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Farming in Nigeria
Farming in Nigeria makes up a significant part of the Nigerian economy with agriculture accounting for more than 20% of the country’s gross domestic product. However, even with the large number of people who make a living by farming, around 20 million people are facing unemployment in the country. With this in mind, Kola Masha set out to create an enterprise that would promote farming in Nigeria while also reducing the rate of unemployment. This goal led to the founding of Babban Gona, an enterprise Masha hoped would change the world of Nigerian farming for the better.

Poverty in Nigeria

As of 2018, approximately 82 million Nigerians were living in poverty, which is defined as living on $1.90 a day or less. The population of Nigeria is approximately 200 million, meaning about 40% of Nigerians are living in poverty. There are many reasons for the high poverty rate in Nigeria. The social unrest in the country as well as the regional inequality between Northern and Southern Nigeria both contribute to the poverty rate. However, one of the most critical reasons for the large number of people living in poverty is the lack of job opportunities.

Babban Gona

Faced with the growing unemployment rate of Nigeria, Kola Masha decided to found Babban Gona in 2012. The goal of the enterprise is to create more jobs by expanding crop production in rural areas of Nigeria. It focuses mostly on maize production and farming in Nigeria. The organization is currently working towards the goal of creating 10 million jobs by 2030. Though no easy feat, Babban Gona has gotten a good head start, as it already has over 100,000 members in six different Nigerian states. Masha believes that agriculture is the industry best fit for job expansion in Nigeria and is extremely hopeful that the industry will help create many more jobs.

The ‘Great Farm’ and What it Does

Babban Gona, which translates to “great farm” in Hausa language, works by providing its members with different farming-related aides that will help enhance their crop production. The company focuses on financial services, agricultural input services, training and development and marketing services. Once a farmer becomes a member of Babban Gona, they automatically have access to training that will ensure they are using the best techniques possible.

Agents of Babban Gona often teach members about water retention, seed planting and sustainable farming, among other essential farming methods. Babban Gona also provides members with storage facilities during the harvest season, which keeps crops from wasting and teaches their members about marketing. The enterprise also provides its members with access to much-need credit services. With funding by many different agencies and governments, including the Nigerian Sovereign Wealth Fund and the German government, Babban Gona is able to stay alive and continue to help its current members, as well as take in new ones.

Babban Gona is a revolutionary enterprise that is working hard to reduce unemployment and encourage agriculture in Nigeria. Through services like training, food storage and financial help, the organization is dedicated to helping its members excel. Babban Gona is changing farming in Nigeria by providing its members with invaluable skills that will no doubt benefit them for a lifetime, while also proving that ambitious ideas can become reality with some hard work and the right mindset.

– Paige MusgravePhoto: Pixabay

Girls' Education in Malawi
Malawi, a small country in Southern Africa, is known for its rich culture. Unfortunately, their economy is still very poor. There are many factors that lead to poverty, but education, specifically girls’ education in Malawi, is a major source of financial turmoil that is often overlooked.

Girls’ Education and Poverty

World Bank has found that girls around the world are consistently enrolled in school at lower rates than boys. Malawi is no exception. While around 67% of boys in the country complete primary school, that number is 8% lower for girls. This gap stays consistent throughout different stages of schooling. Low-income households have a larger divide between male and female education. When analyzing upper-class families in Malawi, researchers found little difference in the percentage of girls and boys attending school.

The Malala Fund discovered that improving girls’ education has the potential to unlock trillions of dollars in revenue, while also increasing human rights. Therefore, the barriers to female literacy must not be overlooked. Data analysis proves that nations that discourage education for girls also have higher rates of financial struggle and a larger wage gap. As proven by the aforementioned connections between class and school enrollment, economic barriers are a factor to illiteracy. However, attempting to combat poverty without working toward equal access to education for girls will not yield results.

Barriers to Girls’ Education in Malawi

Daniel Moyo spoke to The Borgen Project on the relationship between education inequality and economic strain in Malawi. As the program director for Ministry of Hope Malawi, he witnesses these issues firsthand. The entrenched cultural norms that Moyo says “look at girls as sexual objects and not as equal human beings” are much more difficult to overcome than the financial burdens. Moyo explains that sexism in schooling directly impacts the economy by “creating a situation where most women are not only housewives, but also left to suffer in acute poverty.”

When charities provide economic funding for girls’ education in Malawi without understanding cultural barriers as well, their efforts are futile. Moyo cites an example of aid that went wrong due to this oversight. An NGO sponsored a secondary school in Phalombe and provided every girl with economic support. However, this backfired because it neglected to tackle the surrounding issues. Moyo discusses how the money gave the students freedom without guidance, resulting in their newfound status being used to “compete for boyfriends and men and not necessarily for financial or material gain.” Thus, “at the end of one year, almost half of the girls at this one high school became pregnant.”

Holistic Approach to Improving the Economy

The efforts by organizations such as Ministry of Hope are helping to improve poverty by recognizing its connection to girls’ education in Malawi. This nonprofit, dedicated to helping vulnerable communities, takes a holistic approach to aiding Malawians that has assisted in making tangible change. Between 2000 and 2018, almost 9% more girls were enrolled in secondary school.

Ministry of Hope encourages organizations to not blindly give money to improve the economy. Rather, “it calls for a lot of factors including policy shifts, cultural beliefs, behavior changes, and a lot of investment in girls’ education.” This is why supporting bills such as the Keeping Girls in School Act (S.1071) is so crucial for tackling poverty in the Global South.

There tends to be a narrative that poverty causes illiteracy. However, if that approach is flipped, there comes a new solution with additional potential for forging change. By advancing education, poverty can also be lowered. Those fighting for change must help organizations on the ground who are providing guidance along with their scholarships. By addressing the cultural and economic barriers of educational inequality, poverty can begin to decrease in Malawi.

– Annie Bennett
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in MoroccoMorocco is a parliamentary constitutional monarchy in Northern Africa. Using its geographical proximity to Europe, the country is positioning itself to become the trade center of Africa. Combining this with low-cost labor, Morocco is moving toward an open market economy. Mohammed VI, the current sovereign of Morocco, has reigned over a steadily growing economy. However, poverty in Morocco is still a major issue that demands the government’s attention.

An Improving Economy

Morocco’s economy has enjoyed steady growth since 1960. Agriculture, tourism, aerospace, phosphates, textiles and sub-components are some of the major sectors that support the country’s economic expansion. In order to further support their increased industrial development and trade, Morocco built a new port and free trade zone near the city of Tangier. Due to these efforts, Morocco’s GDP rose from 2.03 billion in 1960 to 117.92 billion in 2018. However, even with this massive rise in the country’s GDP, income disparity is still an issue.

Income Inequality in Morocco

Income inequality is one of the main issues that reflects the state of poverty in Morocco. In 2018, the OECD published a report which observed the country’s alarming income inequality. The report found that Morocco’s Gini Coefficient, an index of a country’s income inequality, was the highest of all countries in Northern Africa, at 40.3%. This inequality has far-reaching implications in Morocco. In his interview with Reuters in 2019, Ahmed Lahlimi, the head of Morocco’s official statistics agency, stated that social “disparities often trigger protests because they are viewed as a result of an illegitimate accumulation of wealth.”

A report by Oxfam also found that Morocco’s income inequality has considerable consequences. In the report, Oxfam showed that it would take 154 years for a normal employee to earn what Moroccan billionaires can make in a year. This is especially concerning because an estimated 1.6 million Moroccan citizens live in poverty. Inequality is also made evident by the difference in literacy rates between urban areas and rural areas: as of 2011, urban children were 2.7 times more likely to learn reading skills than those living in rural areas. While the literacy rate in Morocco rose from 69% in 2012 to 73% in 2018, it is clear that more needs to be done to improve the differences between urban and rural access to quality education.

Alleviating Income Inequality

In 2005, King Mohammed VI launched the National Initiative for Human Development (INDH), which aims to reduce poverty in Morocco by improving living conditions, assisting vulnerable social groups and supporting Moroccan families. The third phase of INDH, which will last from 2019 to 2023, will use its 1.9 billion dollar budget to improve basic social services and infrastructure around Morocco. As of 2019, the initiative has created 44,000 projects, 17,000 actions and 9,400 income-generating activities in an effort to bridge the inequality gap in Morocco. The country also took on a loan from The World Bank to reduce unemployment in Morocco. The government plans to use the loan to improve private sector employment, human resources, accelerate digitalization and quality of education.

While Morocco’s economy is improving, it is clear that poverty is an issue that still affects many people. Although the developing economy of Morocco improved the lives of many, it also resulted in extreme income disparities. This inequality impacts many citizens, as made apparent by the difference in literacy rates between children in urban and rural areas. Luckily, King Mohammed VI and the Moroccan government have taken measures to alleviate income disparity and poverty in Morocco. With the beginning of INDH’s third phase, many people in Morocco hope for a better future.

– YongJin Yi 
Photo: Flickr

Forbes ranked Nouakchott, the capital of Mauritania, the 20th dirtiest city as it lacks proper water management, which leads to famine and disease. Here are 10 facts about sanitation in Mauritania. 
Mauritania is the geographic and cultural bridge between North African Maghreb and Sub-Saharan Africa. The Islamic nation has a population of around 4 million people. Located in northwest Africa, the coastal country includes 90% desert land. Mauritania is infamous for being the last country to abolish slavery — in 1981 — and slaves still make up 4% to 10% of the population. Meanwhile, Forbes ranked Nouakchott, the capital of Mauritania, the 20th dirtiest city as it lacks proper water management, which leads to famine and disease. Here are 10 facts about sanitation in Mauritania. 

10 Facts About Sanitation in Mauritania

  1. According to WHO, the lack of water sanitation causes nearly 90% of the 2,150 deaths from diarrheal diseases in Mauritania each year. Stagnant water breeds malaria mosquitos, parasites and other contaminants. With over 16.6% of the population below the extreme poverty line, many Mauritanians cannot afford to acquire clean water or proper healthcare.
  2. According to the Africa Development Bank Group, 68% of Mauritanians have access to potable water. In 2008, only 49% of the population had access to potable water. In isolated desert villages, citizens must trek miles to reach the closest water source. Meanwhile, in the capital city of Nouakchott, people in poverty often purchase water from vendors who hauled the barrels from a water supply several kilometers away.
  3. WaterAid determined that in 2017, 1,048,500 Mauritanian children under the age of 17 lacked a proper household toilet. Because people cannot afford toilets and lack access to running water, Mauritanians rely on latrines. In 2010, the government of Mauritania halted funding towards latrines, further stalling progress toward sanitation. However, UNICEF’s Community-Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) initiative has improved 67% of latrines since 2009.
  4. As of June 12th, 2020, Mauritania logged 1,439 cases of the novel COVID-19. Although many facilities lack proper sanitation to handle the virus, the Mauritanian government enforced curfews, travel bans and shop closures. In hopes of preventing potential economic damage, the government also distributed food and exempted 174,707 households from paying electricity bills. Organizations like WHO and UNICEF responded to the situation by treating coronavirus patients and implementing sanitation facilities to contain the virus.
  5. In 2018, the Chinese company CTE subsidized $40.3 million toward a rainwater collection system for a new sanitary sewerage network in Nouakchott. Prior to the project, Nouakchott’s sewerage network served only 5% of the city’s households. Building better sewerage networks will allow Mauritania to bring running water to rural areas. Since the country is below sea level, sewerage networks can also help limit floods and stagnant water.
  6. The African Development Bank funded the National Integrated Rural Water Sector Project (PNISER) to install drinking water supply networks and solar pumping stations in rural Mauritania. The Ministry of Hydraulics and Sanitation is implementing the new networks in rural communities that lack water systems. Around 400,000 square meters of irrigated land will receive water availability, generating additional income for women and youth.
  7. World Vision initiated the WASH Mauritania program in 2016. It has provided three local villages with access to water, hygiene and sanitation resources. With funding from the U.S. and Germany, World Vision Mauritania “[rehabilitated] boreholes, water towers, water retention points, fountains and water network extension.” In the village of Maghtaa Sfeira, WASH benefited over 900 people and sponsored more than 200 children. As a result of this program, many women and children no longer have to seek unsanitary water holes or trek miles for water supplies.
  8. According to WaterAid, 60% of Mauritania’s schools lacked sanitation in 2016. When schools offer sanitation, not only can children practice good hygiene, but their school attendance increases.
  9. Because Mauritania is vulnerable to desertification, WHO partnered with the Mauritanian government in 2013 to ensure that schools, healthcare facilities and villages have proper water, sanitation and hygiene. WHO provided water basins, installed toilets and insured higher quality of food for schools. In addition, WHO equipped the country with six biomedical waste incinerators to dispose of hazardous substances. In one instance, transforming a Land Rover into a mobile water laboratory has enabled WHO to monitor the water quality of different villages.
  10. In 2020, the World Bank secured funding for the Water and Sanitation Sectoral project and the Mauritania Health System Support project. The Water and Sanitation Sectoral Project received an International Development Association (IDA) grant of $44 million to improve latrines, add hand-washing facilities and rehabilitate water systems. In the Hodh el Chargui region in eastern Mauritania, an additional $23 million IDA grant will increase the quality of reproductive, maternal, neonatal and child health and nutrition services. Together, these projects will benefit more than 473,000 people.

Improving sanitation in Mauritania can potentially have wide-reaching benefits — from raising incomes and boosting the national economy, to improving education and lowering mortality rates. It is imperative that the government and other organizations focus on providing sanitation resources to the people of Mauritania.

– Zoe Chao
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Georgia
Sitting between Turkey and Russia, the nation of Georgia tells a unique story about successfully fighting poverty. Although the country’s poverty rate sits at around 20.1%, the current figure represents a steep decline from the 2010 rate of 37.4%. A more complete understanding of the decline of poverty in Georgia requires an understanding of the nation’s history.

Recent Georgian History

Throughout the 19th century, the Russian empire slowly annexed Georgia. In 1918, after the collapse of the Russian Empire, the Democratic Republic of Georgia declared its independence. In 1921, the Soviet Union forcibly incorporated Georgia. Under Soviet rule, the economy of Georgia modernized and diversified from being largely agrarian to featuring a prominent industrial sector.

In 1936, Georgia became a constituent republic and remained so until the collapse of the Soviet Union. After the collapse in 1991, Georgia regained its independence, but instability, civil unrest and a falling GDP plagued the nation. After the Rose Revolution of 2003, the government of Georgia attempted to liberalize the nation’s economy and pursue cooperation with the West. Russia invaded the South Ossetia and Abkhazia regions in 2008 due to a territorial dispute, which is still ongoing.

When viewing the recent history, it is clear that the decline of poverty in Georgia deeply intertwines with its reforms after emerging from the Soviet Union. With a government focussed on stability and economic development, Georgia has been able to make strides to downsize poverty.

Success in Fighting Poverty

When the Georgian government made an attempt to liberalize the nation’s economy and pursue international cooperation after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the nation sought trade agreements with China and the European Union (E.U.) and made reforms to eliminate corruption and simplify taxes. As a result, Georgia’s GDP per capita has expanded at an average rate of 4.8% per year.

In 2007, The World Bank ranked Georgia as the world’s number one economic reformer due to its successful policies focussing on promoting competition and diversifying the financial sector. In 2014, it found that poverty in Georgia had decreased for the fourth consecutive year. Since 2014, Georgia has joined the E.U.’s Free Trade Area, and the E.U. has become the country’s largest trading partner.

Georgia has also been working with the United Nations Development Programme to pursue democratic reforms, inclusive growth, conflict transformation, green solutions and the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. In 2012, Georgia demonstrated positive growth, conducting a democratic election with a peaceful transition of power.

Fighting Poverty in the Future

Though the nation holds many statistical successes, poverty in Georgia is still a pressing matter. According to the Asian Development Bank, 20.1% of the population still lived below the national poverty line in 2018.

Unemployment remains a contributing factor to poverty in Georgia. The national rate sits at about 13.9%, though in some regions it is as high as 40%. Young people especially struggle economically in Georgia, and the country is currently working with the United Nations to improve vocational education and training. In 2017, the Georgian government put forth a rural development strategy, emphasizing its focus on the growth and diversification of the rural economy.

Despite the nation’s economic improvements, Georgia’s standard of living has decreased dramatically due to the loss of the cheap sources of energy previously received in the Soviet era. The country recognizes this problem and has made efforts to rebuild the energy sector in a sustainable way. In 2015, Georgia joined the EU4Energy Programme, which is dedicated to making effective, research-based policy decisions in the energy sector.

Healthcare also remains a contributing factor to poverty in Georgia, especially among children. The nation struggles with both a high infant mortality rate and a high rate of infections and parasitic diseases. In 2013, the country adopted a universal healthcare plan, which represents a significant step in making health care more accessible. The nation is currently working to expand the service to all areas of the population.

The previous victories in the decline of poverty in Georgia are laudable. Though Georgia still requires more work, the nation continues to make reform efforts and strives to ensure that the next chapter of economic history is one of continued success.

– Michael Messina
Photo: Flickr

Healthcare in Burundi
Burundi is a landlocked country in East Africa with a dense population of 11.89 million people. Due to overpopulation, an ongoing humanitarian crisis and more than 73% of the population in poverty, healthcare in Burundi is unstable, and the people of Burundi are highly susceptible to the wide variety of diseases that are plaguing the country. 

Current Health Risks in Burundi

Accessibility to healthcare in Burundi continues to be an issue for civilians, shown through the rise in deaths that diseases and epidemics caused. COVID-19 has affected the country as a whole and posed a threat to the already fragile healthcare system with records of 104 cases and one death as of June 16, 2020, although the need for more resources and vaccines was already in question long before this specific virus. Without proper treatment or preventative care, diseases like measles, malaria and many other infectious diseases put the population at risk.

In April 2019, the number of measles cases increased to 857 and refugees were reportedly spreading it to communities from refugee camps. Meanwhile, there were 504 cases as of March 2020. Out of the 18 provinces of Burundi, 63% of those districts face a high risk of infection. Low immunity and vaccination rates are two factors putting communities in compromising positions.

Malaria is an ongoing epidemic in Burundi that has claimed the lives of more than 3,170 people, and it continues to spread. Reports determine that the number of cases is 1.2 million, showing a slight decline in cases in comparison to the 1.7 million in 2019. Malaria is treatable and preventable through vaccination and the proper medication; however, access to these supplies and resources is scarce.

Focusing on the Issue  

The numbers on infection and mortality rates of treatable and preventable diseases in Burundi show a need for redirection. Seeing this need, various organizations have proposed ways to put a spotlight on the lack of funding for healthcare systems and supplies and provide the funding necessary to see progress. Here are a few ways organizations are addressing this:

  • In April of 2020, the World Bank and International Development Association (IDA) put into motion a $5 million grant to prevent and counter the spread of COVID-19 and reinforce the preparedness of the health care system of Burundi as a whole. These funds will assist the country’s healthcare system in receiving necessary testing and treatments for existing diseases and epidemics. In coordination with this, the World Bank will disburse $160 billion over the span of 15 months to “protect the poor and vulnerable, support businesses and bolster economic recovery.
  • Dr. Norbert Mugabo, a medical officer from Cibitoke province, set out to vaccinate more than 17,000 children as part of a measles vaccination initiative in April of 2020. Dr. Mugabo hopes to reach children between the ages of 9 months and 15 years in light of the outbreak in November 2019.
  • The International Rescue Committee (IRC) set many goals to aid Burundi in 2020. It determined that its main avenue for providing all-around better healthcare is starting with the basics. For example, the IRC intends to rebuild hand washing stations, boosting hygiene and addressing sanitation issues. These small steps forward have the ability to make a big difference long term.

The healthcare system in Burundi lacks the resources and funding needed to help the overall population thrive. However, with the help of dedicated professionals such as Dr. Mugabo and organizations such as the World Bank and the IRC, change in a positive direction is right around the corner.

Katie Mote-Preuss
Photo: Flickr

sanitation in belarusBelarus, a post-Soviet state that spent seven decades as a conglomerate of the larger Soviet Union, industrialized early, making much of its industrial base outdated and inefficient today. The country is highly dependent on Russia economically, with many treaties linking the two nations, and much of the sanitation and infrastructure remains unchanged from the early 20th century. This has left much of the country without safe sanitation or modern amenities, reducing the standard of living. Looking back on Belarus’s sanitation history shows high chemical content in their water, poor waste management systems and poor consistency of water flow. However, large scale projects on the horizon are looking to improve the quality, safety and efficiency of Belarus’s sanitation infrastructure.

5 Facts About Sanitation in Belarus

  1. Current status: Though Belarus struggles compared to its Western European neighbors, compared with some of its Eastern counterparts, Belarus scores in the top third of countries in the Human Development Index measure for “quality of standard of living” metrics. Additionally, compared with some of its less developed neighbors eastward, Belarus ranks in the top third in countries for environmental sustainability which also takes into account sanitation in Belarus. The United Nation’s report on water states that 95% of the population has access to a safe potable water source, 86% of the country has safe wastewater treatment and 81% of the country has access to safe sanitation services. While these numbers may appear relatively high, they are critically low when compared to Western European nations. For example, Belarus’s neighbor to the West, Poland, has 100% of its population with access to potable water and 93% of the country that has access to sanitation services.
  2. Clean water access is an ongoing problem: According to a study conducted on drinking water in Belarus, the quality of potable water is among the most pressing ecological problems for Belarus. Multiple outbreaks of diseases can be attributed to poor access to clean water. For example, in 1997, poor drinking water quality caused a small 400-case outbreak of aseptic meningitis. Other disease outbreaks related to poor water quality include viral hepatitis and methemoglobinemia in infants. These factors greatly reduced the quality of life for those in Belarus who could not rely on safe water to drink.
  3. Belarus is a “water-rich” country: Though Belarus’s territory has been known to lack basic sanitation, the country contains many natural, accessible water resources. Belarus has many aquatic ecosystems including rivers, lakes, reservoirs and ponds. The historic difficulty for Belarus has been to transform those clean water sources into potable and usable water for its citizens.
  4. The “Clean Water Program”: Massive efforts are underway to transform the Belorussian country’s critical utility services. With support from the World Bank and the European Investment Bank, Belarus is upgrading existing critical infrastructure in order to modernize. In addition to upgrading the old infrastructure, the World Bank hopes its investment will not only provide better services but come at a lower cost. It was planned that, through this program, 324,000 citizens of Belarus would have better quality drinking water and a cleaner environment. Through the modernization of existing systems, the reforms would not only bring cleaner water but give a much-needed upgrade to Belarus’s aging solid waste management services. New landfills and water treatment facilities would usher in a new era of environmental efforts as well as raise the standard of living.
  5. The quality of living has risen: In June of 2020, following the completion of the subsidized “Clean Water Program,” the number of people that benefited from quality access and treatment of water rose from 324,000 in 2019 to a staggering 611,766 people at the time of the project’s completion. Not only did more people benefit from increased water quality and treatment, 47,520 individuals gained access to much-improved sanitation services through 32 newly constructed utility centers and 154 kilometers of piping that was replaced. In addition to the new changes brought on by the massive initiative spearheaded by the World Bank, tangible changes in quality of living were noticed throughout the country. In the city of Berezino residents noticed cleaner air and cleaner water in the Berezina river that intersects the town. This was all due to the replaced water treatment center. Residents from another provincial town called Smolevichi noticed that the discoloration in their water supplies was almost totally gone. These noticeable improvements regarding sanitation in Belarus are vital in raising the standard of living in the country and bringing people out of poverty.

While Belarus is still lagging behind many of its more developed Western neighbors, vast international efforts have recognized the need for Belarus to have access to safe drinking water. Recent efforts to address sanitation in Belarus, as well as other water-related infrastructure, are vital to understanding its development as a sovereign state in the 21st century.

– Zak Schneider
Photo: Pixabay

 

Healthcare in Rwanda
Rwanda, the small landlocked state with a population of 12.5 million people, has made tremendous strides in the years following the infamous 1994 Rwandan genocide. The fertile and hilly state borders the much larger and wealthier Democratic Republic of the Congo, Tanzania, Uganda and Burundi. Rwanda is currently undergoing a few initiatives that the National Strategies for Transformation plan outlines. For example, Rwanda is presently working towards achieving Middle-Income Country status by 2035 and High-Income Country status by 2050. Among many improvements, many widely consider universal healthcare in Rwanda to be among the highest quality in Africa and the state’s greatest achievement.

Structure of Healthcare in Rwanda

Healthcare in Rwanda includes designed subsidies and a tiered system for users based on socioeconomic status. From 2003 to 2013, healthcare coverage in Rwanda has jumped tenfold, from less than 7% to nearly 74%. The Rwandan system of governance enables this level of widespread coverage. At the district level, funding and healthcare are decentralized to afford specific programs’ autonomy, depending on the needs of individual communities. Policy formulation comes from the central government while districts plan and coordinate public services delivery. In 2005, Rwanda launched a performance-based incentive program, which rewards community healthcare cooperatives based on factors such as women delivering at facilities and children receiving full rounds of immunizations.

Rwanda’s innovative healthcare system does not come without challenges. Nearly 85% of the population seeks health services from centers. Due to such wide use, it often takes long periods of time for health centers to receive reimbursement from the federal government for services rendered.

Improvements in Healthcare Access and Vaccinations

The rate at which Rwandans visit the doctor has also drastically increased. In 1999, Rwandans reportedly visited the doctor every four years. Today, most Rwandans visit the doctor twice a year. In addition, vaccination rates have drastically increased for Rwandans. Over 97% of infants receive vaccinations against diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, hepatitis B, Haemophilus influenza Type B, polio, measles, rubella, pneumococcus and rotavirus.

Part of the improved healthcare in Rwanda is the state’s fight against cancer. The most common cause of cancer in Africa is human papillomavirus-related cervical cancer. As part of Rwanda’s goal of eliminating cervical cancer by 2020, over 97% of all girls ages 11 to 15 receive vaccinations for HPV. Rwanda is currently developing a National Cancer Control Plan and data registry to help track and combat the spread of cancer. Finally, to improve testing for cancerous markers, the government built the Nucleic Acid Lab as part of the biomedical center in Kigali.

Growing Pains

Despite vast improvements, the country still has a lot to do in regard to healthcare in Rwanda. Over the past two decades, Rwandan healthcare has steadily closed the gap in developed states, such as France and the United States. Life expectancy for Rwandans at birth is 66 and 70 years for males and females respectively.

In France and the United States, life expectancy at birth is nearly 15 years more for both males and females. As a percent of GDP (7.5), Rwanda spends nearly 10% less per year on healthcare than the United States and 4% less than France. Malnutrition is rampant in children; 44.2% of all Rwandan children are classified as malnourished. From 2008 to 2010, anemia levels saw large increases. While family planning is more prevalent, access to contraception is not widely, or at all available, in most parts of the country. Despite the decline of child mortality rates, newborn deaths account for 39% of all child deaths.

Moving Forward

Along with the Rwandan state government, organizations such as Partners in Health (PIH) have helped make vast improvements to healthcare in Rwanda. Locally known as Inshuti Mu Buzima, PIH brings healthcare to over 860,000 Rwandans via three hospitals. The crown jewel of PIH is its Butaro District Hospital, which serves a region in Rwanda that previously did not have a hospital. Today, the hospital is well-known for its medical education and training for all of East Africa.

As widespread access to healthcare continues to spread and immunization efforts increase, healthcare in Rwanda has the potential to lead the way for additional state-wide improvements. Through such efforts, Rwanda’s target goal of Middle-Income Country status by 2035 is creeping further into reach.

Max Lang
Photo: Flickr

India vs Pakistan: Not Just Common Enemies
A man from India and a man from Pakistan stood proudly together representing their nations at a T-20 Cricket World Cup game in 2012. This is significant, as, in the year 1947, after India became independent from the British Empire, the Muslim minorities in the nation felt that they were experiencing underrepresentation and demanded partition. As a result of their religious divisions, India and Pakistan divided into two sovereign nations. About 70 years later, their harsh differences continue to exist. It is important to note that despite their religious and lingual difference, their poverty rates are both high. In India, about 21.9% of people lived below the poverty line as of 2011. Meanwhile, in Pakistan, about 24.3% of people lived below the poverty line as of 2015.

Religious Divisions

The main reason behind India’s partition was its religious divisions. Due to the Hindu majority within the government, the Muslim minorities felt that the government policies would only benefit the Hindus. Moreover, they also felt that the government would misrepresent them. Muhammed Ali Jinnah, a Pakistani politician, led Pakistan and developed a Muslim majority nation, while Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first prime minister, developed a Hindu majority of India. Religion became the foundation of the partition movement. Many still view it as the basis of the conflict between the two nations.

Consequently, about 15 million people suffered displacement, as the Muslims in India migrated towards the newly established Pakistan. Along with this, about 1 million and more people died due to religious conflicts. The political conflicts between the two nations had led many other citizens to suffer the consequences. As a result, many families lost important members, and some became homeless.

Poverty in India

While the two nations have often been enemies, they have a common issue of high poverty rates, with India at 21.9% in 2011 and 29.5% in 2015. The causes of the high rates of poverty are similar in both nations as well.

A common cause of poverty in both nations is hunger, unemployment and lack of education. In India, about 200 million people do not have access to decent food. In addition, the lack of employment with proper wages is difficult to access, since many Indian people live in small rural villages. UNICEF revealed that about 25% of children in India do not have access to education in India. In fact, often girls in India have to learn household jobs. Due to this unequal treatment of women, it is difficult for them to find jobs with a good wage.

Poverty in Pakistan

Pakistan has seen a similar trend to India. Typically, women and children find it really difficult to find access to food. Due to inflation, many resources are simply unaffordable.

In terms of employment, many Pakistani citizens live in rural areas. Consequently, they do not have access to proper jobs. Many who have jobs do not have proper wages. Moreover, about 90 million people lived on less than $2 a day in 2011. This makes poverty harder to overcome.

Inequality amongst women and young girls also increases poverty levels. Like India, women have to learn household tasks so that they have experience when they marry. Additionally, people often look down on women who work outside the house. Efforts to educate women have made a significant impact on this. Other influences on poverty include violence, ongoing conflicts with terrorist groups, malnutrition, infant mortality rates and child labor.

Solutions to Poverty in India

In India, the government is working to combat poverty in a variety of different ways. An initiative the government has launched to help decrease poverty is Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana or Housing For All. It focuses on providing the poor with affordable housing. Additionally, the program tries to empower the women by mandatorily making them the owner or co-owner of the house. Another program that the government launched is the Atal Mission For Urban Rejuvenation and Transformation. This program focuses on improving infrastructure and developing a proper sewage network, along with better water supplies for urbanization. In addition, the nation gets support from international organizations such as the U.N.

Solutions to Poverty in Pakistan

Pakistan’s government is also working effectively to decrease poverty levels. A program that the Pakistani government launched to help combat poverty is known as the Benazir Income Support Program. It focuses on assisting the poor financially. The program is essentially a cash transfer program that forces on reducing poverty and elevating the status of marginalized and underprivileged communities. Additionally, Pakistan receives plenty of support from international organizations such as USAID and the World Bank.

India and Pakistan continue to have political conflicts between each other. Similar to the relationship between the United States and Russia, the two nations have competitive views towards each other. Despite their differences, they have similar issues internally, such as poverty. However, although the new nations have significantly high levels of poverty, they have decreased the rates. Within a period of 10 years, 2006 to 2016, India lifted about 271 million people out of poverty. Pakistan significantly lowered its poverty rates as well and now has the second-lowest headcount poverty rate in South Asia. As urbanization continues in both countries, reductions in poverty are occurring, although at a slow rate.

Krishna Panchal
Photo: Flickr

Youth Unemployment in Senegal
Like many developing countries in Africa, Senegal’s economy is growing. In fact, in 2018, the country’s GDP increased by 6.766%. However, economic growth has not translated into more jobs for the younger generation, thus resulting in high youth unemployment. Young people either end up unemployed or in the informal job sector where wages are low. To solve the problem of youth unemployment in Senegal, the Senegalese government and NGOs are creating new policies and programs.

Youth and the Formal Job Sector

In 2019, Senegal’s population was over 16 million with 40% of the population younger than 15. More than 300,000 Senegalese youth enter the workforce each year. The formal sector in Senegal makes up between three to four percent of Senegal’s job market. As a result, college graduates struggle to find jobs relating to their field of study. When looking for formal jobs, graduates face many difficulties, including a lack of connections and a failure to meet the job qualifications. Youths also lack the knowledge of where to look for formal jobs.

Furthermore, according to employers, the education system does not meet the needs of the workforce because graduates do not have work experience (internships). The internships that youths do manage to get are often unpaid. This results in more difficulties for young people to sustain themselves while working. CNV International works with unions to make sure that interns are not being taken advantage of. Although the youth unemployment rate for ages between 15-24 has decreased from 13.2% in 2010 to 8.2% in 2019, Senegal still faces a problem of unemployment among youth.

Youth and the Informal Job Sector

When it becomes difficult to find employment, many Senegalese youth turn to the informal sector or start their own businesses. The informal sector is made up of businesses that are not registered and therefore do not pay taxes. For obtaining an informal job, social and personal relations play a more important role than a contractual agreement. Furthermore, informal jobs often tend not to provide employees with any form of social security or insurance, and are also fairly low-paying. Many informal jobs generate income that is less than Senegal’s minimum wage, according to Investisseurs & Partenaires.

Consequences of Youth Unemployment

The problem with youth unemployment is that it often leads to poverty, crime and even migration to other countries. In Senegal, many have left their villages to migrate to Europe. However, the path to Europe is dangerous and many die attempting to reach or cross the Mediterranean. To respond to the crisis of youth unemployment, the Senegalese government and NGOs have created programs to help young people find jobs.

Efforts to Reduce Youth Unemployment

In 2017, the Education Development Center and MasterCard Foundation started a 5-year long project to help teach students in both middle and high school. The project aims to teach students how to get a job as well as how to start a business. The program, known as APTE, helps provide internships, job placement, mentoring and coaching. Currently, the program works in 50 vocational education and training (TVET) schools and 200 middle schools (lower secondary), and has reached over 11,000 youths in the country.

To help youth entrepreneurs, the government created La Délégation Générale à l’Entreprenariat Rapide, a fund for entrepreneurs. The fund focuses on small financing, incubation funding, equity financing and low-interest loans. In the first wave of funding alone, the program received 140,000 applications. The fund has given money to multiple industries, including food, agriculture and digital/ICT.

With the help of the World Bank, the Senegalese government also created the Skills for Jobs and Competitiveness project to help reduce youth unemployment in Senegal. The project aims to train Senegalese youth in tourism, horticulture and poultry farming. Additionally, the Programme de Formation Ecole-Enterprise (School-Company Training Program) hopes to impact 10,000 young people by teaching them crucial job skills. The government is also working with companies through an apprenticeship program to train students while they are in school.

 

Although the youth unemployment rate in Senegal has decreased, it still remains a relevant issue. Programs by NGOs and the government are essential to providing job opportunities for young people in Senegal. These efforts also serve to reduce poverty and encourage youth to remain in Senegal rather than attempt the dangerous journey to Europe. If this focus on tackling youth unemployment continues, a new future for Senegal’s youth may be peeking through the horizon.

– Joshua Meribole 
Photo: Flickr