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Food Shortages in TajikistanTajikistan 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

 

 

 Facts About Child Labor in Iraq

Iraq is one of the largest recipients of U.S. aid. It has been wracked by violence for decades. Children in Irag are particularly vulnerable to exploitation in this violent situation. These 10 facts about child labor in Iraq demonstrate just how dangerous it can be.

10 Facts About Child Labor in Iraq

  1. More than 575,000 children worked instead of going to school in Iraq in 2016. This is an increase of more than 250,000 since 1990 when the First Gulf War began and the ongoing violence within Iraq started. Approximately 75 percent of Iraqi children age 5 to 14 attend school, but attendance rates are unevenly distributed. In governates that have experienced violence, up to 90 percent of children are out of school.
  2. Children are coerced into various kinds of work. Some work in agriculture or industries such as construction, factory work and brick making. Children also work in the service industry and are involved in domestic work and street work, such as selling goods and pushing carts. It is estimated that 2 percent of children age 12-14 spend 28 hours or more a week on housework. The same number of children perform unpaid work for someone other than an immediate family member. About 12 percent work for their family’s businesses.
  3. Many children in Iraq are coerced into the “worst forms of child labor” as identified by the International Labour Organization (ILO). These include recruitment into armed conflict, use in illegal activities such as drug trafficking, forced begging, domestic work as a result of human trafficking and sexual exploitation. Forces on both sides of the current conflict in Iraq have used child soldiers, one of the worst forms of child labor. In 2018, ISIL was responsible for recruiting 39 children and detaining more than 900.
  4. The Popular Mobilization Forces, a militia officially endorsed by the Iraqi state, has reportedly trained more than 200 children to join the fight against ISIS. Human Rights Watch has documented 38 cases of children being recruited into forces affiliated with the PKK, some as young as 12. On the other side of the conflict, ISIS has consistently used children as suicide bombers and soldiers. ISIS recruits children as they are easiest to indoctrinate. Sometimes they will pay impoverished families hundreds of dollars a month to send their children to military training camps.
  5. Although the minimum age requirement to work in Iraq is 15, laws are not evenly enforced. Additionally, while forced labor and sexual exploitation of children are prohibited, there are no laws prohibiting human trafficking. Adding to the problem, children are only required to be in school for six years. This would typically end their education at age 12. This makes children age 12 to 15 especially at risk for exploitation since they are often out of school but cannot work legally.
  6. Problems such as poverty, lack of education and a shortage of economic opportunities increase child labor. Children living in rural areas are more likely to work than those living in cities due to the stark divide in poverty levels. About 39 percent of people living in rural areas in Iraq live in poverty while only 16 percent of urban dwellers are impoverished. Poverty is a driving factor behind child labor, as impoverished parents often need income from their children so the family can get by.
  7. Sexual exploitation is also one of the worst forms of child labor. In some parts of Iraq, girls are used as “gifts” to settle disputes between tribes. Additionally, growing poverty has increased the number of parents force girls into marriages. At least 5 percent of girls in Iraq are married before the age of 15. In regions controlled by ISIS, the terrorist group runs markets in which captured girls and women are sold as sex slaves. Yezidi women and girls are particularly vulnerable to sexual exploitation, facing capture and trafficking by ISIS fighters. Gender-based discrimination also contributes to the problem of the sexual exploitation of young girls.
  8. The worst forms of child labor can have physical and psychological effects on children. Because children are still developing, children risk stunted growth and physical atrophy as well as behavioral issues from performing physical labor. Performing hard labor in industries such as agriculture also involves working with dangerous equipment, carrying overly heavy loads and working with dangerous chemicals and pesticides. Being exposed to violence and cruelty as a young child can also result in psychological problems. Spending time at work instead of with their peers can also result in delayed social development, depression and isolation.
  9. Iraq has made efforts to get rid of child labor. It has opened 80 schools in West Mosul and created educational opportunities for Syrian refuges children. This has resulted in 60,000 more children attending school. Iraq has also created new policies meant to address child labor through education and social services. These include the creation of informal education programs, subsidies for law oncome families so that children do not have to work and shelters for human trafficking victims.
  10. Organizations such as UNICEF have been working with the Iraqi government to protect children and keep them in school. UNICEF is striving to expand access to schools and increase the quality of education within Iraq. The agency has provided e-learning for children in areas without schools and assisted the Iraqi government with the Accelerated Learning Programme for children who have missed school. UNICEF continues to work with Iraq to improve the quality of education within the country. Together, they are making revisions to curriculums and materials and extended training for teachers. Additionally, the organization calls for the strengthening of institutions meant to protect children. It wants to increase case management and other services meant to serve children and combat social norms that prevent children and their families from seeking help.

The ILO has declared that the long-term solution to child labor “lies in sustained economic growth leading to social progress, in particular, poverty alleviation and universal education.” This means that the U.S. has an opportunity to end child labor in Iraq through poverty-reducing measures. Currently, 80 percent of U.S. aid to Iraq goes to military assistance, with only 20 percent used to address humanitarian needs.

These 10 facts about child labor in Iraq demonstrate that an increase in aid focused on poverty-reduction and education could change the lives of thousands of children. By reducing poverty, there is a stronger chance of reducing child labor.

Philip Daniel Glass
Photo: Flickr

China's Contribution to Global Poverty Reduction
China has lifted 82.39 million rural poor out of poverty over the past six years. Additionally, recent data from the National Bureau of Statistics showed that the proportion of people living below the poverty line dropped from 10.2 to 1.7 percent in the same period. The population living below the current poverty line in the rural areas was 16.6 million by the end of 2018, down 13.86 million from the previous year. The poverty rate in 2018 was also down by 1.4 percent points from 2017. A lot has happened on the way for China‘s contribution to global poverty reduction, though.

China’s History

In 1958, Mao’s Communist Party introduced the Great Leap Forward, a failed effort to achieve rapid industrialization, and which, by its end in 1962, left as many as 45 million people dead as food output plunged and a famine wreaked havoc. The decade-long Cultural Revolution, which brought disaster to the country, only ended with Mao’s death in 1976. Because of such campaigns, China basically stood still as the rest of the world moved ahead.

Today, China’s huge strides over 70 years seem impressive but those gains occurred in the 40 years after Mr. Deng launched China on the road to economic reform after taking over from Mao’s chosen successor. Deng Xiaoping paved the way for how China contributes to global poverty reduction.

Poverty Alleviation in China

According to statistics that the World Bank released, over the past 40 years, the number of people in China living below the international poverty line has dropped by more than 850 million. This represents 70 percent of the total world figure. With the highest number of people moving out of poverty, China was the first developing country to realize the UN Millennium Development Goal for poverty reduction.

Indeed, poverty across the globe has seriously hindered the fulfillment and enjoyment of human rights for many. As such, many see reducing and eliminating poverty as the major element of human rights protection for governments across the world. It is really encouraging that, over the years, poverty eradication has always remained a goal for the Chinese government in its pursuit of a happy life for its people.

China’s Efforts to Alleviate Poverty Around the World

In the meantime, China’s poverty alleviation results are benefiting other countries and their peoples. China, with an aim to build a community with a shared future for humanity, is actively responding to the UN Millennium Development Goal and 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. It is conducting broad international collaboration on poverty reduction. Some examples of China contributing to global poverty reduction are the implementation of the China-Africa cooperation plan for poverty reduction and people’s livelihood and the 200 initiatives of the Happy Life Project.

Over the past 70 years, China provided financial aid of over 400 billion yuan to nearly 170 countries and international organizations, and carried out over 5,000 assistance projects overseas and helped over 120 developing countries to realize the Millennium Development Goal, a glorious example of how China’s contribution to global poverty reduction.

China plans to eliminate absolute poverty by 2020. The plan is not only a key step for the country to realize the Chinese Dream of the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation, but also a significant and glorious cause in the human history of poverty reduction.

Andrea Viera
Photo: Flickr

 

Life Expectancy in Niger

Life expectancy rates measure the overall mortality of a country in a given year, a statistic affected by countries’ poverty rates. There is a correlation between poor health and poverty that implies those in better socioeconomic classes will live longer, healthier lives than those in lower classes. With a poverty rate of approximately 44.1 percent in 2017, Niger, a landlocked country in Africa also has one of the lowest life expectancy rates in the world. Below are 10 facts about life expectancy in Niger, which explain the challenges the government faces to improve quality of life and the efforts being taken to prevent premature deaths.

10 Facts about Life Expectancy in Niger

  1. In 2016, the global life expectancy rate was 72.0 years old and on average, women were expected to live to 74.2 years old while the rate for men was slightly lower at 69.8 years old. A 2018 estimate by the CIA estimates the average life expectancy rate in Niger was 56.3 years old. The rate for women was 57.7 years while men on average lived until 55.0 years old.
  2. One of the biggest factors affecting Niger’s stagnant poverty rates is their increasingly growing population rate. With a 3.16 percent growth rate, Niger has the seventh fastest-growing population in the world. The people of Niger lack adequate resources to feed and shelter the constantly increasing population only exacerbating the mortality rate.
  3. In 2017, the UN ranked Niger as the second least developed country in the world due to their reliance on agriculture. The majority of the population, 87 percent, depends on agriculture including subsidized farming and domestic livestock as their primary means of income. Nearly half of the population of Niger falls below the poverty line a consequence of the limited job opportunities and lack of industry.
  4. In 2017, Niger ranked 189th out of 189 countries on the United Nations Human Development Index (HDI), a scale that ranks countries based on three factors: health, knowledge and quality of life. The health factor is determined by the life expectancy at birth while knowledge is determined by the average rate of schooling for citizens and quality of life is measured by the gross national income. Although this index does not account for poverty levels, socioeconomic inequality or human security, Niger’s low ranking depicts a country struggling with healthcare, education and economic prosperity.
  5. The top three leading causes of death in Niger in 2017 were malaria, diarrheal diseases and lower respiratory infections. Comparatively, in the United States, the leading causes of death are heart disease, cancer and accidents. The leading causes of death in the United States are noncontagious and in the case of accidentals, unavoidable. However, both malaria and diarrheal diseases are treatable and communicable conditions that could be prevented with proper healthcare.
  6. Located between three deserts, Niger is one of the hottest countries in the world with a very dry climate. This extreme climate creates inconsistent rainfall patterns, which leads to long periods of drought and widespread famine. Groundwater, the only option for clean water, is often contaminated in wells or kilometers away. As a result, only 56 percent of the population has access to drinking water while 13 percent of the population uses proper sanitation practices.
  7. The people of Niger lack education about proper health practices with 71 percent of people practicing open defecation while 17 million people do not have a proper toilet. The lack of proper disposal for fecal matter affects access to clean drinking water by contaminating hand-dug wells meant to provide clean water to entire villages. This improper sanitation, contaminated water and insufficient hygiene contribute to diarrhea-associated deaths in Niger.
  8. In partnership with European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO), UNICEF Niger successfully advocated for the expansion of the national seasonal malaria chemoprevention campaign and the inclusion of malnutrition screening in the country. In 2016, the malaria chemoprevention campaign helped 2.23 million children between three and 59 months suffering from malaria. Also, the incorporation of malnutrition screening contributed to an 11 percent decrease in the number of children with severe acute malnutrition in 2016.
  9. Doctors Without Borders has recognized the need for malaria and malnutrition care in Niger, especially during peak drought seasons. In 2018, Doctors Without Borders treated 173,200 patients for malaria, placed 42,300 people into feeding treatment centers and admitted 86,300 people to hospitals for malaria and malnutrition treatment.
  10. A UNICEF funded branch of the water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) program is active in Niger and fighting to increase access to clean water and sanitation facilities to combat open defecation and poor hygiene. Currently, UNICEF is modeling a WASH-approach in 14 municipalities within three regions of Niger with the intent of opening new facilities, strengthening water pipe systems and managing water supply networks.

These 10 facts about life expectancy in Niger depict a country attempting to improve the quality of life for its people despite social and environmental challenges. Slowly, with help from humanitarian organizations and nonprofits, the life expectancy in Niger will continue to improve.

Hayley Jellison
Photo: Flickr

 

Poverty Level
The word poverty is common in discussions of politics, global issues, health and education around the world. Although many organizations are working to put an end to poverty, the general public often has many questions surrounding this prevalent topic. What does it mean to be in poverty and what is the poverty level?

The most recent poverty level set in 2015 stated that an adult making less than $1.90 a day is in poverty. People could questions surrounding the poverty level from a variety of perspectives. Politicians often use it around the globe to allot aid and develop economic policy, but mathematicians can also use it to compare the rates of poverty among countries and solution-oriented NGOs can use it to understand the root causes of poverty. In today’s era, one hefty debate revolves around the impacts of globalization on poverty-ridden countries. This is just one context in which the poverty level is a useful tool in decision making and analysis.

Who Determines the Poverty Level?

The World Bank sets the international poverty line and it fluctuates over time based on how the cost of living changes around the world. To calculate a shared poverty level internationally, the World Bank takes the poverty threshold from each country and converts it into a common currency. It does this using Purchasing Power Parity (PPP), which creates equilibrium among currencies so that the same basket of goods in two different countries will receive the same pricing in each country. PPP is an economic theory that allows the World Bank to put each country’s income and consumption data in globally-comparable terms to ensure that the same quantity of goods and services receive equitable pricing across countries.

Why is it Important to Measure Poverty Levels?

Developed nations, such as the U.K., debate the costs of living and raises in income. In low-income countries, analyzing poverty levels is important for targeting development initiatives and evaluating economic progress over time. For instance, The Rural Support Programmes in Pakistan work to identify needs in rural communities and improve the delivery of basic goods and services in these areas. These programs use poverty levels to evaluate their work and support development initiatives in the area.

Who Lives in Poverty?

The U.N. estimates more than 700 million people live in extreme poverty around the world, struggling to fulfill the basic necessities of life. About 70 percent of these people live in Southern Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, however, these issues affect developed countries as well. Estimates determine that there are 30 million children growing up near or below the poverty line in the world’s richest countries.

What are the Causes of Poverty?

The causes of poverty are diverse and far-reaching, but they often include unemployment, social exclusion, conflict, natural disasters, disease and other phenomena that prevent them from accessing the resources they need to be productive and make a living.

With an estimated four million people living in extreme poverty, the Democratic Republic of the Congo currently has one of the highest poverty rates in the world. Although the country has access to many natural resources, political unrest has plagued it in recent years. The Democratic Republic of Congo has suffered through continual corruption of political officials that has stifled development so that it remains nearly impossible to easily access or extract any of the country’s natural resources. Therefore, it remains difficult to make a living, or even have access to the basic necessities of food and water.

Despite the dismal numbers, some organizations are making huge strides in overcoming global poverty. Organizations like Oxfam International have made it their objective to reduce worldwide poverty. Working in over 90 countries and directly reaching millions of people each year, Oxfam primarily tackles issues of inequality and discrimination. It also provides direct aid in times of crisis and educates the world’s poor in an effort to impact the root causes of poverty at the political level.

Groups like Oxfam often utilize the international poverty level to assess and direct their efforts. Unfortunately, there is no magic solution to such a widespread problem. In order to solve the issue, though, everyone must first understand its causes. By implementing the poverty level system, the world should be on the right track to eradicate extreme poverty.

– GiGi Hogan
Photo: Flickr

Decade of Family FarmingFamily farms are the largest employers of human capital in the world. Unlike factory farms, family farms are extremely sustainable and drastically mitigate hunger and poverty at the local level. However, governments tend to sanction legislation that prioritizes the interests of factory farms and fisheries, effectively excluding local producers from sustaining their communities. For this reason, the U.N. has outlined a decade-long plan lasting from 2019 to 2028 that expands the role and influence of family farmers around the world.

Family Farming Statistics

Despite being overshadowed by transnational food cooperations, family farms control more agricultural output and human capital than all factory farms combined. In fact, family farmers occupy 70-80 percent of global farmland and produce more than 80 percent of total global agricultural output. Furthermore, the U.N. estimates that there are approximately 570 million family farms operating around the world, mostly employing people who live in absolute poverty.

The Sustainability of Family Farming

A typical representation of family farming would be similar to that portrayed in Little House on the Prairie. However, this all-encompassing term defined by the U.N. includes mountain farmers, family foresters, pastoralists, indigenous people, local fisheries, hunters and gatherers. Local producers know how to navigate their land and waterways effectively and do so with great reverence since many trace ancestral and historical significance to the land they farm and the waters they fish. In doing so, they preserve the biodiversity of their communities and amend farming techniques to sustain the productive capacity of their local environments.

Furthermore, rural farming expands local economies by providing jobs in various services that accompany the line of agricultural production; family farming encompasses the help of all members of the community. In this communal effort, family farmers also tend to reject artificial growth products made specifically for mass food production, such as dangerous pesticides that result in fatal consequences for the environment.

The Decade of Family Farming: Elevating the Status of Family Farmers

The Decade of Family Farming sets forth an agenda for countries to develop policy and investment strategies aimed at generating sustainable development and prioritizing the interests of family farmers. Meanwhile, the U.N. hopes that the Decade of Family Farming will also mitigate the projected consequences of environmental deterioration by revitalizing local ecosystems. The action plan consists of seven central pillars that incorporate several dimensions of social, political and economic life to achieve such goals:

  • Pillar 1: Renewing policy and establishing links between the private and public sectors to develop investment strategies.
  • Pillar 2: Educating rural youth about the importance of family farming and encouraging them to maintain their traditional farming practices.
  • Pillar 3: Elevating the status of women in farming communities and providing them with access to the management of land, information and financial resources.
  • Pillar 4: Championing the voices of family farmers and expanding their influence in the political arena via family farming organizations.
  • Pillar 5: Enhancing the welfare of family farmers and establishing social protection systems.
  • Pillar 6: Promoting farming practices that will protect food supply from the uncertainties of an impending climate catastrophe.
  • Pillar 7: Protecting regional ecosystems and expanding the diversity of job opportunities in the farming-based service sector.

The Decade of Family Farming is a multi-faceted program that encompasses the betterment and sustainability of the biosphere through protecting the environment, culture, local economies, social life, politics and food resources. It is up to the cooperation of the government and the private sector to ensure the realization of these proposals.

– Grayson Cox
Photo: Flickr

Brooke CharityAround the world, over 100 million working horses, donkeys and mules, provide invaluable support to nearly eight percent of the world’s population. Through transportation, haulage and production, healthy working horses, donkeys and mules help put food on the table, send children to school and build better futures for their families. The Brooke charity has made it their mission to look out for these unsung heroes of poverty-ridden communities. Here are five things to know about the Brooke charity:

What is Brooke?

According to their website, “Brooke is an international animal welfare charity dedicated to improving the lives of working horses, donkeys and mules.” With operations in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East, they reach over two million working horses, donkeys and mules across the globe. Their staff of over 900 people consists of vets, animal welfare experts and development specialists.

What do they do?

Brooke protects and improves the lives of equines that bolster the livelihoods of some of the world’s poorest communities. Animals cannot better their own welfare but people can. Brooke works with communities to provide the skills and support necessary to unlock their compassion for animals and reap the benefit it brings to their livelihoods. The charity partners with local health services and farriers to strengthen the skills of owners so they can get their animals the help they need timely and effectively. Brooke provides support for long-lasting change by working with international bodies such as the U.N. and governments at all levels.

How has Brooke evolved?

In 1930, when Dorothy Brooke arrived in Egypt, she was appalled at the state of the ex-warhorses being sold into a life of hard labor at the conclusion of World War I. Within three years, Dorothy Brooke had purchased 5,000 ex-warhorses. Most were old, exhausted and had to be humanely put down though, thanks to her, they ended their lives peacefully.

Brooke knew many hard-working horses, donkeys and mules still suffered. In 1934, she founded the Old War Horse Memorial Hospital in Cairo to provide free veterinary care for all the city’s working equines. Thus, the Brooke Hospital for Animals was born.

Fast forward 85 years to the present time, when Brooke leads the way in providing help to working equines and their owners in the developing world. They met their goal to reach two million working horses, donkeys and mules in 2016 in 11 countries, and continue to strive for greater impact around the world.

Why does their work matter?

Working equines transport people, move goods and deliver food and water. In some countries, up to six people rely on a single animal for survival. This means that in many of the world’s poorest regions, human welfare is inextricably linked to the welfare of working horses, donkeys, and mules. A healthier animal enables its owner to increase their income and improve living conditions. Given that approximately 80 percent of animal suffering is preventable, Brooke is doing all they can to ensure well-fed and looked after working animals can continue to keep millions of people out of extreme poverty.

What are the potential weaknesses of this organization?

While traditional working equine welfare programs have had some success in improving welfare and alleviating poverty, they have significant drawbacks. Providing vet or farrier care is expensive, can lead to a culture of dependency and often fails to reach all members of a community. Outreach education work can increase awareness but does not always create the behavioral changes needed for stable incomes and sustainable animal welfare.

Developing communities that depend on equines can largely benefit from the improved standards of living delivered by simple, effective programs that promote animal welfare at the community level. With a new or better understanding of the needs of their horses, donkeys or mules, people are empowered to change their behaviors and sustainably increase their income. This contributes to any developing community’s ultimate goal: a movement out of poverty.

– GiGi Hogan
Photo: Flickr

sub-Saharan witchcraft accusationsThe sub-Saharan region in Africa includes 46 of the 54 countries that make up the continent. While numerous cultural and political differences show variance between the sub-Saharan nations, many of them share a paranoid commonality: children are often accused of witchcraft. These sub-Saharan witchcraft accusations show that the fear of mystic powers is not a superstition of the past, but that it exists and is growing even in the 21st century.

The origins of these witchcraft accusations are unclear. UNICEF records that these accusations are falsely believed to be a piece of African tradition, and this phenomenon is the symptom of social, economic and political struggles.

Who’s Accused?

There are three categories of children who are at risk for the sub-Saharan witch accusations. All of them represent a marginalized category in which noticeable difference leads to suspicion.

The urban myth of the “child witches” is the first. Accusations are most often cast towards the most vulnerable children in a community, such as orphans and those with a physical or learning disability. Children with behavioral oddities are also targets, including those who are talented, precocious or rebellious.

The second group of individuals at risk are babies who experience a peculiar birth. This can mean that they were born premature or were delivered facing an abnormal way.

Thirdly, children with albinism are often accused of witchcraft and believed to contain magic power within certain organs.

Many of these “bewitched” children believe their families, pastors and instructors when they are told they are agents of evil magic.

A Human Rights Violation

The sub-Saharan witchcraft accusations lead to negligence of international laws protecting children. In the countries where accusations are most rampant, police and judicial forces are inefficient in upholding national law.

Accusations manifest in a number of ways. Violence, abandonment, sexual exploitation and even murder are acts leveled against witch children. Some victims view these aggressions as rituals to release evil spirits. It is recorded that about 81,000,000 African children suffer from severe psychological issues due to the punishment they have endured.

As the accusations of witchcraft have escalated in recent years, the U.N. has expressed concern for the issues and has been pressing awareness and regulation. The U.N. Refugee Agency records that the abuse endured by these children is somewhat responsible for the uptick in displaced individuals around the world.

Efforts to Hinder the Problem

The Democratic Republic of the Congo is one sub-Saharan country that suffers abundantly with witchcraft accusations. The nation has an inordinate number of vulnerable orphans living in impoverished conditions due to its recent civil war. As such, many NGOs focus their attention on this particular country in the sub-Saharan region.

The International Catholic Child Bureau (BICE) is one NGO that is specifically fit to deal with this humanitarian issue in the DRC. The organization is involved in a mission to incorporate a child’s rights into state law. Sub-Saharan witchcraft accusations in the DRC have been hindered by BICE’s local activities across the country. The group has established rehabilitation and learning centers. These work to eradicate the notion that child witches are responsible for societal ills, as well as to reintegrate banished children into their communities.

BICE has been active in the DRC since 1996 and continues to work with the central government to better protect Congolese children.

More Needs to be Done

While the U.N. and its partner NGOs have worked to bring attention to and provide for the children suffering from the sub-Saharan witchcraft accusations, the issue is unlikely to disappear in the near future.

The belief that child witches are plaguing society is one that results from what UNICEF calls the “multi-crisis” pressuring many African nations. Left behind in the journey to modernization, many African communities have carried the weight of failed political systems and unfulfilled economic promises. If the sub-Saharan region is to leave behind ancient superstitions of witchcraft, international actors must aid these countries on the pathway to development.

– Annie O’Connell
Photo: Flickr

Guest workers
The exploitation of guest workers in Saudi Arabia has been a common occurrence for many years. Eleven million guest workers have come to the Middle Eastern nation in order to find an opportunity to support their families back home. What some meet with is abuse and hardship from their employers for a variety of reasons. These workers are not citizens and they have a limited number of rights to protect them.

Discovery of Oil and the Demand for Workers

When people discovered oil in Saudi Arabia in the 1930s, it was still a very young country having only established in 1932. The country was one of the most underdeveloped and poorest in the world and did not have the means to extract this oil.

To profit from its discovery, the Saudi government brought in guest workers from the West after World War II and they were mostly professionals in the oil industry. After its success,  it eventually required workers from neighboring Middle Eastern countries such as Egypt, Yemen and Palestine as well, especially as the gas crisis in 1973 raised the demand for oil.

As the economy of Saudi Arabia grew, there came a need for more workers in other industries of the country besides oil. As a result, guest workers from other Asian nations such as Pakistan, India, the Philippines, Bangladesh, Indonesia and Sri Lanka went to Saudi Arabia for work.

Guest Worker Abuses

Human Rights Watch, an international organization, describes the conditions of the guest workers in Saudi Arabia as being similar to slavery. These workers are beaten, exploited, overworked, underpaid and sometimes not even paid at all. The abuse of these workers is deep-seated in race, gender and religious discriminations.

Over 900,000 Filipinos are working in Saudi Arabia and many of them work in the service industries including hotels. There was an instance where 15 Filipino hotel guest workers had to work more than their scheduled 40 hours a week. When they did not receive overtime pay their employers owed them, they complained to the hotel manager who told them to be quiet or they would have them deported.

Guest workers do not have the convenience of collective bargains or unions to protect them from this type of abuse. Saudi employers can dismiss their guest workers at any time regardless of what employment contracts. An employer dismissed a 26-year-old Bangladesh guest worker named Bachu after only seven months because they did not need him anymore. The unexpected termination forced the now jobless worker to attempt to obtain a job illegally, which resulted in his arrest and deportation back to Bangladesh.

There are very few laws that protect guest workers from abuses in regard to the law. There are instances of workers receiving false accusations of crimes, harsh penalties, unfair trials and random arrests. One such incident occurred in 2005 with the arrest and execution of a Sri Lankan maid named Rizana Nafeek. The 24-year-old housemaid suffered the accusation of murdering the baby that she was in charge of taking care of, but she claimed it died from choking. She did not have a translator during her interrogation and the authorities beat her into signing a confession. She was only one of the 100,000 Sri Lankan maids that are guest workers in Saudi Arabia. Over 100 guest workers are sitting on death row in the country.

Changes for the Workers

Recently, the Saudi Arabian government has taken steps towards protecting its guest workers through a series of legislations. In 2015, the government voted on these laws and will impose hefty fines on businesses that it finds guilty of abuses such as not paying employees on time, violating health and safety and employing children under 15.

The U.N. has adopted resolutions that would protect guest workers in not only Saudi Arabia but around the world. The International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families emerged to protect the human rights of the 164 million guest workers throughout the world.

Saudi Arabia is a young and growing nation. The use of guest workers has helped its economy expand and thrive as a nation. The treatment of these workers has brought much negative attention to the country, though. It is taking steps, however, to ensure that the abuse and exploitation of these workers come to an end.

– Sam Bostwick
Photo: Wikipedia Commons

Violence against indigenous women
Recently, activist groups in the U.S. have brought attention to a staggering problem: the increasing number of missing or murdered indigenous women and girls. Violence against indigenous women and girls does not only occur in the U.S. Native women all around the world also find themselves trapped in the margins of justice, vulnerable to various forms of violence. This article will consider three common threads that perpetuate these patterns and the initiatives taken to stop them.

Economic Exploitation

Due to centuries of displacement and disenfranchisement that nation-state expansion caused, many indigenous communities around the world have limited access to economic opportunity. As a result, indigenous women must often work in highly exploitative labor, which can take the form of slavery and/or human trafficking.

In Nepal, girls of Tharu origin or Kamlaris frequently find themselves in a coordinated system of bondage. While the Nepal government prohibited this system in 2000, the economic scarcity that some Tharu families face allows for this exploitation to survive, according to the Asian Indigenous Women’s Network.

Violence against indigenous women takes the form of debt bondage in several other Asian countries. Cases have popped up in China, Cambodia, Myanmar, Thailand and other countries in the region. In Latin America, economic exploitation is a detriment to the well-being of indigenous women and girls, with life-threatening child labor forced upon many native communities.

Encroachment onto Indigenous Land

Land-grabbing for economic or political reasons threatens many indigenous communities around the world. In many cases, this weakens the solidarity instrumental in ensuring the well-being of community members, leaving women and girls more vulnerable. Seventy-six percent of people living on tribal land and 96 percent of perpetrators of sexual violence against indigenous women in the U.S., for example, are of non-native identity.

In Asia-Pacific countries, the appropriation of land for private or public use met with resistance and has led to the increased terrorization of indigenous communities, according to the U.N. The military forces of the Philippines, Myanmar, Papua New Guinea and Fiji have all used rape and murder of women and girls as a war tactic.

Governmental Negligence

Combating the multifaceted forms of violence against indigenous women and girls is a tall task; political negligence of the problem makes it even harder.

Consider one particularly harmful U.S. policy which states that tribes do not have legal jurisdiction over criminal acts that nonmembers commit. In 2013, this law changed to allow prosecution in cases of domestic violence, but sexual assault and trafficking crimes still lie outside tribes’ legal power. Of course, the federal level could try these crimes, but law enforcement often fails to respond in an adequate or timely manner. Even in urban settings, nearly a third of perpetrators of violence against indigenous women do not receive justice in the U.S., according to the Urban Indian Health Institute.

There is a similar dynamic playing out in New Zealand, where Maori women often face discrimination. If they bring a complaint to the government, it may not be fruitful, as “[t]he government has a poor record of recognizing and protecting Maori rights and interests generally,” says indigenous legal scholar Kerensa Johnston.

Confronting the Challenge

To address violence against indigenous women and girls, two different types of solutions are necessary. First, governments must implement immediate-relief policies: the U.N. notes that many countries have invested in support services for women and girls affected by violence and in awareness campaigns to prevent violence from even occurring. Policies can also work to improve data collection to ensure that fewer cases go unaddressed; Washington state just passed a bill with this aim.

As the U.N. warns, however, solving this problem will require more than tinkering around the edges. Histories of inequities make justice elusive, putting native women and girls at a higher risk for gender-based violence. The U.N. report suggests that communities and countries will find a path forward only once they recognize this history.

– James Delegal
Photo: Flickr