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Poverty in KrygyzstanA small, landlocked state in Central Asia, Kyrgyzstan was formerly part of the Soviet Republic with a volatile past and an uncertain future. While the country has had consistent economic growth since gaining independence in 1991, 22.4% of its population still live below the poverty line. Additionally, Kyrgyzstan struggles with internal ethnic conflict, unstable relations with neighboring countries, demographic trends in emigration and geographic weaknesses. This article will explore the many factors contributing to poverty in Kyrgyzstan, as well as the steps the country—and the world—are taking to solve it.

Geographic Disadvantage

Geography is an undeniable factor in determining the wealth and strength of a country. Unfortunately for Kyrgyzstan, geography has played a significant role in ensuring that the state is politically disconnected and economically restrained. Mountains, valleys and basins dominate Kyrgyzstan’s geography. Together, the Tian Shan and Pamir mountain ranges account for roughly 65% of the country’s land. Urban areas are located in the valleys separating the mountains, with agricultural production mainly in the Fergana Valley to the northeast.

Kyrgyzstan’s political borders are the result of Stalinist intervention that purposefully divided ethnic groups in order to create conflict. This political division, combined with mountains separating populations, created an unstable and disconnected region. Kyrgyzstan contains few navigable rivers and is geographically landlocked, forcing it to depend on other countries to transport goods to global markets. Furthermore, Kyrgyzstan’s geographical location is too close to Russia and China to warrant a significant Western investment. Kyrgyzstan can only overcome its geographic weaknesses with favorable trade deals and investment in transportation networks that connect the country to the outside world.

Economic Weakness

With a GDP of $8.5 billion and GDP per capita at $1,323, Kyrgyzstan’s economy lacks the natural resources and industrial diversity to thrive in the global economy. While GDP growth is consistently 4-5% annually, the country’s poverty rate has remained relatively stagnant since 2009. This stagnation is the result of the lack of job creation and wage growth in the country. Corruption and difficult business conditions have kept away investors, while the stronger Russian market exacerbates the trend of emigration.

The economy is dominated by mineral extraction, agriculture and animal domestication—sectors that are unlikely to grow in the coming years. Economic activity is so isolated in Kyrgyzstan that the Kumtor gold mine alone creates approximately 8% of the country’s GDP. However, there is hope for the economy in the tourism and hydroelectric power industries. With proper investment, Kyrgyzstan’s dams and mountain views could be the needed catalyst for economic diversification.

Political Instability and Corruption

Kyrgyzstan’s experience as a former member of the Soviet Republic has created a culture of political instability since the country achieved independence in 1991. Border wars over the Fergana Valley resulted in an atmosphere of suspicion in the region and led to the elections of nationalist strongmen in Kyrgyzstan. This social upheaval continued until 2010 when the nation adopted a parliamentary constitution with significant checks and balances. Even today, Kyrgyzstan is the only Central Asian state where the president is limited to a single term.

Despite progress in balancing branches of government, the new system was unable to calm the ethnic and regional tensions that had been simmering for decades. Additionally, corruption continues to harm Kyrgyzstan’s courts and business reputation due to the lack of accountability institutions. Businesses routinely pay off judicial officials and civil service personnel in order to earn tax abatement and political favors. The government has responded with reforms intended to improve Kyrgyzstan’s business environment but still lacks the ability to vet judicial appointments. With officials more interested in securing their own fortunes than the country’s well-being, it is clear that the political system perpetuates the cyclical poverty in Kyrgyzstan that plagues the country.

Demographic Trends

Understanding the demographics of a country can be essential in gauging future economic performance and societal progress. Kyrgyzstan has a population of approximately 6.5 million people, of which a majority are Kyrgyz, Uzbeks, Uighurs, Tajiks or Russian. While roughly three children are born to every Kyrgyz woman, the population growth rate remains around 1% due to significant emigration. The stronger Russian and Kazak markets, combined with a significant Russian minority ensures that this trend will continue into the next decade, curbing economic growth in the country. The urban and rural divide is also striking.

Only 35.6% of Kyrgyz peoples live in urban areas in comparison to the worldwide average of 55%. This statistic speaks to the weaknesses of a decentralized state lacking infrastructure investment. Additionally, the presence of minority groups from other Central Asian nations is the primary reason for the continuing tension in the region. Kyrgyzstan’s efforts at private industry reform have combatted the emigration trend to some extent. However, addressing Kyrgyzstan’s lack of centralization can only occur through infrastructure investment; a policy that requires significant capital in a mountainous nation.

Solutions

Despite the many dimensions of poverty in Kyrgyzstan, government reforms and international institutions alike have made significant progress in addressing this problem. The country has employed a multi-pronged approach to alleviating poverty in Kyrgyzstan and addressing shortcomings in the economy and government. Some of the policy proposals include reforming legal and regulatory institutions, developing the private sector, improving infrastructure and revamping social services. As many of these proposals are capital-intensive, Kyrgyzstan has turned to international financial institutions for funding. The World Bank and Asian Development Bank support important infrastructure projects in the country, including hydroelectric dams that power much of the region. The Asian Development Bank has been especially beneficial to Kyrgyzstan, with assistance reaching $2.13 billion on 192 projects.

While Kyrgyzstan has made progress in recent years, addressing poverty in Kyrgyzstan depends on whole scale reexaminations of the role of the private sector and courts in civil society. With support from the international community, targeted investment and governmental integrity, it is completely possible for Kyrgyzstan to overcome its many challenges.

Matthew Compan
Photo: Flickr

Food Supply Chains
Despite immense stress due to COVID-19, food supply chains have demonstrated resilience by offering a potential avenue for long-term poverty alleviation. The pandemic has threatened food security around the globe, with Feeding America reporting that as many as 17 million people could experience food insecurity in its wake. As such, food supply chains play an important role in assuring individuals’ access to food.

The Resilience of Food Supply Chains Amidst COVID-19

Food supply chains are the mechanism by which raw food becomes consumer-ready. These supply chains consist of farm production, processing, transportation and consumption. There are two primary categories of food supply chains. Firstly, domestic chains, in which food is produced and consumed in the same country. Second, international chains, in which food is transported across borders. Both domestic and international chains have been severely affected by the pandemic. However, there are notable differences in the impact on the two systems. This is due to their unique types of labor, transportation, and consumer demand among other conditions.

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) explained that food supply chain complications disproportionately affect low- and middle-income countries. Wealthier countries, which use large-scale international chains, have more capital- and knowledge-intensive structures. These international supply chains have shown greater resilience amidst the pandemic. The recovery of international chains helps explain why low-income countries are experiencing disproportionate effects of the pandemic on food security.

In comparison, low-income countries primarily rely on small and medium domestic chains. Small domestic chains are more labor-intensive and thus affected more heavily by pandemic labor restrictions. Furthermore, the labor-intensive components of food supply chains are the hardest-hit by COVID-19. This impact stems from mobility restrictions, reduced workplace capacities and illness that limits employees’ ability to complete their jobs.

The Potential to Fight Poverty

Ensuring logistical flexibility and employee health is imperative in mitigating harm to domestic food chains. Social innovations are emerging to address the labor needs created by the pandemic. These innovations aim to increase the “flexibility of labor sourcing and timing,” by improving access to transportation, decreasing reliance on physical labor in certain production zones and improving hygiene and health education to avoid outbreaks in densely populated work areas.

Far beyond social innovation in labor, though, many believe the COVID-induced threat to food supply chains could provide an incredible opportunity for long-term poverty alleviation. One contributor to the International Food Policy Research Institute wrote: “During COVID-19, the bureaucratic, financial, logistical and technological reasons that always seemed to make actions impossible or improbable have fallen away.”

Food supply chain innovations have also addressed financial, managerial and health complications. These issues affect supply chains both in the short and long terms. For instance, digital innovation and the growth of e-commerce have played significant roles in enabling supply chains to overcome previously existing complications in the face of the pandemic.

Every type of food supply chain has increased e-commerce use. E-commerce decreases contact between workers and consumers and allows for easier food access around the globe. Apps developed by governments and businesses in places like India and China have allowed consumers direct access to food providers. Overall, these changes simplify the transportation process for food producers in countries around the world.

Innovations in Food Supply Chains

Large-scale supply chains and companies have also supported small and medium domestic supply chains with kick-starter financial support for COVID-19. Aid has also been provided to families and communities through voucher programs. Additionally, the World Bank has been working to stabilize prices across the various supply chains. By investing in the infrastructure and labor flexibility of domestic supply chains, governments and development partners have the power to strengthen global food security.

The threats to food supply chains have considerable policy implications, the OECD explains, underscoring the importance of open borders for importing and exporting food items. The World Bank released a joint statement calling for the free international movement of food to prevent a food insecurity emergency, calling on countries to cooperate to ensure food accessibility around the world. The statement also emphasizes the importance of making every step of food logistics accessible to prevent all people from going hungry, especially during pandemic lockdowns and restrictions.

– Emily Rahhal
Photo: Flickr

Tourism in Africa
Tourism has been a fundamental component of the African economy for years, with many countries depending on the industry as a primary source of revenue. In addition to supporting the economy directly through foreign currency, tourism in Africa has become a reliable source of income for many locals. Some of these individuals work as tour guides, while others own tourism-dependent businesses like hotels and cultural craft shops. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the tourism industry has changed dramatically over the past year.

Economic Shifts

The World Bank reported that, in 2012, tourism in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) contributed $36 billion to the region’s GDP. The report also indicated that many countries in SSA were still working to develop their tourism facilities. Since 2012, these countries have improved security and provided better quality resources to attract tourists and tourism investors. However, COVID-19 disturbed this progress. Many countries established touristic travel bans to fight the pandemic, and many visitor attractions had to close. In total, the World Travel and Tourism Council has predicted that Africa’s resulting GDP loss could be $52.8 billion.

Unemployment

COVID-19 terminated many jobs, including tourism-related occupations like travel agencies and small businesses. The World Bank has reported that “one in twenty jobs in SSA is in travel and tourism.” According to a recent study from the African Union, an estimate of 2 million jobs directly or indirectly related to travel and tourism will disappear during the pandemic. These losses will affect all citizens in this region. For example, consumers will experience increased prices on commodities and higher taxes to compensate for the loss of tourism revenue.

Finding Solutions

However, countries typically reliant on tourism for economic stability are finding creative ways to adapt to the changes.

Many countries had no choice but to close borders in order to control the entrance and spread of COVID-19. Various policies implemented now encourage people to observe social distancing and wear masks in public places. To promote the industry amidst these new safety guidelines, the U.N. reported that Kenya and Zambia encouraged domestic tourism in the absence of foreign visitors. South Africa has donated approximately $11 million in relief aid to eligible tourism-related businesses, and the International Trade Centre reported that young Gambians who worked in community tourism became “COVID-19 first responders to awareness and prevention.”

These initiatives have helped people gain some income and retain access to basic needs. Additionally, countries have been conducting virtual tours in parks to continue engaging international tourists and increase chances of visitation following the pandemic. BBC reported that Kenya, Seychelles and Rwanda would open in August 2020 for international travelers; however, tourists would have to undergo different procedures to gain safe access to hotels and touristic sites.

Many African countries greatly profit from the tourism industry. This industry has been rapidly growing in Africa. In fact, the continent expected a consistent increase in the number of incoming international visitors over the next several years. However, in response to the recent surge of COVID-19, the continent is adapting to creatively compensate for these changes and continue protecting citizens’ health and safety.

– Renova Uwingabire
Photo: Flickr

Infant Mortality in Côte d'Ivoire
When examining the whole of Africa, infant mortality is a matter of grave concern. The West African country of Côte d’Ivoire currently struggles in comparison with other countries in the same category. The World Bank recorded an infant mortality rate of 59.40 per 1,000 live births there in 2018. These deaths stem from several causes, with the primary issue being the lack of available infant care in the country. However, in recent years, these numbers have improved dramatically; the rate of infant mortality in Côte d’Ivoire is almost half of the 100.7 deaths recorded per 1,000 live births in 1998, according to the same source.

The Scope of the Problem

Despite the lower mortality rate, fundamental problems persist. A report by the Healthy Newborn Network (HNN) that used sources compiled from the WHO and the MCEE determined that skilled professionals attend only 74% of the country’s live births. Moreover, approximately 12% of children are pre-term (i.e. before 37 weeks of pregnancy). These issues are at the foundations of the nation’s present-day mortality numbers, which remain elevated.

Progress

Yet over the years, a variety of factors have contributed to the dramatic lowering of infant mortality in Côte d’Ivoire. One of the most important of these factors is the increased educational opportunities for medical professionals within the country. Côte d’Ivoire has a strict curriculum set for all aspiring midwives. A comprehensive U.N. report noted that the country’s standardized program requires graduation through the 12th grade and an additional three years of study, as well as other professional experiences in order to graduate.

A Look at the Numbers

Necessity accentuates the importance of these programs as events related to conception and preterm birth complications account for 58% of infant deaths. These include a lack of professional attention or postpartum care, both of which are very important to the large proportion of babies born preterm. The HNN report also points out other issues causing infant mortality, noting that either Tetanus or Sepsis causes an additional 21% of deaths. A notable similarity between these two issues is that many instances of them are avoidable. For example, tetanus issues typically stem from a lack of care regarding sanitation and the severing of the umbilical cord — which more professional, trained practice in various regions of the country would prevent.

Urban vs. Rural Births Pose a Problem

Côte d’Ivoire’s improvements, however, do not have even distribution throughout the country. According to previously mentioned U.N. statistics, while over 82% of urban births had a skilled birth attendant present, less than 50% of births in rural areas had the same professionals available. This problem extends further when considering that 2020 projections estimated that rural areas would account for nearly twice as many pregnancies as urban environments. While the report recorded over 6,000 trained physicians and midwives practicing within the country — few of these professionals practice in rural areas, where communities lack the resources to provide safe child-birthing to their populations.

Improvements Needed for Sustainable Population Growth

Although the country certainly has improved conditions for delivery in recent years, the fight against a rising infant mortality rate must persist. With sources like the World Population Review predicting the country’s population to double by 2050, the progressive improvement of infant care is essential for Côte d’Ivoire to continue its positive trend against high infant mortality.

Joe Clark
Photo: Flickr

healthcare in lesotho
Lesotho, a small nation in southern Africa, is continually improving its access to healthcare systems. Still, even with greater access to healthcare services in some of the areas that are more difficult to reach, long treks and expensive rides are necessary to receive essential care. Due to the state of remote villages being located far from hospitals, patients are not able to receive help immediately in case of an emergency.

Lesotho is also the only country in the world that has its entire elevation above 1,000 meters, which means the terrain may be harder to navigate and maneuver. The life expectancy for Lesotho averages around 53 years for both males and females and deaths under 5 occur 8.1% of the time. However, despite all these limitations, Lesotho has remained committed to improving the well-being of its citizens. Partnerships with private companies, expansions to the hospital network and increased government funding to aid programs have all been policies implemented to invest in Lesotho’s health infrastructure. These five facts about healthcare in Lesotho are integral to understanding the country’s changing health structures and transition out of poverty.

5 Facts About Healthcare in Lesotho

  1. Lesotho is at an elevated risk for HIV and Tuberculosis, consistently ranking in the top 20 countries by an estimated absolute number of incident cases. Predictions estimate that less than half of the approximate 12,000 cases of HIV/TB co-infected patients are even diagnosed each year, much less treated for their symptoms. Estimated TB incidence is about 724 per 100,000 individuals in the population, the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) reports. Understanding that the necessary objective is to expand TB testing and treatment coverage, Lesotho is working to increase and optimize its GeneXpert equipment to meet the demand.
  2. Partners in Health, known locally to the people of Lesotho as Bo-mphato Litsebeletsong Tsa Bophelo, works directly with the government of Lesotho to reform and improve the healthcare infrastructure system as a whole. After a government invitation in 2006 to aid in Lesotho’s response to the HIV epidemic, Partners in Health expanded a primary healthcare program to reach over 90,000 people at mountain clinics in remote areas of the country. Partnered reform for HIV/TB co-infection began in 2014, with Partners in Health as the primary adviser to the government of Lesotho. Thus far, the expansion of health systems has reached more than 70 health centers and about 40% of Lesotho’s population. With special focuses on maternal and child health going forward, Partners in Health looks to continue Lesotho’s health development.
  3. One of the most unique government healthcare services in Lesotho, the Flying Doctor Service, provides aid by plane to rural areas. However, even in these hard-to-reach mountainous areas, the Flying Doctor Service does more than provide treatment. In addition to emergency medical service, the service also implements healthcare programs and brings essential medical supplies like vaccines to areas in need. The Flying Doctor Service uses Cessna 206 single-engine planes, stocked with stretchers and first aid kits, to deliver care to the people of Lesotho. Even countries like Ireland have supported the Flying Doctor Service in Lesotho, committing to provide flights to Lesotho to assist the aid efforts.
  4. Public-private partnerships have been an essential part of Lesotho’s healthcare development in the infrastructure department. The International Finance Corporation of the World Bank has recently been working with the government of Lesotho to develop hospitals and health centers around the mountainous regions. The Queen ‘Mamohato Memorial Hospital in the country’s capital, Maseru, was recently developed and opened for patients. Replacing the Queen Elizabeth II Hospital, where infrastructure was debilitating and services were poor, the new Queen ‘Mamohato Memorial Hospital is truly world-class. With state of the art operating rooms, a maternal ward, nursery, Intensive Care Unit and other services, the new hospital built with help from a $6.25 million grant from the World Bank Group.
  5. In 2016, the maternal mortality rate in Lesotho was about 618 deaths per 100,000 live births. Though this mortality rate is favorable when compared to the 2014 statistic of approximately 1,024 deaths per 100,000 live births, it is still too much too high for Lesotho. This exceptionally high maternal mortality rate is a result of the poor services provided during pregnancy, childbirth and after delivery (especially to those in rural areas of Lesotho). Postnatal care is also imperative to ensure the safety of the mother and child after delivery but only around 62% of mothers and 18% of newborns receive the recommended treatment.

In the fight against poverty and for a stronger healthcare system, Lesotho has much work to do. There has been progress on the infrastructure front and with public-private partnerships but many services to the rural population still lag behind what is necessary. However, with continued government support and increased foreign aid, the healthcare system will continue to develop and Lesotho can become a country that provides a robust healthcare system for its growing population.

– Pratik Koppikar
Photo: Pikist

Water Insecurity in KosovoThe World Bank has secured aid for Kosovo to help the country’s water security efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic. On June 10, 2020, the World Bank approved a budget of $27.4 million to invest in aid to address water insecurity in Kosovo. The new “Kosovo Fostering and Leveraging Opportunities for Water Security Program,” implemented nationwide, will reach struggling regions within the country, such as Morava e Binces — the driest area of all.

COVID-19 and Water Security

In a statement from the World Bank, the manager for Kosovo, Marco Mantovanelli, stated that addressing Kosovo’s water crisis is even more important during the COVID-19 pandemic. Access (or lack thereof) to clean water for drinking and sanitation has a direct impact on the COVID-19 crisis. The World Bank representative described clean water as an “essential barrier to preventing virus spread and protecting human health from COVID-19 and similar diseases.”

The World Resources Institute (WRI) reports that hand washing is one of the primary combatants against a disease like COVID-19. Additionally, both water management and security impact the spread of a disease like COVID-19. Without proper storage, water shortages occur and people have limited access to water for sanitation. Water management (pollution control and distribution) directly impacts the quality and quantity of water accessible  to the population. WRI reports that improving both domestic and industrial water waste treatments improves water quality and helps improve issues related to water use for sanitation and health.

Water in Kosovo

Kosovo’s water crisis is only worsened by the virus as the crisis existed before the COVID-19 pandemic. The issues of water pollution are rooted in Kosovo even from when it was a province in the former Yugoslavia. It was the most polluted province then and now, a majority of the Kosovo municipalities have no form of treatment plants for wastewater. Additionally, the World Bank reports that Kosovo has the lowest water storage level in the region — as well as high pollution levels.

The new water security plan will address some key issues in water security. These issues include management of resources, water storage, addressing natural disasters and their impacts, dam safety, updating equipment and facilities and general emergency preparedness.

The Impact on Struggling Regions in Kosovo

While the entire country will benefit from the plan, the strategy will specifically benefit the driest region in Kosovo — Morava e Binces. Morava e Binces has had significant problems with water access for its civilian population. The region has suffered greatly with water access interruptions. Some of these interruptions last hundreds of days. However, with the implementation of the new plan, the World Bank estimates 190,000 people will be positively impacted in the Morava e Binces region alone.

The World Bank’s approved aid will begin work on installing new and updated equipment, replan the water storage processes, and make additional renovations to dam maintenance and safety. This aid program is an essential step in ending water insecurity in Kosovo. While the COVID-19 pandemic has complicated an already existing, water security problem within Kosovo, government initiatives are a good, forward step.

Kiahna Stephens
Photo: Pixabay

Homelessness in Samoa
A leading cause of homelessness in Samoa is its vulnerability to natural disasters and deadly cyclones. These natural disasters wipe out many families’ homes, businesses and churches, consequently leaving them homeless. The rural communities face the bulk of the homelessness problem due to a lack of access to clean water, land to grow crops and job opportunities. Around 18.8% of Samoa’s population lives below the national poverty line and most of that group lives in rural communities where there is a lack of jobs. Instead, the villagers rely heavily on their land for survival.

5 Facts About Homelessness in Samoa

  1. Homelessness in Samoa is partially due to the fact that many people do not have access to agriculture. This is because natural disasters can cause devastating land destruction. The World Bank’s Board of Executive Directors has approved a $20 million grant to the Samoa Agriculture and Fisheries Productivity and Marketing Project to help aid those in Samoa who suffer in the aftermath of natural disasters. The goal of this initiative is to rehabilitate communities and improve the construction of infrastructure in order to become more stable during natural disasters. Further, this collaboration will also seek to increase food productivity, nutrition and more consistent incomes for the Samoan people.
  2. Samoa is in close contact with countries that have a high income in labor markets, through permanent and temporary migration. Migration offers higher paying job opportunities which raise the amount of income in Samoan households. This, in turn, reduces the chances of homelessness in Samoa.
  3. Violence is prevalent in Samoan families and results in Samoa having one of the highest rates of family and sexual assaults in the world. In 2018, it became the first country in the Pacific Region to perform a National Public Inquiry into family violence — which unveiled that there is an “epidemic” of violence and sexual abuse. According to the report, 90% of respondents indicated some form of violence frequently transpiring at home. Nearly 60% of women experienced sexual abuse from a partner, 20% of women reported being raped and nearly 10% of women experienced incest. The high rate of family and sexual abuse is a determining factor for young girls in Samoa in running away from home — which in turn leads to homelessness.
  4. Many of the people in Samoa rely on agriculture as their main source of income. However, the catastrophe of natural disasters frequently destroys lands, which in turn takes away these Samoans’ means of survival. As of 2019, the unemployment rate in Samoa was 8.36%. The unemployment rate will only rise higher due to natural disasters’ effect on the land and the reduction in manufacturing work. These factors all contribute to the problem of homelessness in Samoa.
  5. One cause of homelessness is mental illness. According to the results from 2017 mental health data, 16.4% of homeless people in Samoa suffer from mental illness. Projects for Assistance in Transition for Homelessness (PATH) is an outreach program accessible in Samoa that offers help in many ways. Examples are diagnostic treatment, rehabilitation and referrals to primary health care providers for those experiencing mental illness.

An NGO Making a Difference

Although Samoa faces adversities such as poverty which leads to homelessness — no reliable statistics show exactly how many people are homeless in Samoa. Luckily, many people tend to have continuous access to the sea for fish and land to grow crops, which is how they can make an income. With the intent of creating a more secure economy and land for the people of Samoa, the nongovernmental organization Civil Society Support Program (CSSP) is currently working to reduce homelessness. The program emerged because of the recognition that through effective and sustainable Civil Society programs, the quality of life for the people of Samoa can improve. The program’s goal is to provide support within Civil Society groups that will improve their communities and provide more promising economic opportunities.

Montana Moore
Photo: Unsplash

COVID-19 in Nigeria
Nigeria is located on the western coast of the African continent. Home to more than 200 million people, Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa. The nation is no stranger to diseases: a dense population, frequent travelers and the Ebola outbreak have impacted thousands. Although the government successfully contained the Ebola outbreak, similar action was not taken to deal with COVID-19. As COVID-19 surges, several global humanitarian organizations are working with Nigeria’s government to combat the virus. Here are four organizations fighting COVID-19 in Nigeria.

The World Health Organization

The World Health Organization (WHO) has been actively involved in projects promoting health and safety in Africa for years. During the 2014 Ebola outbreak, the WHO helped contain the virus in Nigeria. Recently, the organization has shifted its focus to COVID-19. In early June, the WHO recognized a lack of COVID-19 testing in many of the country’s rural communities. In response, the organization planned to educate health officials and community members on the pandemic’s severity.

The WHO has since been working with the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) to conduct country-wide testing and sample collection. The two organizations are now locating and mapping at-risk communities to better coordinate treatments and procedures.

World Food Programme

World Food Programme (WFP) is a food-assistance branch of the United Nations. The WFP has been especially active in recent months, combatting the food insecurity accompanying economic hardships caused by COVID-19. The program has also established and deployed food assistance task forces to reach the country’s remote communities.

Throughout the pandemic, WFP has assisted more than 715,000 of its targeted 890,000 beneficiaries. The organization continues to offer life-saving food assistance to Nigerians while providing valuable education about sanitation and safety measures.

WaterAid

WaterAid is a nonprofit humanitarian aid organization focused on providing clean water and promoting hygiene and sanitation across the globe. Amidst COVID-19, WaterAid has been collaborating with Nigeria’s Federal Ministry of Water Resources to incorporate clean water resources and hygienic behaviors into communities across the country.

The organization is placing an emphasis on implementing routine hand-washing practices using clean water. WaterAid is also working to educate Nigerians about the importance of staying hygienic and sanitized to minimize the risk of contracting the virus.

The World Bank

The World Bank is an international financial institution that provides countries with loans and financial services. Its current work involves collaborating with the Nigerian government to monitor and analyze the impact of COVID-19 on the country’s socioeconomic health. The World Bank is also working to determine the amount of financial aid the country requires to adequately address the pandemic. The organization has initiated a household survey called the Nigeria COVID-19 National Longitudinal Phone Survey to assist in this endeavor.

In early March, the World Bank prepared initial financial packages of up to $12 billion to assist more than 60 countries heavily affected by COVID-19. Such financial packages have helped countries like Nigeria strengthen their healthcare systems and reduce the damage to the economy. The $12 billion funding includes contributions from various facilities within the World Bank, including International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD), International Development Association (IDA) and the International Finance Corporation (IFC).

When Nigeria’s first cases of COVID-19 emerged, international humanitarian and financial organizations quickly prioritized containment. While COVID-19 in Nigeria continues surging, organizations like the World Health Organization, World Food Programme, WaterAid and the World Bank Group have stepped in to support the country. As these organizations work to promote hygiene and offer treatment, the risk of contracting COVID-19 in Nigeria continues to decrease and ultimately brings hope to the nation.

– Omer Syed
Photo: Flickr

Health in Guinea-Bissau
A former Portuguese colony with almost 2 million inhabitants, Guinea-Bissau is a small country located on the Atlantic coast in West Africa. The nation achieved its independence in 1973 but remains one of the most impoverished countries in the world, ranking 178th on the Human Development Index. Health in Guinea-Bissau is a complex issue as more than two-thirds of the country’s population lives in poverty. Today, Guinea-Bissau struggles with providing quality health services to its citizens. With the country spending an average of just $91 per person per year on healthcare, international aid could provide the country with an opportunity to modernize and expand its healthcare system. Here are eight notable facts about health in Guinea-Bissau.

8 Facts About Health in Guinea-Bissau

  1. The infant and maternal mortality rates are alarmingly high. While the infant mortality rate has decreased fourfold over the last 30 years, it still remains the fourth highest in the world at 85.7 per 1,000 live births as of 2015. The maternal mortality rate ranks as the 18th highest in the world at 549 deaths per 1,000 live births. An increase in the measles vaccination rate links to recent reductions in infant mortality. In order to lower the maternal mortality rate, the country needs more trained midwives, hospital buildings for child-delivery and better education for women and girls about pregnancy and childbirth.
  2. The nation’s COVID-19 response has been strict and largely effective so far. Guinea-Bissau had just over 2,200 recorded cases of COVID-19 and only 34 COVID-19-related deaths at the end of August 2020. The government ended a mandatory nighttime curfew in late July 2020 after success in mitigating the spread but it still requires citizens to wear masks in public spaces.
  3. Guinea-Bissau has seen continued success in immunization against measles. In 1990, just 53% of infants from 12 months to 23 months received a measles vaccine. By 2010, that number rose to 76% and today, 86% of Guinea-Bissau infants receive a measles vaccine.
  4. Life expectancy is rising but remains below the global average. Guinea-Bissau is far behind the global average life expectancy of 72 years. In 2018, the nation’s average life expectancy at birth was only 58 years. Despite this, the average life expectancy in Guinea-Bissau is 11 years longer today than it was in 1990 at just 47 years. Compared to the rest of Sub-Saharan Africa, the country is nearing the regional average of 62 years. If Guinea-Bissau remains at peace and healthcare access improves, life expectancy should continue to rise.
  5. The country sees repeated cholera outbreaks and continues to be at a high risk of further outbreaks. Guinea-Bissau has experienced six large outbreaks of cholera over the last 30 years. The largest outbreak came in 2005 when cholera infected 25,111 people and 399 died. The conditions in the country have not changed substantially from the most recent outbreak in 2012, leaving Guinea-Bissau vulnerable to further outbreaks.
  6. The birth rate has consistently decreased for 30 years. The birth rate in Guinea-Bissau decreased from 6.6 births per woman in 1990 to 4.5 births per woman in 2018.
  7. Trained doctors do not tend to stay in Guinea-Bissau for long. There are only three pediatricians, one anesthetist and 34 midwives in the entire country to serve a population of over 700,000 children and 1.1 million adults. Doctors leave the country at high rates in search of better living conditions and higher wages across the world.
  8. Rural populations lack access to healthcare. Around 50% of Guinea-Bissau’s population lives in rural areas with extremely limited access to healthcare. However, international aid organizations like Doctors Worldwide Turkey provide free services to the rural population for brief periods of time.

To improve health in Guinea-Bissau, the nation needs international aid and assistance in building and organizing its struggling healthcare system. Once back on its feet, Guinea-Bissau can work to improve even more areas of life.

– Jeff Keare
Photo: Flickr

Child Poverty in EthiopiaEthiopia, a diverse nation located in the horn of Africa, is home to approximately 115 million citizens. The steady growth of the country’s population has led to economic growth and increased job opportunities. Unfortunately, population growth has also led to certain difficulties in controlling and diminishing poverty in Ethiopia. Child poverty in Ethiopia is particularly prominent.

Surviving on the Streets of Ethiopia

A native of Ethiopia, 20-year-old Mohamed Yimer has experienced the reality of child poverty in Ethiopia. At only 6 years old, Yimer lived in the streets of Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa, where he had to survive with almost no access to basic necessities like food, water and shelter.

Yimer “would make money by throwing people’s garbage out and collecting metals such as nails and any scraps.” The money collected would hopefully buy him enough food for the day. According to Yimer, restaurants would often give uneaten food or leftovers to him and other young kids who were unable to afford enough to eat.

While Yimer’s childhood experience was extremely challenging, he understood that there are millions of children experiencing the same situation. Estimates determine that 36 million out of the 41 million children in Ethiopia live in severe poverty. Moreover, approximately 88% of the child population is unable to obtain necessary goods or access basic services.

In addition, rampant poverty, when parents have an obligation to send their children to full-time work rather than school, characterizes child poverty in Ethiopia. This allows children to contribute financially to the family at a very young age but deprives them of an education and a true childhood.

Inadequate Living Conditions

Shelter, a priority and basic need for child growth, is incredibly difficult for many children to find in Ethiopia. Yimer explained that “hundreds of children would sleep in tents, whether it be on the side of the road or under bridge ways.” While orphanages in Ethiopia allow children to receive education, shelter and food, the living conditions there are considered to be extremely poor and insufficient for child growth.

Yimer was able to stay in an orphanage for several years during his childhood. The orphanage provided meals such as bread and tea for breakfast and basic meals, which consisted of cooked vegetables. Yimer emphasizes that they “would only receive meals with meat on holidays such as Christmas.” He also describes inadequate and poor sanitation systems in orphanages. In an orphanage filled with hundreds of kids, there was only one bathroom for both boys and girls.

Poverty Reduction

Though child poverty in Ethiopia has been a severe problem, several studies have shown some progress throughout the last two decades. Research shows that the percentage of children living in poverty has decreased from 90% to 88%.

From 2000 to 2011, overall poverty has decreased from 44% to 30%, which many consider a remarkable improvement. A focus on agricultural and economic growth, as well as focused attention on helping children access necessary goods easily, have made this possible.

Many organizations have made several recommendations in the hopes of further reducing child poverty in Ethiopia. Some of those suggestions include speeding up certain investments toward reducing child poverty. Moreover, organizations hope to improve collaborations to reduce child poverty, whether it be to provide education, better sanitation services or basic everyday necessities to children.

Though child poverty is still evident in Ethiopia today, it is important to notice its slight but steady decline throughout the last two decades. By speeding up investment, garnering higher public recognition and improving non-profit collaboration, it is possible for child poverty in Ethiopia to decrease at a much faster rate in the future.

– Elisabeth Balicanta
Photo: Flickr