health educators. The health educators, in turn, taught women about prenatal care and when they should go to a hospital. These changes are a major reason why maternal mortality rates in Tajikistan are declining.

Midwifery Services

Families in Tajikistan who cannot afford healthcare facilities often turn to alternatives such as midwifery. It is challenging to find a good midwifery service in the country. However, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) is working with the Ministry of Health to increase the quality of midwives in the region. They supply midwives with education, capacity building and medical equipment. Furthermore, the UNFPA trains midwives on effective perinatal care.

UNFPA also provides technical help in improving training curriculums at schools throughout the country. Nargis Rakhimova, the UNFPA National Program Analyst on Reproductive Health in Tajikistan said, “This initiative is considered a breakthrough as it raises educational programmes to the level of internationally agreed standards.” Improved midwifery services are another factor why maternal mortality rates for women in Tajikistan are dropping.

Even though it is easy to recruit young women into midwife training programmes, it is not easy to keep them in the profession. Midwives do not make a lot of money and there is no official certification for midwifery, which may lower the standards of services in the region. Rakhimova said, “Though the midwifery situation in Tajikistan is improving, midwifery needs to be developed as a separate profession complementary to medicine.” Improving compensation for midwives will help continue to lower maternal mortality rates in Tajikistan.

Continuing to Improve

The poverty Tajikistan faced when it gained its independence led to a number of health crises in the region. Maternal mortality rates are one of these issues. Even though the country still faces problems with maternal mortality, the conditions are improving. The combination of advancements in healthcare facilities and midwifery services are a big reason for the improvements. These are the two main contributors as to why maternal mortality rates for women in Tajikistan are dropping.

Nicolas Bartlett
Photo: Flickr

Pregnant in Niger
Pregnancy can be challenging anywhere, but being pregnant in Niger is often life-threatening. Around 14,000 women in Niger die every year as a result of pregnancy-related complications, with only 29 percent of births attended by skilled medical professionals. Because giving birth at home is a deeply ingrained cultural tradition in Niger, only 17 percent of women give birth in health facilities.

Challenges in Being Pregnant in Niger

The difficulties of being pregnant in Niger are exacerbated by the persistence of gender inequality. Women are often treated as property, with girls being married or even sold off before reaching puberty. Violence against girls and women remains a huge problem, especially because victims have often been conditioned to expect and tolerate these abuses.

Due to limited national resources and inadequate funding, the health care system in Niger is unequal to the task of providing universal care for all Nigeriens and relies heavily on assistance from charitable organizations. In 2015, an evaluation of Niger’s national health policy, led by the World Health Organization, revealed that only minimal progress had been made in the area of maternal health. To address this need, nonprofit groups such as Nutrition International are taking action.

Nutrition International

Nutrition International is an organization “helping more pregnant women and their newborns receive access to essential health care services, medicines and other commodities, including vitamins and minerals.” This initiative includes assessing the prenatal and antenatal care as well as pregnancy outcomes and evaluating the potential barriers to care for Nigerien women. These barriers range from a lack of confidence that prenatal and antenatal care is as important as they are being told to more practical concerns such as being able to afford transportation to medical appointments.

The period of time during and shortly after birth is a crucial one for both mother and newborn child. Unforeseen complications can arise, and without adequately trained health providers as well as the proper medicine and equipment, too many mothers and babies needlessly die. Nutrition International is also making materials available to facilities in Niger to provide care to pregnant and postpartum women as well as to train health personnel to give improved care and counseling to their patients. Furthermore, they are utilizing volunteers within the community to impart to pregnant women and their families the importance of antenatal care.


In 2017 alone, 81 out of every 1,000 live births resulted in the death of the infant before reaching one year of age. UNICEF provides support to the government of Niger to ensure that mothers and their babies receive a “continuum of care,” from prenatal to antenatal and promotes the education of girls, which can decrease the odds of childhood or adolescent pregnancy.

The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) implemented a program in 2014 called Action for Adolescent Girls. This has played an important role in helping to improve conditions for women who are pregnant in Niger. One important mission of the organization is to ensure that the women, and not young girls, are entering into marriages of their own volition and not being impregnated before they are physically and emotionally ready.

UNFPA sought out and trained local women to serve as mentors to young Nigerien girls, teaching them the basics of female hygiene, reproductive health, literacy and the basics of how to manage money. They were taught that child marriage is illegal and were informed of their other rights as citizens and human beings. Within the first eight-month cycle of the program, this initiative had already resulted in an increase of contraceptive use from 19 percent to 34 percent.

Looking Ahead

The government of Niger continues to work with global organizations to improve the health of prospective and new mothers as well as their children. USAID contributes to this effort with development and humanitarian programs in Niger, all of which are aimed at making the country more self-sufficient. The more financially solvent the country is, the better educated its population will be, ensuring that fertility rates continue to decline while the Nigerien economy continues to improve. With assistance from the U.S. and other wealthy nations, Niger can fulfill its potential and all of its citizens can thrive.

Raquel Ramos
Photo: Unsplash