Poverty _Sierra Leone
As one of the poorest countries in the world, Sierra Leone is ranked 180 out of 187 on the U.N.’s Human Development Index and faces many challenges to creating sustained development. The year 2012, the last year for which official statistics are available, put the proportion of the population below the poverty line, at 60%.  Since the recent Ebola outbreak, current estimates indicate that 77.5% of the population suffers from poverty in Sierra Leone.

Ebola Epidemic and its Consequences

The Ebola epidemic significantly set back the progress made by the West-African nation since the end of its long civil war in 2002. Taking around four thousand lives, and disrupting the country’s health system, the outbreak rocked the developing country.

Until the outbreak, Sierra Leone made numerous strides in multiple aspects of development. The country was cited as a success story of peacebuilding missions and establishing good governance and stable institutions. GDP growth averaged over seven percent every year for the past decade, but shrank to two percent after the West-African Ebola crisis.

Sierra Leone’s Global Reliance

The country is heavily reliant on exports of iron ore to support its domestic economy, contributing to GDP more than all other factors combined. Most of the rest of the country’s revenue comes from agricultural products, which remain at low productivity levels across the board.

Additionally, the country has a high dependence on foreign aid, with more than half of investment coming from foreign sources.

Despite progress, lack of infrastructure and high youth unemployment remain large barriers to the country elevating to a middle-income status. With 70% of its youth unemployed and only about 40% of adults able to read, significant investments in economic development and education remain high priorities to eradicate poverty in Sierra Leone.

The poor nation also has one of the highest infant mortality rates in the world, with over 71 deaths per 1,000 live births.

Essential International Aid

Many international groups are engaging in efforts to reduce the level of poverty in Sierra Leone, including the International Finance Corporation branch of the World Bank, which is investing in many critical areas to boost economic and private sector development to hopefully make the country a self-sustaining middle-income country.

Additionally, the International Rescue Commission provides humanitarian relief efforts through local engagement to prevent death by preventable diseases. The organization accomplishes such feats through its healthcare and educational assistance which improves future prospects.

While the rise of Ebola may have temporarily derailed development efforts, Sierra Leone continues to march toward improved economic and social conditions with help from international organizations. While challenges exist, the country has been consistently improving since 2002.

The country hopes to bounce back from its recent hiccup as quickly as possible and to begin addressing the issue of poverty in Sierra Leone, which prevents it from becoming a middle-income country.

Adam Gonzalez

Photo: Flickr

Women in Papua New Guinea
Papua New Guinea is an island in the South Pacific located just north of Australia, with a population of around 7 million. It is a developing country, ranking 156 out of 187 countries on the UN Human Development Index. 

Papua New Guinea suffers—like most developing nations—from high levels of poverty and corruption within the government due to vast oil and gas reserves.

But Papua New Guinea doesn’t simply have to deal with the normal problems of a developing country. Sadly, in recent years this island nation has become known for rampant and increasing violence against women.

It has been reported that 68 percent of PNG women suffer from violence. What is worse is that one in three women have reportedly been raped. As with most rape statistics, that number is often low, as many women who have been raped do not report it.

Violence against women in Papua New Guinea is not always of a sexual nature. Women are often accused of sorcery, and violence is used as retribution. In February 2013, there was a highly publicized case of a 20-year old woman accused of sorcery. As punishment, she was burned alive. 

Domestic violence seems to be the most prevalent form. It is often the result of the male’s desire to assert authority over his female partner because he may perceive that she is acting insubordinate or lazy. 

Amnesty International states that this type of violence “includes rape, being burnt with hot irons, broken bones and fractures, kicking and punching and cutting with bush knives.”

There have been some attempts by the government to deal with this issue. In April of last year, the 1971 Sorcery Act, which criminalized sorcery, was repealed.

In September 2013, the parliament in PNG passed the Family Protection Bill, which made domestic violence illegal. 

However, many women still do not know of the existence of this law, and implementation has been difficult and not very far reaching. The same is true of the sorcery law, which is in the appeals process and does not change the pervasive cultural view of the existence of sorcery.

Women’s groups from within and outside PNG continue to try and spread awareness of this issue and work on programs that attempt to eradicate these grave human rights violations.

Statistics and research on this subject are hard to find though. Women’s rights groups have a difficult time funding further research because no raw data exists. Papua New Guinea is low on the international radar.

Awareness and further research on this issue is needed in order to help the women of Papua New Guinea escape this terrible cycle of violence.

– Eleni Marino

Sources: Child Fund, Amnesty, Human Rights Watch, Islands Business, Human Development Report, United Nations,
Photo: ABCNews

For decades, it was believed that funding should be siphoned into lower levels of education rather than university education, and throughout the 1980’s studies argued in favor of this mode of international aid. However, more recent studies show conclusive evidence that higher education has manifold benefits for developing nations. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) is perhaps the paragon of the potential that universities and development agencies have when they work together. USAID has chosen to forego any future partnership with Higher Education for Development, an intermediary that works with universities at home and abroad, opting to instead work directly with universities themselves.This signals a more hands-on approach that shows the growing importance of higher education in the eyes of USAID.One very important case of this approach is the Higher Education Solutions Network, which attempts to find solutions to global issues such as food security through development labs at seven different universities.Another example of the commitment of USAID to higher education is its appointment of a senior higher education coordinator that will serve to improve the agency’s transparency and accountability.In every way, USAID shows the desire to forge strong relationships with universities in the belief universities are integral to addressing global problems.One real world example of these burgeoning relationships involves Burma and USAID’s attempt to help the country in its transition to democracy through its universities.In addition to supporting the future leaders of Burma, USAID hopes to create a culture of democracy within the universities that will proliferate outward, focusing on expanding courses in business and politics.The fact that Burma is near the bottom of the United Nations Human Development Index shows the ambitious and optimistic nature of the endeavor, as well as the belief in the importance of higher education.The relationships formed through these partnerships have also gone a long way in mending what has been a problematic one between the U.S. and the countries of Pakistan and Afghanistan since the killing of Osama bin Laden. USAID has sponsored and trained Afghan professors and hopes that this might curb the rampant Islamic extremism within the country.The U.S. also expanded the Fulbright program to Pakistan in 2011, providing 200 scholarships to bright Pakistani students to pursue an advanced degree. This makes it possible for intelligent but poor Pakistanis to transition to a higher economic strata.

USAID’s commitment to addressing global problems through its engagement with higher education is already being noticed and utilized by other agencies. As Peter McPherson, director of the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, states, “There’s no question that USAID’s engagement with universities has increased…There’s more money and more relationships.” A good combination for helping those in need.

– Jordan Schunk

Sources: Inside Higher Ed, Insider Higher Ed Global, University World News, USAID
Photo: Flickr