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Obesity and Malnutrition in JamaicaCountries in the Caribbean, specifically Jamaica, are experiencing severe obesity and malnutrition rates. Since 1999, both Jamaican men and women have shown increasing rates of diabetes and obesity. According to the Jamaica Observer, childhood obesity rates have doubled between 2013 and 2018. This drastic growth has seen a particular prevalence between the ages of 13 and 15. The Global School-based Student Health Survey (GSHS) found that within that age group, 18.1% of boys and 25.2% of girls are overweight. In the same survey, obesity rates in girls increased from 6.7% to 9.9% between 2010 and 2017. Furthermore, The Caribbean and Latin American regions show that more than 50% of women in the population are overweight or obese as of 2013, according to the World Health Organization. In addition, according to a 2016-2017 survey, 54% of Jamaicans older than 15 were deemed either overweight or obese.

Considering these data, obesity rates in Jamaica are a concern no matter what the demographic is. Every day, Jamaicans are unable to maintain healthy, nutritionally-dense diets. So, what is causing obesity and malnutrition in Jamaica?

The Causes

There are many factors to these growing numbers. However, one of the main causes of malnutrition in Jamaica is the lack of availability of essential, whole foods for all citizens. The New York Carib News states that Jamaica produced 144,319 tons of yams, 72,990 tons of oranges and 64,815 tons of bananas in the year 2017. All of this nutrient-dense food, however, is not necessarily supplied for Jamaicans; a mere 2% of Jamaicans consume a sufficient amount of essential foods like fruits and vegetables.

The global average consumption of protein-filled red meat is around 25 grams, whereas in Jamaica, the average is close to 10 grams as of 2016. Adequate protein intake results in stronger bones and muscles and aids in hormone production; Jamaicans are simply not given the opportunities for these benefits.

Moreover, grain and soybean milling facilities, two of the most popular crops in Jamaica, have a large portion of their shareholding with the United States. Such crops are used for many U.S. milk substitutes like soy milk, for example. This is a glaring problem regarding obesity and malnutrition in Jamaica as Jamaicans are not given healthier options for themselves like in the United States.

Sugar intake is also a large reason for malnutrition in Jamaica. In 2012, the Global Nutrition Report found that 61% of calories consumed by Jamaicans come from non-staple food items, or items that are not nutritionally rich (legumes, grains, fruits, vegetables). Jamaica’s consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks, like Coca Cola, was 191 grams in 2016. Globally, the average was 95 grams, while the suggested midpoint is a meager 2.5 grams.

A high sugar diet is detrimental leading to many health problems like fatty liver disease, and such is apparent in Jamaica in the form of diabetes and obesity. In an article by Vital Strategies, 87% of Jamaicans feel that sugary drinks are a large reason for the country’s obesity rates, calling for policy proposals.

The Solutions

Some solutions to this problem include the potential tax on sugary drinks. In other Latin American and Caribbean countries, like Barbados, a tax on sugary drinks has shown positive effects. Within the first year of the tax, Barbados’ consumption of these drinks decreased by 4.3%, while bottled water sales increased by 7.5%. If implemented, obesity and malnutrition in Jamaica may see a decline from said tax as well.

In regards to Jamaican export policies, there has been some attention to the issues that CARICOM (Caribbean Common Market) raises, including completing the intraregional integration scheme as well as creating ways to implement CARICOM into its relations with the United States. With the resolution of these issues, Jamaica may be able to better its relationship with the U.S. foreign economy. This may then create more opportunities for more nutrient-dense imports.

Not only this, but there have been school policy proposals put forth in an effort to decrease these numbers, according to the Jamaican Information Service (JIS). Such proposals being the National School Nutrition Policy. This policy promotes physical activity and nutrient-enriched meals as a priority in schools across Jamaica. Not only will these focuses benefit students’ long-term physical health, but Jamaican Senator Reid asserts that they too will improve psychological and social development.

This model emulates Brazil’s efforts for similar concerns with childhood obesity. According to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Brazil has experienced one of the most successful school feeding programs created more than 50 years ago. The program managed by the National Fund for Education Development (NFED) and the Ministry of Education has provided staple, nutrient-rich foods to 45 million children across Brazil. With hopes for similar results, the Jamaican National School Nutrition Policy was set to be finalized during the 2019-2020 school year.

In a country with a lack of readily available staple foods, malnutrition in Jamaica continues to be a problem across the country. Through efforts like school feeding programs and a tax on sugary drinks though, young children and adults alike will see long-term physical benefits. Perhaps through these reforms, Jamaica will continue with more policy changes in its imports and exports to reverse the growing numbers of obesity and malnutrition in Jamaica across the country.

– Anna Hoban
Photo: Pixabay

Poverty in Venezuela
Venezuela was once a rich and stable country. Over the last few decades, Venezuela has fallen into financial and governmental trouble. In 1989, when rioting and looting polluted the streets due to increased petroleum prices, Venezuela began a spiral into debt. When Hugo Chávez became president in 1998, citizens became optimistic as he funded money into programs to assist the poor. Unfortunately, mismanagement allowed problems to persist. Within the last decade, poverty rates have risen dramatically. Here are 10 facts about poverty in Venezuela.

10 Facts About Poverty in Venezuela

  1. The economy has created a nationwide crisis. As Venezuela’s economy collapses many programs are collapsing with it. The country is experiencing hyperinflation. Over the past three years, the annual inflation rate is 10,398%. Hyperinflation in Venezuela has increased the number of people living in severe poverty and barely surviving from day to day. A national survey in 2017 found that 87% of families live below the poverty line.
  2. The government retains full control of the economy. Since 1989, the Venezuelan government has retained full control of the economy. In 2003, the government introduced price and currency controls and it became the sole provider of bolivars. As a result, funds denied businesses access and banks could only assist specific organizations. Additionally, companies had to sell products below production costs and close stores, which caused a supply shortage and negatively affected the economy.
  3. Government information is experiencing censorship. Journalists, lawyers and medical professionals experienced detainment and imprisonment for exposing the poor conditions of their country. Although the poverty Venezuelans face is no secret, censorship hides the depths of the governmental and economic corruption, thus reducing the level of support that other countries offer. Venezuela ranked 173 out of 180 countries that Transparency International’s 2019 Corruption Perceptions Index assessed for corruption. The lower the ranking, the more corruption in the government.
  4. Venezuela is experiencing a split government. In May 2018, Nicolás Maduro, the incumbent president of Venezuela, “won” a disputed re-election against Juan Guaidó, leader of the National Assembly. By the following June, the Organization of American States recognized Guaidó as President; Guaidó subsequently declared himself president on January 23, 2019. Blame for the free-fall of the economy lands on Maduro, but he holds all the military and refuses to relinquish power. Recognized by 50 other countries, Guaidó does not hold much authority on his own. As more becomes clear about the corruption that Venezuela experiences, Guaidó receives more assistance from other countries to help his people.
  5. Food and water shortages are at an all-time high. Since 2017, nearly two-thirds of Venezuelans reported losing an average of 25 pounds in the previous year; they refer to this as the “Maduro-diet” due to food and water shortages. These shortages have peaked with the COVID-19 emergency. Venezuela has 4,187 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 35 confirmed COVID-19 deaths. PAHO and UNICEF have provided relief by supplying medical equipment and COVID-19 tests and the U.N. has since stepped in to provide funds. When the global pandemic began, hospitals quickly found it difficult to care for patients while lacking running water. Additionally, sanctions that the U.S. put into place made access to food more difficult.
  6. Venezuela is experiencing medical shortages. Fernando Gomez is a 54-year-old man living in Venezuela. In an interview with The New Humanitarian Gomez said, “The government says wear masks, wash your hands often, and stay inside… but we don’t have water, we often don’t have electricity, and there are no masks.” Even before the pandemic, diseases such as measles, diphtheria and malaria rose. While there are proven vaccines and antibiotics for these diseases, shortages have led to high mortality rates from these illnesses. In the last five years, there also have been significant shortages of medical personnel and supplies, leaving Venezuela’s population at greater risk. PAHO, UNICEF and the U.N. are doing what they can to assist.
  7. Venezuela’s oil industry is collapsing. Petroleum was once a significant part of the Venezuelan economy; now it suffers from oil shortages at great cost to its people. Marcia Briggs, a reporter for Pulitzercenter.org, spent a day at a local Venezuelan gas station. The line stretched for miles and people would wait a day or more for fuel. Spending time in line means not working and earning wages. In 1998, the country produced 3.5 million barrels of oil a day but in 2002, when Petróleos De Venezuela went on strike against Chávez, he fired 19,000 workers. Since 2007, production has decreased dramatically and reached an all-time low in 2019.
  8. Although the minimum wage in Venezuela increased in 2020, it remains below a survivable level. In January 2020, Maduro increased the minimum wage from 300,000 bolivars an hour to 450,000 per hour; the equivalent of $5.45. In April of 2020, Maduro decided to increase the wage again by 77.7%. The minimum wage currently sits at 800,000 bolivars ($4.60). It is “only enough to buy just over a kilo of beef.” As the minimum wage continues increasing, there is hope that it will soon reach a survivable level.
  9. Venezuela experiences a lack of education. The education system has lost thousands of teachers due to underfunding. Some children are so malnourished that they lack the necessary energy to attend school. Other families lack the funds to pay for transportation to classes. U.N. experts say that an uneducated future will do nothing but perpetuate the crisis the country faces. Education is free, although finding enough people to direct the students’ education is a problem with no current solution.
  10. Venezuelans continue to flee their country. All of these problems have led to Venezuelans fleeing the country in hopes of a better future. There have been roughly 5 million migrants from Venezuela. Fleeing the country gives the migrants a better chance at survival but worsens the situation in their home country. Essential jobs that lack workers now have even fewer available people. Citizens who remain in Venezuela say they no longer feel safe in their country and they have lost all hope and trust in officials to fix the crisis.

Although poverty, corruption and violence have been the narrative of Venezuela for the last few decades, there is still hope that the tide will turn. In the time of a government battle, citizens now have more than two options. It used to be Maduro leaves or they do, but now there is a third option which is change with President Guaidó.

Fortunately, there are many groups assisting with child security, food and water relief, education and poverty in Venezuela. These continued efforts will hopefully impact poverty in Venezuela significantly.

Marlee Ingram
Photo: Flickr

In the past decade, Cambodia has made progress in reducing the inequality gap between men and women. In partnership with the UN and USAID, gender barriers and negative social norms surrounding women’s place in society are being broken.

Women have taken the lead in various areas of poverty reduction, such as participating in the democratic process and spearheading efforts against water insecurity and climate disaster.

Here are some ways in which gender equality in Cambodia is improving.

Changing Societal Norms

During the Khmer Rouge in the 1970s, violence against women escalated, including rape. The UN has worked to support victims and correct assumptions and inattention surrounding violence against women in Cambodia. Through the UN Joint Global Programme on Essential Services for Women and Girls Subject to Violence that began in 2017, survivors of rape and violence are receiving help and support. They focus on various needs of victims.

Through such programs, the UN has made efforts toward openly discussing and reducing violence against women, promoting gender equality in Cambodia.

A UN survey found that 82% of men and 92% of women accept that a woman’s main role lies only in overseeing the home. By using media, the UN is educating the public about negative social norms surrounding the role of women. For example, UNDP Cambodia and the Ministry of Women’s Affairs of Cambodia (MoWA) developed an initiative that focuses on improving gender equality in Cambodia. Between 2017 and 2020, this initiative focused on three areas:

  • Refining various institutions in the health, legal, and economic sectors to implement policies that empower women.
  • Using media to educate and engage the public to break societal norms and gender barriers.
  • Advance efforts to place women in positions of leadership and decision-making.

Women Lead Efforts Toward Water Security

Not only is the conversation surrounding gender equality in Cambodia changing, but women have stepped into positions of leadership in poverty reduction. For example, women are instrumental in efforts to achieve water security. In Cambodia, women are the main members of the household to fetch and handle water.

In addition to daily water needs, women also depend on water for its use in farming. Almost two-thirds of Cambodians are farmers, many of whom are women. The USAID Sustainable Water Partnership (SWP) recognizes the leadership skills of women and trains them to aid efforts toward water security. For example, in 2018, this program trained 17 women in the Stung Chinit Watershed and placed them in positions of leadership. These women gained knowledge in various areas, including conflict resolutionteamwork, communication and overseeing finances. In future years, the SWP plans to continue to include women in the fight for water security.

Women in the Democratic Process

The USAID has also worked toward including women in the democratic process. Through grassroots organizations, women are now becoming part of various civil rights causes. The USAID has promoted the participation of women in lobbying for workers’ rights and human rights.

Cambodia’s National Assembly is still composed of 80% men, but efforts to place women in political leadership positions are being undertaken. For example, a Cambodian NGO SILAKA is focused on partnering with political parties to engage women in politics. In 2017, the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) and the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) focused on including qualified women candidates on candidate lists during council elections.

Women and Climate Disaster

In 2019, UNDP Cambodia increased efforts to prevent climate disasters and protect communities from these disasters. The UNDP has emphasized the role of women in disaster management. They are equipping local women with leadership and decision-making skills as a part of the Charter of Demands for Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Change Adaptation.

Looking Forward

With the aid of the UN and USAID, Cambodia has made crucial efforts toward reforming negative societal norms. This has come through media campaigns and through involving women in poverty reduction efforts. To achieve greater gender equality in Cambodia, further efforts are needed to empower women politically, economically and socially.

– Anita Durairaj
Photo: Needpix

Chinese Investment in Africa
China’s rise to economic prominence is unparalleled in modern history. In just 40 years, China has become the manufacturing center of the world, built an enviable infrastructure system and created a robust middle class by lifting 800 million people out of poverty. The regime has also expanded Chinese investments abroad, funding a wide range of projects in far-flung corners of the globe. China’s international strategy has met with skepticism from the West due to allegations of corrupt business practices and sketchy dealings between often authoritarian states. This article will explain the effects of Chinese investment in Africa specifically, exploring the impact through the perspective of the international community, China itself and the receiving African nations.

The Extent

The value of Chinese investment in Africa since 2005 has passed $2 trillion. Chinese investment has many dimensions but primarily focuses on infrastructure and resource extraction. The regime’s plan to extract and ship resources through Chinese-built infrastructure connects more foreign markets to China as part of an ambitious megaproject called the Belt and Road Initiative. In doing so, China benefits by ensuring its supply of material needed to further economic growth and receiving nations benefit through job creation and economic diversification. Additionally, Chinese entrepreneurs own over 10,000 businesses on the continent.

One can only accomplish a proper understanding of foreign influence in Africa comparatively. Chinese interests in Africa are primarily commercial, but raise alarm bells in the West due to the scale of China’s acquisition of hard assets. Meanwhile, the West has had cultural and political interests in Africa for centuries, interests that continue today through the presence of Western military bases, political boundaries and cultural footprints of language and religion.

The Benefits

The ease and effectiveness of Chinese investment have provided many benefits for African nations. From its perspective, China provides fast access to capital and prompt delivery of services and workers. Additionally, Chinese loans do not need receiving nations to meet the ethical restrictions that organizations like the IMF require. The nature of Chinese investment often produces tangible results. Infrastructure projects increase access to transportation, healthcare, education and telecommunication services for ordinary Africans. Resource extraction diversifies the economy and can immediately sell to China’s booming market, as Chinese trade to Africa generally eclipses $100 billion every year.

Outside of investment, China plays an active role in addressing poverty on the continent. In 2018, the regime approved a $60 billion aid package and currently participates in five U.N. peacekeeping missions in Africa. In general, African nations view China as a valuable ally with no history of colonialism, but also as an avenue for successful economic development.

The Concerns

While the economic benefits of Chinese investment are numerous, allegations about the regime’s business practices and intentions are of justifiable concern. The lack of accountability measures and regulatory mechanisms on the continent have led corrupt actors to hijack many Chinese-funded projects. In many cases, extraction and infrastructure markets are more concerned with connecting resource markets to China than considering the needs of the population. The influx of Chinese entrepreneurs and cheap goods have also decimated domestic industries such as the Nigerian textile market.

Additionally, Chinese investment projects often lack sustainability regulations and native Chinese laborers frequently dominate them. In fact, every million dollars of Chinese investment only creates 1.78 jobs for African citizens. Chinese lending practices have also received criticism for creating trade imbalances and debt for countries unable to pay them back in time. Finally, Chinese intentions are hard to ascertain, and as their economic influence grows, so does their ability to influence Africa’s diplomatic and political landscape.

The Solutions

Despite the shortcomings of Chinese investment in Africa, there are policy and organizational solutions actively addressing these issues. The findings of international organizations such as the U.N. and WHO can influence the state of Chinese business dealings. In particular, the Ease of Doing Business Index and WHO influence provides international awareness and transparency to Chinese investment projects. African nations have also realized the need to implement more effective regulatory mechanisms in order to combat corrupt dealings.

Additionally, nations such as Nigeria and South Africa have accepted deals from the U.S. and E.U. as a way to mediate Chinese diplomatic influence. China has also sought to improve its image, improving procedural transparency and establishing NGOs throughout Africa. The Beijing Gender Health Education Institute has opened a division in Africa, where it seeks to empower LGBTQ individuals by producing documentaries and spreading visual works. Transnational NGOs with Chinese offices such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the “Free Lunch for Children” campaign have started operating in Africa as well.

Despite uncertainty dominating it, Chinese investment in Africa has provided undeniable benefits to ordinary Africans. Ensuring that Chinese actions receive mediation will take the concerted effort of international institutions and accountability mechanisms. With concentrated reforms and an open diplomatic dialogue, Chinese financial support will be instrumental in helping the international community alleviate global poverty.

– Matthew Compan
Photo: Flickr

Viral Video Game Employing Venezuelans
Hundreds of people in Venezuela are playing RuneScape. RuneScape is an online open-world game with multiple themes to choose from. RuneScape involves a world of ancient magic, pirates and medieval castles. This game provides an escape from the daily lives of Venezuelans. This viral video game is also employing Venezuelans during the country’s economic crisis to give them the income they desperately need.

The Economic Crisis in Venezuela

Venezuela is facing hyperinflation due to its plummeting economy and increasing political turmoil. Citizens are leaving their jobs and protesting on the streets instead. The country is in massive debt and corruption is rampant with violence on the streets in addition to food and medicine shortages. As a result, Venezuelans are fighting for survival as they earn only $6.70 a month.

Venezuela remains highly dependent on oil reserves, which accounts for almost all export earnings and nearly half of the government’s revenue. However, the falling oil prices due to the economic crisis has caused U.S. multinational firms to shut down their Venezuelan operations, aggravating the issue even more. The access to dollars has become insufficient with inflation on the rise and price controls as well as rigid labor regulations causing even more shutdowns. Because the government is so in debt, there are food and medicine shortages leading to health issues rising across the country. Malnourished children and citizens without access to proper health care is an ongoing crisis. Some Venezuelans are even migrating from their home country. Citizens are escaping to neighboring places such as Columbia and Peru in the hope of finding a better life. According to worldvision.org, the number of displaced people may increase to 5.4 million.

The Bolivar is worth $9.90 compared to the U.S. dollar. Meanwhile, Venezuela’s unemployment rate is 17%. The country is suffering from an inflation rate of 482% according to IMF figures. As the country is rationing food, angry and hungry mobs are attacking supermarkets and civil unrest is threatening the government.

In 2015, the oil price reduced by half and access to basic necessities like groceries cost 22 times the minimum salary. With the economy in turmoil, Venezuelans are searching elsewhere for employment and are looking anywhere to earn money.

RuneScape

RuneScape is a multiplayer online roleplaying game that can help the economic crisis in Venezuela. For some Venezuelans, this virtual video game is their only source of income. By farming gold on the game in exchange for in-game weapons and armor, Venezuelan’s can trade their virtual currency that is worth more than their actual currency online to other gamers across the world. Players are killing the green dragons in the game and selling the objects that they drop on the virtual marketplace. Additionally, Venezuelans can sell this gold to third party sites for money like cryptocurrency sites such as Bitcoin.

While the monthly minimum wage is only $6.70 a month, RuneScape players can earn that amount in only two days for eight-hour shifts by selling 500,000 units gold per hour. Since the economy is unstable in Venezuela, RuneScape offers a safety valve for Venezuelans across the country for the future. Estimates determine that 50% of the younger population and 20% of the older generation now farms RuneScape gold. In addition, 1.8 million Venezuelans depend on the green dragons in the game. A gold farmer can earn $40 a month, triple the average minimum monthly wage. This viral video game employing Venezuelans allows citizens to sell the gold for real money in the virtual marketplace that is not as volatile as their own economy.

The amount of RuneScape players may increase as the economy becomes more unstable. Additionally, for some Venezuelans, playing this viral video game will be the only way to feed their families and put food on the table in the foreseeable future.

Venezuela Crisis Relief

Although there are no organizations working to facilitate this money-making opportunity, multiple organizations are reaching out to help improve the economic crisis in Venezuela. Many children and adults suffer from malnourishment due to shortages of food. Global Giving imports medical supplies to dying patients and provides daily meals for starving patients. Each day, this project feeds 400 patients.

Humanitarian activities that the U.N. has supported have raised $155 million to support the Venezuelan people. The U.N. also donated food and provided agricultural support to 50,000 people. In addition, it has provided educational support to over 160,000 students.

While this viral video game is employing Venezuelans, Venezuela’s economy is still in collapse. With employment at an all-time low, RuneScape provides an opportunity for Venezuelans to escape from their poverty-stricken world and embark on new quests. One simple game online provides a solution by employing Venezuelans and allowing them to escape not only the economic burden of their country but also their daily lives. In the future, as online players increase, this money-making opportunity may even shape the world in which all Venezuelans are living.

Joelle Shusterman
Photo: Flickr

Female Genital Mutilation
One of the most extreme and dangerous forms of discrimination against women is the practice of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). Some might not associate the practice with modern, cosmopolitan countries outside of Africa. However, the truth is that it is still quietly happening in a lot of communities in Southeast Asia. In fact, Female Genital Mutilation in Southeast Asia is more common than people previously thought.

What is Female Genital Mutilation?

FGM comprises all procedures that involve the partial or total removal of female genitalia, or other injuries to the female genital organs. FGM usually takes place on religious or cultural grounds and undertaken for non-medical reasons, leaving the girls with long-term health complications. International organizations, such as the U.N. and the WHO, universally consider FGM a violation of human rights and an extreme form of discrimination against women. While it has no health benefits, the practice is prevalent and often performed for cultural and religious reasons. The WHO estimates that more than 200 million women and girls have experienced FGM and that more than 3 million girls are at risk of this painful practice annually.

Female Genital Mutilation in Southeast Asia

While the procedure in many African countries commonly occurs as a ceremony when girls reach adolescence, FGM in Southeast Asia often occurs when the girls are in infancy, which makes it more hidden. Better known as Sunat Perempuan in Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia, people often quietly carry out the procedure on girls before they turn 2 years old and are aware of what others are deciding for their body. Muslims in Southeast Asia typically observe this practice and reside in countries such as Thailand, Brunei, Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia.

Singapore

Since FGM occurs quietly, the exact number of women who experienced it is hard to pinpoint. However, experts believe that it is highly prevalent within the Malay community. Based on some anecdotal evidence, some estimate that approximately 80 percent of the 200,000 Malay Muslims were victims of FGM in Singapore. There is no law banning the practice of FGM in Singapore, and the government remains overwhelmingly silent on the issue. Some clinics offer to perform the procedure for around $15 to $26.

Indonesia

Many in Indonesia consider Female Genital Mutilation a rite of passage and people have practiced it for generations in Indonesia, a country containing the largest Muslim population of all countries globally. The government estimates that about 50 percent of the girls aged 11 and under nationwide undergo FGM, while in some more conservative parts of the country such as Gorontalo, the number could be upwards of 80 percent. Local healers say that the practice would prevent the girls’ promiscuity in later life. There is also another widespread belief that God would not accept uncircumcised Muslim women’s prayers. Some hospitals in Indonesia even offered FGM as part of the “birthing packages,” which further legitimizes the procedure and makes it hard to eliminate.

The government has gone back and forth in its decision on the issue. In 2006, the government had banned the practice of FGM, but due to pressure from religious groups, it had moved away from the attempt four years later. Instead, to accommodate the religious and cultural considerations, the government issued regulations allowing for medical staff to carry out less intrusive methods to ensure more safety. In 2016, the women’s minister announced a renewed campaign to end FGM but again met with increased opposition from the religious leaders in the country.

Malaysia

A study in 2012 found that more than 93 percent of the Muslim women that it surveyed in Malaysia have undergone the procedure. In 2009, Malaysia’s Islamic Council issued a fatwa – a legal pronouncement in Islam, allowing FGM and making the practice mandatory unless considered harmful. The call for standardization of procedure by the health ministry in 2012 added more to the problem of FGM in Malaysia as many in the country consider it to be normal and part of the culture.

A New Generation

Despite international condemnation, the practice of Female Genital Mutilation in Southeast Asia is still prevalent and entrenched in traditions in many communities. The practice exists mostly among the Muslim community but is not exclusive to it. It is only until recently that FGM in Southeast Asia has gained more international attention, and more evidence on the prevalence of the practice is necessary to raise awareness on the issue. Across Africa where the practice concentrates, some communities have started to question FGM and abandon the long-standing tradition. Hopefully, with the new awareness of FGM in Southeast Asia, the nations will soon put an end to the practice that has been putting the women in danger for generations.

Minh-Ha La
Photo: Flickr

 

Women’s and Children’s health
In 2000, all 191 members of the United Nations officially ratified the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) which are eight, interdependent goals to improve the modern world. One of these goals included “promot[ing] gender equality and empower women; to reduce child mortality; [and] to improve maternal health,” emphasizing the need for increased focus on women’s and children’s health across the globe. In 2015, the Millennium Development Goals ended and the U.N. published a comprehensive report detailing the success of the MDGs. The report concluded that, during the length of the program, women’s employment increased dramatically, childhood mortality decreased by half and maternal mortality declined by nearly 45 percent.

Such success is, in part, due to another initiative, the 2010 Global Strategy for Women’s and Children’s Health, that aimed to intensify efforts to improve women’s and children’s health. Upon conclusion, the U.N. began developing a new program, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which includes 17 interconnected goals. Expanding on the success of the MDGs, the U.N. aims to tackle each goal by 2030. Similar to supportive programming to the MDGs, the U.N. has created another push for women’s and children’s health by establishing the 2016 Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescent’s Health.

The Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescent’s Health

The 2016 Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescent’s Health tackles a variety of critical global issues including maternal and childhood death, women’s workforce participation, women’s and children’s health care coverage, childhood development and childhood education. Being more robust, the 2016 Global Strategy is distinguished from the previous program as it “is much broader, more ambitious and more focused on equity than [the 2010] predecessor,” according to a U.N. report. The 2016 Global Strategy specifically addresses adolescents with the objective of encouraging youth to recognize personal potential and three human rights of health, education and participation within society.

Initiatives Supporting the SDGs

Many anticipate that achieving these global objectives will be a complex challenge. Therefore, the U.N. has established two groups to address women’s, children’s and adolescent’s health advancement: The High-level Steering Group for Every Woman Every Child and The Working Group on the Health and Human Rights of Women, Children and Adolescents.

The U.N. Secretary-General created the High-level Steering Group for Every Woman and Every Child in 2015. Seven areas of focus within the 2016 Global Strategy define the overall aim of this group. These include early child development, adolescent health, quality, equity, dignity in health services, sexual and reproductive health and rights, empowerment, financing, humanitarian and fragile settings.

The World Health Organization and the U.N. Human Rights Council created the Working Group on the Health and Human Rights of Women, Children and Adolescents in 2016, and it delivered recommendations to improve methods to achieving the 2016 Global Strategy. The group provides insight to “better operationalize” the human rights goals of the Steering Group in the report. 

In conjunction, these groups have accelerated and promoted the effectiveness of the 2016 Global Strategy. These groups effectively outline the idea that it is crucial to work as a team to tackle some of the world’s most complex problems concerning global poverty and health. U.N. Secretary-General, Ban Ki-Moon, believes these programs and groups will guide individuals and societies to claim human rights, create substantial change and hold leaders accountable.

Benefiting the Global Community

While the objective of the 2016 Global Strategy is to provide women, children and adolescents with essential resources and opportunities, the benefits of this integrated approach reach far beyond these groups. Developing strategic interventions produces a high return on resource investment. The reduction of poverty and increased public health leads to stimulated economic growth, thus increasing productivity and job creation.

Further, projections determine that the 2016 Global Strategy’s investments in the health and nutrition of women, children and adolescents will procure a 10-fold return by 2030, yielding roughly $100 billion in demographic dividends.

These high returns provide a powerful impetus for program support by local communities and government officials. Projected financial return can shed light on the global benefits of localized poverty reduction efforts. While the aim of poverty reduction should be in the interest of those most affected, understanding that such programs can provide a country with increased long-term growth is a major factor in the success of such initiatives, specifically in women’s and children’s health. 

The 2016 Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescent’s Health is indispensable during a time when women and children are providing the world with new innovations and perspectives. Each day, women across the world promote cooperation, peace and conversations within communities. Children will come to define the wellbeing of our world in the future. The success of U.N. programs today is a new reality for the world tomorrow.

Aly Hill
Photo: Flickr

How Desert Locusts Impact Global Poverty
With the rainy season falling upon Africa, a number of countries are rushing to take action against a catastrophic swarm of desert locusts currently in several regions. This swarm might be the most destructive of its kind in 25 years for Ethiopia and Somalia and the worst that has hit Kenya in over 70 years. People can predominantly find the insects in regions across Africa, Asia and the Middle East. They have the ability to eat their own weight in food, which poses a challenge to crop production in arid climates. Rain and planting seasons begin in March, meaning that efforts to contain infestation must happen quickly before the situation becomes too drastic and the locusts impact global poverty too severely.

Read more below for information on what desert locusts are, their impact on global poverty and the preventative measures that affected countries must take in order to address the destruction that will cut across these regions in 2020.

Desert Locusts

Desert locusts are the oldest and most dangerous migratory pests. They are short-horned insects that are part of the grasshopper species, but they differ in that they have the ability to alter their behavior in order to migrate across large distances. These migrations can easily become highly concentrated and mobile.

These locusts usually travel in swarms, containing up to 40 million insects that can consume enough food for 34 million people in a short period of time. They are able to stay in the air for a long time, meaning that they can regularly cross the Red Sea at a distance of 300 kilometers.

These swarms have already crossed into areas like Uganda, Tanzania and South Sudan. They typically form under heavy rain conditions, where they travel in search of food. Desert locusts are among the most destructive migratory pests because they not only threaten food security but economic and environmental development as well.

People can spray them with pesticides as a control measure, but it is not always preventative. Both humans and birds regularly eat them, but not enough to reduce swarms of a large size. Current environmental conditions that cause frequent droughts, cyclones in the Indian Ocean and floods have created the perfect atmosphere for locusts to breed.

Locusts’ Contribution to Global Poverty

Desert locusts primarily reside in the arid deserts of Africa and near east and southwest Asia and the Middle East. This poses a severe challenge to herders and may potentially cause communal conflict as herders move in search of pastures and other grazing lands.

Desert locusts consume as much food as 20 camels, six elephants or 350,000 people in a day. It is in this way that locusts impact global poverty because with large invasions in east Africa, where 2.5 million people are already facing severe hunger, there is a clear challenge in regards to the global poverty epidemic. The food crisis will deepen and grazing lands will no longer be able to sustain sufficient crop production, which will lead to an even more economic downturn for several African countries.

Solutions

The quickest vehicle for prevention is spraying pesticides or biopesticides in the air. Natural predators exist, but desert locusts can escape pretty quickly due to their mobility.

The United Nations (U.N.) has publicly called for international aid in alleviating the destruction that will inevitably arise from these swarms. Desert locusts will compromise food security all over Africa, which will, in turn, lead to higher poverty rates as people scramble for food. Its office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs has allocated about $10 million from its Central Emergency Relief Fund. This will help fund aerial operations that can enforce infestation control better.

The Food and Agriculture Organizations of the United Nations (FAO) is currently calling to raise about $76 million from donors and other organizations in order to limit how desert locusts impact global poverty. So far, it has raised approximately $20 million, which is largely from the U.N.’s emergency fund. The numbers should increase as the locusts travel larger distances and spread to more areas.

Desert locust swarms are growing at an exponential rate. Projections determine that they will increase by 500 times in East Africa by June 2020, which invokes even more of a humanitarian crisis as food shortage will impact millions of people.

– Brittany Adames
Photo: Flickr

Facts About the Bosnian War
Bosnia has a varied and long history full of interesting facts, such as how it used to be part of the Republic of Yugoslavia. A fascinating event of this country was the Bosnian War. These 15 facts about the Bosnian War highlight essential parts of one of the most intriguing periods in the country’s history.

15 Facts About the Bosnian War

  1. After declaring its independence, Bosnia was multiethnic. Its most prominent groups were Muslim Bosniaks (44 percent), Orthodox Serbs (31 percent) and Catholic Croats (17 percent). However, a four-year war followed the country’s independence, when the Bosnian Serbs attacked Sarajevo, targeting mainly the Muslims. They also carried out ethnic cleansing across the countryside.
  2. The United Nations helped both parties agree to a peace treaty in 1995 called the Dayton Peace Agreement. This agreement preserves Bosnia as a single state conformed by the Bosniak-Croat Federation and the Bosnian Serb Republic. To date, the U.N. has also convicted more than 70 men of war crimes.
  3. Bosnian Croat soldiers became prisoners during the war after their surrender on Vlasic, a central Bosnian mountain. Approximately 700 of them, as well as 7,000 Croat civilians, fled to Serb-held territories after the massacre that occurred on this mountain.
  4. In 1993, Miss Besieged Sarajevo stood up against war by unfolding a banner that read, “Don’t let them kill us.” Her name is Inela Nogic, and she was 17 years old at the time. The song “Eve of Destruction” was playing when she and 12 other teenagers got on the pageant stage and unfolded the banner. This demonstration served as a representation for 380,000 people living in Sarajevo during that time and their wish to continue their normal lives despite the war and conflict.
  5. Goran Jelisic was a Serb police officer who the U.N. and International Criminal Tribunal of the former Yugoslavia convicted of murder, cruel treatment, plunder and inhumane acts. He even called himself the “Serb Adolf” in 1992. He systematically killed Muslims, hurt women and stole from prisoners, amongst other things. He finally received a sentence of 40 years in prison for his war crimes.
  6. Srebrenica Memorial Cemetery buried more than 6,500 bodies after the bodies received identification from mass graves in Eastern Bosnia. In 2012, the mass burial re-grouped 615 bodies in that year alone. Even though it is a memorial now, it began as a cemetery that former president Bill Clinton opened in 2003. The cemetery initially buried 600 sets of remains.
  7. Even 20 years after the start of the Bosnian War, there is still a deep division between ethnicities. Mostar is an excellent example, where Croats hold the west bank and Muslim Bosniaks hold the east. Co-existence is uncomfortable to the point where they resist international efforts of reintegration. They even have two different fire brigades for each side, and all divisions are obvious.
  8. An appeal court sentenced Radovan Karadzic, a former Bosnian Serb leader, to life in prison for his role in the Bosnian War. It charged him with genocide and the killing of over 7,000 Muslims. Even though they were originally only going to convict him for 40 years, the judges increased it to a life sentence. They claimed the tribunal chamber had initially “abused its discretion,” and the chief prosecutor said that finally, his victims saw a consequence for Karadzic’s actions.
  9. In April 2012, Sarajevo lined over 11,000 red chairs on its main avenue, Titova Street. These chairs symbolized the victims on the 20th anniversary of the War. There was also a choir and a classical orchestra that performed songs that were mostly from wartime.
  10. Even though this was the bloodiest conflict in Europe since World War II, the U.N. barely interfered. Its only interference was that occasionally the U.N. Protection Force sent troops.
  11. The War had devastating effects on people’s health, mostly because of a lack of food and supplies as well as displacement. Ethnic cleansing led to significant shifts and movements, which increased people’s vulnerability to illness and even death. By September 1993, the War resulted in the killing, wounding or displacement of over half a million people. Bosnia’s health system was not capable of attending to these issues or even basic needs.
  12. Bosnia’s demographic structure is in constant flux, including more and more vulnerable populations, such as those that are either too young, old or weak to escape. During the War, studies suggested that the proportion of children and the elderly increased, affecting public health since these individuals were more susceptible to external factors.
  13. As a result of ethnic cleansing among other things, the war forced 21 to 76 percent of the population to move. Many of these shifts were towards communities with significant refugee populations. In places such as Banjaluka and the Eastern Bosnian enclaves, displaced people amounted to over 50 percent of the population.
  14. In addition to food, there was also water scarcity. Before the war, Sarajevo’s water consumption was approximately 200 liters per person per day. The water pumping stations used an electrical system for power. However, during the war, electricity was only available intermittently, if at all. This occurrence, in turn, severely impacted water distribution. In July 1993, Sarajevo rationed water to between two and three liters per person per day.
  15. Before the War, Bosnia mostly relied on natural gas to heat buildings. However, during the War, the pipelines shut down. Fortunately, a project supported by foreign aid was able to reconnect 20,000 people in Sarajevo with the natural gas pipeline, restoring the minimum pressure of one bar by November 1993.

Even though the war is over, Bosnia still experiences deep ethnic divisions. These 15 facts about the Bosnian War highlight the main takeaways and lessons from the war to avoid a similar conflict in the future.

– Johanna Leo
Photo: Flickr

Food Shortages in Tajikistan

Tajikistan is a landlocked country in Central Asia that is home to 9 million people, many of whom have grappled with instability and poverty since its independence in 1992. In fact, half of Tajikistan‘s population lives in poverty today. Furthermore, the country is currently experiencing a food shortage crisis that is exacerbated by a number of factors including a heavy dependence on imported food products as well as inadequate agricultural practices.

Aid from US Initiatives

At least 30 percent of children under the age of five have stunted development. Increasing production in the local agriculture sector is a boost for Tajikistan’s economy, nutrition and general food supply. With equipment and training also provided by USAID, around 16,000 farmers were able to produce higher quality products that increased food security and nutrition. Improving agricultural production is a major step in alleviating the shortages that have plagued the population that currently live below the poverty line as well as helping the local farmers who struggled to make ends meet.

WFP Assistance

The World Food Programme has provided assistance to Tajikistan since 1993 and developed programs that aided people in need. The WFP helped with drafting policies and providing food to over 2,000 schools in rural Tajikistan, allowing over 370,000 students access to regular daily meals. Additional programs alongside the WFP have helped an estimated 119,500 infants under the age of 5 with their nutrition. Assistance is also provided to build new or improve infrastructure to provide security for supplies to rural areas, including additional agriculture production, disaster relief efforts and enrolling children into feeding programs to combat malnutrition. With aid from this program, Tajik children, alongside their parents, gained access to accessible food and medical facilities.

Domestic Poultry Market

Tajikistan’s domestic poultry market has been a major focus on increasing the country’s food security. An investment of expanding domestic poultry farming production in 2015, building new farms and increasing the number of eggs and meat produced for local markets. The poultry industry also got an additional boost in 2018 when the government lowered taxes on imported machinery and tools in 2017 to bolster internal production, though importing poultry still remains as one of the main drivers to meet domestic demand. There are currently 93 farms poultry farms with over 5 million birds currently in the poultry industry. The importance of poultry has on both the economy and the role it plays into combating hunger paves the way to alleviate the food shortages in Tajikistan.

Tajikistan’s effort, normally criticized for being lacking, has expanded upon its agriculture sector with significant investments. Much of Tajikistan’s battle against its internal food shortages have been from foreign aid programs, with various UN members providing the arid country with supplies and equipment to expand internal agriculture and food security alongside Tajikistan’s own national investment to expand them. The efforts have been slowly paying dividends in the Central Asian country, but it still remains a difficult road in alleviating the food shortages in Tajikistan.

Henry Elliott
Photo: Flickr