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how-small-island-nations-fight-poverty-alongside-pollutionSmall island nations possess a unique perspective in the fight against poverty. Representing some of the most vulnerable areas, their tiny landmasses and isolated locations make them particularly susceptible to climate disasters. This can lead to extreme suffering and hardship for the county’s citizens when their supply routes are cut. The 2010 earthquake in Haiti is an example of this; so is the 2021 volcanic explosion in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. However, they also possess unique economic opportunities to uplift their citizens that rest upon that same tempestuous climate.

The Vulnerability of Small Island Nations

To put into perspective how vulnerable small island nations are, one can consult the Global Risk Report, a yearly study of the countries most susceptible to natural, social and economic disasters. In 2021, 10 small islands ranked in the top 15 most vulnerable nations on the list.

Small islands accounted for the top three most vulnerable nations: Vanuatu, the Solomon Islands and Tonga. The reason being: they possess a dangerous mixture of impoverished people, poor infrastructure and high susceptibility to climate events. Such events are only increasing with time due to climate change. “In addition to cyclones, earthquakes and droughts, the risk profile is also increasingly determined by sea-level rise.”

The COVID-19 pandemic also hit small island nations harder than most. Tourism, an industry that completely dried up during the height of the virus, powered many island economies. Importing and exporting goods also became much more difficult as supply lines around the world strained over new restrictions.

Going Green in the Maldives With Parley

Most small island nations are slowly recovering from the pandemic and looking towards a brighter economic and social future. These countries are trying to strengthen by becoming some of the most environmentally advanced nations on the planet.

The Maldives, a collection of islands near Sri Lanka, began partnering with environmental nonprofit Parley for the Oceans in 2019 in order to help preserve the nation’s famous coastlines.

Parley is implementing the AIR (Avoid, Intercept, Redesign) strategy, working with local organizations and communities. Parley prioritized the following:

  • Reducing plastic use
  • Educating communities and youth
  • Combating pollution with cleanups
  • Recycling and plastic interception programs
  • Support an eco-innovative approach to sustainable development

Parley, implemented “plastic interception and baling sites” including more than 70 educational facilities. Hosted “collaborative cleanups” on shores and built the first plastic center and innovation laboratory in the nation’s capital of Malé.

Although this partnership does not directly address poverty in the nation, Parley looks to help struggling people within the Maldives by way of educational programs and “eco-innovative” collaborations with artists and corporations that bring more money and jobs into the country. The program has coincided with a decline in poverty in the Maldives, as the poverty rate rose to 11% during the pandemic-fueled year of 2020 but then fell to 4% a year later in 2021.

Tree Planting in Jamaica

Jamaica, which saw its poverty rate balloon during the pandemic to almost 23% in 2020, is using an eco-friendly approach to support the economies of itself and smaller islands around the Caribbean. In 2019, the nation founded the Caribbean Philanthropic Alliance, which aims to pool “financial and other resources” to help Caribbean nations meet the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030. This includes the achievement of environment-related SDGs. As such, the Caribbean Philanthropic Alliance implemented the Caribbean Tree Planting Project (CTPP) in February 2020, mobilizing young people, local communities and organizations across 22 Caribbean nations to plant at least 1 million trees to speed up progress toward achieving the SDGs.

Seychelles’ Blue Economy

In Seychelles, a collection of islands off the western coast of Africa, the “blue economy,” which the World Bank describes as “sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, improved livelihoods and jobs,” has helped the nation and its people grow stronger in recent years. In 2018, Seychelles launched the “world’s first sovereign blue bond” to fund projects to strengthen the nation’s blue economy. In March 2020, Seychelles absolved of its foreign debt by denoting a third of its marine territory as a protected area. It was the first-ever case where foreign debt is paid off by way of environmental change. These changes are part of why Seychelles can expect to see a rise in GDP by 4.6% in 2022 and a decline in poverty ($5.5 in 2011 PPP) from 6.6% in 2020 to 5.1% in 2023.

Moving Forward

These small islands will require more foreign assistance to keep moving forward and reaching their environmental goals. As the U.N. reported in September 2019, “sustainable development in small island developing States will require a major increase in urgent investment.” It is essential for the health of these nations that these programs continue to receive funding. If they are, the islands’ futures, as well as their oceans, will be bright.

Finn Hartnett

Photo: Flickr

Moving Toward Veganism
In 2015, the United Nations adopted the 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). Sustainable Development Goal 2, Zero Hunger, aims to “end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture” for all people by 2030. However, the world is not on track to achieve this goal. According to the World Food Programme (WFP), in 2019, 821 million global citizens, equivalent to “more than one in nine” people, suffered from hunger. In a world that already produces enough food to feed 10 billion people, 3 billion more than the current global population, many wonder how this is possible. The answer has to do with existing diets and food waste. In particular, moving toward veganism has the potential to end world hunger.

Plant Agriculture as a More Sustainable Alternative

Currently, close to 50% of the world’s land goes toward food production and farmers use 83% of this land exclusively for animal agriculture, which is responsible for 44% of all harvested crop losses. Animals farmed for meat and dairy “consume five times as much food as all human beings” and have incredibly low conversion efficiencies. It takes about 13-20 pounds of grain to produce a single extra pound of beef. About 36% of the total crop calories that farmers produce globally act as food for farmed animals and humans eventually consume just “12% of those calories” in the final meat product. Animal agriculture also drains the world’s fresh water supply. Producing 1 kilogram of bovine meat requires 15,415 liters of water compared with 322 liters of water per kilogram of vegetables.

As the world population grows to a projected 9.7 billion by 2050, animal agriculture will become increasingly unsustainable. If agriculture does not change, feeding the world’s population will require “a 119% increase in edible crops grown by 2050.” Growing more crops will also increase the need for arable land, leading to more deforestation. Meat consumption already contributes “more greenhouse gases than all the world’s transportation systems combined.” Increased greenhouse gas emissions coupled with increased deforestation could exacerbate changing weather.

Animal Agriculture Aggravates Extreme Weather Conditions

According to Sentient Media, changing weather is a “threat multiplier.” It exacerbates pressures like natural disasters and extreme weather conditions, which cause hunger by decreasing crop yields and increasing food loss. Changing weather may also affect the types of crops that can grow in certain regions. This is especially problematic in regions that depend on specific weather conditions to grow their staple crops, such as Africa, where most crops require a certain amount of rainfall. Without the right conditions, subsistence farmers and their families will suffer and people unable to pay the increased prices for scarce crops will fall into food insecurity.

Moving Toward Veganism

Many organizations are working to alleviate world hunger and scientists are developing GMOs to fight malnourishment. However, some entities are only addressing surface-level problems. In order to address the causes of world hunger, the United Nations (U.N.) is calling for a global effort involving deep, systematic transformations in agriculture and food systems worldwide.

One transformation that may help end world hunger is shifting consumer demands toward a vegan diet. By consuming crop calories directly from the plant source, people can avoid the loss of two-thirds of potential calories. According to Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, if U.S. farmers used all the land currently devoted to animal agriculture to grow plant crops instead, they could double the number of people sustained, feeding an additional 390 million people.

While a vegan diet is the most sustainable, vegetarian and plant-based diets also contribute to ending world hunger. These diets all use fewer resources and contribute less to the harmful effects of changing climate than meat-heavy diets do. Eating meat just once a week instead of four times a week “would reduce commodity prices as less grain would go to feed animals, making food cheaper for the urban poor,” said Michael Obersteiner of the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis.

Plant-Based Diets Worldwide

While switching to a plant-based diet may cause concerns of possible undernutrition, animal intermediaries are not necessary for humans to experience full nourishment. On the other hand, it is possible to eat a meat-inclusive diet and still suffer from malnutrition.

Ending world hunger is everyone’s fight. Even food-secure areas may suffer from political unrest due to wars in food-insecure areas or may become destinations for those seeking refuge from hunger. With a global plant-based diet, more food than ever before would be available to humans. Additionally, “it is possible that an atmosphere of abundance could facilitate cooperative attitudes toward funneling more food to combat hunger.” As a bonus, moving toward veganism would be much healthier since studies link animal products to increased rates of lifestyle diseases like obesity.

Preventing Food Waste

In addition to moving toward a vegan diet, the push to end world hunger will require addressing food loss in developing countries. More than 40% of food loss in developing nations occurs post-harvest due to poor refrigeration. In sub-Saharan Africa and South and Southeast Asia, per capita food loss equates to 120-170 kilograms per year. India loses about 40% of its food production due to a lack of cold storage. Jomo Sundaram, assistant director-general of the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), believes improved food transportation methods and technologies are already strengthening the fight to eliminate hunger.

In the fight against global hunger, moving toward veganism holds significant potential to increase food security in a sustainable manner.

Serah-Marie Maharaj
Photo: Flickr

 

Solutions for BlindnessThere is a strong correlation between blindness and global poverty and people living with both have faced even more challenges than usual amid the COVID-19 pandemic. This is why one Harvard graduate chose to research eye diseases, their causes and how they intersect with global poverty. Lawson Ung focused on solutions for blindness that can also alleviate poverty, such as cataract surgery and spreading awareness of treatment options. In the same vein, the United Nations (U.N.) recently created an initiative that will help people living with blindness and other vision-related challenges.

Harvard Graduate Conducts Research on Blindness and Poverty

After developing an interest in studying ophthalmology, Lawson Ung, a recent Harvard graduate, became inspired to do research on eye disease. While working in a lab, Ung decided to research how eye diseases impact different parts of the world. He learned that 80% of people living with blindness live in low- or middle-income countries and most have limited access to eye doctors. Blindness also increases the likelihood of poverty since eye-related issues can impact people’s abilities to complete daily tasks.

Possible Solutions for Blindness

One solution for blindness that would benefit about half of the people in low-income countries is cataract surgery. Cataract surgery is inexpensive and boosts productivity significantly. Another solution for blindness is spreading awareness that vision loss is not inevitable while informing people about treatment options. This involves reaching out to patients who lack access to eye care services and providing them with the resources they need. However, cultural issues such as acceptance must be a priority in order to make improvements. One study found that only about 22% of blind people living in poverty were willing to receive free cataract surgery.

The UN Creates “Vision for Everyone”

The U.N. recently created “Vision for Everyone,” an initiative that plans to expand access to eye care services in low-income countries. The reason behind this initiative is the high likelihood of more people suffering from vision-related issues in upcoming years. The initiative’s priorities include encouraging governments to improve eye care availability and highlighting the socioeconomic impact of vision loss. The initiative believes that eye care is an important component of poverty alleviation.

In his research, Ung found that many people living with eye disease also face poverty and other environmental barriers. However, cataract surgery and informing people about treatment options are possible solutions for blindness. The U.N.’s “Vision for Everyone” will work to alleviate global poverty by reaching out to millions of people who suffer from blindness and other vision-related issues.

Chloe Moody
Photo: Flickr

Food Systems SummitThe first global Food Systems Summit will take place on September 23, 2021, preceded by a three-day pre-summit in Rome from July 26 to July 28, 2021. The summit is part of the United Nations’ Decade of Action, in which the U.N. aims to achieve its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030.

Goals of the Food Systems Summit

The Food Systems Summit will examine how food insecurity, climate and human conflicts intersect. According to the United Nations website, the summit has four main goals including:

  1. Establishing a clearer agenda to achieve the U.N.’s SDGs. This means creating action steps for all levels, from national governments to local representatives and from global companies to individual citizens.
  2. Opening up public discussion about food insecurity and creating more awareness.
  3. Formulating guiding principles for governments as they create their own plans to support the U.N.’s SDGs.
  4. Establishing a system of accountability, follow-up and review to ensure tangible progress.

Activists’ Immediate Demands

The summit has long-term strategic potential, but some activists have more immediate concerns as well. The summit comes at a time when food prices, job insecurity and overall global hunger are all rising. On April 20, 2021, more than 250 aid groups and organizations wrote an open letter to the United Nations demanding $5.5 billion in emergency food assistance funding.

Activists’ Criticisms of the Summit

Many activists have major concerns about the Food Systems Summit, particularly regarding who is involved in the program and the direction that the program aims to take for food production. Although small-scale food suppliers such as fishermen, farmers and Indigenous people provide the vast majority of the world’s food, they do not have a seat at the table at the summit. Many feel that the preparation process has not been transparent enough to allow small-scale producers to participate.

Additionally, other activists have concerns about how the summit will approach food insecurity. Many believe it focuses too much on technological solutions to food insecurity and that supporting other systems is necessary to return self-autonomy to people in poverty. Though new technology can play an important role, alternative solutions must undergo consideration as well. For example, agroecology draws upon historical, cultural and scientific knowledge of specific regions, ensuring more sustainable farming and preserving people’s cultural practices. Activists also worry that some high-tech solutions will tighten corporate control over developing countries’ food systems.

Looking to the Future

Though the Food Systems Summit has received criticism, it is still an important step as it will bring countries together to form a plan to address the pressing crisis of food insecurity. According to the United Nations, “Scientists agree that transforming our food systems is among the most powerful ways to change course and make progress toward all 17 Sustainable Development Goals.” With collaboration among governments and citizens, the world can better tackle problems related to food consumption and production.

Jessica Li
Photo: Flickr

#ActForEqual
#ActForEqual has become popular on Twitter thanks to the recent Generation Equality Forum, which aims to push the progression of gender equality. Women of the U.N. created the Generation Equality Forum as a global gathering to discuss gender equality. The governments of Mexico and France co-hosted the forum, partnering with youth and civil society. Since the pandemic, existing gender inequalities have become worse. COVID-19 has intensified gender inequality in terms of violence, job loss, income, access to technology and more. The forum aims to confront these issues by “launching a series of concrete, ambitious and transformative actions.” It has set tangible goals for 2030.

Importance of the Hashtag

The Generation Equality Forum has used #ActForEqual to draw attention and bring about action. #ActforEqual allows people to show their support simply by posting the hashtag on social media. It is not only a hashtag but a call to action, urging people to do their part in raising awareness. It also calls attention to the fact that COVID-19 continues to worsen gender inequality globally.

COVID-19 and Gender Inequality

COVID-19 has affected people across the globe in many ways. However, it has disproportionately hurt women.

  • Job losses among women are 24% more likely than among men.
  • Women’s average income could fall by 50% more than men’s.
  • Statistically, one in every three women will face violence during her lifetime, a number that the pandemic has exacerbated.
  • Women are 10% less likely to have access to the internet than men.
  • Only 45% of women can make decisions about their bodily autonomy, including their sexual and reproductive health.

On top of these factors, Mckinsey and Company estimates that women’s job loss rates due to COVID-19 are about 1.8 times higher than men’s job loss rates globally. Furthermore, 4.5% of women’s work is at risk because of the pandemic, compared with 3.8% of men’s work. Through progressive action, the Generation Equality Forum aims to reduce these figures.

Taking Action Against Gender Equality

The Generation Equality Forum has created action coalitions that focus on the most critical areas of gender equality. These coalitions “catalyze collective action, spark global and local conversations among generations, drive increased public and private investment and deliver concrete, game-changing results.” Each focuses on a particular issue. The six coalitions aim to:

  • Promote feminist action in relation to climate.
  • Stop gender-based violence.
  • Boost feminist movements and leadership.
  • Promote economic justice and rights.
  • Guarantee women’s bodily autonomy and sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR).
  • Use technology and innovation to achieve gender equality.

By focusing on these areas, action coalition leaders plan to see concrete results over the next five years that will lead to lasting change regarding gender equality.

Despite the increased challenges regarding equality between men and women during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Generation Equality Forum is playing its part to raise awareness. These efforts have the potential to elevate women, placing them in an equal position to men across the globe.

– Ariel Dowdy
Photo: Flickr

clean cooking initiativesFor most people, their day starts with tea or coffee followed by a light breakfast, available with minimum effort. For those less fortunate, this simple morning routine requires hours of backbreaking labor. Solid cooking fuels like wood and coal are necessities in much of the world, but in addition to contributing to climate change, they perpetuate poverty. This is partly because those who depend on this type of energy risk health problems from Household Air Pollution (HAP) and partly because solid cooking fuels can be labor-intensive to acquire and use. Over the past two decades, an overwhelming body of research has cited clean cooking as a primary target for policy reform. It furthers all eight of the U.N.’s Millennium Development Goals and five of its Sustainability Development Goals. Several exemplary clean cooking initiatives are making a difference today.

More Access to Energy, Less Poverty

Several studies attempt to quantify the damage caused by solid fuel. Lost productivity resulting from resource collection prevents an estimated 2.6 billion people from escaping poverty, disproportionately affecting women. Children’s school attendance also decreases when they must spend large amounts of time gathering fuel, hampering their education. People’s health also suffers from solid fuel. Indoor pollution from dirty energy — six times deadlier than outdoor — creates an estimated $10.6 billion in healthcare costs yearly in rural China alone. Not to mention, HAP reduces lifespans in affected populations by 20 years. It causes between 1.6 and four million premature deaths annually, second only to unsafe water in deaths caused. “Dirty” cooking fuels also produce an estimated 2% of carbon emissions, roughly equivalent to the pollution from all global air travel.

Clean Energy and Poverty Reduction

A widely cited 2004 paper argued that clean cooking protocols had high potential for poverty reduction and encouraged the creation of federal and intergovernmental agencies to manage a 10- to 15-year plan to implement them. Nonetheless, 15 years later, a Draft Energy Policy commissioned by the Indian government concluded that “clean cooking fuel has been the biggest casualty of lack of coordination between different energy Ministries.

“Not only India but also the international community has failed to leverage a low-cost opportunity with enormous benefits. The global cost of clean fuels for those lacking them totals only $50 billion per year or roughly 0.2% of a developed nation’s GDP. Diverse clean cooking initiatives at all levels are not only essential to poverty reduction, they are achievable.

Clean Cooking in Haiti

World Central Kitchen (WCK) originated during relief efforts following the devastating 2010 Haiti earthquake and continues providing meals to vulnerable populations. Most recently, Founder and Chef José Andrés closed several restaurants to feed low-income people during the pandemic. But WCK has evolved beyond catastrophe response to become a global leader in culinary activism, including clean cooking.

Following the initial work in Haiti, the organization created the #HaitiBreathes campaign to improve school lunch programs. Observing that “children who eat during the day do better in school,” the campaign has helped 140 schools convert their kitchens to use liquid propane, benefitting 65,000 students and school cooks. Preventing child labor associated with solid fuels is fundamental to poverty reduction. The campaign’s culinary education component and infrastructure upgrades also offer long-term socioeconomic and health benefits by improving sanitation and food safety.

Clean Cooking in Kenya

An estimated 15,700 premature deaths per year in Kenya are attributable to HAP. These deaths are preventable as 75% of households know of clean cooking subsidies and programs, yet 70% remain unable to buy a clean cookstove because of the high prices. Of those who make the relatively expensive upgrade, 60% say the fuel cost for their preferred cookstove is too high, and they are forced to endure the enormous health and productivity effects of purportedly “cheaper” alternatives.

In conjunction with the Clean Cookstove Association of Kenya, native chef and Clean Cooking Alliance Ambassador Susan Kamau educates underserved communities on solid fuel issues. The #CookCleanForKenya program transitions individuals to sustainable fuels; its Facebook page details success stories and explains the nefarious consequences of open fire cooking. By marketing innovative products like the Cookswell Energy Efficient Charcoal Oven, the initiative connects consumers to various clean cooking options. Local figures like Kamau understand local impediments better than a foreign NGO does, making partnerships like this one especially effective.

Clean Cooking in Cambodia

Twenty percent of Cambodians live in poverty, and for them, alternatives to solid fuel are unattainable. People rely mainly on wood for fuel, causing a decline in forest cover from 73% in 1965 to 59% in 2006. Low-cost and temporary clean cooking options are the best way to create meaningful change. One study found that simply introducing flues, though it did not decrease carbon emissions, caused a 75% reduction in negative HAP health outcomes.

The Neang Kongrey Cookstove Initiative produces high-efficiency stoves that cost only $1.50 and reduce fuel consumption by 60%. This female-staffed company enables clean cooking at a grassroots level while also promoting sustainable economic growth. It makes up a mere 5% of the national cookstove market, but the project represents a 700,000-ton decrease in harvested wood and a 500,000-ton decrease in carbon emissions yearly. Although financed through international agencies, this dynamic business creates local change.

Clean cooking initiatives like those led by the WCK in Haiti, the Clean Cookstove Association of Kenya and the Neang Kongrey Cookstove Initiative in Cambodia are vital to creating clean energy, aiding low-income families and making progress in alleviating global poverty. With continued efforts from nonprofits and individuals alike, the international community takes one step toward reducing global poverty through clean cooking initiatives.

– Kit Krajeski
Photo: Flickr

Venezuela's Food Crisis
Venezuela has not suffered a particularly high amount of COVID-19 cases or deaths but the pandemic has not left the country unscathed. In fact, the pandemic has worsened Venezuela’s food crisis. Near the beginning of the pandemic, Venezuela went into a full lockdown, shutting down businesses, halting travel and closing borders. The lockdown left many jobless, with no knowledge of where their paycheck would come from and a limited ability to buy food to feed themselves and their families. Some evidence found that 75% of the population in Venezuela’s capital ate less food as of October 2020 than they did in December 2019. Additionally, 82.3% said their incomes were insufficient to buy enough food to feed their family.

Current Situation in Venezuela

Some people who lost their jobs were able to receive remittances from family members living abroad, but these transfers have reduced by half due to quarantines and economic shutdowns across the globe. Even those who had enough money to buy food often had access to inadequate supplies due to halted transportation of food. Rural areas in Venezuela have been particularly short of food and other essential supplies. Additionally, due to the quarantine, many farmers have not been able to work and have had to let crops rot in their fields. Additionally, farmers have not planted crops that would have normally coincided with the rainy season, which is exacerbating Venezuela’s food crisis further.

Fuel shortages have been another problem. Gas has become scarce in the face of the pandemic and it has left many farmers unable to run their tractors and other equipment. At another time, a solution to this would have been to rely on imports from outside of the country. However, the pandemic and fear of the spread of COVID-19 have limited imports as well. The pandemic has damaged the food supply chain capacity, exacerbating Venezuela’s food crisis and increasing the possibility of humanitarian disaster.

Pre COVID-19 Crisis

In 2019, the World Food Programme (WFP) published a report that found that Venezuela had the fourth-worst food crisis in the world after the war-torn nations of Yemen, Afghanistan and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). It also found that 9.3 million people lacked enough safe and nutritious food for normal human growth and development. The problem is political; President Maduro entered office on the verge of an economic crisis, and in response, he began printing more money which sparked hyperinflation, raising the prices of basic living. Workers living on minimum wage before the pandemic said they could only afford 20% as much food as they could in 2012. To make the situation worse, President Maduro blocked most attempts of foreign aid and help from NGOs, which only worsened Venezuela’s food crisis and raised political tensions.

Solutions to the Crisis

Despite all of the ongoing challenges, hope exists. Many local farmers use traditional community methods of farming, working with local neighborhoods to supply communities of hungry people with a stable and nutritious source of food. Additionally, internal NGOs have led modest, but successful and effective relief efforts. This is not enough to alleviate Venezuela’s food crisis, but ongoing efforts have provided food to families across the country and aided farming programs and initiatives.

Additionally, in June 2020, Venezuelan authorities and the opposition signed a deal to allow the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) to provide humanitarian aid in Venezuela. While this is only a fraction of the international aid Venezuela could receive, it is making a significant impact on Venezuela’s food crisis. It provides not only physical aid but also support and guidance for internal organizations so they can better aid Venezuelans.

– Lizzie Alexander
Photo: Flickr

The Rwandan Genocide
Rwanda. 1994. 100 days. This was all it took for a band of Hutu extremists to commit the Rwandan Genocide, killing just under a million civilians. The 1994 genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda has prompted yearly remarks around the world. The United Nations sponsors these, discussing the horrific implications of the event. Survivors have come forth to tell their stories as they work to make impacts to prevent genocides in the future.

What Was The Rwandan Genocide?

Two neighboring castes lead Rwanda; the Tutsis and the Hutus. The 1994 Rwandan Genocide against the Tutsi was a power struggle between these dividing castes. Although the Hutus largely outnumbered the Tutsis, with “about 85% of Rwandans,” the Tutsi had been in power for a long time. In 1959, the Hutus overthrew the Tutsi monarchy and civilians fled to neighboring countries. Rwanda remained under the Hutu dictatorship for many years following.

Long thereafter, a group of Tutsi exiles formed a rebel group known as the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF). They stormed Rwanda in 1990 and fought until 1993 when both parties agreed upon a peace deal.

However, the peace agreement broke on April 6, 1994, when a plane carrying President Juvenal Habyarimana, a known Hutu, was shot down. Hutu extremists blamed the RPF for the killing. Soon thereafter started the mass genocide that resulted in the killing of over 800,000 people. Government troops backed up the Hutus, many of whom forced civilians and youths to fight and to exercise the slaughters. The RPF stormed the capital, Kigali, on July 4, 1994, to gain back power.

Help from The World Food Programme

The Rwandan genocide forced many civilians into starvation, often unable to provide for themselves or their families. The World Food Programme provided emergency food assistance to those in need, targeting the “fundamental role food plays for vulnerable communities fleeing from conflict.” One Rwandan that the WFP helped is Liberee Kayumba. A survivor of the genocide, she was only 12 when she lost both of her parents and brother, experiencing starvation following the conflict. Now working as a monitoring officer for the Mahama Refugee Camp organization, she helps others suffering from food insecurity.

On the WFP’s Website, Liberee tells her story. She says that the memories from the genocide helped motivate her to want to help people in need. Liberee remembers how food availability was the main problem after the genocide for her and other survivors. Therefore, she has exact memories of the meals the WFP distributed, which she thinks saved her life.

The United Nations Conducts The International Day of Reflection

The U.N. has mandated an information and educational outreach programme to help survivors and others cope with the ramifications of the Rwandan Genocide and their resulting losses. This program emerged in 2005 with the main themes of preventing genocide and supporting survivors. Around the world, events such as “roundtable discussions, film screenings, exhibits and debates” occur yearly.

The slogan of 2020’s event was International Day of Reflection. It marked the 26th anniversary of the genocide, with a virtual observance for all to join in on. Multiple officials and survivors made sure to show up, including Jacqueline Murekatete. She is a lawyer, human rights activist and founder of the nonprofit organization Genocide Survivors Foundation. Murekatete lost her entire family in the 1994 Rwandan Genocide when she was only 9 years old.

The U.N.’s yearly observance reminds us to reflect on past events and recount what we can do to promote resilience and growth among countries facing hardships. Those this horrific event impacted have the chance to mourn and reflect, looking toward the greater good as individuals strive to create a better future for all.

– Natalie Whitmeyer
Photo: Flickr

Facts About Poverty in Yemen
Yemen demonstrates extremely poor standards of life expectancy, education and overall living. Yemen’s ongoing political unrest has been a major cause of the country’s poverty. Regardless of the cause, poverty in Yemen is frightening. Here are seven facts about poverty in Yemen.

7 Facts About Poverty in Yemen

  1. Poor Country: Even prior to its political instability, Yemen was already the poorest country in the region spanning the Middle East to North Africa. It exhibits the lowest rank on the Human Development Index (HDI) among Arab states. Yemen also ranks 178 out of 189 countries on the HDI.
  2. Hunger and Malnutrition: The U.N. estimates that approximately 80% of Yemenis are vulnerable to hunger. About 14.3 million are in need of medical assistance to combat malnutrition along with other issues. Starvation, cholera, measles and dengue fever are some of the main culprits. Roughly 2 million children in Yemen are in immediate need of medical help because of acute malnutrition.
  3. Infant Mortality Rate: Poverty in Yemen contributes to its remarkably high infant mortality rate of 55.4 deaths under age 5 per 1,000 births. In comparison, the United States has a healthier infant mortality rate of 5.8 deaths per 1,000 births. Malnutrition contributes in large part to this statistic.
  4. Water: Almost 18 million Yemeni citizens simply have no access to clean water. UNICEF reports that only around 30% of the population uses piped drinking water services. Contaminated water results in many infant deaths. UNICEF does its best to keep this issue to a minimum in Yemen. It maintains the operational water supply systems in Yemen. It also monitors and disinfects the water supply in urban areas and provides WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene) humanitarian aid to displaced Yemeni citizens.
  5. Humanitarian Crisis: Consistent waves in currency depreciation continue to chip away at Yemen’s economy. As a result, inflation threatens and terrorizes the economy and its consumers. It also exacerbates this humanitarian crisis. The Yemeni rial, the official currency of Yemen, lost 75% of its value in the past four years. With a GDP of around $27 billion, Yemen must rely on humanitarian aid.
  6. Education: As poverty in Yemen continues to worsen, about 2 million children remain out of school. Unfortunately, this is due to a lack of teachers and schooling facilities. Without an educated population, Yemen will continue its impoverished conditions. Thankfully, UNICEF secured approximately $70 million for cash incentives for teachers in Yemen. In its efforts, UNICEF also provided access to education for more than 200,000 Yemeni children through the reconstruction of 18 schools and 218 school latrines.
  7. The Economy: Such a blow to the economy devastated Yemeni citizens on an individual level as well. The World Bank reports that more than 40% of households lost their main source of income, placing people under the poverty line. The country is struggling to lift its people out of impoverished conditions. However, the World Bank has several large-scale emergency grants dedicated to Yemen during its crisis. These grants will work with health and nutrition as well as electricity and agriculture.

Looking Ahead

Poverty in Yemen stems from a range of unfortunate events, primarily its state of political instability under Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi. Such instability affects sanitation, infrastructure, economy and medical assistance. These seven facts about poverty in Yemen demonstrate areas of weakness where humanitarian aid can effectively assist. Organizations like UNICEF and the U.N. are already doing their part in the pursuit of aiding and providing for not only Yemen but many countries in similar situations. With UNICEF and the U.N.’s help, Yemen has a better chance of sustaining itself.

Colin Crawford
Photo: Flickr

United Nations Empowers Women
The United Nations (UN) is a multinational organization that promotes universal human rights, encourages global cooperation and establishes international law and order among nation-states. The United Nations empowers women because they are the spearhead of social equality. The organization has made great strides in the fight against gender inequality, and the United Nations empowers women socially, politically and economically.

Five Ways the United Nations Empowers Women Globally

  1. Within Kyrgyzstan, the U.N. is teaching 15,000 young people to respect and appreciate gender diversification. The United Nations’ education program in the Chui region of Kyrgyzstan is tackling issues that impact girls and women. The program will consist of seminars that discuss a variety of different topics, such as violence, diversity and livelihood skills.The main objective of these discussions is to bring awareness through education, creating harmonious, respectful relations between men and women. They will enlighten the youth on both human rights and fundamental business skills, allowing the youth to grow together to form more inclusive economic, political and social initiatives for the present and future.Girls are facing many challenges within Kyrgyzstan. The United Nations empowers women by spreading a message of universal human rights. The country is adopting these morals in order to make a better tomorrow for the women of Kyrgyzstan.

  2. Several African countries are currently bringing an end to gender-based violence in education systems. The United Nations, Education International and Gender at Work founded “Education Unions Take Action to End School-Related Gender-Based Violence” in 2016, and the initiative continues to be implemented today. The United Nations empowers women in Ethiopia, Kenya, South Africa, Uganda and Zambia through this program.The goal of this program is to decrease gender-based violence within schools across Africa. Unions have banded together in order to strengthen the cause, learning that education plays a vital role in providing safety to young girls, boys and educators. Discussions and classes have proven to be effective in the fight against gender-based violence. Now, these unions are introducing a global campaign in order to educate the world about the challenges their communities face and the practices they use in order to decrease violence.
  3. The U.N. is hosting workshops in African countries in order to encourage education among girls. The United Nations Girls’ Education Initiative (UNGEI) has a vision for the year of 2030: an inclusive, fair education system that supports equality among women. The workshops across Africa will help with this vision.Called the “Gender-Responsive Education Sector Planning Workshop,” planners for the academic school year will learn about new ways to incorporate young girls in classes. They will also effectively and fairly include both genders in lesson plans. These workshops are sure to provide more opportunities to young girls through West and Central Africa.
  4. The U.N. is giving rural women access to digital technology in order to fortify their economic equality. Many women across the globe work in agriculture, yet they do not have the same property rights as men. The United Nations reported that rural women make up over 25 percent of the world’s population. Rural women provide the food for their communities, yet landowning and financing are just two liberties that they often cannot obtain; the U.N. is working to make that different.The U.N. is breaking gender barriers by giving rural women digital technology so that they can compete with men in the agricultural business. Women are now better able to access agriculture inputs and technologies for climate resilience.The indigenous women of Guatemala are further examples of how the U.N. is empowering rural women globally. These ladies participate in a joint program of many international organizations that help women become financially stable and independent. They are now saving money, which results in better conditions for their home life.
  5. Marta Vieira da Silva is now a Goodwill Ambassador, through which she can empower young ladies to accomplish their dreams. Marta Vieira da Silva is a Brazilian soccer player who now works for the U.N. as a Goodwill Ambassador. She has committed herself to helping young women achieve their goals, whether it is through sports, politics, medicine, business, engineering, etc.Vieira da Silva will work closely with the U.N. Women Executive Director in order to increase opportunities for girls in sports. If complete equality is to be reached, it means equality in all things—including sports. World leaders and international organizations view sports as an engaging way to strengthen gender equality and women’s empowerment.

The United Nations empowers women of all backgrounds and proves that women can do anything if they are only given the chance. With continued efforts from organizations like the U.N., total gender equality is within the world’s reach.

– Diana Hallisey
Photo: Flickr